Green With Unwanted Attention

14 May

I had written a few months back about the sexism prevalent in women’s dress-codes at work. Perhaps today’s incident has put the issue more firmly at the forefront of my mind now. Dressing up for interviews is always daunting; and never more so when the brief is to wear smart casuals (its less of a dress-code and more of a quagmire that only the most practiced wade through without sinking on nine out of ten occasions) that also shows off  my personality.

So I decided to risk it with my green skirt! Spring-time and eye-popping colours and all that. Of course I dressed it down appropriately with sober black shoes, opaque tights and high neck top and a jacket. Walking down the street I felt so dapper! That was until a hoot and a call of ‘Hi there, gorgeous’ hit my blushing earholes. Now, I am not usually the type such comments are often directed to. I, thankfully, pass by unnoticed when inappropriate and objectifying male attention is being doled out on the streets. So this not only caught me by surprise, but also made me doubt the appropriateness of my interview attire.

Was it the skirt? I fidgeted with it until it was as long as it could be. Stretch for me a little more, baby, there’s a good girl! Was my makeup too much? Blusher too dark? Heels too high? Bag too bright? What in the goddamn world was wrong with ME? I almost rushed back to my apartment to change. I felt obscene!  (In case this sounds like an over-reaction, I was even followed to the tube station by this very ‘complimentary’ admirer.)

This reaction was compounded by the fact that my mother asked me to take a PICTURE of what I was wearing so she could see if the creepy masculine attention it attracted was justified or not. Bless you, mother, but I would please like to get out of the habit of chastising myself (my attire, behaviour, lateness of the hour I choose to return home) for what is obviously a type of behaviour that is intended to make me uncomfortable, and is hence intentionally anti-social and inexcusable. For the umpteenth time, ‘my skirt is not an invitation’!

(While editing this blogpost I noticed that I was all too eager to point out the specifics of what I was wearing in what I can only assume is a defensive attempt to avert blame. I do resent this self-censuring and self-policing impulse that, unknown to me, has obviously been hibernating within me, waiting for a catcall to surface.)

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5 Responses to “Green With Unwanted Attention”

  1. noraamb May 15, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    well written maitrayee!
    i know how you feel. i started dressing more modestly even though deep inside i find it unfair, i should be able to wear whatever i want. but that is the reality of the situation.
    on the flip side though, no matter what you wear, if someone is hellbent on making you uncomfortable, he/she will do it regardless of what you’re wearing.

    thats probably a result of them being a douchebag and not your level of modesty.

  2. noraamb May 15, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    if someone is hell bent on making you uncomfortable (i.e. if they are a douchebag who gets a kick out of doing these things) they will do it regardless of what you’re wearing.

    • Maitrayee Basu May 15, 2012 at 9:51 am #

      Thanks Nora! Very well said! I hate how we have been conditioned to think that the fault lies in us- our clothes, behaviour, etc. – rather than what it really is. I don’t really think there is any justification for this behaviour no matter what anybody might be wearing. And I hate to be tempted to add ‘But I was wearing perfectly unobjectionable clothes.’ I want there to be no ‘buts’. Nothing I wear should be objectionable. Nothing justifies rape or harassment.

  3. LuAnne May 16, 2012 at 1:04 pm #

    it has nothing to do with what you’re wearing, those type of men react to anything you wear. I never understand the mentality of it- do they think it’s a compliment and we’d be flattered? Do they think it’s an appropriate way to hit on a girl? Or is it just for ‘fun’ and think it’s harmless? I just don’t get it.
    Second guessing whether it was your fault is just what we’re trained to do, I do it too some times but only for a brief nanosecond before anger takes over and I get all gansta 😛
    Btw, have you seen the latest commotion over #UAEdresscode ? I think 7days and Gulf News covered it. Slut shaming comments 😦

    • Maitrayee Basu May 17, 2012 at 4:43 pm #

      I was NOT aware of #UAEdresscode and it makes me very very sad and glad I’m not there right now. Also I found that most of the commentators were middle-aged men, although the drive itself, as I understand was started by two Emirati women. Would you be writing about it on your blog? I think I might.

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