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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The Naomi Narrative: Making mountains out of molehills

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Opinions

“My eyes are up here.” How many girls out there haven’t had a time when they needed to say that? Guys’ eyes just migrate southward, focusing on that intriguing area between your neck and your belly button. Some flesh, some deposit of fat tissue. Your two headlights ready to be turned on, posing a threat to your sweater.

Aren’t they mine? When did I enter them into the realm of public discourse, fair game for being stared at? Maybe its when I trade a sweatshirt for a fitted but not too tight sweater. Maybe its when I go to the gym, where regardless of what I’m wearing I can see a guy’s head bouncing up in down echoing my rhythm as a jog on the treadmill. It’s a wonder he doesn’t break his neck.

Maybe it’s when I go to office hours, and feel like my breasts are greeted before I am. Within seconds of entering the office, I reach for my cardigan, hiding behind an extra layer of cotton. I come here armed with my ideas for the paper, not armed with two bazookas, I want to scream. There are women in academia. Get used to it. Save your gaping and fantasizing for after 5 p.m.

Maybe its when the construction workers violate me with their eyes as I walk by. Feeling progressively more and more dirty as I walk under their perverted gaze, I hasten past at a quicker speed. Their smirking and catcalls echo in my ears and the glint in their eyes makes me shudder.

Or maybe it’s simply our fault. We know the powers of our bodies. Or at least we should. If you’re having a crappy day, who wouldn’t unbutton a button or two for a little more attention? Extra foam on your latte? An upgrade to first class? These are tricks that every girl knows about, even if they refuse to play the game.

When I was in high school, my friend offered to flash the water park attendant, in exchange for him letting us go on the closed ride.

He was tempted by Raquel’s larger than average knick-knacks, but ultimately had to turn her down. Even though he won that small battle, it was clear who won the war. The power was hers all along, I soon realized, as I watched him ogle Raquel as she strutted away in her itsy bitsy bikini.

If a girl–or rather woman because we should start calling ourselves that at this point–is dressing up to go somewhere where she’ll feel socially ill at ease, she’ll bring out the slut. Or at least as slutty as she can get and still walk out the door with a modicum of self respect. I say slutty with a grain of salt, but think higher hemline, lower neckline, a smaller size. These are all small tools women use to assert themselves, both to the outside world and internally to themselves.

And why not? We’re competing after all, more often than not with each other. The female to male ratio at colleges is nearing 60-40. Some universities are implementing a gender-based affirmative action type system. This means qualified female prospective college students are being rejected in favor of their equally or less qualified male counterparts. Isn’t this a sexist policy? Intellectually driven women are forced to compete for fewer spots.

And romantically? With such a gender-skewed campus it’s hard for us Brandeisian women to find dates. This uphill battle continues in the real world, with more men in prison and the army, and marked by a shorter life expectancy. Men just die earlier. The dating scene at a nursing home must be amazing, with Max getting all geriatric Gladys, Sadies, and Berthas he could every dream of. Honestly, most of the environments in which I find myself are homo-social. In this warm, tight knit, estrogen fest of a social scene, it’s hard to meet new guys. The male friends I do have are solid and good decent guys, but I will always sequester them to the “friends zone.”

A guy could get so much ass, especially at a place like Brandeis. The catch is he would need at least one functioning ball with which to pursue it. But that’s the story for another column.

It’s hard being a woman. Can we take just a minute and recognize that? Hard to gain an academic and eventual professional foothold, hard to garner respect, hard to find a date. And even when we do find a date, there’s pressure to snag a doctor or lawyer, and get our MRS and a big gaudy diamond as fast as we can.

All around, it’s a hard knock life.

With all the implicit setbacks and pressures of being female, should we just use our God given fun bags to our benefit? Capitalize on what we got, should we flaunt them to climb the career or social ladder?

A friend of mine invites comment and unnecessary attention to that area. When asked by a professor to pronounce her ethnic sounding name, she would say, “it’s Ariella. You can pronounce it any way, just don’t call me areola.” Referencing the female physiology, she immediately sexualized the introduction, even throwing issues of sexual harassment into the mix.

Granted she was just trying to be personable and make a joke. But is asserting ourselves overtly sexually the way to do it? But if we don’t assert ourselves in such a boobalicious manner are we denying our sexuality in order to be taken more seriously?

An evolutionary theorist would say your milkshakes have one purpose, to provide yapping baby Gracie with her lunch. That’s ostensibly what a Palinite or religious right-winger would say too. But until we have our babies in our mid to late 20s, our boobs are just supposed to hang there? Like the sun, you can’t look directly at them for too long, and you sure as hell can’t touch them.

I’m no Women and Gender Studies Major, and would characterize myself as a moderate, in this sea of blue state enthusiasts. But would de-sexualizing ourselves get us anywhere? Or would it toss back decades worth of progress?

Let’s enjoy the progress that women have made in the past century. We can vote, we’re present in practically every career field, and that hard glass ceiling has millions of cracks in it.

Maybe we need to find the right balance. I think we can do without the gratuitous shirts that say, “Not everything in Kansas is flat,” and “Yes, they’re real.”

But you can still get dressed up, shake what yo mama gave you. Enjoy flaunting it at a club and even playing up your inner skank. You’re blowing off some steam and using your badonkadonk to get some attention, a free drink.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Use your cha-chas, just be mindful of the implications.