To: every man who has ever beeped his car horn and yelled a come-on at me; asked if he could ‘ride with me’ while I’m on my bike; told me to ‘smile, darlin’; etc etc tedious etc.
Firstly, you’re not proving your masculinity by making me feel uncomfortable. I know plenty of men who get through life just fine without intruding on women’s personal and physical space, and I have a damn sight more respect for them than I have for you. When you yell sexual comments at me, or tell me how I should look or act in your presence, you’re not convincing me (or anyone, except maybe your knuckleheaded friends) that you’re the acme of male desirability. What you’re trying to do is establish some kind of power dynamic in which you make yourself feel like a Big Man by ‘dominating’ me and my space. In your tiny mind, masculinity is the norm, and women are passive objects put on this earth to act as a foil to your manly needs. And you should consider that, more often than not, you’re old enough to be my father. Seriously, what are you trying to achieve? Am I supposed to be flattered by your comments? Turned on? Impressed?
Secondly, fuck you for all the times you’ve made me feel humiliated, angry and powerless. There’s no winning with you, is there? If I come up with a snappy retort, you get angry that the power dynamic has been turned around – you call me ‘a lesbian’ or ‘frigid bitch’ because I’ve had the temerity to turn down your irresistible advances. If I ignore you, you either keep hounding me till I snap anyway, or you go straight to the lesbian/frigid comments because you want to provoke a reaction. ‘Lesbian’ and ‘frigid’ are your insults of choice (oh, and ‘you’re an ugly bitch anyway’), because for you, any form of sexual identity that doesn’t conform to your rigidly patriarchal sense of heteronormativity is scary and threatening. I’d also like to see you try and spell ‘heteronormativity’, so that it becomes my turn to laugh at you. Because, let’s face it, the kind of behaviour you exhibit isn’t exactly commensurate with the upper levels of intelligence. And that intelligence is the only real weapon I have against you, because, much as I’d like to, I’m neither physically strong enough or aggressively brave enough to beat you round the head with a big stick.
After you get to grips with today’s vocabulary lesson, here’s a quick lecture on clothes, and self-presentation generally. You need to learn that I’m not here to decorate your surroundings. I don’t dress for you, I don’t suit my facial expression to your needs, I don’t decide whether today is a Glasses Day or a Contacts Day based on your possible reaction. If I wanted an opinion on any of those things, I’d ask a Sassy Gay Friend, not you. So, if I’m wearing a skirt or shorts, that doesn’t mean I’m inviting you impose yourself on me, comment on the way I look or what you’d like to do to me. It means – surprise reveal! – that I wanted to wear a skirt or shorts today. Maybe it also means that the weather’s warm and I don’t feel I should have to swathe myself in a muu-muu just to avoid interacting with you. And under no circumstances should you ever tell me to smile. You know what? Maybe I have a reason for looking pissy. Maybe the time you told me to ‘smile’ the day after my parents separated, or the time I was trying to not to have a panic attack on the train home, was the last fucking thing I needed to hear right then. But you don’t think about those things, do you? I’m not a person with feelings and fears, just another object onto which you can project your pathetic manly needs.
Finally, before you try and respond by calling me a man-hater, or a ‘feminist’ (like it’s some kind of insult?), I’ll point out that everything I’ve said doesn’t mean that I ‘hate’ men, that I’m somehow asexual or that I never want to be found attractive. None of those things are true. And I’m not a hypocrite for decrying the things you do, but at the same time dressing and making-up with the intention of looking good. I’m doing that for myself. I’m not ‘asking for it’ or somehow ‘deserving’ harassment because you’ve decided that my hemlines invite it. You don’t get to take my autonomy away from me. Think of it this way – people decorate their homes to look attractive, but that doesn’t mean that just anyone is invited inside.
To conclude, therefore, may I reiterate my invitation to you, to kindly and respectfully Fuck Off.