Being a Woman Hurts.

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It hurts to feel my divine goddessness taken for granted, the world constantly sucking it out of me—on the street, on the internet, on television.

It hurts to be in public sometimes. It hurts to be yelled at, stared at and drooled at. It hurts that I’m not allowed in some spaces because I’m a distraction. It hurts that alongside garlic and onions, men should stay away from me too in order to reach enlightenment.

It hurts that I can never close my eyes and fully relax on the beach, on my bike, on a walk. It hurts that I can feel their eyes boring into me, their minds undressing me, their mouths speaking things that make my chest tight and numb.

It hurts that I stopped looking strangers in the eye long ago, ignoring friendly old men wishing me a good morning for fear they too might give me goosbumps with their slimy grins.

It hurts that the moment I relax my guard and share a smile, it begins to feel stolen. I’m expected to share more—a wink, an approval, a phone number.

It hurts that when a man does me a favor, when he offers to cook me a vegan dinner, to release the tension from my back, to share an intimate and mutual space of trust, the least I’m expected to do is kiss him for his efforts and let him undress me for his time.

It hurts that I feel guilty when I don’t meet his expectations; I feel bad for letting him down. It hurts that this hurts me because I know better.

It hurts that when I say no, I must repeat it at least five times, often in seven different ways. It hurts that this is not an exaggeration. It hurts that I am not listened to, that my words are mere play in a game I didn’t sign up for, that I must defend and re-defend what I said.

I’m not trying to tease you. I don’t want you to touch me. Stop trying to take off my pants.

It hurts that there are only so many ways to say these things, and it hurts even more that boys pretend not to understand them.

It hurts when I love him, when I trust him, and I just let it happen because it’s easier than looking him square in the eyes as to not disappoint him, easier than ending our friendship. It hurts that we didn’t kiss, I didn’t leave, that I lost my power forcing numbness over my body so I wouldn’t have to make a big scene.

It hurts that when I tell my mom, she tells me it was my decision to stay, like that it was somehow my own fault— because things have happened to her and she didn’t have a choice.

It hurts that things have happened to her and she didn’t have a choice.

It hurts that I had a choice but didn’t realize I did. It hurts that actually, I didn’t really have a choice after all.

As I sit here writing, naked on my bed, I look down at all the pieces of me I’m supposed to think are ugly, that I’m supposed to be ashamed of, that I’m supposed to cover and hide. I swivel my nose ring, the one that made a boy think I went to bed with everyone so I’d go to bed with him, even when I was still a virgin.

I look down at the soft bits of me, as important as the deep sturdy muscles that show their power when I move. I look at the silhouette of my body, as important as my bare feet always covered in sand and mud. I look at my sparkling green eyes, as important as my big, impossibly messy hair.

I’m tired of the world picking and choosing. Telling me what to keep and what to leave behind. I’m tired of my worth being solely accountable to him, beauty either silencing or enhancing my voice.

Will no one listen when I am no longer young and pretty?

Will anyone listen because I am young and pretty?

The way I dress isn’t for you. My smile isn’t for you. When I’m reading at a coffee shop, it isn’t an invitation for you.

Don’t slow traffic so you can follow me down the street as I walk. Don’t tell me to stop raising my hand in class because I’ll marry a wealthy man and won’t need to understand algebra. Don’t leave your number, but not leave a tip when I’m your waitress. I don’t want your number and I don’t want your compliments.

I’m busy and you don’t know me. You don’t know what I’ve been through, you don’t know that every single day I feel hurt because I exist as I am.

Don’t holler at me from your car—call your sister and tell her how much you love her. Tell your wife how good her hair smells. Thank your mother for doing the best she could with what she had. Embrace and support the women already in your life, instead of shouting empty words to a passing stranger with a body you like.

Boys, she doesn’t exist for you. You exist because of her.

Hold her hand and help her rise—step aside so she can scream and yell and cry. For once, stay silent. Hug her when she’s done.

Girls, you exist for you. Wear high-waisted shorts without a second thought. Hug yourself, treat yourself, take care of yourself. Cry because it’s hard and laugh because you’re stronger. Realize that it may feel like the world is sucking it out of you, but your divine goddessness is endless and infinite. It never stops, and it will never end.

Forgive them, forgive yourself. We’re all stuck in this system that has trapped us into stagnancy. Yet here we are, moving and going and flowing.

When you don’t feel safe somewhere, anywhere, leave.

When a girlfriend asks you to leave somewhere, anywhere, leave with her.

When you’re sitting on a bus and don’t like the vibes you’re getting from the man next to you, change seats.

There doesn’t have to be a reason. Don’t be afraid of being rude.

