Do you like the pseudo-alliteration in the title?! I’m so clever.
So, lately, I have been feeling really agitated about my breasts and ovaries. Not my actual breasts and ovaries, guys, chill. They are fine. It’s more about the fact that I have them and how I’m increasingly aware of how I’m treated as a result.
I have always been a feminist (believe men and women are equal, see fabulous Aziz quote I shared in yesterday’s post) but I have become more increasingly aware of both overt and microaggressions against ladies.
I think this uncomfortable feeling intensified when I woke up a few weeks ago, excited to go jogging. I hadn’t been jogging in so long and I was motivated. I was feeling awesome. I was ready.
I put on some workout clothes and left the house. It was pretty busy with going-to-work traffic, so I had to wait at the corner of my street before crossing. While doing so, a man in a passing vehicle looked at me with an expression that made me beyond uncomfortable and said “heyyyyyyy sexy.” I felt so gross. I didn’t want to be outside anymore. So I turned around and went home. I was so angry. Genuinely pissed that I couldn’t just go running without someone deciding it was okay to look at me like that and say something.
If you wonder what I was wearing, I respectfully posit that you are tacitly part of the problem (an oversized sweatshirt, no makeup and gray exercise pants, by the way). If you wonder why I couldn’t just ignore it, you haven’t been worn down by people thinking they have a say over how you look and dress, what you should and should not take as a “compliment,” and what should and should not make you feel unsafe in the world. Many women know exactly what I mean.
A few days later, I was walking to my car from class and a guy yelled from a carful of co-ed’s “Nice ASSSSSS.” Just, no. I AM JUST TRYING TO LIVE MY LIFE. MY ASS IS NOT HERE FOR YOU TO COMMENT ON. IT IS JUST TRYING TO HELP ME GET BACK TO MY CAR.
So, what exactly am I mad about? Who am I blaming for these feelings of agitation?!
Well, first off, the way boys and girls are socialized is an issue. We are conditioned from a young age to think about what boys do and how girls look. Even the compliments our parents give us as wee tots often demonstrate this: “Peter, you are so smart! Look at that puzzle you put together!”, “Amelia, you are so pretty.”
It doesn’t stop when we grow up. When my husband has introduced me to various people (at church, old friends, etc.) one of the first things they say to him when I am out of earshot is “She is beautiful!” Granted, they do not know much about me upon first being introduced, but do we ever question this almost knee jerk reaction? Not really, because it is accepted right now that how women look is the chief thing that is praised or disparaged. Maybe if people didn’t consider me pretty, this wouldn’t be what people immediately mention to my husband. Maybe, my looks wouldn’t come into it and they might ask about my interests! I should try the raccoon eye. Heroin chic doesn’t get many comments in the church crowd.
Do not get me wrong- your parents, strangers in this instance, etc. mean well. They are just going with the socially conditioned flow. But the socially conditioned flow won’t change until we start challenging this ideology and people start behaving differently to change the social atmosphere… it’s all perpetuating, ya see?!
I would further note that the pornography industry as it stands today (often one of the first introductions to sex young’un’s, particularly boys, have nowadays) is a HUGE contributing problem. Seeing women not really participating in sex but rather being “done” is a basis for some pretty harmful ideas. Current porn is not the “nudies” of our parents’ generation. This fast-paced, just bend ’em over action that is typically clipped to be the average length that is takes a male to orgasm is something far more insidious. It sexualizes and objectifies people. Time to disentangle sexuality and sexualization, shall we?! Because they are different. That’s a bit of a bunny trail though (perhaps a post on that soon).
Food for thought: isn’t the fact that some pornography is categorized as “female friendly” indicative that the majority of porn produced is NOT “friendly” to or “for” women?
Furthermore, many wives and girlfriends I speak to whose husbands habitually use porn are deeply hurt by this. Some men respond to this well- they want their wives to feel safe and comfortable and value that above the habit. Others suggest it is their wife’s fault for being “insecure” or not having sex with them enough. The latter responses suggest a huge lack of respect for women’s agency as human beings and suggest their (the man’s) feelings matter more that their spouse (the woman’s) feelings on the matter. Patronizing in the literal sense of the word. Also, the idea that women will always have lower sex drives than men and say no to their partners’ advances is making an assumption. Talking directly to your partner about your needs and their needs is important. I asked a friend if her husband (who used the frequency defense) had told her he would like to have more sex. In their case, the answer was no. Making excuses for behavior that makes your spouse uncomfortable seems pretty disparate from the whole “partners” thing. Also, in 70% of divorces, one partner was a habitual porn user. Correlation is not causation, but interesting nonetheless.
Honestly, porn culture contributes to my feeling unsafe in the world. Before I hear someone say (or adopt the idea) “porn isn’t harmful to women” I urge them to, I dunno, talk to some women about it. I have met a lot of women who didn’t even know it was okay to not be okay with porn. I literally have heard these words “Well if I don’t go along with it, I’m going to sound insecure and I’m not going to find anyone.” Shit. Another thing that suggests to me that we live in a culture where what is acceptable for women (even how they feel?!?!?!) is largely dictated by men. If you are tempted to pull a “Well, that’s their own fault. Be your own person!” I must say, isn’t wanting to be accepted a human need? Isn’t what makes women “acceptable” deeply ingrained in our culture? Detente.
Men who are reading this post, take heart. I’m not spiteful toward you (unless you have harassed me on the street, in which case, GRRRRRRRRRR to you, sir). However, it is crucially important than you examine your own views, the views of men you know (ie: your friend catcalls a woman or makes a rape “joke”… what do you do?!) and be a critical consumer. The critical consumer bit is imperative. It’s sad to shape your habits and/or your values around narratives that are crafted to line others’ pockets (porn is just one example of this, making little boys and girls seem like vastly different creatures is another… Read “Cinderella Ate my Daughter” by Peggy Orenstein for more on this). I think it is important for everyone to do these things (examine your views and be a critical consumer) not just men.
Fellas, it is not inherently bad that you have male privilege. You were born into it. Like I was born with ovaries and breast tissue. Like I was born white. But it’s important to realize you are in a position (haha, anyone?! Not funny?! Okay…) to use your inborn privilege to help the matter. What you do with the privilege and whether you challenge or perpetuate the culture is where you become part of the problem or the solution.
Women, educating yourself and being aware is important for you too. And always remember that payback and progress are different things.
I could go on and on and on about this, but I will rather suggest some articles and videos I found helpful. These are meant as food for thought and not Bible truth.
This article was interesting,
I liked this article a lot.
Sexuality vs. sexualization looked at here.
GQ thinks you should stop watching porn. They tell you why here.
Must watch documentaries: “The Bro Code” and “Sexy Baby” (it’s on Netflix, ya’ll).
My recommendation is to watch “The Bro Code” if nothing else.
Friends, this very long blog post is drawing to a close. Basically, I periodically feel very exposed and unsafe in the world (and have actually had experiences far more traumatic than catcalling) because I have XX for my chromosomes.
I feel positive that together we can move in a better direction. But sometimes I’m pissed at society and anyone who diliberately chooses to look the other way, ya know?!
(Note: I know I am referring to cis genered, heterosexual, long-term relationships here as this is what I am most familiar with. I have not spoken to gay or transgendered friends about this. Furthermore, I do know that some women are habitually into mainstream porn, too. I think it is similarly unhealthy in their case but that is beyond the scope of this post).