The male is a biological accident … To be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males are emotional cripples.
These words from Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto were put to music and sung with spirit by a zombie folksinger at Killjoy’s Kastle, a lesbian, feminist haunted house now open at Plummer Park in West Hollywood. My girlfriend and I toured the Kastle Friday night and it was a ton of fun.
A “demented women’s studies professor” walked us through the Crypt of Dead Lesbian Feminist Organizations (RIP Little Frida’s), and warned that a coven of Riot Ghouls cutting loose around us are not only better read than we, they also have better fashion. Being surrounded by cool girls who are actually having fun at a party? Truly scary.
In the Intersectional Artist room, a creature in a rainbow onesie, face obscured, punched and kicked giant tampons hanging from the ceiling. Each tampon was labeled with an oppressing -ism, from Capital to Colonial. “You must walk through the pillars, you can’t go around.” As a giant tampon hit me in the face, so did a wave of emotion.
Seeing these invisible obstacles embodied in front of me, brought home that yeah I do fight these things everyday. I’m not weak or crazy or too sensitive. I’m way better off than a lot of others, but I’m still constantly having to overcome getting knocked around by -isms. And it’s exhausting. Because to people who don’t get what you’re going through, it just looks like shadow boxing.
At the end of the tour, our guide left us in the processing room, and I started to process how much I resent that society has normalized the idea that it’s a man’s world. As a woman, if you want to do ANYTHING with your life, from running a company to running a household, you’re told it’ll be a struggle. Men are the norm, and not-men are not-normal. It takes a fight just to get in the ring. Maybe you’re offered help along the way from other women who have “done it” … they teach you to lean in, or blend in, or fight back. But the message that ambitious women absorb is “get ready to swim upstream”. And that’s wrong. Not because achievement should be easy, but because the fight is too often so basic.
The other day a man on the train approached my girlfriend and told her she had pretty hair. When he kept trying to talk to her, she moved and he started to pout. He made her so uncomfortable that she changed seats. And then he acted like she’d done something wrong.
Most women who take public transportation have a story like that. I have a few… from the young guy who wandered over and muttered, “I just wanted to say you’re cute,” to the stranger who yelled at me for being a bitch, because he asked if he could be my boyfriend and I said no.
On Instagram recently, Jen Kirkman told a guy: “you don’t need to ever talk to a woman on the street. Ever.” This guy had started the discussion by saying men who are creeps ruin complimenting women for nice guys. He said, “I just want to pay a compliment to someone who looks awesome, but because of guys like this I feel like a creep.”
So was Kirkman just being a killjoy? Nope!
What’s wrong with just complimenting a lady on the street? As the lady on the street, I don’t know if you’re the kid creating an awkward moment for me, or the guy who’s going to yell in my face. I don’t know what you want from me, and if you don’t get what you want, I don’t know how you’re going to react. To protect myself, it’s smarter to assume that strange guy approaching means danger. We never know the level of risk at the outset, and it’s very easy to believe we’re not safe.
And then there’s a whole other discussion we could have about objectifying women to determine their worth.
Part of what I most appreciate about Killjoy’s Kastle is that it’s not making fun of feminists or lesbians, although it does poke fun at stereotypes of all kinds of people. It uses entertainment to lift the occasional mask. A lot of the experience felt to me like “let’s laugh, so we don’t cry.” Try to hold others to any kind of standard when it comes to treating women fairly, and you’ll hear the K word. But it sounds a little sweeter coming from the decaying lips of a zombie folksinger.