One Direction: Thanks for Telling Me What Makes Me Beautiful, ’Cause I Just Wasn’t Sure.

“What Makes You Beautiful” is probably one of the catchier songs of the year, but for one that’s geared almost primarily to tweens and teens, it sends a troubling message.

Sure, “What Makes You Beautiful” is all about self-acceptance and loving the way you look despite not being a supermodel on the outside, but it’s pure men-policing-women’s-bodies on the inside.

I like to light up someone’s world like nobody else, but I like to do it because I know I’m awesome, not because you think me staring at the ground means I don’t know I’m beautiful and you must inform me immediately. I’m probably looking at the ground because assholes like you insist on making comments about just how beautiful or non-beautiful you find me.

What happened to the notion that men find confident women sexy? And yes, One Direction are far from being men and their audience is teens and tweens, not confident, sexy women (although this would attest otherwise), so they’re playing into their insecure girls in need of a saviour fanbase well.

Modesty is all well and good, but remember that saying, “no one will love you til you love yourself”? One Direction fans need not apply.

Call me crazy, but I would imagine people who don’t find themselves attractive and don’t want to draw attention to themselves won’t flip their hair, certainly not to get you overwhelmed. But the nature of the self-entitled “nice guy” who needs to let you know you’re beautiful despite yourself is that they think women are there for them to consume, regardless of whether they want to be.

No one likes an insecure droll in need of validation regardless of their gender, but the fact that One Direction (okay, they’re robots; the music masterminds behind One Direction) needs to tell you you’re beautiful without any regard for what you think and feel about this and, furthermore, that a song all about what men think of women has permeated so far into the zeitgeist that everyone thinks it’s about empowerment and the beauty of all women is telling: apparently, women still need the patriarchy to tell them what their worth is. And guess what? It’s based on how you look.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Ultimate “Nice Guy” Suspended from School for Giving Letter on Inner Beauty to Female Classmates.

[MamaMia] Confessions of an Immature Adult.

Image via Feed Limmy.

TV: Shaming Lara Bingle.

Lara Bingle: she can’t catch a break, can she?

She was called a whore for her affair with Brendan Fevola, fat when she put on weight after her breakup with Michael Clarke, and an attention-seeking diva when it was revealed channel Ten would air her reality show, Being Lara Bingle, which premiered last night.

I actually like Lara Bingle and thought her show would be an opportunity for her to commentate on how she’s been treated by the media for being an attractive young woman who happens to trade on her looks as her job. TheVine wrote this in anticipation for what the show could be:

“After another vicious attack on her intelligence and relevance by the tabloids, Lara Bingle delivers a thirty minute long piece-to-camera about how she is the ultimate personification of the misogyny that is still inherent in Australian culture, particularly surrounding our sporting ‘heroes’. In this monologue, she will argue that she has been torn down for exactly the qualities that first made her famous—her youth, beauty and privilege. Drawing on the groundbreaking work by Anne Summers, Damned Whores and God’s Police, Bingle will suggest that our simultaneous adoration and condemnation of these qualities speak more to our view of women in this country as objects of either moral upright (or uptight)ness or sexual depravity, but never as fully rounded beings for themselves. She will tie this in to her own journey as a cultural artefact from covetable innocent on a virgin beach to disgraced, discarded mistress. Finally, she will conclude that as a beautiful young woman, she is a shiny scapegoat that is in many ways the opposite of those who are really disenfranchising and frustrating everyday, working Australian families. These puppet masters, who would throw her to the dogs to distract from their own shortcomings are typically ugly, old men.”

Like the one who was allegedly behind the naked pictures of her in her new apartment that were sold to the media a few weeks (months?) ago. Paparazzo Darryn Lyons, formerly Bingle’s friend, was said to be shopping images of Lara around, lending doubt to the credibility of Bingle’s violation.

