Kate Conway, @katchatters
1:34 PM CDT, May 13, 2014
I like drinking at my neighborhood dive bar. The beers are cheap, it's approximately five steps away from my front porch, and I never have to fight to get the Blackhawks turned on.
And because I present as a fairly butch woman, the guys who take advantage of the place's ample Old Style supply don't interpret my presence as an invitation to hit on me.
When I first moved to Chicago, I was surprised by how many straight guys seemed to construe "has a side-shave haircut" as "exclusively dates the ladies." (I do often date ladies, but that's not the point.) This can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood -- the phenomenon seems to inversely correlate to the locals' fondness for, say, Robyn -- but overall, I've started thinking of my standard snapback-and-hoodie bar uniform as a kind of invisibility cloak to straight dudes.
The other day, for example, I mentioned the dive in question to my roommate. "Hey, I watched the St. Louis game in there," I said. "It was fun; we should go back sometime."
She stopped and squinted at me. "Um, I don't go in there," she said. "It's creepy. Maybe it's fine for you."
The next time I went back, I realized she was right. While the guys hanging out there flocked to many of the women who walked in, they mostly left me alone.
And you know what? I like being able to choose to be unnoticeable. Most women can attest to the skin-crawling feeling of being cornered when dudes won't take no for an answer, even in a public space like a bar. Unfortunately, dodging unwanted advances just becomes a fact of life for a lot of us. So when I want to just quietly growl at the ice sports on the television in peace, it's comforting to be able to throw on a button-up and drink a beer without being bothered.
That said, I find the implications of this invisibility to be really troubling. It reminds me that for the average straight dude, a woman is often only worth noticing if she's a potential bang. She might be a Nobel laureate or a talented lion-tamer -- but she has no value as a person unless she's apparently fuckable. In a bar, this maybe isn't a huge deal. (Like I said, I find myself frequently using it to my advantage.) But in the real world, it's just another excuse to disregard women's contributions.
There are exceptions, of course. Sometimes a woman's clothing has very little to do with the way men interact with her; some dudes are into butch women; and some dudes, heaven forbid, are genuinely down to have a casual conversation with a woman they don't want to screw.
But for the most part, the difference between "human being" and "might as well be a houseplant perched on a barstool" comes down to putting on a baseball cap.
Kate Conway is a RedEye special contributor. When she's not drinking stout and emoting over Corey Crawford's save percentage, she writes for xoJane.com.
Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye's Facebook page.
Copyright © 2014 Chicago Tribune Company, LLC