It’s waking up in the morning and questioning my favorite dress. The question never is, “is this appropriate for work?” But rather “Is this appropriate for society?” I check the length. I check the cut. I wonder what shoes to wear. I wonder will this subject me to ridicule and how much?
And I carry on with my day. I know from the moment I step out that door things will be different. A dress I love in the privacy of my house could easily never be worn again.
And I stand at the bus stop and get whistled and honked at. Do they think it’s a compliment? Do they think I feel better about myself? Do they think they have any right?
It’s the walk to work as I pass a group of construction workers. My earphones are in and my head is down, but I can feel them watching as I pass. And suddenly my dress feels like it’s getting shorter. My high heels are getting higher and I wonder why did I choose to wear that and draw attention to myself.
It’s the ride in the cab as I discuss my knowledge of the country he came from and my opinion on conflicts going on. It’s him telling me as I leave, for a beautiful woman you are surprisingly intelligent.
It’s a night at the bar with my friends and someone touches my boob with a comment, “boobs like that shouldn’t be hidden.”
It’s the comments I heard in high school of a woman’s place was in the kitchen and she’s only good for cleaning, cooking and sex. And they laugh. Everyone’s laughs. It’s a joke I’m not understanding. It’s a joke at my expense.
It’s me being called a slut if I sleep around. It’s him getting a high five when he does it.
It’s the comment an older man makes as I did community service at 14. “If I were your age, the things I would have done to you.”
It’s the stranger trying to feel me up in public and when I cringe and move away, he says he likes a challenge. Or I’m made to feel bad.
It’s being called a tease if I don’t sleep with him and a whore if I do.
It’s the tears my best friend cried when she got harassed at work and she called out sick the next day. And as much as I wanted her to report it, she was a gorgeous young girl who wouldn’t stand a chance in a male dominated company.
Because the reality is we live in a male-dominated society.
I wonder about these people and if they have daughters. I wonder about these people and if they have sisters. I wonder about these people and I think who made them feel like they have the right to make me feel bad about myself just for going through the motions.
Because I know I’m not the only one who endures this. I know I’m not the only one who has a dress they can’t wear. I know I’m not the only one who’s cried themselves to sleep.
And for a while, I never considered myself a feminist. I laughed along with the jokes and thought people were too sensitive.
But then I thought if it were my daughter if it were my sister it wouldn’t be okay.
It isn’t okay. And we need to stop pretending like it is.