When I moved to Paris, I realized my femininity. I was in the big city and I wanted to dress well, forgetting the small town norms of jeans and a t-shirt and feeling self-conscious when wearing red-lipstick, I went all out in heels and dresses that made me feel beautiful. I wore pumps for the first time, bought myself a sexy romper for girl’s night (first time I ever truly dressed sexy and a little provocative) and you can now see me always sporting the lipstick, what my friends now call V’s trademark. I always highly believed that my self-conscious of being slightly revealing was due to my body image. This weekend while reading #WhenIWas tweets, I had a sudden flashback to 5th grade.
Now, it was not exactly a tank top. I said tank top because I didn’t have enough space to actually recount the story. It was a blouse from Aeropostale (oh the days) that had a bohemian vibe to it. Slightly like this:
My boobs were starting to be there, I had passed the stage of training bras and actually had to start wearing small real ones. After reading a story to the class during “carpet time” (where we would all sit criss-cross applesauce and surround the teacher), she had to pull me aside after I leaned forward to look at a picture.
“Veronica, you’re not allowed to wear that shirt to school… I can see your boobs and it’s going to distract the boys.”
I remember feeling uncomfortable, embarrassed and not wanting to tell my friends what she had told me. I was suddenly ashamed of my body. The thing is, I remember being so excited to wear that shirt. It was new and we had bought it on a mother-daughter day out. I don’t remember ever putting that shirt on again. I dressed conservatively afterwards going to school, putting tank tops under shirts and leggings under skirts that I wasn’t sure about so I wouldn’t be called out on it again.
This is what #WhenIWas is all about. These stories range from age and it still goes on. Women are at fault, and men aren’t for their awkward, uncomfortable remarks to their actions. We have been engrained to think this since we were little. “Our body isn’t ours, you should save it for the one you’ll marry.” “When women have sex for the first time, they fall absolutely, madly, crazy in love with their first partner.” We don’t tell boys this, we just tell women they aren’t allowed to be sexual beings and that they should hold out for love. Lastly, and something all women will be told, “You were asking for it.”
That wasn’t all they said. They also called me a pute and connasse (bitch and whore) for not reacting to their remarks.
I wasn’t being a bitch nor a whore. I have the right to dress the way I want and to say no. It also hasn’t been a one time thing.
When will we start to teach men that women’s bodies are theirs? I have never seen a woman cat call a man when he’s been around shirtless (have we looked? Yes, but mostly respectfully. Does that mean that there aren’t women who do? No.)
I remember talking to my mom on the phone weeks after I arrived and saying, “I feel like I can finally dress the way I want here. It’s the city of fashion, and I can experiment without being looked at weird like I was back home.” I don’t dress for men, I dress for me. I like the process of getting dressed and listening to music. I like my prep time, because it gives me time to myself and make me feel good.
I was told the same thing. This tweet, to me, is one of the strongest out of the #WhenIWas. Women have to lie to get help from a situation that shouldn’t even happen in the first place.