A small smirk, too small to even see a glimpse of a tooth, a quick shuffle, and my feet are flying toward the door.
A good way to deal with your problems? Probably not, but this has been my mechanism for dealing with misogynistic comments and actions: a stare held a few seconds too long, a demeaning catcall (have they EVER worked?). The anger that builds inside of me screams to tell them to shove it. But honestly, it’s easier this way. It’s a confusing time to be growing into womanhood, and we must treat ourselves with care in navigating this difficult path given the current headache that is U.S. politics.
In itself, becoming a woman is difficult. We are taught from a young age that our bodies are objects. We look at models on TV and in magazines and wonder why we look different. We inevitably think that our looks equate to our worth and value in society.
Becoming a woman in college is another story. College is freeing and confusing and a place of finding who we are. With male-dominated majors, we constantly have to prove that we belong, even though we deserve to be here just as much as our male peers. With the carefree desire to dress however we please, we still have to hear what men have to say about it when we’re walking down Del Playa.
It makes me feel like a hypocrite to let a man tell me what to do, but the energy it takes to explain why his actions are wrong is mind-boggling.
Last week after a long day at school, I went to the grocery store to get some food for dinner. At checkout I was minding my own business, lost in thought about all the other assignments I had to get done that week. When it was my turn to pay, the 40-ish, balding cashier seemed nice at first. He asked me how I was, but then proceeded to tell me that I should smile more because I “look much prettier that way.”
At first, two responses came to mind: One, fuck you; two, you should put on some deodorant to cover that smell — but we can’t all have nice things.
Telling a woman that she’s prettier when she smiles implies that she should always be happy, polite and put-together, catering to the needs of men like this one. Men may mean this as a playful compliment, when in reality it’s a power play. My other option is to flash a small smile and make my way to the comfort of my own home. The latter is all too tempting.
Maybe if we spoke up every time a man said or did something that was misogynistic, women would gain the respect we inherently deserve.
However easy this sounds, it’s mentally draining.
We see women like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford displaying her deepest emotions to the world, and what does she get in return? She is called a liar, and we are asked to consider the impact her accusation has on Brett Kavanaugh, as if he had not completely altered the course of her life years ago, all the while being swiftly appointed to the Supreme Court. It is discouraging at best. When these microaggressions stem from a source of power, dealing with them is all the more difficult. Dr. Ford withheld a traumatic life-altering experience for years and told her story not when she wanted to but when she had to.
Some might say that women are being too sensitive, that these “microaggressions” are imaginary. In reality, this is just another microaggression in itself.
When we have Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and a president who says he grabs women “by the pussy,” my hope is withered. I fight this feeling day in and day out, trying to remind myself that it is worth it. Real change takes time. I have to remember that women’s suffrage was not an easy road. Women fought for decades to get us to where we are today.
It’s a constant battle between fighting for equality and staying sane. It’s not just one microaggression here and there. It is constant, which is why we pick and choose when to make our voices heard. When we do explode with anger, it is because our threshold of tolerance has been shattered to pieces. My suggestion is to take it day by day; treat yourself with caution. If you don’t have the patience it takes to explain such a simple concept, it is perfectly okay. Trust yourself, and walk away.
However, if you feel up to the challenge, take it head on. Try to attack the problem, not the person. Attacking the person’s character, however tempting, will only take away from the point and validity of your argument. Assess the situation. If someone is catcalling you while you are walking alone at night, it might not be the best time for confrontation. Battling this should never compromise your safety. More often than not catcallers are cowards. They yell at strangers on the street because they do not have the courage to approach them and have an actual conversation. But, given the chance that they are aggressive, it is best to confront them only when surrounded by others. Remember that when you resist these things, you have millions of women standing behind you. Take some deep breaths.
Some might say that women are being too sensitive, that these “microaggressions” are imaginary. In reality, this is just another microaggression in itself. Dismissing a woman because she is “too sensitive” is plain hurtful. Listen to us, and maybe you’ll begin to understand the strength it takes to keep moving despite this staggering feeling of powerlessness. As author and feminist Roxane Gay so perfectly states, “It’s hard not to feel humorless, as a woman and a feminist, to recognize misogyny in so many forms, some great and some small, and know you’re not imagining things. It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”
Whether it be a smile or a full-on fight, however you choose to deal with microaggressions is perfectly normal.
Ally McCulloch hopes that women feel comfortable speaking out against misogyny in their daily lives.