Autonomy, Hold the Please

Wonder Woman

I have a big butt. This isn’t an opportunity to brag; it’s not a compliment. It is a fact of my life. Frankly, it’s the mark of the Duah Family alongside wit and sarcasm, but I digress. It—my butt—has not only shaped my wardrobe, but also my life. Let’s focus in on the latter, shall we.

Let me tell you of the anxiety I feel walking down my city’s streets in my own skin. I’ll tell you why I occasionally rethink wearing something I enjoy because I worry about being harassed in response.

I’ll tell you why I carry a blade with me at all times and why I get emotional every time I hear yet another story about a woman being killed or maimed or traumatized by a man for simply having the audacity to claim space for her own self.

Or maybe I don’t have to. Because if you’re a woman, you probably have your own stories. You’ve undoubtedly shared a time or two you were made to feel uncomfortable in your own skin.

You can likely recall the first time you were told to change around an extended male relative or “family friend” because young girls cannot simply be children where the mind’s of men have the potential to warp them into women.

You can remember a time you were at work and someone made some comment about your body or your hair or entered your personal bubble without being welcomed, all while thinking they were being disarming.  When in actuality, you’re angry inside because you do not enjoy being loomed over, but addressing this invasion of space just makes you seem “rude.” Or worse yet, “angry” if you’re both a woman AND black.

(Hey Tia, do you remember walking down Broad Street while two Black men old enough to be our fathers harassed us down several blocks? Do you remember crossing to the other side of the road to avoid the rumbling commentary about our figures and the sundresses we looked so attractive in? You might’ve forgotten how they continued shouting embarrassing obscenities while no one spoke up on our behalf. Were you as afraid and angry as I was that they would follow us further even as everyone watched? Or was it just me. Glad they didn’t!)

I enjoy running in my compression shorts when it’s hot because it’s hot until I almost stopped running at all after a White male trailed me in his car and blocked my path until I spoke to him.

Perhaps these men were sick the day the topics of sexism, harassment, consent, and misogyny were addressed in schools.

We instruct our daughter’s to hold their heads high like the queens they are and demand to be heard, seen, and paid like equals. But what about when they aren’t polite or demure or when they are assertive and loud? When their firm “No’s” are ignored, are we showing them that those attributes are just as worthy?

And then, we continue to drip toxic masculinity into our sons, passing off this cruel messaging as jokes and life lessons on how to be real men. Women are taught to dress down lest they be raped, yet men aren’t taught not to rape. They aren’t taught that if, maybe, she doesn’t want/need/have to speak to you, it is not your job to change her mind. And that speaking up about this doesn’t make her dramatic or bitter or worthy of a “well, you’re ugly anyway.”

The reason for this season. Children grow up and become the adults we see on the news.

Sometimes I am angry but, most often, I’m determined. Determined to voice my opinions on womanhood and all its facets because I want more for those who come after me. I argue for equality in pay much as I do the right to autonomy over our bodies. My younger sister has a big butt too. So do my cousin’s. So do many of my friends. And even for women whose bodies aren’t unfairly sexualized; they’re not granted immunity from wondering if their ownership over their physical space and voices will be respected or ignored.

I love men in all forms because I was raised by and surrounded by great examples of what men should and can be. I cherish the relationships I have with men and the positivity that they often bring until my life. But no more than I cherish myself. I value ownership over my body and the freedom over my decisions; to say no, go away, and leave me alone without needing to be polite.

I like my butt and I love dressing for my shape and for my happiness without being harassed for it or shamed in spite. I have a right to not smile when I’m happy or to not deign to respond when a man demands my presence—as if I should feel complimented. I don’t. In the immortal words of Tupac Shakur, “Since we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman and our game from a woman, I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women, do we hate our women?”

Well?

Women do not owe men their time, bodies, voice, or energy. Vice versa. Full stop.

P.S. And if you’re a truly a “nice guy,” let my rejection of you be my own loss and not a justification for you to degrade me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I’m Your Girl, You’re My Man…

Wonder Woman

That phrase has gotta go.

Here I am, watching a mtvU video from from their Against Our Will campaign and “Rhea” tells us how about her boyfriend who would turn out to be her pimp.

“He made it seem like I was his girl, he was my man…” she says.

That made me pause and think.

I’ve heard that so often, but it never resonated with me before. Or maybe I just wasn’t as aware as I am today.

I see that phrase as a manifestation of our male dominated society. That phrase is the epitome of gender inequality. That phrase is a lot of things, but we, as an intellectual society, need to stop making it seem like something positive.

If I am with someone, as a grown (yikes) woman, I never want to feel like I am in some way inferior to my partner. My niece is a “girl.” She’s four and always has the cutest braids. When she’s my age, I don’t want her considering a potential partner as a man if he doesn’t give her that same respect regarding maturity.

It’s always used in some lovey-dovey, romantic scenario. But it isn’t very sweet to further some kind of inequality in your relationship.

Men dominate so much of society already. I think it’s this unconscious unbalancing that happens between genders that perpetuates this. I’ve heard this line in songs, movies, TV, real life, etc, but I’ve never thought much about the impact it could be having. Perhaps the effect is small, but we should think about what we’re putting out there when we say these kinds of things. If someone’s my man, I’d like to be his woman in return.