This isn’t the first time nude pictures of the model have emerged. Remember the one in the shower taken by her ex Fevola, or the publication of unused photos from a German GQ shoot when she was an unknown model in Zoo Weekly once she’d hit the big time? Yes, Lara’s posed nude before in high fashion editorials, but that’s different; she consented to those. It’s plain to see that she did not consent to the tacky shower shot of her captured on Fev’s phone. No matter, the general public will still shame her for being a young, beautiful woman who loves the skin she’s in.

And even when she puts on a bit of weight, which she did last year and is sporting a more voluptuous figure these days, Bingle’s not free from public torment. In a Who cover story late last year, Bingle had this to say about her others’ battles with her body:

“Tread carefully, because it doesn’t just affect me, it affects all women who read it… They have to ask themselves, would they do that to their wives, girlfriends or sisters? It’s just a negative message that doesn’t help anyone… If I’m fat, how does that make a girl who is a size 12–14 feel, and that’s the size of an average Australian woman? It’s ridiculous.”

Also cashing in on the Bingle-hoopla is this week’s Famous, which has published months-old shots of Bingle on the beach showing a bit of cellulite and asking, is she “Fat or Fab?”

Lara attempted to address all this on last night’s episode, which conveniently dealt with the fallout of the Lyons balcony pics. Her bestie/roomie/manager-ie, Hermoine, tells Lara she needs to be more careful and show a “sense of responsibility” about her own body:

“You don’t just walk around naked.”

Um, in your own home you do. Hermoine confesses she doesn’t even walk around nude in her own bedroom, which I think reveals some deep-seated issues about nudity. One thing Bingle’s got going for her is that she is unashamed of her body; my thinking is that if you’re in your own home and feel the desire to get nekkid, then why the fuck not?! If the paparazzi happen to use a zoom lens and trespass on private property to capture this, then that’s on them. But misogynists will always find a way to blame women for the unwanted attention their bodies generate: uncovered meat, amiright?

At the end of the day, “This is a world that everyone makes fun of, but… it’s my life.”

Related: Who the Bloody Hell is Body-Bullying Lara Bingle?

Elsewhere: [TheVine] 5 Things We Hope Happen on Being Lara Bingle Tonight.

Image via Famous.

On the Net: The Vagina Dialogue.

Last week I had my first post published on MamaMia, website of my idol, Mia Freedman. You can now read the article below.

The Perfect Vagina (which you can watch here) is a documentary that deals with the rising dissatisfaction women have with their vajayjays and the quest for genital perfection in the form of labiaplasty, a cosmetic surgical procedure that changes the size and shape of the labia minora. In it, UK television presenter and actress Lisa Rogers encounters Rosie, a young woman who hates her vulva and is scheduled for a labiaplasty. She wants the surgery because her sister and her male friends never cease to make fun of what they—and she—believe to be her overextended inner labia.

Call me old fashioned, but I think men should be falling over themselves to get with a naked woman who wants to get with them, not scrutinising her body. As Rogers wishes she’d said to a man she interviews who prefers a “tucked in” ladygarden, “why don’t you get your cock out, then?”

While the other men Rogers asks about their vaginal preferences claim to have none, I think she’s looking to the wrong men. In my experience, Gen X guys, whom the doco seemed to focus on, are accepting of women in all their glory, flaws and all. Gen Y guys? Not so much.

One of my friends, 25-year-old Tom* subscribed to the strangely common and hugely incorrect male perception that the larger a woman’s flaps, the sluttier she is! If ever there was an argument to stop airbrushing the life out of vulvas, so to speak, in men’s magazines this is it.

Journalist Kristen Drysdale debunks Tom’s theory in her moving exposé on labiaplasty for ABC’s Hungry Beast:

“[The size of a woman’s labia] has nothing to do with how much sex they’ve had, their state of arousal or whether they’ve borne children (although, so what if it was?). It’s simply the way they are built.”

Mia Freedman has been a vocal champion of the importance of seeing real ladybits, and she writes:

“… Since women don’t have a non-sexual place to compare bits with other women (unlike men who see other penises all the time at urinals), the only place any of us are likely to see vaginas that don’t belong to us is in men’s magazines.”

