Women face unwanted attention from men on a day-to-day basis. This isn't an exaggeration or stretch of the truth. Walking out the house, we are immediately sexualized by piercing eyes, unwelcome remarks, and catcalls. And by default, men who approach us in an attempt to make casual conversation, compliment us, or get our number are not automatically creepy.
To be fair, sometimes they are polite but with most encounters, they are overly persistent, presumptuous, and just plain annoying. In their pursuit of "Excuse Me Miss," it quickly becomes necessary to draw the line and signify that we are not interested in order to stop the encounter altogether.
The simplest way to get men to scatter in the other direction is saying, "I have a boyfriend." And let's be real, sometimes that doesn't even work.
Back when I was living in a big city, this was my go-to whenever I was approached by someone I wasn't interested in. Sometimes I wouldn't even have to say it. The guy would assume by my demeanor and lack of verbal exchange. I'd be amazed and relieved at how quickly I was able to shoo men off this way. While it's not the truth, or the first thing I want to say, there are certain situations that makes it necessary for us to tell this little lie.
Walking alone at night:
Sir, please remember that women are a part of a society that normalizes sexual violence. So, when a stranger approaches us in an insistent manner, we are immediately on guard. Is he a predator? Am I in danger? Should I have pepper spray on me?
In a rush:
Coming off the train, leaving the mall, in the grocery store, or wherever I'm in the midst of handling my business, the last thing I want to do is have to entertain your intended "sweet talk."
At the club:
When I'm out with my girls, drink in hand, throwing it down on the dance floor, I am far removed of having to explain my denial of your requests.
In the workplace:
If we are colleagues, this is a big no-no. I don't want this to get awkward in our day to day dealing with each other.
"I have a boyfriend" is the easiest way to turn down unwanted attention from a man. I can say I'm not interested but then it's followed by loads of questions I do not want to answer. Frankly, when the persistent interrogation continues, it becomes sexual harassment. To avoid any of this, a lot of single women choose to say a little lie.
If I'm able to swerve men by saying this simple statement, what seems minuscule on the surface carries a deeper connotation about ownership of women's bodies and male privilege that comes along with saying, "I have a boyfriend."
The truth of this easiness puts a bad taste in my month.
I started to think about the different and sometimes harmful ways men show their level of regard for women. Walking away ever so quickly at the mention of being with someone diminishes the respect you should have for me. The notion that women can easily be left alone if we are "taken" with a man speaks to how some men view women. And sadly how we indirectly see ourselves.
Gender inequality strikes again. The one thing that stops him from pursuing a woman is the fact that she "belongs" to another man. I'm worthy of being left alone because of this and devalued in the same instant. He is doesn't outwardly say it but this means he respects the man more, and the woman is less than in his eyes.
Being with a man does not determine my value or self-worth.
I'm worthy of respect simply by being a woman. Declaring myself as someone else's completely removes my capacity of making on own choices and speaking up. I'm saying that my thoughts and views are inapt unless accompanied by a man. I'm essentially benefiting off of male privilege and undermining my own liberty. It's almost as if I'm saying I need a man.
Then what does "spoken for" even mean? Women have established since the beginning of time that we are fully capable beings of doing and thinking for ourselves. This notion completely mutes my autonomy, feelings, and existence. I'm not an empty vessel waiting to be filled. I'm not an open parking spot you've claimed. I'm not a sweet you picked in the candy store. This kind of thinking is antiquated and men who look at women in this way are anti-productive to equal rights.
On the surface, it looks like a difficult place to be in. First, I'm fair game and an accepted target for harassment because I'm single. Second, I'm a possession that only has real value because I'm with a man. Damned if I do, damned if I don't right? Wrong.
Men need to be shown the errors of their ways and thinking. It's not difficult to be honest and speak our minds. This is more about us than it is men. How do we want to be perceived? Patriarchy is to blame and it sucks that women have to be responsible for breaking down the walls of inequity.
Commanding respect means stop making excuses and saying how we truly feel and not apologizing for it. As painstaking as it may be to say these extra words of, "No thank you", "I'm not interested", "I don't want to talk to you", or in some cases, "F off."
It's worth it.
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