Disclaimer: This letter is not meant for all men. Of course, there are men out there who give other people the respect they deserve – all people, not just men or women. This is to the other men – those men who leer at women on the streets like they’ve never seen a female before in their entire lives and you know who you are.
I am a young girl, going to be eighteen in a few months. If you read some of my older posts on my blog, you’ll know that I’m the survivor of molestation at a very young age. It affected me very deeply and led to being under medication for anxiety disorder and depression. And that’s why, it’s been a while since I wrote. Because I couldn’t even bring myself to write. But this letter is not about my past or my mental health. This is about what inspired me to write again. That inspiration is anger; anger that I experienced yesterday when I went out for a movie with my family and then had some walking to do.
Do you see this girl in the picture below? That’s my sister.
My sister is fourteen years old. She’s in Grade 10. She’s wearing her new top that we bought her. She likes it a lot and she was extremely excited to wear it. She wore the outfit in the picture to the movies yesterday. It’s quite acceptable, really, considering it’s really hot here. And despite her psoriasis, it’s not like she’s ashamed of her arms, or any part of her body, for that matter.
Oh, but look. Bare skin. Her arms are bare. And you can see her ankles. And it was apparently quite enough to have a volley of looks being directed towards her at once. Looks, that went from her face, down to her chest, then to her feet, then back up. Not once, not twice, but constantly. I am extremely protective of my family, and even more so about my sister. We had a long way to walk. Almost like a reflex, my arm went around her shoulders and we began walking a lot faster. I don’t think my parents noticed.
But hey, my sister has a pretty face and nice figure. Everyone says so. She’s attractive. Of course she’ll attract attention, right? Because of course, my fourteen year-old sister is on exhibit for you all to look at and talk about. If you had a sister, niece or daughter her age, would you look at her the same way too? Would you? I sincerely hope not because then you, sir, need help.
Do you see the picture below now? That’s me.
That’s what I was wearing. Full-sleeve shirt. Denim pants. Shoes.
Oh, but what’s that? My shirt buttons are open? So you must look there straightaway? When you’re walking towards me and need to move out of my way, do you look at my buttons first? Is that all you notice?
My sister and I were not wearing ‘obscene’ clothes, were we? Or do you just get turned on by bare skin at all? How about the bare skin on my face? Do you want me to cover that up as well? Do you have a problem with bare ankles? Is that why my sister is attractive? Or are you focusing on her bare arms instead? Are you looking at my chest? Is your intent stare going to suddenly cause me to get attracted towards your lecherous self? Is that how your mind works?
See, I am really angry. Yesterday, a lot of men looked us up and down. I have been stripped nude by eyes before but that doesn’t make it okay and that definitely doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it. In particular, a group of men with who I made direct eye contact really irked me. I gave them a look that said – back off. And they didn’t. I am working on controlling my temper and I was with my family, so I didn’t do anything but clench my fists tight. It’s time you considered controlling your raging hormones in public as well.
Let me tell you something important about the way we women and girls dress. We don’t dress up to please or tease you. We dress up because it makes us feel good. We dress up for our comfort. We dress up according to our sense of style. We dress up for us. We don’t dress up for you to rip our clothes to shreds in your perverted minds and sometimes, even in real life. So keep your inflated ego aside. We don’t do things for you to notice us. We do them for us. Besides, we don’t need to do anything special to be noticed, right? Your hungry eyes notice anyway. A woman in a bikini at a beach and a woman in a burqa walking to a shop are all the same to you. Then don’t tell us that our clothes are calling out to you and ‘asking’ for attention. Because all this attention we’re getting? It’s unwanted.
What if a man made a pass at you? What if he stared at your pants like he was slowly unzipping you in his mind? What if he leered at you? Wouldn’t you be uncomfortable? And yet, when you do just the same with a woman, it somehow becomes all right. What makes it all right? How are we any different from you? Aren’t we human beings, just like you are?
I am not saying this as a girl who had to undergo the horror of being molested at five. I am saying this as a girl, as a young woman, on behalf of every woman in this world. Right from when we step out of our homes, you feel entitled to be able to feast your eyes upon us but the truth is, you are not. Your Y chromosome does not, in fact, give you the right to get away with treating us like dirt under your feet.
I am a girl, and I am angry because I have to fear violence and abuse for no reason other than the fact that I am a girl.
I am a girl, and I am angry because if I say ‘no’ to a man, it could be taken as a personal offence, as if I should feel honoured to have received his attention.
I am a girl, and I am angry because when I step out into the streets, I am transformed from a person to an object meant to please.
I am a girl, and I am angry because I am told to watch the way I wear my clothes and the way I speak because I might be provocative. How about you teach men to not objectify us for a change?
I am a girl, and I am angry because when I do speak out, when I want to do something about it, I get told that this is just how ‘boys and men are’. What are boys and men? Disrespectful filthy persons lusting after what they think is their right?
I am a girl, and I implore you to reconsider your mindset. You would not enjoy it very much if you constantly felt like an animal in a zoo or an exhibit at a museum. Hungry looks are not a compliment. Respecting me, and other women is.
Not yours unless I wish it so,