On the other hand, women’s magazines aren’t exactly portraying a realistic depiction of the vulva, either: because they’re not allowed. Classification laws in Australia require pictorial representations of female genitalia to be “healed to a single crease”, a phrase from which Drysdale derives the title for her Hungry Beast piece.

God forbid the actual labia minora and majora were featured in the sealed section of Cosmo and happened to fall into the grubby mitts of children—who have a right to see what normal bodies look like and that the body of their mother and/or father aren’t abnormal compared to those in the media—or men, for the purposes of arousal. If men are getting off on pictures of real pussies it can only be beneficial to the plight of real women, who haven’t had plastic surgery, labiaplasty or otherwise deviate from the Classification Board-sanctioned “norm”.

While we wait for the laws to catch up with us in the 21st century, things like vaginal casts (as featured in The Perfect Vagina and The Great Wall of Vagina exhibition), walking around naked and employing the hand mirror can only be beneficial in our quest to body acceptance.

Before I came to accept and love my body the way I do today, I never really saw it other than getting in and out of the shower. Now I take the opportunity to walk around naked whenever I can (and whenever the housemate is out!). Knowing what your body—and yes, your genitalia—looks like in all its glory makes it all the more familiar when it comes time to step into that bikini or get naked with someone.

Controversially, I also think waxing can aid in this. I’ve been shaving and waxing since my mid teens, and I don’t think it has done me any harm. If anything, it’s helped me to be more in tune with my labia and the way it looks.

But I grew up in the nineties, just before internet porn became mainstream and the Brazilian wax reigned supreme. My primary and high school sex education consisted of how to put a condom on a banana and defining the wet dream as opposed to body variance and acceptance.

There may be some hope yet: a recent New York Times article profiled Al Vernacchio, an American high school English and sexuality teacher, who advocates for more realistic sex education in school focusing on pleasure, sexting, consent and sexual orientation, showed the importance of education on this matter. Now there’s a novel idea.

But let’s start it in primary school and in the home if it means young people will grow up with a healthier, more realistic perception of what people—not these airbrushed Victoria’s Secret Angels in centrefolds—actually look like naked. Sort of like Where Did I Come From?; version 2.0.

*Names have been changed.

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] The Perfect Vagina. Is There Such a Thing?

[MamaMia] Labiaplasty & Censorship: Is There a Link?

[MamaMia] Now Our Vaginas Are Being Photoshopped. Great.

[MamaMia] Genital Surgery. Two Words You Don’t Want to Hear in the Same Sentence.

[MamaMia] The Great Wall of Vagina.

[Top Documentary Films] The Perfect Vagina.

[Hungry Beast] Healing It to a Single Crease.

[New York Times] Teaching Good Sex.

In the News: Bald Barbie—Actually, Barbie Won’t Be Bald At All. Instead, It’ll Be Her Best Friend.

On the one hand, we need to applaud Mattel for accepting an “outside idea” for Bald & Beautiful Barbie, which aims to lessen the stigma of hair loss due to cancer treatment for young girls and their mothers who have the disease.

On the other, it’s not going to actually be Barbie who’s bald, but her bestie. Let’s just hope that this time she’ll be able to get into the Barbie Dream House, unlike the last doll they tried to make in honour of people who don’t fit the able-bodied norm: Share-a-Smile Becky, whose wheelchair didn’t fit inside the Dream House doors. Whoops!

So with this new doll, Mattel might be saying that bald is beautiful, just as long as it’s not Barbie who loses her hair. Baldness is beneath Barbie, don’t you know?

One step forward, two steps back…

Related: My Week in Pictures 16th February, 2012.

Elsewhere: [Jezebel] Barbie’s Friend Will Soon be Bald & Beautiful.

Image via Jezebel.

In the News: Angelina Jolie’s Right Leg & What it Tells Us About Youth & Beauty.

