A cup of coffee. That’s all I wanted during my off period. And I got the nice, warm, hazelnut goodness, but it came with a side of frustration and disgust. With myself. With what my body had been made into. As I was walking back from a bagel shop alone, I actually took notice of the looks I got from the grown men driving past me in their cars. They have the liberty of looking as long as they choose, even if it means slowing traffic behind them. I am powerless to stop this.
This sounds crude and abhorrent, but this has been a part of my daily life along with half the population since we hit puberty. However the culprit is seldom my peers. It’s the older men that I’ve never met. Just yesterday I was walking myself to the dentist. The road was under construction but a few of the workers needed to stop what they were doing to shout out “Hey sexy!” and a plethora of other objectifying comments. And just like I was trained to do, I ignored it and kept walking. I felt their eyes burning into my body. I’ve realized it does not matter what I’m wearing, I could be in just leggings with a t-shirt and they’d still take my body as their own in their mind. But the more skin I expose, like during ninety-five degree weather, it’s as if I’m just giving them permission to stare at me and turn me into a walking sex object.
As I write this, I think about the times this has happened where I just brushed it off and continued my day. Though it doesn’t take the forefront of my mind, I notice every time a man’s eyes scope out a low cut shirt or a tighter pair of jeans that I’m wearing. But my question is when did I consent to this? When did I give up my humanity so grown men can have a moment of pleasure? I don’t recall signing that away when I bought my first bra. I am just about seventeen years old and I have endured four years of this!What kind of world do we live in that forty year old men have the right to judge my young body. I leave Victoria’s Secret with their bright pink bag and I see the smirks these men wear on their faces. I turn my head away, focusing on anything else than what they could be thinking. I’m not the only one this happens to. Young girls starting at age ten or eleven get harassed. Journalist Liz Dwyer writes. “In the United States, a full eighty-five percent of respondents said they first experienced being harassed —catcalled or physically groped— before they turned seventeen.” And the social experiment by Hollaback! features Shoshana B. Roberts who walked through New York City and was catcalled by men 108 times over ten hours.
If statistics aren’t enough, ask a teenage female in your family about how she’s treated in public space. This culture is revolting. The culture that blames me for wearing my comfortable pair of leggings on a cold day or a flowy dress when it’s hot. I can’t get my coffee in peace. I stand in line with a man behind me and I send out a silent prayer that he’s not staring at my body. Not to say that every man would, because that is not true. Not every man is like that, but I’m so used to being objectified by people who ‘look nice’ that it’s hard not to be nervous when I’m near any adult male. I am sick and tired of this. I don’t want to cross the street when I see a group of construction workers. I don’t want to change cafes because another regular customer looks forward to me as their unconsenting dessert.
I have just as much rights as any other human being to go out into public and feel like a person rather than an object. This can’t be an acceptable activity anymore, this can no longer be a daily occurrence. It’s damaging young women for absolutely no reason and it is a component in the rape culture of our country. When we teach girls that it’s okay for a grown man to objectify her and tell her that all she’s worth is her body, those thoughts remain in their heads as they grow older. This is not something we as females chose when the nurse wrapped us in a pink blanket all those years ago. We never signed those terms and conditions, and they shouldn’t exist in the first place. We’re humans, not an iPhone.