The Malta Independent 25 September 2018, Tuesday

A message to the men that think they own us

Alice Taylor Sunday, 18 March 2018, 11:00 Last update: about 7 months ago

As a man, reading this, you might say that there is no way that you would consider a woman as your property. You have a mother, maybe a wife or a girlfriend, possibly a sister, and more than likely many female colleagues and friends. You may also be convinced to your very core that you treat these women equally and are the utmost pinnacle of equality and feminism. But the chances are that you are wrong, because there is a distinct undercurrent of female ownership in society, and even without realising it, you are a probably a part of the problem.

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Women, picture the scene; you are in a bar with your friends when a guy sidles up next to you and offers to buy you a drink. You tell him “no thankyou” and you politely explain that you are not interested two or three times before snapping “I have a boyfriend”, even if you don’t. He recoils, hands in the air and backs away muttering “It’s cool, it’s fine, I got it”. Or maybe you have checked your Instagram DMs or your FB messages and found insistent messages from unknown men; the requests for a response get more and more desperate and persistent before more often than not, turning abusive before once again you say you have a boyfriend and he stops. Do either of these situations sound familiar?

You see, as a woman, simply saying “no” is often not enough and our refusals and rebuffs are passed off as playing hard to get, yet when we bring up the fact that we are another man’s woman, that is enough to send him running for the hills.How many of you have played the boyfriend card to ward of unwanted attention? I have found myself doing it on a regular basis as it seems to be the only real way of getting an unwanted suitor to back off, and do you know what it comes down to? Ownership and entitlement.

Our day-to-day lives are full of instances of society telling men that they have an ultimate right to us and that more than anything, they own us. This isn’t something that is shouted from the rooftops or printed in magazines; no, like most effective forms of manipulation it is subtle and implied in everything from our language, our attitudes and our traditions. The truth is that we have become so accepting and accustomed to it that we barely even recognise it anymore.

Women are property, men are entitled to us, they can make our decisions for us and society is unconcerned with our desires, thoughts, or autonomy. We are nothing more than virgins or whores, and if we are lucky, walking incubators as well.

It is the guy that leers out of the window, the guy that tells us to smile, the guy who tells us what we can do with our vaginas, it is the disdain for a woman that curses because “it is not ladylike”, and it is the whole damn concept of the friend zone. We witness it every day with the seething vitriol and hated directed to women who have a big online presence as we see them targeted by armies of trolls brandishing their rabid anger for women they have never met.

But why so much anger? It is because we are moving into their space, taking up their oxygen, and challenging their previously unchallenged views. They are threatened and feel less potent when they see a powerful strong woman, so they try to control her, bully her, intimidate her, silence her, and ultimately drive her off the platform she inhabits.

We are here to procreate, to warm your pants up with a hairdryer, to give you sexual pleasure, and to use our bodies to help you sell products. Our purpose is to complement, to look good on your arm, and to stay quiet and demure in the background. We should be easy going yet not easy; we should laugh at your jokes, but not too loudly. We should be curvy and soft in all the right places, but not too curvy, unless that is your thing of course, in which case that is OK. More than anything, as the goalposts of what you want and like and want are constantly moving, we must be sure to be constantly up to date so we can ensure we are as desirable as possible for you at all times.

Our bodies are our only commodities, but they are yours to possess, to judge and to control. Our sexuality is for your viewing pleasure, yet we must also be pure and saintly and not look like we are enjoying it too much. Our reproductive organs are regulated by middle-aged men who wouldn’t know their way around a vagina if it had an inbuilt GPS.

Our minds are something we are not capable of understanding; therefore, we should be grateful that men are there to explain it all too us. Pat us on the head and call us sweetheart while you tell us more about how my life experiences and opinions are completely and utterly wrong.

What’s more, it is the police that laugh off sexual assault or violence. It is the judges that dismiss us from courtrooms and let rapists, kidnappers, and violent thugs walk free. It is the men who feel they can help themselves to our bodies on public transport or as we walk through a crowded bar. It is our lovers that make us feel guilty for being angry, or upset or for, heaven forbid, refusing sex.

But do you know what I say to these men? These individuals that seek to control and stifle us, and to the women that enable and support it? I say that we are not your property and you are not entitled to our minds, emotions, or bodies. Whether we are fat, transgender, lesbian, or just have an opinion that you don’t agree with, you do not have a right to shout at us, scream at us, sneer at us, or put us in our place.

We are not your distractions, your conquests, or your ego boosts. Nor are we here to be packaged into an ideal that you consider perfect. Our role in the home, the boardroom, and the street is not yours to define, and our success and strength is not a threat to your existence.

Recognise what we are saying. We are not being militant feminists, nor are we making it up. Until you have walked a day or a lifetime in our shoes, you really are unable to comment on what it is like to be a woman in today’s world. Just listen to us, consider how you would feel if your daughter or mother was being made to feel this way, and just accept it. We are not asking for the world, and considering changing the way that you view us is not going to make your world implode, but it will improve ours.

Don’t tell a rape victim she was too drunk or dressed inappropriately, don’t ask a victim of domestic violence what she did to provoke the attack, and don’t call a young girl a whore because she seeks an abortion for a life that could kill her if she carries it to term.

Recognise when you see ownership in all of its forms and help us because it is these subtle nuances of ownership that feed the violence that affects at least one in three of us during our lifetime. It is this ingrained attitude of ownership that gives a man permission to beat, hit, control, rape, and kill, and it is the institutionalised and systemic ownership that allows our government to decide what we do with our uteruses, or who our tax refund gets paid to.

We are not your reason, your excuse, or your burden. Nor are we your bitch, your slut, or your anything at all. Listen to us, don’t explain what our feelings and experiences are back to us, just listen and help us stop this destructive cycle of entitlement.

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