One of my sleazeball colleagues asked me who I thought was the best dressed at the Oscars, pretty much as an excuse to fill me in on his “hot for teacher” J.Lo feelings. Inevitably, the subject of Angelina Jolie and her right leg came up. Some coworkers who joined in the conversation were sure she knew what she was doing. I wagered that if she did, she was probably making a tongue-in-cheek statement about her standing as a sex object. Perhaps that’s just how she felt comfortable (after all, all we heard was how comfortable the black velvet Atelier Versace dress was), or knew she was rocking it and wanted to show off.

Whatever Jolie’s reasoning, apparently she’s “too old” to be showing off her legs like that, according to abovementioned coworker. “It’s not like she’s 16,” he said. No, because if she was sixteen it would be highly inappropriate. “36 is just too old” to be wearing a dress like that. Not only are there some deep-seated pedophilic tendencies coming to light here, but it just reiterates society’s predilection for youth and its sexism. We’ve all heard about that study that says women don’t feel comfortable wearing a miniskirt over the age of 35. Paging Jolie…

Personally, I think my legs are my worst feature, but many women love their legs. They’re one of the only body parts that don’t sag too much with age, and can be bared when tuck shop lady arms and age spots apparently set in. My grandma will be 90 this year and she still maintains her legs are her best feature. Obviously I didn’t inherit varicose veins from her!

And 35 being too old to flash some leg, even if you are one of the world’s sexiest women, is bullocks, indeed!

I think Jolie looked bangin’, if a little staged, and should continue to rock the flesh-baring gowns til the cows come home. You go, girl!

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] 47 is Too Old to be Wearing a Bikini. Oh Bullocks.

Image via The Telegraph.

TV: Body Acceptance on The New Girl.

My dad called my mum fat when they first started dating, which caused her to become embattled in a lifelong struggle with her weight. There are countless other stories where someone makes a comment about someone else’s body that does irreparable damage, consciously or not.

Last night’s episode of the New Girl showed that it’s not just women who experience body insecurity. When Jess walks in on Nick dancing naked in his room before a date, she laughs. Later, on said date, Nick can’t perform and refuses to take off his shirt. It’s like the male television equivalent of having sex with your bra on.

Women have a myriad of outlets to talk about their body image (funnily enough, many of those outlets also perpetuate this phenomenon. Women’s magazines, anyone?). Guys, not so much. So when Nick confesses to Jess how her laughing at him made him feel, I was proud of the show for addressing this. But when Jess couldn’t even say penis (then ends the episode by calling her vagina by a pet name), Nick hit the nail on the head when he told her he can’t have a serious conversation with her about such issues when she can’t call reproductive organs by their names. Pet names for body parts are for three year olds and baby talkers. And, apparently, New Girls.

Related: Who’s That Girl? It’s the New Girl.

Image via Put Locker.

12 Posts of Christmas: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th.

This post was one of my favourites for the year. Sure, the actual experience wasn’t all that riotous, but it’s given me loads of blog fodder and, I think, has promoted growth from the people involved, including myself. There are updated versions available here and here. The original is here, and below.

It’s been a beauty-centric week here at The Early Bird.

We’ve talked about Grey’s Anatomy and beauty as represented by Cristina Yang, and brains over beauty.

I’d already planned to post those two articles last week before a beauty-related scandal came to light at my workplace.

Apparently, two of my male co-workers had devised a “ranking system” for the hottest to nottest girls in our department.

This is sickening on four levels.

One: it’s sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender and appearance, and those who were victimised by the “ranking” could take those who were responsible for it to H.R. Just look at the Pricewaterhouse Coopers incident. Or the Duke “Fuck List”, on the other side of the coin.

Two: we interact with these men boys (as that’s what they are: one has just turned 21, and the other is 23. But age really has nothing to do with maturity) as friends, colleagues; PEOPLE. Not as objects for them to rate and pit against each other in terms of how we look and nothing else.

Three: I don’t want to have to stoop to their level, but if we were ranking them, one would be at the top in terms of looks, but both would be at the bottom in terms of personality, morals and decency, which is all that really matters. So what gives them the right to judge us?

