I live 1.7 miles from my office. My commute consists of various combinations of public transportation (depending on the weather, the type of shoes I’m wearing, and the number of times I hit the snooze button) and despite the many frustrations of the San Francisco MUNI system, often the most aggravating part of my commute takes place in the final fifty yards leading up to my office.
You see, the last stretch of my commute takes me past one of the most unfriendly parts of the city for women: the Financial District. More specifically, the corner of Market and Montgomery, where bike messengers gather, where businessmen get their coffee, where commuters wait for the bus, and where construction workers are forever building luxury condos. It is here that I am subjected to a never-ending onslaught of lingering stares, inappropriate catcalls, and lewd comments.
As a side to my morning latte, I get a “What’s up sexy, you wanna go out with me?” (do these lines ever work?) a “Hey girl, you Russian?” (what is that even supposed to mean?) or the ever-popular hissing and kissing noises (what am I, a housepet?). Some comments are accompanied by lewd gestures while some men have even had the audacity to reach out and grab my arm, as if touching a stranger is a completely normal and ok.
The crazy part is, it doesn’t even really matter what I look like. I could be showered with my hair down and wearing full makeup or bare-faced and pony-tailed, in a skirt suit or a turtleneck and baggy jeans, in high heels or flats, or even a potato sack for that matter. The result is the same. I am wading, unprotected, through a sea of unsolicited negative attention.
Frustrated, I wonder what makes men think they can treat women this way. What gives them the right? Then I look up and see an advertisement of a model in a bra and underwear. Oh yes, I think to myself, that’s what.
Women are continually objectified in advertisements, movies, television shows, and magazines. Often they are shown wearing hardly any clothes. Other times they aren’t even shown as whole women. Instead their bodies are chopped into parts: midriff here, cleavage there, legs all over the place. It’s no wonder men do the same thing on the street, verbally dissecting me into nothing but a “nice rack” or “hot ass.” We are socialized to believe that women exist not as individuals with thoughts, feelings, dreams, talents, and aspirations, but solely as bodies. And that’s where the danger starts.
So how do we fight back against this? Should I say something to the men who objectify me? Should I say something to the advertisement and entertainment industries? Or should I say something to the millions of women and girls that are subjected to negative attention from onlookers on a daily basis simply for walking down the street?
I think I’ll choose option number three.
As I approach the door to my building a man who’s just walked out of a neighboring deli looks me up and down and blurts out “hot legs.”
Great, thanks, I think as the door closes behind me. So I’m a set of legs. I’m not a human being off to work in an attempt to save women and girls from a lifetime of objectification or anything. –A.D.