“Feminism isn't about making women strong. Women are already strong. It's about changing the way the world perceives that strength.” ~ G.D. Anderson
“I see stunning men walking on the street every day. Some walk shirtless because it's hot and they feel more comfortable that way. Do I scream out at them, beep at them or whistle? No, I smile to myself in appreciation of them and drive on by. Why? Because I believe they have the right to go about their lives without me imposing my sexual desire upon them.” ~ Miya Yamanouchi
I don't owe you anything.
I work hard to stay fit, to be strong because I like how I feel when I achieve these fitness goals. I don't do it because it makes me pretty or be thin; that is merely a side effect.
This is my body, not yours.
I have been catcalled and oogled in countless countries and multiple languages. I have learned and developed the 'I don't hear you' face that provides me with a sense of security (albeit likely false). I practice my awareness of my surroundings, judging accurately who is in my space, who shouldn't be. I know when I am being followed.
I shouldn't have to do these things, or develop these skills, but because I am a woman, and I leave the security of my home, I have experiences with men who don't care to respect my boundaries or sense of self. They see me as an object, a thing, a nonentity.
Except that I am not those things. I am me, and me has feelings. Me is a human. At the same time, this is both disheartening and uplifting. Disheartening because I am tired of my lack of personal space, and I am tired of being objectified. Uplifting because we hear stories of unbelievable bravery of these women stepping forward and breaking their silence, pointing a finger, and making men all over the world take responsibility for their poor and disrespectful behavior. Disheartening because already we have heard too many stories. Uplifting because I can only hope that the more we share, the more we listen, the more we will help our girls and young women of today grow up knowing what they can do and say for themselves.
I don't like what you are saying or doing.
We teach our girls that they must be healthy, they must take care of themselves, they must do more, be more, say more. We tell them that we are sorry we are creating a mess, but we have every confidence they will be able to clean it up. What we should be teaching them is to use their voices, to know their boundaries and to be strong enough to turn to that catcaller, that lewd commenter, that leerer, and tell them 'No! It is not okay! I do not accept your objectifying me!' We should teach them to demand the respect that they deserve, regardless of what they are wearing, doing or acting like.
This is my space. You are not welcome in it.
Let's teach our girls that they don't have to endure the cat calling; it is not the right of that person to leer. It’s a sad statement, but the fact is we have to protect our girls for the current state of things while at the same time trying to change it. I learned something a bit disturbing about the current country we live in: apparently, the pornography industry is live and well here (as it is in many/most countries), but here the images projected are almost exclusively those of white women, often underaged, white girls. When I walk up the street, I don’t look like a person to be respected; I look like a reminder of the last show they watch on their illicit channel. The local women are beautiful, with their long straight dark hair, dark eyes and beautiful complexion, but that is not what these boys and men see in their dial-in bootleg porno sources. Sure, these men are not as pushy as perhaps those one comes across in, say, Cairo, but why should I be hassled when I walking to the grocery store for food for my family? Why should I be stared at when I am trying to get a tuk? Why should I feel like my person is in danger just because I go out for a run? The harsh reality is that regardless of where we live, as women, we are smaller than men are. We are not as fast, not as strong, and often not as loud. It is a legacy of our x-chromosome, and this is the price we pay. Being larger, stronger or louder does not give one the right to take from one smaller, weaker, or quieter. We are not prey; we do not owe anyone anything.
I do not want you here. Go away!
I am a mom of three boys. I strive to show them that being a woman is to be one who is capable, strong, and compassionate. I want them to treat girls and women with respect and dignity. I want these boys to be positive role models for other boys; no matter where we are in the world, there are others who are not reared to respect women. I want them to listen actively and hear the words girls (and women) say, and listen for those they don’t ... or can’t. We can do all we want to empower our girls but if we do not also raise boys to act on their behalf, nothing will change. I want my boys to know the soft and vulnerable side of a female, and also the fierce side that speaks out in the face of injustice and protects those less physically strong. Just because one does not actually violate others does not mean they are innocent if they stand by and say nothing when they see others committing acts against other. Our boys and girls need to know they can stand up for what is right. I do my best to teach the young girls I interact with that what they say matters, what they think is important, and their space is only their space … unless they say otherwise.
Just because I move through public space does not mean my body is public space.
Size, gender, strength … none give one the right to invade the space of another. Just because one is larger does not make them great. Just because one’s voice is loud does not make them important. Just because one is smaller does not make them weak. Just because one is pushed doesn’t mean they can’t push back. Sadly, one can be thoughtless regardless of one’s gender, age, or size. Know this, my friends: Our collective impact is so much greater; helping others, reaching out to others, lightening the load of others – regardless of their gender – is how we are all going to make it to the top.