I love my body.
This is not me trying to make some bold declaration about body acceptance. My opinions on body acceptance could be a post of of their own. Or two. Because I think, as much as I love that women are being confident in who they are, there's a fine line between accepting the way one LOOKS, and taking care of one's HEALTH (and on that note health ≠ skinny). But this not the the subject of today's post. I'll gladly write one on my opinions on that if anyone actually cares that much about my opinions.
Back to where we started.
I love my body because I've worked really really hard to get it to where it is. I've also worked really really hard to accept the things about it that aren't "perfect." I've worked through a lot of my own confidence issues and annoyances and have learned to be thankful for the cruddy metabolism, large thighs/hips, and annoyingly-in-the-way oversized bra size I inherited. I'm thankful because if I was one of those people who could eat whatever I want and never excercise I probably would be, and I'd miss out on all of the awesome rewards that come along with taking care of one's health for more than the sake of weight.
So, because of all of this hard work, when I look in the mirror, I like what I see. I'm happy with this shape and every little curve of it.
Because of this, men of the streets of New York, I EXPECT YOU TO RESPECT IT.
I've always been annoyed by the men who shout out cat calls on the streets. They yell their little "Hey baby"s and "have a nice day"s and I keep walking. They're usually pretty non-threatening, just annoying - like the cabbies who see me dressed for work and honk incessantly assuming I'd rather ride with them than take the bus.
Two nights ago I was walking to the gym, backpack in tow from having left a coffee shop where I was working on a paper, and all of the sudden I hear this man yell, "I like your pretty a**." Typically I'd have just kept walking. I hear things like that on the street, and they annoy me, but I move on. For whatever reason though, on this particular night, before I could even think otherwise, I turned and yelled "WHAT?!" and he REPEATED, "I said I like your pretty a**." To which I responded "That's not okay," and kept walking. He continued to yell his thoughts on why I would not be accepting of his "compliment" and I just kept walking.
On that particular night, because I was going to the gym, I was wearing a pair of tights, which naturally show off my curves more than the clothes I wear on a regular basis. Even so, I had a t-shirt on with them, which was long enough and loose enough to essentially cover up most of the curvy parts. I've had more than one instance lately in which I've been wearing fairly conservative clothing and had similar things said to me. I don't know the motives behind these men, why it is they feel the need to shout these things at women they don't know, but it's not okay.
Why is it not okay? If they aren't harming me, what's the problem?
The problem, for me, are the women who aren't so confident. Particularly young girls.
When I was a teenager, I wasn't cute. Seriously, I know we're all awkward as teens, but I was never a girl that stood out from the crowd in terms of looks or my body. When people talk about "oh, if only I could go back to my 17 year old body, or my 20 year old body, and I thougth I was fat THEN" I cannot sympathize. I have some clothes from high school still laying around that are actually too big for me now. The best shape I've ever been in was at age 23, and I'd say right now I'm very close to where I was then. So when I was a teenager, I was not getting cat-called. That, and I didn't live in a big city so there really wasn't anyone to "cat call" me. But still. It got me thinking: If I was a teenager with a cute figure, and I had low self esteem (as many teenage girls do), would I respond differently to these street "compliments"?
I don't know, but there's a big part of me that thinks maybe I would. Lot of the girls I have worked with are not taught to respect themselves or their bodies by their families for whatever reason - and these men, THEY KNOW THAT.
The other day, I was on the train, and TWO different teenage girls got on at different stops. One was wearing a hot pink lace bra, one wearing a black lace bra.
You might say, "Danielle, why were you looking at their bras?"
I wasn't. They were in my face, bright and clear, as these girls both had on shirts with the enitre sides cut out. On their way to school.
If I'm getting cat called and yelled at when I'm in conservative clothing, HOW ARE THESE GIRLS BEING TREATED??
I honestly could go on and on about this on so many levels but I'm already getting way off topic.
Now, I'm not for "slut-shaming" and saying that girls who dress inappropriately are "asking for it." No one is asking for it. BUT I do think that our bodies are very precious. And that we need to respect them, and that we need to recognize when they are being disrespected by someone else.
I do not work ridiculously hard to take care of myself so that you, Mr. 168th street observer, can tell me it looks good. I don't need your approval. I know what I look like.
TRANSPARENT MOMENT I love my body so much that sometimes I WISH it was socially acceptable to show it off, and that no one would react, trust me! But you know what, that's pretty vain of me. And thats not what my body is for. Lord willing, someday I'll have someone to show it off to whenever I want, and any man that yells things at me now or then is stepping on that one special guy's turf. Not cool dude, not cool.
When I look through instagram, and I follow my teenagers, and I see the pictures they post of themselves, and how they fish for "likes" and beg people to follow them and post picture after picture of themselves dressed provocatively or making sensual expressions and seeking the approval of others, IT MAKES ME SO SAD. It breaks my heart. Where are we failing our girls? Why are we letting this be okay?
I recognize that this will likely not be read by any of these street-calling men, or young girls, but seriously, MEN - start respecting women. You may think your calling out is harmless. You may not even have any expectations from it, but it's not okay. It's just not. We women are not flattered by it, we're annoyed. and GIRLS: don't let them disrespect you! Don't stop to talk to a strange guy because he compliments you on the street - even if he's your age.
Recognizing I have very little authority to give dating advice, I CAN testify that it's better to let a man get to know you based on the beauty that shines THROUGH you than because he looked at you and liked the clevage you were showing.
To me it's a no brainer: when I dress myself in a flattering yet modest way, it eliminates a whole slew of crazy-characters from the men who show me any attention. It doesn't 100% weed out the perverts (I've had my fair share of "nice guys" in my life who turned out to have no respect for my body), but it sure does weed out the crew of people who disrespect my body from the get-go.
I'm saddened that this even needs to be said. Who is teaching these men to talk and act this way? Who is teaching these girls to seek out all of this approval? I get it, when I take a cute picture of myself and post it online, I look for the compliments - it's what we do, but I don't take provacative or revealing photos of myself and ask total strangers to rank them (oh man, don't even get me started on the "ranking" posts on IG). We need to be sending the message to our young women that they are special, and are beautiful, and they don't have to dress in revealing clothing or post sensual photos to get that approval.
(on a side note - I love Dove models, and if I thought only the women of the world who need to learn body confidence would see them, I'd totally volunteer to be one. I like the message of beautiful ≠ size two and perfectly proportioned, but I don't like that having pictures of women in the underwear for just anyone to see is the way to go about it...)