Sometimes you think about the discrimination that exists towards women in our society on a daily basis, and I tend to think: “Wow, I’m so lucky to have a family that respects me as a woman. I’m so happy that discrimination never happens to me”. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was wrong. There are plenty of microaggressions that are hard to identify at first, but when you think about it, you realize certain behaviors are problematic.
One morning, while I was getting ready for university rushedly. I was already stressing over a project that was due that day. I was nervous and thought about how a few days earlier, I had bought a dress that was super comfortable, not too short and just loose enough. I loved how pretty it made me look. To feel confident for my project, I decided to wear that dress to university. I made me feel pretty and confident. For some context on the situation, this wasn’t the first time that I used a dress for my everyday classes. I get ready, and just then my dad enters, and asks, “Are you wearing that to go to the university?”
There was something in his tone, an almost passive-aggressive way of challenging my outfit choice. His tone and his choice of words made an empty, sad feeling grow in my stomach. This feeling started burning inside me, and it made me angry, so angry. I felt a headache and an anger I haven’t felt before, and it made me super impulsive with what happened next.
He continues to say, “Why don’t you wear jeans?”. I loved my dad but his words hurt. Maybe the two questions seem inconspicuous but the tone said everything. I didn’t know if he did it on purpose or just said it automatically because of how our society has ingrained sexist ideals into the minds of our families: that a dress or a skirt or shorts equal danger for a girl. But we all know, bad things happen regardless of what you’re wearing.
At that moment, I wanted to scream, kick him out of my room, and cry never thinking that someone so close to me with so few words could hurt me. But then in the silence, I surprised myself, I took a deep breath and turned to him. “Why should I change my clothes?”
He said nothing.
Then I said: “Don’t I have the right to wear a dress if I like it? Why now when I have worn other dresses before you want me to change?”
His features got angry, but I wasn’t saying anything wrong.
I felt bolder and said, “Girls have the same rights as boys to pick the clothes they want to wear on their bodies, clothes that make us feel comfortable, pretty, or whatever we want to feel. Why should I have to change this dress just to seem appropriate, in your eyes, for a day at university?”.
He snapped at me, “Shut up! I am the man of this house you live under my roof, so change!”
But I didn’t, I couldn’t even move. He dismissed my whole comment. He made feel so small as if my opinion or my rights didn’t matter.
That’s when my brother entered the picture. He is just 12 years old and idolizes my father.
He said the exact same words: “Why are you going like that to the university?”
That was the final blow.
I was astonished about what was happening. My mother stood there in silence, not defending me, not saying anything. Still, I didn’t change.
I couldn’t. I had to prove my point. I could feel the anger, the hurt, bubbling up inside me. I couldn’t back down from what was happening. I couldn’t even cry.
My father and brother left to school and I was left in pieces thinking how he is raising another narrow-minded male that will eventually think that he has the right to choose what his sister, wife, girlfriend or friend can wear or cannot wear. He will be teaching my little brother that if a girl or woman wears a dress, they are a threat or a source of discomfort for other males.
They don’t get that we have a right for free expression, a right to freedom, a right to speech and to choice. We can defend ourselves. We can choose what we wear, and we can’t live in a world that sees a woman in a dress and thinks that we’re a threat or that they are entitled to our bodies.
Get it through your minds: We don’t and will never dress for men.
We dress for ourselves, we work for ourselves, we study to revolutionize our minds and future. We are feminists, not because feminism disdains all of the heteronormative population, nut because we need to fight for our rights–even if it’s a little fight about a dress at your house. But you need to fight so they start seeing how strong we are and how we’re determined to find equality in our own home.
By sharing my experience, I hope I help other girls and other women, and every oppressed gender out there, that have been in similar situations, subject to remarks on how they look or dress, to fight for their right for a woman and a man to be equal. Never give up. Never give in. If we stand together, we can end gender discrimination. I know my fight is not finished but now I know it has started and I will keep until my brother respect women and treats with equality until my mother defends me from discriminative remarks and until my father understand that I have the right to choose what I want to wear.