Last night, on my way to see 9 to 5 at the Alamo Drafthouse in San Francisco, I got into an argument with a dude I’d never met before on a street. He whistles at me approvingly as I am walking down the sidewalk, probably because I was wearing heels and a dress. Great.
Lately I’ve been vocal about my disapproval of being cat-called, and this guy was no exception. So, I shake my head at him as I pass by and say “Not OK”, my go-to response when this happens. And, for the record, I say this DAILY to men. Not weekly. Every. Fucking. Day. Let that sink in. Anyway.
Behind me, the dude responds: “Not OK? What do you mean, not OK?” I’m not sure what came over me– usually I’m pretty passive about these things. In an instant I decided to be the person I’ve always wanted. Namely, unafraid. I actually sighed to myself before I turned around and confronted him.
It began rather calmly, outside of a liquor store. On the corner, there was a bar with a bouncer standing outside, eyeing the whole thing warily. I told him that it wasn’t OK because it was unwanted and unasked for. He insisted it was meant as a “good thing”, as something I should be grateful to receive unbidden. “It was a compliment.” Again, I explained how I didn’t ask for his approval, and it was inappropriate of him to force his opinion on someone who was minding her own business. I tried to communicate how it made me feel. His response was that he was complimenting me, and I should “thank him.” Really, bro?
I asked him how he would feel if someone whistled at his mother, or his daughter. He said he would have felt proud “walking with a beautiful woman” on his arm. I said: “It wasn’t a compliment to me. It was rude and unasked for, and I’m sure other women would agree.” He told me he’s had several women thank him for his unwanted compliment. He then proceeded to take over the conversation.
Bizarrely, he got close to me and whispered conspiratorially that he, too, had been harassed… by men! Oh the horror. (I feel the need to bring up the fact that at no point during our interaction had I mentioned the word “harass.” I believe that using words that are really significant and heavily pregnant with meaning causes people to become defensive subconsciously, and they stop listening to what you’re trying to say. Not that this man was listening to a word I was saying. He was more interested in defending himself. But I digress.)
So this dude has had his “fair share of harassment by men” to “understand” what I was saying and he gets it, but he wasn’t “harassing” me. He was “complimenting” me. I said: “You know, I never brought up the word ‘harass.’ I was simply explaining how your whistling made me feel. You brought it up.”
He did not like that. Not one little bit. I could almost see his defensive walls inch higher and thicker. His voice got louder. He stared calling me ungrateful, and that I was a bitch. And in my opinion, once the name-calling starts in, there’s no more communicating with someone. So I smiled, told him I had a place to go, and walked away. And of course, he had to have the last word: “Yeah, get out of here, bitch.” The bouncer had evidently decided this wasn’t worth his time, and had hid in the bar long before the interaction had ended. Thanks for the backup, bro.
So, what the fuck does this have to do with my topless modeling?
I get this question a lot. A lot. People seem to have a hard time with someone being a feminist (and let’s all acquaint ourselves with that definition, shall we?) and exposing yourself as a model. It’s as if topless/nude modeling and pro-equality are mutually exclusive. I’m not sure who told you that. But that’s incorrect.
For me, the power of modeling topless and implied nude comes from having those shoots happen because of my choice. I CHOOSE to do this of my own volition. No one is coercing me, no one is forcing me. I think bodies are beautiful. And when I’m feeling down on myself, one way I empower myself is to choose to self-express through art. It’s in the choice of what I do with my body that embodies the concept that genders are equal.
In the current political climate, I think self-expression in any form, be it speaking up when you need to say something to modeling topless, should be valued and praised and held as sacred. It’s important.
Be bold. Be courageous. It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful. The world is beautiful. Let’s live like it is.
Love & peace.