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Sweetheart, please stop perpetuating the patriarchal dividend. It's SO over.
March 20, 2012 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Street, a project by Stop Street Harassment and Meet Us On the Street for International Anti-Street Harassment Week (which runs through the 24th).

Street harassment previously on MetaFilter: Just a Smack on the Ass, Schrödinger’s Rapist, Hey, Baby!
posted by The demon that lives in the air (197 comments total) 65 users marked this as a favorite

 
I like this a lot. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 8:18 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love the international focus of this project, and I love that so many people under 25 are being involved here in the US. Some of the photos and videos made me cry. People, man: we're the worst sometimes, and then other times we're the best.

Thanks for the FPP.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:20 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Amen.
posted by orange swan at 8:22 AM on March 20, 2012


This is great, thank you!
posted by marimeko at 8:24 AM on March 20, 2012


What I really love about this video is how incredibly useful it is, at least to me. I don't know about other people, but I'm really, really bad at real-life confrontation. It's really easy, on the internet, to talk a big game, because there's no real physical confrontation involved; but on the street, especially with strangers, you tend to withdraw a bit – at least I do. And it's really tough for me to confront people on stupid bullshit that they do. As much as I'm ashamed to say it, I think a lot of times I've just grimaced at racism and sexism and walked away feeling uncomfortable, instead of speaking up and saying something.

So this is so valuable, having a bunch of simple stuff I can memorize and just keep in mind so I don't walk away from a situation where I really need to say something. It becomes a whole lot easier to respond when you already have the words in your head and just have to spit them out.

Anyway, I just wanted to say that before I go back and watch this half a dozen more times. Thanks again.
posted by koeselitz at 8:30 AM on March 20, 2012 [16 favorites]


Well, that was refreshing! Thanks for posting this.
posted by kinnakeet at 8:34 AM on March 20, 2012


Like many women, I find street harassment both violating and infuriating. However, I do know some women who claim to like having comments about their body yelled at them by strange men. What's up with that?

Interesting video, if a bit unrealistic, but good on 'em for encouraging and modelling positive behaviour.
posted by Concordia at 8:38 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is a great video, and hearing about this issue from women on Metafilter has been one of my most eye-opening experiences on this site. Thanks for posting.
posted by Aizkolari at 8:41 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


A for effort. The execution left something to be desired, but if the idea was to get guys thinking about things they could say in these situations ahead of time, then it worked well. Because I imagine the first thing I'd hear back when I say "Please, man, stop" in a situation like this is "man, shut the fuck up". So then I think my response will be "EXACTLY!"
posted by cashman at 8:41 AM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


What's up with that?

I just categorize that with other kinks that I don't really understand but will nevertheless recognize as valid.
posted by elizardbits at 8:45 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


What's up with that?

If they raise you to believe that your sole value as a woman is in the way you look and how atractive you are, you will find it reasurring when men "flatter" you in the street.
posted by Tarumba at 8:51 AM on March 20, 2012 [27 favorites]


However, I do know some women who claim to like having comments about their body yelled at them by strange men. What's up with that?

Previously on MeFi: On Harassment and the Marking of Visible Womanhood
posted by cashman at 8:52 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


* which is why you should do the beauty comments asparingly to young girls, or mix them with other kinds of appreciation, like commenting on their wit or intelligence.
posted by Tarumba at 8:53 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


peer group pressure ain't all bad.
maybe the next one should be, "Shit Women Say to Women and Girls who like it when random Men Say Shit to them on the Street"
posted by philip-random at 8:54 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


The execution left something to be desired

Amen. The sort of personalities that need to hear this category of response are not the sort of personalities that respond well to a long-winded explanation (or for that matter, being called "sweetheart").
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 8:55 AM on March 20, 2012


Unintentionally funny.

Most men never say that shit.
posted by markkraft at 8:56 AM on March 20, 2012


True. But most of us don't stand up against it either, or not as much as we could, and that's what this video is trying to change.
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:00 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


So what do you do when you see this happen between a woman and harasser who are both strangers to you?

I've seen this happen a few times. I thought about saying something, but both times got the impression it would lead to a very one-sided fight.
posted by phrontist at 9:03 AM on March 20, 2012


To say nothing of the unavoidable white-knight vibe.
posted by phrontist at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'd go more with something like "Dude, keep it in your pants. And I'm talking about your mouth - just go suck yourself off before coming out in public." Now that's saying shit.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:04 AM on March 20, 2012


Yeah, most of what these guys say doesn't "sound right" when I think of how I interact with my heterosexual male friends or how they interact with one another. The stuff in the video mostly comes across as weak and pleading, probably the last thing someone who's calling out to girls on the street is going to respond well to.

"Shut the fuck up already" is one of the most effective lines I've used, but I'm a big guy who can get away with saying that to strangers.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:08 AM on March 20, 2012 [13 favorites]


elizardbits, I don't know if I'm reading you right... you said
"I just categorize that with other kinks that I don't really understand but will nevertheless recognize as valid."

It's not really the same as Man creates secret piss dungeon in public toilet, although I'm sure anyone who noticed was taken aback and some will have been offended, but I bet none of then felt threatened....we're talking about intimidation and verbal abuse on a non-complant patner. I see kinks as something healthy when shared compliantly. This is not a kink.
posted by Wilder at 9:10 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pseudoephedrine: Exactly. The kind of guy who is going to yell shit and random females is going to take any comment from another male as an affront, and feel the need to restore his pride by wailing on the aggressor.
posted by phrontist at 9:19 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, nothing appeals to catcalling douchebags like wussy pleading.
posted by Pathos Bill at 9:21 AM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Which is why this video is so implausible - do any of these guys really hang out with street harassers?
posted by phrontist at 9:22 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Right, got it. So we should say and do nothing, and not talk about it because we might get wedgies.
posted by cmoj at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thanks for posting this.
posted by zarq at 9:24 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Don't try this in Florida.
posted by demiurge at 9:25 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger.

I guess for women the huge problem is most of the guys who do this are a) not attractive, and b) a threat to their security, whether real or perceived. And c) when you do something like this, it's broadcasting the fact that you are unskilled with women and kind of creepy, which further adds to the unattractiveness of the stunt.

Although I guess thinking the same thoughts but not saying them out loud, and then coming to the rescue of damsel in distress is a good way to pick her up. A real man can respect women without putting a video out showing everyone hey look at me I respect women.
posted by banished at 9:27 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


cmoj: If you respond to what I said, I'll respond in kind.
posted by phrontist at 9:28 AM on March 20, 2012


Pseudoephedrine: Exactly. The kind of guy who is going to yell shit and random females is going to take any comment from another male as an affront, and feel the need to restore his pride by wailing on the aggressor.

Speaking only for myself, I'd rather someone who is that close to violence take it out on me, a guy in his 20s, than on a woman he decided was hot on the subway.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:29 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Do you really think those two cases are equally likely?
posted by smackfu at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


we're talking about intimidation and verbal abuse on a non-compliant patner.

Right, that's what catcalling is to YOU (and admittedly to most other people). But if some women genuinely enjoy it and do not feel threatened or abused, then I am not going to judge them for their enjoyment. There is already enough hatred and viciousness between women, we don't need to tell women who enjoy things we do not that they are somehow wrong or bad or "betraying all of womanhood" or something ridiculously divisive like that.

(plz note: I am in no way saying that YOU PERSONALLY are calling these women or any other women wrong or bad or destroyers of female solidarity.)
posted by elizardbits at 9:30 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I guess for women the huge problem is most of the guys who do this are a) not attractive, and b) a threat to their security, whether real or perceived. And c) when you do something like this, it's broadcasting the fact that you are unskilled with women and kind of creepy, which further adds to the unattractiveness of the stunt.

How else are you supposed to get money?
posted by shakespeherian at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Yeah I've known a couple guys who would have a few and step outside the bar for a smoke and immediately start trying to talk to any woman walking past. I always said "you're an idiot, you really think that is going to work?" What I realized is they weren't doing it to meet women, they were doing it to show off for the guys. So if I didn't go out and smoke with them they would just sit there fucking with their phone.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Most men never say that shit.
posted by markkraft at 4:56 PM on March 20


Of course they don't. Most men don't want to get stabbed.
posted by Decani at 9:31 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


not attractive

Guess what! Sexual harassment from really attractive people is just as bad! Being assaulted by attractive people or people you genuinely like is just as bad as being assaulted by ugly people you hate!
posted by elizardbits at 9:32 AM on March 20, 2012 [66 favorites]


Do you really think those two cases are equally likely?

No but I also don't think it's particularly likely that me telling someone to cut that shit out is going to get me beat up or stabbed. I've told strangers to go fuck themselves in the past when they've been harassing women in public, and most of them just go fuck off, and a couple of them have done the whole chest-beating You Wanna Fight With Me, Big Guy? thing but I have never been hurt in the slightest by this.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:35 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


banished: " I guess for women the huge problem is most of the guys who do this are a) not attractive, and b) a threat to their security, whether real or perceived. And c) when you do something like this, it's broadcasting the fact that you are unskilled with women and kind of creepy, which further adds to the unattractiveness of the stunt. "

I said this back in the Schroedinger's Rapist thread. I think it still holds true:
Catcalling sexually objectifies women, by solely emphasizing their physical attributes and attractiveness while de-emphasizing them as a person who has feelings and emotions. It is a form of sexism and perhaps dehumanization.

In general, sexism creates an environment in which abuse is acceptable behavior. That's why catcalling is threatening. At best, it is a disrespectful act. At worst, it is a sign of a potential abuser.

This is a deeper issue than whether the guy doing the catcalling is attractive or not.

banished: " Although I guess thinking the same thoughts but not saying them out loud, and then coming to the rescue of damsel in distress is a good way to pick her up. A real man can respect women without putting a video out showing everyone hey look at me I respect women."

A real man should also be capable of saying 'This is problematic' in a video to raise awareness without trying to boost their own ego or imaginary 'credit' with women.
posted by zarq at 9:36 AM on March 20, 2012 [25 favorites]


So what do you do when you see this happen between a woman and harasser who are both strangers to you?

I've done this! I'm female, fwiw, although even back when this happened I was frequently seen as male (despite my long flowing locks, which I no longer have).

What happened was this: a guy walking a few steps in front of me was making kissy noises and going hey baby, you're so fine etc. to the woman walking a few steps in front of him. She got very stiff and began to walk faster. I stepped up so I was even with the guy and I said, "So, does that work for you? Do you get a lot of dates from doing that?"

He looked at me, looked again, and then said "Shut up you fucking dyke bitch." (Or maybe he called me a cunt, I can't remember.)

I think this is a great project. If it encourages even one guy to say "Not cool, man" to his friends or acquaintances, that is good.
posted by rtha at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2012 [32 favorites]


Guess what! Sexual harassment from really attractive people is just as bad!

Well I suppose that what might be termed harrassment from an unattractive/unappealing person could be called flirting if it came from someone a person was attracted to.

Probably not catcalls, although as you said yourself there are women who enjoy it and I presume would therefore not consider even that to be harrassment.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:37 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


banished: “I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger.”

I'm going to say this as gently as possible: as a guy who has been subjected to sexual harassment from another guy, I think maybe you don't really know what you're talking about here, and it would be a good idea to just listen to women talking about how they feel about it and think about what it means before jumping to the conclusion that you would see it as a compliment.
posted by koeselitz at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [77 favorites]


What's up with that?
I first want to say I see all instances of street harassment just as street harassment: totally not OK.

One example that always confounds me are "titty bars". I have zero interest in going to one of these, but I have many friends, including female ones, who think there's a good time to be had in them. I don't think the solution is for me to change, nor do I think the solution is for my friends to change. I just chalk it up to difference.

In the case of sexual harassment, however, I don't think people who are turned off by being harassed should be subjected to it. One can choose to go to a bar; one cannot choose to avoid all would-be harassers.

My main points are that some targets of what-I-and-many-others-would-call harrassment will actually take pleasure in said harrassment (plate of beans version of Concordia's question) and that this pleasure-taking is not necassarily pathological.

Go figure.
posted by mistersquid at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Ad Hominem> Yeah, there's definitely a sense of showing off for the guys when guys catcall girls. That's why strong, authoritative disapproval using conventionally masculine ways of speaking works well there, and pleading doesn't.

"Shut the fuck up already."
"Cut that shit out."
"Keep that shit to yourself."

are all gonna get you much further than "Please stop!" They're also less likely to get you into a fight than "Please stop!" because the latter makes you sound weak, and people are way more likely to attack people they consider weak than ones they think are strong or authoritative.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger."

The analogous situation is not women catcalling you, but men catcalling you. How would you feel if a bunch of large angry unpredictable dudes started yelling aggressively sexual things at you, especially if they started chasing you down the street while they did?

You are thinking about someone small and harmless propositioning you in your position of safety and privilege but this bears NO RESEMBLANCE to the phenomenon we are discussing.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:41 AM on March 20, 2012 [69 favorites]


You know what I think would be more effective than "please stop" type comments? Comments that assume, like make a rock-hard deep-down culturally-rooted assumption, that catcalling at women is a thing that's only done by men with small penises who can't get any.

This isn't an assumption based on fact. It's an artificial assumption that has to be culture-jammed in, in place of the implicit assumption that catcallers are some kind of studs.

I don't mean saying "hey, I think you're catcalling at that women because you have a small penis". That's aggressive, bound to draw confrontation, and wouldn't change any behavior anyway.

Some of the examples in the video get at this, a bit. They don't say "you're being a dick" or "I think what you're doing is wrong". They say, e.g., "aww, MAN", with a particular inflection that indicates disgust and maybe a little pity, and embarrassment at being associated with the person.

That's what I think.
posted by gurple at 9:42 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


The video felt strangely toothless to me. Completely unconvincing.

