Our bodies are not for the male gaze, especially on Mountain Day


“Oh my God, you guys look so great!”

Peals of laughter erupted from my four shirtless friends as they posed with their naked backs to the camera, fronts facing the beautiful landscape of the valley below. I couldn’t help but smile as they continued to pose in different angles, careful not to flash the camera.

I had just learned of the Mountain Day tradition that my friends were going to take part in: taking shirtless photos with their backs to the camera on a secluded ledge on the mountain. Since it was our first official Mountain Day, some of my friends jumped at the idea.

“I feel so free,” one of them said as she smiled at all of us.

Then, “I kind of feel naughty.” Laughter followed in response. With a couple more snaps from our designated photographers (three of us and our iPhones), my friends ran to quickly cover themselves with their abandoned clothes. And then we heard a noise.

Whipping our heads around to follow the sound of snickers from behind us, my heart dropped as I saw what was there: two men in their mid-20s looking up from their neatly-tied hammock in the cluster of trees behind the boulder. My friends watched with gaping eyes as the two men looked at each other to laugh. While my four friends scrambled to get dressed, my other friends and I attempted to help them, shielding their bodies for some privacy from the onlookers. We quickly walked away from the “secret” ledge and told an older student, who promptly went with some other students to their spot and asked them politely to leave.

“You guys are f--king terrible individuals,” one of the men spat. “You think just because you go to a feminist school down the road that you can kick us off a mountain? This isn’t your f--king mountain.” My skin crawled as I heard them yell this at the students confronting them.

“Thank you for packing up, we really appreciate it,” one of the students said.

“F--k you,” he responded.

I felt many emotions throughout this encounter. I felt exhilaration being with my fellow MoHos at the top of this mountain, celebrating a tradition that so many amazing women had participated in before me. I felt elated when my friends wanted to take a shirtless photo for their “finstas.” I felt absolute dread when I discovered that people had been watching us without our knowledge or consent. I felt fear when I saw and heard the men yell and curse out my friends and classmates. And I felt absolute blood-boiling anger when I heard the impact it had afterwards.

“I feel embarrassed.”

“I shouldn’t have done that.”

Why do we have to feel this way? Why must we feel embarrassed and ashamed of our bodies when men like that see us? Why must they have so much control over us? I am not angry that the men were there to hike. I understand that Skinner Mountain is for everyone, I understand that specific ledge may be well-known for its beautiful view, and I also understand that the men would of course have no way of knowing that Mountain Day was happening that day.

But what is unacceptable to me is the fact that the men saw tons of people strip and pose in front of them before we had come up, yet they still did not have the decency to move, let someone know or at least not look. Instead, they continued to watch, not considering how deeply this would affect us. And when they were confronted with this issue, they took offense and attacked us instead of reflecting and looking at the situation from a different point of view.

I am furious that in 2018 it is still hard for men to accept that a woman’s body does not belong to them. I am sick and tired that people like Brett Kavanaugh, Harvey Weinstein and Donald Trump are still given positions of power even with their predatory views on women and their bodies. Sexism is not dead. There are men who still believe a woman’s body is for the male gaze and that if someone says otherwise, it puts their masculinity in question.