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The Street Harassment Project
October 3, 2002 2:31 PM   Subscribe

The Street Harassment Project sounds like a pretty good thing. Street harassment has been a crusade for my girlfriend for some time now, and it looks like she's not alone.
posted by The Michael The (154 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't really like lines like "Street harassment is the patriarchy flexing its muscles," considering I'm a male and I'm doing no such thing, but I understand the point.

They seem to take a more reasonable stance here: "Granted, all men don't define their masculinity or assert their supposed supremacy by dehumanizing women, or anyone else for that matter. I've watched men all over the country go about living without forcing sexual opinions and observations on every woman that walks past."

But then at the same place: "But those "good guys" have a responsibility here, too. Because silence equals acceptance, I urge men to actively challenge other men, including their friends, when they witness women being harassed on the street. Until that happens, I must continue to struggle against stereotyping every man as an "enemy" on par with those guys outside the sandwich shop. "

Sorry I'm a male, jeez. Does silence really equal acceptance, especially considering it's probably 5% of guys that say those things? Speeches like that turn me off to otherwise-great causes.
posted by The Michael The at 2:39 PM on October 3, 2002


Since when were public streets my "turf"?

Fuck these femi-nazis. (Hey, if they can generalize, so can I.)
posted by Dark Messiah at 2:49 PM on October 3, 2002


I know what you mean with the "speeches like that..." comment, TMT, but it's bound to happen with most any group that is focused on one certain goal, almost blindly. I've had opportunities to explain to people why certain comments aren't acceptable, or help female friends of mine out when they are being hit on by a guy that they would rather just go away. Sometimes I do the right thing, sometimes I don't. The times I don't I wind up feeling pretty guilty.

I'm pro this cause, but these ladies have one hell of an uphill battle ahead of them.

And for the hell of it, Song For The Man by the Beastie Boys, a song written by Ad Rock after seeing two guys on a subway in NYC rate women publicly as they walked by on a 1 - 10 scale.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:49 PM on October 3, 2002


damn, dangling modifier much? Sorry. That should have read:

A song written by Ad Rock after seeing two guys on a subway in NYC rating women on a 1 - 10 scale as the women passed by.
posted by Ufez Jones at 2:52 PM on October 3, 2002


Dude. This is your girlfriend? I feel sorry for you. Look, there was a time when women wanted equality. Great. Now some women want revenge. They want more than equality they want superiority, pay back. If she really liked you she wouldnt try to change you. How about an organization that protests %80 of all rapes in prison are commited on males. You dont see many women sticking up for the victims of male rape. Why is that? That qualifies as sexual harrasment in my book. If she really cared about "victims" she might.
posted by stbalbach at 2:53 PM on October 3, 2002


I had an argument about this very topic recently with a friend of a friend. He claimed that attempts to explain harassment in terms of power dynamics were silly because most of these guys weren't thinking anything deeper than, "Oooh, let's yell something at this hot chick." Which is sort of like arguing that it's pretentious to study infections because most of those viruses don't have anything besides multiplying on their minds.

stbalbach - I was reading in the New York Observer, I believe, that women have traditionally been the majority of anti-male-prison-rape activists.
posted by transona5 at 2:57 PM on October 3, 2002


Wow, there's way more denial and support of piggish male behavior than I would have expected out of this crowd. Should young women fell threatened by harassment? You bet. It's wrong. Don't do it. Period.

This is really one of the core problems with the American culture, the condoning of harassment and power trip behaviors from fraternity hazing, to giving nerdy kids wedgies, to making sexist and harassing remarks toward women on the street. It's all the same and it's all wrong.
posted by shagoth at 2:59 PM on October 3, 2002


I do in fact challenge obnoxious people on the street or public transport - when I'm feeling brave and cranky. Mostly it works, but sometimes it leads to ugly exchanges indeed. Fear of escalation is what keeps right-thinking people from calling out wankers, not approval.

The "5%" don't just intimidate women - they intimidate other men too. The urge to keep your head down must be even stronger in places where it's likely that no-goods carry weapons. (I live in New Zealand, where it's unlikely that anyone carries a knife or gun).

The idea that street harassment is the patriarchy flexing its muscles intrigues me. My observation is that the worst-behaved on the streets are those who likely feel disempowered themselves, clawing back a little status. The patriarchy flexing its muscles would surely be guards and police, no?

In fact, that's my suggestion. The First Mounted Politeness Corps, on horses with truncheons.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:01 PM on October 3, 2002


transona5 you may be right, but if it was reversed if %80 of prison rapes were commited on females you know there would be blood in the streets.
posted by stbalbach at 3:02 PM on October 3, 2002


"after seeing two guys on a subway in NYC rate women publicly as they walked by on a 1 - 10 scale"

It should be pointed out that this is not an exclusive masculine behavior. Lots of women behave like this, they only are careful enough to do it when men aren't watching.

But anyway, *YAWN*. This feminazi talk reminds me of college, and I didn't really like college.

One should hand these girls AK-47s, and point them the way to the nearest peep-show. They would then act out their frustration and everybody would be happy.
posted by falameufilho at 3:02 PM on October 3, 2002


(The FMPC members should have truncheons, not their horses, of course. Forgot a comma.)
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:02 PM on October 3, 2002


No no no, stbalbach. She's just been against it, and she has no connection to this group. She's very male friendly. And she's never tried to change me. Where did you get that? It's the assholes on the street she hates. I don't catcall; do you? Welcome, buddy.

Also, re: prison rape. Notice it's not women raping men, all men raping men? I guess one hole's as good as the next for these award-winners.
posted by The Michael The at 3:04 PM on October 3, 2002


A technique particularly effective in fighting back to verbal harrassment is to ask the offender to repeat himself. "Excuse me, I didn't hear you. What did you say?" the man becomes embarrassed. He didn't plan on being confronted, and when he repeats the abuse out-of-context, usually in a monotone, it sounds absolutely ridiculous, even to him.

Not exactly ground-breaking stuff here. I've done something similar in the past, when I was really irritated and/or had the time. My earliest memory of being hassled was when I was in 7th grade, just starting to develop, and a couple of guys passed me in the hall and yelled out "Nice Tits!" I can still recall the mortification.

One time in particular I still have mixed feelings about. I was taking a class at a city college and one night walked past a group of guys sitting on a wall. They were grading the women (girls) who walked past them.

Now even though I got a better "grade" than I deserved, I was steamed. I felt really put upon about having my appearance graded in public by a bunch of young undergraduates. I turned back and faced the group and tried to explain my anger.

Of course they quickly crossed out the "9"s and "8"s and gave me a bunch of "6"s. They would never understand my point in a million years, and frankly many women would never understand me, either. But that day I just really burned at being an unsuspecting beauty pageant participant.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:05 PM on October 3, 2002


In a similar vein, did anyone see the movie War Zone?

Here's a link to the official site.

In it, Maggie Hadleigh-Smith documents incidents of street harassment she is subjected too, as well as her confrontations with the men who perpetrate them. Quite an eye-opener.

As one of the reviews on the War Zone IMDB Page states, "This film should be shown to any boy on the cusp of manhood."
posted by bdk3clash at 3:08 PM on October 3, 2002


I am 100% for their cause, but they don't seem to have too many great ideas about what to actually do about the problem. It's tough... after an asshole harassed my girlfriend I thought about what could be done about such behavior (after I had gone through the first thoughts, which were "if this guy dies I'm not shedding a tear"). I didn't come up with any quick solutions either, but I thought; wouldn't it be cool if my girlfriend was armed with a camera... every time someone harasses her, she snaps a picture of the guy, and if he is employed by a company, she'd snap those details as well (his uniform, or his car, or if he's standing outside a business of some sort). Then you use the picture to get the guy fired, or you hand it off to the police, or you post it on on thisguyisanasshole.com.

But I guess there are some problems with that idea... one, it might not always be easy to snap a picture, and two, even when presented with the photo and the story, cops/companies might not care.

Plus, yeah, it could be misused -- someone might submit pictures of guys that are innocent.

Does anyone have any good ideas about what CAN be done about street harassment?
posted by edlundart at 3:10 PM on October 3, 2002


Lots of women behave like this, they only are careful enough to do it when men aren't watching.

That would make it not harassment.

If 80% of prison rapes were committed by women against other women, and most of the rest by women against men...well, we'd have a different society.

Both the anti-street harassment and anti-bullying movements seem to elicit a dismissive, contemptuous response from otherwise liberal and egalitarian people. I'm not sure why that is.
posted by transona5 at 3:11 PM on October 3, 2002


I really can't believe that we have people here who are actually using the term "feminazi". As a person who has been subjected to repeated harassment - some of it particularly egregious - it always shocks me that we cannot discuss the validity (or lack thereof) of these women's claims without resorting to base name-calling.
posted by triggerfinger at 3:14 PM on October 3, 2002


To the naysayers I posit this:

In the United States, anywhere from 1 in 3 (a figure cited in a textbook that I had in a health class) to 1 in 5 women will be sexaully assaulted at some point in time in their lives. These are our mothers, sisters, daughters, girlfriends, aunts, nieces, cousins, and friends. This is not tolerable. We need to ask ourselves why this happens, why are women that we know and love continually assaulted? Guaranteed, there are many factors. One of which is societal norms and a sense of entitlement by males. This is pounded in our heads from the time we're growing up and start to become attracted to girls. From the first time we see a Playboy to the our first kiss with a girl that our friends didn't like to our first friend bragging about losing his virginity. This only breeds a society where assaults like this are going to happen. The question is, how do we stop it? We make a change in our personal lives, and try to call our friends' b.s. when we see it happen. We do our part to make the world a better place for our friends and family to live, and we do that by changing our attitudes. There is no other way around it. It starts with us.
posted by Ufez Jones at 3:16 PM on October 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


It is surprisingly effective to simply engage fuckwits in polite conversation. They're usually pretty startled when you do, and it forces them to think of you as a person. Then embarassment sets in, and then you can tell you that you didn't like what they did.

