Fighting Unwanted Attention
Last week, when it was unbearably hot I decided to take a stroll down to the co-op for some delicious produce. Seeing as how I’d already sweated through my t-shirt, I decided to change into a low-cut, summery top that absolutely requires bralessness. It was comfy and I am a Liberated Woman.
However, as I walked downtown I keenly remembered my last experience wearing the shirt. I was a timid 16 year-old and had recently received my driver’s license. I excitedly drove to the gas station to fill up my tank, but upon paying at the counter my shirt provoked a barrage questions from the overly-smiley male cashier, including: ‘How old are you?’ and ‘What’s your name?’ I chose to remain silent, crossing my arms over my chest and fleeing the store after paying. For a long while afterward, I felt deeply unsettled but I couldn’t quite pinpoint why; the cashier hadn’t actually done anything particularly bad that I could articulate. He didn’t say anything particularly disgusting or try to touch me, but I felt, well, creeped-out. When I tried to explain the situation to my dad, he told me that I was overreacting. I put the shirt in the back of my closet and tried not to think about it.
However, a while back I ran across an article on Jezebel that gave voice to what I felt that day, and what I’ve experienced more than once:
It can be hard to explain the complexity of a dynamic in which you just feel slightly intruded upon: in a word, uncomfortable . . . In none of these cases was the guy in question rude or vulgar or even predatory — it’s not like having to brush off a creep at a bar or something — but there was always an excessive interest and a certain lack of boundaries probably only women are aware of. An insinuating look, an overly-long glance, a significant smile can be enough to make a trip to the store a daily ordeal.
It felt great to read that many other women share my sense of discomfort, of feeling somehow objectified without definite proof or an easily identifiable cause for complaint. I shouldn’t have to alter my wardrobe in hopes of somehow warding off unwanted attention. Besides, the idea that I’m somehow ‘asking for it’ if I dress a certain way is insulting. I plan to rock that shirt again, and often. That’s why I bought it.
Here’s the article. I don’t know that I agree with everything it says, like the idea that men can’t understand this issue, but it’s an interesting and quick read.
Thoughts? Has anyone else had a similar experience? What can we do to challenge this dynamic?