I ran out of shampoo. Such a benign event…completely uninteresting, but the events which would unfold as I replenished my supply were enlightening.
The temperature in Indiana had reached somewhere between fry an egg and I’m in Hell. I’m not much for hot weather. In fact, I’d prefer a cool 45 degrees so I could wear my hoodie. Being that my desire for cooler temperatures goes largely unnoticed by the powers that control the weather, I try to do my best to stay cool. Today that meant a summery shirt, my favorite ripped up jeans, and some flip flops.
My summery shirt is a dark lavender. It’s longer so as to cover up all the parts of me I don’t like to show off, but it is sleeveless, low cut, and ties around my neck. Being a fashionista isn’t really my thing, but I think the shirt is somewhat stylish, and I love it.
Shampoo buying can be daunting if you’re into really expensive hair products, but I’m always nearly broke, so I headed to the local Dollar Store.
Whilst searching for my favorite el cheapo shampoo, a man turned to look at me. He studied me for a minute, and then began to walk away. As he passed, he quietly looked to me and said “whore.”
What exactly it was that made this man label me with no prior or immediate interaction is beyond my realm of understanding. We had never had a conversation. I was never in his way, and he knew absolutely nothing about me. It did make me wonder, though, if this is just how our culture works.
Slightly before I went on my shampoo run, I had read a blog written by a man who had restored my faith in the men of our society. The writer had stated the way he slyly took up for a woman who was trying to shirk off unwanted advances from a man on BART. He had made reference to the way women in our society are taught to be cordial to the advances of men, and he countered this by giving the unwanted troll a taste of his own bad-tasting medicine. Where was he when I needed him?
I never confronted the man, even when we stood next to each other in the check-out lane. The point probably would have been lost, anyway. Judging a woman by her style of dress is probably what this man had been taught from childhood.
What would have happened if, upon exiting the building, I would have been assaulted or raped? Would this man have thought I deserved it simply because I showed half of my back, my arms, and a little cleavage?
Personally, I do believe this is the mindset that allows for our rape culture to continue. Many men, unlike Mr. Brecheen, believe that not only must women accept any advance, but their style of dress defines who they are and more importantly, what they want.
I was immediately a whore. The anonymous man had no idea of what my sexual past or present was comprised. He didn’t even know if I’d ever been sexually active. I was involved in an act in which his mother, sister, or daughter would surely partake. I wasn’t soliciting sex. I was purchasing a personal hygiene product.
What bothers me the most about this incident is not being called a pejorative term. Trust me, I’ve heard them all before. It was that this man thought he had the right to allocate a label for me. He was able to decide my worth as a human being simply by my favorite purple shirt.
Is this what we, as a society, have taught our men? Is a woman’s value only clothing deep?
Being a woman can be scary and painful sometimes. While in the United States, women are not subject to some of the atrocities against women in some parts of the world, we’re still subject to verbal and physical abuse from men.
Not all men behave in this manner, as Chris Brecheen has demonstrated. I can honestly say I’ve had more positive encounters with men than negative, on a social level. But it only takes one man who thinks it’s acceptable to judge a woman by what she wears to change a life forever.
I am here today to say, “Hey men, we deserve more respect than that. Our value runs much deeper than a purple shirt you don’t happen to like.”
If we want to change the rape culture, we have to change the indoctrination of men to believe this type of judgment is okay. It benefits not only women to do so, but men as well.
Tammie Niewedde shares her life with 24, 21, and 16 year old sons. She also has a 2 year old grandson whose energy level reminds her exactly how old she is (40, and she owns that proudly!). In her home, you will find a 120 pound fur factory named Dexter and a few cats whom have decided that she is merely their staff. The root of her love for books, writing, and animals comes from being a child whose only siblings were books and her animals. She is a full-time student, mother, coordinator of all that is chaos, and a hopeless list maker. Most of her writing is creative non-fiction that describes her real life adventures. Her acerbic, biting sense of humor may capture your heart, or it may induce rage. Nonetheless what she writes is true to life. You can often find her hanging out with the kiddos, studying, reading, writing, and making lists…of everything! You can find her on Facebook!