Women being “reminded” of their bodies – “the grunch”

From here (and there’s more goodness)

“A few years earlier, back at Indiana, I was wearing [a favourite outfit], walking through the parking lot of the main campus library with a group of—classmates, I think it was. Yes, we were coming from a research-methods-and-resources session. Anyway, I was talking with another young woman about Irish monastic penitentials or something like that when a couple of guys in a big ol’ car started the wolf-whistle-leer-and-comment-suggestively bit, with particular reference to my breasts.

“There it was—the sickening grunch as I landed involuntarily back in my body—and not my entire body, either, but specific parts of it. The conversation was ruined. I felt uncomfortable for being targeted. My conversation partner felt uncomfortable on my behalf, and I think a little devalued as well; being targeted is no fun, but being ignored is no fun too, in its way. Sensing that devaluation, I said something about how it was only because of my clothes; if I had dressed the way my conversation partner had (sweatshirt and jeans), I would have passed unnoticed.”

The awesomely-cool Geek Feminist Wiki has it as

The term grunch means the sensation a woman has when she was for a time free of conscious awareness of the male gaze and did not feel othered, but is then reminded in some way that she is a woman first and a geek (or colleague, or writer, etc) a distant second. That is, being grunched is the sensation of being firmly and unexpectedly othered.

The word is onomatopoeic, because being grunched includes an unpleasant physical sensation like that of crashing into your own body.

“Grunch” (and the verb “grunched”) appear to have been coined by Dorothea Salo in 2002, who also used “grunchy” as an adjective for discussions about sexism.

A woman can feel a grunch happening when she walks into a glass door.

So, what is to be done? Erm, don’t comment on people’s looks unless you’re making a pass? Call out grunching when it happens? Apologise if/when you do it yerself? Um… Dunno. What think you “all”?

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About dwighttowers

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4 Responses to Women being “reminded” of their bodies – “the grunch”

  1. Arty says:

    Well, being a woman who firmly believes in the importance of covering herself, wearing a headscarf and modest clothing, this is once again testament to the benefits of such practices. Apologies for seeming smugly self-righteous. That comment is aimed at people who call dressing modestly “oppressive” and “backward”. For those who realise it is a personal choice, and even if they don’t feel they’d like to adopt it, don’t criticise it blindly, you people are all okay and I respect you more for your tolerance. 🙂
    Oh dear. I’m turning this into my personal rant stage…
    Well. When someone looks nice, whether they’re male or female, you should only compliment them if you are entitled to. Those entitled to do so in my humble opinion include:
    – Family
    – Close friends
    – Spouses
    (I don’t subscribe to the ‘making a pass’ practice).
    I can speak from a woman’s point of view: my dignity and honour are very precious to me. If I am complimented by a male colleague on my appearance, I actually don’t like it. Positive male attention, with regards to my appearance, is something I rather dislike. I would much prefer to be respected (not so much complimented) for my abilities, and not my fashionable dress-and-shoes coordination. I am not a pretty thing to be admired; I am a human equal who has ambition and capability, and who wants to be recognised for her high quality of work. So, thank you Sir, but in future, please keep those opinions to yourself.

  2. dwighttowers says:

    Hello Arty,
    thanks for commenting! Speaking as a male, I’ve slowly learnt that my “right” to ogle is (often) in conflict with women’s right not to be ogled (outside of specific circumstances, that needn’t detain us at this minute. And yes, “complimenting” women on their looks is a real minefield, as it should be perhaps. That said, I’d defend the making of subtle and respectful one-off passes in the “right” circumstances. imho the world needs more people taking pleasure in their own and each others’ bodies! (with all the provisos around consent, information, contraception etc etc).

    Finally, in the experience of some of my female friends, dressing “modestly” (hijab etc) does not automatically spare you from unwanted attentions. I would say the big thing that needs to happen is that men teach each other and themselves to behave, at least as much as women are told to “dress modestly” (I know you are not doing that!). Obviously the two are not mutually exclusive, it’s just that the “women must learn to be modest” thing goes WITH the grain of patriarchy and religious control, and there is already more than enough of that about the place. Men, their eyes and hands and so on, rarely get told to put it on a leash.

    Dwight Towers, who gets to ogle Mrs Towers when she arrives tomorrow!

    • Arty says:

      Mr Towers, you make me laugh.
      And also a little shameful. I should have mentioned that myself! (I now wonder how on Earth I failed to!)
      You are, of course, spot on in your assessment of my previous comment. Damn straight men need to curb their desires! It is not the sole responsibility of women to display modesty in their conduct. Lots of men need to stop treating females as objects of desire. They deserve respect.
      A problem I face that most people in Western society wouldn’t realise is the handshake.
      According to my beliefs, I am not allowed or required to initiate or maintain physical contact. It preserves my dignity because likewise, no strange man (unfit to be a chaperone, i.e. a brother, close male relative, husband etc) is not permitted to lay a single finger upon me without good reason. (Doctoral assessment of health etc. is a good enough reason).
      Now a handshake in this society is as normal for most as breathing. And it can be seen as rather offensive if someone declines to shake your hand. It’s a difficulty I face, and I explain it as politely as possible. Thankfully, all people so far have been perfectly understanding.
      I just wanted to tell you that.
      Ogling at women should only be done by people entitled to. (See above). Never complimenting a woman or a man on their looks isn’t realistic. We are human after all, and if you have the right to address a person in that way then by all means do so! For example, in the case of one’s wife, you should lavish (within reason) compliments on her.

      Anyway Sir,
      Keep posting please because your regular blogging brings to my attention so much else I had never before heard of. It was you who introduced me to the compassionate genius of Noam Chomsky. I had no idea who he was before I read some of your posts!

  3. dwighttowers says:

    🙂 Chomsky really is that amazing, isn’t he?! And so so hard-working!

    Re: hand-shakes, yes, I wait until someone else initiates etc. The thing of it is this; men (esp white middle-class hetero men) are taught that they have a god/state/natural given right to do what they want – ogle, wolf-whistle etc etc … And when you try to suggest there is a difference between freedom and “license”, they get very confused and offended…

    Anyway, I should get some sleep, for – as I may have mentioned – Mrs Towers is back tmrw!

    PPS I shall keep blogging!!

    Best wishes and peace.

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