I was walking through Downtown Berkeley wearing what I thought was a work-appropriate dress, but, upon further reflection, and especially after the amount of unsolicited attention I got today, I realize that it is, in fact, not a work appropriate dress. Technically, it fits within the guidelines of the dress code my boss sent me. So maybe it’s not that the dress is work inappropriate – perhaps it’s just the way that my body fits in the dress that makes it the subject of undue attention.
After a year of hormonal mishaps, I am pleased to announce that I have gained 20 pounds, and after a few months of obsessive, maniacal work outs, those 20 pounds have gladly landed all on my ass. I am quite proud of my new ratio (35/26/40), so I strut my stuff accordingly.
I was strutting through Downtown Berkeley past all the hobos and high school kids when a man walking towards me said, “Nice legs!”
I effortlessly retorted, “I know!” and kept walking.
Apparently, the older woman who was walking slightly ahead of me was a bit put off by that interaction. She turned around to gape at me, but I kept my head held high because I couldn’t be bothered to clock that look on her face as either in shock, appalled or both or neither or something completely different. It was just another reaction to me as I’m walking down the street, and I’m pretty used to it by now.
I kind of assume that the old lady’s look was one of disapproving feminism. I know, I know. The movement dictates that I’m supposed to say things like, “No!” or “Stop it!” or glare or say cat calling is wrong. Sure, cat calling is wrong, but that man was right – I do have nice legs. I put a lot of effort into having nice legs. He was merely expressing a statement of fact.
I know that in another lifetime, I was supposed to say something like, “Thank you,” but this is 2018, and I don’t think I need to be grateful for other people’s power of observation.
Now this is the point where I talk about the gendered double standard of compliments. Before that man told me that I had nice legs, a woman across the street had complimented my shoes. Generally when people comment on my physical appearance, I don’t think it’s my responsibility to be grateful. Commenting on people’s physical appearances is just…trite and unoriginal.
But I understand the dichotomy of the compliments. When a man tells me I’m pretty, it’s a power move and he is probably trying to subjugate me in some weird role play of instantaneous-strangers-on-the-street sexual dynamism. When a woman tells me I’m pretty, it’s an acknowledgement of all the things that women do and women suffer through in order to be deemed attractive by the cis, heteronormative male gaze. With women it’s about mutual respect, communication, and acknowledgement. It’s a conversation starter with the intent of a conversation surrounding who we are as women, or whatever it is. With men, it’s dangling attention like a carrot in the hopes that he can strike up a conversation that leads to sex.
Which is fine – I like sex. But if you want me to stop what I’m doing and notice you – well, telling me I have nice legs isn’t going to do it for me. Perhaps this is sexual reduction, but, well, try harder. I like a man who can get creative – when it translates sexually, it’s tons of fun.