Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Objectification... And being human.


A few weeks ago, I was walking downtown with my best friend (who happens to be male -- yes, this is relevant. Keep reading.) when a man approached us at a crosswalk and proceeded to murmur and coo 'ooh baby' in my direction. Having dealt with this on numerous occasions in public, I ignored him and turned to my friend, continuing our conversation. Dissatisfied with my reaction, the man then said, very loudly, "Mmm, man. What you do to get a woman like that, huh?" And "It must take a lot to snag an ass like that."

Taken aback, slightly weirded out and trying to diffuse the situation as I openly seethed, my friend then jokingly replied that he regularly goes to the gym, etc, to which this enterprising fellow nodded and eyed me up and down like a blue-ribbon Hereford cow. 

I looked both men in the eye, and angrily responded, "I am not a shiny fucking bicycle. I'm going to walk away before someone gets punched in the throat". 

Laughter erupted from this stranger, and other men in the area, as I stalked away. Someone even called out, "Hey honey, he was just complimenting you!" 

Let me get one thing straight, right now: A compliment is when one person approaches another person and directly says, "Those are great shoes!" Or "you're absolutely beautiful." 

It is not complimentary to ooh and ahh over ANYONE as though they were a nicely floral patterned sofa; male or female. 

I am not an object. I am a human being with feelings and thoughts and a soul. The fact that I won some sort of genetic roulette and have grown past my baby fat stage isn't cause to approach me as anything less than an amazing, unique, capable human. 

Not only can I communicate, but I can communicate very well. If you want to talk, let's chat. If you want to get to know me because you find my perpetually disheveled appearance or my clumsily assembled bone structure semi-attractive, FUCKING TALK TO ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Grunting at me like a caveman and then resorting to 'barter speak' with the man at my side is insulting, objectifying and frighteningly enraging. 

Why? Because when a man grunts (or catcalls or shouts or whistles), he assumes that his laziness (lack of effort) is all that is required to get my attention, and thus, my affection. When someone hollers at another human being out of physical attraction, it's a marketing pitch directed at our very lowest animal instincts instead of acknowledging the individual qualities that make us special and unique beings, and appealing to our smarter, more intelligent minds through clever communication. It's an insult because it's assumptive. Not only am I better than that, but so are you. We're not mere animals... We are humans, with the capacity for much more than animal instinct. Don't grunt or murmur at me. Talk to me.

Secondly, do not treat me like a goddamn fucking camel. What does it take to 'get me'? GET ME?! Like I'm just so easily 'gotten'? Like a box of cereal, or a new TV? I'll tell you what it takes to 'get me': speaking to my face ad treating me like a person, not inquiring about my 'price' from my male companion. It takes class, and effort, and self-education, and understanding, and kindness, and respect, and value and humor and care. It takes morals and opinions, wit, strength, wisdom, hope. 

Again, it takes RESPECT. Yeah, like the song. 'Getting' me requires respect, not reps in a gym or a college degree. 

It's not about how much money you make, or how white your teeth are. It's not about how loud you grunt or how much of a kill you bring home at the end of the day. It means you treat me like an equal, with feelings and thoughts and value. It means that you don't ogle a stranger's behind, or make sexual remarks about a woman. It means a lot of things, and it means you behave in a way that would reflect positively upon how you feel about both yourself and me. 

I cried that day, and not because they scared me or hurt my feelings or made me feel unsafe. 

I cried because I was ANGRY. I was so angry, and so sad... Because right now, no matter how hard I work or how smart I am or how great and effective and wise my ideas and thoughts are, the world isn't my oyster, and it's because I'm female. It's because I LOST the genetic roulette, and as much as anyone wants to protest about how 'equal' things are in the world, or how 'far we've come', it's not enough. For every board meeting I walk into, for every hour of work I put in, I will still be judged by the way I look, not who I am underneath. 

But.

This is my own realization, and it is a challenge, not a defeat. Everything I have always believed about being equal is truer than ever. I am equal. We are ALL equal. And if I have to work harder, and be smarter, and beat the system, I will. 

I will put the hours in and I will fight tooth and nail and I will speak up and I will reach out BECAUSE I CAN. I will confront those beliefs head on, and I will call them out, and I will disprove every single erroneous belief about inequality and violence and sexualization because there are little girls and little boys who deserve a world filled with equal opportunity... TRUE equality. A world where a woman speaks for herself. A world where we don't have to base our schedules around daylight hours to ensure our safety. A world where courts and governments rule in favor of our reproductive rights and freedoms, and where respect for all is a real thing. 

Watch out, men (and women) on the street. You're about to snag a whole new plane of reality.