This of course has nothing to do with how I feel about catcalls.
posted by sciencegeek at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I had to read that twice, as I thought it "shit men say to women who shit on the street" after my first attempt...and to which I thought "is this really that common of a problem?"
posted by hell toupee at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


Reggie Knoble: “Well I suppose that what might be termed harrassment from an unattractive/unappealing person could be called flirting if it came from someone a person was attracted to. Probably not catcalls, although as you said yourself there are women who enjoy it and I presume would therefore not consider even that to be harrassment.”

The point, really, is that there is no way to know if a random woman will be attracted by harassment, so it is flatly immoral to force it on them in the hopes that they will. Another form of this argument is this: there are women (and men) who have fantasies that involve being raped. But clearly raping people in the hope that they might possibly fall into that subset of people who fantasize about being raped is absolutely not acceptable.
posted by koeselitz at 9:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


as you said yourself there are women who enjoy it

I didn't actually claim to know of any, I was just responding to a comment above mine asking "what's up with that?" re: women who say they enjoy it. And yeah, I'm not going to pretend to understand that mindset, but I'm not going to judge how people get their happys as long as no one's getting hurt in ways they don't enjoy.



Well I suppose that what might be termed harrassment from an unattractive/unappealing person could be called flirting if it came from someone a person was attracted to.

This always seems to be the point that a lot of guys have trouble understanding, I think. Even if the person is someone to whom I would otherwise be attracted, when they are engaging with me in any way that is against my will, it is unpleasant and grotendous. It has nothing to do with their looks or their race or their age or any other thing that guys seem to glom on to as reasons for female disinterest - it's the blatant ignoring of boundaries and the persistence in forcing unwanted attentions where they're unwanted.
posted by elizardbits at 9:44 AM on March 20, 2012 [34 favorites]


koeselitz and Blasdelb, are you guys homophobic or what? I am a straight male, but I have had men hit on me on several occasions. Just because I'm not interested in the least doesn't mean I don't find it flattering. Not sure how the difference in sex of the person makes any difference here.
posted by banished at 9:45 AM on March 20, 2012


are you guys homophobic or what

Yeah, way to invalidate every last one of your arguments.
posted by elizardbits at 9:46 AM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I mean, yes, these seem wussy and un-macho, and if the goal is just to intimidate the harasser into submission then they aren't the best way to reach that goal.

But that doesn't have to be the sole goal. If you step in in any way at all, you're also:
  1. Stepping up as an eyewitness who gives a shit. The harasser is less likely to move up to following/threatening/physically intimidating his victim if he knows you're watching him.
  2. Basically just interrupting the script that the harasser is following. The guys who do this shit are absolutely following a script, and they're doing it because it's a cheap, reliable way to get a little thrill. Anything that makes it less cheap or less reliable for them is a net good.
  3. Letting the victim know that she isn't alone. You're not giving your tacit approval to what her harasser is doing, you're not about to start in catcalling her yourself, and you might be willing to e.g. call the police if the harasser steps up to any of the nasty shit in #1.
  4. Reminding other bystanders that they could have intervened too, and planting the idea in their head that maybe next time they should, that intervening is a thing that some people do when they witness this shit and that they should consider being one of those people.
I'd also wager that stepping in calmly is less likely to get you punched than stepping in aggressively. This isn't junior high school. You don't get punched in the face just for looking like a weenie. The world is full of adult men who look like weenies all the time — I'm one of them! — and lemme tell you, we don't just get whaled on every time our weeniedom becomes apparent.

And... well, again, the world is full of weenies. If the only options here were "full frontal macho assault" and "do nothing," I would be stuck doing nothing, because I just cannot do machismo. I don't have the body language, I don't have the verbal language, I can not confidently inhabit that persona — and trying to inhabit it without confidence is worse and far more dangerous than not trying at all. Honestly, there are really not many men in the world who do traditional working-class-style aggressive machismo of the sort that says "I could kick your ass if I wanted to, so just back down now." There are a lot more of us who have some other communication style that we actually use to stand up for the people we know and love. So why not use the same range of communication styles when we're standing up for strangers?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:48 AM on March 20, 2012 [48 favorites]


banished, please read at least part of at least one of the "previously" threads. The issue you're puzzled about isn't uncommon and it was addressed specifically and repeatedly in all three.
posted by dogrose at 9:51 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger.

There probably isn't. So maybe the best technique for you is to just believe us when we say we don't like that shit. You don't need to come up with how *you* would feel.
posted by rtha at 9:52 AM on March 20, 2012 [46 favorites]


This always seems to be the point that a lot of guys have trouble understanding, I think. Even if the person is someone to whom I would otherwise be attracted, when they are engaging with me in any way that is against my will, it is unpleasant and grotendous. It has nothing to do with their looks or their race or their age or any other thing that guys seem to glom on to as reasons for female disinterest - it's the blatant ignoring of boundaries and the persistence in forcing unwanted attentions where they're unwanted.

Yeah and I can get that.

My personal boundries pretty much involve anyone that isn't my partner or a relative can go and take a hike, so any attention is unwanted to me.

But I know there are other people, men and women, who enjoy flirting and paying attention to eachother and on an individual level you don't really know what any given stranger will or won't like and pretty people (of either sex/gender) seem to get an awful lot more leeway than non-pretty people in what they can get away with and when something becomes harrassment.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 9:52 AM on March 20, 2012


Technites!
posted by cazoo at 9:54 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I grew up with this in NYC. Even the cops do it. Dirty cops. Also, spotted Brooklyn Technite in gym hoodie. Represent!
posted by pez_LPhiE at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2012


banished: “koeselitz and Blasdelb, are you guys homophobic or what? I am a straight male, but I have had men hit on me on several occasions. Just because I'm not interested in the least doesn't mean I don't find it flattering. Not sure how the difference in sex of the person makes any difference here.”

I'm bi, thanks. Also, I want to point one thing out: "harassment" and "being hit on" are not the same thing. They may seem to be the same thing, and hitting on someone can even fall into the category of harassment, but having it implied privately or even semi-privately that someone would like to have sex with you is emphatically not the same thing as having it shouted at you publicly. Being hit on is being asked for sex; being harassed means being put in a position of inferiority, of subjection and submission, and being told to take it.

And, yeah, it's a little embarrassing, and I wrote it in the middle of the night after drinking a bit, but if you must know the little story of what happened to me you can read it here.
posted by koeselitz at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2012 [29 favorites]


There's also a vast difference between flirting and street harassment. That difference may vary from woman to woman, of course.

I, a dyke so dykey that's it's practically tattooed on my forehead, have been flirted with (by guys) outside clubs (people do weird things when it's dark and there's alcohol), and it's been fine and no big deal to me. I have also been catcalled and harassed by guys, and that is not fine, no matter what they look like.
posted by rtha at 9:55 AM on March 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


pretty people (of either sex/gender) seem to get an awful lot more leeway than non-pretty people in what they can get away with and when something becomes harassment.

I absolutely agree with this assessment, but possibly not in the same spirit as you're expressing? I mean, when you see rape cases (date rape and otherwise) where the accused rapist is a wealthy, attractive, privileged young man and the girl is of a lower socioeconomic class/a minority/not conventionally attractive, there is far less public outcry and far more handwaving and victim-blaming than when it's a wealthy attractive privileged young woman who has been allegedly assaulted by a guy who is of a lower socioeconomic class/a minority/not conventionally attractive. In this sense, yes, "pretty people" get a lot more leeway.
posted by elizardbits at 9:57 AM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


koeselitz and Blasdelb, are you guys homophobic or what? I am a straight male, but I have had men hit on me on several occasions. Just because I'm not interested in the least doesn't mean I don't find it flattering. Not sure how the difference in sex of the person makes any difference here.
I'm a man. I fuck men. Unwanted sexual advances from anyone creep me the fuck out. The guys who have catcalled me have also proven themselves willing to corner me someplace without witnesses, grope me without consent, try to follow me home, and do all sorts of other genuinely threatening shit.

It's cool that you don't find it inherently revolting when a man is attracted to you from a distance. It's cool that you don't assume gay men are all potential rapists — and it's awesome that you don't have any experience with the tiny subset who are. But trust me, if you've actually got cause to worry that a guy is going to pull any of that nonconsensual shit on you, getting catcalled quickly stops being a happy thing. Homophobia doesn't really have much to do with it. It's just concern for self-preservation at that point.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:01 AM on March 20, 2012 [31 favorites]


I absolutely agree with this assessment, but possibly not in the same spirit as you're expressing? I mean, when you see rape cases (date rape and otherwise) where the accused rapist is a wealthy, attractive, privileged young man and the girl is of a lower socioeconomic class/a minority/not conventionally attractive, there is far less public outcry and far more handwaving and victim-blaming than when it's a wealthy attractive privileged young woman who has been allegedly assaulted by a guy who is of a lower socioeconomic class/a minority/not conventionally attractive. In this sense, yes, "pretty people" get a lot more leeway.

That is probably correct.

The way I meant it was that I have seen men and women make approaches to people of the opposite gender and it goes gangbusters for the conventially attractive and goes down like a fart in a spacesuit for the less (or not at all) conventionally attractive.

The behaviour is often as near to identical as it is possible to be but the attractiveness of the person doing it can effect how it is taken. And people do seem to be harrassed by ugly people more than by attractive people.

Could be lots of reasons for that, but attractiveness does seem to be a factor.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 10:02 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well I suppose that what might be termed harassment from an unattractive/unappealing person could be called flirting if it came from someone a person was attracted to.

Speaking for myself, it does not matter how attractive the person is. The act itself is unattractive, and puts the person in the same camp as the fat fuck who, while rolling through the Burger King drive-through on my block, leaned out of his car to ask me, "How much for a blowjob?" Which is what you do when you see a woman wearing jeans, sneakers, and a raincoat, who's slogging home from work around 8 p.m. and is laden with grocery bags.

I don't think a lot of people see calling out to strangers as flirting, especially since it is often done in the context of amusing others. Even given your theoretical guy, who's so attractive as to be beyond any rules, the potential harm that catcalling can do seems to outweigh the momentary "good." If everything goes well, he maybe flatters a woman in passing. If it doesn't go well, he frightens and upsets someone, and maybe changes the way they're willing to dress or what streets they will try to avoid in the future. Is accomplishing the former really worth risking the latter?
posted by evidenceofabsence at 10:08 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


The thing is, Reggie, that it's a little weird to group catcalls and real good-faith flirtation together as "approaches." Catcalling is not just some sort of nonstandard getting-to-know-you icebreaker technique. It's not a way of getting to know someone at all.

People are more likely to flirt back if they get a good faith approach from someone good looking. That's because it's nice to make a genuine human connection with someone friendly and good looking who approaches you in good faith. But when someone shouts "Show us your tits, bitch" from a passing car, they're not offering you a genuine human connection. They could look like Ryan fucking Gosling and it would still be a nasty experience.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [31 favorites]


You know what I think would be more effective than "please stop" type comments? Comments that assume, like make a rock-hard deep-down culturally-rooted assumption, that catcalling at women is a thing that's only done by men with small penises who can't get any.


Bang on. Kinda like Seinfeld's take on morons who honk at women --"These guys are officially out of ideas". Probably singlehandedly reduced the ranks of honkers by half by pointing out their pathetic drive-by-dick-waving desperation to try something ANYTHING to get laid.
posted by Pathos Bill at 10:13 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


banished: "koeselitz and Blasdelb, are you guys homophobic or what? I am a straight male, but I have had men hit on me on several occasions. Just because I'm not interested in the least doesn't mean I don't find it flattering. Not sure how the difference in sex of the person makes any difference here."

As a not significantly large bisexual dude presenting person I've gotten to enjoy both male and female attention first hand, and there are differences.

I am larger, stronger and faster than most of the women who might be likely to take an interest in me, in almost any dispute I am more likely to be believed by most people who hear about it, if I develop negative feelings about her those feelings will likely be validated by the people who hear about them while hers would be more likely to be dismissed, people who know me and people who know nothing about me will work hard to imagine bizarre and convoluted scenarios in order to see me as not in the wrong should I act like an asshole.

On the other hand I am about the average size for a dude, and so suddenly need to worry about whether I could be overpowered, as a bottom I know most people will be more likely to identify with the top and believe them preferentially though not as dramatically as if I were female, my negative feelings about a relationship with a dude are more likely to be dismissed than validated, people who know me and people who know nothing about me will work hard to imagine bizarre and convoluted scenarios in order to see as being somehow in the wrong no matter how improperly my partner might act.

These power imbalances make unknown dudes, both gay and straight, FUCKING SCARY. I've never been groped in a club by a woman, never had a woman wait until I was drunk before cornering me in a dark hallway, never been chased by a woman, never had a woman not take no for an answer over and over again for an entire evening, never had a woman think that they are owed anything for the drink they just bought me, and never been screamed at by a woman for saying no.

I approach anything sexual with men I don't know very well in a very different way than I do with women I don't know very well, and for very good reasons.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2012 [31 favorites]


pretty people (of either sex/gender) seem to get an awful lot more leeway than non-pretty people in what they can get away with and when something becomes harassment.

This statement makes me think you are working from a different definition of street harassment than I am. Brad Pitt could tell me to 'oooh yeah, wiggle that ass for me, baby' (as I heard recently while walking home) and I would still be horrified, embarrassed, and ashamed of my body. Some people just really don't like sexual attention from strangers in public, and whether the stranger is 'hot' or not doesn't change that basic fact.
posted by Grafix at 10:14 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm not really grouping catcalls with flirting although I did remark ther are some women who like/don't hate the behaviour for whatever reason.

I was initially responding to the point that harrassment is equally bad regardless of attractiveness.

My response (which was probably expressed poorly) was that someone who is conventially attractive probably has to go further than someone who isn't in order to be considered a harrasser. I have certainly seen some examples of this phenomenon.
posted by Reggie Knoble at 10:15 AM on March 20, 2012


Is the video perfect? Nope. But just the fact that there is a pretty diverse group of guys who get that this is a problem and try to do something about it is awesome. Rock on.
posted by smirkette at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


"I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger."

