Imagine a World Where Women Exist Without Male Commentary

How many times have you or women you know found yourself minding your own business, living your life, just existing, and then a man comes along and ruins it? Maybe he’s catcalling you, commenting on your appearance, calling you names. With quarantine, I’ve found this is happening less for me. I’m at home all the time, which means I get a break from my constant frustration with certain types of men. However, the world is still run by men. I still have classes with men, I still socialize with them online, I still see them putting women down on social media. Being able to exist without that harassment always surrounding me, my patience has disappeared. I used to try to communicate with the man taking up all the space in a room and find some common ground where we can come to an understanding. Now, I just want to tell him to keep his mouth shut.

Earlier this week, I was in a class where another student was giving a presentation. At the end of the presentation, they had a few questions for the class, one of them being how we would teach a hypothetical student that was talked about during the presentation. I unmuted myself and said, “If it were me,” and then gave what I thought would be helpful if I were in the position the hypothetical student was in. Not two seconds later, a boy in my class jumped in and told me I was wrong, and then gave me an organized list of reasons why. Looking back, I wish I would have replied calmly and told him how he couldn’t tell me I was wrong, because I was saying what would work for me and I had made that clear when I started talking. But at the time, I was fuming. I didn’t respond because I knew I would appear more emotional about his response than I wanted, so I just let the conversation move on without standing up for myself.

I used to be pretty close with this guy, but we had a falling out last year. When we were friends, I went by Alex. Now, I go by Alexandra. Long story short, I have a really weird relationship with my name. My friends still call me Alex, but when I meet new people, I now introduce myself as Alexandra, and I tell all my professors I go by Alexandra (for some reason, if you have a name longer than six letters, people always feel the need to ask if you go by your full name or a nickname, as if I didn’t introduce myself to them as Alexandra). So this guy referred to something I said, and said, “Well, Alex had mentioned…” and I didn’t correct him because it didn’t matter too much at that moment. That was last week. Every class session since then, my professor has called me Alex instead of Alexandra. My Zoom screen name is Alexandra McGrew, which means she looks at me raising my hand, sees the screen name (the boxes aren’t that big), sees the name I explicitly told her to call me, and still calls me by the wrong name just because she heard one entitled boy call me by a different name. She gave a boy agency over my own damn name and continues to call me the wrong name, even though I have corrected her every time.

And this isn’t the only course this has happened in. I’ve had another professor a couple times, and the first time I had him, he kept calling me Alexandria. It’s annoying, but every Alexandra knows they’ll occasionally be called Alexandria and vice versa. However, I corrected him, and it kept happening. I have him again this quarter, and it’s still happening. I know him now, I’m a lot more comfortable with him, so my corrections have gone from, “Oh, actually professor, um, my name is Alexandra, not Alexandria,” to, “My name is Alexandra, don’t call me that again.” I like him, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he has a family member named Alexandria or something, but I am my own person! I have a good guy friend in that class who knows me as Alex, so he calls me that because that’s what he met me as, but the professor has also started to call me Alex despite the fact that for two years now, I’ve been telling him my name is Alexandra. Listen guys: if my best friend can start calling me Alexandra, even though that means she’s saying her own name all the time, you can too. Alexandra is a super common name. Listen to me when I tell you what my name is and how to refer to me.

