What is Acceptable?
I was talking to a friend recently about something that I think has been a long-standing topic of conversation. I feel that just about every woman will be able to relate to what I am about to talk about.
Let me paint a short picture of a scenario before I really dive in. Picture this:
It's a hot summer day and you have a few errands to run. It is obvious you will choose what to wear based on the temperatures outside right? It's hot out so something like a pair of shorts or even a summer dress wouldn't seem too far fetched to wear, right? So you get to the store, park your car and head in. As you do, you hear a voice yelling something from behind you,
"Oh, damn! Would you look at that!"
Unsure of what he was referring to, you carry on your way. But then you hear this,
"I was just pointing out the fat ass on that white chick up there."
Finally, you look around and suddenly realize he is talking about YOU! Turning around you see he is on the phone, clearly talking about you and your body. Some might say you should be flattered. But deep down, you begin to feel a little uncomfortable and maybe even a little self-conscious.
As a woman, unwanted cat calls are one of the most difficult things to talk about. Situations like what I mentioned above are quite common and I know for a fact many women are subjected to comments every single day. Here is where the controversy comes in.
Some might take that scenario from above and ask, "well did you take into consideration you what you were wearing?"
HOW IN THE HECK IS THAT RELEVANT!?
Do you know what that statement right there is, it is Victim Blaming. This happens to be one of the biggest reasons women who are assaulted, physically or verbally, do not come forward against their attacker. Just because a woman feels comfortable in her skin and decides to wear a dress to run her errands, doesn't mean she is ASKING to be sexualized or cat-called.
Now the reason I bring this up is because of my own personal experience with this type of struggle. After living in NYC for about 5 years, I felt as though I developed a pretty thick skin when it comes to comments from men. I also feel that I am pretty good at taking a compliment because, well, I am quite comfortable with myself and my body. But nobody should ever have to spend time figuring out ways to make yourself LESS noticeable in public for the fear of being sexualized.
This conversation became relevant because I was telling my friend how I still get my groceries delivered to me even though the pandemic has slowed down. He pretty much laughed when I said this. When I explained the countless times - even giving examples - that I have been made to feel uncomfortable in public, the topic of my clothes came up. Let's keep in mind that I live in south Florida where the humidity strikes quite high in the summertime; so it is obvious that I would wear more shorts and what not. Doesn't sound like too much of an issue, right?
But the issue isn't the fact that I am uncomfortable wearing shorts and a tank top when I run my errands. The issue is that I am somehow the one to blame because I chose to wear something that shows off my legs and arms. That I should have considered covering up before I left the house even though the temperatures are reaching 90 degrees! How is it that I go to the store to get THREE things and end up with a man following me the ENTIRE time speaking in Spanish, commenting on how my legs look, yet I am the one who should have thought twice about what I had on?
To avoid getting too carried away in a rant that makes my blood boil, I think you get the point.
I do feel that I need to offset this a little and say that I know there are some women out there who consciously wear something for the sake of getting comments about it. I also know that a few years ago, a woman walked down a New York City street in a little black dress wearing a body camera to record all the men who made comments towards her. This is where I feel the controversy and victim blaming comes into play.
If you are someone who seeks validation through being sexualized or subjected to comments from strangers, then by all means, keep doing you. But let's not forget the intentions behind what you are choosing to wear over what is comfortable to wear.
Women who dress to fit their body and their confidence aren't dressing for the attention. At least that's how I feel. As a woman, finding shorts or dresses that stay in place when worn is near impossible. Never in my life have I had a pair of jean shorts not ride up here and there. But that doesn't mean I left the house with the intention of having someone look at me. It gets damn near scorching down here and that is reason enough to resort to those shorts, not because I want attention.
So, the next time you think about commenting or judging a girl for feeling uncomfortable about unwanted cat-calls, just stop. You don't know what it feels like to be blamed just because you wore what you wanted to outside. No one is asking to be sexualized so instead of victim blaming, lets start teaching people how to keep their mouths shut unless they have something nice to say.