It’s disturbing that Lewak is so desperate for random men to approve of her appearance that she’s willing to take the risk that these interactions turn sour–not only that, but she’s willing to take that risk for all of us. She writes, “Oh, don’t go rolling those sanctimonious eyes at me, young women of Vassar: I may court catcalls, but I hold my head high. Enjoying male attention doesn’t make you a traitor to your gender.”
Most people who are attracted to men enjoy some sort of male attention, but not all of us enjoy it from any man, at any time, in any place. Kind of like I love pizza, but I don’t want people to shove pizza in my face every time I leave my apartment. Actually, I would probably start to kind of hate pizza if that happened, especially if trying to refuse the pizza led to slurs and threats of violence.
In the 1930s, men’s nipples were just as provocative, shameful and taboo as women’s are now, and men were protesting in much the same way. In 1930, four men went topless to Coney Island and were arrested. In 1935, a flash mob of topless men descended upon Atlantic City, 42 of whom were arrested. Men fought and they were heard, changing not only laws but social consciousness. And by 1936, men’s bare chests were accepted as the norm.
So why is it that 80 years later women can’t seem to achieve the same for their chests? Why can’t a mother proudly breastfeed her child in public without feeling sexualized? why is a 17-year-old girl being asked to leave her own prom because a group of fathers find her too provocative?
[…] I am not trying to argue for mandatory toplessness, or even bralessness. What I am arguing for is a woman’s right to choose how she represents her body — and to make that choice based on personal desire and not a fear of how people will react to her or how society will judge her. No woman should be made to feel ashamed of her body.