Last Friday, in Pittsburgh, a woman was killed allegedly after declining a man’s advances outside a bar.
Even though women are taught that “no means no” since roughly adolescence, women can’t say no without repercussions. Because men are ill-equipped to deal with rejection.
Aziz Asnari addresses this (indirectly) in his latest standup special that’s on Netflix. I can’t find a clip of the most profound moment in his routine, when he asks women in the audience if they’ve ever given a guy a fake number, if they’ve ever been followed by a creepy guy, if they’ve ever been harassed when accepting (or declining) a drink or while walking down a street. Most of the women in Madison Square Garden raise their hands, and the men, for the most part, are shocked.
Women can’t do anything correctly because they’re simultaneously taught that they are sexual objects–literally nothing more than their reproductive systems, politically speaking–and that as sexual objects they must repress their sole ability to incur lust and rage in men. As someone who’s nearly 40, it’s expected that I maintain my body to please my husband. I buy wrinkle-defying cream; I visit the gym several times for strength training, functional training and cardio; I go to a pricey salon to have my hair professionally styled. I do all of this to maintain my status as a sexual object.
On the other hand, when I’m at the gym, men ogle me when I’m working out. Men make fun of each other by suggesting a man who’s been in the restroom for too long must be “taking out his tampon”–making sure I’m in earshot. (A double insult: a woman as the butt of a joke AND reducing her to her menstrual cycle.) Sure, there are women’s gyms, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable for me to expect to be able to work out without getting looks or comments from the men there.
When I get my hair cut, my stylist always asks me what’s for dinner that night. Not what I’ve been reading, not what I’m watching on television, not what I think about current events. What I as a woman am serving my family for dinner. (I don’t talk too much at my appointments because I don’t like to talk a lot in general to people who don’t know me that well and because it’s a pretty relaxing place to be.)
In truth, I do cardio to reduce my risk for heart disease. I lift weights to reduce my risk for osteoporosis. I buy moisturizer because it makes my skin feel nice. I get my hair cut because I like the way it looks. The only person I feel who has the right to reduce me to my reproductive system is my gynecologist, and she does her job so well that I feel like an entire person, not just a uterus, when I visit her.
Anyway, back to the woman who got the automatic death penalty for turning a guy down. I’ve been scared enough of men in bars to give fake numbers, to go talk to a guy I know so another one would leave me alone (after telling him to leave me alone), to circle a police station on the way home so I wouldn’t be followed. I have to do this because it does not occur to men that it’s OK for women to reject them. Yes, it sucks. Yes, it’s a blow to your ego and your friends might make fun of you later.
Instead of forcing girls to dress modestly in fear of causing boys to go nuts with lust, teach boys that girls are more than objects, they are people. Lust can be kept in check successfully without insulting girls. By raising women to people status, they, like men, have control over their own beings and health, which surprisingly encompasses more than a reproductive system.