Today I posted the 'me too' status update on Facebook, along with many, many – too many – women who are showing in the weight of numbers of these updates just how prevalent the sexualised objectifying of women is in our society.
My sisters were concerned. For the 'me too' statement says the one posting the update has been sexually harassed or assaulted.
I didn't mention – but I am now – the groping in a swimming pool when I was in my early teens, by a boy I didn't know, didn't even see as he swam past and copped a feel. I don't think I've mentioned it to anyone but the friend who was with me at the time as I surfaced, gasped for air, stunned almost to speechlessness. Truth be told, most of the time it lies forgotten. I shook it off as the immature idiocy of a teenage boy; but underlying that response is the deeper disturbance of being treated as an object that boy thought he had a right to touch, uninvited.
Instead I assured my sisters that my part in this is as one who has experienced the not so harmful harassment of cat calls when I was younger.
Predominantly, that is true. But it is still not 'OK'.
Who wants that sort of attention? To be ogled at, lusted after, like some possession they want to own. Nobody. And then the sad truth is that when you've been young and skinny with boobs and blonde hair and had that sort of attention then with time, health issues change your form so that you no longer receive that sort of attention, you feel yourself to be unattractive, undesirable, ugly.
It's not that the cat callers were necessarily deeming you beautiful, but that society has a picture of beauty that shape our notions of what is desirable and the cat callers affirm your adherence to those notions.
We need to change our pictures of beauty to be more nuanced, fluid, generous, to be richer and deeper. This will make advertising more of a challenge, the selling of 'beauty' products difficult, I'm sure, for a different understanding of beauty will no longer hold that some of us are 'broken' and need fixing with all those products and services we are forever being encouraged to buy.
Capitalism and commercialism have a lot to answer for in the shaping of our perspective of ourselves as humans of dignity and worth. We allow ourselves to be sold the lie that we are inherently wrong, in need of adjustments and improvements.
It is time to reclaim the narrative that humans are inherently good, to see and encourage others to see ourselves and each other as beings of dignity and beauty, find that within ourselves, not in bottles and treatments and products of enhancement.
It is time to shape our notions of beauty to those that will not encourage us to cat call, to grope, to treat another human as an object that we have a right to lust after, to touch, uninvited.