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One small story.  Intended to be part of a larger dialogue on misogyny today.

I was in Italy a couple of weeks ago. One morning I piled into a taxi with 3 male coworkers - 2 Americans and a well-traveled Brit. Usually the taxi drivers struggle with English or we good-naturedly attempt some conversation in Italian. This taxi driver had good English, was verbose and inspired by an imagined camaraderie with the Brit.  It started with a story on traveling to Singapore. Through some peculiar machinations his passport was taken from him. "They do that with girls too around 12 years old and don't give it back 'til they're 18.  Yeah, only $20 and you can have a girl."

Allow me to back up for a moment. At this point it has been mere days since 276 schoolgirls were kidnapped in Nigeria. The leader of the terrorist organization allegedly responsible threatens to sell them "in the marketplace."  At this writing, these girls are still missing. My friendly taxi driver exhibits no awareness that his participation in the economic structure of $20 girls contributes to violence against women, underage or not. On the contrary, he seems giddy that such a marketplace is available for his pleasure. He shares the information as a fact: that's the way they do things in the East. And also as information sharing: could be useful next time any of us find ourselves in the area.

My colleagues shift uncomfortably and maintain a firm silence. I'd say they are painfully aware that I am present. The taxi driver continues on a theme. Women Around the World!  I can't play nice. "How much is a girl in Michigan?", my voice dripping with unrepressed disgust and hate. He doesn't give a number but neither is he daunted. Why should he be?  Why should he be ashamed?  He ranks women by their nationality. I was not surprised to learn that Americans are not the most adventuresome. The ride is mercifully over. I do not have the obligation to interact with him for the tab. As we disembark, the Brit says "the sexual mores of Italians abroad!"  If I may paraphrase, in his view: that's the way they do things in Italy.

As I simmer over this one man and how I feel about my colleagues inaction and what I could or should have said, I wonder, Where is the line?  What exactly is so offensive about his story?  

I don't have a philosophical objection to prostitution. It's not a profession I highly respect but I don't think it is one that needs to carry shame. One's own body is an asset and it could be employed as readily as one's mind, if so chosen.
An Asset must be:
 (1) under your control
 (2) as a result of a past event - let's say birth for this purpose
 (3) a source of future (economic) benefit - health, time, performance, pleasure
Underage individuals often don't meet parameter 1. Obviously so if their passport has been confiscated.

So, if the underage girls had been omitted from the story, would I be ok with it? No, I think not. Girls (women) were objects in his adventures, existing only where their paths crossed his. It was his story after all. None of them were driving my taxi.

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Comment Preferences

  •  summer of '75 (9+ / 0-)

    It was 1975, right after my high school graduation. I went to Italy w/a high school group as one of those 7-countries-in-2-week tours. We had a couple of teacher chaperones, a male and a female.

    Our Mr. Teach warned the girls to travel in groups when we got to Rome as the men in Rome were very grabby. And even when some of the girls toured the city with Mr. Teach, men would approach him asking if they could "spend" time with the girls.

    Once you figure out they are lying to you about race, you start to question everything. —molly ivins

    by fumie on Fri May 30, 2014 at 09:04:07 AM PDT

    •  so what's the scoop here: are men.... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wintergreen8694, CyberLady1

      .... in most of the countries of the world a bunch of drooling pedophiles whose dream is to fuck little girls or boys?

      My view of the value of our species just dropped a notch or two.

      I'd like to see a list of the countries of the world, with data about the prevalence of pedophilia, child molestation, legal protection for children, and of course women's rights, girls' rights, and boys' rights.

      Afghanistan is truly disgusting in this regard, keyword search "dancing boys" and "child brides."  Saudi isn't much better, and "boys are not men" is the local excuse for "not being homosexual."  

      The idea that females exist solely for the purpose of being receptacles for men's animalistic behaviors, is enough to make a civilized person throw up.  Or damn well should be.  

      The day the USA starts imposing diplomatic and trade sanctions on countries that have abysmal records in these areas, I'll stand up and cheer.

      We got the future back. Uh-oh.

      by G2geek on Fri May 30, 2014 at 01:37:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It may be an act of (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, CyberLady1, Penny GC, BMScott

    intimidation.  