This works best when you're a solid, thirtyish male bystander - which is why I actually agree with the site's call for men to stand up. Think of it as a way to exercise manhood responsibly.

That said, it's karate classes for my kid when she's older.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:19 PM on October 3, 2002


shagoth: who denied or supported reprehensible behavior? Just because folks don't immediately rush to man, er, person, the barricades doesn't mean they agree with the perpetrators.

ps: I still pronounce it huh-rass-mint. hair-es-mint really bugs me. so does your-en-us.
posted by turbodog at 3:19 PM on October 3, 2002


stbalbach, how did this become about prison rape? It's some women protesting one issue that they think is important. They never said it was the ONLY issue. Do you ask every group of protestors why they left out prison rape? (Complaining about everything they left out - especially when it's unrelated - is a really weak way to undermine their argument.) Did you read the bit about how it (re-)started after the Puerto Rican Day Assaults in Central Park? They had a really specific reason to think this was a big problem, at least in New York. Comments like yours about "women wanting revenge" exhibit exactly the mindset that I imagine a lot of harassers have. (I'm not saying you are one; I'm just saying I can't imagine somebody who was one saying something very different.)

I've had this argument with my guy friends before and you all really just can't comprehend what this is like for women. In my case, it was in London. It got to the point where I wouldn't wear skirts to work anymore. We're not talking micro-minis; we're talking normal business type outfits. Any skin at all showing is an invitation to be gaped at, at the very least. The security guard at my office, the same one who let me in every day with nary a glance as long as I was wearing jeans, would stare on the rare days I had to dress up. Yes, I understand that a lot of that is unconscious. You see a girl, you look. Women do it too. But rarely do women do it in a way that makes men so uncomfortable and even at times afraid for their safety.

I think one problem is that - according to my male friends - a woman who dresses "provocatively" (and I leave that word purposefully vague, because it encompasses just about everything shy of a burqua) is doing it because she WANTS attention. She wouldn't wear it if she didn't want you to look. Gentlemen, let me state unequivocably - THIS IS WRONG. Unless it's your girlfriend or a business client, no random woman on the street is dressing FOR YOU. She does not appreciate nor solicit your comments. (In a club, maybe yes. On the street, no.) I didn't want to get into a rant in here, but some of the "boyzone" mentality just pushed me over the edge. I don't personally blame all of you or hold you responsible. But if you are out and notice that your female companion is being made uncomfortable, for heaven's sake stand up for her every now and then (as long as it's not going to get you in danger). Sometimes it's nice just to know that not everyone thinks such behavior is appropriate.

(On preview: okay, while I typed that a lot of sympathetic comments have been made. My rant now seems a bit out-of-place. Sorry for the vitriol.)
posted by web-goddess at 3:27 PM on October 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


In the United States, anywhere from 1 in 3 (a figure cited in a textbook that I had in a health class) to 1 in 5 women will be sexaully assaulted at some point in time in their lives.

Be careful of accepting statistics like this at face value. Dig further, and see if you can find how the cited authority defined "sexual assault." People aren't beyond stretching definitions to support their agendas.
posted by dws at 3:28 PM on October 3, 2002


It is surprisingly effective to simply engage fuckwits in polite conversation.

I tried this against Jr. High School jocks way back when (non-sexual situations though, of course), and yes, it is surprisingly effective.
posted by gsteff at 3:28 PM on October 3, 2002


I'm female, and I think this campaign is laughable. "Harassment"? Give me a break. How about "other people, mostly men, speaking their mind about my physical appearance without being asked by me to do so". Oh no, the horror! The outrage! Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

If this is the worst problem these women are having, then good on them. Too bad they can't focus on the luxury of being able to feel annoyed at such minor insecurities, as opposed to suffering from real oppression.
posted by dagny at 3:29 PM on October 3, 2002


I really can't believe that we have people here who are actually using the term "feminazi".

What I really can't believe is that, after all those years, feminists still use the same old hateful, us vs. them, Malcolm-X-with-tits speech, designed to scare men away, with very questionable results.

The problem with that? It also scares the nice guys away.

The claims are valid. The fact that women are unable to roam the streets freely without worrying what some asshole might try is a bad, bad thing in our society.

What puzzles me, though, is not function, but form. There is more than one way to present a problem and seek a solution, and their way really sucks. It looks a lot like hate speech to me, thus making the label "feminazi" valid.
posted by falameufilho at 3:30 PM on October 3, 2002


It looks a lot like hate speech to me

Get a grip; there's a big difference between anger and hate.

thus making the label "feminazi" valid.

Oh, you mean they commit genocide against entire populations? Wow, I musta missed that part of the story. Sorry pal, but your "feminazi" comes a lot closer to hate speech than anything they're saying.
posted by George_Spiggott at 3:38 PM on October 3, 2002 [1 favorite]


File under "their own worst enemies." I saw the documentary project on HBO probably over a year ago, and my initial impression of how positive and courageous this woman was for doing this was quickly replaced by disappointment and anger at what a sexist, generalizing asshole she turned out to be.

Yeah, victimization is bad. So don't fucking do it to the millions of men out there who would and have never behave(d) towards women in anything but a reasonable and socially acceptable way.

It's shit like that "patriarchy" line which costs projects like this, and women like her, the support and encouragement of men like me and women like my wife, who was just as offended as I was at the heavy-handed SCUM-esque manifesto-ing inherent in the "blame the penis-man oppressor!" knee jerk reactions explicit in this "project."
posted by KiloHeavy at 3:42 PM on October 3, 2002


Godwin. Long time ago, actually.
posted by oflinkey at 3:45 PM on October 3, 2002


dagny, you're clearly more assured than I am. When some idiot shouts across three strangers to make a comment about my breasts (latest episode - some twat stops his van in the middle of a busy street in London to shout at me) it is all I can do not to do physical harm to someone or -thing. It's not real oppression, no, but it is one of the best reminders that some men think that women are there to be opressed.

falameufilho - my goodness. Hate speech? What precisely in the link led you to that?
posted by calico at 3:46 PM on October 3, 2002


If this is the worst problem these women are having, then good on them.

Dagny, I'm not a woman so I suppose my argument carries less weight than yours on this issue, but I've seen what an effect this type of behavior can have on women. To call it trivial seems outrageous to me. It is not a small problem when you literally can't walk out on the street without some super-creepy, hostile guy is yelling profane stuff to you or grabbing your ass. This is the situation in several areas here in New York.
posted by edlundart at 3:47 PM on October 3, 2002


As a recipient and observer of such unwanted advances and comments - which can start at a surprisingly young age - it is great to see people addressing this issue.

The use of feminazi in this conversation is disturbing though. I'm not sure why not wanting to be harassed in public makes one a nazi.
posted by birgitte at 3:49 PM on October 3, 2002


I was yelled at in the street, so I stopped being such a fag.
posted by holloway at 3:49 PM on October 3, 2002


Where is the hate speech in the site, by the way? I've read quite a bit of it now. The card on this page was actually quite funny. I don't see any outrageously anti-male statements there.

"Feminazi" is a term I just can't understand. When the feminist movement starts advocating the extermination of men and a corporate fascist totalitatian state, you'll let me know, yes?

You used to look so cute with that eyeliner, holloway.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:55 PM on October 3, 2002


I've been looking through the link and I can't say that I've seen anything I'd classify as "hate speech" yet. Anyone care to snag a quote?

Oh, and Malcolm X espoused a position of vigilance and self defense in a country where there was no guarantee that his inherent rights would be respected in public, so yeah, I guess I can see that analogy, although I'm probably less outraged by it than you seem to expect. "Feminazis." Sure.

Sadly, most guys I know don't start taking this sort of thing seriously until they have daughters or something. I dunno, whenever I hear some guy on the street commenting on a woman's appearance (the guy always seems to be surrounded by other men when this takes place) it's really easy to imagine him turning to his friends immediately afterwards and stammering "See? I-I'm not gay!" It seems so heavily based in unspoken guy-on-guy peer pressure-- not some deluded expectation that the woman in question will be charmed to death by the phrase "Hey, nice tits!"-- that I can't help but agree with the site when it calls it "patriarchy flexing its muscles," although I think they should recognize that men get called on noncompliance too. (Read through a Fark thread sometime. "She's not that hot." "What are you, gay?!?")

Oh, and just for stbalbach: Stop Prisoner Rape: devoted to the end of sexual assault of all kinds against all prisoners. Think you can spare a cup of compassion now?

(on preview: I see I'm not the only one stuck on the "hate speech" thing)
posted by tyro urge at 3:57 PM on October 3, 2002


Well, I wish that the link had been a bit more professional, so that it could be more clear to me that our community (on Mefi) seems to have a lot of men who simply cannot empathize.

Let's put it in terms that you can understand. If you are a woman, there is a significant chance that you will be raped, as in forcefully penetrated, in your lifetime. In fact, polls in many college campuses done as recently as 3 years ago found that some 75% of men would "rape a woman if they knew they wouldn't get caught." The rape statistics like one in 10 women are raped, etc. are really the tip of the iceberg, IMHO, and I'm not just talking about women that are too intimidated to report it, I'm talking about the ones that just "go with the flow" because they're afraid of what will happen if they don't, the women after a date that are thinking "this guy might be one of the 75%... he might beat the shit out of me and brutally assault me if he doesn't get what he wants."

