The Question I Didn’t Ask

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Graphic by Atticus Dewey '24

I’m an opinionated person. Worse, I’m an opinionated woman. This means that when I drop a comment on any sort of social media post, I take a risk. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I made the mistake of commenting on an anti-feminist post. A random man replied to my comment by saying, “Typical feminist, I took a look at your profile and it looks like you don’t have a boyfriend and you gained weight. No wonder men don’t call you back!”

This man took one look at my adorable Instagram profile filled with pictures of my friends and came to the conclusion that because I don’t have a picture of myself with a man, I’m desperate and “men don’t call me back.” I’m a “typical feminist” because I exist outside a man’s ownership. And what if I had pictures with multiple men? What if I were skinnier and prettier? He would have used that to invalidate me just the same. 

His rebuttal is the answer to a question I never asked, the question that none of us asked, and the one that men keep answering for us without provocation. The question is: is this woman desirable? 

I’ve heard the answer to this question constantly throughout my life. It was answered in a catcall when I was twelve: a wordless, two-note call in which a man told me he thought my prepubescent body was desirable. It was answered when I stepped out of my office building and an old man yelled, “Hey baby!” It was answered when the man bagging my groceries ogled at me with huge bug eyes and said, “How tall are you?” It was answered when this guy decided men don’t call me back. 

This invalidation isn’t always sexual, and it happens everywhere. Like when the oil grease salesman at the car dealership told my dad that “All women crazy, every last one of them.” And you should trust him, he said, because he has daughters. He has raised women. They grew up right before his eyes with all their intricacies and interests. He has been given every opportunity to see these girls as dynamic individuals, and he can reduce them to an age-old stereotype. He, as a man, is the authority on the female psyche because even after being given an intimate glimpse into the female experience, he has still defaulted on what is designed to silence us. And after I can’t help but smirk at the audacity he must have, he makes sure to point out my smile as though I am actually agreeing with his jab at everything I am.

And that’s the problem. Before you speak, (some) men will answer this question that determines if they’ll hear what you have to say. Think of the female politicians, the actresses and the models who you’ve seen men answer this question about. Think if you’ve answered this question. Think if anyone has answered this question about you. If thinking like this makes me an angry feminist who men don’t call back, so be it. I don’t want a man who sees me like that to call me back. 

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