He says, “I don’t think the women at work like me”
And I say, “Why do you think that?”
And he says, “They don’t smile at me, they aren’t nice.”
And I say, “Why do they have to smile at you?”
And he says, “Because I’m a nice guy.”
And I say, “How would they know that?”
And he shrugs
And I say, “Women don’t have to be nice,” and I say, “Maybe most guys they know aren’t nice like you. They’ve all ruined it for you.
That’s the world I live in. You want the women to smile and we want the men not to murder and rape us.”
And he feels awful because he is a good guy but he doesn’t get it, how would he know that when I walk into any place by myself it’s very different from when he walks anywhere by himself? I have to tell him.
When I reached puberty, I learned that I am to blame if a man hurts me because I was taught to avoid violent men through a series of wishful rituals: not ever being alone, not ever drinking alcohol, not ever showing skin, but still, still still still still even if you follow all the rules and put your keys in between your knuckles with your right hand and have your left thumb on the trigger of your mace, some man can take you down with a glance. I have just now allowed myself to feel good in shorts, because for 10+ years I wore long pants in the summer time, in the 100+ degree heat because I didn’t want to deal with their stares and whistles and yells. You can feel so good leaving the house and be demolished by just one of them. It changes you, makes you feel guilty for taking up any space at all. You’re a bitch if you don’t like it, you’re a slut if you smile first and you can’t ever be right because you are not an actual person. You are merely just skin, tits and ass that can go from “sexy” to “fat ugly bitch” in a breath.
We internalize this, it becomes “how it is” so much that we let it fester and grow until you hear it again, some strange man says, “Smile honey,” and it rises again, to the last time you wore shorts and what the world felt like, like it’s your job to not give them a reason, the men who will stare at you anyway, in the grocery store wearing teacher pants, pants so incredibly large that your butt gets lost forever, on purpose, because you don’t want to deal with a crazy scary stare, a yell, and whistle, because you want to blend in so badly, because you are a teacher to middle school boys who have objectified you and told you that your skirt is too short and you want to hide and yell at the very same time, you’re embarrassed that you never wear that skirt again, and still, still still still, in the grocery store in your teacher pants an older man tells you, leaning in too close, in a hushed tone like it’s a secret, “Nice drawers” and won’t stop staring at your ass while you empty your apples and bread and oatmeal out of your basket and you get so mad “why does he get to make my butt an ass, why does he get to swallow me whole?” and you want to tell him to BACK OFF but you’re scared because you’re by yourself and the giant window at the front of the store will show him exactly where you’re walking so you grit your teeth and say thanks! because what else do you say? Being mean or saying nothing may set him off and he could follow you and you could get hurt. There’s a 30% chance that you will regardless. The only real protection is having a man with you. Men respect other men’s property. I’ve heard so many times, “Sorry bro didn’t know this was your girl.” I have never heard, “Sorry lady I just realized you are a human. I’m so sorry I scared you.”
So I say, If she doesn’t smile at you, there’s nothing wrong with her, or there is and it’s none if your business. You’re a nice guy? Then leave us alone. Let us be human, let us be pretty, let us be ugly, let us be angry. If you were to stumble upon a wild animal in the wilderness, tell me how you decide whether or not it will eat you alive. Too late, you’re dead.
- It is estimated that 35 per cent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner at some point in their lives.
It is estimated that of all women who were the victims of homicide globally in 2012, almost half were killed by intimate partners or family members, compared to less than six per cent of men killed in the same year.
In 2012, a study conducted in New Delhi found that 92 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of sexual violence in public spaces in their lifetime, and 88 per cent of women reported having experienced some form of verbal sexual harassment (including unwelcome comments of a sexual nature, whistling, leering or making obscene gestures) in their lifetime.
But please, tell me how it makes you feel when women don’t smile at you.