Female Gaze

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Objectification is a funny thing.

They wanted to protect us. No more staring, a hard stop to the leers that led to catcalling, that led to grabbing, that led to... other things. We gave up being individuals for this safety. Now we are what we wear: the handmaids in red, the wives in blue, the domestics in green, the pre-women in white. Who could ever lust after a color?

The men had no need for such safety, and so no need to be stripped of their individual-hood. They still make tailored suits, oxford shirts, men's jeans. The unmarried can still work outside and roll up their sleeves. We see them. Through windows, and despite the wings, we see them. They think nothing of it.

Because they forbade us to read and write, they forgot that we can talk. They forgot that there were storytellers long before the printing press. Their memories grow short while ours grow long. We have no choice. This is a back-handed gift.

We tell stories about the men and what they wear. We look for the unbuttoning that leads to an exposed collarbone in summer. We consider the weight and texture of denim. We talk about that rolled-up cotton sleeve, an exposed inch of forearm muscle, a flexed brachioradialis (they forgot, too, that some of us used to be doctors), in the way women once talked about biceps or abs.

By contrast, women no longer have to take care of ourselves, beyond that which is medically necessary. We are not supposed to be vain, so any real self-improvement is actually frowned upon. Those of us who remember "working out" also remember how gyms were declared to be oppressive, hedonistic meat-markets, sinful displays of sexuality (or dens of unBiblical lesbianism, for the Women Only gyms), and were abolished entirely back at the beginning, so early on that some of us still had exemptions to be employed. What purpose would such appearance-oriented activities serve now? Legally, men cannot leave their wives. The servants can have no men at all. Our red clothes are practically tents. Once the white dresses are replaced by something in the darker spectrum, what could possibly be the point?

They controlled what we wore, and they stopped seeing us. They choose what they wear, and we see them more clearly than ever. They think nothing of it.

I think, someday this will matter.

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