Saturday, March 11, 2006

 

Looking Pretty

Walking down the street with my Mets cap on (Yankee-fans, don't hate, it was a gift) and a man says, "A pretty girl shouldn't cover herself up with a hat! Why don't you want to look pretty?"

"None of your beeswax," I say, because saying something like that back sometimes make me feel better. I make myself smile a little bit.

Other things like this I get regularly are comments on how pretty girls should "smile" and also how, as a pretty girl, I shouldn't have short hair, and I've even been told that, as a pretty girl with tiny feet, I ought to "show them off" with sandals.

I am asked "Why don't you want to look pretty?" I have said, on several occasions: "Because being pretty means I get harassed by people like you." But I want to locate myself outside of the cause- meaning, I am not harassed because I'm pretty.

We say a lot, when talking about street harassment, that it doesn't matter what you wear or how you look. While I have been, a few times, harassed while almost completely invisible (hat, coat, scarf, only my eyes uncovered), it has been my experience that I, personally, get harassed more when I wear makeup or am "dressed up". I also found that having short hair drastically decreased the amount of harassment I got on a daily basis. When I had long hair, I could hardly go more than a block or two without being harassed. When I first cut my hair, I walked back from the salon to my apartment and didn't get one comment: I thought I was free! (If only.) When I was blonde, on the other hand, I was harassed more than I ever thought possible.

I loved the way I looked blonde, but the "attention from men", as my mother put it, was more than I could deal with. I am growing my hair out, but sometimes I get little panicky feelings about returning to that level of harassment, even though I'd much prefer to be able to put my hair back again. I don't want to make decisions about the way I look based on the amount of harassment I might get, but I also get very tired of standing up to it and making my decisions in defiance of it, then dealing with the irritating, degrading, and sometimes scary, consequences.

When I have tried to de-pretty myself to the fullest extent (sports bra, no makeup, sweats), I am sure to get the kind of harassment with which this post began: "be pretty for me" comments.

Comments:
Hi Erin
Came to this blog through the Blank Noise Project blog.

In India, women are groped and touched irrespective of their age, body shape, height, weight or skin color. Only their gender matters. Even having breasts is not an pre-requisite as 9 and 10 year old girls will tell you.

Contributing to the Blog-a-thon on the subject earlier this month brought back a lot of feelings of rage, anger, humiliation and helplessness. But I'm so glad this is out in the open. I'm glad we are finally making a noise about it, even if it is in the relative safety of the internet. Someday, this WILL percolate down to the street and maybe, even in my lifetime, I will be able to see a change.

Someday, before I am really really old, I will be able to dress how I want and walk down a street in India and not have to think about protecting my chest. Someday.
 
Hi Erin,
Weirdly, I find I get more street harrassment when I look grungy than when I'm dressed to the nines. I've often wondered if it's because harrassing strange women is a way for cowards to feel stronger, and so they pick women who look 'vulnerable'.
 
You fuckin uptight dried up cunts need to be held down and stuck with a big fat fuckin dick.
 
You fuckin dried up cunts need to be held down and stuffed with some big fat dick.
 
I'm naturally blonde, and I have, many times, deliberately made it dark in an effort to deflect unwanted attention. I don't know what it is about blonde--it just seems to work as a nasty-motherfucker magnet. While the harassment is definitely still there as a brunette, it's not quite as bad. When it's the same length. I have found, however, that when my hair is dark and LONG, the harassment level seems to be the same as when it's blonde and shorter. But you know what gets the worst of it? Red hair. I've spent a lot of time as a redhead, and not only is it pretty, it's also unusual, and men seem to use it as an opening. It's a conversation piece for them."Is that natural? How can I find out?" God, they're so fucking disgusting.
 
I was talking to my dad yesterday. I asked him if there was anything I could do to make boys stop thinking about me. I asked him if wearing baggy clothes would make boys not pay attention to you, but he said that would just make them pay attention to you more. He said the best way to avoid attention is to blend in. It just sucks when you try your best to blend in, then some stupid guy still tries to degrade you.
 
I always get hit on more when I am wearing grungy clothes. I think guys like "approachable" women. Also, I agree with Heidi. When I was a red head the amount of attention I got was ridiculous. "Are you Irish? I love Irish girls. Know just how to handle them." Ugh.
 
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