Hi, Matthew, thanks for writing! This is an interesting piece.
I think you’d be surprised how many women are exactly aware of what you’re talking about; I would be surprised if it isn’t all of us.
My experience of being a woman it’s that it’s a constant process of self-interrogating image management — I am always asking myself what I’m projecting, how people are seeing me.
When I’m out, I ask: Am I creepy? Prim? Too quiet? Too loud? Am I making too much eye contact with this person, so they’ll think I’m interested in having sex with them? Too little eye contact so they’ll be offended? Wrong facial expression? Will looking wrong at this guy get me yelled at, or attacked? Does this woman know I’m a lesbian? Does that make her uncomfortable?
When I’m talking to my kid, I ask: Is this good advice? Am I modeling good behaviors? Can I swear about stuff now that he’s an adult? Is that allowed?
When I’m at work: is this the right outfit? Am I making that person uncomfortable? Is that man hitting on me? If I say something, will he just tell me I’m nuts?
It’s worse because I’m fat. Maybe it’s mostly because I’m fat. I know that’s why I have to be as small as possible on the bus and try never to eat in public.
I would say you’re lucky you only have to worry about where your own gaze is focused; I spend a lot of time thinking about mine and other people’s, too.