The Gender Gap Of Showing Some Skin

For guys, there's nothing complicated about summer style. All you really need to do is keep it simple, remember to wear deodorant and stick to a few basic rules. According to almost every guide to the male summer wardrobe, your shirt shouldn't be unbuttoned too low and your shorts shouldn't be too short because "nobody wants to see that, bro." "That", of course, means "your body," which is your body and no one else's, and you should keep it to yourself. As far as menswear conventions are concerned, it'd be a little weird for a grown ass man to walk around with his legs entirely exposed. That said, if you want to break the rules, the costs are pretty minimal: You might experience a little side-eye and your friends might crack a few jokes. Regardless, you can still freely walk down the street minding your own business.

For some guys, summer is also a blessed time because it's the season when girls wear sundresses and tiny shorts. Women's bodies aren't like men's bodies—people do want to see "that." In fact, sometimes it feels like men consider women's bodies part of the summer scenery, like you think we exist for the enjoyment of your eyeballs. Maybe you think there's no harm in checking women out on the street, but even if you try to be discreet about it by hiding behind sunglasses or whatever smooth move you read about on the Internet, it's pretty obvious and bothersome. Or maybe you're bold and unashamed about it. Maybe you've even yelled, "Hey, how you doin?" or "where ya goin'?" or "hey, sweet thing" at a woman while you were hanging out of the passenger side of your best friend's ride, trying to holler at her.

"Look, Emily Lever, if that even is your real name," you might want to say in your gruffest voice, "Some women show a lot of skin because they want and enjoy male attention." This is true, but hardly universal. While some of them might revel in every man's approving stare, some (or most) might just want attention from a guy they know will be at a party they're on their way to, not from every single lonely thirst monster sitting on the terrace of a bar at happy hour. You can't read minds. Maybe that woman over there is wearing shorts because, like you, she just likes to feel the breeze against her legs. Maybe she wants some vitamin D, and—NOPE—not that kind of vitamin D. When you assume your attention is always welcome, you contribute to the unsettling climate that can ruin summer for most women.

Funny thing is, no matter how I dress, there are still fuccbois around to catcall me.

I like to wear shorts and crop tops when it's hot out because I don't want to feel muggy and sweaty, but I hardly ever go out dressed like that. My desire for physical comfort is diluted tenfold into an unease I'm no longer really conscious of anymore. It's become second nature. I just know that if I leave my building wearing shorts with a 2" inseam I'll regret it because a temperature-appropriate outfit will make me feel too exposed. All it takes to ruin an otherwise pleasant walk to the train is a group of guys who always hang out on a street corner I have to pass on my way, and their laser focus on me every time I walk by. I become acutely conscious of my legs. A minute ago they were just the limbs that got me from point A to point B and, all of a sudden, they're a woman's legs walking down the street in a pair of cutoff shorts, fair game to be stared at. The men always stand on either side of the sidewalk, so I have to walk between them, an arm's length away from those two dudes, which is uncomfortably close. It's hardly a life or death situation, but it's an every single day situation, whether I'm walking past that corner, or getting catcalled by some dude as he drives past me, or even sitting on the subway by myself as night falls. It's a familiar routine: I get unsolicited greetings, comments, or so-called compliments, I'm unsettled and my first urge is to cover up my body without making it seem like that's what I'm trying to do because then they know they've gotten my attention and that means they winIt's like schoolyard bullying, complete with my mom's constant insistence that it just means they like me. So I ignore whoever's harassing me until he's far away. Then I spend a while wishing I could make myself very small and disappear. I need to talk myself down for a little bit and tell myself I shouldn't let the 1 or 2% of dudes who have no boundaries spoil my day or prevent me from dressing comfortably. I've gotten good at reassuring myself, but I've still left my skirts and dresses to gather dust in my closet. I go out in jeans and over-sized shirts because, OK, I'm a little bit scared. Funny thing is, no matter how I dress, there are still fuccbois around to catcall me.

Maybe this disparity between how men and women are treated in public isn't actually about the amount of skin exposed. Think of our dads in the 70s, rocking shorts almost as short as Rihanna's. (Or don't. Sorry for that mental image.) They were dressing according to common norms just like women do when they wear sundresses, but they weren't made to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable for occupying a public space. If some men think, consciously or not, that women exist for men to stare at—if they don't think about whether women appreciate it or not—then the season of watermelon and ice cold beers will always be first and foremost the season of the fuccboi scrub. So get it together. Stop intruding on females' personal space. Let everyone enjoy their summer.

Emily Lever is a French-American writer who wishes she led a life of adventure. You can follow her on Twitter here.