Four: this is not the ’50s and women are not reduced to what they look like.

The men boys who devised this ranking are sexist misogynists, one of whom I am deeply ashamed to have dated for a short period. Thank god I never got naked with him, ’cause who knows what he would have to say about me then!

What gives them the right to rank us? The same right men’s magazine editors have to rank female celebrities in terms of hotness, I suppose. But the difference there is that, while it’s still pretty sexist but somewhat understandable and accepted, most of the women on the list don’t work with and consider(ed) them friends.

How can you separate the things you know about someone—their personalities, interests, history, temperament etc.—with how they look? I know I can’t.

I was taken aback recently when a coworker praised me for being close friends with a man who’s not super attractive. Unlike the two who ranked me, I don’t make friends in terms of looks. If anything, I find it easier to be myself around and make friends with men I don’t find attractive.

But my so-called “ugly” friend has an awesome personality; anyone would agree. And that makes him attractive. And at the end of the day, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

As I mentioned above, one of the boys who devised this ranking is probably about an eight in terms of looks, but knowing this about him, in addition to other undesirable traits that lead to our dating demise, makes him a one in the personality department.

Now, I don’t know where I ranked on this list and, frankly, I don’t care. My self-esteem is high enough to not give a shit about what other people think of the way I look. But that’s not the point. How would someone who doesn’t have such high self-esteem feel? As much as we say looks don’t—or shouldn’t—matter, to them, it does.

So is this just a case of “boys will be boys”, as one co-worker who knows about the list put it?

I don’t think it is. You will notice that two out of about thirty were involved in this. The overwhelming majority chose not to act as boys do, whatever that means these days. Again, this is 2011: not 1951.

Another co-worker said “judging” is just what people do. Sure, I judge young mothers who leave their kids with a babysitter so they can go out clubbing, the guidos/ettes from Jersey Shore and, certainly, these two men in light of this list. But I’m judging them on their behaviours and attitudes, not what they look like. And who am I, really, to judge them based on any factor? No one. The same as the makers of this list are to judge us. Nobodies.

At the end of the day, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Ellen DeGeneres brought this up when she interviewed FHM AND Maxim’s Most Beautiful Woman, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, on her show last week. DeGeneres compared Rosie’s “ranking” to her own as “Most Beautiful Woman” on This Old House magazine’s cover. We know Ellen, we like her, and that’s what makes her beautiful, in addition to her physical beauty. Bitch looks good at 53!

And true beauty comes from within. Don’t ever let someone else’s “ranking” of how you look make you forget that.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] UPDATED: Will Boys Be Boys When It Comes to Objectifying Women 2?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Beauty VS. Brains.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Cristina Yang as Feminist.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Snooki & the Jersey Shore Girls as Feminists?

Elsewhere: [Gawker] The “Top 10” Office Email That’s Scandalising Ireland.

[Jezebel] College Girl’s PowerPoint “Fuck List” Goes Viral.

12 Posts of Christmas: The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

In the spirit Christmas, I’ve decided to revisit some of my favourite posts of the year in the twelve days leading up to December 25th. 

Sexual harassment seems to be the theme of my (and a lot of those around me) life lately, and the blog has had a heavy focus on it in recent months. The original article can be found here.

The other day at work I was sexually harassed by a customer.

I was just standing there, and a short (probably around my height), bald, fat man in a dirty navy blue polo shirt, who was about 50–55, came up to me and asked me where the toilets were. I told him, then he asked “how’ve you been”, with a tone that implied he knew me. I said fine, and he looked me up and down and said in a sleazy voice, “Ooo, I’d like to take you home.” I immediately walked away and told three of my colleagues who were stationed nearby. As I left, he said something to the effect of, “I probably shouldn’t have said that.”

No, he shouldn’t have.

Now, sexual harassment probably isn’t anything new to a lot of women. It’s just something we have to face because we have a vagina.

