I always thought I was a bad feminist.
I love wearing thong underwear. I don’t mind shaving my armpits. I admit to throwing like a girl. I don’t get all that angry about the injustices done to women on a daily basis–mainly because I don’t think about them.
I was aware that the whole concept of Tinder–that men would judge me and within 2 seconds, or sometimes even 1, decide whether they want to get to know me based solely on my looks–wasn’t doing feminism any favors. Still, I wasn’t offended by it. After all, it worked both ways, right? I also “got” to judge men based only on their appearance (and in many cases, without even knowing their height or smoker status–the latter of which can be an absolute deal-breaker for me).
But then yesterday, as I was leaving the weight room I have to pass through to get upstairs to the pathetic little track at the rec center that I’ve been relegated to thanks to the never-ending winter, I heard a man say, “Ma’am.”
I ignored him, figuring he wasn’t talking to me, or even if he was, he could just ask someone else how to get to the pool.
“Ma’am,” he said again.
I was now 5 or 6 steps above the main floor and could barely see him, so I realized he must need to say something pretty important and specifically to me. I turned around.
“Are you a model?”
I said no as I turned back to continue up the stairs, and I heard him say something like, “Really? You’re so tall and beautiful,” but by then I wasn’t listening. By then I was thinking about how angry I was that this stranger thought it was perfectly acceptable to interrupt my gym time to ask if I made a living by posing for pictures.
It wasn’t just that I was annoyed to once again be immediately judged by my height (“You must play basketball. No? How about volleyball? Seriously? What about whatever-other-sport-tall-people-play?”). It was that this would never happen to a man.
Can you imagine a tall man on his way to go work out and a woman feeling the need to stop him to ask whether he was a model? Of course not. Because people don’t assume all tall men are models. People assume tall men are powerful businessmen, or lawyers, or, yeah okay, basketball players. But tall men are not automatically pigeon-holed into the role of model simply because they tower over others.
It reminded me of how men are always telling women to smile (I used to think it was just me, since I do occasionally walk around looking like I hate humanity, but apparently it’s women in general). Can you see a woman walking down the street, passing by a guy going about his business, and shouting out, “Smile!”? If you can, you have a wilder imagination than I do, and also you’re lying. Because you know there are certain things women have to deal with that men don’t, and while that is part of life and I don’t normally lash out about it–or even spend much time thinking about it–that doesn’t make it okay.
So far I’m having fun with Tinder (it’s a mindless way to pass the time while stuck on an N train 10 feet from your stop), but I’m still a feminist. And maybe not such a bad one after all.