Today I wore a pair of jean shorts that were, admittedly, pretty short. I didn’t wear them to look hot. I didn’t wear them cuz I think my legs are in amazing shape and want to show them off (they’re not). I wore them because it was hot outside and I needed shorts. I have another pair of longer shorts but I put them on a few weeks ago and they stuck to my thighs so I pulled them off right away and preceded to ignore their existence.
I’ve been wearing this particular pair of shorts for weeks now. At home, at school, at my apartment, etc. But for some reason tonight, while I was walking home from class at approximately 10:45pm, some guy decided to roll down his window and yell, “You down to f*ck?”
Now, maybe my backpack was hiking my shorts up in the back. Maybe my full face of makeup combined with the shorts threw him off. Maybe the fact that I was wearing shorts and a tank top at night screamed that I was trying too hard (nevermind that it was a warm night and I knew it would only get warmer as I power walked the mile home). Whatever it was, this guy took it was an invitation to yell at me.
I immediately heard everything he didn’t say. That I was dressed like a slut, that I looked cheap, that I was showing more of my body off than was appropriate for a “good girl,” that I was asking for it. And I immediately felt ashamed.
It was all that I could do not to burst into tears on the spot. I immediately wanted to cover myself. I walked the 3/4 mile back to my apartment in fear. I tugged on the back of my shorts the entire way home. I got to my apartment, stood backward in front of the mirror and tried to figure out exactly how much had been showing.
I was ashamed. I was humiliated. I felt cheap.
I wasn’t angry at him for yelling rude inappropriate things at someone he doesn’t know. I wasn’t upset that he had objectified and dehumanized me. I didn’t feel sad that he somehow thought his behavior was okay and acceptable. I didn’t roll my eyes at his outdated, misogynistic, backwards way of thinking or that he somehow thought he knew my motivation behind the clothes I had chosen to put on.
I immediately turned it inward. I immediately blamed myself. I immediately saw myself as the problem.
As soon as I realized what I had done, I was angry. Angry at myself, angry at him and most of all, angry at the society who had drilled into my mind that it was up to me to control whether or not men saw me as an object. A society that told men that wearing short shorts was a women’s way of trying to tell men that they wanted sex. A society that told women the only reason they wore revealing clothing was to draw men’s attention.
I know that some people see women’s movement to be allowed to wear what they want as an excuse to dress slutty, to let it all hang out without fear of judgement and for some, sure, that may be their motivation. But more of us want to be able to walk down the street in shorts because it’s hot without being accused of looking like a hooker. More of us want to be able to wear a bikini on the beach without being ogled and yelled at. More of us want to be judged by our actions than the length of our skirt.
According to the media, it may look like we’ve gotten there. Women are being praised for taking naked selfies or wearing next to nothing on red carpets. But take one look at Instagram comments on any young female celebrity’s pictures and you’ll realize that couldn’t be further from reality.
One of my favorite celebrities, a 16 year old girl named Bailee Madison, posted this picture a few weeks ago:
And this showed up in the comments:
What will it take for women’s attractiveness and what she chooses to wear to cease to be an excuse for men to objectify and sexualize us? What will it take for the power of women’s sexuality to be put back in their hands where it belongs? When will we truly be allowed to define ourselves instead of submitting to labels slapped on us by other people? When will our “hotness” cease to be a sin and our fault and simply just be?