Almost 23 and exhausted: Growing up a girl/object.

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I’m about to turn 23. In one week! Blink-182 says nobody likes you when you’re 23. Damn.

Honestly growing up as a girl has been really, really fucking hard sometimes. I’m white, so there’s privilege there, but regardless, I’ve grown up as an object.

I remember the first time I had a car honk at me. It was in high school, and I was running. From that moment on I realized that my body was just that- disconnected from me as a person. To a lot of society I wasn’t Kate, I was a girl, a thing, a creature to be honked and whistled at from the car and a thing that didn’t have the agency to do anything about it.

I’m still honked at, touched in bars, winked at by men. This last week in Los Angeles at the LACMA a creepy man came by while my friends and I were lying on an exhibit bed, saying, “Oh look! They hired live models!” and lifted his camera. I felt disgusted. His behavior his whole life had been tolerated and thereby approved by people around him. It was seen as harmless, not invasive or uncomfortable.

“It’s not a big deal”/”Oh my gosh! It must be exhausting having men find you attractive!”/”You get free drinks and dudes do things for you, that’s awesome!”/”Oh boy, another feminist rant!”

I am sick of ALL of those responses when I talk to men around me about society seeing me and my fellow girls as things. Not people, not vessels with souls and goals and wants and needs, but as creatures to be objectified, hit on, harassed, and pawed at. I have had my ass squeezed in bars, I have had men get upset when I don’t want their attention, and society has always told me it’s a “compliment” to have all these things happen to me. FUCK. THAT.

I am made to feel bad when a guy gives me unwanted attention and when I turn it down. My right to say “no” makes me a bitch, a cold-hearted cunt, an ice-queen just waiting to get a bunch of cats and die alone. Girls are shallow, nasty creatures because we might reject men. Because we might not WANT their attention or their drinks or their hands on our bodies or their eyes on us.

“Don’t dress _____ and it won’t happen.” This is another exhausting, vile answer I get when I talk about going out. When I wear my favorite tight velvet dress or a low cut shirt out I am not inviting you in. I am dressing myself up for me and only me. I am saying to myself, “You deserve to look nice and pretty and you deserve to think you look good tonight.” I am not having thoughts of hoping some man will come swooning over.

I would like to put in here at this point that I don’t mind making conversation. I’m not against having a guy come up and talking to me. I will not immediately write off every man as a “creep” because he approaches me in a bar/concert/cafe/other place. I will engage in conversation and banter willingly. However, I am allowed to not be into you, I am allowed to not want a drink, and I am allowed to say “no” at any point to anything.

As a child growing up I was taught that as a girl my life is constantly under scrutiny and that just being a girl puts me in danger. I park under lights like my mother told me to. I look underneath my car before I get in. I look behind me when I walk, even in daylight. If somebody is walking too close to me I cross the street. I walk alone at night, apparently asking to be raped. I am actually scared of men.

When men I talk to hear this they get upset. They say “We’re not all like that”/”You’re being dramatic”/”You have to get over that” but every time a rapist shows up suddenly I am the one who has to stay inside and lock my door and watch my back. When a guy tried to attack a girl less than 1/2 mile behind my apartment a month ago Chris told me I shouldn’t go on my night walks anymore. He might be right but I want society to tell little boys, teenage men, and grown men, “Don’t rape. Women can say no. She’s not a bitch for not wanting your attention. You’re not complimenting her when you honk/whistle/leer/wink- you’re solidifying the idea that women are little more than objects. You’re adding to her fear.”

You know what the #1 thing you can say to a guy to get him to back off is? “I have a boyfriend.” This quote sums up why this is the most awful thing ever. Found from Tumblr somewhere, I am so sorry I don’t know the genius behind this quote! (If you do please let me know!)

“Male privilege is “I have a boyfriend” being the only thing that can actually stop someone from hitting on you because they respect another male-bodied person more than they respect your rejection/lack of interest.”

I do have a boyfriend. And he’s awesome. But just because he exists shouldn’t nullify the respect I deserve from a man if I say I’m simply not interested.

I have men in my life that I love and respect. I have been lucky to have some truly awesome male figures in my life that demonstrate the kind of values men should have towards women. I don’t hate men, I don’t loathe them. What I am is wary and cautious, because 1 in 4 college aged women either are raped or have experienced an attempt at rape.

I’m tired. I’m exhausted. I hate realizing that I forgot my pepper spray and hoping that it isn’t the night I get raped or assaulted or have to get myself out of a potentially scary situation. I hate having to be paranoid about almost every action I make, whether I’m inviting attention, etc.

I’m 23 next week and I can promise you I’m not the only one who is as young as I am and already completely worn out.

 

 

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