I’m sure all women have had a man be an ass to them in person, but what about online? A whole other side of them comes out there. The most popular defense to saying something mean is, “That’s just my opinion,” like they aren’t commenting on a whole human being with a life of her own. Just earlier this week, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw two posts that blew my mind. The audacity the men exhibited in these posts genuinely shocked me. The first was this one, a tweet with two pictures of Adele, one being the most recent picture she posted on Instagram, the other being a picture of her winning a Grammy in 2012. Daniel Iyam (the user) captioned it “Not everyone was created to be slim. I prefer the chubby Adele.” Men have been commenting on women’s bodies for hundreds of years. Women are told we need to look a certain way in order to be desirable to men (which is complete bullshit and I hope to see that idea abolished in my lifetime). Adele didn’t lose weight to please anyone, especially not this loser on Twitter, but he still felt the need to comment on her body. Women just can’t win. We’re told we need to be thin to be beautiful, and Adele lost weight. This has been an ongoing thing for her. She’s posted pictures of her looking like she’s having the time of her life hiking and spending time outdoors with her friends. So once she’s achieved this cultural “ideal” weight, now she’s being judged for being too thin. Obviously, people told Daniel he can fuck right off, and he said, “I don’t care about anyone dragging me. I expressed an opinion. And that’s it. Stop pretending you have never told someone ‘oh you’ve gained weight or oh you’ve lost some weight.’ And in your mind you either preferred her/him when they were a certain weight. It’s my preference.” I don’t know who needs to hear this, but it is so rude to comment on another person’s body, especially if they didn’t ask for it. Whether it’s losing weight, getting a nose job, whatever—don’t make shitty comments about another person’s body. That person didn’t ask for your opinion, they didn’t want your opinion, so do us all a favor and keep your mouth shut.

The next tweet I saw was a video from Tik Tok. (Another tweet I saw later in the day said, “is he actually funny or just white and louder than everyone else in the room,” which is exactly the case for this video.) The video shows a boy walking around in circles and yelling his opinions on the type of makeup women wear. “If you wear just mascara and nothing else, let me tell you something right now, marry me, okay? If you got on your knee and asked me to marry you, I would say yes, that shit is so attractive. If you just wear just lipstick, I don’t know what the fuck you want me to tell you, that is the weirdest shit I have ever heard in my life, don’t do that shit. If you wear eyeliner… I think it’s weird and unattractive, please stop doing that, girls. If you wear blush… I think that’s cute, you girls who do that, you’re pretty cute—you’re not hot—but you’re cute, so it’s good. If you wear fake eyelashes, you might as well just change your fucking name. That is a whole different identity and I don’t fuck with that shit. Get rid of the fake fucking eyelashes please. And if you wear a full face of makeup everyday—holy shit! I don’t like that! Stop! Just take it all off! You’re fucking—” and then he starts screaming and the video cuts off.

Most women do not wear makeup to please men. Some do, and that’s fine, because that’s their choice. But most women do not. You really think some of us spend hours practicing and perfecting our makeup looks to please you? You think we care what you think? Can’t we like the artistic expression and the way certain colors make our eyes pop? We get pretty for ourselves, gents. Just like you shouldn’t make comments about someone else’s body, you shouldn’t comment on what someone puts on their body, whether it be clothes, makeup, or anything else. It’s rude and creepy and unnecessary. This applies to all genders, but especially men: if you don’t like what a woman is wearing or doing with her body, just keep your mouth shut! She doesn’t care what you think, and you opening your mouth isn’t going to change what she decides to wear or do. Seeing this video reminded me of another Tik Tok video I saw where a guy says something along the lines of, “Girls, if you’re over 110 pounds, please get on a diet.” Girls then took that audio and posted videos and pictures of themselves, putting their weight either somewhere on the screen or in the caption. I love to see women mocking people who are determined to hurt us because of our bodies in this fashion, but I hate that we have to do it. I hate that men still feel like they have the right to comment on women’s bodies.

I’m tired of being nice to men who are going out of their way to be rude. I’m tired of being called a bitch when I stand up for myself, for other women, or do the exact same things men do. When I told my mom about what happened in class with that boy, she told me I should have told him to fuck off. Is it constructive? No. But it would have felt good. I don’t want to have to sit down and teach men a lesson about why what they said was wrong. I want them to know it’s wrong and stop doing it. I want to live in a world where I can say something and not have to worry about a man repeating exactly what I said and expecting applause, or being so eager to disagree with me that he cuts me off. I want men shut up. I want women to have the ability to speak their mind without being called a bitch. I want women to be able to speak without a man feeling like they have to disagree with them. I want women to be able to do what they want with their bodies and be happy with themselves without men thinking we’re doing it for them.

And I want these desires to not seem so radical, because they’re not. I just want women to be able to exist as they are without men feeling the need to comment.