Beautiful and Talented
by Jessica Lohafer
I’m angry. I’m angry and it isn’t cute. It isn’t attractive. It doesn’t come with a hilarious anecdote or a filthy story. I’m angry for myself and I’m angry for all other female artists. I’m angry because my body, my physical appearance, seems to be tightly bound to the general reception of my art. I’m angry because I’ve been told to be docile, receptive, passive. I’m angry because I’m too often described as “beautiful and talented”, as if the “talent” aspect of that is shocking, unexpected.
Last night, a man approached me after my show. He told me he really enjoyed my set; he said many kind things about my work. I accepted his praise with gratitude. I turned to leave. He grabbed my hand and kept going. I became really uncomfortable. I did not move. I tried to excuse myself from the situation, and he ignored all of my efforts. He began to describe what I was wearing. He was leering. I took my hand back. I cut the conversation short. I left.
I feel embarrassed because I didn’t do more. This man crossed clear boundaries. At the very least, he ignored basic social cues, out of ignorance. At the very worst, he was totally aware of his actions and decided to disregard what I might have been feeling and trying to communicate. I’m angry that I didn’t stand up for myself. I’m angry that I feel shame about this at all, when shame doesn’t belong here. I’m angry that I stood there. Why did I stay there?
I stayed there because this is what I’ve been taught. Female artists are raised to be humble, to lay themselves down at the feet of their following. A woman who makes demands is seen as a diva, an individual who asks for too much, due to their inflated sense of self. I have been taught that this man was being nothing but kind, that I should wear something less attractive if I don’t want that kind of attention. In short, I’ve been taught that it’s my fault. It is not my fault. It is not the fault of any female artist. How long will it take our society to place blame where blame is due?
I have chosen to take action. To stand against situations like these, to be emphatically clear about my own personal boundaries after a show. However, those individuals that cross the line are responsible for their own actions. Old man, you knew better. I tried to be gracious and you took advantage of it. No more. Do better. There is no room for your brand of misogyny here.
A writer whose vagina should have little to nothing to do with how her work is received, in the same way that one wouldn’t expect special treatment for being a writer who happens to have an elbow.