Imagine if you, a man, had a significant chance of being forcefully penetrated in your life by a woman. Women, on the other hand, never had to even consider this possibility, because the odds were so low that it would happen to them. So you walk around amongst the opposite gender, 75% of whom would like to forcefully penetrate you. You even go so far as to say to them "please, tell the other women to stop forcefully penetrating us... it really sucks, and I really can't trust you, or even like you, because your very gender reminds me of it. In fact, it severely affects my social life, my sex life, and when I walk around in the streets I fear for my safety because women taunt me about it."


Would that make you a masculinazi?
posted by zekinskia at 3:59 PM on October 3, 2002


In fact, that's my suggestion. The First Mounted Politeness Corps, on horses with truncheons.

I see you live in Canada too, eh?

Sorry for the interuption, just had to post. Sorry I wasted your bandwidth, sorry for the quip, eh?
posted by jkaczor at 4:00 PM on October 3, 2002


It is surprisingly effective to simply engage fuckwits in polite conversation.

It's also surprisingly effective to turn things back on them. "Would you say that to your mother/daughter/wife?" "Kiss your mother with that mouth, do you?" "Would you care to say that when my husband's around?" Anything that makes them stop and think for a microsecond about the profound inanity and the impact of what they've just said is meaningful.

I'm female, and I think this campaign is laughable. "Harassment"? Give me a break. How about "other people, mostly men, speaking their mind about my physical appearance without being asked by me to do so". Oh no, the horror! The outrage! Help, help, I'm being oppressed!

If we were just talking about "Hey baby, looking good!" types of comments, that'd be one thing, but that's the mild end of it. In fact, that's not what's being complained about at all. Offhanded compliments from strangers who obvious have no ill intent isn't harassment, but nastily sexual commentary is.

Did you read any of the stories on the website, Dagny? A man yelling "I'll eat your cunt, bitch!" from his car at a stoplight isn't "speaking his mind about" a woman's appearance. And that's not even addressing the all-too-casual groping and frotting in the subways, the menacing leers and stares or the disgusting noises. Furthermore, it's not limited to the conventionally attractive. I've endured it as a fat woman. One of the women who sent a story to the website was catcalled and leered while 40+ weeks pregnant. This isn't just caveman auto-response "Pretty girl, must say something, oops, it was dumb" stuff. It's like rape; it's not nearly as much a sexual provocativeness thing as it is a power thing. It's a real, ongoing problem.
posted by Dreama at 4:01 PM on October 3, 2002


Since when has harassment been caused by a "patriarchy"?!?

People make all kinds of comments about all kinds of people on the street. How many times have I been asked for money from people who when I refuse reply with some kind of offensive remark? This has happened to me (a man) from both women and men.

I've been pestered for money, insulted, offered and asked for drugs, hit on by disgusting older men, and been the subject of hushed public conversation and I'm a MAN!!!

I find it sad that these women have to take issues of common decency and respect and turn it into some kind of gender war.
posted by aaronscool at 4:02 PM on October 3, 2002


So, what is it that "feminazis" do that's so bad? Oh yeah, they generalize. If only sexist and bigoted people restricted themselves to some harmful generalizing. I've taken some pretty heated abuse in cafe/bar/household arguments but I've never had a feminist yell at me randomly on the street.

Relative harm is a pretty subjective thing but folks who say "these nasty feminazis are just as bad as the people they protest" look like they've got holes in their heads.
posted by Wood at 4:02 PM on October 3, 2002


dagny, I understood harassment to include something more than just rude remarks. In my mind yer actual harassment carries the implicit threat of physical assault. In my observation, shitty physical behaviour by louts in the street or drunks on buses always starts with obnoxious talk. Then they get bolder when they're not challenged.

Anyway - what's wrong with campaigning for politeness?

"Let's all behave decently in public" may not be much of a rallying cry, but I fervently support it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 4:03 PM on October 3, 2002


"polls in many college campuses done as recently as 3 years ago found that some 75% of men would "rape a woman if they knew they wouldn't get caught."

That is the most ridiculous thing I have read on Metafilter in a long, long time. Care to back up your outrageous claim with...oh, I don't know...facts?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:04 PM on October 3, 2002


Not 75%, but a reality depending on which study you use. (Scroll to page eight).
posted by triggerfinger at 4:27 PM on October 3, 2002


So many generalizations here. I felt like I was being yelled at.

Sadly, it seems that those drawn to movements like these fall for the generalizations or worse they're purposely playing the women's rights card for personal reasons.
posted by skallas at 4:29 PM on October 3, 2002


"Let's all behave decently in public" may not be much of a rallying cry, but I fervently support it.
Maybe you should do it as a rap.
posted by holloway at 4:37 PM on October 3, 2002


the first link, attributed to Koss and Harvey, 1991, reports in a UCLA study, 35% of college-age men said that they would violently rape if they knew that they could get away with it (Malamuth and Donerstein).

the second says in a survey of male college students, 51% reported they might rape a woman if assured they would not get caught and also attributes it to Koss and Harvey, 1991.

That's quite a rounding error.
posted by turbodog at 4:40 PM on October 3, 2002


Hey now, I don't discriminate when it comes to yelling at people on the street. Male, female, fat, skinny, you're all fair game.

Then again, I usually just sing Christmas songs during September.
posted by trioperative at 4:40 PM on October 3, 2002


btw, I'd like to point out that I count myself as among one of the many women who find men in general to be good, and in fact have many male friends who never fail to amaze me (not in a gender way, but in a humanity way) with their kindness, generosity and decency. I am well aware that there happen to be some bad apples that make it harder going for everyone else. I think that most of the women I know will agree on this. So just as I am not stereotyping all men based on the few that have harassed me; I would hope that men would show me the same consideration (feminazi, etc.) when I go so far as to support a movement that is trying to make the streets safer for women.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:46 PM on October 3, 2002


turbodog, the sad thing is the sheer number of sites quoting apparently random numbers. A few examples (and notice how particularly twisted the last one is):

http://www.thefirsttwins.com/messages05.html: "In response to questions on date rape, a full 51% of all college boys say that they would rape a girl if they knew that they wouldn't get caught. So to all college girls including the Bush twins be carefull!!!"

http://216.239.35.100/search?q=cache:JjeMN6Niy68C:pub14.ezboard.com/fmoroccoreligions.showMessage%3FtopicID%3D57.topic+rape+poll+%22wouldn%27t+get+caught%22&hl=en&ie=UTF-8 (Google Cache): "A study found 60% of Canadian university-aged males said they would commit sexual assault if they were certain they wouldn't get caught."

http://www.tulane.edu/~nocrime/lover.html: "35% of college males reported the likelihood to rape if they wouldn't get caught."

http://www.thevistaonline.com/vnews/display.v/ART/2002/08/19/3d609324d10c8: "In the AMA survey of college males, 35 percent said they would rape if they knew they wouldn't get caught."

http://kendrick.colgate.edu/maroon/archivesf97/nov1497/Lichtenberg.html: "The College Women's Hanbook states that "37 percent of college men said they would commit rape if they thought they were certain they wouldn't get caught." "

http://www.fortunecity.com/marina/commodity/1089/id52.htm: "60% of university aged men said they would commit it if they were certain they wouldn't get caught."

http://www.fhu.com/homosexual2.htm:"It is no coincidence that the incidence of rape has risen staggeringly in the last few decades, and that high school boys polled readily admit that they would rape if they knew they wouldn't get caught."

http://www.moralityinmedia.org/index.htm?pornsEffects/laydenhealthy.htm: "When normal college mates are shown pornography, 50-65% of them then say they would be willing to rape a women if they thought they wouldn't get caught."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2002


Facts from the Department of Justice:
"A joint report from BJS and the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) that explores the prevalence and nature of sexual assault occurring at colleges throughout the nation. The study found that about 3 percent of college women experienced a completed and/or attempted rape during the current college year."
In 2001 for every 1,000 persons age 12 or older, there occurred
--1 rape or sexual assault

--2 assaults with injury
--3 robberies
A few general statistics.

I'm very discouraged by some of the attitudes expressed here. Evidently, respect for women is not only an unreasonable expectation here on this discussion board, it's considered an unreasonable expectation for society in general. If women pepper sprayed every jerk who made crude comments, the bodies would be thick upon the ground for a few months ... or else we'd suddenly discover that it's only a few repeat offenders. I don't want anyone to hand me firearms or mace, I just want to be around kind and civilized people. Is that really too much to ask?
posted by sheauga at 4:47 PM on October 3, 2002


That's quite a rounding error

Agreed turbodog, just trying to be the messenger here. I think it's important to regard any study that relies upon self-reporting with a wary eye.
posted by triggerfinger at 4:48 PM on October 3, 2002


i am more than comfortable with these generalizations.

despite our attempts to have a society, some people just need to be kicked off the island.
posted by brigita at 4:49 PM on October 3, 2002


I've never tried to engage a guy who harassed me in public in polite conversation. The men who can only deal with their physical attraction to a woman by making lewd comments in public, tend to enjoy any reaction they get, so I've tried not to give them one.

One time though, when I received some particularly specific, graphic and lewd comments from a group of men about five feet away from me - a situation I found particularly threatening - I purposefully started picking my nose - pretty gross, I'll admit - but it freaked them out so much that by the time the light changed, I was able to walk to across the street in peace.
posted by birgitte at 5:03 PM on October 3, 2002


What most guys don't recognize is that women really feel threatened by men who do things like this. A lot of women are seriously concerned that that kind of talk is a prelude to an assault. I am not joking -- they really, literally think that the next step after "Hey baby, nice ass" is rape. This naturally strikes fear into their hearts, although fortunately it is virtually never true. It is, however, damnably difficult to convince these women that no harm is intended by such remarks -- if they don't trust men to begin with, why would they believe such assurances? While these women are IMHO overreacting, it is pretty clear that they will continue to do so. It seems like there really is no other choice but to walk on eggshells and hope you don't say anything to set them off.

