For most of my life, I felt ashamed . I did not know I carried this private shame but I did, because if you tried to look for me in photographs you would be hard pressed to find me. If you tried to look me in the eyes I would look down. My back would be hunched, my scarves covering my breasts , large jackets trying to make it o.k.
I was always clumsy. I was also tall, big breasted and stood out where I grew up. But the fact is, it was deeper than this. Throughout my life, I was made to feel slutty just because of what I looked like. Even if I never had a boyfriend, or flirted somehow because I accidentally bent down the wrong way, or my bra strap accidentally showed I was promiscous. If I bent down while praying a man told me ” Start over, God might not have heard you because of the way you are sitting”.
I remember I had a pink dress I was especially proud of. I wore it and it hugged the curves of my body. I walked home from school and men started to follow me, grabbed my butt and I felt dirty. I hated the dress after that. Countless times I would go into public pools and men would leer at me. I would be followed home so many times that I grew jumpy. I had a basketball coach which tried to manhandle me as well.
And through it all I was also mercilessly teased by boys. I grew up feeling like it was my fault. That somehow, I had caused it. Because I had big breasts, because I was tall because I was clumsy. I was so trusting, that I did not know better and I had a couple of really scary incidents happen where I was assaulted.
I grew up in a place where people would be scandalized by every bit of skin that showed and somehow, if I did show somethign I was responsible for men’s imprudent behavior. Somehow, I asked for it. If I was too trusting and went into a room alone with someone, it was my fault for doing it. Because, ultimately, it is always a woman’s fault.
As a late bloomer, I take control of who I am. I no longer am going to hide behind corners just because of what I look like. I won’t continue to gain weight to somehow hide away or use it as an excuse. Despite being overweight I like myself now. I like my body, and every part of it is mine. And the funny thing is, once I did that I realized that I was attractive to some people and that was ok. I realized I wasn’t to blame for the assaults that had happened to me. I took control over my own destiny and who I was.
The truth is, we live in a pervasive culture that blames women , that creates women objectification and continues to perpetuate violent behaviors . It is a rape culture that is becoming alarmingly prevalent in our society. I am one of those women who never reported a sexual assault because I felt that somehow I caused it and the people around me made me feel that way. The men themselves are forced into t these strict gender roles where their worth is based solely on objectifying women. We are surround by media which constantly parades people as commodities, as beauty as a way to promote sex gratification and violence. We are entrenched in it we barely register that it is happening.
We do not live ina world where we promote consent or give others the ability to truly know what they want. We lack an ability to consult because we are so consumed by our individualized desires. For the moment, I hold my head up high and am proud of who I am. I am more than my body, but I own it just the same and no one can use it, especially not without my consent.