Am I the ugly friend?
“No, not her, the hot one!” He whispered way too loudly to his friend.
My friend and I had been out at a bar enjoying some cocktails and chatting about all the amazing things going on in our lives. We hadn’t invited conversation with these men, we hadn’t responded to the one guy when he asked if his buddy could have my number, before his buddy responded with the above “whisper”.
We hadn’t gone out seeking attention from men. I was in a happy relationship at the time and so was she. But, in our society if a female puts on a nice outfit and a splash of color on her lips, men and women alike assume her intention is to garner the ever-present male gaze.
I’d be lying if I said this was the first time a man had dubbed me the “ugly friend.” And I’d be lying to say, even coming from these men I wasn’t interested in, men I’d never give my real number to, men who seemed gross to me, I’d be lying to say them naming me the “not hot one” didn’t hurt.
Male gaze is a complicated subject. As young girls we’re taught it’s our fault if men sexualize us at a young age. “You should have dressed more modestly.” The older women in our life tell us. Then as we get older these same women tell us “you’ll never find a husband dressed like that. You’d be so much prettier in something besides a hoodie and sweats. And for god’s sake, wear more makeup.”
We’re supposed to seek out the male gaze, but not too much because then they might sexually assault us. No, not too much. We have to appear just right. Pure, but sexy. Chaste, but desirable. Wholesome, but tempting.
Well, guess what? Just as I didn’t get dressed or put on makeup for those men at that bar that night- I’m not living my life today to appease the male gaze either. Makeup is a fun personal, expression. My clothing choices are an outlet for my creativity. And statistically the clothing I wear is neither less or more likely to cause a man to assault me.
Men assault women because of their own choices. That’s the beginning and end of it.
So, call me the ugly friend all you want. My life has so much more meaning than the level of sexual desire you see when I walk in a room. Your opinion has no bearing on the successes and joys I’ll experience in my life. And trust me, I’ve got a lot of those ahead of me.