I recently wrote about fighting society’s objectifying women, and said that I do think that on average men (at least in my professional life) treat me as an equal. However, I realized that I was ignoring a phenomenon that does mimic the way our media objectifies women. I don’t feel it at work very often, but I do feel it when I am out and about in public.
Now let me preface this by telling you I have no delusions about my looks. I think I’m an average-looking lady. I’m petite, of average build, but no knock-out or bombshell. I dress modestly. I don’t show a lot of skin or wear skintight clothes. I’m very happy with what I look like, thank you, but I know that I’m not going to be a trophy wife or a model. The only thing that sets me apart physically, I think, is my youth. I’m in my mid-twenties, and look like I can be anywhere between sixteen and thirty. By the way that I dress, I assume that people know I’m not in college, but I still get carded all the time and get an incredulous “You’re already a lawyer?” by guys at bars who assumed I was just out of college. I don’t get a ton of attention from guys my own age – and frankly, being an introvert, I don’t really want it. I’d rather have a quality conversation, not get hit on for something superficial, anyways.
However, cat calls and getting hit on is what I get. Every. Single. Day. I live in a big city that is very walkable, and public transportation-friendly. So I spend a big portion of my day walking past people, whether it’s to run day-to-day errands or get to work.
I don’t know when I started noticing it, but probably in the last five or ten years, I’ve started getting a lot of attention in my day-to-day life. At first, I was uncomfortable and surprised each time I got a cat call, or some guy would stop me on the street to tell me I have beautiful eyes or that he loved my dress. Now, I’ve grown accustomed to it, but not in the way that I’m ok with it. I still dislike attention from strangers, and I still go above and beyond to avoid it. I wear a trench coat over a dress in 70 or 80-degree weather if I feel like it will get me less attention. I wear flats over high heels to avoid attracting attention to my legs.
Nonetheless, I can’t seem to avoid the catcalls, stares and comments in my everyday life. I certainly found myself surprised this winter when I was wear a parka, LITRALLY, and was on the phone with a friend, and a guy stopped me on the street to ask me out. I had to get off the phone for a second to tell him No! How are those things NOT deterring these men, I wondered!
What Can I Do About It?
If this kind of attention and rudeness is forever going to be undesired, as I strongly suspect, then how can I make it stop? I’ve tried covering up, avoiding certain streets or locations, and changing my looks to be less flattering… But not only is this unfair to me, and I’ve realized that it has not helped one ounce. If a dude is going to hit on me in a very unflattering parka, then it’s not about what I’m wearing. It’s about the person underneath the parka. Me.
I’ve never been opposed to burkas or had strong opinions on it one way or another, but recently I’ve been wondering if covering up might be in MY best interest. I’ve heard that women who wear burkas find it freeing – no creeps staring at you, or dudes asking for your number. How amazing would that be? Nobody knows your age, or what you look like under there. Nobody can judge you! Seems like the perfect solution.
However, to me, that would seem like I was running away from the problem instead of addressing it or tackling it head-on. It seems hardly fair that I have to change myself, or accept something downright obnoxious, while the perpetrators can keep on going on as they please, finding new younglings to prey on. How would I be helping the next women coming of age and being thrown into this unpleasantness?
Personally, I think these men need to hear that what they’re doing is not only rude, but unacceptable. Harassing women, young or old, is demeaning and can be highly damaging. When I was younger all those comments made me feel helpless and unsafe. I didn’t feel like I could ever get away from them. And look at the result? I had to change what I wear and constantly felt like I was out in the open, being undressed by filthy eyes. That is NOT ok.
Taking It Seriously
I read an article about how the NY police are arresting men who inappropriately grab women in the subway. How exciting is that? Every time you’re on the NY subway there might be an undercover NYPD agent who is there to watch for those creeps. And hopefully, other places will take suit.
I do think that by addressing this situation in our media, and also by representing empowered women worthy or respect is going a long way. The creeps that hit on me are generally of an older generation
– just as I was saying that for the most part it’s only old foggies who see me as different from all the men when I’m at work. We need to teach our sons, and the youngest generations of men that treating women with respect, not as objects to leer at at, is the way of our times. It should be EMBARRASSING for a man to say the things they say to women – and I do think that it’s high time we start calling creeps out on it… instead of ignoring it or acting like it’s so commonplace it will never change.
Do you think objectification of women will change? How would you go about tackling the problem? How has it affected YOU?
Please comment, share your thoughts and let me know what you think. Please help me keep this a positive forum, though. I am so excited for some debate, but let’s respect each other please. I reserve the right to monitor and delete inappropriate posts. Thanks in advance!