How many times has a woman been told she “deserved” what she got? That it’s “her own fault” she was catcalled? That she should’ve just “minded her own business” and everything would have been fine? Well, as a woman myself, I can say that I’ve heard these phrases time and time again. We are taught to blame ourselves for the actions of others, and that we should hide in fear rather than stand up for ourselves. So, since society seems to know so much about how women should be acting, I decided to create my own guide for how women should act in public:
Wear what you want.
Shocking, right? Yes, you can wear a short skirt or a tight dress if you want! It’s absurd that we are taught that it’s because of our clothing that we are catcalled or attacked, as if wearing jeans rather than shorts would have really made a huge difference. At the end of the day, it is unacceptable to allow the possibility of others’ actions to influence what we wear. In my experience, it hasn’t mattered what I or anyone else wore. It’s interesting that society only seems to highlight the instances in which a woman was wearing a skirt or shorts and fails to mention the times when a woman was wearing, say, sweatpants or a hoodie.
Say what you want.
We are all entitled to stand up for ourselves. We are told that if someone catcalls us, we should put our heads down and keep walking in silence. If that is what you want to do, please do so! It isn’t self-deprecating to want to pick and choose your battles. However, it’s when we feel like we are silenced by the voices of our elders that it is unjust. If someone says something degrading to you, and you want to say something back, you should feel capable of doing so. And we shouldn’t be reprimanded for wanting to speak up. Why is it that society allows the taunting voices of catcallers, but attempts to silence the innocent voices of confident women?
Go out by yourself if you want.
How many times have you been reminded to always travel in groups and to never travel alone at night? I can say I’ve felt guilty on numerous occasions for walking home alone at night. But, now, I look back and am glad I did so. I don’t want to cower in fear and hide. When we are afraid and allow the fear to affect our actions, that is when we have let them win. So no, I will not go home at 9 pm rather than 1 am. Women deserve to have freedom and independence in the places they call home.
At the end of the day, the message of this guide is not that women should be acting in these or any ways; it’s that women should feel comfortable making their own decisions on how to act in public. Being catcalled, stared at and attacked is absolutely disgusting and degrading and can be so humiliating. We deserve to have the support of our society to respond to these instances in a manner we see fit. The cycle of victim blaming will never cease if we continuously reprimand women for matters that are out of our control. When we start recognizing that these instances are in no way our faults, that is when we will finally see how ridiculous it is to tell women how they should and shouldn’t be behaving.