“I felt so tiny in that moment”

Today I learned the word ‘gunt’.

I’m not entirely sure what it means, but I heard it from the chefs who work in the canteen I serve at.

They were sitting in the corner of the room, cackling and whispering to each other while I wiped down the tables. I could only hear snippets of their conversation, but I learned that they would like to do some distinctly horrible things to women, and that one of them particularly likes ‘curvy girls’. I then heard the word ‘gunt’, followed by childish, schoolyard snickering.

Now this is probably going to sound a bit self-involved, but I am pretty sure they were talking about me. These are not quiet men. They are loud when they discuss their menus, they are loud when they shout at us for not telling them when the buffet cart is running low, and they are loud when they are barking for service. But at this moment, huddled in their corner, they were speaking in – what I presumed they thought were – hushed tones. So I can only presume that they didn’t want me to hear, which means they were either talking about me or about someone I know. Every time I looked over, they snickered even harder. Some things they muttered quietly, about the kinds of things they like doing to women. Other times, I think they knew I could hear. And when a girl is bent over wiping a table, wearing a uniform and an apron, and a man says quite loudly that he’s ‘into curvy girls’, I’m not thick. I can do the math.

Ironically given that comment, I felt so tiny in that moment. I am a feminist, the sort of feminist who calls out cat-callers in the street and swears at speeding cars who honk their horns. I am loud and stubborn and I speak my mind. I have always assumed that I am the sort of person who, when faced with sexist behaviour in the workplace, would call someone out and stand up to them. But in that moment I felt so tiny and small, and because there were only three of us in the room, and because I could only hear snippets of what was being said so I didn’t feel I could falsely accuse, and because their jobs are worth much, much more than mine, I said nothing. I felt belittled and ridiculed in my stupid outfit and tied back hair. I said nothing but blushed and looked away.

It was a low point. I felt insecure the rest of the day. And I’m not super confident at the best of times. I kept dwelling on being sexualised and called ‘curvy’, not in a nice way (if there is a nice way) but in a way that made me feel like a piece of meat that ought to be grateful. Because ‘curvy girls’ aren’t the normal type to be sexualised and idolised. Because if you like ‘curvy girls’ you have to justify yourself. Because curvy girls have curvy vaginas. ‘Gunts’ if you will.

I mean, fuck. It’s just plain fucked up. No wonder women are riddled with insecurities if this is how we are spoken about by men All. The. Time. Women sexualise men, sure, but it’s not the same. For starters a group of girls in a superior position in the work place wouldn’t sit in a corner snickering about the things they’d like to do the curvy boy cleaning tables alone. Some mean girls may say mean things about him, sure. But not in a sexual way. Not in a way that is degrading. The sort of degrading that makes you feel violated and vulnerable all the same time. Because this back-handed compliment ‘I like curvy girls’ from the tattooed, chiseled, slack talking chef was one of the most degrading things I have ever heard said about me, purely because of all the things it implied. And it felt really shitty.