As women, it is accepted that we need the approval of men. Our worth is based on how well we fit a man’s definition of attractiveness and any compliments passed our way should be graciously accepted. According to societal constructs, there is no such thing as unwanted attention because it should be an honor to get the attention of a man at all.
This flawed principle is behind much more than the debate about who’s to blame in a rape case. On a day to day basis, it is somehow known and expected that as women we cannot displease or offend men.
I work on campus at college in the kitchen and there’s a man who works there who I talk to about everything from super heroes to religion. I know he’s a lot older than I am, and I still don’t know how much older, but he has told me on multiple occasions that I’m beautiful, or that I look pretty with my hair down, or some other minor compliment I should accept. And I did. His words made me uncomfortable and embarrassed, but I did not want to offend him so I stayed silent.
I wish I had spoken up.
I was dressing up as Captain Hook for a party and I was explaining my costume and he told me I would make a sexy captain hook. This was unwarranted. But I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. If I were a sexual woman would that be a compliment I would enjoy? I didn’t know, and I didn’t want to explain my asexuality to him either so I turned the conversation away from my costume. There was a hope that any stiff behavior on my part would suggest to him that I was offended.
I should have spoken up.
Unwanted attention is just that: unwanted. As women we should not need to accept compliments if they make us uncomfortable or if we’re not interested. I ask that as women, we learn to use our voices and say no even if the situation seems minor. Your comfort should come first, not his feelings.