Monday, July 21, 2014

That Time I Had the Audacity To Wear A Tank Top In July

I run out the door this morning, my only thought being that I have to get to the office by 9am. I can't find my wallet with my keys, but I figure I have cash to buy lunch and Joe is home anyway so it's not the end of the world if I don't lock the door. About 30 seconds from my house I remember why I have to get to the office by 9am: I have to unlock and open the office. 

Wallet and keys? Check. But now I'm running late. I put on my workout playlist, put in my headphones, and race out of the neighborhood. 

Almost my entire ride to work is made up of a straight shot down a single road that connects the south off-campus apartments to campus. I make it about half way down the road when a car turns onto it coming towards me. I move over to the shoulder of the road so it can get past me and I can be on my way. A lot of people slow down when they get closer to pedestrians/bikers, so I don't think much of it at first, but by time I reach the car it has stopped.

As I mentioned, this is one of the roads that wraps around campus. And summer means there are all sorts of parent and freshman orientations going on, along with a number of sports camps, so it isn't unusual for people to stop you and ask for directions, especially since basically all of campus is one giant construction detour at the moment. I realize just as I'm about to ride past the car that he probably got a bit turned around because of all the construction and needs help figuring out how to get somewhere. So I slam on my breaks and pull my headphones out.

"Sorry," I say with a smile, feeling a little guilty that I almost flew past him.

"Nice tits you got there," says the 50+ year old piece of trash sitting behind the wheel.

Normally I am very quick to swing back with a glare and a "go fuck yourself," but this morning I was genuinely stunned into silence. My smile dropped immediately. I gave him a brief disgusted glare, jammed my headphones back into my ears, and sped off.

I just want to take a moment to appreciate the fact that this man stopped his car to get my attention. Which leads me to believe that he saw that I had headphones in, but was not to be deterred. He was so determined to get my attention to he could make his disgusting comment that he stopped his car in the middle of the freaking road. Are you fucking kidding me?

I raced the rest of the way to campus, reminding myself over and over again that the problem was not the tank top I had elected to wear because it is supposed to get up to 80 degrees this afternoon. But no matter how many times I said it, no matter how strongly I know that to be true, it did not stop me from looking down every time I passed someone on campus. It did not stop me from feeling uncomfortable and dirty and exposed when two men stared at me as I walked through Kirkhof, even though I knew it was probably just in my head.

I have worn this tank top one hundred times without ever feeling uncomfortable in it. The fact that I have a large chest does not bother me and I am certainly not going to suffocate myself in 80 degree weather just to cover it up. And yet, I live in a society where I have to choose between being comfortable and being harassed. And when I choose comfort and I do get harassed, I am told it is my fault, that I was asking for it. Well let me tell you something: I did not ask for a DD cup size anymore than I asked for that perverted piece of shit's opinion on it. And neither did any other woman in the world who is forced to put up with this.

The fault does not lie with my tank top, or this girl's skirt, or that girl's dress. The fault is in this society that teaches men (and women) that women are objects first and people second, and then only if they fall into the category of a "someone's sister, mother, daughter..." It is this society that uses our bodies as decoration to sell everything from cars to cheeseburgers. It is this society that makes violence against us entertainment for straight male-centered consumer bases without a second thought. It is this society that teaches us that women are disposable, secondary characters in the stories of men. It is this society that teaches that women exist for men's enjoyment.

Ladies it is so, so important that we remember that we are never "asking for it." We do not need to "learn to take a compliment." We deserve to be treated with respect and we have no obligation to tolerate anyone who treats us otherwise. So the next time you get sexually harassed do what I do; flip'em the bird and then tweet about them to @EverydaySexism so they can take their proper place in the Legion of Assholes women are forced to put up with on a daily basis. And then take a few minutes to favorite and retweet a few of the tweets shared by other women for solidarity purposes. And finally, make a point to have a fan-fucking-tastic day just to spite that card carrying asshole who tried to stop you. 


  1. It's honestly bs when someone has to go through that. I had a similar experience today. I work at a library and a teenage patron made a point to tell me he thought I was pretty which was ok, except that he then started calling me baby. That was not ok. My co-worker backed me up and the third time he started calling me, "baby" loudly, I told him to leave. I would have responded in kind the first time he called me baby, but I was working and that stopped me from letting my anger get the better of me. It is disrespectful and really does make you self-conscious, because right after I began to think that maybe I shouldn't have worn the dress. And then I remembered everything you taught me Katie. What happened to me today was most definitely not my fault. So thanks. Thanks for being such a strong individual and for your rants and for your unwillingness to keep quiet. Believe me, tons of people are listening. :)

    1. Sheila you never fail to make me feel 1000x better. I'm so proud of you for standing your ground and telling him he needed to leave, that can be hard to do especially at work. I hate how often people take advantage of women when they're working because they know/expect that they will just have to take it. And how awesome that your co-worker backed you up! I'm so glad you were able to remind yourself that it wasn't your fault, and that all my feminist rants in the writing center have done some good haha (:

  2. Loved this - I knew it would be great as soon as I saw the title. It's so unbelievable when men don't respond to nonverbal cues. I mean, it's bad enough when they just make remarks in passing, but to actually stop their car while you're on a bike with headphones in is ridiculous. There's just no question that it's about them and their perceived "rights" to objectify women, not "compliments" or "friendliness." I always end up stopping for people because I think "oh, maybe they need directions" but they're always creepers. I love that last paragraph - haha, I never thought about adding the pieces of trash I encounter to the rolls at Everyday Sexism.

    1. Sorry I'm so late to respond! I'm nervous to do it from my phone now haha. I'll definitely have to look into getting Disqus(:

      I was seriously stunned. Like I was just so into my music and trying to make sure I got to work on time that it honestly did not even occur to me that this was about to happen. And on top of that he had to be at least 50 and to be frank that is a kind guess on my part. He was old enough to be my father at least. I was so creeped out for the rest of the day and I still think of it now whenever I grab that tank-top but it has not stopped me from wearing it!

      In retrospect I think it is probably good that I didn't say anything considering he had a car and I had a bike. I have a hot temper for things like this and I'm always scared that's gonna get me in trouble someday when a guy decides not to just call me a bitch and drive/walk away.


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