How you would feel about it is of no relevance whatsoever.

This is a question of defaulting to the respect position, because you do not know how the woman feels about it. But you are a modern, culturally aware man and as such you do know that many - possibly even most - women do not like it at all, and that many feel actively intimidated by it. So you do not do it.

It is actually true that some women, in some sexual situations, say "no" when they mean "yes". I trust I do not need to spell out why we never assume that is what "no" means in those situations. We default to the respect position. We assume no means no. And if it happens that we, personally, might sometimes say "no" to a woman and actually mean "yes" we don't ever extrapolate that to all women. Do we?

This is the same deal.
posted by Decani at 10:17 AM on March 20, 2012 [27 favorites]


I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger.

I WISH that "comments regarding how hot my body looked" was all that happened.

Let us know how you'd feel if a stranger orderd you "get over here and suck me off, bitch!" or something like that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:18 AM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Reggie Knoble: “... when something becomes harrassment.”

I think that's the crux of this issue: when something becomes harassment. I don't think it's as vague as you seem to worry. A lot of us guys have this concern – what if I go too far? It seems like it's so easy to accidentally say the wrong thing in the wrong situation and suddenly it becomes harassment, right?

I don't think it works that way, though. Yes, it takes some thinking about it to recognize that harassment is a form of subjection and domination, and to recognize that in every case, but it is not in any sense a vague categorization. Harassment is harassment. It's the same as rape: if one person forces themselves on another person sexually without that person's consent, it doesn't even matter what the victim says about it. It's still rape, categorically, from a completely empirical perspective. Harassment can be empirically determined, too.
posted by koeselitz at 10:19 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


I am trying to think of an analogous situation where I would be upset by women shouting and catcalling comments regarding how hot my body looks in a tight shirt but I am really having trouble feigning anger.

But you see, it's not about you or your feelings: this is about the harassment of women, which is a huge problem, so it's about how most women feel.

Why women in general might feel differently about this issue than you do is a completely separate matter. If you genuinely wish to sympathize, then you have to actually take yourself out of your own experiences and immerse yourself in the experiences of the people who are going through this. This will help you get a feel for how they feel about it. Once you've gotten some sort of handle on how they say they actually feel, then it should be easier to make some more personal connection based on your own experience. But you won't get to understanding why this is so if you try to judge a woman's reaction from a man's point of view (that way lies dragons and mansplaining).
posted by smirkette at 10:26 AM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Last time I stood up for a freaked out woman on the bus that was being harassed by a really old, drunk drug addict on the bus, he followed me off and pulled a knife. The three men that got off with me just pulled out cellphones and started recording video. I calls the cops and that scared him off, but I shudder to think what could have happened if he was more committed. I got lucky. It was a big knife.


Not to say that we shouldn't continue to speak up, but I bought some mace. Just sayin.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:28 AM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


and I'm sure that woman is immensely grateful to you. He had a knife and could have raped and/or killed her.
posted by Tarumba at 10:35 AM on March 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


gurple: “You know what I think would be more effective than ‘please stop’ type comments? Comments that assume, like make a rock-hard deep-down culturally-rooted assumption, that catcalling at women is a thing that's only done by men with small penises who can't get any.”

I don't think this helps, and I don't agree.

I think my disagreement stems from what a lot of people here seem to be judging as "effectiveness." Effective at what? Yes, if the point of the exercise is to convince men who harass women on the street of the evil of their ways, and to show them the error of their ways and make sure they walk away certain that they'll never again victimize women, yeah, saying "please stop" is not "effective."

But I don't know if anything is. Nor does it necessarily need to be. The point of standing up and saying something when street harassment is to call it out in the moment and demonstrate publicly that it shouldn't be put up with. This is for the benefit of everyone involved – for the person being harassed, for other people who might have feared that they might be harassed, for people who just didn't know what to do, etc.

And I guess "don't harass other people or I will harass you" just doesn't seem like a very effective message to me on that count.
posted by koeselitz at 10:37 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Tarumba: that's what I tell myself. Sometimes I wonder if I didn't just make him more mad and scared, and maybe when he ran off after I started calling the cops, was even more motivated to keep using and look for a victim. I don't regret it, and I'd do it again, but these are the things that keep me up at night.
posted by lazaruslong at 10:41 AM on March 20, 2012


I like this - I think it would be a big help if more people spoke up to harassers - so many times I have been hounded on a busy street and nobody says anything. It is so alienating, it's like the whole world is saying "yea, we see they guy being a threatening asshole to you, but that's your problem, we don't care" the fact that bystanders don't care means that these guys can totally get away with it. The idea behind telling them "it's not ok" isn't to make them feel threatened and shut up right then, it's to give the idea that most people find their behaviour unacceptable. As long as people just stand by and let it happen, we are giving them our tacit approval. I have intervened a few times when I see other girls getting harassed, and as a 5'2" girl, I'm not exactly threatening, but it helps.

I guess for women the huge problem is most of the guys who do this are a) not attractive,

anyone who thinks this way, please please read the "previously" links, you'e really doing women a disservice when you say stuff like that, take the time, sit down and read with an open mind. Understanding how other people think, rather than just assuming you already know will only make you a better person.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 10:43 AM on March 20, 2012 [8 favorites]


You know what I think would be more effective than ‘please stop’ type comments? Comments that assume, like make a rock-hard deep-down culturally-rooted assumption, that catcalling at women is a thing that's only done by men with small penises who can't get any.

Actually, it strikes me that that kind of comment is more likely to invite a fight. Which would make the person less likely to stop harassers in the future.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:44 AM on March 20, 2012


"shit men say to women who shit on the street"

"So, Paula, how do you feel about winning the London Marathon again?"
posted by Grangousier at 10:50 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I guess for women the huge problem is most of the guys who do this are a) not attractive, and b) a threat to their security, whether real or perceived.

Attractiveness is irrelevant here. If someone who looked like George Clooney or Idris Elba was shouting at me on the street, I still wouldn't be flattered, because they were being inappropriate.

Going to the store to get a gallon of milk shouldn't be turned into a referendum on which strangers want to bang you. Ever.
posted by Sidhedevil at 10:56 AM on March 20, 2012 [28 favorites]


*pulls out phonecam, hits button*

"Say it again for the camera, eh Bob?"
posted by LogicalDash at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"I stepped up so I was even with the guy and I said, "So, does that work for you? Do you get a lot of dates from doing that?""

I love love love this.
posted by HopperFan at 11:19 AM on March 20, 2012


Objectification is hard to understand. Not the definition of it, but the reason why it's bad, or why we assume it's bad. If you've had the misfortune of getting treated like this on a regular basis, you've gotten lessons already. If you're male, you probably haven't.

Catcalling is objectifying because the caller is more concerned with the shape of the victim's body than, for instance, what she's doing or why. When this type of communication occurs between people who are in a romantic relationship, it's probably not "catcalling," because they've already worked out what they want from one another beyond ass, or whatever they're talking about. (There are exceptions, which I'd take as signs that the relationship isn't going well.) It's still objectifying, but the context of the relationship means that the object is still a person; the caller isn't (usually) going to forget that just because they're remarking on other aspects at the moment.

Whereas, when you catcall someone you don't know very well, you very well might forget anything about them you're not currently talking about. Supposing you don't, it's apparent that you currently consider their physical measurements to be higher priority than the rest of them. You have a limited time in which to communicate with this stranger (or acquaintance) and you've chosen to use it to talk about their butt.

They are unlikely to share your priorities. Exceptions exist, but mostly on Craigslist.
posted by LogicalDash at 11:28 AM on March 20, 2012


This Valentine's Day, as I was buying a card for my husband, a guy who was also shopping for a card in the husband/wife section looked me up and down and said, "Damn baby, I should be buying you a card!"

I was, as usual, flustered by the comment and hesitated for a minute and then said, "Dude, really? You think that'd work? With a card for my husband in my hand??"

The older gentleman who was beside me looking at cards as well, looked up at the guy and said, "Sir, it's gonna take way more than a card for you to get with a lady like this."

The guy started to play it off as being silly and he was just kidding around, but the temperature of the card aisle had dropped so quickly and it was obviously that everyone there was just not having it and he left.

Public shaming of assholes can work. Even in the card aisle of Walgreens.
posted by teleri025 at 11:30 AM on March 20, 2012 [52 favorites]


I think I've finally figured it out.

Guys who play devils advocate for this sort of thing, the whole "Well, *I* certainly wouldn't be bothered by catcalling, in fact I'd find it flattering!" or otherwise conflate unwanted verbal harassment with flirting, honestly can't tell the difference. I'm socially retarded as they come, but even I tend to err on the side of caution, when it comes to making people uncomfortable, especially women, especially women I find interesting or attractive and I would like to get to know better. It's baffling that there are men even more clueless than me, but then the Men's Rights brigade rolls right out of the Dr. Pepper Ten commercial to muddy the waters with "Hey now, some women LIKE this sort of thing!"

Of COURSE some women like this sort of thing, there are 3 BILLION of them, it's law of averages that some girls like getting shit yelled at by strangers. Some women might even like being raped or beaten. Many women like ice cream. I have a black friend (no really) who once told me that I could call her a 'nigger' if I wanted. Now, I admit I'm not up on African American issues, but I'm gonna take the word of most people that calling someone a 'nigger' generally is looked down upon, and this permission to do so only applies in this specific case with my friend, and even then, I STILL DIDN'T.

It's as if these men are so baffled by the idea that women are people with thoughts and feelings that courtship appears completely random, like lightning. You hear this from frustrated teenage boys like "Women love jerks, so I'M going to be a jerk!" They see absolutely no difference between Don Draper being charming and the cartoon construction worker yelling "How bout some fries with that shake?"

It's as though they honestly see women as these erratic gatekeepers, these cruel temptresses demanding that men do a series of rain dances until one of them deigns to alleviate their sexual frustration; It's why there are all these outrages whenever the subject of rape cases comes up, because you know, those damned tricky women! Even after I pass the test and she FINALLY lets me have sex, I can STILL go to jail if SHE feels like it! How unfair!

And I say again that I'm about as clueless as they come, but I swear some men are so backwards that they're taking the cargo cult approach to romance (Women like confidence, and what's more confident than yelling at a stranger?! Come on, that took guts and you're just gonna walk away from me?! Who the fuck do you think you are?!?!) Which would merely be sad if these clueless men and their frail egos didn't make life awful for the rest of the population.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:33 AM on March 20, 2012 [47 favorites]


I don't know why people continue to debate the "appropriateness" of any of this. It is NEVER appropriate to yell at someone on the street about ANYTHING. Ok, if they are about to step into traffic, THEN you can yell at them to stop.
posted by Kokopuff at 11:44 AM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Not sure if already mentioned in here, but I think the closest analogy for clueless men to use to understand the power/violence dynamics here is prison. Don't say anything to a strange woman on the streets that you wouldn't want said to you by some hardened thug on your first night in lock-up.
posted by SugarFreeGum at 11:48 AM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Okay, so. As a woman, who has -- let's just say assets -- that cause me to have to deal with catcalling when I'm walking somewhere. And I am of two minds about the gesture. On one hand, sometimes thinking back on it I feel flattered, like, if I were not attractive they wouldn't holler at me so hey, at least I've got that going for me. But while it's happening, it can be scary, it's definitely frustrating and annoying, and I would never for a moment consider actually trying to talk to anyone who thought that that was an acceptable means of starting a conversation with someone.

The video definitely has its problems. While some things the guys say in the video ("Dude. Not cool.") are things I can see one man saying to another, most of them strike me as things that one man could never say to another. The sentiment behind the video is great, but I think it's worth some experimentation and additional research to see if guys can come up with things they would actually say, instead of what they'd like to believe they'd say.
posted by Night_owl at 11:49 AM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I don't know why people continue to debate the "appropriateness" of any of this.

Actually, I think thta it may be because some people have a very sanitized view of what "street harrassment" actually is.

In some of these very threads, I've seen people react to some of the stories of actual harrassment with shock -- "wait, people are really saying that kind of thing?"

It's like people think street harrassers are saying things like "that's a lovely shirt you've got on today" or "your hair is gorgeous", and they sincerely just don't get that no, we're mostly talking about things like "let me suck your pussy" or "come ride my dick" or what-not.

Not that it actually matters what people say. But I definitely get the sense that we're reacting to compliments by calling it "street harrassment," and they genuinely don't get that no, it ain't compliments.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on March 20, 2012 [19 favorites]


Yeah, exactly.

FLIRTATION: someone on the street/in the park/on the train/outside a bar says to me "oh wow, you're wearing a $NERDY_THING shirt! I love $NERDY_THING! Have you seen/heard/read/watched their latest $NERDY_WORK?" while standing a socially-acceptable-for-conversation distance away from me in a friendly conversational nonthreating manner.

HARASSMENT: someone on the street/in the park/on the train/outside a bar says to me "You look like a slutty bitch, I'm going to fuck you in the shitter until you scream," while using their physical size to invade my personal space in a threatening manner.

I assume everyone can easily see the difference between these two descriptions of human social interaction that I personally have experienced.
posted by elizardbits at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2012 [12 favorites]


The sentiment behind the video is great, but I think it's worth some experimentation and additional research to see if guys can come up with things they would actually say, instead of what they'd like to believe they'd say.

Its one of these self-indulging projects that takes something that is kinda happening and turns it into "Hey, we're solving this problem!"

Yeah, just self-indulgent.
posted by karathrace at 12:17 PM on March 20, 2012


FLIRTATION: someone on the street/in the park/on the train/outside a bar says to me "oh wow, you're wearing a $NERDY_THING shirt! I love $NERDY_THING! Have you seen/heard/read/watched their latest $NERDY_WORK?" while standing a socially-acceptable-for-conversation distance away from me in a friendly conversational nonthreating manner.

