My body is not there for your entertainment

Sometimes I wish I could wear a big sign above my head that says “my body/clothes/existence is not there for your entertainment (so fuck off)”.

Like pretty much every woman I have been given the head-to-toe look, been wolf-whistled at, been shouted at by passing cars as I walk down the street. It doesn’t happen very often to me. I don’t tend to go out to bars or clubs, but the three or four times I have been out somewhere to dance, I have been made feel uncomfortable by people coming up to me and invading my personal space, or giving me suggestive looks.

I hate it. I hate hate hate it. It puts me off going places and dancing, it puts me off wanting to talk to people in the street. I wish people would realise that my body is not their for their entertainment. I am not a piece of meat you evaluate before taking home. If you happen to like the way I look, then look once and then move on. But don’t yell at me out the window as your car passes me. Don’t tell me I’m hot as the first thing you say to me, because if I wasn’t so nice, you would probably find my fist in your face (Not that that one’s ever actually happened). If I tell you that I am not having dinner with you as a date, you should bloody well respect that and not keep quizzing me as to “what my problem is with dates” (that one has happened).

My body is mine. I will wear what I want. None of it is an invitation to you for anything. I’m not interested in you, I’m not interested in anyone, I’m identifying as asexual, goddamnit. Stop thinking I have to be interested in you. Stop thinking my body is all about you.

Got that? Well, let’s move on to something I hate even more.

People telling me to get over myself.

I think feminists (or maybe anyone who does social justice work?) suffers from this. The kind of snide comments, laced with disdain and a hint of “this girl has serious issues” that tell us to stop harping on about all these trivial matters and just accept it. Just a few days ago when telling my mum and my sister how I wouldn’t mind going out dancing once in a while, but that the idea of people coming up and dancing right in front of me and thrusting their pelvis towards me and checking me out with that “you know you want me” look was something that turned me off. And my (sixteen-year-old) sister tells me to get over myself. Because it’s just the way things are. Like the argument that wearing a short skirt has the consequence of maybe being raped while walking around town. And on top of that, insinuating that no-one would be interested in me anyway.

Well screw that. Some people might be happy with keeping things that way, but this feminist is going to call bullshit where she sees it. And there’s no way in hell she’s going to get over herself anytime soon.

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10 thoughts on “My body is not there for your entertainment

  1. Found myself nodding along in indignation! It frustrates me how the word “trivial” is used so often to describe it. No, I’m not ‘radical’ for wanting mere equality for women, and the dominance of one half of the world over another half is not ‘trivial’, it’s a MASSIVE problem, one of the biggest problems out there. And that point of view might make us unpopular, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to blind ourselves to it and just accept it!

    1. Exactly! People don’t realise what a massive problem it really is, because they can often hide behind silly statistics that say “look, women are better off now, they’re working more…” I think the 2nd wave feminists actually had it easier sometimes, because all the had to change were stats – nowadays, we have to try to change mindsets and ideologies and worldviews – and that’s a real challenge. (Not in any way to discredit 2nd wavers, of course – where would we be without them!)

      1. Second waver here … ‘all they had to change were stats’: um…???

        Look, I’m a novelist: here’s a scene (real):

        young woman (uni student, friend of mine) walking past Sydney uni, circa 1971. A truck full of soldiers goes past, whistling her and harassing her.

        Gillian: (screaming at them): ‘Murderers!”
        ‘Fuckin’ murderers!!!”

        Stat changing?

        Anger, anyone?

      2. … Yeah, so I didn’t think that one through at all. Sorry, Jo. I think that was the reaction to reading Helen Garner’s The First Stone where she waxes on about how terrible modern (1995) feminism is because it’s not concerned with “serious stuff” like the right to work anymore, but only focusses on instances of harassment she thinks would be better dealt with by a punch to the face. Stuff she doesn’t seem to think “real” feminism should be bothered with.

  2. I think in The First Stone Garner was more interested in examining her own reactions, and the sexual power of young women – it’s all a bit contentious.
    In the 70s, feminists had little recourse to law – we were used to telling men to simply fuck off. But the man in question (in TFS) was the head of a residential college, and I feel the young woman in question was right to charge him, given that she could do so.
    That book certainly set feminists against each other … but early 2nd wave feminism was certainly not only about the ‘serious stuff’. We used to talk about whether you should shave your legs … my older sister came to a women’s lib meeting (her only one) in makeup (she was very glamourous). Actually, come to think of it, a bit of consciousness raising about men wouldn’t have gone astray with her.

  3. Hi Jo, it’s Cameron from Sydney. 

    I can understand your anger and annoyance at these sensual types; I suppose I would say that we can only expect that kind of behaviour from this kind of person. Naturally we are offended by their gross animal appetites: the way that guys come onto girls can be so abrupt and forward. 

    It seems to me however, that many girls are open to this brash confidence, and might also be socialised to behave in this way. So guys also, apart from a natural longing and desire to posses beauty, are taught to hope that “Fortune favours the brave”.  

    But however lewd or lustful is their approach, (certainly muddied and degraded by alcohol at these clubs you mention) I think deep down they desire more than the physical, and as Shakespeare might suggest, “The strongest oaths are straw to the fire in the blood”. 

    I  know you know though they’re not all like this. We can’t judge one by the other. Sure we can generalise, and unfortunately we tend more often to weeds than to herbs. The average guy is lascivious. One might say they’re all overheated and promiscuous. In this sense I can understand your repugnance and indifference. Their behaviour may well be aggravating a distance or disinterest you by nature inherently and involuntarily feel. And as you no doubt practise, a good pilot will avoid the rocks. 

    But then, when we think about what is possible, and remember the noble and wonderful spirits that have been, read of their glittering destinies, when we imagine a Keats or a Sir Philip Sydney for example, I can only glory in the possibilities of man as such, and be inspired by their fine example. 

    Let us keep these lovely kinds in mind, however impossible or romantic, and perhaps also acknowledge there may be truth in the saying that, “The fire in the flint shows not til it is struck.”

    1. Hi Cameron,

      I’d like to point out several things about this comment.

      Firstly, I’d like to point out that what seems like a “sensual type” to you reads as “misogynist” and “harassment” to me. Re-reading my post, there is nothing “sensual” about the behaviour I describe. Street harassment does not in any way feel “sensual,” either – it feels horrible.

      I’d like to point out that saying “we can only expect that kind of behaviour from this kind of person” and “the average guy is lascivious” normalises the patriarchal idea that men’s urges are uncontrollable (a.k.a. “it’s no wonder she was harassed/assaulted/raped, she was wearing a short skirt!”), thus perpetuating those same ideas.

      I’d like to point out that “brash confidence” is actually misogyny, disguising itself behind other words to make it seem natural.

      I’d like to point out that yes, girls often are socialised to please men, be attractive to men, and put up with men’s harassment – they’re socialised by the patriarchy. That does not excuse harassment in any way. This is what feminism tries to subvert and change.

      Finally, I’d like to point out that by saying “yes, but not all men are like that – look at all these wonderful men and be inspired by them” you are fundamentally trivialising my anger and hurt by telling me to put it aside and focus on the “fine example” of some men. You are saying “yes, some men are stupid, but look at these white, male, priviliged, western canonical poets and how wonderful they were.” This “yes, but” mentality just adds to a culture that excuses misogyny and harassment. (I suggest you read this excellent post if you want to understand why this is so.)

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