This is a health blog, so most of you expect recipes, workout tips and lifestyle posts. But to ignore societal problems is a gross inattentiveness to the health of our society. This series of essays entitled Feminist Letters is a collection of my thoughts on why feminism is still needed in our society, all based in current events and personal experiences.
Part I: Google Sheets
I was scrolling through my personal Instagram after finishing an essay last week, and saw a few of my high school friends posting with the hashtag #EveryonesAnA. Confused, I sent some texts asking for clarification and went to sleep, deciding I would deal with it in the morning.
Upon waking, I discovered that someone from the high school had made a spreadsheet–not a physical list, a Google Sheet–grading girls on their looks from A to F. It included dozens of names.
“Oh, just forget about it. Boys will be boys.”
What some 16 year old boy thinks about how you look in yoga pants shouldn’t ever be at the forefront of your mind. But that same response allows the behavior to continue.
Ignoring the names and the letters on the list works, but ignoring the fact that the list exists doesn’t. At the same time that we recognize the throwaway nature of what teenaged boys find attractive, we have to realize that, for some reason, teenaged boys feel the need to make a Google Sheet about what–or rather, whom–they find attractive.
This casual objectification doesn’t go without ramifications. The list makes clear that women aren’t really people in the same way that men are. That their value has nothing to do with their kindness, intelligence or actions, and everything to do with their bra size. That the girls rated A are somehow better than those rated B… though even the girls rated A aren’t seen as living, breathing human beings, but as something for boys without driver’s licenses to stare at instead of paying attention in class.
If someone is stung by a wasp because there’s a wasp’s nest in the backyard, you wouldn’t say, “well, maybe you should’ve stayed inside or worn long sleeves,” because you know it’s that person’s yard and they deserve to feel safe. You also wouldn’t try to hunt down that specific wasp and kill it, because that won’t take care of the larger problem. If you were reasonable, you would try to get rid of the nest.
Telling a girl how to respond puts the blame on her, as if she really wanted to know what a small subset of the junior class thought of her. Telling a boy off about one instance of being disrespectful puts the blame on him, but there’s no guarantee he’ll change. Telling all men and boys that women are people and should be treated as such places the blame on the systematic misogyny in our culture: it confronts the source.
As you’ll see in my essays following this one, what I’ve referred to as “casual objectification” is just the first step. Like a bad case of strep throat, small things like a spreadsheet can amass into bigger things if left unchecked. Come back next week for more.
UPDATE: the rest of the series is linked here!