This is Feminism — a tortured metaphor

The other day, walking home, I noticed that someone used ketchup to draw loops and squiggles on the sidewalk near my house. It stank in the sun and I veered around it, not wanting to track the red goop into my house. I thought “That’s rude,” and walked on.

picture of ketchup squiggles on sidewalk

picture of ketchup squiggles on sidewalk

It stayed there.

Two days later, I was walking by with the family and noticed something. It wasn’t just random squiggles. When I stepped to the side, it was words. Hard-to-read words, but… I tilted my head and read aloud, “Gypsies… love… sluts.”


Ketchup graffiti that says "Gypsies love sluts"


Oh, for the love of little green apples.

The first thing I did was explain those words to April. That was last thing that I wanted to do on my Saturday morning — explain racial and misogynistic slurs to my 8 year old — but I’m a parent and what I want isn’t as important as making sure she has the right information. (I suspect at least some folks are thinking “Racist slur? Huh? Where?” To them, I will say this: Seanan McGuire says “gypsy” is a racist slur. Since she is both the only Roma-descent person I have met, and a very very smart woman, I listen to her and I think you should, too.)

Then we went around it and went on with our weekend.

The next day, I went around it again.

And again.

We live in a city and walk everywhere. That nasty bit of condiment graffiti was right there, just a half block away from my house. We walked by it a lot, at least three or four times a day.

It didn’t take a lot of energy to go around. It was supposed to rain on Wednesday, maybe it would go away on its own. It was in front of a nice building, maybe the owners would clean it up.

On the fourth day, I realized what I was doing. And I went and bought a mop. For $25. (Damn, that’s expensive.) And I came home and I filled a pot with hot soapy water and as I walked down to the gross words, I asked April, “What does Tiffany say?”

“Even if it’s not your fault, it’s your responsibility,” she duly quoted Sir Terry.

Then, with April watching, I splooshed the water all over the gross words and started to scrub.

And scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed. And scrubbed.

It took twenty minutes in a frigid wind, my knuckles red on the mop, and my back aching because I’d bought a crappy short mop (for $25!). Half dozen people walked by and ignored me. I worked my middle-aged ass off and only made a dent in the graffiti. But I managed to mostly obliterate the two really offensive words.

That’s been my experience of feminism. Something is irritating but I don’t really see the misogyny or the racism. Then I suddenly see it, but don’t really do anything about it. And then, because I have a daughter and don’t want her to see me ignoring that, I do something about it.



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