(I hate how this is going to start off, because it happens to all women, regardless of their size, shape or age, but I’ve felt it more lately than I have for several years.)
Over the last several months, I have received more comments about my appearance than I have in a long time. The vast majority of the comments have been unwanted, but even when people I know comment on my appearance, I get uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.
I don’t enjoy being the centre of attention. I never have.
It makes me want to run. And hide.
I don’t enjoy receiving compliments and I don’t take them well.
I’ve had a couple of conversations lately with friends that have led into discussions about our appearances and the attention we do or do not receive, have or have not received. But it never occurred to me (because sometimes I’m dumb) until I saw this image why I don’t like to stand out. Why I’m perfectly happy not standing out.
If you’ve been following this blog for any length of time, you know my stories. And, of course, I knew these experiences affected me deeply, but I don’t know if I realized until I read the second last line of that image how deeply they’d affected me.
I don’t wear make-up. I don’t tend to put a lot of effort into my appearance. I dress in a pretty non-descript kind of way. I workout because I love it and for the health benefits, rather than for any reason related to my appearance. I consider myself average, ordinary, and I’ve told a lot of people that I’m happy with this (and I am), because I don’t like to stand out.
We live in a rape culture. I’ve said that before.
We live in a culture that says I have to drive more places than I walk, because I might be assaulted. And, if I am, I will be questioned as to why I was walking alone. Why I was walking after dark. Why I was walking in that neighbourhood.
We live in a culture that says I can’t leave my drink unattended, because someone might put something in it.
We live in a culture that says women should take self-defense classes to ward off potential attackers.
We live in a culture that says that a woman is “asking for it” if her attire is too short, too tight, too revealing, too anything-your-grandmother-wouldn’t-wear-to-church.
We live in a culture that says it’s okay for men to whistle, holler, honk, catcall, comment, etc. to or about women and women should be flattered. And, if they’re not, they’re some kind of man-hating bitch that can’t take a compliment.
We live in a culture that says it’s okay for men to touch women without their permission. A culture where a man will approach a woman he doesn’t know, touch her, comment on her appearance and then mock her.
When I am walking somewhere and a man is approaching me in the opposite direction, I make a point of looking him squarely in the eye. I take note of what he looks like. Just in case. However, if he then smiles at me and seems to be friendly/non-threatening, I drop my eyes and can’t look at him.
When men I know, who I like, look at me for any length of time, I look away or I tell them to stop looking at me.
When people I know pay me a compliment, I quietly say, “thank you,” and then I look away.
I know, of course, that rape culture is not about a woman’s appearance. It might be an excuse that people use, but that’s not what it’s about. I still can’t help feeling, though, with the messages we are inundated with, that how I look is somehow related to the experiences I’ve had.
Being average is good. It’s comfortable.
Being ordinary is good. It’s safe.
I don’t want to stand out.
Fuck off with your misogyny (mine)
Scared of men (Cranky Giraffe’s)
The instant I was broken (Cranky Giraffe’s)