In what world should it be normal that any woman or girl has zero control or say about what happens to her body? What world bestows upon a person the right to violate another? This world. This world, in its silence, says this is okay.
A week ago, while walking to work at 3G, I experienced something that I am always wary of, that has me looking around at most men on the street – that I am constantly on the lookout for. (And for any skeptics, I was wearing leggings, a huge sweater a jacket and glasses – not that it matters). I was walking by a man when he approached me, came inches from my face, and tried to kiss me – making sounds as he did so. Simple as that – so simple that no one noticed. In this moment, my heart started to beat out of my chest and my stomach dropped as I hurriedly kept walking. If you’re a male or a some sort of unicorn woman or anything in between that has not experienced this, you may ask me why. This seems so trivial.
First of all, no matter how small these acts may seem from the outside, they are incredibly violating in and of themselves. I did not ask this man, or the many others who have done similar things to women, to act in this way. I should be able to have control over whether or not someone would even have the impression of being able to kiss me. Or anything else for that matter. Emotionally and mentally, women should be unapologetically confident in their bodies and confident in the control they have over it: we are endowed that fundamental right. For any person to feel unsafe walking down the street and seemingly feel as if they have no control over their personal space is frightening, to say the least. Again, even in the most open of places, it is reiterated to me that I have no say and no control over whether or not someone can invade my body, invade my emotions, invade my very being. All of these seemingly minute instances chip away at you, until it is buried so deep you don’t know what you even feel anymore. We as women become so numb to what is now commonplace and engendered in what is now our culture.
Even more so, this emotional uneasiness reminds me of all the times that I’ve had zero physical control or say in what happens to me. So many times I can’t even count, the opposite sex has felt it is their right to take something from me or attempt to. Just because it’s been “okayed” by the good ol’ boys club that runs our world. Just because they can. Because we have been subjugated into thinking that we are lesser than, that we are vessels to take from – that this is merely “how it is”.
I myself have been in the presence of men who felt it was within their right to grab my thigh or pull at my dress.
I, like so many others in college, have written off encounters as simple drunken mishaps of the night when they really are in no way consensual (making a girl feel badly about saying no isn’t okay either).
I have been in incredibly unhealthy relationships, where I’ve been gaslighted and wildly unappreciated.
And I have been cat called, touched, accosted, and made to feel unsafe in so many ways, for so many years that I don’t remember when it began.
The degrees of these experiences, you may say, wildly varies. And it does. But let’s stop questioning that. Let’s stop asking “well what exactly happened?”, “what did he do to you?”, “was he drunk?” because truth be told, it doesn’t matter in the slightest. It’s this culture of masculinity, this culture that is toxic and far reaching – and in these instances, it demonstrates how pervasive it is and how it stretches into every facet of human interaction.
Still, this only continues to remind me of so many people – immigrants, Native Americans, Muslims, African Americans, the LGBTQ community, women of color, the students at Parkland High School and so many more – who have no control over so many aspects of their life. People who have far far less control than me. Shouldn’t we all be able to have an equal and fair say about what happens to our bodies and our lives? The values that we say we hold onto, as Americans, are in the darkness and to move forward and heal, they must be brought out.
-Jamie Brandel, Production/Research Manager