I Didn’t Dress Up for You

Gillian Sisley

In fact, I don’t do anything for myself with the benefit of others in mind.

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Photo by John Sting on Unsplash

I went for a walk in the public gardens this morning.

I decided to put a little more effort into my appearance than usual today, for no reason other than that’s just how I felt today.

I wore a long pink maxi dress under my cardigan, dangly earrings, a teeny bit of makeup and a very subtle lipstick.

Maybe I don’t get out of my house enough — as I work remotely from home — but I have to say I was taken aback by how many men leered at me as I walked down the street.

I can’t be sure whether anyone cat-called me or not because I had my headphones in, listening to some tunes. The more I walked, the more I realized I was keeping those headphones in because I didn’t want to know if anyone was catcalling me on the streets. I simply wasn't interested in any way.

With every man who stared at me while I stood at a crosswalk, and for all the men who gave me a look up and down and up again, I just found myself walking along with sunglasses down thinking:

“Please stop undressing me with your eyes. I didn’t dress up for you.”

It’s 2021, why are men still looking at women like a piece of meat?

I’m not overly surprised that this is still the state of affairs for how men on the street treat women. I've lived as a woman my entire life, and have been subjected to plenty of sexual harassment in my time.

I still vividly remember the sexist dress codes from school that put rules on how girls should dress to ensure they wouldn't "distract the boys". Instead of taking the opportunity to teach boys to not sexualize girls, the responsibility for boys "not being able to control themselves" fell onto little girls so that they didn't "tempt" said boys.

Even as I was seated at a bench reading my book, bothering absolutely no one, I could still see from my peripheral vision all of the leers.

I was literally a woman in a dress just reading her damn book.

Why is it that the act of reading even has to be sexualized with inappropriately explorative eyeballs from strangers who feel entitled enough to stare at other strangers?

Women are going about their lives and business in completely normal ways, and somehow are still subject to the entitled stares and leers of men, and why? Because those men are bored? We're literally just minding our own business... so what's the dan problem? Even with masks on, we're still encountering this nonsense and it's beyond tiring.

It’s not even safe for a woman to read a book on a bench in the middle of the afternoon?

Seriously?

For those who say it’s unfair for women to say they feel unsafe.

Try walking a day in our shoes.

Here’s another example for you:

Last night, I stopped at the bank to get some cash for parking before heading to a networking event.

I parked my car in a 15-minute parking spot and was face-to-face with a man sitting in his car, hanging an arm out of his window cigarette in hand.

Our eyes met, he gave a smile, I smiled back politely, and then his smile changed. He gave me a wink, and his entire composure just changed.

All I was doing was stopping to get some money from the bank ATM at 7pm.

And as I was walking towards the bank, I had a sincere concern that this man was going to follow me into the empty bank ATM area.

I noticed him get out of his car, and looked over my shoulder as he was heading in my direction. Our eyes met again, and he immediately changed his trajectory and headed in another direction.

I then saw that there were still bank employees inside, walking around behind the counter.

What if they hadn’t been there? What if I went to an ATM at 9 pm instead — would that man then have followed me in?

What would he have done if he caught me alone?

Final word.

This is the instinct that keeps us safe — the worry and concern for our safety.

To some, that may not seem like it matters at all if a man was heading towards an ATM at the same time as me, or that it was a big deal he was acting strangely.

But to a woman, who isn’t necessarily sure who she can trust, my mind went to the worst places possible so that I would be prepared for anything.

This is our defence mechanism. If we think the worst, maybe we’ll be less taken back when it happens. If it happens.

And don’t be fooled, it does happen.

I’ve been on the receiving end of someone’s eyes looking me up and down like a piece of me on more occasions than I’d like to admit. I’ve been on the receiving end of far worse than just stares, too.

I’m not about to stop leaving my house just because I don’t want people looking at me on the streets. I still like leaving my house, encountering other people, and not letting my PTSD rule my whole existence.

But it would also be really awesome if people were a little more considerate of others and kept there are suggestive actions and stairs and comments to themselves. You know, like... mind one's own business?

I don’t think that’s asking a lot, but maybe I’m just being an unreasonable, hysterical, overdramatic woman.

But who knows?

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Online solopreneur. Tea drinker. Committed optimist. I write about trending news, viral Reddit content, and anything else that tickles my fancy.

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