I was staring at my closet and looking through all the clothes I have that I haven’t worn and I realized something that they’ve all had in common: I haven’t worn them out of fear I would be judged for them. The shorts are either “too” short, the shirts show “too” much cleavage or the swimsuits are “too” revealing. I get annoyed sometimes, especially during summer, because those are the clothes that I want to be wearing. Not because I want attention from the opposite sex, in fact that’s the last thing I want when I’m minding my own business walking through the neighborhood I live and work in.
This newfound confidence I have embraced has brought out a greater appreciation for my body, imperfections and all. With that appreciation I’ve tried push any doubts out of my mind that the people around me: friends, family and strangers, are judging me based on the clothes I’m wearing but that’s not the case. Everyday I have to deal with an encounter of receiving unwanted attention. When I express my feelings on this topic to some of my male friends, they tend to have a similar answer, “Maybe you should wear less provocative clothes,” in more or less words. With that response I’m filled with a number of feelings, one being embarrassment. I feel embarrassed because I complain about this negative attention when I could fix the problem easily by changing my wardrobe. Then I feel angry, how dare I be blamed for a person’s inability to respect another person’s body or their personal space? Then I feel sad, how could someone blame me for being victimized? To many this doesn’t seem all that serious but its victim blaming and it’s a very big problem.
When we focus our attention on how to make the victim less of a victim we lose touch on what really matters, how to make the predator less of a predator. I am not implying that people, women and men, shouldn’t be safe or take precautions when in danger, all I’m saying is that we cannot keep making these victims feel more shame for incidents out of their control. Being someone that has been a target of unwanted sexual attention, I constantly thought of things I could have done differently or ways I could have protected myself more. In turn making me feel like anything that has happened to me has been brought upon by my own actions. When in fact that’s not the case, the problem isn’t that I need to cover my body more or be more modest. The problem is that many men don’t respect women’s personal space and that is a huge issue.
Many of my lady friends have received unwanted attention at parties, on the street, at the store, checking their mail, at work, out to eat, and the list continues. Our society, our community and maybe even some of our friends have made us believe or at least question that some of the inappropriate attention we receive is partially our fault. When it’s not, we can’t make someone understand personal space. The problem is some men can’t accept the word, “No.” The problem is most men view these inappropriate gestures and comments as compliments and if women don’t accept them, then the woman was uptight, not that the action was wrong. How can wearing longer shorts change that?
This online rant was inspired by a conversation with a male friend I had the other day about how sometimes I feel really disrespected when I’m out and I get hollered at on the street or the guy at the bar was a little too touchy-feely. My friend did sympathize with me and knew that attention like that was unfair, but his recommendation was to wear sweatpants the next time I went out (I’m not kidding). And it made me sad because that’s not okay, I shouldn’t have to apologize or change the way I am in order to ensure a safe evening out. I felt voiceless because there was nothing that I could say to make my friend understand and the more he kept trying to get me to see where he was coming from the more offended I got.
The point of this was to encourage our community to really push the boundaries and really understand that street harassment and victim blaming is a serious issue to a lot of women I know and a lot of women in our community and something has to change. We can all rise above street harassment and victim blaming.