I remember men whistling at me and cat calling as I walked passed the car wash everyday on my way to school. I was eight or nine years old and I was walking to and from elementary school. These were grown men, probably in their 30s or so, men who worked at the car wash. I was a child. It didn't bother me then. I was always fat and insecure and the fact that older grown men were whistling at me kinda made me feel a little less ugly. It wasn't until I grew up and became an adult that I realized that was completely wrong and disgusting.
I developed early, I was on steroids as a child for my asthma. I wore a 38D bra size when I was about nine. The boys used to put pencils in their shirt to mimic my breasts and make fun of me. I brushed it off. I was always more mature than everyone else my age so I just ignored them. Being fat, it was always difficult to find shirts with sleeves big enough for my arms. So I wore tank tops a lot. But that wasn't allowed in school because it was considered a distraction to the boys. Because I was fat, I was always hot so I wore shots a lot, but I had to make sure they went down to my knees, because anything shorter would distract the boys. Because I had big breasts, my shirts often revealed a little bit of my cleavage. A skinny, small breasted girl could wear the same exact shirt and it wouldn't be as revealing because she had smaller breasts. But if I wore the same shirt, I'd get in trouble because it was distracting to the boys.
When I entered the work force, I was still into tank tops that were slightly revealing. I'm fat, when I wear t shirts that cover my whole chest, I look like I'm wearing a tent. It makes me look fatter and I feel completely uncomfortable. Most offices don't allow women to wear shorts so we have to wear dresses and skirts. I hate dresses and skirts, but because I'm fat and I'm always hot and I couldn't wear shorts, I'd wear dresses and skirts. I've been spoken to about my attire in the office numerous times. Been asked to cover up. Wear less revealing clothes. Because the men were uncomfortable. Thinner women, who wore reveling clothes almost never got spoken to about their attire.
When a woman is raped or accuses someone of rape she's asked a series of questions: did you know the person, were you drinking (intoxicated, using any drugs), what were you wearing, did you get in his car willingly, were you flirting with him, did you invite him into you place, did you say, "no," are you sure he knew you meant no, did you lead him on, did you try to fight him off, why didn't you scream for help, why didn't you fight him off . . . I know some of these questions seem normal and legit, the cops are just doing their job trying to get all the facts and details. But to someone who was just raped, this line of questioning makes them feel like they're being interrogated and victim shamed. As if they brought it on themselves or asked for it. As if a man would somehow have a right to rape a woman if she were dressed provocatively or if she were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. As if our bodies are not our own. As if we don't have the right to say, "NO."
I've even had conversations with male friends/boyfriends about rape and had more than one of them said that if a man is trying to rape a woman, she should just let it happen and not fight back so that he doesn't beat or kill her. I asked them, if they were being raped would they just let it happen? The answer was unanimously, "NO." they said they'd rather fight back and die than be raped. So I asked why they thought a woman shouldn't do the same? Why should a woman allow herself to be raped to save her life when you wouldn't? They had no answer. They couldn't even imagine themselves being raped to begin with.
As girls, we're conditioned to cater to boys and men. Rather than holding boys and men accountable for their actions and themselves, girls and women are expected to adjust ourselves and our behavior and the way we dress to appease the males in this society and make them feel more comfortable. We're expected to quiet ourselves down, dumb ourselves down, dress ourselves down (or up in some cases) all to cater to the male ego. We're not allowed to be smarter than them or better at things than them (unless those things are considered feminine), we're not allowed to out rank them (in the workforce) or out earn them (in wages). We can't dress too sexy, unless we have the right body type (then some of us get away with it) but we also can't dress too ugly, it has to be sexy enough for their viewing pleasure but not sexy enough to be considered a slut.
We're expected to be nurturing homemakers, mothers, wives, take care of all the household chores, but keep ourselves presentable enough to hold our significant other's interest. If we do want a career, we're expected to be able to hold that down while continuing to be the perfect homemaker, mother and wife at the same time. While the men just go to work and come home expecting dinner on the table and all the house hold chores to be done already.