Well, there is also the "whatcha readin?" variety of comments on trains, which has been discussed here previously at length. My takeaway (as a man, please correct me if I'm wrong) is that even these relatively more benign interactions aren't acceptable largely because the more vicious and persistent sorts of street harassers have ruined this sort of public interaction and have created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear where there otherwise wouldn't be. So ultimately we have the "show me your tits" assholes to blame for the fact that good-faith compliments aren't so great, either, at least in certain places like the train (as opposed to bars, social events, etc.)
posted by naju at 12:25 PM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


In my experience, it's always the weak or marginalized people who end up defending their own. It's never a big, strong, tough young white guy who stands up to catcallers, it's always some passing mother or old guy or even another young woman who comes to defend. This seems to apply in all sorts of "bystander" situations in public, even much more serious ones. My favorite comment from the hi, whatcha reading thread illustrates this point so well. (I also will never forget reading this article about the tower shooting at UT in the 60s, because it's another example that chokes me up every time I think of it)

"I thought I'd stepped on an electric cord because when you get shot, it feels like this
huge jolt," she said.
Tom reached out. "Baby!" he said, his term of affection for Claire.
"He didn't say anything else. And we both just fell to the ground. I had no idea he'd been
shot. I just knew he didn't talk again."
Tom was shot just below his neck on the left side.
Claire was shot in the hip, leaving a fist-sized hole. The bullet entered her stomach,
rupturing her colon and uterus.
Her nearly full-term baby, an active kicker, went still.
"I thought I felt something fall or slide down," she said. "And he didn't move anymore."
A man in a suit and tie walked by, and Claire pleaded: "Please help me!"
"Get up! What are you doing?" he snarled. Claire assumed that he thought she and Tom
were playing a joke or protesting the Vietnam War. "Get up!"
Tom didn't move, didn't talk. The young poet sporting his first mustache and a new $10
plaid shirt was dead.
As Whitman's spree went on, students gathered in doorways and other sheltered spots and
shouted warnings to Claire.
"We need to help that pregnant woman," someone said.
"No," someone else replied. "We've got to help the ones there's still hope for."
"Don't move," they told her more than once.
A student named Rita Jones ran out and lay down next to her, talking to Claire so she
would stay conscious.
(keep in mind that the spree shooting was still ongoing at that time)

I think it's important to remember that everyone can do something to help. "Bystander" action is something I feel strongly about in all situations, including disasters, bullying in schools, or anything really- and it isn't stressed enough. That's why I think this is a noble effort even if it's flawed. Anyway, sorry to digress. Carry on.
posted by quincunx at 12:27 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, yeah, this is very true. But to me, the defining line between flirtation and harassment is this: if I attempt to disengage from the person approaching me - no matter how politely and respectfully or appealingly or whateveringly - , and they refuse to end their contact with me despite my clearly expressed desire that they do so then they are harassing me, not flirting with me.
posted by elizardbits at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


Last time I stood up for a freaked out woman on the bus that was being harassed by a really old, drunk drug addict on the bus,

lasaruslong, thank you. you did a brave and risky thing to stand up for someone who needed help. People like you make the world a better place.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:37 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


if I were not attractive they wouldn't holler at me so hey, at least I've got that going for me.

But here's the thing...they still do. You can be butchy, or fat, or old, or waay young, flatchested, or handicapped, and get harassed. Because it's not really about how "attractive" you are, it's about power. Power that comes from being able to say whatever the fuck you want to a given class of people who can't generally do shit about it because they're scared of you.

It's a mean, petty, pathetic sort of power, but it's power, and to a subset of assholes, that's enough.
posted by emjaybee at 12:40 PM on March 20, 2012 [26 favorites]


Night_owl: “The video definitely has its problems. While some things the guys say in the video (‘Dude. Not cool.’) are things I can see one man saying to another, most of them strike me as things that one man could never say to another. The sentiment behind the video is great, but I think it's worth some experimentation and additional research to see if guys can come up with things they would actually say, instead of what they'd like to believe they'd say.”

I have mixed feelings about this, although I think I see what you mean. For me, there's exactly one thing in that video that I think I'd never say – the one about "sweetheart, you'r perpetuating the patriarchal dividend." I mean, I don't even know what a patriarchal dividend is, and I'm up on talking about rape culture and all that; and even if I did understand that, I sure as hell wouldn't say it on the street to another person who probably wouldn't get it at all.

But the rest of these things? I mean, I think they actually would be very good to say to someone in that situation. I especially like that there are retorts to arguments here: "I don't care how she's dressed, it's not okay." "No, it's not a compliment."

And part of the mixed feelings I feel about this comes from the sad feeling I get when I notice that many, many women seem to have come here and said 'this is neat, but these aren't things any man would say to another man.' I'm sad because I think they're right, and they know men all too well. That doesn't mean we shouldn't say these things to other men, though; and it sure as hell doesn't mean we can't. Even so, I understand the head-shaking sigh that men aren't likely to stand up and say this stuff.

I've had times when I've said things to other guys about how something they said or did was sexist. I'm not going to claim that those were as heroic or awesome as confronting somebody who'd engaged in street harassment, but I have said "yeah, that's not cool. It's sexist, and I think it's wrong" before to other guys. I will be honest and say that it made me extremely nervous, and I actually had to memorize what I was going to say beforehand and then push myself to spit it out. I am at least glad I've done that once or twice, and hopefully it will get easier.

And, as rtha said above, if this video helps even one guy to do that with his friends or even with a stranger, that's pretty fantastic.
posted by koeselitz at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Because it's not really about how "attractive" you are, it's about power.

The most vicious, threatening, disturbing street harassment I have ever received (and from numerous unrelated people within the same hour or so) was one evening when I'd been home with a vicious summer flu for 3-4 days, and hadn't showered or changed my clothes in that entire time. I went staggering out into the world to get more cold medicine, and between the 6 block walk to and from the duane reade, I had an unusual number of creepers approach me far more aggressively than I ever did back in my drunken tarty dressing days. It took me a while to figure out what, precisely, was so alluring about my sweaty, unkempt, snot-dribbly, wheezy self, but when I did figure it out, it was awful: I suspect the harassers were attracted to the fact that I looked ill and helpless and like I might not be able to fight them off successfully.
posted by elizardbits at 12:50 PM on March 20, 2012 [28 favorites]


I mean, sure, maybe there was a snot fetishist convention in the West Village that weekend but I really fucking doubt it.
posted by elizardbits at 12:51 PM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


Hm, I can think of two instances offhand where I engaged people who were saying shitty things. One was at a party where a guy was going off quite loudly about how "all the girls are such SLUTS here" and then I drunkenly told him that he had a bad attitude about women, and then that actually started a full-on conversation with this guy where I explained why that wasn't a good thing to say or think and he argued and so forth. I don't think he changed his mind, but that was interesting.

The other was a friend saying something objectifying. I don't remember what I said initially, but at one point I said "You have a sister. Would you like it if guys said that kind of thing to her?" And he replied "sure, she's an adult and she can handle herself" or something to that effect. So I guess that wasn't so successful. No one pulled a knife on me, and both lead to full-on conversations that required the other person to think, at least.
posted by naju at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've given talks on this topic to college freshmen. You'd be surprised who raises their hands when I ask the men in the room if they've done it, even once, ever. Then I ask, if you've done it this year, raise your hands. Then, this month. Then, this week. Finally, today.

At least half of the guys (19 years old, or so) raise their hands in round one. I'm sure some don't want to admit it and keep their hands down. We talk briefly about why and where and when they do it. We talk about what they say. They give examples. How they think women and girls feel when it happens.

What happens next is I ask the women in the room to raise their hands if it's happened to them. Ever. This year. This month. This week. Today. Nearly every woman raises her hand. Some of the women give examples of what they hear. When and where it happens. And how they feel.

Sure, in nearly every class, there is a woman who says, "But I like it," or "it makes me feel good to be complimented." But almost never more than one.

And the effect it has on the men? Well, long term, I can't say. But at least in the short term, they leave comment cards with things like, "I never knew" or "I'm going to stop doing this" or "I've never done this, but when my homeboy hangs out of a car window hooting in the middle of the night, I'm going to tell him to cut that shit out." Sure. Every now and then a note comes through that suggests I'm a jealous, frigid bitch. Or that I'm making a mountain out of a mole hill, because it's really not a big deal. But I keep giving these talks when I'm invited, because I think it's important.

These guys are College Freshman. Some of them wear polo shirts and khaki slacks. Some wear hooded sweatshirts. Some carry skateboards and some spend long hours in computer labs.

I'm a big believer that every possible type of intervention is necessary, because the more this message is clearly spread, the more effective it will be. It lines up very well with my assertion that the message about sexual violence needs to be less about "don't get victimized" and more about "don't be a perpetrator." The short skirts and being alone at night are not invitations, they are excuses, but that fact needs to be repeated over and over and over.
posted by bilabial at 1:02 PM on March 20, 2012 [63 favorites]


if I were not attractive they wouldn't holler at me so hey, at least I've got that going for me.

I really advice you to reconsider this opinion. At 12, in a catholic school uniform, no make up, body of a child and a bit overweight, with a terrible hairdo and huge glasses. A man whispered in my ear that he would destroy my v.

He RELISHED the horror in my face. Somehow, it didn't make me feel beautiful.
posted by Tarumba at 1:06 PM on March 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


I have only three things to say:

1. Street harassment is never about flirting. Who ever got a date that way? At best, it is about objectifying and demeaning the object. At worst, it is a warmup for an assault. For a zillion upsetting stories about how it feels to be the object, it is hard to top our famous Schrodinger's Rapist thread.

2. Whether or not everything said in this video is realistic, here's a huge standing ovation to these guys for making it, and sending the message that street harassment is the opposite of cool.

3. I wish all the people who feel the way the guys in the video do, and imho the vast majority of men do, would consider intervening when they see/hear this.
posted by bearwife at 1:14 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]



Well, there is also the "whatcha readin?" variety of comments on trains, which has been discussed here previously at length. My takeaway (as a man, please correct me if I'm wrong) is that even these relatively more benign interactions aren't acceptable largely because the more vicious and persistent sorts of street harassers have ruined this sort of public interaction and have created an atmosphere of intimidation and fear where there otherwise wouldn't be.


Bingo! Bingo, Bingo, BINGO!!

And then there are the trojan horse comments like, "Hey, is that coffee flavor good? . . . Would it be better with a little CREAM in it?" "Is that a good book? I love reading a good book . . . especially when I'm having my . . . blah blah blah . . . "
posted by jfwlucy at 1:19 PM on March 20, 2012 [4 favorites]


HARASSMENT: someone on the street/in the park/on the train/outside a bar says to me "You look like a slutty bitch, I'm going to fuck you in the shitter until you scream," while using their physical size to invade my personal space in a threatening manner.

That sounds like the kind of guy who needs to be told "Now come on, Winston, stop perpetuating a negative cultural stereotype of misogyny. It's not O.K."
posted by ShutterBun at 1:26 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


i was thinking maybe his nuts in a garlic press might have the desired effect but i suppose some gentle chiding might work too
posted by elizardbits at 1:34 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: “That sounds like the kind of guy who needs to be told ‘Now come on, Winston, stop perpetuating a negative cultural stereotype of misogyny. It's not O.K.’”

Yes, it's true that lots of guys who engage in the more egregious forms of harassment are beyond help. But speaking up is not for their benefit. It's for the benefit of everyone else in society, and serves to make it clear that that kind of thing is unacceptable.
posted by koeselitz at 1:34 PM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


But speaking up is not for their benefit. It's for the benefit of everyone else in society, and serves to make it clear that that kind of thing is unacceptable.

Exactly. That unrepentant racists exist and will likely always exist is not a reason to not call out racist behavior or speech. Ditto sexist behavior etc.
posted by rtha at 1:39 PM on March 20, 2012 [5 favorites]


Speaking up also reminds the target of the harassment that other people saw what happened and agree with her that it was not okay. This can be a reassuring reality check.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:42 PM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


i was thinking maybe his nuts in a garlic press might have the desired effect

I find that that can impart a slightly bitter flavor; minced is what I prefer, or sliced very thinly like Ray Liotta recommends in Goodfellas.
posted by jfwlucy at 2:23 PM on March 20, 2012


My father is a kind, empathetic, progressive man. He loves and respects the women in his life and cares about the equal treatment of women in the world. Still, I vividly remember being a young teenager in a bucolic small town when he gave me the equivalent of the advice to "lie back and think of England," should I ever find myself being cornered by a rapist.

I'm sure he fervently hoped that I would never be in that situation, but I suppose he knew it was a real possibility, and I'm sure his rationale was that he didn't want me to be killed. But I can't deny how much that hearing message from him reinforced a lesson I was already absorbing, that a woman's best course of action--for her and for everyone--is probably to submit.

Of course the problem is, when do I know that I'm "cornered"? When is the moment when my objections become a bigger risk to me than going along, hoping that I won't inadvertently escalate the situation? What do I do with my dad's advice if the guy I'm cornered by is a friend? What else, other than being killed, goes on the list of "things worse than unwanted sex?" Maybe it's a lot of things. It can certainly feel that way.

Men have made it clear that they would love to corner me at an 8th grade dance and in the stairway of my apartment building and on a country club golf course and in the subway and at an office party and as a child in gymnastics class and on a wide day-lit city street and in the bed of one of my "best" friends and I, as so many others here, could certainly go on. I have not always had a bystander who could say some shit to one of the men who says the kind of shit referenced in this video. But my heart will be warmed by every one who interrupts to ask "Is everything okay here?" and I'm going to try my damnedest to do the same for anyone else in that kind of situation.

And I'm going to work hard to think of something better to say to my niece when it's time for us have the kind of talk I had with my dad.
posted by argonauta at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


I just wanted to chime in here and say that I also found these to sound kind of wimpy and ineffectual. That said, I agree that saying anything is better than nothing. The problem though, is that if the cat-caller can convince himself that you're just a "pussy" or a "queer," he will likely continue his lewd behavior, unashamed. As others have mentioned, it's not just about correcting a cat-caller's behavior, but also showing solidarity. However, I think that you can accomplish both with a proper call out, thus lessening the chance that he will continue victimizing.