I’ve been harassed at work before, not as blatantly as Sunday’s episode, but I’ve never felt comfortable enough to eject myself from the situation. As someone who works in customer service, I think I placed not being rude above keeping myself safe. But, post-SlutWalk, I now have the confidence not to put up with that shit.

But I didn’t report it.

I told a few colleagues, until I eventually mentioned it several hours later to a security guard, who also happens to be a close friend of mine. He sternly asked me if I’d reported it to my manager. I told him no, and he asked me what I would do if he came back? If he stalked me? If he attacked me? If he attacked someone else? His older-brother protectiveness made me decide to report it.

It’s funny that I didn’t think to report it the moment it happened. I guess that’s the stigma of sexual harassment (and don’t even get me started on the stigma of sexual assault!). I think I thought that because I can handle myself and I won’t put up with that shit, that it wasn’t a big deal.

It was.

I filed a report with my manager, security know about it and have footage of the man, and it’s been forwarded to the appropriate department.

The responses I got from fellow colleagues were at each end of the spectrum. Some expressed outrage and encouraged me to report it, others asked me if he touched me, as if that would be the only thing to warrant filing a report. No, he didn’t, because that would be sexualassault. (Why do we not bat an eyelid when verbal harassment occurs, but are quick to leap into action when the physical barrier is breached? Both are violations of a person based on the fact that their harasser thinks they’re public property, or available for them to make comments on/touch.)

But these responses really illustrate the abovementioned taboo of sexual harassment. That boys will be boys. That as a young, pretty woman, you just have to suck these things up. That it doesn’t really count because you were only verbally violated.

I am somewhat ashamed that I was so quick to brush it off. (Let’s be clear: I’m not ashamed that I was harassed. I’m ashamed that I didn’t take it seriously to begin with. Rape is my biggest fear, but if I was ever raped, you can be damn sure I wouldn’t keep quiet about it because I was ashamed.) This is 2011. This kind of thing shouldn’t be happening. But it does. So as modern women, we should be able to say that making comments about our physical appearance without our consent is a no-go. Just like making physical contact with our bodies without our consent is.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Slutty Stride.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So a Tattoo Makes Me Public Property, Huh?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Will Boys Be Boys When it Comes to Objectifying Women?

Magazines: Who the Bloody Hell is Body-Bullying Lara Bingle?

Lara Bingle looks banging on the cover of this week’s Who.

In the article, Bingle admits her body isn’t the same as it was in her Tourism Australia days, and that she now has to watch what she puts in it and how she looks after herself.

I applaud Bingle for slamming the body police with such body-positive quotes in the article as, “Tread carefully, because it doesn’t just affect me, it affects all women who read it… They have to ask themselves, would they do that to their wives, girlfriends or sisters? It’s just a negative message that doesn’t help anyone,” and “If I’m fat, how does that make a girl who is a size 12–14 feel, and that’s the size of an average Australian woman? It’s ridiculous.” What’s ridiculous is that she even has to pose on the cover of a national weekly to defend herself for other peoples’ problems with how she looks.

I’ve always liked Bingle, and her more curvaceous, healthy and bosomy body just makes me like her even more. It also makes me feel more positive about my own body.

But in the article, Bingle laments the “ripple effect” that has occurred when the way she looks is discussed in the media makes everyday Joe Blows feel like they can comment on her, too; whether that be positively or negatively.

So I’m going to try and refrain from saying anything else about the way she looks, and liken the situation instead to a similar occurrence last week with Miley Cyrus and her own body bullies.

After some YouTube commenter labeled Cyrus fat, she took to Twitter and posted a picture of an anorexic woman:

“By calling girls like me fat, this is what you’re doing to other people. I love MYSELF and if you could say the same you wouldn’t be sitting on your computer trying to hurt others… I don’t wanna be shaped like a girl. I LOVE being shaped like a WOMAN and trust me, ladies, your man won’t mind either.”

While it’s great that these celebs are taking a stand, the fact that anyone has to justify weight gain, loss or anything appearance-related is kind of sad.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Ricki-Lee: Who Cares?

