by Alicia Costa
As I was stopped at the light today one of the young men in the SUV next to me leaned out his window and screamed, “Now THAT’S a great ass!” to a young woman crossing the street. She looked clearly startled and not at all flattered by the outburst. It literally made me recoil as I know exactly what that girl feels like. In fact this exact same thing happened to me last week while walking to meet a client. And I’m sure if you are a woman reading this you can relate to this situation.
This got me thinking about how much sexual harassment women are receiving and internalizing on a daily basis and I’m tired of it. Many men seem to think by hiding in their cars and shouting out the window- or behind a computer screen they have full license to do and say whatever they want about our bodies.
In previous weeks feminist media critic Anita Sarkeesian of Feminist Frequency came out and laid out all of the harassment she was getting in response to a project she created about the lack of well-rounded female characters in video games. Everything from the defacement of her Wikipedia page, to continued threats of sexualized violence, to a video game where the player can virtually punch a picture of Anita until her face in it turns black and blue.
While trying to process Anita’s experience and reconcile my own experiences of misogynist hate emails and nasty comments on things I’ve written over the years I started to think about other forms of harassment I’ve received on the internet.
And unsurprisingly it’s come from online dating sites. While I am relatively new to dipping my toes in these waters I still find myself genuinely shocked at the amount of sexually harassing messages I get from men on a consistent basis. However, in speaking with other women about this topic all of them have experienced it on some level.
Now, in an effort to get the best results in this experience I posted various pictures of myself (full body included). I’m not delusional, as women are continuously told on dating websites you need to show as much of yourself as possible in order to get a man interested in your profile. And as I also appreciate it when men post clear and accurate pictures I felt it was only fair to do the same.
And as I’m sure it will surprise no one that like most women I receive a lot of messages on weekly basis. The most common messages I get are usually along the lines of “I love your tits! Want to hook up?” Oh how charming. My favourite message I’ve received to date on this topic was along the lines of, “don’t take this the right way but I would punch a puppy to touch your boobs!” Well awwwww shucks.
Now you must be thinking that I am a totally hottie and only post pictures of myself in low-cut shirts or in bikinis (not that would excuse it- I’m just putting my wardrobe into perspective). But you are wrong! All of my pictures are me wearing normal cleavage covered clothing. However, as a very busty woman it’s clear from my pictures that I have large breasts. And thus will give you access to my body if you make a comment about them. Right?
While at first it was bit amusing and I just naturally ignored these messages but it has become very irritating over time. Women are told just to ignore these guys or block them. And by doing this we are normalizing and excusing this kind of behavior. However, when I have sent messages back about the fact I do not respond to inappropriate messages I am greeted with responses of anger and hatred. Who do I think I am exactly? I am suuuuuucccchhhhh a bitch who can’t take a compliment.
It can be very demoralizing and downright frustrating when you feel you cannot fight back to these unwanted comments. Part of me is always telling myself to just let it go. Let it slide off my back. These things happen all the time. Men will cat call you on the street and some will send you unwanted pictures of their cocks on dating sites.
Jessica Coen, an editor of Jezebel wrote a blog post in reference to Anita’s fight against online harassment:
I never stopped seeing stories of women who were harassed online. Didn’t even matter what they were writing about; women are just punished for existing on the internet. Shrug. Can’t let it get to you. Par for the course, I thought. Numb.
And that is so fucking sad. That there’s so much misogyny online that I can barely raise an eyebrow? Jesus. That numbness again.
Vlogger Meghan Tonjes posted a powerful video (embedded below) on her YouTube channel about the amount of fat hatred she is subjected to in the comments section. Meghan essentially reclaimed the power out of the insult of being called ‘fat.’
Why does it bother you if I don’t hate myself? My body is a good body. My body is a strong body. It’s one that I take pretty good care of. Don’t act like you know any different. You are not going to tell me who I am.
The bottom line is simple- walking down the street or posting a profile on a dating website is not an invitation for you to say whatever you want about me and my body. I have a right to say what I want online and wear what I want in public. I will take up space and I will not allow you to take it away from me.