The other day I was wearing a dress to meet my friends at the park with our entourage of kids. I heard a few comments that day, some funny, like how I need to "show those babies off". Nope, that is never a goal of mine. I just wear clothes, and not with the intent of showing anything off. These comments are just funny to me, made by girlfriends.
That same day a man said to me, "You're just asking for it". Comments like that reflect this mentality that I find to still be very prevalent in this world. It gives this notion that because we might have some skin showing, or look a certain way, we are asking to be disrespected or violated with eyes, hands, or words. There have been plenty of times where I am covered up to the neck, and yet am still having a conversation with someone who's eyes clearly don't meet mine. And last week, in taking my son to the park, I hear that "I am asking for it." This notion is simply incorrect, and yet much more pervasive in our society than we talk about.
Growing up in Tustin, I used to walk home from school every day. Cat calls, whistles, people shouting things at me, men sticking their heads out the window to gawk were all regular occurrences. Men asking me for my name. I was as young as 15 years old and had men call me "Angel". And now it happens occasionally when I drive. Not all the time, but it happens to all of us. The men who slow their cars down to drive beside ours and look in and smile and pay all this extra attention. Or the men who put their heads out the window to look at us. I have sometimes straight up flipped these people off, or more often and more appropriately, just ignored them and pretend they don't exist. It's not that I am some beauty. I am no supermodel. I am no gem of any kind. I am just a regular woman. But that's all it takes, isn't it?
And what makes people think that they can treat the women of this world in these kinds of ways? It's not flattering. It's not a compliment. It's condescending. It is treating a woman as though her worth is in her face, breasts, body. It's not okay. You can tell a person has character when they see you for being a fellow human being. When they aren't looking at you for your appearance but instead, of you as a person.
See, I am not asking for anything by wearing a dress to the park with my son and our friends. What I am asking for as a woman, is that we stop being treated like we belong to some meat market. Because even a woman walking down the street naked should be treated with respect. Because whether or not she sees it, she is a woman of great worth. And she belongs to the creator of life. Violating her with our bodies or words or eyes, is a crime against the human brotherhood and sisterhood that we have in this world. We ought to care for one another, love one another, not violate. Not cat call. Not treat each other like slabs of meat to lust after.
I had a friend years ago, more of a coworker actually, who one day told me explicitly and inappropriately all of these physical things he liked about me. In a descriptive manner, I heard the break down from his perspective of what is so great about my face and body. I was horrified. I didn't ask for this graphic description, but I got it. And he did not understand why this conversation would be upsetting to me. I wasn't flattered by his words. He somehow was able to make me feel violated and dirty, just through instant messaging. He said, "I can't believe this upsets you. All girls like this." Well, not this one. We haven't actually been friends since, due to how bad the conversation got, and due to my horrified reaction by it.
You see, attraction is fine and good, and it is normal to notice other people. But to treat a person as though they are only a body, is dehumanizing. Comments and actions that don't uphold the integrity and respect of a woman, but rather remark solely on her body, feeds into some notion that this is all a woman is good for. Pleasing men either sexually, or just by being pretty faces with pretty bodies. These comments and actions don't speak to the value of a woman or her integrity. We have got to do away with this "she is asking for it attitude." Is that the reason we give when a woman is raped? Attacked? Was she asking for it? No. The answer is a clear and resounding no. And I am sorry that I even have to say these words. I am sorry that woman have to deal with this at all. I am sorry that I have to stand by my sisters who have been violated because of their womanhood. None of them were asking for it. No, rather these perpetrators are in violation of this responsibility that we have to each other, to love one another. To see each other as Christ does. To love, care, and respect.
Sadly, this is just another symptom of a fallen world. But we can change that. We can each see others for the beautiful creation they are, inside and out.