Bitches Ogle Hardhats -- Turning the Tables, Women's Lib Style

Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives. June 18, 1970, Vol. XV, No. 25

Bitches Ogle Hardhats By Robin Reisig

"Hey, baby, you wanna come home with me?"

"Oh, sweetheart! Kiss! Smooch! What a body!"

The pretty girls and the construction workers were crammed onto the corner, and the usual anatomical observations were being made.

"Hey, baby, your fly is showing," one woman continued.

"Are you a real blond?" another woman asked a burly construction worker. "Why don't you wear shorts? Those legs must be precious."

It was the First Official Ladies Floating High Tea, Picnic Lunch, and Ogle, and the women came "to help give the Great White American Hardhat a taste of his own chauvinism." The luncheon invitation invited us to assemble (with lunchpails and beer) at the construction site of 57th Street and Park Avenue and to "comment on the comparative desirability and virility of the specimens on display, speculate on obscure (and possibly obscene) anatomical details, and show...appreciation with the traditional catcalls and whistles."

We were going to give catcalling men a chance to see themselves as we see them. Unfortunately, too many media men came to see us. The day was supposed to be street theatre; instead it was a street circus. It was supposed to be an ogle; instead it was a media mash, where the women, out of expediency as well as delicacy, pre-censored their language, knowing that dirty words wouldn't get on the air, so that the most frequent complaint of the day was that men say "Honey, I'd like to bleep your bleep-y."

The night before the ogle, some of the Bitches who planned to participate held a meeting at the Women's Center. BITCH is the name of an organization, a proud, defiant name. "Not an acronym," they explain, "BITCH is an organization of individual Bitches who advocate -- among other liberating actions -- biting the hand that feels you."

To understand how we would act and how the construction workers would feel, we used psychodrama to play construction workers and female gogglers. The whole thing had the aura of theatre: for fun and to avoid having "leaders," the women took assumed names: Lois Lane, Ruby Tuesday, Queen Kong. ("Hey," one said, "how about saying on the radio, 'Queen Kong's got a man down on the ground and is undressing him saying, This is a compliment.'" "No undressing! Remember, the media will be there." "...Undressing him with her eyes?")

Playing a construction worker was a chilling experience: the gyrating, hissing, whistling women were a threat, unladylike! "I didn't know if I wanted to kill Ruby or rape her," one "construction worker" later said in explaining her emotions toward a particularly provocative woman with an active middle finger, "but I knew that one had to go."

In case we incited, or excited, the workers too much, we thought out contingency plans, like eliminating the leader among the aggressive males by handing him a can of vaginal deodorant. But our fears of violence were unnecessary. I know of only one violent incident that took place during the day. A woman pinched the protruding fanny of a construction worker. He walloped her, then saw he had hit a woman and apologized profusely, missing the point of the pinch entirely.

Lois Lane, wearing a Mickey Mouse watch, explained her feelings on street "compliments": "If someone relates to me as a human being, it's a compliment. When I become a sexual object for every man who walks down the street to make obscene comments at, it's a put-down."

Some of the men expressed surprise and sympathy and said that they hadn't realized that women got obscene catcalls: "I knew they got raped, but I didn't know this happened to them"...

Reporters molded the event to their own conceptions. One television reporter asked his assistant to find "a good-looking girl who's against this." When I implored a CBS cameraman to stop embedding his camera in my head, he didn't budge and calmly said, "You have no business being here." This is for the media...

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956.]


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >