Since I was about 13 I’ve known that they are a thing. I’ve been with my friends and had comments yelled at me from cars, but I’ve never had a man say something lewd directly to my face until recently.
Thinking back on it, I’ve had grandfathers ask me to sit on their laps, men at least 30 years my superior make passes at me, and “compliments” from boys my age that just didn’t seem to fit the category. This interaction just sits with me a little more heavily.
Halloween weekend I was dressed up as Bob Ross. My costume was made up of white tennis shoes, high-waisted skinny jeans, a large mens button-up shirt, a drawn-on beard, and a mens 70’s style wig.
After going to a few friends’ Halloween parties, the friends I was with and I decided to end our night by going to a popular local pizza place. The entire night when people saw me in my costume they would say excitedly, “Oh my god…are you Bob ROSS?” or something along those lines. Things were no different at the pizza place. It was Dad’s Weekend for many Greek Life chapters in my college town, leading to fathers and their sons/daughters everywhere. As I was walking past a table of sons and dads, a son shouted the tag line of the night: “Are you Bob Ross!?” and I, proudly, said, “Yes, I am.” But then something that has never happened to me in my life occurred. Right after I said yes, a dad sitting next to presumably his son jeered, “You’ve got better tits than Bob Ross!”
An old man. Grey hair. Someone’s parent.
I’ve thought about this happening to me before – what would I say, what would I do, what would I retort? But in that moment, I felt so shocked all I could do was stand there with my face screwed up in a frown looking at this gross man smiling back at me, proud of himself. I’m not sure if I said it out-loud or not but all I could think was, “that’s disgusting”.
Halloween is one of the more sexual holidays. People can dress up in whatever they want, it’s fun, if you subscribe to a more adult version of Halloween your night may entail alcohol in replacement of candy. With this sexualization comes a phrase that I despise: “This is why I hope I don’t have a daughter.”
Can I get, uhhhh, misogynist for 400?
This phrase is often said by men who enjoy sexualizing women but take offense when women embrace their sexuality consensually. Meaning, it’s okay if I objectify people, but under no circumstances should a woman try to embrace her sexuality on her own. It’s even more curious to me that the reason men “hope they don’t have a daughter” is not because of women’s actions, but rather men’s actions towards women.
Later that evening, it occurred to me that I was wearing a button-down shirt, something that covered me from my neck to my wrists. The only way I could get more ‘modest’ is if I was wearing a paper bag. It doesn’t seem to matter if a woman is wearing a crop top or a mens long sleeve shirt, she will still get catcalled. It’s not about giving a “compliment” or flattering someone, it’s about power and control in social situations. I know what some of you are thinking, “But Zoë, wait. That’s kind of funny.” A dad, catcalling you, while you’re dressed as a man? Yeah, it is kind of funny…until the situation is given context: some pervy old man made unsolicited comments about my body that he would never get in return. He was sitting in a group. I wasn’t. They were laughing. I wasn’t. I didn’t know these people, I wasn’t in a conversation with them, and the comment came out of no-where.
There is clearly a culture where men, specifically old men, feel entitled to comment on women’s, specifically young women’s, bodies. Something gross was said to me, and it’s likely that any woman reading this has experienced something similar.
EVEN on Halloween, EVEN when dressed sexy, EVEN when it’s supposed to be a “joke”, my body is not for the consumption of others, unless I want it to be.