You deserve to feel safe, you deserve to feel loved, you deserve to exist as you.

If you are reading this, you are miles ahead of many. You are literate, you are (probably) liberal, and you have access to the internet.

I realize my privilege, and can’t even comprehend it when I think about the millions of women the world over going through horrors I dare not even dream about.

If you are reading this, you are lucky because you are never alone. There are so many people you can call who want to help you, who want to hear your story.

You can call the Assaulted Woman’s Helpline
You can reach out to the National Domestic Violence Helpline
You can share your story with the girls at Hollaback NYC

If you need someone to talk to, you can e-mail me, I will listen to you.

Boys, girls, and everything in between, we’re existing together. Let’s make us feel safe together.

 

 

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Editor: Travis May

Photo:  Ruby Velour

 

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Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

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Arielle Egozi

Arielle Egozi has felt her whole life that she wanted to “save the world.“ Arielle got her BA in Peace and Justice Studies from Tufts University, only to realize that the only way to change the world is to change yourself first. She’s been (really super duper) lucky to have visited, connected, and shared experiences with people all over the world, and seen firsthand how happiness exists regardless of circumstance. Keeping the cycle moving as a yoga student and teacher, every obstacle is just another reason to learn a lesson, smile, and move forward. Writing to vent, as well as to pay her rent, she is trying to break herself open to receive the magic this universe offers, and invites everyone along for the ride.

You can follow her on Instagram or in real life! Or, check her out on her website, Facebook or send her a message via email.

Comments

10 Responses to “Being a Woman Hurts.”

  1. Leah says:

    It hurts when a guy only listens to me tell him no, if I also tell him I have a boyfriend. Not because he respects me, but because he respects the false figure I created.

    Loved this! Thank you.

    • arielleegozi says:

      wow – yes, we can all understand. please continue to add things in my instant furied release i left out. this is for all of us <3

    • Megan says:

      Yes. Because if the said is “I have a boyfriend. so I can’t” then the unsaid is “but if I didn’t, I would”, and the male ego remains unscathed.

      It’s unfathomable that “I don’t want to, so I won’t”

  2. Victoria says:

    You just made me feel so much less alone. All women experience this kind of treatment, yet often when I'm frustrated about it, it seems like people don't want to talk about it. Especially when I talk to men, there just isn't a chance in hell that they're able to relate on any level, and I feel like over and over again, I'm just put in the "angry feminist" category, which to them seems to mean that I'm just one of those people who's still angry because I just haven't "gotten over it" yet. I won't even try to describe what it feels like to talk to other females about this and receive a reaction that almost seems like they're unable/reluctant to relate. Thank you for this, and especially for the bit at the end where you invite your readers to email you. You are so kind.

    • arielleegozi says:

      I know Victoria – it can feel so heavy trying to run in the dense mud we're just supposed to ignore. There are blogs and books and gatherings created as safe spaces for your mind and heart to let loose. I invite you to look some up in your neighborhood – one of my favorite books of all time is Cunt by Ingrid Muscio. She knows how to make me feel strong, and picking up her book again is what inspired these cathartic words to come out of me. Find what practice works for you to let it all go and make more space for your power. And yes, you can always e-mail 🙂

  3. Pauline Stephanie says:

    This is amazing. I feel the same way…I don't even feel right in saying "good morning" back to a male in the street because I think their intentions are otherwise. It sucks to walk in the street with complete freedom but yet feel imprisoned by the stares, hollers and the annoying "smile." Despite all of this, I keep my head up high as I listen to the music pumping from my headphones.

    I wonder if women who live in big cities (i live in nyc) as opposed to women who don't experience the same and feel the same? I don't have a car and travel by subway so I'm exposed to being uncomfortable all the time.

    Arielle, thank you for this, I love your writing!

    • arielleegozi says:

      Thanks so much for sharing Pauline! You make a really good point – as a woman, the more exposed you are, and the more you frequent public spaces, typically means that yes – we are indeed reminded much more often that in fact we are women. But even so! I've been followed in my car and been leered at when stopped at a red light, and I know many others who have too. I had a Human Rights Campaign sticker on my car in high school, and my brother hated driving it because he too would get harassed by other men whenever he was behind the wheel.

      I was at a trade show this weekend and apparently with every prospective client order it was expected that I was part of the deal made. I was humiliated multiple times in front of colleagues, my boss, my father. I wasn't taken seriously as an intelligent professional woman helping to build a company simply because I was the youngest woman there. I was their toy and I'm still trying to figure out the best way to handle situations like that where literally a job and a start-up company's future is at stake. Business shouldn't be handled that way, but presently it is – so what's okay to respond with and what isn't?

      Thank you for sharing this space and being strong with all of us!! <3

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