Yesterday my husband and I went shopping at a variety of places, Target for an electronic gadget, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Pet Smart. All crowded and bustling and in the midst of all of it, I realized that I feel apologetic all of the time. I feel bad about taking up so much space, about being tall and somewhat busty, I feel like I must try really, really hard to get out of everyone’s way. For years I’ve seen this as common courtesy, this pre-assessment of the needs of others. For years I’ve seen how people, especially young, smart, white men, treat me exceptionally poorly as if I’ve sinned by allowing myself to age, to sag, to gray and soften and because I have committed this sin, I am not only marginalized as a representative of the female gender, they treat me as if I’m stupid. As if IQ were attached to large, firm breasts and an unlined face.
The thing is, it never really occurred to me that I agree with them. Until yesterday.
Moving through a crowd all I can think about is staying out of the way, being as unobtrusive as possible, *staying small*…which I’m not. I’m neither physically small at 5’8″ and #175 and neither am I small personality-wise. Given those things, it was an odd realization to come to see how much I apologize for taking up so much space.
I think that we women are undervalued. Fuck. I *know* that women are undervalued. We still earn less money for the same work when compared with men but it’s also true that people generally have different expectations for us. For example, a few weeks ago I was at a gathering with about 80 other people. Someone was speaking and in the middle of that, I decided that I could not wait any longer to use the restroom and so I got up and made for the exit. A married couple were in front of the door. The woman quietly stepped aside but the man stood there, puffed out his chest and gave me a A Long Look before moving. I understand that Look to have been a challenge to my judgment that stepping out was appropriate at the time. (Stepping out was fine. I went to Charm School. I know these things.) I also understand that if I had been a man, The Look would never have been given. Men are allowed to excuse themselves to use the restroom as needed. Women should hold it. This is just one goofy metaphor for a whole line of screwed up thinking that makes women like me feel like we don’t deserve to move through the world.
I wish I had better words, that I could describe the way I feel like don’t deserve to exist or shop or even to meet my own needs. Realizing that I feel constantly judged and that I accept this feeling as something that is right and normal is incredibly disturbing and unsettling. I want to believe in my power, as we all should, and yet? I don’t.