I wonder how many men realize how often women feel objectified. I wonder how many men realize how often women feel like a piece of meat. I wonder how often men have similar experiences.
You know what I learned growing up? Starting in middle school, I learned that men and boys feel that it is perfectly okay to catcall, to whistle at and to hit on women. It doesn’t matter if said woman is exuding every possible bit of body language that says, “Do not talk to me,” there are a fair number of men that think it’s okay. It doesn’t even seem to matter if it’s not a woman, but a 13-year-old girl.
It doesn’t seem to matter what you wear or what you look like. Simply because you appear outwardly female, you can probably expect some type of the above behavior from men in the world.
Of course not all men do this. Once, a friend of mine even told me he was appalled that I had been yelled/catcalled/whistled at so many times in my life that I now assume any noises made at me by the general public (yelling, honking car horns, etc.) is unwanted male attention. He happened to have tried to get my attention from his vehicle, but rather than try and figure out who it was, I walked faster. The point is, I know there are a lot of men that don’t behave like this.
But there are a lot of men that do. You know what I want? I want to be able to go out in public wearing anything I want and not have to worry about being devoured by the male gaze. I want to be able to go out wearing anything I want and not worry about being catcalled, whistled at, hit on, or touched inappropriately. It’s not a compliment. It’s an insult to bodily autonomy and a threat to my safety.
I’m not saying men should be banned from looking at women (or the other way around). I’m not saying men should be banned from speaking to women they don’t know. I am saying that catcalling and whistling should not be acceptable behavior, that staring at a woman so long/much she feels uncomfortable or tries to remove herself from your line of sight is unacceptable behavior. I am saying that hitting on women (and men), even if well-intentioned, is a little gross.
Don’t catcall or whistle at women (or men, for that matter). Don’t stare people down just because you think they’re attractive or you like how short their skirt is or whatever. Just don’t do it. And next time you want to hit on someone in a store, try not hitting on them instead. You could try introducing yourself instead of saying things like, “Hey, how you doin’ girl.” It is very possible to talk to a member of the opposite sex (or whatever sex/gender you are attracted to), even a stranger, without being lewd or making them feel ill at ease. Try treating them like a person instead of just an image. I’d even be willing to bet that this will work better than typical methods.
I, and many other women like me, want to be able to dress up nice or wear a short skirt or a sexy dress without feeling like a piece of meat. I understand that when I wear short skirts or dresses, I attract attention to myself. Nevertheless, I should be able to dress whichever way I choose without feeling as if there’s some sort of target on my back. It’s one thing to see a beautiful or sexy woman and appreciate that sight, just as it’s okay to see a sexy or handsome man and appreciate the sight. It’s when your behavior becomes lewd and rude and/or threatening that it becomes a problem.