My own personal philosophy is that if a lot of people do something that bothers me, it is a lot easier to change my reaction to them than to get all those other people to change their behavior, seeing as how I'm directly under my control while everyone else on the planet is not. But that's just me.
posted by kindall at 5:07 PM on October 3, 2002


I purposefully started picking my nose

Best.
Tactic.
Ever.
posted by btwillig at 5:18 PM on October 3, 2002


Are women victims of harassment in the street?

Absolutely.

Are they the only ones?

Hell, no. So are people(black and white) who are the wrong color to be in whatever neighboorhood after dark, Gays who dont hide their sexuality, people who "dress weird", and people who offend the assholes of the world in myriad other ways.

Do these people need to be dealt with? Sure.

But what gets under people's skin is equating the actions of these people with a gender-wide conspiracy of silence of the actions of a patriarchy.
These people may have whatever prejudices any other people do, but really any victim will do.

Simply put there's a type of personality that enjoys(usually in groups) abusing and harassing those that they decide they don't like. They come in all sizes, colors, shapes genders and political persuasions. They sometimes use the threat of violence, other times financial or political power.

They're called bullies. We've all had to deal with them. Politics won't rid the world of them. They've always existed in one form or another and probably always will, sadly. The best we can do is figure strategies to take power from them, somehow.
posted by jonmc at 5:29 PM on October 3, 2002


Why shouldn't a woman think that harassment is a prelude to an assault? If this kind of behavior is meant as a joke, it sure as hell isn't that funny.

If a man truly finds my ass that nice, I don't think he should be telling me on the street. I don't know him, and I don't want to know his opinion of my physical attributes. Also if he is much larger than me, and could easily subdue me, his comments are threatening. I find it hard to believe that he is just complimenting me, as he might his mother or sister say, and does not find the exchange to be in some way a power play. (But then I agree with what another poster said, women will always be more aware of the power differntial between genders than men.)

I understand the point, and I think it is a good one. Everyone must first be, and can only be, responsible for their own behavior.
posted by birgitte at 5:31 PM on October 3, 2002


I'm a pretty staunch believer in making sure women are empowered and have a vague idea of how to defend themselves from an early age. It's generally discouraged in women to have an aggressive streak, and I really think this magnifies the issue of feeling victimized a lot of the time.

When I was living in New Orleans, I worked graveyard at a diner just off Bourbon St, and generally walked it to work every night, as it was the most populated and safest way to go. Many tourists in New Orleans seem to have two major misconceptions; 1) that it's mardi gras all the time and 2) that it's their god-given right to see or touch a girls breasts while they're in New Orleans.

One night on my way to work, some drunk kid with a long goatee walked right up to me and grabbed my tits. I grabbed his goatee and pulled him down to knee level and explained that it's really not ok to do that sort of thing. He was with a bunch of friends, all of whom were laughing at him at that point, and was totally mortified and kept apologizing to me. I don't really think I changed the world or anything, but I definitely didn't feel like as much of a victim afterwards.

My biggest fear about confronting people like that, though, is that most of the people that do that sort of thing have major power issues to begin with, and they don't think of you as any sort of equal, so you're almost inviting a fight by challenging them. Or worse, you bruise their pride and, instead of it making them a better, more socially conscious person, it gives them another reason to act out against women.
posted by HellKatonWheelz at 5:33 PM on October 3, 2002


I am a man who keeps his hair long and sports a rather long beard. I've been called 'fag' so many times over the years that it has become somewhat of a positive appellation between my friends and I, despite my hetero- status.

I find it much more productive to leave the name-calling to the name-callers and keep on my way. Acknowledgment seems to just spur them on. A reaction is what they're looking for...

Once it crosses the line into assault (be it toward women or homosexuals), I'll be the first in line with a billy-club.

My .2 ¢
posted by maniactown at 5:37 PM on October 3, 2002


Dreama - It's like rape

No, it's not. Don't trivialize rape that way.
posted by NortonDC at 5:40 PM on October 3, 2002


I know it's bad of me but I had to skip down to the post box on this one. Apologies in advance if I'm redundant, but this is about my personal experience (warning: will likely be long), so probably not.

First, I would like to proudly announce that I consider myself a staunch feminist. I don't hate men, at least not any more than anyone else. I live with one, in fact, and he's proven himself at least acceptable in most areas (humor, btw).

Second, I *have* been sexually assaulted (as have a minimum of 25% of American women, although newer studies suggest that figure is much higher), an event which has and will continue to forever color my view of the world. I must concur with the FIRST sentence of kindall's post here: as a fairly slight female who is often walking around by herself in NYC/Brooklyn, *every man I do not know is a potential rapist*. Does this mean I pull out my 9mm every time I see a male? No, of course not. Does it mean that I take every possible measure to keep myself safe? You bet your ass it does.

The point to this is that living as a female in America means, to some fair extent, living in fear. I have a large dog, and I (legally) own a handgun. Both of things make me feel a little bit safer, especially when I am walking my large dog late at night in Brooklyn (although, honestly, the dog makes me feel a lot safer than the unloaded gun in a safe in the house). My neighborhood is pretty safe, but then again, a close friend of mine was chased and assaulted by a neighborhood man -- who started out 'harassing' her.

I walk by men who feel perfectly free to call out comments to strange women, including myself, on a nearly daily basis. My usual tactic is the Silent Bird -- one I adopted after deciding that any sort of comment was expending too much energy and consideration on a futile and worthless cause. In other situations I do more. The most effective thing, IMHO, is the Stare Directly Into The Eye. Silent or no.

But every time, my heart races. Every time I walk my dog by myself, if I see a male person I don't know -- regardless of race, age, or size -- my heart skips a beat and I get a helluva lot more alert. I frequently rein in my dog to make her look more dangerous and cross the street. THAT is what the echoes of those men sound like to me. Objectification of a human being means the danger of treating that person as an object, which can have horrifying and painful results. I can't hear those catcalls without being reminded on some level of what it felt like That Time, even ten years later.

I do not require men to 'walk on eggshells'. I am not a member of that group, and like any zealous group of people, I'm sure they go overboard. I consider myself a strong woman, and catcalls will never ruin my day. But unless you have been the unintentional bottom, I would very much appreciate you not informing me what my emotional response to the human (or at least semblance of human) equivalent of chest-thumping should be.

And as a side note to the 'prison rape' thing which popped up: I would take a moment to note that, apart from the rapists being men (rape is not about sex. It is about power. Power does not, necessarily, specify gender.), the VAST majority of rape, assault, and battery in prison is directed at prisoners who have been convicted of rape, beating a woman, or molesting children. My assaulter only got one year in prison, but I took especial pleasure in knowing *exactly* what his reception would be like. Child molesters have it the worst, and goddammit, I can't say I don't think they deserve it.

Oh, and someone was mentioning real solutions. I find that Dr. Ruthless has a GREAT take on self-defense for women, and her site is fairly informative: http://www.dr-ruthless.com/
posted by babylon at 5:42 PM on October 3, 2002 [2 favorites]


I say let's get back to the middle East situation!
In passing I note that in the long-winded document there is the implication that if some women appreciate harrassment it is only because they have become victims of the society that practises such things....in other words, right-thinking women will think like the writers of the manifesto.
For me, without getting involved, it is simply a matter of manners: I don't whistle at women and I do not expect them in turn to whistle at me. Thus far, they never have.
posted by Postroad at 5:50 PM on October 3, 2002


People are total assholes. Let me break it down. Men harass women, but they also harass men too. Women harass both men and women, only in different ways. Men and women harass inanimate objects from time to time too, by saying things like, "those are the gayest looking shoes I've ever seen."

Soon, microcircuitry technology will allow inanimate objects to harass men and women as well.

And still, there will only be two options: Ignore it, or fight back. Bitching about it after the fact and blaming it on a conspiracy and demanding that billions of people apologize to you because you got your feelings hurt and didn't have the self-confidence to shrug it off or the chutzpah to give it right back. To quote Old Man Murray, "sounds like somebody needs a trip to the emergency hug station!"
posted by Hildago at 5:57 PM on October 3, 2002


That slightly incoherent. I apologize. I was really itching to microwave these hot pockets.
posted by Hildago at 6:04 PM on October 3, 2002


I don't whistle at women and I do not expect them in turn to whistle at me. Thus far, they never have.

One young lady did yell from a bus window and blow a kiss at me on Chapel Street in New haven once, but who can account for taste. I was flattered but I'm weird. Perhaps you could say she was empowering herself.
posted by jonmc at 6:04 PM on October 3, 2002


I was flattered but I'm weird. Perhaps you could say she was empowering herself.

Sounds like you were verbally raped to me.
posted by Hildago at 6:17 PM on October 3, 2002


THANK YOU triggerfinger.

I count myself as among one of the many women who find men in general to be good, and in fact have many male friends who never fail to amaze me (not in a gender way, but in a humanity way) with their kindness, generosity and decency. I am well aware that there happen to be some bad apples that make it harder going for everyone else. - triggerfinger

That is a good attitude. It recognizes there are bad apples, perhaps even people she knows who occasionally slip up, but she doesnt let it become a major issue and recognizes many many other good qualities that overshadow the transgressions. She is flexable and positive in her attitude and whoever counts her as a friend is lucky indeed.
posted by stbalbach at 6:23 PM on October 3, 2002


No, it's not. Don't trivialize rape that way.

