Today, as I stood up to go get lunch, one of my co-workers complimented my outfit and asked where I got my skirt from. I told her Forever 21. It’s one of those cottony, spandex-y skirts that hit me, maybe three inches above the knee; I’m only 5’1 (and a half). Like this, except mine is colorful. Even though I’m short, I know my body so I made sure to get the skirt in a large to accommodate my thighs and booty. I’m describing this skirt in such great detail because it caused an interaction that perturbed me this morning.
This morning I woke up thinking, I’m so tired of wearing jeans, especially out of necessity. New York has only been tempting us with Spring for weeks now and I wanted to wear something to celebrate the sunshine and 65 degree weather. I was running late this morning, as I often am, and was power walking, taking quick strides trying to get to my office faster.
Now, on my way to work I have to pass a construction site in my neighborhood, the fresh and flirtatious Empire State Building workers, who invite tourists to go up and view the city, and another construction site right before I get into my office. If anyone is going to say something slick in the morning it’ll be men in one of these three groups. When I walked past the first construction site, the men stopped their conversation and said good morning, real polite like. But when I got to the Empire State Building Workers, I saw that one man, an older guy, probably in his late 40’s early 50’s (you can never tell with black folk) was looking at me like he was going to say something. As I got closer, I could see he was gesturing, using his the stack of pamphlets in his hand, instructing me to pull my skirt down. I shook my head and said “No thank you.”
I relayed this story to my coworkers, expecting a moment of female solidarity and shared disgust. Most of them agreed, interjecting their disgust. But the coworker who had complimented my skirt said, “You were wrong for that.”
She proceeded to tell me how she had a similar thing happen to her. In fact, the man, the stranger who stopped her on the street and told her to adjust her skirt also said, “You know I like to see sisters covered up.” And she thanked him for the admonishment. Astounding. She equated it to a woman tucking the tag in on the back of your shirt.
I had to respectfully disagree.
First of all, unless it’s a “Hello,” “Good morning” or “Nice weather we’re having.” I would generally prefer if strange men don’t speak to me in the street. I don’t know you, you don’t know me and men on the street to have the best track record for being gentlemen.
Furthermore, it’s less about the shortness of the skirt and what men think the shortness of the skirt insinuates, that I’m somehow loose or morally bankrupt. If I am, that’s my business and not your place to police me. Why are men on the street always trying to tell women what to do? “You could at least say hi!” “Smile!” “Pull your skirt down!” How about you just leave me alone so I can live my life?! Can you imagine the reaction you’d get from men if we gave them similar instructions on the street? “Stop grabbing your junk!” “Stop spitting on the sidewalk!” “Hold the door open for me!” Fools would turn around like, “Do I know you?” Some of us would get cussed out and if you stumble across the wrong dude, it might cause physical danger.
Somewhere along the men started operating under the assumption that we either a) left the house to please them or b) are incapable of governing ourselves and need their care and supervision.
Personally, I’m not here for it. As long as I wanted to be grown, I’m finally here now and I don’t want a stranger on the street, man, woman, boy or girl, telling how to dress.
But how do you feel about it, would you appreciate a man telling you your clothes were inappropriate? Have you ever experienced these type of interactions? How did you respond?