A word on butts: I have had a big butt since my stupid body decided to go into puberty at 11. The first man (yes, man) to tell me that I had a big butt, to call it to my attention and offer his commentary, to make me feel profoundly embarrassed and ashamed about it was my dad. I was walking across the kitchen, my sister was making fun of me for being fat, and my father chimed in, joking that I had a big butt and it jiggled. They laughed. I had not known this. I was mortified.
You know that look that men get in their eye when they’re thinking about fucking you? The look that means that they’re sinning, that they’re having impure thoughts? I didn’t know what it meant until I was much older, but I started seeing it in men’s eyes around the same time.
I was also being taught at Christian school (which I attended K-12) that my changing body was of great concern. It was shameful and embarrassing, and it was my responsibility to keep boys and men from having “impure thoughts” about me, chiefly by dressing modestly and being meek. (I was not meek. I could not be meek. I could not understand why God would make me so outspoken if he wanted me to be meek. Spoiler: He didn’t.) Modesty meant no tight clothing, skirts to the knee, no spaghetti straps.
The consequences if I failed to be modest, of course, were mine alone to bear. If I were catcalled, followed, groped, molested, raped, impregnated, murdered, it would be my fault if I had been dressed provocatively (and likely even if I hadn’t). After all, men couldn’t control their urges and weren’t responsible for their actions–I was. At 11. Responsible for grown men’s actions. If I dressed immodestly, or did any number of other sinful acts like drinking or smoking or staying out late, I deserved whatever happened to me. The Lord works in mysterious ways, including allowing men to rape and murder women for wearing spaghetti straps.
Another note about butts, particularly big butts: they are impossible to hide. I tried. I wore baggy pants and t-shirts halfway to my knees and didn’t wear makeup and did nothing to garner any kind of grown male attention (obviously, I wanted boys my age to like me, to little effect) AND YET, alas, to absolutely no one’s surprise: It did not matter. I could wear a barrel or a burlap sack, and men would still give me that look, and there was literally nothing I could do about it. A. And B, I didn’t even like it! It was creepy as fuck that 40-year-old guys were ogling me when I was 11.
I felt helpless and guilty that men were sinning and it was my fault. And then I realized the futility of it, the LIE of it. I was indignant. Like it’s not hard enough going through puberty and having a new, unruly body that you did not ask for and do not want and that brings with it a lot of pain and not a lot of joy. It’s bad enough without being made to feel ashamed of it, like you are responsible for lechy old men and whatever it is that they want to do to you.
At 11 and for many years afterward, thankfully, I did not know what they wanted to do to me.
I used to believe that lechy old men somehow couldn’t help it, probably because it was easier to believe than “They totally can and should help it, and they don’t care that they are making you feel unsafe. In fact, some of them get off on it.”
I know now that the majority of attention that women get about their bodies is unwelcome and unwanted, and it literally does not matter what they are wearing. I’ve been catcalled in a down parka. A friend of mine was groped in hers a couple of months ago. And you know who’s fault it was? The men. 100%.
And this is just one way that the American Christian church upholds patriarchy, by telling women that they are responsible for men’s violence against them. The church also continues to see women first as their father’s property, and then as their husband’s. That’s why they’re so terrified of abortion and single women. What if we let women decide for themselves what to do with their bodies, how to live their lives? What if we can no longer own and control women?
The success of men is built on the servitude of women. Their whole game will collapse if they are required to take care of themselves and be responsible for themselves, and they know it. They want to force women to give birth to keep them poor and servile, unable to threaten men’s power. But a growing number of women are refusing to play along: refusing to get married, refusing to have children, refusing to stay in the church. Men are losing their grip on us, and while some of them have gotten with the program, including many of the men I know and love, quite a few are becoming bitter, angry, and violent. Why have almost all of the mass shooters in the US been angry white misogynist men? Because they’re taught this shit, too.
So, here’s the thing: the only person you are responsible for is yourself (and maybe your children or pets, but ultimately they have to suffer their own consequences, too). Truly, TRULY, the only person you can control is yourself. If you are a young woman who hasn’t been shamed into wearing t-shirts to your knees–Congratufuckinglations, I am so happy for you, please wear all the leggings and miniskirts for me because I am 37 years old and just recently got the confidence for miniskirts, but alas, they no longer flatter my big butt. And if you are a dude, you are 100% responsible for yourself and you very well can and are expected to control yourself and treat women with respect and as equals regardless of what they are wearing or how that makes your dick feel. Nobody wants to know how your dick feels. Unless they ask. If they ask, you can tell them.
And to that mother of those 4 “good Catholic boys”: they are probably all in their rooms watching porn right now, and those girls are definitely NOT wearing leggings.