I actually have two friends who I've called out on this shit. One is an ex-marine frat boy type who usually starts in after we're bar hopping on Friday or Saturday nights and he's had a few drinks. The first time it happened I just said, "...and now what? She's supposed to jump in bed with you? ...fucking idiot." It got to him at the core, made him feel dumb, and he has since stopped (at least around me).
The other friend is an iron worker from way up in the sticks. We go out on motorcycle rides sometimes and I think he starts feeling macho and has to make a show of it. The problem with this guy's specific behavior is that he actually doesn't say anything at all, but telegraphs his thoughts/intentions with really aggressive and domineering posturing and body language. I actually find this creepier and harder to deal with than the straight up cat-calling; the hard staring, the licking of teeth. I can't imagine how the women he does this to must feel, but I always have to step in when I see it. He has a sister, so the first time I saw him bearing down on a woman we were passing on the street, I said "Knock it off dipshit, how'd you like to see some gorilla like yourself doing that to your sister?" I'd like to think I noticed a brief glimmer of sudden empathy at that point, but I still occasionally catch him being a creep. I think I'm going to try that "cat-callers have small dicks" thing that was mentioned upthread.
posted by Demogorgon at 3:22 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Yes, it's true that lots of guys who engage in the more egregious forms of harassment are beyond help. But speaking up is not for their benefit. It's for the benefit of everyone else in society, and serves to make it clear that that kind of thing is unacceptable.

Speaking up is also absolutely for the benefit of the woman being catcalled. I seriously cannot overemphasize how much of a fucking relief it would be to have a guy (or anyone else!) step up and say, "Hey, that's not okay," in any way, wimpy and ineffectual or not, when you're being harassed on the street. Because someone else stepping up means that you can maybe ease up on mentally running through your potential escape routes, can stop worrying about leading some harasser to your apartment/house/job in your effort to reach safety, can maybe ease up on your deathgrip on your pepperspray, etc. Street harassment makes a woman worried for her physical safety, full stop, period, end of story.
posted by yasaman at 3:31 PM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


I just wanted to chime in here and say that I also found these to sound kind of wimpy and ineffectual.

I was kind of assuming that this was the "cleaned-up" version of what the creators of this video were HOPING people would actually say. This was produced by a public-activist organization, don't forget; they didn't want to make any enemies from the "oh horrorz I can't take this seriously because the language is so rude" contingency.

"And she's supposed to jump in bed with you, idiot?" is quite the fine response, though. Kudos.

(Finally got a chance to watch the video now that i'm home from work; the clip of all the guys on the stoop groaning in unison actually made me laugh out loud.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:43 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Going to the store to get a gallon of milk shouldn't be turned into a referendum on which strangers want to bang you. Ever.

My "favorite" example of this, which I've probably shared before, happened in February of 2011.

I lived in the middle of downtown Providence, RI and there was a deli just downstairs from my house. It was indeed directly below my apartment, but to get there I had to go out the door and around the corner. No big deal. I frequented this deli very... frequently. Every single day.

The reason for that being that I was 38 weeks pregnant and did not have the energy to find alternate venues for sandwich consumption. Going downstairs was enough of a chore, heaven help me if I had to walk any further than a few blocks or even worse - try to wedge myself into my car.

Walking around downtown, I've always received quite a lot of male attention just for being female. It annoyed me, but I was pretty used to it. I also found that blissfully - being visibly pregnant made me invisible to the sort of man who liked to catcall. Except being outside in February with my coat, even the 38 week bump wasn't readily apparent. I just looked like a girl with a big coat. As I was going around the corner to go back up to my apartment, I saw a trio of young men and could feel one of them sizing me up... or rather... down.

He started at the face and started giving me a sort of smile... and then his eyes moved down... and he VERY QUICKLY looked away. However. He was not far away ENOUGH when he proclaimed to his compatriots: "MAN! If she wasn't pregnant!"

Yes. If I wasn't pregnant indeed I could have been the glorious recipient of that gentleman's affections. Oh, what a great loss for me that I was knocked up and thus unworthy of whatever witty repartee he had planned.
posted by sonika at 4:00 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


A little about the origin of the term, sexual harassment, coined in 1975.

Sexual harassment, the term, was coined in 1975 by a group of feminists at Cornell University who were working in the human relations office. They encountered a woman who had been sexually harassed in one of the science departments by her boss. He was doing things like putting his hand up her dress at office parties and trying to corner her. She was so distressed that she ultimately quit her job. When she couldn’t find another job she tried to apply for unemployment insurance but was turned down because they said she hadn’t quit for cause, she should have put up with her boss’s behavior.

Some years ago I read that the United States Army considered staring at somebody for more than 3 seconds to be sexual harassment. I cannot find that info anywhere and on the US Army website it says [pdf] only: Examples of nonverbal sexual harassment may include staring at someone (that is, ―"undressing someone with one’s eyes"), blowing kisses, winking, or licking one’s lips in a suggestive manner. Nonverbal sexual harassment also includes printed material (for example, displaying sexually oriented pictures or cartoons); using sexually oriented screen savers on one’s computer; or sending sexually oriented notes, letters, faxes, or e-mail.

When I've observed the typical street sexual harassment situation, I've assumed that men have auxiliary sex glands in their eyes and for the most part do not see - or feel entitled not to see - women as people, until something breaks through the sexualized - hard-wired ? pun intended - mindset and reminds a male that the woman he is staring at, overtly expressing lust for in any number of overt ways, is, in fact, a person as well as an orifice, only there for his delectation or criticism.

It hurts especially in a social situation to hear men critiquing females on The Orifice Worthiness Chart.

Getting past what I think of as the male orifice haze has, typically for me, been a somewhat humiliating experience as a female, who has faced verbal or physical harassment by men all my life from childhood on, first for being blonde, then for being attractive, then for being less attractive as I became older and fatter. It's a painful experience at either end of the pendulum, this only being seen as an orifice thing- either for being an attractive orifice or not being attractive enough as an orifice. Somewhere in a Mary Wollstonecraft book it talks about something like a woman's prettiness is basically about the importance of men's sexual gratification.

Another quote along the same lines: > Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

In any case, I'm profoundly grateful for this video and for the men who participated in it. My thanks goes out to all the men who do not indulge in or act out "the orifice haze" when seeing females.
posted by nickyskye at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2012 [10 favorites]


bilabial, have you seen any YouTube videos of the kind of talk you've given? It sounds like the hand-raising part would open a lot of eyes.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2012


"Please stop!" because the latter makes you sound weak

I found this quite an interesting sentiment, you know. I'm certainly not a hero by any definition, and physically I am somewhat elfish to say the least, but I have said "please stop" before, in what I felt was an authoritative, calm manner, with great result.

Contextualising responses in terms of "weakness" I think actually buys into the kind of discourse that makes catcalling and abuse possible. My experience, both formal and informal, of conflict resolution is that first and foremost you are trying to break the "conflict" script. Taking the situation off the railroads that certain responses and gestures are keeping it on. Putting it in a different discourse, or no discourse. Giving time for context to leach into these more ritualised situations, so people, stop and think, maybe get confused, maybe are ashamed - are anything but aggressive, in short.

Say "No, fuck YOU!" is the opposite of this. Fighting fire with fire when it comes to public confrontation is a terrible idea that will promote fight or flight actions. You are trying to divert and de-escalate, and create a situation where aggression of any kind is an inappropriate response socially. Making people feel threatened is a bad idea.

Saying "Please, stop", on the other hand, promotes a level of courtesy. It redirects anger from the victim to someone else, it puts the dialogue in a place where physical violence and oneupmanship is not appropriate.

Will the aggressor think you're a "pussy?" Quite probably. Will they mouth off and abuse you further in order to save face? Almost certainly. Will they respond to this "weak" display of sentiment with more aggression, more violence than if you had responded in kind? Probably not.

Defuse, contextualise, and divert. That is what you're trying to do with public confrontations, and in that context, I think a phrase like "Please, stop" is eminently suitable.
posted by smoke at 5:21 PM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Given that the men who stoop this low are most likely beyond help, I think that filming them is probably the best thing to do. Then do a ShitRedditSays style remix when you've got enough.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:36 PM on March 20, 2012


Hate to say it, but this is more like, "Shit we wish men say to men who say shit to women on the street."
posted by Chuffy at 5:48 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and, roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.

That's lovely, and chimes with something I've been thinking recently-- that efforts to try and make beauty more inclusive ("You're beautiful in your own way!" "Real beauty!" etc.) are pointless. It would be better to try and dethrone beauty as an ideal and dismiss it, instead of leaving it unchallenged as the best thing you can say about a woman. Telling me that I am "beautiful", for example, insults my intelligence: by standard measures-- which will not change-- I am not at all. But I can be many other things, and I'd like to leave the scale of beauty aside as something which is the province of youth.

posted by jokeefe at 6:01 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rustic Etrsucan,

I have not seen any YouTube videos of the kind of talk I've given. And I won't make one, because I want the conversation to remain candid without the, um, interference of the camera. I would be worried that some folks would ham it up for the audience and others would be shamed into total silence. It's hard enough to have this conversation with 100 of your peers and one stranger in the presence of your instructor.

It would probably make a great TED talk though, for an older crowd. And I bet hope some of the TED attendees might own up to the behavior.
posted by bilabial at 6:09 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Used of anything that's not a person, "beautiful" just means "aesthetically pleasing". I can say that a novel is beautiful even if its cover is ugly because I like what's expressed in it. So I think it'd be better to destigmatize the word by using it more broadly.
posted by LogicalDash at 6:18 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


On preview, what LogicalDish said.

It would be better to try and dethrone beauty as an ideal

Interesting point that. So much of what is enjoyable about reality is about beauty: beautiful music, beautiful landscapes, beautiful architecture, beautiful smells or sensations, words, turns of phrase, literature, beautiful experiences.

It's when beauty becomes the singularly most significant requisite for being valued as a female. It's when that is the most important compliment a female expects to hear from birth, "Beautiful!", dominating her identity, that's when beauty as an ideal becomes a sort of system of social imprisonment, a tool for dominating, manipulating human females. It's that female beauty, used as a female's social worth, has been basically all about kowtowing to male sexual gratification and in that way is a social abuse.
posted by nickyskye at 6:25 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Concordia: However, I do know some women who claim to like having comments about their body yelled at them by strange men

I've been thinking about this since I saw this come up in the On Harassment and The Marking of Visible Womanhood thread. OK, there are women who don't mind or actively enjoy what they consider to be...street appreciation. Fine.

So, the guys who sincerely think their whistles, kissy-kissy noises, "Hey baby" comments etc are compliments -- they should have no problem checking to make sure their attentions are welcome by sincerely asking the specific women they're targeting, "Hey, do you like it when I do/say this? I think it's a compliment. Do you?" Easy, respectful way to sort out the women who do, from those who don't.

Course, doing that requires acknowledging women as individuals and people deserving of respect. So most of these "But it's a compliment!" guys are unlikely to seriously consider it. Shit. What a helluva revolution would have to happen, for something like that to become...not likely, but merely imaginable. Instead of ludicrous.
posted by cybercoitus interruptus at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


>>Yeah, most of what these guys say doesn't "sound right" when I think of how I interact with my heterosexual male friends or how they interact with one another. The stuff in the video mostly comes across as weak and pleading, probably the last thing someone who's calling out to girls on the street is going to respond well to.

>Actually, it strikes me that that kind of comment is more likely to invite a fight. Which would make the person less likely to stop harassers in the future.


To the extent that these things are parallel, I think that just as we frequently remind men that they should defer to women's descriptions of street harassment, we should defer to men's descriptions of how male/male violence works. At this point in my life, I have pretty well attuned antennae for what will and what will not escalate violence with other men, in the same way that my partner knows what will and will not escalate a harasser. I've very seldom read a description of male/male violence by a woman in comments here that reads accurately to me; I think there are things you learn by living them, and if that's not your life you just aren't going to know them. I know a little about harassment from having girlfriends and a wife, but I'll never know it like someone who has to live it for real, you know?

The people in the video don't "sound right" to me, either, though that could be an east coast/west coast thing for all I know. On the fairly rare occasions that a) I'm around a situation of catcalling and b) it's feasible to say something, it's almost always a variation of "Dude, are you serious?" I'm emphasizing that he's out of bounds and that he should be feeling embarrassed that someone noticed his misbehavior. I'm not saying "please stop" as if I'm pleading for a favor, I'm not making some threat because neither of us is interested in a fight; I'm just trying to redefine the situation as one where he's shifted to the outside.
posted by Forktine at 7:11 PM on March 20, 2012 [3 favorites]


Re: beauty, and hoping I'm not contributing to a derail-- of course natural beauty as an aesthetic ideal wasn't what I was talking about. I meant purely beauty as an ideal of feminity, as a constructed, constantly moving target, to be longed for and never wholly achieved. I don't mean a full moon over a snowy field, or whatever image might strike us as "beautiful"; but beauty as the female ideal. As a thing to be. As worthiness, importance, status: all those things.
posted by jokeefe at 7:44 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


"You have a sister. Would you like it if guys said that kind of thing to her?"

THIS. I do believe men can influence their friends and associates with calm, serious remarks such as this - as well as some of those in the video. I don't think men should try to influence strange men by gallantly coming to the rescue of women being 'catcalled' on the street.

Women should take on the responsibility themselves. In fact, this thread illustrates one of the main challenges for women -- learning to own their power and to be assertive, rather than deferring to crippling male 'protection'. It is far more effective (and satisfying) for the WOMAN to confront the harasser (without anger or hate) and let him know how he is really affecting her day. This is something mothers and older women should be doing WITH young women; it is something that can be learned by example.

The opportunity to defuse intimidating threats with direct and kind commentary is far more responsible than defaulting to fighting or fleeing in anger and frustration. Perhaps that was all the video was really depicting. We can use our words.
posted by Surfurrus at 8:53 PM on March 20, 2012 [2 favorites]


It is far more effective (and satisfying) for the WOMAN to confront the harasser (without anger or hate) and let him know how he is really affecting her day.