Nice quote out of context, NortonDC. Let's try it again for you and those who can't parse out long paragraphs. Like rape, the graphic acts of true harrassment on the street are less about sexual interest (though that is a component) and more about making a demonstration of power. Instead of "I can do anything to you" it's about "I can say anything to you, and what are you (or anyone else, since it's fairly rare for anyone to say anything even when it occurs in front of scores of onlookers) going to do about it?" Get it now? Got it? Good.

Reading for comprehension is fun! Whee!
posted by Dreama at 6:24 PM on October 3, 2002


It's only a problem when the lady isn't interested because if the lady finds you attractive she isn't going to gripe about being approached. I do have a serious problem with guys who grope women, that is wrong, and if it happens around me I smack the guy like would would a dog humping your leg.
posted by jbou at 6:30 PM on October 3, 2002


Wow. I'm amazed at the lack of empathy here. I'm surprised that so many people see the word "patriarchy" and immediately dismiss everything that person writes.

The people without empathy on this issue are the ones who weren't even aware that they were cruel to outsiders in middle school and high school. The kind of people who thought it was funny to make quiet meowing sounds at me in the classroom. (Because I was a pussy, you see? Isn't that high-larious?)

The Street Harassment Project is a great idea. If you disagree, why don't you review your attitudes and actions to figure out if maybe you're the problem?
posted by Holden at 6:30 PM on October 3, 2002


Why shouldn't a woman think that harassment is a prelude to an assault?

Because it almost never is.
posted by kindall at 6:31 PM on October 3, 2002


The people without empathy on this issue are the ones who weren't even aware that they were cruel to outsiders in middle school and high school.

On the contrary. Those of us who actually were outsiders know just how unlikely it is that words will escalate into action. My own personal scoreboard:

Number of mean things people said to me: thousands
Number of times I was actually physically attacked: zero

(I won't count the time I was knocked down by a kid who dragged me halfway down the block before he realized that the hat he'd been trying to snatch from my head was attached to my jacket. He was just being a prick, and he did apologize without prompting.)

Interestingly enough, on several occasions I was expressly told I would receive an ass-kicking. Yet my ass was ne'er kicked. The only conclusion I can draw is that nearly all the people who get their kicks from harassing and threatening are blowhards and rarely if ever follow through.

I figured this out when I was about twelve and have now been simply ignoring snide remarks for over two decades with no ill effects whatsoever.

Now I recognize that Things Are Different For Girls, and I wish it were not so, but really, I have a hard time believing that a lot of the problem wouldn't go away if only people weren't so damn sensitive all the time. Note I'm not saying that women being harassed by men is not a legitimate problem. But I think that the idea that the solution involves a unilateral change on the part of men is a fairly dubious one.

The Street Harassment Project is a great idea. If you disagree, why don't you review your attitudes and actions to figure out if maybe you're the problem?

Also, if you disagree with the President's war on terrorism, you are unpatriotic and a bad American, because, you know, dissent is baaaad, mkay? Jesus.
posted by kindall at 6:54 PM on October 3, 2002


I too am amazed at the neanderthal attitudes exhibited here. (Apologies to any MeFites who may be actual Neanderthals -- I thought you were extinct.) Many years ago, when I was an ignorant college student, I read an article by a woman describing what it was like walking down city streets on a typical day. My reaction: Holy shit, men do that? This has got to change. I started reading, talking to women, discovering feminism, etc. It changed my world, so I thought the world itself was going to change. (I thought pot would be legalized by 1975, too. I told you I was ignorant.) All you guys making idiot remarks: grow up and learn some empathy. dagny: Women like you make it harder for other women. Knock off the macha shit. All you other gals: Patience. One of these millennia, the male half of the species may come out of its prolonged adolescence.
posted by languagehat at 6:57 PM on October 3, 2002 [2 favorites]


<applauds languagehat>

Wow, LH -- I think you may have actually read some of the things people were trying to say here!

Sorry to be snippy, but ... not actually all that sorry after all.
posted by babylon at 7:02 PM on October 3, 2002


I'm not sure if I could mentally apply the reverse-gender approach as it has been stated (ie. what if women were the perpetrators?). I've joked about being a "malinist" just for the obscurity of it. But I seriously don't think men would be as offended as this if it was the other way around. I can't really offer much of an explanation other than how it's influenced by cultural upbringing of the male ego, johnmc's example...and maybe lack of empathy in some cases.

However, there are reversed roles that women play as well, just not nearly as much (and not nearly as loud). There are women predators, women "accused" of rape, and sexual harassment. I'll leave the actual numbers to those who fight against generalizations and speculations...it's probably not that common. What is more common however is exhibitionism. It's not everybody, but still far more common than in males. (Thank you Jesus). Once again, I leave it up to cultural upbringing or testosterone poisoning depending on which house of psychology is preferred. I don't think anyone really knows "why."

Girls are sexually abused three times as much as boys at early ages. If the statistics are right, this backs up a lot of statements that the boundaries are crossed in regards to sexual behavior towards females. I would assume that males are committing these acts, and a small percentage of women who may or may not have higher levels of testosterone in their bloodstream.

In response to the claim that males need not stand idly by: As a male, I am intimidated by the types of males that exhibit this type of behavior. There is a MUCH larger chance that things would escalate if a male confronts a male about behavior....I leave it up to the women to put them in their place (some can do it quite well, and I thank you for it as it's incredibly annoying and indecent. And it saves at least one person from a fist-fight).
posted by samsara at 7:02 PM on October 3, 2002


I've (fortunately) never had face-to-face harassment as described in the article, but for many years my daily practice at lunch time was to walk a mile to get in my cardio workout for the day. Mind you, I'm not "stacked", after a few minutes my face would be red, my hair wilting and I'm seriously perspiring. As sexy as roadkill, one would think. Yet not a day passed that some guy didn't yell something at me from a passing car. I used to wonder what the point was....has any man actually established a serious relationship by yelling from a car window?
posted by Oriole Adams at 7:25 PM on October 3, 2002


A couple of you men have mentioned prison rape. You want to understand what these women are talking about? Walk through a prison as the "new fish". I have never experienced it but I have seen it depicted on numerous movies and television shows including episodes of Scared Straight. This is the kind of harrassment women deal with throughout their lives. If one in four women are sexually assaulted in thier lifetimes, how can you not expect a large percentage of hypervigilant women. Hypervigilance is an after effect of rape where the victim feels he or she must go to extreme lengths to protect themselves. The comments about ones appearance are minor annoyances, its the verbal threats that are constant reminders of just how vulnerable one really is.
posted by SweetIceT at 7:26 PM on October 3, 2002


One of these millennia, the male half of the species may come out of its prolonged adolescence.
This is not mens struggle. What on earth makes you think that?
posted by holloway at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2002


So, just to summarize here some 70-ish comments later: A group of women create a website criticizing being called-out, sexually objectified, and groped by strange men in public. The general response is that they're man-hating, over-emotional Nazis. Sheesh.. defensive much, guys?

Although this is just my own speculation, I am highly doubtful that many of the "anti-anti-harassment" posters would have the same reaction to a website by a group of gays and lesbians campaigning against public humiliation based on gender and sexuality.
posted by jess at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2002


Why shouldn't a woman think that harassment is a prelude to an assault?

Because it almost never is


Operative word, Kindall? Almost. Go back and read Babylon's great post. She draws a very clear picture of what it is like to be a woman walking on a street, alone. With your heart in your throat. Trying to feel brave. Trying to tell yourself that news headlines to the contrary, women seldom get assaulted on the street.

But again, let me add it isn't just the possibility of assault. It is the pure, burning anger that even as I walk down the street I can't get away from the judgements on my appearance. I know; I'm not naive. I know that men are continually judging my appearance-- but keep it to yourself. That way I don't have to be reminded that I am nothing more than a walking cunt.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:27 PM on October 3, 2002


I read half-way through this thread and all I hear are people who are too old to change their views.

It's the us-V-them mentality WHOEVER's "side" you're on.

I'm a guy, I've faced all kinds of harrassment including being mugged 4 times, 3 times at gunpoint. In my life I've been psychologically bullied by women and men...so it's not physical, big deal. It was a big deal to me. ALL people have the opportunity to be bad or good.

I hope one day we will all be enlightened and live our life to the full potential no matter what sex we are.
posted by SpaceCadet at 7:33 PM on October 3, 2002


samsara, that might be me you're referring to. I don't confront (unless it's 3 AM, there are noisy punks outside, and I need my sleep). I politely talk. Speak softly, and you usually don't need a stick.

Still, you need to be confident that no one is going hit you, and I wouldn't urge anyone to get in a fight.

I am struck by kindall's charmed existence though. Kindall, I think you've been plain lucky, to be honest. I used to get picked on. Now that I'm older, and bigger, I don't, but I remember the fear, and I remember being assaulted and intimidated as well. What's being called "harassment" here is what I remember as bullying, except being perpetrated by adults. It's worse on that account, because adults are supposed to know better.

When a man gets in your face, the discrepancies in size, strength and propensity for violence make that scary for a lot of women, and not a few smaller or mild-tempered men too. These fucks get off on knowing that, and on scaring people. I don't really understand posters who that's not a big deal. The sheer meanness of intimidating for kicks angers me the more I think about it.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 7:33 PM on October 3, 2002


But I seriously don't think men would be as offended as this if it was the other way around

Hmmm, I wonder, though how they would feel if the simulated smooches, leering, and obscene remarks came from a grossly obese woman, or an old, wrinkly woman in a wheelchair. Might take some of the fun out of it...might even be...offensive?

has any man actually established a serious relationship by yelling from a car window?

Ha! I've had exactly the same reaction. I can be riding my bike and having some guy drive up next to me, gun his motor, and smile and wag his eyebrows suggestively. Like what? Does he think I'll ditch the bike and drive off into the sunset with him?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:39 PM on October 3, 2002


Forgive me if this is overly simplistic, but in a moderately free country it is just plain hard to prevent some people from acting like jerks. And yes, men are typically more overt about it when they chose to be jerks but they certainly have no monopoly on it.

