“I would feel much more comfortable being seen around town with you if you wore my jersey”
Through this one sentence, the words of a person provoked the dismemberment of my worth and allowed it to be passed around the circle while I stood there and watched. I don’t dress for men, I dress for myself. If I dressed for men I wouldn’t wear half of the outfits I do (because if I’m being honest not many men have complimented me on my Birkenstocks). Sure, I don’t shy away from expressing my sexuality through my choices of clothing but this isn’t the problem. The problem remains isolated from my choice of clothing, instead stemming from the societal norms that allowed these words to be articulated.
One of my other ‘friends’ decided the best way for him to respond to this comment was with “yeah I’ve had sex with her bro”. Firstly, I hadn’t had sex with him. Secondly, even if I had this would still be a completely irrelevant, blatant sexualisation and objectification out of nowhere, building on an already stagnant atmosphere.
Feeling worthless and confused I realised I was surrounded by people who simply didn’t understand why I was flung into my state of disbelief. My best friend, fellow feminist and take-no-shit kind of a woman stood with us, too drunk to interpret the situation and remaining silent. It made me wonder; are things like this said to or around me when I’m drunk and unable to interpret them? Did I only react to them this time because I was sober and personally affected? Had I remained silent when challenged in the face of oppression before?
As I left my oblivious friends, their words continued over and over in my head like a broken record playing from the kitchen of a 1940’s housewife. So, let’s listen to these words that unintentionally dismembered my worth.
“I would feel much more comfortable”
Already, we have a problem. What I was wearing had nothing to do with anyone else. If for some bizarre reason, what I wore truly made him uncomfortable then he was under no obligation to stay.
“…being seen around town with you”
As if to say I was his property and I wasn’t going to meet the council’s new building standards without his help.
“…if you wore my jersey”
Normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with someone asking if I wanted to wear their jersey. However, this usually comes after me suggesting that I’m cold, probably saying something like “gosh I’m cold, can I borrow a jersey?”. If he truly only cared that I was cold he wouldn’t have involved himself in the context, how he felt would have been irrelevant.
It’s funny, the night before I wore way too many layers into town and failed to receive any comments about my ill-suited outfit, didn’t get told I should take my jacket off and wasn’t objectified or belittled.
An opinion piece was published in Salient last week (it’s awesome so make sure you read it here) and this situation allowed me to relate to it on a much more personal level. Ultimately it inspired me to write this piece rather than keep my experience to myself. In the article, its author Jessica states “These small interactions are constant reminders of women’s status as sexual objects to be pounded and penetrated.” And it’s true, these comments made me feel as though every aspect of me other than my physical body was irrelevant to those I was surrounded by.
I know these comments weren’t consciously premeditated and derogative, but in a way they were. The words that slipped off the tongues of these men under the influence of alcohol were the by-products of a society that struggles to mediate centuries of oppression and misogyny, one that chooses to remain silent. I certainly don’t I want my little sister to grow up in this place that quietly undermines a woman’s ownership of her body and forces her to question her right to stand within it. So, let us be the last of the oppressed.
I am going to continue to dress for myself, not anyone else. I am going to reject the faceless power that alters the way I feel about myself. I am going to speak up and challenge those who ignore and contribute to the misogyny that plagues our society.
I will leave you with what Jessica left me with, the statement that ultimately empowered me to write this personal piece; “Those who silently witness and benefit from the subjugation of others need to be brave- it takes strength to willingly enter a dangerous place. But remember, this place constitutes the reality of me and many others and we cannot leave (yet).”