Melinda Tankard Reist and the objectification of women
Some of you will know that I grew up in a certain south Asian country which shall remain nameless, especially as it is in the news at the moment.
I love that country. I love the dusty landscape, the sound of the language, the colourful overdecorated trucks, the sounds of car horns and the wafting smell of water buffalo.
However, I didn't love being a girl there. Especially not a preteen and teenage girl. These things were pretty regular in my experience:
- Being sexually propositioned by young men almost every time I went out in the streets, even though I was always accompanied by other people. It even happened when I went out in the company of my older brother or my father.
- Ogling. It's really not a great feeling to be on the end of many people's lustful, craving gazes. Even when I'm under cover from my ankles to my wrists to the top of my head.
- Touching and being 'brushed up' against in the street. Talk about creepy. I still remember that one. And I was only 11 when it happened.
- Being completely ignored or counted as unimportant when in company. At the same age that I was being ogled as a sex object, I was also unseen and unheard as a person with an opinion.
My parents cannot be blamed. They protected me as well as possible given the circumstances. The basic problem is that in that country, young girls suffer these things as a matter of course if they go out in public. Sadly, it's normal.
When we left the country of my youth to return to Australia, I was 16. I remember the feeling of overwhelming anger, hate and terror that I felt when one day I saw a group of young men walking along the street. They weren't intending any harm to me, but I couldn't get over the fact that I expected nothing good from them based on my past experiences.
So, I feel it keenly when women in general, or me as a woman in particular, are objectified, sexualised, patronised or treated in any way that denies us our personhood. I'm now 37, and most times I can talk about it without tears, but sometimes I can't. Injustice towards women makes me ill.
So I am happy to know that there are people like Melinda Tankard Reist out there who can see the issues, argue for righteousness and take action against the obstacles that women face. Go Melinda!