The Objectification of Women
By Paige Goldstein
Undergraduate student at UMass Amherst. Social media enthusiast + activist for equality and social change. I am interested in fitness, health and fashion.
We, women, are tired.
Tired of constantly looking over our shoulders.
Tired of running through dark streets, grasping our pepper spray and replaying in our heads the self-defense tactics our fathers taught us when we were little.
*Pulls skirt down, pulls up shirt*
“Walk with confidence, walk with purpose”
I scan the dark streets anxious to get to my car, looking for men around me, looking for an open building I could escape to.
Though I know I am likely safe, I become hyper-aware. Irrational? Maybe.
Why is it that we look over our shoulders, afraid, because men think they have an inherent right to stare at our bodies?
How do we make men understand our fear and become their equals rather than their prey?
They say not all men are like this, but enough of them are that I am often in fear when alone.
A lifetime of experiences has led me here.
I was 7 years old the first time my teacher told me, "Your shorts must longer honey, I will have to call your mom and you will have to go home and change"
I ask "why?"
My teacher tells me it’s "Because the males that sit in the class might be too distracted to listen"
I was 7 years old the first time my body was sexualized without my permission.
My body was sexualized without my permission.
Before I even knew what that meant...
I am 9 years old, and my teacher tells me
“Your tank top is inappropriate”.
She tells me to cover my shoulders,
At age 12, I wore long sleeves,
To cover up, because I was ashamed and felt my body wasn’t worth showing.
I was tired of everyone else's input
But my teacher noticed the sleeve that fell off my shoulder,
Told me to cover it,
Cover up your SHOULDER.
But is it my long sleeve shirt that falls slightly off my shoulder that needs fixing or is it the people that the shoulder is supposedly distracting who need fixing?
Confusion. Frustration. I need to let off some steam, so I run.
I run around my neighborhood stomping the pain away as each foot hits the pavement.
It is 80 degrees out and I am in spandex running shorts and a sports bra.
I had already dealt with my parents telling me “you should put more clothes on if you’re going out of the house”. But I was going to run, and I was going to be hot so for my own good, I wanted to wear as little as possible.
I didn't have much experience running but I ran down the street blasting music through my headphones. I see a black Mercedes car pass by me very fast, I could smell the waft of cologne come out of the tinted windows as the car drove by revving its engine. I kept running until I look up and see the car pass again within seconds, I see his head make a 360 degree turn as I run past his car. He then stopped me, and catcalled me out of the window of his Mercedes.
I wonder what it would feel like to not constantly be an object on display.
To be able to go for a run to let off steam in whatever clothes I wanted because I was comfortable with it.
I wonder what it feels like to be able to run with two headphones in, instead of one ear on lookout for men around me.
I wish I could say I haven’t heard the whistles of multiple strangers and seen the heads of multiple men turn to stare at me as I pass by.
I am 15; I look in the mirror ready to go out
New outfit purchased, make up done, hair curled
Pepper spray in pocket and nails covered in nail polish
Nail polish that turns color if you stick your finger into a drink and it was roofied
Drug detecting nail polish
I get to the party, stand with a boy I had just met, unable to escape an unwanted encounter
Feeling like my words were powerless
Approached by this boy who “could tell I wanted him”
But if all I said was no then why did he feel that I wanted him?
Maybe it was the length of my skirt or the V cut of my shirt
And my guy friend, he said
“You dress like this because you want attention”
It was my fault, he said, because my clothes told him I wanted it.
Wanted him in my personal space, close enough to my face
To smell his breath.
Asking for it.
But then I take the blame.
How could I allow someone to treat me this way? Why didn’t I stand up for myself? You stupid, naive little girl.
But why is this my fault?
Why are unwanted and illegal sexual advances on me met with more shame and anger towards myself than the perpetrator?
Today I am 19, I can vividly remember every single time I felt violated by him.
Don’t you see?
We are on our way to gaining equality, which is why some institutional structures are trying to prevent progress
This means we are getting somewhere, making strides, but we must keep pushing forward. We need help from men, from everyone. We must work together as opposed to separately if we truly want to live in harmony.