Seriously, I would never get to work if I did this.
posted by sweetkid at 9:04 PM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm getting stuck in my usual funk about street harassment - I want to know how and why so MANY men are socialised to speak like this to anyone in public. Like, what age were they when they started doing this stuff to women in public spaces?

Guys who do this shit seem to take for granted the ease of a public declaration of whatever the fuck is going through the potty part of their brains at the time. It's such an ingrained cultural narcissism to assume it's okay to broadcast every stupid, grubby thing you think. I mean, I can't think why it's important for me to know what you, street asshole, thinks of my fuckability or non-fuckability. Write it in your diary or something. I don't feel like every time I go outside is a referendum on whether dumb fucks want to fuck me.
posted by honey-barbara at 9:33 PM on March 20, 2012 [6 favorites]


I tend to agree that the "white knight" thing is cringe-inducing, but at the same time I can't imagine myself just standing idly by if I saw someone being harassed in public. That just reinforces bad behavior and signals to the victim that bystanders are accepting. I wouldn't act like I was riding in and saving the day, but I would definitely have to speak up.
In fact, I'm trying to imagine fun things to say to shame a harasser who is a total stranger.

HIM: "Hey girl, lemme holler at you. HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA"

ME (approaching cat-caller to an uncomfortable closeness): "Are you going to get your cock out? Mind if I watch? Don't be shy, I'll wait. Just pretend like I'm not even here. Would it make you more comfortable if I got mine out too?"

HIM: ???

3: Profit!
posted by Demogorgon at 9:58 PM on March 20, 2012


It is far more effective (and satisfying) for the WOMAN to confront the harasser (without anger or hate) and let him know how he is really affecting her day.

I was with you up until the without anger part. There is nothing more satisfying than a guttural rage of "GO FUCK YOURSELF" that is forged within the deep recesses of my soul from the years and years and hundreds of inappropriate comments on the street. Not once has anyone retaliated to that because I'm sure I look like a psycho bitch when it comes out. As I've grown more confident and have perfected my "I'll fucking stab you" face, I've noticed that the harassment has died down. I think those kinds of "men" feed off of submissiveness.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:08 PM on March 20, 2012 [7 favorites]


Representing for my time in the South Bronx (about 10 years): 12:30 a.m., coming home from the late shift at the library job (the place closed at midnight), crossing Webster Avenue not far from East Fordham Road, and some guy passing by me from the other direction said something. And I'd had enough. So after he walked by, I flipped the bird over my shoulder. I heard, "heeeeyyyyyy." He didn't give chase. But it did tell me he wanted to see my reaction--and was just another bully. I also know I could have gotten lots of trouble. But my patience outweighed my common sense or fear.

So this video, even if toothless or implausible, comes across as some guys pretending to talk back to guys, and even as make-believe I wish they had my back.
posted by datawrangler at 10:36 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


Make that "impatience."
posted by datawrangler at 10:39 PM on March 20, 2012


But the rest of these things? I mean, I think they actually would be very good to say to someone in that situation. I especially like that there are retorts to arguments here: "I don't care how she's dressed, it's not okay." "No, it's not a compliment."

Koeselitz, I applaud your efforts. But most of the men I've been harassed by would do even worse than to laugh in your face if you said, "Please, stop?" the way the men in this video did. If the message is going to sink in at all, it has to sound like it's coming from someone they deem to be on their level. So I think something like, "Dude, not cool," or one of the examples you quoted, would be more effective than anything.

I know that this is a power trip for these guys. I'm always annoyed when my day is interrupted by something like this. I'm extremely lucky that I've never had to deal with anyone scary.
posted by Night_owl at 10:42 PM on March 20, 2012 [1 favorite]


It is far more effective (and satisfying) for the WOMAN to confront the harasser (without anger or hate) and let him know how he is really affecting her day.

It would be literally impossible for me to confront a street harasser without anger or hate. Because those are the effect harassment has on me. Also, it is NOT more effective, and it is often unsafe, for a woman to do so. You don't have any idea what you're talking about. A woman responding at all to street harassment is often seen as an invitation to harass her more. That's why most of us don't respond. But you don't get to tell any of us how to respond if/when we choose to.

White knighting is NOT the same thing as speaking out. If you expect some kind of reward for it, you're white knighting. If you're just doing the right thing, and letting the harassers know it's not acceptable behavior, then you're speaking out. The difference is only unclear to people who can't imagine doing something like this without expecting a reward of some kind.
posted by MadGastronomer at 11:41 PM on March 20, 2012 [9 favorites]


Nthing that a command or something to the effect of "hey not cool" is better than a plea.
posted by brujita at 11:45 PM on March 20, 2012


It would be literally impossible for me to confront a street harasser without anger or hate. Because those are the effect harassment has on me.

And that is the effect you carry with you whether you confront or not. It is very dangerous to allow oneself to feel like 'prey'. It is self-damaging to carry such feelings.

Also, it is NOT more effective, and it is often unsafe, for a woman to do so. You don't have any idea what you're talking about.

I can understand fear, and would not expect anyone to ignore it. However, I also know that much fear is learned. With experience, one can discern real danger from chest-pumping machismo on the street. My experience with street danger (and I do know what I am talking about) is akin to my experience with sharks -- the real danger comes from invisible, silent attacks -- not from the obvious. And, I will add, the only time I have had any real fear of street violence was when I was in the company of any male who felt he had to fend off violence instead of avoiding it (thereby, the male posturing became an invitation to violence!)

A woman responding at all to street harassment is often seen as an invitation to harass her more.

Yes, I've seen that when women answer with anger and hate - that attitude is seen as a challenge. I have never experienced it myself when I walked up to the man and quietly, sincerely pointed out that I felt his remarks were unkind and I asked how he would feel if his mother or sister were treated to such remarks. Most often I get abject apologies. Maintaining eye contact and listening to the men speak is hard, but after a few times I learned that this was something I needed to do for myself - to be able to walk away afterward with dignity and respect.

I don't tell anyone else how to respond; I only share what has worked for me and millions of other feminists over the decades (I did not invent this). And, as for men ... yes, I appreciate 'witnessing' a street incident (glowering is enough), but I, personally, would not appreciate a man stepping in and 'handling' my problems for me. I am of the generation who "took back the night" and have taught thousands of college students (and two generations of women in my family) how to safely walk dark city streets at night.
posted by Surfurrus at 12:45 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


Has anyone ever done a hidden camera video of "this is what happens to women when they walk to work" or something like that? I'd be genuinely interested in seeing what the reality is.
posted by ShutterBun at 3:00 AM on March 21, 2012


There was an FPP where women had small cameras attached to their buttal regions and it recorded men staring at their asses as they walked by.

I mean, I think this was a real thing and not just something I imagined.
posted by elizardbits at 4:00 AM on March 21, 2012


But most of the men I've been harassed by would do even worse than to laugh in your face if you said, "Please, stop?" the way the men in this video did.

....Again, I don't think the point of this video is "here is your script, guys". I think the point was "guys, seriously, just say SOMETHING for the love of God." Or even just, "guys, some of your friends think you're a dick when you do that."

I've seen that when women answer with anger and hate - that attitude is seen as a challenge. I have never experienced it myself when I walked up to the man and quietly, sincerely pointed out that I felt his remarks were unkind and I asked how he would feel if his mother or sister were treated to such remarks.

It's a case-by-case basis, I think -- I've tried the "do you talk to your mother that way?" approach, but was definitely angry, and the guy I was talking to cowered like a little baby. sometimes anger does work too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:05 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


Has anyone ever done a hidden camera video of "this is what happens to women when they walk to work" or something like that? I'd be genuinely interested in seeing what the reality is.

Spend time walking around outside with a woman. Make an arrangement to stay just behind her - about twenty feet should do it. Do this for a week. Be appalled.

When my now-husband and I started dating, I would often get to his apartment a certain amount of irritated by an unwelcome interaction on the street and he was honestly puzzled as to why it upset me rather than my finding it flattering. After a few months of dating and seeing the attention I got in the streets when he was with me he concluded "Wow, that has got to be seriously draining to deal with all the time." And this was just when he was around. No, his presence did not in any way stop the "Smile, lady!" and "Hey sugar!" comments. It only deterred the more aggressively threatening "Give me your number" and "Hey, get in my car" comments. And oh yes, more than once has a man tried to get me in his car - and I've honestly just been lucky that I was never actually forced into doing so.

Start paying attention when you're out with your girlfriends, sisters, and women friends. Hang out just in the background and see what happens. Doubly so if she's "pretty" or has a large chest. I know that my gigantic watermelon boobs are 80% of why I get so much unwanted attention. I'm attractive enough, but I'm no super model and I know that it wouldn't matter if I put a bag over my face, I'd still get some dude's running commentary on my sexual potential.

It's amazing the effect being a mother has on this. I got to the grocery store with my son and the only interactions from strangers are generally older people wanting to chat about the baby. I duck in without him and all of a sudden... the staring. The ogling. The "Hey girl!" It makes things way worse than I look younger than I am. I want to get a shirt that says "I'm 30, married, and have a baby. Just. No."

You want to see this in action, even just go to the grocery store with a female friend and check out in the next lane over. It's never fucking ending. Sure, those interactions are more subtle - but they're every bit as unwelcome when I JUST WANT TO GET MY YOGURT AND GO HOME THANK YOU VERY MUCH.
posted by sonika at 5:26 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


(I don't mean to imply that all interactions with men are unwelcome. I've had plenty of pleasant chit-chat with strangers that was in no way intrusive. Those interactions were free of sexual undertones. I can't quantify in words when it crosses the line other than "when the hair on the back of my neck stands up, you've gone too far." Men who are being truly innocent in wanting to have a conversation do not have this effect on me.)
posted by sonika at 5:28 AM on March 21, 2012


With experience, one can discern real danger from chest-pumping machismo on the street.

This may be true. For you. It may not be true for everyone. (Also, it may take a long time to get that experience. What are you supposed to do until you get it? You respond the best way you can, or not.)

Yes, I've seen that when women answer with anger and hate - that attitude is seen as a challenge.

This has been true for me. But it's also been seen as a challenge when I don't respond at all ("You too good to talk to me, bitch?") and when I've responded with simple requests like "Please leave me alone."

In my experience, the only rule is that no matter what you do, it might escalate the situation. Your action/reaction/response is not the only variable, and you can't control or predict what the guy or guys will do.
posted by rtha at 5:52 AM on March 21, 2012 [3 favorites]


It is very dangerous to allow oneself to feel like 'prey'. It is self-damaging to carry such feelings.


However, I also know that much fear is learned.

I understand what you're saying here and I know you mean well, but this sounds a bit like victim blaming to me. I don't know that it matters if you allow yourself to feel like prey or not, that's just kind of what is going on out there. The actions of these men, with their harassing and cat calling, are damaging and threatening to many women on an ongoing daily basis.

A few months ago I was on a date with this kind of out-there guy. We were kind of messing around dancing, being silly, and he picked me up and flipped me upside down, and held me there. My head was about an inch from a tile floor. This was in the middle of midtown NYC at about 7 pm on a weekday.

This guy was being goofy and not trying to hurt me, but I was REALLY unsettled. Seriously, I didn't know what was happening until I was upside down. My body had no chance to resist or even figure out what was up, he just picked me up and clean tipped me over. Completely upside down. If he'd dropped me I could have broken my neck.

Now I'm short and not overweight but I'm not tiny either. If you had asked me if such a thing were possible five minutes before, I would have said no, I would have been sure I would have resisted at least. But I had no time.

What I'm saying is you have no idea and no way to tell what's a threat and what's not, and what's the right thing to do. This guy could have broken my neck, and he wasn't even trying to hurt me, and wasn't in some sort of entitled rage about getting my attention. He already had it. What the hell might happen if I get in some guy's face after he's been screaming disgusting harassing things to me? And his friends have too?

As far as the video and about guys stepping in when they see harassment, I'm not saying guys need to "rescue" when they see these situations. I think this video really just shows guys that there IS something they can do, that this is their issue too.
posted by sweetkid at 6:48 AM on March 21, 2012


elizardbits it was an ad.

Bu ti've done this in real life (watched the faces of the crowd as a hot woman walks by) and it is sadlarious.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2012


so what's the patriarchal divisor
posted by LogicalDash at 7:35 AM on March 21, 2012


so what's the patriarchal divisor

Catcalling/street harassment is clearly one of them.
posted by immlass at 7:55 AM on March 21, 2012


Night_owl: “Koeselitz, I applaud your efforts. But most of the men I've been harassed by would do even worse than to laugh in your face if you said, ‘Please, stop?’ the way the men in this video did. If the message is going to sink in at all, it has to sound like it's coming from someone they deem to be on their level. So I think something like, ‘Dude, not cool,’ or one of the examples you quoted, would be more effective than anything.”

I think the difference is one of context. "Please stop" would work in certain contexts. The major contextual ambiguity in this video is whether the guy saying these things actually knows the aggressor. In some of them, he clearly does ("I can't take you anywhere!") whereas in others, I don't think it's clear. If I were hanging out with a guy and he harassed somebody, saying "PLEASE STOP," firmly, would have some effect. It probably wouldn't be the only thing I said, but if it were the first thing I was able to spit out, that would be okay.

If the aggressor was a random stranger, yeah. Maybe not the best opener. Still, better than saying nothing.
posted by koeselitz at 8:33 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]


I want to know how and why so MANY men are socialised to speak like this to anyone in public. Like, what age were they when they started doing this stuff to women in public spaces?

This intrigues me too. I do wonder how the hell you get trained to say random rude or even marginially nice things to strangers you see on the street. I mean, I was always taught to smile and nod, maybe say, "Hey. How ya doin?" if the person was familiar or something. To random strangers, it was always supposed to be just a nod of acknowledgement if they were the only other person on the sidewalk. Maybe, if it was outrageously stunning, tell them their purse is cute or if they have a dog mention that it's a sweet puppy. But never personal comments, and never, ever anything rude.

