On a walk a few days ago, Zachary and I turned at the sound of a friendly honk from a passing car. A white dude with dreadlocks grinned at us and flashed the peace sign. A bit confused, we continued walking. Less than an hour later, a car drove by and a guy yelled, “Lay off the heroin!” Neither of us looked particularly “hippie” that day, so we decided to chalk up the references to Zach’s awesome hair, and the straw hat I was wearing. “There are worse things for people to yell,” I said.
That, coupled with this article that I read last week, made me think about the way strangers look at each other. As a 6’0” woman, I get looked at a lot, even though I usually try to blend into a crowd. Most of the looks are passing glances. A few of the looks (and not nearly few enough, if you ask me), however, make me feel objectified. And no, men are not the only ones who can make a woman feel this way.
Here are three unfavorable ways of looking at people that I’ve noticed throughout the years:
The ogle. This objectifies me by turning me into a sex object. Every girl knows what it’s like to get leered at, catcalled, and honked at. There are many guys who yell (from the safety of their car) at any human being that resembles a female, guys whose eyes can somehow never find a girl’s face, and guys who give that passive stare that someone manages to make a woman feel like she’s suddenly become a well-done steak with legs. Contrary to what many people believe, nothing can protect me from these oglers (baggy clothes, dressing in a masculine way, or having a guy by my side do no good). It’s something that I, like every girl, will continue to endure with as much grace as I can manage. At the present I ignore the oglers, and in the future I will teach my sons that that is no way to treat a woman.
The stare. This objectifies me by turning me into an image. People often stare at me with their mouths open, without even attempting to be surreptitious. Although I don’t consider this offensive, it’s certainly annoying, and demonstrates a lack of good manners. In a TV- and Internet-oriented culture, I think sometimes people forget that I can see you. I’ve decided that when people stare at me, I’m going to stare back. I did it to a guy in the library a few days ago and flustered him greatly.
The once-over. This objectifies me by reducing me to set of clothes. This look (as far as I’ve experienced it) is unique to women: it consists of an initial glance to show they notice me, immediately followed by a look at my (dirty ragged tennis) shoes and then a quick sweep up my body, followed by a expression of puzzlement, superiority, or vague disgust. This glance says, “I am judging and critiquing you based on the clothes you are wearing.” I suppose some girls are conscious of giving people the once-over, but I believe most are not. They don’t know how strange and, on a bad day, hurtful this glance can be. If you honestly like to see the way people dress, don’t limit yourself to a demeaning glance analysis.
How do you look at people? And how do people look at you?