Lessons for Girls, #13: You are not what you wear.

maliaobama070809Remember Lessons for Girls?  Well, Roxie, the terminally ill Wire-Haired Fox Terrier got busy living this week enough to make a contribution to our files.  Her advice, inspired by Malia Obama’s peace sign tee-shirt, is very simply that “[y]ou are not what you wear, even if everyone around you is obsessed with what you happen to have on, so wear what you want and to hell with what anybody says.”  Furthermore, “[i]f people are staring at you, stare back — fiercely, beautifully, directly.”  Well said, Roxie–especially for a girl who probably has only limited experience with clothing, outside of those undignified Halloween getups some humans make their pets wear.  (I’m not judging–hey, I tried to put a tiny Pilgrim hat on one cat and an Indian headdress on another last fall–I’m just saying.  Cat Thanksgiving tableau?  EPIC FAIL!)

I especially like that second part about returning the male/public gaze.  Dog knows that Malia Obama has had more of that than most of us get in a lifetime, although while she’s under Secret Service protection, she’ll probably be spared some of the cruder and uglier comments about her appearance than many of us have heard screamed at us on the street (although not in newspapers, magazines, on TV, or on the non-peer reviewed world wide timewasting web, sadly).  Back when Historiann was a young and carefree mere slip of a cowgirl in Philadelphia, she was truly shocked at some of the things that men would say to her on the street, especially when she was on her morning run.  “Hey, baby, you’re looking tight today!” was one of my favorites.  Can you imagine?  Historiann was not dressed to impress–she was unshowered, sweaty, in baggy shorts and a tee-shirt, and hadn’t even brushed her teeth yet!


A crime against nature

For a while, I did what I was taught to do–“just ignore it.”  But when you hear this kind of crap, day after day, ignoring it doesn’t do anything for you–it just gives people the idea that it’s OK to continue to yell nasty things at women, and it makes you angry and frustrated that your silence isn’t interpreted as quiet dignity, but as acceptance.  So I decided to talk back:  I would stop and slowly repeat the phrase or expression someone had just yelled at me (“Hey.  Baby.  You’re.  Looking.  Tight?  ToDAY?”), and then ask, “do you kiss your mother with that mouth?  Do you want someone talking to your wife or daughter like that?”  A few times I got angry responses, but most of the time the men backed down and even (sometimes) apologized.  “Hey, I just thought you look good–I didn’t mean anything by it!”  Yeah, right.  Well, whatever.  I’m sure they didn’t consciously mean anything other than, “I can say whatever I want about you, your body, and what I’d like to do with it, and you can’t do anything about it!”  Nothing personal.

Well, pal–this is a concealed-carry state, and I’ve got a blogYou gotta ask yourself a question:   Do I feel lucky?  Well, do ya, punk?  Thanks, Roxie!  Love Ya!  Live, damn you, LIVE!

0 thoughts on “Lessons for Girls, #13: You are not what you wear.

  1. Thanks for the plug, Historiann, and the exhortation to live. Love you, too, and I’m hanging in there on the whole living thing so far.

    Your story about talking back to man-on-the-street assertions of verbal privilege made me wish that Thelma and Louise had had a blog, which would have afforded them satisfactions almost as deep as blowing up trucks with far less damage to property. Of course, I reckon you could say all us feisty fembloggers are sisters, daughters, and pals of T&L, doing their work by other means. Carry on, wimmins. Talk back, indeed!


  2. Funny you should mention Thelma & Louise, Roxie. That movie came out exactly in my Philadelphia woman-on-the-street-abuse years, and I LOVED the scene where they torched that a-hole’s truck! And as I recall, there were a number of audible shrieks and whoops of approval in the darkened theater, tooo.


  3. I have long fantasized about putting pligrim/indian headgear on my cats, but since they won’t even wear collars, and since they look at me with derision whenever the thought even crosses my mind, I have never tried. Similarly, I have not given them bunny ears for easter, nor have I given them an Uncle Sam hat for fourth of July, though those would be equally awesome (though, they would agree, a crime against nature).

    And what you said about how “just ignoring it” as pretty ineffectual by way of responding to this sort of thing.


  4. Ignoring it doesn’t work. I don’t have the problem these days (age being what it is, as well as an over-ripe body), but I’m always horrified when I hear that kind of thing and see the woman just absorb it and keep going. I understand her reluctance to confront a group of men, but damn! T’aint right.


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