And it's not just men who make these random ass comments about people, my husband is extremely tall (6'9") and almost once a week someone will comment on his height. "Duuude! You're tall!" "You play ball?!" Hell, I even get some comments, "Damn girl! Where'd you find that fine man?"

Maybe it's just being raised in the South but I still find it hard to wrap my head around how people say shit like this to total strangers. It has gotten worse as we've moved North, but still...I just don't understand. Why can't we nod and smile and you keep your fucking comments to yourself?
posted by teleri025 at 9:05 AM on March 21, 2012 [1 favorite]




Holy hell. I just got onto a bus and I'm so furious I could spit. To set the scene: Sitting at a bus stop, knitting. There's a guy standing to my right and we'd chatted about which bus was coming and how we hoped it'd be on time.

I hear two toots. But I'm knitting and not in a part of town where I do anything except change busses. Keep knitting.

Longer honks. Keep knitting.

Honking and shouting. Look up, because maybe this is urgent.

Guy is hanging out his driver side window across the median, leering at me. Says he wants my number. Says he wants to taste my pussy tonight. Guy next to me does nothing.

I flip driver the bird and go back to knitting. It's a new pattern. I like it. I want to disappear.

Driver continues. "Fucking bitch. Listen to me. I like you."

I shout back, emboldened by this thread! "it's not a compliment, it's harassment! Don't do it again!"

He replies. "Fuck you."

I sat to the guy next to me, 'this happens way too often.' he blames the neighborhood. I say it's everywhere, usually not when guys are with me. He says, 'I guess everyone has their own take in things.' He doesn't want to talk about it. But I keep going. I tell him the loud stuff is scary, sure. But it's the quieter guys who whisper up close that really scare me. I tell him I wish more guys would tell their friends not to harass women. He just shrugs as the bus rolls up.

I want to cry.
posted by bilabial at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2012 [16 favorites]


Ah, Jesus.
posted by rtha at 5:24 PM on March 21, 2012


I admire the incredible restraint you showed by not burying a knitting needle in his eye and wiggling it around while screaming HOW YOU LIKE ME NOW MOTHERFUCKER

DO YOU STILL WANT ME

DEATHSPASM ONCE FOR YES AND TWICE FOR NO



Seriously sometimes I think the only reason I have not yet gone on a killing spree is because it just seems like so much work.
posted by elizardbits at 6:23 PM on March 21, 2012 [8 favorites]


He says, 'I guess everyone has their own take in things.'

What a fucking douche.
posted by smoke at 6:55 PM on March 21, 2012


Has anyone ever done a hidden camera video of "this is what happens to women when they walk to work" or something like that?

Actually yes... War Zone by Maggie Hadleigh-West.

It was done in the late 90's. My university hosted the filmmaker and held a screening. And a large contingent of middle Tennessee sorority and fraternity members, told her that she had been asking for it (by wearing a tank top), that it was a form of flattery, and that she was an uptight frigid bitch during the Q&A.
posted by kimdog at 7:22 PM on March 21, 2012 [6 favorites]


Wow kimdog. I watched the clip and want to see the whole thing now. The way she turned things on them is so interesting. The way the men are so offended by being confronted on their behavior...amazing.
posted by sweetkid at 7:34 PM on March 21, 2012


Women are for looking at, not listening to. Good to know, gross guys in video.
posted by sweetkid at 7:35 PM on March 21, 2012


After watching that video, I want to punch each and every single one of those smug-faced bastards in the dick.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 9:41 PM on March 21, 2012


Actually, the one thing that video was missing was -- footage of what the guys were saying, as they were saying it. The way it is, it's all too easy for a guy watching it to dismiss the whole thing as "oh, some feminazi is overreacting to a guy giving her a compliment!"

And it most likely was not "a compliment" she was reacting to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:25 AM on March 22, 2012


Yeah, the editing is kinda weird in that clip, but I did read most the transcript. It seems like in at least 1/2 the cases, the men didn't say anything at all but rather just looked at her. In the cases where they did say something, it was often "hi" or something else more innocuous than some the experiences shared in this thread.

But, hey, let's slice up their testicles after we punch them in groin anyway.
posted by Dano St at 7:19 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I live in Brooklyn and I'm consistently surprised at how my female friends deal so nonchalantly with the heckling they get in the streets. One girl was licked on the subway. Another was told (last week!), "Hey girl, as long as I have a face, you've got somewhere to sit."

That one really horrified me, but she rated it about a 6/10 in terms of outright awfulness.
posted by Septober at 8:54 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


bilabial: " He replies. "Fuck you."

I sat to the guy next to me, 'this happens way too often.' he blames the neighborhood. I say it's everywhere, usually not when guys are with me. He says, 'I guess everyone has their own take in things.' He doesn't want to talk about it. But I keep going. I tell him the loud stuff is scary, sure. But it's the quieter guys who whisper up close that really scare me. I tell him I wish more guys would tell their friends not to harass women. He just shrugs as the bus rolls up.
"

My god, they're BOTH assholes. Total fucking assholes. Douchebags. Bastards.

How is it possible to sit next to someone as they're being mistreated right in front of you and be so damned fearful, apathetic and unempathetic that you do nothing? WTF. Even if the guy looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger, that's your cue to step up. It's not 'the neighborhood.' It's a vicious cycle being perpetuated by people like him who don't give enough of a shit to say something. Who shrug and say, 'whatcha gonna do?' and then do nothing.

I'm sorry, bilabial. :(
posted by zarq at 8:59 AM on March 22, 2012


Dano St: “Yeah, the editing is kinda weird in that clip, but I did read most the transcript. It seems like in at least 1/2 the cases, the men didn't say anything at all but rather just looked at her. In the cases where they did say something, it was often "hi" or something else more innocuous than some the experiences shared in this thread. But, hey, let's slice up their testicles after we punch them in groin anyway.”

from transcript: “[VOICE OVER, men’s voices]
Voice 1: I said, ‘good morning, baby, I like your style.’
Voice 2: I said, ‘have a nice day. You’re very attractive.’
Voice 3: Mind if I walk with you?
Voice 4: Hey, yo, baby!
Voice 5: Happy Mother’s Day.
Voice 6: I said you’re good, that’s all.
Voice 7: You’re looking kind of old.
Voice 8: You got big legs.
Voice 9: She needs to get laid.
Voice 10: You ain’t got it like that.
Voice 11: Forget it, forget it, bitch”


This is not innocuous stuff.
posted by koeselitz at 9:54 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


    "Actually yes... War Zone by Maggie Hadleigh-West. It was done in the late 90's. My university hosted the filmmaker and held a screening. And a large contingent of middle Tennessee sorority and fraternity members, told her that she had been asking for it (by wearing a tank top), that it was a form of flattery, and that she was an uptight frigid bitch during the Q&A."
Wow, that film looks amazing.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:46 AM on March 22, 2012


Yeah, the editing is kinda weird in that clip, but I did read most the transcript. It seems like in at least 1/2 the cases, the men didn't say anything at all but rather just looked at her. In the cases where they did say something, it was often "hi" or something else more innocuous than some the experiences shared in this thread.

I read it too. It's really worth reading, and I wish I could see the whole film. I don't know what you're talking about.
posted by cmoj at 11:07 AM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is not innocuous stuff.

I don't think I said it was innocuous. I said it was "often ... more innocuous". Compared to some of the nastier comments women have received and shared in thread, I believe most of the 11 voices are indeed more innocuous. Happy Mother's Day doesn't seem as threatening to me as I'm going to fuck you in the shitter until you scream. YMMV I guess, but to me it's pretty self-evident.

I wish I could see the whole film.

You can. Looks for "View a Full-Length Preview".

I don't know what you're talking about.

Well, if you have something specific you don't understand, please feel free to ask.

My point was that many of the men filmed are merely turning their head as she walks by. They don't say anything. Most these men aren't interviewed, but a couple of them are such as the man she accuses of looking at her breasts and who just smiles sheepishly in response. I'm not sure of the film-maker's point for why she including men who are merely checking her out as she or they pass by in a film that ends with stories of attempted rape. I guess it's some sort of continuum thing, but I think such a comparison does a disservice to the goal of making our culture less threatening to women. A man turning his head at a pretty woman is not nearly the same thing as rape and linking them makes it easy to dismiss problem as inconsequential.

This becomes compounded when people engage in understandably cathartic but nevertheless violent fantasies about destroying male sexual organs. Mincing their balls, punching them in the dick, impaling their brains with knitting needles, etc. Some of these guys may deserve such threats, but the guy in the film observing the film-maker from behind plate glass, for instance, certainly doesn't. He poses no threat whatsoever. If he is to be considered as worthy of violent punishment and public shaming as some of the others, then I begin to wonder where the backlash would stop.
posted by Dano St at 12:13 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


That clip made me cringe. Her tactics are brutal - the filmmaker seems determined to humiliate and/or enrage men on the street. Maybe she was aiming for a dramatic conflict ('gotcha filmmaking') -- but she certainly wasn't seeking to teach men anything.

And, yes, I have anger about women being 'prey' on the street! I just don't see tactics like this will change any reasonable (teachable) man. I imagine it could even drive the unhinged males into becoming a seething hidden menace. As I said, I only really fear the silent, invisible threats.

Women are not victims unless they choose to be -- that is not a blaming statement; that is an empowering one. i choose not to fear or hate. Anyone else can as well. Men who cannot respect human dignity will change or will be isolated from those who do. I choose to respect all human dignity, so I choose to not lower myself to the level of those who cannot change.
posted by Surfurrus at 12:18 PM on March 22, 2012


Dano St: “My point was that many of the men filmed are merely turning their head as she walks by. They don't say anything... A man turning his head at a pretty woman is not nearly the same thing as rape and linking them makes it easy to dismiss problem as inconsequential.”

Wordless leering can sometimes be worse than shouting. Remember what bilabial mentioned above in her unfortunate story – that the ones who whisper are worse than those who shout – well, I think the body language of a leer can be very, very threatening, too. I understand that it can seem like nothing if no words are even spoken, but please recall that women who walk around in public and experience that often are forced to wonder about the possibilities and wonder if the stuff described at the end of page 11 on the transcript will happen to them.

And even if they avoid that fear, it seems as though constant leering can be an incredible psychological strain. What's been said here is true – we don't know what happened, unfortunately we can't see that part in the video – but there is a way to stare at a person's breasts or butt or whatever in a very threatening way, and even doing so in a "relatively innocuous" way sends a message of subjugation and enforces the staring person's dominant role on the person being stared at.

And, yes, I think those stares constitute a kind of harassment. Here's a sort of important moment in that transcript, I think:

“Man: Why do women wear revealing clothing, such as mini-skirts, skirts with slits up to the top showing their thighs and wear tight spandex like what you’re wearing and not expect a man to respond? That’s human nature. I think it’s something beautiful and I think that when God made women he made her with those curvatious curves and things like that to attract a man and I don’t see nothing wrong with looking at a woman. (To another woman) Young lady, you have a nice day.

Maggie Hadleigh-West: Women are seductive?

Man: They’re showing flesh, I mean…not seductive but, you know, it’s human nature. Did I harass that woman?

Maggie Hadleigh-West: I think you did.

Man: How? I did not harass her, I said, ‘good morning young lady, have a nice day.’ That’s harassment?

Maggie Hadleigh-West: Was it necessary to say it to her ass?

Man: Let me tell you something. I have women…of course…

Maggie Hadleigh-West: Of course what?

Man: I mean I had women harass me. I mean I’m not talking about harassing but say something to me.

Maggie Hadleigh-West: So why is it necessary to speak to her ass?

Man: Well, I’m saying I’m a man! I mean, I was looking at her face first and I said, ‘good morning young lady’ and I’m not saying I was looking at her ass but I turned around to see the response.

Maggie Hadleigh-West: Of her ass?

Man: No, I’m saying…excuse me it will never happen again. I’m gonna put on my Stevie Wonder glasses.”


One may feel that she's going overboard here, but she absolutely has a point. The way people speak to each other really matters. If you talk to someone's body, rather than to the person herself, that can constitute harassment, I think. And it can mean a lot more than "have a nice day." It's a constant reminder that you are sexualized and turned into an object. That seems like it would be an extremely threatening experience.

Dano St: “This becomes compounded when people engage in understandably cathartic but nevertheless violent fantasies about destroying male sexual organs. Mincing their balls, punching them in the dick, impaling their brains with knitting needles, etc. Some of these guys may deserve such threats, but the guy in the film observing the film-maker from behind plate glass, for instance, certainly doesn't. He poses no threat whatsoever. If he is to be considered as worthy of violent punishment and public shaming as some of the others, then I begin to wonder where the backlash would stop.”

Somehow I doubt that we're going to have a problem with roving gangs of feminists slicing up the testicles of every man they meet on the subway.

Surfurrus: “That clip made me cringe. Her tactics are brutal - the filmmaker seems determined to humiliate and/or enrage men on the street. Maybe she was aiming for a dramatic conflict ('gotcha filmmaking') -- but she certainly wasn't seeking to teach men anything.”

I agree – she certainly wasn't seeking to teach these men anything. But she stated that pretty clearly, I think. She said that she was drawn to using the camera because it was a weapon, a way to turn the male gaze back on itself when it threatened her and made her uncomfortable.

I don't say that I would do it the way Ms Handleigh-West did it. But I also think I can understand the relief and vindication one might feel if one were able to subject people that leered at one to a certain amount of video reality, to call them on it and say "why did you do that?"
posted by koeselitz at 12:49 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Sorry, her name is Hadleigh-West.)
posted by koeselitz at 12:50 PM on March 22, 2012


The way people speak to each other really matters.

