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Dear men of the world

Por Naomi Harrison-Clay
July 2015
What am I? This is a good question. Well, I’m not a dog. I’m not a cat. I’m not a piece of meat. I’m not a toy, I’m not a doll. I’m not a painting, I’m no prize. I’m not an object. I’m not your babe, I’m not your princess or your sweetheart. I am not "your" anything. I’m human. I am a woman, a beautiful, independent, strong woman, who breathes, thinks, lives, and does not ask for comments about my appearance when I walk down the street. I do not walk down the street for you, my friend. I walk to reach my destiny and my destiny is not your bed. I do not exist for your pleasure, entertainment, or approval. Therefore, do not whistle at me, do not make comments about me, do not ask for my mobile phone number, do not stare.
Many men think that compliments are the same as flattering a woman. They do not understand that we still live in a society that values ​​the appearance of women more than our intellect. Men feel they can comment on women because our society tells us that men are dominant and women are submissive. These characteristics are internalized from the moment we’re born- to us things like whistling seem normal. When you cat call at me -no matter if you intend to flatter or insult me- you are affirming your power over me. You’re treating me like an animal in a cage there for your eyes. I should not feel afraid when I walk the streets. But I feel threatened and intimidated by men, and I am not the only one who feels this way.
Recently, I was walking down the street when a man made a kissing sound towards me. I ignored him and kept walking. Submissive, right? I did not have the confidence nor the energy to explain to every rude and ignorant man about sexism and feminism. But when he insisted and said, "Why not come to my house, baby?" politely I said "go to hell!". I guess I insulted the masculinity of the poor man, because he started chasing me down the street. Fortunately, it wasn’t so serious. He ran behind me to scare me (and he did) but stopped running after three blocks. Maybe you think, "I would never do that!" But if you do not intervene when you see men whistling at women, you are perpetuating this culture.
Women should not have to live in fear of men. One in five women are raped in their lifetime. And this is because our society ignores and normalizes things like compliments. Our society tells men that it’s okay to objectify women, and that they should be dominant and assertive toward us. Our society tells women that we should be nice and behave well and be submissive. The fight against cat calling is one of many steps towards the destruction of sexism and oppressive social norms.
The other day on the train, a man told me: "Girl, why are you so sad, put a smile on that pretty face!" This is a comment I hear often. Why do I look so sad? Maybe because I live in a sexist society that internalizes sexism in men and women? Maybe because I feel hypersexualized, inferior, weak, and less capable than the men around me? Perhaps because this is my face and I can frown if I want and you have no right to tell me how to view myself or how I should feel? Or maybe I really am just a helpless woman. Maybe if you, the big strong man, tell me I should smile, I will listen and I will realize I’m happy because I have big, strong men like you to take care of me! Thank you, man, for reminding me to be happy and carefree! I almost forgot that women should not think for themselves-because if we do, we will realize that we are oppressed in our patriarchal society. We will furrow our brow all the time and that’s not very elegant. We should just let every thought be up to the big boys and their big, fat, male egos.
Once when a man hissed at me, his friend interrupted and told him to stop. He told him he was being rude, then apologized to me for his friend. If everyone were so respectful and intelligent as this gentleman, the world would be a better place. It is not so difficult! The hardest part is to be more aware of sexism itself. When you start to learn about patriarchy, you start to see it all over the world. You will see the world very differently. It’s scary, but it is necessary for the liberation of women.
Men, remember this: We do not exist for you! I do not need to smile for you! I do not need your approval! I do not need your assertion of power in my life! Do us all a favor and lift up your pants and stop trying to impress your friends by insulting the woman who wants walk to the store in peace.
With love,
All the women
*Naomi Harrison-Clay is a junior student at Bard High School Early College Queens.
*Translated into English by Michael Kuckyr and Mehgan Abdel-Moneim

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