My Eyes are Up Here

My Eyes are Up Here

Tobi Blake

 

I play Poker. I love Poker. I’m pretty decent at Poker. I met my husband, the most fantastic soul I've ever known, playing Poker. 

The other night at our weekly game, there was a man who made my life hell. Unfortunately, lewd behavior is no stranger to the poker world, but usually the guy stops when I make it clear I’m not ok with it. 

Not this guy. 

I sat down at the final table of the tournament, the only woman left in the game, and this man immediately commented on my “tits.” I could see how intoxicated he was and asked him to please not talk to me.

After the first few hands, he declared to the table that I was “just the right amount of feminine.” He said if I were any more masculine he wouldn’t be talking to me. Again, I asked him to stop. 

Vodka tonic after vodka tonic, he stared at my chest and made comment after degrading comment about it. And I continued asking him to please stop talking to me. 

He told me all the things he’d like to do to my body. He told me how much I would like the things he could do to me. I told him to shut up. 

He was relentless.

After being shut down repeatedly, he asked me to sneak out with him for 20 minutes to have sex. He begged. “Please? Your husband won’t even notice we’re gone.” 

I was livid.

After several hours of playing well, I was leading that poker game. I had a great chance at winning the tournament. But because of a drunken man at the final table who viewed me as nothing but a warm body that could give him pleasure, I saw no other choice than to throw in my cards and walk away. 

Before starting a skincare company, I worked for years waiting tables at restaurants. I’ve driven home after many nights of hard work, distraught and defeated after the unthinkable comments and gestures made by men who treated me this way for no other reason than that I am a woman. 

One man while looking at the rib options on the menu peered up at my chest and said, “I was going to order a large rack but, lucky me, I’ve got one right here.” 

I was asked by a manager if I was a porn star and told that if I wasn’t, I should be because I could make great money. 

A co-worker once wrapped his arms around my waist and whispered in my ear, “I could f*ck you so hard. I could f*ck you for days.” 

I’ve been groped and grabbed and ogled more times than I can count.

I wish I could say I stood up for myself even once. I wish I could declare with pride that I told every last one of those men to go to hell.

But I didn't.

While I've learned to defend myself at a poker table, I am ashamed to admit that I was not so bold in a work setting. Instead of standing up for myself, I giggled and smiled or playfully pushed them away. 

I did not want to lose my job or cause riffs with co-workers. I did not want to get a bad tip or a negative review. I had a family to feed. 

So I dealt with it. And I walked away feeling like less than a human being. Like my feelings didn't matter. Like I was nothing more than an object to be used for the amusement of men. 

Never again. I'm taking a stand. I am done. 

How is this still happening? How is it almost 2017 and women are still dealing with this nonsense?

I am sick of it. I'm so fed up! It is pathetic that this is still a problem, but it is not going to change if we don't collectively take a stand. Not just women but real men too! 

I was raised to believe that as a woman, it is my responsibility to dress “modestly” so as to not provoke boys or men to think impure thoughts. 

Guys, I have news for you. I could show up to dinner in a damn string bikini, and you and you alone are still responsible for your own thoughts, words and actions.

Control yourself. 

No, it is not flattering when you stare at my body. No, it is not enjoyable when you make disgusting sexual comments. I will continue to dress however I want. And you do not have permission to rape me with your eyes and your words.

Enough.

Even if a woman does not have the courage to defend herself, when she giggles and smiles because she doesn't know how to take a stand, your behavior is not healthy.  No matter how she responds, your degrading words and actions are not appropriate, it is not fair, and it needs to stop. 

Sitting at that poker table with 7 other men, I was appalled that not one of them spoke up and told this jerk to stop. Instead, they stayed silent and looked down at their cards while I tried my best to defend myself.

Can I ask a favor of you? Can we commit to standing up for one another? If you see someone being bullied, in any way, please say something. Do something. Help! 

Women, it is not your responsibly to dress in a way that encourages men to behave. You dress however you feel comfortable. Be proud of your body! Dress in whatever you feel confident and beautiful in. 

If someone treats you inappropriately, have more courage than I did and stand up for yourself! Make it known if you’re uncomfortable with how somebody is touching or talking to you. Send the message loud and clear that it is not ok. If we don't take a stand, things will never change. 

 

 

I will continue to teach my daughters to respect themselves. That doesn't mean covering their bodies from head to toe. It means making healthy decisions based on healthy motivations. It means standing up for themselves when they're mistreated.

I want my two daughters to know they don’t owe anybody anything. They can dress in what they feel confident and beautiful in and nobody has the right to treat them with anything but respect. 

 

 

I will continue to teach my boys that their thoughts and actions are their own responsibility. I will continue to tell them how important it is that they respect themselves and that they respect girls and women. My five boys will know they do not have the right to make comments about anyone’s body, no matter what shape or size.

I have a large family. My life is busy. Most of my days are spent in sloppy mom buns and yoga pants. If I want to get dressed up and feel sexy for an evening, I will!

Men, I'm not getting all prettied up for your enjoyment. I don't get some kind of sick thrill out of your tasteless remarks. I am not putting on that sexy dress to get cat calls and disgusting comments from guys who think and act with their genitalia.

I’m dressing up because, after working hard for everyone else all day every day, I enjoy letting loose and feeling sexy and beautiful sometimes. 

But guess what! My motivation for dressing however I want is none of your damn business! So keep your comments to yourself.

And keep your eyes up here.

Tobi Blake

Belpeau.com