Certainly. What's not apparent in the transcript but is pretty clear on film is that she is being confrontational and he is being jovial. His story is that he was saying "good morning" and turned to see her reply. Her story is that he was talking to her ass. It is only the fact that she is wielding the "weapon" that makes her story look more true than his. Why doesn't she just show us the entire exchange so that we can decide for ourselves?
posted by Dano St at 1:01 PM on March 22, 2012


Dano St: “What's not apparent in the transcript but is pretty clear on film is that she is being confrontational and he is being jovial. His story is that he was saying 'good morning' and turned to see her reply. Her story is that he was talking to her ass.”

That's not really true. His story is that women are built that way by God, and besides why else would they wear that kind of clothing, so of course it's okay to stare at them, and oh by the way I was just turning to see her reply. It's a limp excuse tacked onto a much more honest explanation of the fact that this gentleman thinks it's okay to stare at women. The claim that he is "being jovial" is at odds with the words he's actually saying.

“Why doesn't she just show us the entire exchange so that we can decide for ourselves?”

That's not editing. That's the fact that she didn't turn the camera on until the leering thing happened. This was the early 90s. It wasn't exactly easy for a lone woman with a camera to surreptitiously film the actions and stares of people around her as she walked down the street.

Besides – they admit that they were indeed staring; everybody agrees on what happened here. Obviously the instant the camera came on these guys were all smiles and "oh, I was just being friendly."

Shades of Flannery O'Connor: "he would have been a good man, if it had been somebody there to film him every minute of his life."
posted by koeselitz at 1:16 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Women are not victims unless they choose to be -- that is not a blaming statement; that is an empowering one.

Wow. no. Just stop.
posted by sweetkid at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Women are not victims unless they choose to be -- that is not a blaming statement; that is an empowering one.

Unless you're using the word 'victim' to mean, like, an attitude, this makes no sense.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:23 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't think victimization is an attitude, though. It's a fact.
posted by koeselitz at 1:32 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Women are not victims unless they choose to be -- that is not a blaming statement; that is an empowering one.

So the reason that a guy chased me out of a bar down a street hollering "why didn't you talk to me?" is because I CHOSE that to happen?

You may not be consorting with the people who "can't change," but wow have you ever "lowered yourself".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:40 PM on March 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


That's the fact that she didn't turn the camera on until the leering thing happened.

Did you watch the film? She is clearly not a lone woman. Most of the time she is not doing the filming but rather someone is filming her walking down the street from several yards behind. (I think I even remember a shot where the other camera person, and possibly another person, is visible ... but I am relying on memory at this point.)

Even if she were the lone camera person, you do not know any facts regarding what was filmed and what was edited.
posted by Dano St at 1:59 PM on March 22, 2012


Dano St: “Even if she were the lone camera person, you do not know any facts regarding what was filmed and what was edited.”

But the point is that nobody really disputed the facts! Aside from the first guy, who does not admit that he said "hey, beautiful," almost all of these men admit fully that they were either staring at her or said something to her. They admit this, and they try to defend it. If they didn't admit it, that would be one thing, and we could sit here wondering and probably give up because we'll never know. But as it is, everyone generally agrees in these videos on what happened. You can believe that all of them are lying, but that doesn't seem credible. It seems to make sense to believe that they did what they admit they did.
posted by koeselitz at 2:18 PM on March 22, 2012


That clip made me cringe. Her tactics are brutal - the filmmaker seems determined to humiliate and/or enrage men on the street.

So many women are humiliated and/or enraged by street harassment. The guys who do it usually claim that it's a compliment.

Women are not victims unless they choose to be

Why can't the guys she talks to just choose to feel proud for being the ones interviewed on film? Right? They haven't done anything to be ashamed of, so why feel enraged or humiliated? They get to be in a movie! This paragraph has a lot of hamburger in it.
posted by rtha at 2:19 PM on March 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Whew. Of all I wrote, the only return comments are about "victim". I'm afraid I've stepped into a snake pit here. Apparently the only acceptable discussion has to be one that validate anger, hate and fear (and "victim mentality").

If someone has an issue with me, I have to accept that I contributed to it. Yes, I was using "victim" instead of "victim mentality" ... bad shorthand. And, yes, I don't share extreme, male-hating, ranting rage about being harassed on the street - I've always been able to handle it myself. My bad? I guess being able to do that is an insult to everyone who does not or can not.

And, for the record, I really don't know why I have learned that when I see a man "leering" at me and I can return direct eye-contact that lets him know exactly where he stands (i.e., freezes him). I have never (never) had that line crossed after that.

I suspect having spent most of my life outside America has affected me on this topic, so I will remove myself from this conversation now.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:22 PM on March 22, 2012


But the point is that nobody really disputed the facts!

Dude said "good morning, young lady". Dude turned to look. Dude said he likes women's curve. Dude did not admit he was "talking to her ass". Dude actually denied it.

But, yeah, we've strayed pretty far from my original point and you think I'm missing yours. So I think I'm done here.
posted by Dano St at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2012


Surfurrus: “And, yes, I don't share extreme, male-hating, ranting rage about being harassed on the street - I've always been able to handle it myself.”

That seems a little bit like an unfair characterization of what people have been expressing here, but I guess I'm not sure.

“I suspect having spent most of my life outside America has affected me on this topic, so I will remove myself from this conversation now.”

People disagreed with you, some of them pretty strongly; but I don't think that means we hate you or think you're evil or anything like that. And I hope you don't feel like you have to leave the conversation just because we disagree.
posted by koeselitz at 2:27 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I've always been able to handle it myself. My bad? I guess being able to do that is an insult to everyone who does not or can not.

I'm genuinely very glad that you have been able to handle things yourself. That doesn't change the fact that things have happened that you've had to handle: actions done to you by other people against your will. The word for that is 'victim' and does not mean that you have to be extreme and male-hating. I am male myself.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:28 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's good that you are able to handle yourself when you're being harassed on the street. Some people can't handle it and they just want to turn away instead of standing their ground to face the harasser.

It reminds me of this person who posted on Metafilter an unpopular opinion. A lot of people gave them flack for it, so this person couldn't take it and decided to leave instead of standing their ground. At least this person didn't have to worry about getting physically attacked!
posted by Green With You at 2:36 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And, for the record, I really don't know why I have learned that when I see a man "leering" at me and I can return direct eye-contact that lets him know exactly where he stands (i.e., freezes him). I have never (never) had that line crossed after that.

And yet, when I've done the same thing, sometimes the line has been crossed!

We all want that guaranteed silver bullet thing that will metaphorically stop a harasser dead in their tracks. Unfortunately, that's not how it works.

The recounting of "Here's how I made it stop this one time" all too often gets turned into or interpreted as "Here's how I made it stop, what's the matter with you that you can't make it stop?" This is shitty and wrong.
posted by rtha at 2:39 PM on March 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Thank you for that, koeselitz. I appreciate your words, but it is not about disagreeing with the points as much as with the way anything not validating the hate mongering is attacked. There does not seem to be a place for my input.

And, anyway, this is such an old topic -- anyone at this day and age who doesn't know that women don't like street harassment is lying or living under a rock. I don't think this discussion is about growing or learning about anything deeper about this issue - as much as it is about sharing "Gawd, doncha hate ..." vignettes. I'm past that.

As I said, "If someone has an issue with me, I have to accept that I contributed to it."
posted by Surfurrus at 2:42 PM on March 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


rtha, for the record, I was not saying "Why can't you make it stop?" -- but I was asking why *anyone* thought increasing hate, humiliation and anger would. Abuse is about hate.
posted by Surfurrus at 2:43 PM on March 22, 2012


but I was asking why *anyone* thought increasing hate, humiliation and anger would. Abuse is about hate.

I guess from your perspective, based on your experience, any engagement with a harasser beyond a hard look increases hate, humiliation, and anger? Am I interpreting you correctly? That saying "Stop it" or "Leave me alone" or "Get away from me!" or "Why are you doing that?" is abusive?
posted by rtha at 2:48 PM on March 22, 2012


rtha, I refer to my comments about the film. I did not applaud it. I also refer to comments by others that seem to be seething and raging against men who harass. I don't applaud them.

And, no, of course 'hard looks' and strong words are not any more abusive of the harassing men than of the women who use them. One of my sorrows is the residual anger/hate in the woman after an angry confrontation; my original point was that it could be handled differently (for her own sake). We really cannot separate ourselves from those we 'attack'. BTW, I never said controlled confrontation is always possible -- I also said, "I can understand fear, and would not expect anyone to ignore it.".
posted by Surfurrus at 3:13 PM on March 22, 2012


I also refer to comments by others that seem to be seething and raging against men who harass. I don't applaud them.

that's as may be, but it was coming across as yet another person telling me that I didn't have the RIGHT to be angry. Yet another voice on top of all the ones telling me that girls should be sweet, or should lighten up, or should just suck it up and deal with it, or any one of the thousand of voices trying to socialize me out of not experiencing a genuine damn emotion.

bully for you if you don't get angry at this. I do, and I'm gonna go ahead and BE angry, thank you very much, and I will thank you not to judge me for having a a unique human response to being taken advantage of.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:22 PM on March 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


I also refer to comments by others that seem to be seething and raging against men who harass. I don't applaud them.

Yeah, sorry, but I do not give a winged majestic flying fuck if you disapprove of my anger towards men who have attempted to physically assault me, nor about my rage towards the ones who have succeeded. Have a super day!
posted by elizardbits at 5:04 PM on March 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


So, I was walking home one night along a main street, with more than 4 bags of supermarket shopping in my hands, and I'm kitted up like it's Antarctica, puffy jacket and a hat, even though it's not that cold.

And this distinctively short bald guy starts following me. "How much?"
WTF? What's his problem? I ignore him.
He starts making a bunch of comments, "How much? You a prostitute?" Blah, blah, blah.
I start wondering if he's picking on me because with all this shopping, it's gonna make it harder to be sufficiently threatening to this asshole. I can't quite remember what I said, just rounded on him and told him to fuck off, what was his problem etc. I don't even really remember what was said.
Just another night.

Thing is, I see him in the supermarket a few months later. And he's standing too close to this girl who is clearly a stranger, standing in a busy line. And ofcoursehassling her somehow, she's looking a bit bewildered and apologetic, and trying to exit the line to give him her place, and saying "Look, I didn't do that, I don't know what you mean", and he's blocking her escape route
Other people are just doing that thing where they looks away with a bored expression. And I'm pissed. He's harassing her, and putting the spotlight on her, and harassing women is obviously what he does for kicks.
So I walk over, and in that kind of 'talking to the room' voice, go - "Hey! Leave her alone! *surprise double-take* YOU'RE that guy who was calling me a prostitute while I was walking home with my shopping the other night!"
Thing is, his comments to me, had been *supposed* to put me in the victim position, under the spotlight, feeling exposed. I'm supposed to be ashamed or something, and instead, I'm loud, confident, and he's the one with the problem. And sure enough people aren't looking at me, they're looking at *him*.
Under the attention, he starts to wilt.
I said something like, "Is this what you do? Go round hassling women? You're pathetic".

He just kind of looks around, embarrassed by the attention, exactly the place he'd been trying to put his victims, and walks off. I go back to my shopping, and don't share any more than a knowing eyebrow raise with the girl he was harassing.

The catcalling is shaming from the shadows, putting a spotlight on the victim. Turning it around, and putting the harasser in the spotlight is one of the best ways to throw off the dynamic. And one of the best ways to do that, is for a third person to make it clear that the victim doesn't have the attention, the shame on them, it's the harasser. That they are making themselves obvious, a target of scorn and ridicule. And that is generally what they hate the most.
They know it has power, it's why they do it to other people.

So yeah. The best way to avoid "White Knighting" is to avoid the victim altogether, don't be another person putting her/him in the spotlight. Focus on the harasser, and make it clear he is bringing all the attention upon himself, and that his tactics haven't worked. It's great!

If you kill the dragon, the Princess can sort it out by herself, y'know? Trying to get attention from the victim, which is what the social "white knight" stereotype is, is just the otherside of the same coin.
And trust me, you will feel so, damn, badass.
posted by Elysum at 10:39 PM on March 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


It's as though they honestly see women as these erratic gatekeepers, these cruel temptresses demanding that men do a series of rain dances until one of them deigns to alleviate their sexual frustration; It's why there are all these outrages whenever the subject of rape cases comes up, because you know, those damned tricky women! Even after I pass the test and she FINALLY lets me have sex, I can STILL go to jail if SHE feels like it! How unfair!

Tangentially relevant to this discussion but more germane to Uther Bentrazor's perceptive observation in particular, a recent Cracked article - 5 Ways Modern Men are Trained to Hate Women.
posted by Devika at 8:59 PM on March 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Y'know, I've seen that "5 ways modern men..." article, and it sounded like excuse-making from men -- "it's our testosterone/upbringing, we can't help it!"

Except I know TONS of men who'd scoff and say "I don't have a problem keeping myself from acting like a knuckledragging throwback, you fucker."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:08 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anger is not fungible. Rage at women by men who want their attention when they want it is not equivalent to rage by women at those men. The causes are different: the former stems from sexual frustration that ought to be a private matter; the latter from harassment in the public sphere that cannot be kept private and has occasional physical consequences. The effects are different: the former, being pervasive, makes it difficult for a woman to tell if a rude man is just a rude man or if he's assessing her for rape; the latter makes the former apparent to those who would otherwise ignore it or diminish its significance. To suggest that both of these things are contributing to the same emotional pollution, even if correct, is to imply that the mood in the air is a more pressing problem than the various threats that pervasive misogyny hides. This is disingenuous.

In any case, I would not grant that rage and hatred are universally evil. Emotions in themselves are without moral weight. They may be good or bad for any particular purpose in any particular situation. If you wanted a dispassionate discourse about the difficulties of catcalling, then you're right to be disappointed by the thread and the video. If you wanted a video to show you how to engage with street harassers dispassionately, I doubt that such a thing is possible.
posted by LogicalDash at 5:26 AM on March 28, 2012 [1 favorite]


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