Don’t get me wrong. I love being a womxn and I am lucky that I have strong role models who taught me that being a womxn of color is beautiful and uplifting. But, that does not mean that I don’t hate some of the things that come with being a womxn in this society. These are things that combat our own identities as full, self-sufficient human beings, and ultimately undermine any sort of fight for equity in public spaces.
I think it is plain to see that we as womxn are often subconsciously, and sometimes very consciously, seen as objects or prizes to be won in chauvinistic expressions of dominance. And let me say, it is exhausting to be both a human person with human emotions and an object at the same time. It is a paradox I no longer want anything to do with.
Part of such a paradox is the age old male pastime of catcalling. Can you just imagine how catcalling worked in the Shakespearean period? “Oh, wench, behold at thy forks!”** I don’t know if I’d laugh or just stare in confusion. However, there are numerous, much more serious and well-written articles and videos about womxn getting catcalled. I don’t think I have to write something else explaining how shitty it is. A popular video campaign illustrated just some of the reactions men have when they see their mothers being catcalled on the street. It’s shocking to me because you can see the discomfort for the men at watching their mothers objectified. And yet, these men will never fully understand what it means to be living in a body coded as womxn. Catcalling is just one awful side effect of such a truth. And while catcalling is serious, disturbing, and oftentimes, fear-inducing, what happens when people go beyond verbal abuse and seep into the physical?
In Las Vegas, the “City of Sin”, the lines between catcalling and physical violations blur quite quickly. The city’s motto of “what happens here, stays here” is an atrocious ploy to convince people of all genders that you can be on your absolute worst behavior and get away with it. Now, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, as I’m sure not all of Vegas is that terrible, but the essence of such an environment negates any real semblance of control a womxn has over her own space. A person’s body, whether you identify as a womxn or not, should belong to you; you, and no other party, should get to decide what happens to your body.
Let me clarify for Las Vegas’s sake. I do not think it’s wrong to go to a club, to want to dance provocatively or sexually. Hell, I’ll admit that dancing around in sparkly outfits to R&B tunes is one of my favorite pastimes, minus the sparkly outfits, because glitter always gets on your face.
It is not wrong or unusual to dance with other people, if that is what you choose to do. The key here is the choice. Some womxn choose to grind up on other people or be grinded upon (I don’t really know the terminology), and they shouldn’t feel bad or feel the need to justify that choice. When the dancing is a consensual act between people, it’s fun, albeit maybe a bit awkward if you’re not a great dancer. But, when a person, usually a man, grabs your ass as you walk by or refuses to remove himself from your person, a part of your humanity as a womxn withers away. You’re humiliated. You think that this should have been anticipated in such a situation. You lose the expectation of respect for yourself that you know you deserve. And you’re reminded again that you are object, then womxn. Never womxn by itself, period, end of story, human.
I will reiterate this as a reminder for myself and for womxn everywhere. The location you are in has no bearing on whether it is okay or not for someone else to infringe on your space and your body. Whether you’re in a club or in a pub eating burgers with your friends, it is never an okay thing for someone (read: a man) to implant himself, take up space, and prove his male dominance at your expense. Being in Las Vegas or in any party-setting is not an excuse for them to “cut loose”. If you’re a person who thinks it is okay to violate another’s space, to infringe on a womxn’s body in certain contexts, I don’t want you in my life in any context.
Because although I wish that what happens in Vegas would actually stay in Vegas, the dehumanizing, physically visceral experiences faced by womxn happens in rooms and on streets of every city in every part of the world. We can no longer chalk it up to situational occurrences of bad judgement or issues of self-control. Your body is yours and as a womxn, I will fight for our collective right to be safe and protected in our bodies, regardless of place.
**I literally typed “Oh girl, look at your legs” into a Shakespearean translator. I’ll admit I spent a lot of time on it afterwards.
* Magic Mic background image from Make & Tell