    I was born into a male dominated family with three older brothers and no sisters.  We are all fairly close in age.  It was clear from an early age that the brother who could do or say the most outrageous thing without the others challenging him was the top dog for that day.  With my brothers that person changed on a routine basis.

    My perspective on it is that he was challenging the other men in the car to call him out or agree with him.  Some people do not take an uncomfortable silence as either.

    Did this taxi driver actually have the experiences he was sharing.  Probably not..  He was likely passing along innuendo and unsubstantiated information from other customers or information he found on the internet.

    I think I would have started a conversation with the men in the car and expressly excluded the driver the topic.  As much as I would like to think i would have responded with a WTF!!!
    I think in a foreign country I would have opted to not have a confrontation.

    My Brothers Keeper

    by Reetz on Fri May 30, 2014 at 09:13:40 AM PDT

    •  It may have been Posturing (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Reetz, BMScott, CyberLady1

      It may have been posing and posturing.  Much of the taxi driver's extended story was fantastical.  And it didn't make much sense that he would have had these experiences and now be driving taxi.  No one wanted to ask questions that expressed interest or would extend or enhance the discussion.  I'm sure we all wanted it to be over.  Still no one said "Not cool, dude."

  •  In that context I wouldn't say anything (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Catte Nappe, CyberLady1, Penny GC

    ..to the driver; I don't see how it would help in the tiny window of time you had.  

    Best Scientist Ever Predicts Bacon Will Be Element 119 On The Periodic Table

    by dov12348 on Fri May 30, 2014 at 09:46:58 AM PDT

  •  I traveled in Europe as a young woman years ago... (8+ / 0-)

    along with my younger sister and her friend. All of us were in our early 20's; time was the early 1970's. In northern Europe (Germany, Scandinavia, UK) we acted pretty much the way we would do in the U.S.: go off on short individual jaunts, meet up at a specified time/place, enjoy ourselves...

    In southern Europe (France, Spain, Italy, and to a certain extent, Austria) we had to act pretty much the same way we would do when visiting Mexico, just a short drive from our southern California location: travel/walk around as a group, make sure we kept an eye on each other and our surroundings...

    At the time I remember thinking that there was a pretty straightforward Catholic-Protestant divide. Men in the Catholic culture automatically assumed that women were an inherently inferior species, designed only to serve men. Men in the Protestant culture automatically assumed that women were humans like themselves, following the same pathway that all humans follow.

    So yes, your taxi driver was typical of the Italian culture, and yes, the Italian culture is misogynist, because the underlying belief structure is misogynist, even if an individual isn't fully conscious of it.

    (For what it's worth, I attended a Catholic high school and university, and was required to study the Summa Theologica of Thomas Acquinas for two semesters at the latter institution. Yes, Thomas Acquinas says that man is the image of God, and woman is the perversion of that image.)

    You did the best you could in a fleeting situation. It would take a lot more than a taxi ride to solve a cultural problem. Thanks for posting.

  •  This is called microaggression (7+ / 0-)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/...
    and is a key strategy for maintaining dominance over oppressed groups.

    American Presidents: 43 men, 0 women. Ready for Hillary

    by atana on Fri May 30, 2014 at 11:39:12 AM PDT

  •  Late 70s traveling Mexico with my HS. (7+ / 0-)

    I had just graduated freshman yr HS. We had rules and chaperones. We were told a rule was for 'students' to NOT congregate at the hotel entrance, if we were waiting, we 'students' should wait inside. We were hardly allowed to travel just by ourselves, had to have a chaperone present. We were introduced to several HS students from Mexico, my girlfriend and I hit up a friendship with 2 of the students.
    We waited for one of them outside at the entrance with one of the students. To be clear, I am female, my girlfriend is female and the Mexican students are male.
    He was 'propositioned' for us several times and of course refused. He was horribly embarrassed and we waited inside after that. I always hated that they wouldn't tell us the reason for the rule, just follow it.
    Thanks for sharing...

    “When you victim-blame, be aware that in all likelihood, at least one woman you know and love silently decides she cannot trust you.” ` Steph Guthrie

    by Penny GC on Fri May 30, 2014 at 01:25:27 PM PDT

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