And yes, I have been harassed and even mugged, and no, I have no idea what it feels like to be a woman subject to such commentary. But in the end, they are only words (at least the main thread is about words) and if you give some stranger the privilege of making you feel bad about yourself because of some rude words than most of the responsibility lies with you.

And these aren't done as a manifestation of power, but rather of weakness, as in "I'd like to have the ability to charm you, but I don't, so I resort to name-calling to make myself feel marginally better". And the reason that men express such reticence to confront such jerks is because these guys are already marginalized and have little to lose and that translates into increased tendencies to escalate to dangerous levels.

But they're just words.
posted by matt_wartell at 7:43 PM on October 3, 2002


Oriole, Secret Life: They don't expect any such thing. It's not about sexual gratification; it's not even about sex, really. I hate to say this, but it's the patriarchy flexing its muscles. Same way in the Old South they used to say insulting shit to black people, just to keep them in their place. I know, I know, hate-filled feminazi rhetoric. Just ignore it, and keep gunning those engines, guys.
posted by languagehat at 7:45 PM on October 3, 2002


Because it almost never is.

Sorry, kindall, that just doesn't cut it.

Firstly, we have a sufficient abundance of anecdotal evidence on this page alone to suggest that attacks are in fact frequent sequelae to abusive harrassment. (Yes, I know all about the issues that attend self-reportage, thus the word "suggest.")

But even were that not so, even if a physical attack followed a verbal harrassment only one in every thousand occurances, would that make the act of harrassment itself any less objectionable? I think not.

Look, y'alls that need to resort to odious terms like "feminazi" or ad-feminem attacks on the SHP in attempts to deny the reality of this problem need to check yourselves.

I myself am a fit, formerly special-operations-qualified, straight, white-skinned male, and I can see easily how verbal comments are used to police normality and control space. I guaranTEE you that anyone diverging from the normative in any of those dimensions - i.e. someone who's fat, or visibly queer, or dark-skinned, and so on - has personal experiences to back up this assertion.

As Foucault pointed out a long time ago, control is a continuum that extends from physical sanction through softer means, like surveillance and harrassment and self-policing. It's the control that is at issue here, not simply the means used to exert it.
posted by adamgreenfield at 8:16 PM on October 3, 2002


Slight correction: it's certain men flexing their muscles, not the patriarchy. I'm not a part of the group that does, and I reject any statement that assumes my cooperation.

To reiterate, it's a terrible thing, this harassment, and the group has the right motives, but when they start attacking all men, it's that whole baby-bathwater thing.
posted by The Michael The at 8:20 PM on October 3, 2002


Because it almost never is.

Your lack of empathy here is astounding. Can't you see that when a man on the street has stepped outside the normal social boundaries to make sexual comments about a woman, the woman might rightfully fear how far outside the boundaries he's willing to go? Take a look at the number of male passers-by eagerly assaulting this woman at Mardi Gras and tell me again that women are being unreasonable in their fear.

Most of the time an aggressive panhandler jumps in your face on the street asking for money, he isn't going to harm you. Does that stop you from being agitated by the encounter? I always hated it when people would do that as I walked to or from my car at a job in a downtown area, and I'm a 6-foot-3 male.

I really can't imagine how much worse it would be if it happened more often, the harassment was sexual in nature, and I was almost always physically smaller than my harasser. The notion that the real problem here is the paranoid attitude of women is sad.
posted by rcade at 8:20 PM on October 3, 2002 [2 favorites]


mr_crash: the sad thing is the sheer number of sites quoting apparently random numbers

Eh? Random? Seems like a pretty clean distribution to me: somewhere between a third and two-thirds of men say that they would rape if they could get aware with it.
- - - -
More generally: Thanks to languagehat and S.L.O.Gravy, joe's_spleen, adamgreenfield , rcade and everyone else who is speaking up (I only scrolled up *so* far after getting to the bottom of this thread).

I think the fact that this discussion could even take place on Metafilter means it has gotten a little too big for me too. There's definitely something to be said for niches.
posted by sylloge at 8:26 PM on October 3, 2002


jonmc: any woman blowing you a kiss from a bus on Chapel St in New Haven is to be avoided at all costs....duck into Atticus and pretend to read a book while sipping coffee and eating some of the great bread made by the owner, Charles, who sells that great stuff all over the state now.
posted by Postroad at 8:28 PM on October 3, 2002


Hey, I used to work in Atticus! If they find my boxed set of Stravinsky recordings, I want it back, dammit.
posted by languagehat at 8:31 PM on October 3, 2002


Hmmm, I wonder, though how they would feel if the simulated smooches, leering, and obscene remarks came from a grossly obese woman, or an old, wrinkly woman in a wheelchair. Might take some of the fun out of it...might even be...offensive?

Quite possibly. But the chances of it escalating into the types of behavior described in the main link are hard to imagine. Males are generally physically stronger. Some have a hard time understanding that having physical strength doesn't mean that they have to use it against other people to prove it or get what they want.

Thanks for the encouragement IAJS, although I still would never confront a drunk male in that situation, or even suggest that a woman should do so. The desired effect is not worth the frustration. In many cases, I would consider the catcaller's overall mood before approaching...in the cases where it seems no type of interaction will avoid violence, I would refrain unless he began to stalk or physically harass her, as there is often safety in numbers. Of course, if I was considerably built and mean looking...I would confront other males all the time about this :)

From working on campus, I've observed many instances of what is described here. I've seen males acting completely juvenile with no regards to other people, basking in the joys of almost no supervision. I also see many women who make it a point to get from class to class without being encountered. But that is just what is in context with this thread. There are plenty of things I've witnessed on either gender that are incredibly inconsiderate. It makes it almost necessary to not trust anyone until you know them better. For that, I applaud those that greet most new people without hesitation or distrust.

As for myself, I truly and honestly go through every day being as humanly kind as I can to everyone I meet. I don't harass anyone...I don't even make advances on women of any kind. (well, having a fiance might influence that a bit). The idea that men think about sex often rings true with me, although it is permanently stuck in the subconscious and doesn't have a prayer's chance of surfacing in a loud off-hand comment. I think that makes all the difference, as having that kind of self control, to not say what's always on your mind, is what separates the me from the inconsiderate.
posted by samsara at 8:32 PM on October 3, 2002


Dreama, my criticism of your post is accurate. To restate the context as it was in your original post--it's like rape, rape is real, ongoing problem, therefore this is a real ongoing problem.

That's the overall implication that section of your post carries, and it's a fallacy. It's wrong to link this to rape by an allegedly shared characteristic and then say that that informs the enormity of the problem under discussion. It carries an implied attempt to silence opponents of your views by implying that opposing your position on this means belittling rape.

I reject that. I say that such a tactic itself encourages the trivializing rape. It is not appropriate to equate the horror of rape with the annoyance of hearing things you'd rather not. Find a new support for your position; this one ain't cutting it.
posted by NortonDC at 9:00 PM on October 3, 2002


Metafilter is losing it's "it".

Someone mentioned thisguyisanasshole.com at *least* 30 comments ago, and it hasn't been registered yet.

:-)
posted by baylink at 9:16 PM on October 3, 2002


Norton: as a victim of rape, I will say this:

While verbal harassment, obviously, cannot compare, in any way, shape, or form, with the horror (as you say), pain, and what I assume are lifelong hauntings, the mere fact that some men are do not only consider it acceptable but are often *trained* to harass women on a regular basis is, indeed, a symbolic representation of the objectification of women.

Again, not all men do that -- it is the rarer few. Then again, most women aren't nagging shrews, bored housewives, jealous girlfriends. I doubt that any of the women here are attempting to say that every man is a part of the problem. I would even go so far as to say that a lot of women are a part of the problem - not because of the way they look, but because they do not stand up for themselves, or knowingly concede power, or -- in the most extreme example, stay with abusive partners even if they can safely get away.

Yes, men are subject to environmental programming, and sure -- we can write off these pigs as just a pile of un-evolved crap. We could, to follow that to its logical conclusion, write off women who refuse to don the suit rather than the apron, or they who have abusive relationships with their husbands.

Can I easily conduct my life ignoring assholes? Of course I can! Does that do a goddamn thing? No. Yes, I can go on with my day, and fail completely to think of that guy on the street who thought my breasts were worthy of repeated commentary. Is the fact that he felt it acceptable to comment a symptom of a larger issue? Absofuckinlutely.

Many men are shining examples of humanity, as are many women. There are, however, a pile of men and women who are complete and utter shits. Frequently the manner in which they are shits varies from gender to gender, and all cultural taboos, difficulties, restraints, questions, and people are not black and white -- they vary, and the gradation of problematic behavior varies as well.

Are most men who catcall rapists? I sincerely doubt it. However, most men who catcall ARE married or with an SO, and many, many of them have children, at least 51% of whom are female. Those men have value and judgement systems that are pervasive in both this and the next generation. Just as bad fathering trains (often) bad fathers, misogyny breeds misogyny.

So, long story short, no, verbal harassment is nowhere NEAR rape. However, it is indicative of a society that is capable of not just generating, but supporting, men who objectify women.
posted by babylon at 9:25 PM on October 3, 2002


rcade, thanks for posting that picture again, which never fails to raise a chill in me.

(The creep saving it all on his camcorder is what takes the cake.)

I think we do have a problem in North American/Western European culture around issues of public space: what is perceived as transgression, who is tacitly authorized to police transgression, the means they choose to do so.

