I finished Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions while flying to New England a few weeks ago. I wanted to listen to something while traveling that I knew I could finish (the only reading I was able to get done was while I was in the air), so I downloaded this little thing to my phone and quickly fell in love with all of the words:
“If the justification for controlling women's bodies were about women themselves, then it would be understandable. If, for example, the reason was 'women should not wear short skirts because they can get cancer if they do.' Instead the reason is not about women, but about men. Women must be 'covered up' to protect men. I find this deeply dehumanizing because it reduces women to mere props used to manage the appetites of men.”
It is like all the words I've ever thought were finally put down in a sentence that made actual sense. Women don't have to be 'covered up' just to protect men, and the idea that we think we have to do this is disturbing to me - I have no idea where it comes from. Our grandparents, our parents? I know that I find myself worrying when I walk to my car alone at night after leaving the gym, and I shouldn't feel that way. I shouldn't feel scared just because I'm a woman.
But I am.
Because I am smaller than most men, and I am not as physically strong as most men. Could I really fight my way free if someone tried to touch me? I don't know, but I do know that I am terrified that one day my own daughter, if I have one (or many), will also be fearful of walking alone in the dark, too. Will be terrified to let me know she's been touched by another person because of what she was or wasn't wearing. Will feel ashamed of something she should never be ashamed for. But I feel like I know what to say to her now that I've read these words. And I know how to teach her father what he should say to her about the clothes she decides to wear. And I hope we do a perfect job raising our sons, if we have any, to be feminists, too.
"Never ever link her appearance with morality. Never tell her that a short skirt is ‘immoral.’ Make dressing a question of taste and attractiveness instead of a question of morality. If you both clash over what she wants to wear, never say things like ‘you look like a prostitute’ as I know your mother once told you. Instead say ‘ that dress doesn’t flatter you like this other one. Or doesn’t fit as well. Or doesn’t look as attractive. Or is simply ugly. But never ‘immoral.’ Because clothes have absolutely nothing to do with morality."