By: Cortnie Vee
I returned to the bustle of New York City replenished and glowing after five blissfully hot days in the Mojave Desert. So imagine my dismay when I walked into the light-filled, glass atrium restaurant that I work in, and my cisgendered, straight male coworker exclaimed to me that he saw my instagram pictures from Coachella and that I “definitely should’ve worn underwire” in my desert pictures for better aesthetics.
I was in no position to have my coworker project his Mad Men-style of chauvinism on me when I returned to work that day and, in so many words, I told him just that. I didn’t pull him to the side and handle his male fragility with care. Instead, I explained to him, in the presence of the predominantly male cast of spectators, that A) my body is not up for discussion, nor is my choice of clothing and B) he should save his uneducated, sexist remarks for a place where they are deemed warranted and that place probably doesn’t exist outside of his head.
Allow me to provide a bit of background information for prospective. My younger self would have found a way to avert this exchange. After all, at a 34DDD, my proverbial cup runneth over. I grew up thinking I should almost always be cocooned in a brassiere. My mother cringes at the sight of hardened nipples through a t-shirt and my sister, a 29-year-woman, who also carries around the weight of triple D breasts, 16 years after the awkwardness of puberty, still sleeps in her bra. I also grew up dismissing these kinds of remarks as just “the way boys talk.” I was 12 years old the first time a boy told me that he could see my panty line and that he didn’t find it attractive. I begged my parents to buy me thongs for the next three years.
Aside from the remarks being made about my breasts and panties in and around school, the media had a way of making light of crass, unsolicited comments about women’s body parts and, though it made me uncomfortable, I made it a point to not make too big of a deal out of any of it.
In 2014, 10 long years after I had graduated high school, TIME.com published a piece that bore the headline, “Science Shows Men like Women With Less Makeup”. My first reaction was, obviously, “We. Don’t. Care.” but I had five minutes of my life to waste so I went against my better judgment and clicked the link anyway. The opening sentence “Women should probably cool it with the eyeliner” brought on so many feelings of anger and hopelessness. The fact that a woman wrote an article perpetuating the idea that women should be doing things solely for male stimulation is not only startling, it is downright infuriating. I spent my entire adolescence and early adulthood seeking male approval by silencing my voice and over sexualizing my body- a rocky terrain that the author of the article was clearly still navigating- and I didn’t need TIME.com reintroducing those outdated ideals into my psyche.
It’s been a week and my coworker hasn’t been able to look at me. I can’t tell if it’s the way that I chastised him for his failed attempt to police my body from across the country, or the fact that I’ve been braless ever since. Either way, I think he caught my point.
Cortnie Vee is a Texas born, Brooklyn based storyteller. Her mediums include poetry, essays and short screenplays, and her work usually explores themes of unrequited love and loss. She enjoys thrifting and hand making candles in her apartment as a form of therapy. She takes her coffee with sugar and her martinis with gin.