I also think, in honesty, that we're a leg up on a lot of the rest of the world in being able to (begin to) have these discussions at all. I live in Japan, where it is routine and unremarkable for porn/hostess-bar recruiters to follow attractive young women for several minutes, all the while importuning and wheedling. This, as far as I can tell, is treated as a local and temporary annoyance, not a systemic (and deeply fucked-up) circumstance.
posted by adamgreenfield at 9:43 PM on October 3, 2002


There is a serious communication barrier in this thread. Half the people are talking about verbal assault, rude comments, and insulting behavior, and the other half are talking about out-of-place compliments and lingering gazes. Or so it seems to me. The former is, in a situation of equal perceived power, annoying at best, and with a power disparity (actual and/or perceived from either side), it can be frightening and even humiliating. The latter behavior is, well, normal, and done by both sexes about equally in my experience. I think a lot of men read this and thought about their own behavior, which, this group being what is, is probably very civil and polite and not at all like what these women are campaigning against. However, their behavior probably does include a good amount of gazing and quiet appreciation of women in passing (because come on, no one is not affected by beauty), and they tried to draw a comparison. That was kind of encouraged by the references to a patriarchy in the linked site, but it is not a valid comparison. Objectification is not the same as thinking someone is sexy, but I think a lot of men think that is what it means, and so assume they are guilty of it and get defensive about it. Perhaps I'm way off base here, but I think many of the people defending the behavior described in the link are actually defending their own behavior, which is really entirely different and not in question here.
posted by Nothing at 9:56 PM on October 3, 2002


Or so I hope.
posted by Nothing at 9:58 PM on October 3, 2002


hm, nothing, that's not at all the impression I got, but I hope I'm wrong.
posted by babylon at 10:15 PM on October 3, 2002


Nothing: The general impression was that, yes, they're mostly talking about severe cases. But then there's this little paragraph in the "statement of purpose," or something to that effect.

8. We realize that some women do not consider to be harassment what we consider to be harassment. While we recognize every woman's right to define for herself what she considers "harassment," we are cognizant of the fact that all women are continually being intimidated into "playing along to get along," as well as being constantly pressured to prove--even to ourselves--that we are "attractive." We do not forget that this is a game in which men set the terms and women are punished if we do not comply.

No, women never set terms of attractiveness for one another. It just never happens. In any case, men can find even looks developed to be unattractive or off-putting to be attractive after a time (see "Suicide Girls"). It's a radical ideology at work here, and like with radical libertarianism or fundamentalism or Marxism, etc., every bit of incoming data is run through a simplification filter. But in regard to the big picture - i.e., public harassment being a problem - the site proprietors are not at all off the mark.
posted by raysmj at 10:32 PM on October 3, 2002


Make that, men and women can find any look or style attractive after a time, if a certain subculture adopts the look as its own and that subculture becomes influential enough. If you're a part of that subculture, you'll likely find it attractive fairly early on.
posted by raysmj at 10:39 PM on October 3, 2002


Hmmm, I wonder, though how they would feel if the simulated smooches, leering, and obscene remarks came from a grossly obese woman, or an old, wrinkly woman in a wheelchair. Might take some of the fun out of it...might even be...offensive?

Secret Life Of Gravy: For the record, not everyone finds fat or older or disabled people categorically unattractive.

But really, it's beside the point whether the person making the remarks is physically attractive to the person being harassed or not. When a guy shouts "I'm gonna eat your cunt" out of a car window, I can't imagine that many women stop to evaluate the guy's looks before deciding how to feel about the charming bit of attention she's just received.
posted by boredomjockey at 11:00 PM on October 3, 2002


Gotta love my subject agreement in that last sentence, eh? *sigh*
posted by boredomjockey at 11:08 PM on October 3, 2002


I'm not sure I understand you Raysmj (my fault, I'm sure, I am tired). I do not think the two behaviors I described are severe and mild versions of the same thing, but rather two very different things. I agree (I think I agree--again, I'm not sure I am understanding you) that the site is somewhat indiscriminate in its condemnation, venturing from the behaviors they abhor into normal, non-exploitive human sexuality (or at least is seems so), which is what, I was positing, causes such confusion and contention in these kinds of discussions.

Babylon, I myself started out rather off-put by the link. I have never lived in a place where this kind of disrespect to women was common (or at least, I wasn't exposed to it. It was probably fairly common in Hawaii, come to think of it, but I was ten and lived out in the jungle), and so I automatically equated their words with the behaviors I knew, and thought it was off base and a horrible misinterpretation of the situation, possibly intentional. After thinking a bit, I realized that they were probably not talking about the behaviors I am familiar with, and in those few cases that they were, it was probably due to hypersensitivity caused by dealing with the jerks on a continual basis. I am not sure that I am right in my assessment of other posters, but I think it is likely that at least some of them had a similar reaction to me (with similar cause), but did not reach the same conclusion as to the intentions of the site.
posted by Nothing at 11:29 PM on October 3, 2002


...as to the good intentions... That should read.
posted by Nothing at 11:33 PM on October 3, 2002


raysmj: do we *have to* see Suicide Girls?

(The flipside of eventually finding things that are coded as unattractive attractive is that one can eventually be induced, through commercialization or simple overexposure, to regard things we originally found highly attractive unappealing.)
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:36 PM on October 3, 2002


Your lack of empathy here is astounding.

Yeah, I get that a lot. But empathizing with what others are feeling does little to address the reason they feel that way and is, in that sense, not very productive. I'm interested in solutions, not emotions.

Let's consider this. How many physical attacks are there on women each year made by random males previously unknown to the victim? That's the statistic that will tell you just how worried you really should be. Even the "violence against women" groups admit that the majority of attacks are made by people the woman already knows, e.g., domestic violence, date rape, etc. But I'm having real difficulty finding a number on completely random attacks; my Google searches have found a lot of pages full of alarmist rhetoric ("Somewhere in America, a woman is raped every 90 seconds!") and I can only slog through so much of that without finding what I'm looking for before I give up. If anyone has a reliable number for how many women are randomly assaulted by men they don't know each year in the United States, I'd be much obliged.

But even without numbers, men physically assaulting random women simply doesn't seem to me like the kind of regular occurrence that justifies treating every man you meet as a potential rapist. It happens, obviously, I don't mean to deny that, but I think that kind of phobia is a plain irrational overreaction. It is frightening not because it is likely but because it is such a heinous and, worse, vividly imaginable crime. It doesn't make the fear any less real to those who experience it, but recognizing that it has little basis in reality is often a useful first step to overcoming the fear.

[Babylon] draws a very clear picture of what it is like to be a woman walking on a street, alone. With your heart in your throat. Trying to feel brave. Trying to tell yourself that news headlines to the contrary, women seldom get assaulted on the street.

I understand that women feel fear in this situation. But let's look at it dispassionately.

Let's say there is serial rapist in your town who is making big headlines by choosing his victims seemingly at random. (And keep in mind, these criminals make big headlines in part because they're so unusual.) And let's say there are a million men in your town. The odds that the next male stranger that you meet will be that serial rapist are therefore literally one in a million. (If he's known to frequent certain areas, then the odds are higher where he's struck in the past and lower elsewhere. For the sake of discussion we'll assume the danger is evenly distributed across your town.) If you meet 100 new male strangers every day, then, you will on average go 10,000 days -- more than 27 years -- without even meeting this man. And if you do meet him, he may or not attack you. Probably not, if it's broad daylight and there are others around. And if he does attack you, he's probably not going to yell "Hey, nice tits!" first. That's just not in the character of such a person.

The truly dangerous crazies, the ones that women have good reason to feel uneasy about meeting randomly on the street, are actually very rare. We couldn't have a civilization otherwise. You just can't spend your life worrying about these people. You take any precautions you deem reasonable -- maybe you take some self-defense classes, you carry mace, you stay out of bad neighborhoods, you avoid being out completely alone at night -- and you get on with your life. Because if you worry about things you can't control, you'll become a neurotic. That's no way to live a life.

It is the pure, burning anger that even as I walk down the street I can't get away from the judgements on my appearance. I know; I'm not naive. I know that men are continually judging my appearance-- but keep it to yourself.

Nobody can get away from judgments of their appearance; this is not solely a female issue. As a man of size, I have had my share of rude remarks directed my way. (If only I could just for one minute forget that some people see me only as a body!) One of the nice things about hanging out with grown-ups, though, is that you realize most people simply aren't like that. It's only the socially retarded ones who are continually judging people's appearance. Most people don't even notice you. I'm 6'3" and 300+ pounds, and it's a freaky idea to realize that I'm essentially invisible much of the time. But it's true -- most people I pass on the street are involved in their own thoughts or conversations and don't take notice of me for longer than it takes to make sure they don't collide with me. (Sometimes they don't even give me that much of their attention. I have had people run into me and then claim not to have seen me, which I would have thought was impossible.)

I am willing, of course, to believe that women are judged much more frequently than men. Still, I think it happens much less often than you might fear. And even if you are being judged -- so what? How does that hurt you? It doesn't. Judge back, if it'll make you feel better. Or pointedly ignore them. Whatever. You have will; reject being an object, if that's what's eating you up.

But it helps to remember that the "pure, burning anger" you feel is in you, not in the people who are judging you, and it burns so brightly only because you have not found a way to put it out. I have found that it is far easier to let anger go than to try to change every person who triggers it. This is not always easy by any means, and it often requires a good deal of painful introspection, but I have found that it leads to a much happier and far more peaceful existence. I'm not saying it's a cure-all by any means, nor would I presume to say that it's something that anyone specific on this thread needs to address in their life. I'm saying that finding a way not to be pissed off all the time -- even in situations where I'd be perfectly justified to be pissed off -- has tremendously improved my quality of life. I don't mean suppressing the emotion, I mean recognizing it as unnecessary and counterproductive and simply letting it go. (According to some reading I've done recently, this apparently makes me somewhat of a Buddhist. Whatever. It works, and that's the important thing. The more I do it, the more I'm convinced that this is what Christ really meant by "turn the other cheek.")
As an aside, I find it convenient that the immature dorks identify themselves so readily by making those cutting remarks -- it's nice to know who the jerks are right up front so you don't have to waste any time on them. You can let them go too.

