No, My Body is Not for Your Viewing Pleasure, Thank You Much.

20 Aug

The dreaded miniskirt - a gaurantor of catcalls.

A recent conversation among friends (in addition to this Jezebel post) prompted me to comment on what I feel is one of the most tragic, perpetual obstacles facing girls and women everywhere. The constant objectification of the female body is a challenge presented to all women, regardless of whether they want such attention. The matter of clothing, and the question of whether women can attract “negative” attention by wearing certain things, is becoming a hot-button issue in the media. I remember Bill O’Reilly had made some comments regarding a young woman, Jennifer Moore, who was raped and murdered in New York City. For some reason, the fact that she had worn a miniskirt out that night made it into the reporting of her brutal murder. O’Reilly, ever the scumbag, made this gem of a comment on his show:

She was 5-foot-2, 105 pounds, wearing a miniskirt and a halter top with a bare midriff. Now, again, there you go. So every predator in the world is gonna pick that up at 2 in the morning.

The idea that the victim of such a horrific crime could be somehow culpable for her fate is truly nauseating.

Every day, women are subjected to unwanted evaluations of her appearance. This is not due simply to what she could be wearing – this is because women are institutionally perceived as sexual objects free to be rated and criticized by men. How do I know this? It happens to me every day, no matter what I’m wearing.

Women, whether we like it or not, are subject to a constant stream of assessments of our face, body, and overall physical appearance. Men constantly decide whether we are “desirable” or “fuckable”. We are the entertainment for our male counterparts. Many men (I’m not trying to make a blanket statement here, but trust me, it’s a lot of men) believe they have a right to rate and judge the appearance of every woman who crosses their path. Cat calls, whistling, nasty comments (“Spread those legs, mami,”) are often the norm in the lives of most women. I believe I first noticed men looking at me when I was little more than ten years old. Of course I was tall (perhaps around 5’4″ at that time) for my age and probably had begun developing in my chest, but I was nowhere near mentally or emotionally capable of understanding what was happening when I saw men leering at me. Adolescence can be a frightening thing for either sex, but with the growing emphasis on the sexual worth of young women, the difficulty of growing up as a girl in a society that seems to value the appearance of a woman above any other attribute can be devastating and confusing.

This constant objectification has spread into the educational realm, as well. At my high school, girls whose outfits were deemed “inappropriate” were forced to wear an over-sized yellow t-shirt for the rest of the day. I remember my sister being subjected to this barbaric display of control when she was a sophomore. I also noticed that the girls who were often forced to wear the big yellow t-shirt were the girls more often known as “troublemakers”. I would often wear tank tops or shirts that gave hints of cleavage, things very similar to what the other girls were wearing, but I never had to wear the t-shirt. This has led me to believe that certain girls were targets for breaking these dress code rules, while others (the A students, the Homecoming court, etc.) were the exception to this rule.

So what can be done to reduce the horror that comes with having breasts and hips? Nothing, really. Parents can take the extra steps to help educate their children on the sensitive nature of a developing body, which could perhaps change the attitudes of people over time. I know that if I have a son in this lifetime, I will surely teach him to keep any sexual thoughts he has to himself while in the company of young women. That’s probably the least I can do. Respect for women begins within the family, and it’s a parent’s responsibility to portray this ideal. Sexual thoughts, however, are natural, and it should not be a goal to suppress such a thing. Exercising discretion is likely the best anyone can do.

Unless something magical happens to change how society views women and their bodies, I will likely continue to endure catcalls and leering eyes for however long men will think I’m “hot”. Because being hot is the only thing a woman should have going for her – ignore her mind, humor, and values. She is tits, ass, and legs – nothing more. This is reality, and it’s sad for us all, but at least I look pretty living in it.

2 Responses to “No, My Body is Not for Your Viewing Pleasure, Thank You Much.”

  1. constantineintokyo August 20, 2010 at 2:09 AM #

    The assumption seems to be that if a woman is out in public, then she is putting her body and appearance on display and is consenting to the public evaluation, consumption, and criticism of her image. It’s something that every woman has to come to terms with, which I find absolutely ridiculous.

  2. shoutabyss August 20, 2010 at 10:38 AM #

    Wow. This is very heavy stuff. But important. And yes, I agree with you one hundred percent. As a man, I can’t help but admire beauty. That includes the sexy new latest and greatest iThingy that I desperately crave, a car, a painting, a cat, and yes, even a woman. I try damn hard to be respectful about the latter, though, usually only indulging in a quick peek as to (hopefully) not result in my appreciative look ever being noticed. I don’t think I’ve ever hooted, hollered, whistled or catcalled at anyone in my entire life, though.

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