Now, I know, societal norms have changed. Feminism and the women's movement have brought about "equal rights." But, we're still not holding the male population accountable for themselves. We still expect the females to cater to their needs and desires. Girls are taught that they shouldn't dress a certain way because they don't want to invite negative attention. We're still told not to go out alone at night because we risk getting attacked. We still have to follow dress codes so that we don't distract the boys. We're taught to make sure we're assertive when we say, "No," so that they know we mean it. We're constantly interrupted at the office, in school, in general by men who think we should be seen and not heard.
Pedophilia is strongly despised by the majority of our culture. Yet, in my opening paragraph I described my experience with pedophiles. I hear so many people talking about how disgusting and disturbing pedophilia is. Yet, it's still extremely common for grown adult men to whistle, cat call, flirt with, and groom young girls to accept that behavior. I bet if I asked those men today, if they consider themselves to be pedophiles they'd not only say, "No," but they'd probably even be offended. I was walking to and from the elementary school (right next to the car wash), with my books, they had to know I was under age. I was a child. But they still whistled and tried to get me to talk to them. That was just one, of the many examples I've had with pedophiles in my life. That's the kind of behavior men are conditioned to think is acceptable when you don't teach them as boys that it's not! And the same for girls. I thought that was just the way men are. "Boys will be boys." But when grown men are preying on young girls, the "boys will be boys" excuse is not acceptable.
What we should be doing is teaching boys that girls are their equal. We should be teaching boys that they need to keep their hands to themselves. No matter what a girl is wearing or how she's acting or if she invites you to her place or if you've had intimate relations with her before you do not have a right to touch her as you please or grope her or have sex with her. Women have the right to say, "NO." PERIOD! She doesn't have to give you a reason or an excuse or an explanation. No, literally means no! We need to teach boys to respect girls and their body's. We need to teach boys not to interrupt. If they have something to say, they can be respectful and wait until the other person is finished. We need to teach boys that they may have a female boss one day or a female coworker who makes more money than him. We need to teach little boys that household chores and being nurturing and caring aren't just female traits. We need to stop enabling little boys to grow up and become predatory men who think they have card blanc to do as they please without consequences.
And we need to teach little girls that they are allowed to speak up. They're allowed express themselves. They're allowed to have their own goals and aspirations and they don't have to involve being a wife, mother, or homemaker. We need to teach little girls that no matter what she's wearing or if she has a few drinks or if she is in a relationship that she shouldn't have to fear being raped or groped or harassed and that she IS still allowed to say, "NO." We need to teach our girls that they're allowed to be assertive and driven and successful. Those aren't just male traits. We need to stop raising little girls to be submissive, dependent women who think they need men to take care of them financially or they need men so they can take care of them emotionally.
Now, I'm not one of those extreme man hating feminists. I'm not saying we need to teach girls to grow up thinking they're better than men or we need to teach our boys to bow down to the women. No! Not at all. I'm just saying we need to teach them to respect each other and to know that they're equal to each other. Teach them independence and how to take care of themselves so that, if they want to be in a relationship one day, they can both bring something to the table. Women shouldn't expect men to take care of them financially. Just as men shouldn't expect women to do all the housework. Men shouldn't be intimidated by a strong successful woman. And women shouldn't look down on kind nurturing man.
Times have been changing, things have been progressing. That's what life is all about. You're supposed to change and progress and evolve. We're not supposed to just be one thing our whole lives. Or be/do what others tell us to. We each have our own brain for a reason. We're allowed to think for ourselves. It's time we start holding everyone accountable. Take responsibility for yourself, your emotions, your actions. Stop expecting others to change themselves to make you more comfortable. If you're uncomfortable by the way a person acts or dresses or lives their life, that's your issue not theirs. You need take a step back and ask yourself why that bothers you or makes you uncomfortable. And if it's not directly affecting you or your life, you need to just accept it and let people be themselves and live their lives. You don't have to be apart of it but you don't get to control it either. The only person you get to control is yourself.