Maybe it is because I am getting older. Maybe I am becoming more perceptive and less naive as I grow up. Maybe it’s the heightened use of social media. Maybe it’s the subjects I study in college. Maybe it’s any, and all of the above, that have found me noticing more and more the need for feminism in today’s world.
My knowledge on the topic has been, up until recently, quite limited. I could give a shaky definition when asked, that involved words like equality, gender, wages. But if someone asked me to point out a situation or pinpoint something that I had encountered in my life that highlighted the need for feminism, I would have drawn a blank.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, depending on your outlook, I never noticed any great gender inequality in my life. Perhaps I have been lucky so far as to not notice them. Or maybe I have been unlucky to have been so unaware of the inequality and stigma that countless women have to endure every day. I hear things like sexism, objectification, and thought it funny that I had never encountered any in my life. It is only recently that I have begun to realise how palpable it is in today’s society.
A while ago, a man pulled up beside the bus stop I was waiting at, rolled down his window and asked for directions. Me, being wary of strangers and abductions, stood a few feet away from his window as I listened to his question. He wanted to find a rugby club, did I know where it was? I didn’t, but not wanting to seem totally clueless, I pointed vaguely in the direction he was driving, saying it could be down there. But that answer obviously was not satisfactory enough for him. He stayed put in his car, trying to ring his friend for directions. “Are you going that way? Maybe you can direct me” he said, gesturing to his car. I strung a few words together in decline. I thought it strange him staying here so long when I clearly couldn’t help him. I began to step back as it had gotten a bit uncomfortable, when he pointed out my skirt was caught up, before proceeding to tell me I had great legs. I took two more steps back. He asked again for directions, before adding something about my ass. I fixed my eyes on the direction my bus would be coming, hoping that either he would drive away, or my bus would come and save me.
When I told that story to my boyfriend, he was outraged. I couldn’t understand why he was so upset by it. The man didn’t do anything really, just made a few strange comments. I wasn’t harmed. But it has only clicked in my head in the past few days that what that man did, and what he said, was not okay.
I don’t know if he ever was looking for a rugby club. I don’t know if I was the first girl he asked. I don’t know what he wanted. I don’t see why he felt the need to comment on my legs, or ass. They were not relevant to the conversation.
I don’t know why he felt like he could comment on them. Why did he feel so entitled as to look me up and down, make a judgement, and voice it?
What once was laughed off as harmless behaviour, has now become something I am uncomfortable with. While I once laughed off a slap on the ass in a club, I now shudder should anyone feel they have the right, let alone my permission, to touch my body in that sexualised way.
Women are not things to observed, commented upon, and used. Why is that we can’t even stand at a bus stop without someone commenting something sexual? Or that we can’t dance in a club free of fear that a guy will come up behind you and start grinding on you without warning?
Why is it that it took me so long to notice this around me?
Why is is that the Madonna/Whore dichotomy is still in play today? If women are not sluts, sexual objects put there to please and be used by men, they are pure, saintly objects, that are fragile and need to protected. If they’re not overly sexualised, then they are not at all.
Why is that men can go to any pharmacy and buy condoms, so they can have as much sex as they want, but women have to go the a doctor (traditionally a male’s profession), and seek medical help from him to allow her to express her sexuality as freely as men? Why is it that there still seems to be a different set of rules for men and women with regards to sex today?
Why is it that women are constantly objectified and sexualised, but yet cannot embrace it themselves? Their sexualisation is just for men’s use, of course.
It took me too long to become aware of this. It took me so long to notice it, because I grew up with it. I did not question it, because it wasn’t questioned. Women must cover up and dress respectably, because if not, men just can’t control themselves. If you don’t, then don’t complain because you were warned. Young children, both boys and girls need to be taught otherwise. They shouldn’t have to wait as long as I did, and find out from articles shared on Facebook that there is something more sinister embedded in our society.