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Who Condemns Baby-Body Bullying…

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] Katie Holmes in Who: Do Celeb Bodies Make Us Feel Better About Our Own?

Elsewhere: [MamaMia] Miley 1. Weight Bullies 0.

Image via Who.

The Harassed & the Harassed-Nots.

I was harassed on the way to work the other morning.

A youngish (25–30 years old, I suppose) man ran up behind me and said hello and asked me how I was. I replied, and stupidly told him where I work because I couldn’t think of a lie quickly enough when he asked me. I was quickly approaching my bus stop and had to think of a diversion lest he wait with me for it. He was asking me if I like my job and I said no. He said if I was looking for work he knows of some jobs going. I pleasantly tried to get rid of him as I stepped into the news agency, but he followed me in asking if he could have my email to send me the jobs. I said I wasn’t interested and told him goodbye, but he said he’d like to get to know me better, and could he have my number. I said no. He asked if he could give me a compliment, and told me I was beautiful. I begrudgingly said thanks and tried to bury myself in a magazine as he exited the store.

CAN’T A GIRL JUST GO TO WORK IN PEACE?!

When I told some co-workers/friends about this later that morning, one of them complained that no one ever harasses her in the street, and the other said she’d love for someone to harass her on the way to work.

Um, I didn’t tell them that some lovely man approached me on the way to work and was super-polite when he paid me compliments and asked me for my number. I told them that I repeatedly said I wasn’t interested, yet he still followed me into a shop and invaded my personal space. I was HARASSED. How is that something to be envious of?

Friend #1, who lamented that she never gets harassed, later explained to me her reaction and shed some light on Friend #2’s reaction. She said a few years ago she was very self-conscious and hated the way she looked. The fact that strange men didn’t approach her whilst she was going about her business, or wolf whistle and honk from moving cars, only added to her bad body image. She said she felt that Friend #2 was where she was several years ago.

I tend to agree, but I certainly don’t understand. Being approached with no invitation, being asked personal questions and being repeatedly asked for your contact details when you’ve already told them no is in no way a confidence booster. The fact that our society encourages us to see women as public property and the only measure of their (self-)worth is if they appeal to the opposite sex is abhorrent and a reflection on Friend #2’s reaction.

Even when I was blatantly sexually harassed in my workplace a few months ago, Friend #2 exclaimed that if it was a young, hot guy who had said to me, “I’d like to take you home,” I wouldn’t have complained. Actually, I would have.

Firstly, I would never go for a guy who would say something like that to me, regardless of age and appearance, without any prior contact. Secondly, I was just standing there, minding my own business. Since when (okay, since forever) did a woman just being in your general vicinity make it okay to approach her with rude comments? And lastly, harassment is harassment regardless of the body it comes in.

A few weeks ago I was going to meet my housemate for a movie. On the way, a young guy, about 19, came up to me and told me he just had to talk to me because I stopped him in his tracks. He asked me if he could have my number, and I said no because I’d just started seeing someone (I can finally use that as an excuse without it being a lie!) and didn’t feel comfortable giving my number out to him. I said I was really flattered, though, and he told me to have a nice day and enjoy the movie. Now, that’s how you approach someone without it being deemed harassment. That’s how my friend would like to be “harassed”.

I’m all for confident men going up to someone they find attractive and would like to get to know, paying them a compliment and asking for their number and, when rebuffed, go about their business—and let us go about ours—in a respectful way. But if some young women are so starved for affection and approval by our predominantly looks-based society that they would be happy to be harassed if it means being acknowledged by the opposite sex, there is something seriously wrong.

I’m calling for more education on harassment for both men and women.

Related: [The Early Bird Catches the Worm] The Taboos of Sexual Harassment.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] I Ain’t No Hollaback Girl: Street Harassment in CLEO.

[The Early Bird Catches the Worm] So a Tattoo Makes me Public Property, Huh?

Image via YouTube.