Normally I don’t give gender, specifically the fact that I’m female, much thought. By which I mean, say if I were the first female to do something, I probably wouldn’t notice until someone pointed it out…because when I do what I do and as I live my life, I’m living it as me not as a woman, if that makes sense. Not to seem as if I’m bashing other women, but I’m also grateful to be free of the body image issues that seem to plague many women and girls, and I’m probably the only girl out there who is completely comfortable with not having boobs or being curvy…I honestly don’t feel as if I am lacking in anything. I think a lot of this may have to do with the fact that I’m an only child…so it’s not like I was brought up in comparison to a brother, and my parents/teachers/etc. never really enforced gender stereotypes.
So anyway, sometimes girls say and do things and all the girls except me will agree and know what they’re talking about, and it will make me think of what I described above. But also, I guess what every girl goes though as she gets older, and especially since I live in a big city with a lot of random people, is what seems like constant and completely random male attention.
As I digress, the reason I thought to write this as a blog was because I went to an exhibit today that had a bunch of works that were mostly social commentary pertaining to issues facing those born after 1976. So there was one video installation with a women who was going to have sex with a man, or something like that, and he was going on about how he wanted a girl, not a woman, and she was crying, looking in the mirror, getting all upset over her body. Then there was this narrator who said something like, “women are like children to be loved by men.”
So that got me thinking about how completely true that is. Of course generally speaking women are treated like competent adults, but women are infantalized in a small way by how men are usually willing to do a difficult physical task for a woman, women are more likely to be called “honey,” “doll,” or “dear” by random strangers even as adults…stuff like that. And it’s in language too. Grown women are referred to as “girls” whereas a man over 21 will not be called a boy, except jokingly. I notice that in my own language (I think of myself as a girl, not a woman…but I did just turn 20 so I think that’s legitimate) and I always notice it in this one song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs…she says “the men cry out, the girls cry out.”
I don’t want to seem ungrateful for chivalry. I understand that most people are just trying to be friendly, and it’s not fair to assume that a man is being a pervert if he calls me “honey,” because that’s sexism as well…and it is nice for someone to help someone who they think may be struggling, and if said person can do it on their own, they just say, “no thank you.”
What really makes me angry is the fact that if I go out to do my daily business, I am far more likely to get hassled by some random guy, than I would be if I were a man…like because I’m a young woman I’m public property. People undressing me with their eyes counts as hassling…I’m not a picture in a magazine…I am a human being who can see you looking at me in a dirty way. And people coming up to me when I’m sitting and reading and trying to get my name and number? Do I have “whore who goes home with any man” tattooed on my face? I’ve even had to go walk on another street because of someone repeatedly yelling things at me. It’s just so absurd to think that people have the idea that they can disrupt my life that much, and that I have to actually be on my guard instead of being able to just walk around like a normal person. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic….I’m not saying this happens every day…but it’s happened enough to bother me.
In the middle of “Staring Problem” (by No Doubt) Gwen Stefani says something in the background about public property regarding people staring and watching other people. I’m hearing that in my head right now. This isn’t what she said…but I’m saying it now…I am not public property! My body is my own and I have every right to go about my business and not be bothered! There’s nothing wrong with politeness and courtesy, but please, if you don’t know me, don’t touch me or imply that you want to hook up with me.