This morning I was doing a little online shopping. I wanted to post one of the dresses I was going to buy to Instagram. In order to do that, I had to log in to Pinterest using my Facebook account so I could download the photo. By logging in this way, a page for me was automatically created. I had no posts on it and nothing was pinned. All that was there was my Facebook profile photo.
Within 5 minutes I had a follower.
It was a guy. Because, of course. I immediately deactivated my Pinterest page, annoyed.
The only reason that guy decided to follow me was because of my picture. And while I’m sure some people will say, “So what? He thinks you’re attractive. It’s a compliment!” I’m here to inform you that it’s not. I have a general policy when it comes to social media: if you’re a dude and you follow me and all you ever like or comment on are photos I post of myself, you’re blocked. I don’t care who you are. I could have known you for years, and I’ll still do it.
Worse are the guys who comment on photos I post on Instagram. Take this one for example.
Is my cleavage prominently featured? Yes. But that still doesn’t mean that someone can write lewd comment about how they want to be between my breasts. I’ll break this down for you so that you can understand: if you wouldn’t dream of making such a comment to a man you don’t know, don’t say it to a woman. There. Simple concept.
The reason why this kind of attention isn’t remotely flattering to many women is because these men are commenting on their parts, not on the sum of their parts. You might thinking telling a random woman on OKCupid that she has great curves is okay, but what you’re really saying with that is that, despite having an incredibly well thought out profile that details her thoughts and values and interests, the only thing that matters to you is her body.
I have no doubt that some of you – both men and women – are rolling your eyes and wondering what the big deal is. Allow me to enlighten you. When you are a human being barraged with comments solely about your looks, often times uninvited and unwanted, you end up feeling devalued. You also end up feeling somewhat preyed upon. Now, I’ve articulated in the past that I have zero issue with telling a man to fuck off if I feel he’s being overly-aggressive strictly because I’m a female. But not all women feel that way. And, really, my hubris and bravado could very well one day lead me to be assaulted. I’m not being brave when I stand up for myself. I’m risking possible harm. That is the unfortunate reality that we live in. But you only understand that if you experience it. And women do, every day, in various spaces. Online dating sites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. Even LinkdIn. Walking down the street. It’s constant. And, no, that’s not me or any other woman who has a similar complaint bragging about how much attention we get. In some cases, that is the case. But not all. There’s a fine line between posting something that we want people to find sexy or attractive and something where we are blatantly objectifying ourselves or showing off certain parts of our anatomy. I have a hard time sympathizing for people who do that and then complain that somebody commented on said part of her anatomy. Yes, we do invite attention to a certain degree. But that still doesn’t mean you get to take the attention to a lewd place.
Because, see, we know that attention is based in the idea that, as women, our bodies are up for grabs. It’s not a compliment. So when dudes whine about how women get sooooo many more messages, I want to collectively tell them to shut it. Those messages we get? 80% are disgusting. Not because most of them are from slobs with no social skills, but because these men talk to us like the only thing that matters to them are our looks and our vaginas. Many guys will say, “Dude, I’d love it if a woman commented on my junk!” Orly? Okay. Let’s see how you feel about that when that’s all you hear. Constantly. Wherever you go. Even when you’re fully clothed. Oh, and let’s throw in for funsies that, when you reject some of these junk-adoring women, they threaten to do you physical harm or respond with rage. How’s your junk feeling now, brah? Still not getting it? You will that one time you feel a disgruntled woman’s wrath.
Social media, while obviously a tool for self-promotion, is a breeding ground for various kinds of harassment for women. We don’t have to say anything. Put the #feminist hashtag on a tweet and you’re confronted by angry, self-righteous dudes. Post a photo of yourself in any state of dress or undress and you’re being verbally violated by men you don’t know. What you would never see in a million years is the same kind of language and the same type of attention directed at men. Because, see, these men who so freely and without thought think it’s okay to tell us how hot we are or comment on our bodies actually believe a) that we like it and b) that we exists solely for their pleasure.
And let’s get another thing crystal clear. I don’t give a fuck what the guy looks like. He could be Ryan motherfuckingGosling and I’d still find that kind of objectification unnecessary and annoying. What I’m wearing, and even what I’m not wearing, doesn’t imply or inform any kind of consent to be treated in any other way than as a three dimensional human being.
“Well, what should we say when a woman posts a photo somewhere or if we like her photos on her dating profile?”
That’s easy. NOTHING. You can like it. You can click that little heart. But you should not be taking that post as an invitation to tell her how hot you think her boobs are. If you want to verbally acknowledge something, acknowledge her humor. Or her intelligence. Or her love of brownies. As long as it’s sincere and genuine and not just some phony way to get her to engage you, then that stuff is perfectly acceptable. But if that’s all you take notice of, and if those photos of her are the only ones you like, you’re immediately deemed a creep.
Am I inviting likes to certain photos I post, even ones that are provocative? Absolutely. But if I’m also inviting you into my weird little online world and sharing other aspects of my life, then look at me though that lens. Don’t hone in on just my looks. And please don’t assume I’m desperate for your validation and so you think you’re doing me a favor by telling me I have great breasts. Trust me. I’m well aware of how sexy I am. I don’t need some rando on the web to confirm that with some gross comment.
That’s the real issue I have with this. Do they feel the same when it comes to other men? Do they look at a guy and think they should tell them how handsome they look? Does that thought even enter their head? Probably not. It’s as if men think they are doing us a favor by giving us their approval. That is what truly bothers me about this type of attention. It’s condescending, among other things.
It makes you realize that there are still so many men out there who think of us as weak and fragile and who feel that, without their approval, we have no value. They think that we need them in a way that we don’t.
Not anymore, at least.