The Way He Sees Me and How I See Myself

“All women are hoes."

This is the joke he tells. And I laugh. Except I’m not laughing because it’s funny. It’s a laugh of disbelief, nervousness, and confusion. Does he really think of all women like that? Does he really think it’s acceptable to think of all women like that?

He interrupts my thoughts to correct himself.

“All women are hoes except for the one out there who’s ‘wifey'."

Wait. I’m a woman, and he’s saying this to me. I’m certainly not “wifey”, so what is he saying?

I let it go. I tell myself that he can’t really believe that. There’s no way.

“I called dibs! She’s mine. You can have her next week.”

He argues with a friend over a girl who they both want to date. I sit at the table with them quietly. My silence is of disbelief, nervousness, and confusion. Does he really think that he can claim possession of this girl who doesn’t even know him? Does he really think it’s acceptable to offer her over to someone else at the end of the week?

The argument continues, and I’m starting to lose my patience. I confront him. I tell him that this woman is not his to bargain for. For all he knows, she doesn’t want either of them. Theirs are not the voices that need to be heard in deciding who she will be with.

“I can’t believe this upsets you. Most guys say much worse than this.”
This is his defense. He justifies his objectification of a woman with the argument that it could be much worse. But it is not enough to be better than the worst of men. Why can’t he see that?

I let it go. I tell myself that our friendship shouldn’t end because of a few comments.

“All black girls are either sluts or prudes. There’s no in-between”.

This is the complaint he makes. I am outraged. My outrage is of disbelief, nervousness, and confusion-disbelief, nervousness, and confusion. How can he say this? Where is the room for in-between when you make bold claims like that? What does it mean to be a slut? What does it mean to be a prude? Why do you get to define my sexuality? Who are you to judge me for my sexual behavior?

           Then I ask myself, “Why do I care?”

His words shouldn’t make me feel nervous or confused because his words shouldn’t define me. His rules are blind and unfair. The judgments he makes of women do not hold true for men. The roles he has created for us to fill leave no space for us to be all that we are. We are not hoes. We are not a possession to be fought over. We are not confined to being sluts or prudes.

           We are complex beings, beautiful and resilient. We love and hurt and heal just like anyone else. It is so important to remember the power of womanhood- the power of black womanhood. We’ve been dealing with this our entire lives just as our mothers and their mothers did. There is strength in our survival. There is beauty in our excellence. There is power in our independence. So, when he fails to see this in us again, my reaction may be one of disbelief, nervousness, and confusion. I may laugh, sit quietly, or speak out. But I will certainly remember.

by Lela Owens

Lela Owens