Sorry all, this post is much longer than I intended to write, and I wandered pretty far afield too. I expect that someone will find some reason to denounce me for not having enough empathy, but at least you can't accuse me of not having invested some time into thinking about the topic and writing this response.
posted by kindall at 11:46 PM on October 3, 2002


adamgreenfield: No, think of tattoos and piercings and retro hairdos or makeshift dreads and whatnot, the occasional (somewhat) generic or pleasant or perhaps even adorable quasi-collegiate cuteness, geek glasses, etc., and you've got the general idea.
posted by raysmj at 11:56 PM on October 3, 2002


Face it, we're all harrassed by life.

Life is a harrassment.

Hell is other people, and all that.

It's pointless dictating to people about their behaviour.

We have to start with ourselves.
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:12 AM on October 4, 2002


I'm saying that finding a way not to be pissed off all the time -- even in situations where I'd be perfectly justified to be pissed off -- has tremendously improved my quality of life.

Me too Kindall. I have found the same solution. Let go of these things, grasp the nettle, drink the poison, move on (seriously).
posted by SpaceCadet at 12:57 AM on October 4, 2002


I'm coming to this rather late, but I had to add my 2c worth ...

The one part about the link that I actually liked was the log of street harassment incidents. If I kept such a log for myself, I think I'd run out of space pretty quickly.
What amazes me about the comments is that people wish to debate whether or not the matter is serious, whether women are overreacting, whether or not there is an actual problem. How can you tell me that something that affects me isn't a problem? That's for me to decide, isn't it? Yes, I can choose whether or not to make it a problem, and I choose not to, but that doesn't change the fact that it exists.
I'm female, in my late twenties. Every day of my life - not an exaggeration - every single day of my life when walking down the street I am harassed by men. I don't even think about it most of the time. I don't react, I don't turn around, I don't comment. I don't think people touch me that often (it has happened a couple of times, and then I react), but I get stares and 'catcalls', some more creative and offensive than others, all the time. For example yesterday off the top of my head I can think of two incidents.

I'm fascinated that many of the participants in this thread seem to be arguing that these 'incidents' are not a problem and I am making too much of them. Basically, I am going about my business, and I am interrupted by hostile people that I don't know. It's as simple as that. I don't like it. Why try to argue with me?
posted by different at 4:02 AM on October 4, 2002 [2 favorites]


Thank you, different. I'm afraid if they were capable of paying attention to the testimony of actual women, they'd have learned from babylon's brave, moving account, but it never hurts to say it once more. Guys: don't tell women they don't really have a problem! You're not a woman; you don't know; shut up, listen, learn.
posted by languagehat at 5:20 AM on October 4, 2002


Kindall, I'm sorry but statistics just don't help. There are 200 child kidnappings by total strangers a year in a country with close to 300 million people. Statistically insignificant. But, parents still worry about the possibility.

Do I walk through life angry and scared all the time? No I do not. Most of the time I am oblivious. But at least 10 times in my life (I am in my forties) sexual harassment on the streets has led to real fear. There are days when you just feel like a piece of meat in the zoo-- so don't preach to me how it is women who have to change.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:00 AM on October 4, 2002


But even without numbers, men physically assaulting random women simply doesn't seem to me like the kind of regular occurrence that justifies treating every man you meet as a potential rapist.

I'm glad you took the time to explain your point, kindall, but this paragraph shows that you're missing the point of the harassment project.

No one is suggesting to treat "every man you meet as a potential rapist." This is about how women should respond to a specific subspecies of male -- the losers who are sexually harassing women on the street -- and what men can do to help counteract the long-standing belief among an embarrassingly large number of men that this is acceptable behavior (or, worse, something that impresses your male buddies).
posted by rcade at 6:34 AM on October 4, 2002


calico: dagny, you're clearly more assured than I am

That's what carrying a handgun does to you, I suppose. I never feel physically threatened. And I don't think I'm missing out on anything, judging from some of the posts in this thread.
posted by dagny at 8:23 AM on October 4, 2002


Because it almost never is.

Sorry, kindall, that just doesn't cut it.

Firstly, we have a sufficient abundance of anecdotal evidence on this page alone to suggest that attacks are in fact frequent sequelae to abusive harrassment. (Yes, I know all about the issues that attend self-reportage, thus the word "suggest.")

Does anyone have any info from a good study demonstrating the presence or absence of such a link?
posted by deadcowdan at 9:10 AM on October 4, 2002


On the harassment as a prelude to assault debate: frankly I'm not concerned with statistics. As to the number of times this behavior leads to attack, or the number of men that harass and whether or not they are rapists, I don't care.

When a man on the street harasses me, I don't think about the number of men that commit rape, or how likely it is to happen. I worry that it will happen.

I don't treat every man as a potential rapist, but anytime I am harassed on the street I treat that situation as a potentially threatening one: to do otherwise would be to put myself at risk.

I can only point to babylon's post as a very good example of what goes through my head in this type of situation.
posted by birgitte at 10:01 AM on October 4, 2002


First, I would like to proudly announce that I consider myself a staunch feminist. I don't hate men, at least not any more than anyone else.

It always amazes me that in the process of protesting what is a demonstrable and pervasive hatred of women, you have to defend yourself against accusations of being a man-hater.

Face it, we're all harrassed by life.

Life is a harrassment.

Hell is other people, and all that.

It's pointless dictating to people about their behaviour.

We have to start with ourselves.


The 'but all people are bad' argument just doesn't cut it. There are patterns to badness. We study them in order to eradicate them and shame the offenders. It's called justice.
posted by Summer at 10:05 AM on October 4, 2002


It started when I was *9*...yes, 9 years old. Being followed in department stores. Being followed on the street. Men following me in cars. Anonymous hands grabbing at my breasts, ass, and crotch while I stand in crowds on the street or on public transportation. Having some guy stalk me at my work for a year and a half. Being cornered by two guys against a cyclone fence as they tried to grab my breasts and crotch, in broad daylight, mind you. And that's not even counting the verbal comments. Things like, " Are those titties real? Mmm, I'd love to eat your pussy...baby, would you use my face as your toilet..." and worse. 20+ years of harassment. In most of these cases the malice and misogny was thick enough to cut with a knife. These guys wanted me to feel humiliated and scared.

Yeah, I get angry when this happens. I've threatened and even physically assaulted a few men who harrassed and grabbed at me. Not smart I know, but I can't just sit back and take it. It comes down to this: I'm not bothering these guys and I don't want to be bothered by them. How that makes me a feminazi, I'll never know.

Mind you, I don't mind admiring glances, or the harmless "hey beautiful" kind of comments. Sure, the guy's being a bit of a social retard, but I know he doesn't mean me any harm. My male friends (platonic) sometimes make comments about my breasts. It's funny, it's harmless, again, I don't mind. Sometimes the catcalling can be it's own bizarre form of entertainment. Like the guy who kept calling after me for a block and a half: "I love your big, beautiful ass! I can't live in the same world as that big, beautiful ass! (To my male companion) "And I'm not talking about your ass, mister! I ain't no homo! I just love that girl's big beautiful ass!" Pure comedy.

I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there is a discernable difference between inappropriate but harmless cat calls and the hateful, degrading and malicious verbal/physical abuse women encounter day to day. Sure, that website is casting a pretty big net and over-generalizing, but that doesn't mean that it's not a real problem.
posted by echolalia67 at 11:49 AM on October 4, 2002


It was as if breasts were little pieces of property that had been unlawfully annexed by the opposite sex and were rightfully ours, and we wanted them back. -- Rob Gordon, High Fidelity

When John Cusack says these words in the movie High Fidelity, you laugh. You're supposed to. It's funny. because it's true! Ha ha ha! Later, we hear these words from Penny, the girl that Rob rejected because she wouldn't put out: "I cried and I cried. And when that little shitbag Chris Thompson asked me out and I was too tired to fight him off, it wasn't rape exactly, because I said OK. But it wasn't far off." There's a little black humor here as well … ha ha! Rob's such an asshole!! But there's a cringe-inducing factor in Penny's little monologue, because it also rings true. Rob Gordon and Chris Thompson are two sides of the same coin -- men who have subconsciously cultivated the misguided belief that they possess some sort of proprietary interest in the female body. Most of us men don't even take this belief to the deplorable level that Rob Gordon does, a fraction of us take it even as far as Chris Thompson's "almost rape." Even fewer take it farther than that. But this belief undergirds most of the fucked-up crap that is predominantly visited by men upon women, from domestic violence to sexual assault to street harassment. And every time a woman has to be reminded of the inexplicable prevalence of this belief, she is perfectly justified in feeling threatened.

First of all, dismissing the reactions of those who do feel threatened and frightened by this behavior is stunningly ignorant. Women walking alone on the street have reason to fear, to the tune of about 118,411 reported rapes perpetrated by strangers in 1993 alone (33,000 of those committed by multiple offenders).

But aside from the actual, immediate dangers that street harassment calls to mind, it's the pure worthlessness of the mindset behind it that should be forcefully attacked. Why do these men feel they're entitled to offer public and unsolicited comments on a woman's appearance or to gesture lewdly at women? Please, answer me that, those of you who are railing against the whiny "feminazis." Then, if you can, tell me how that same sense of entitlement is unrelated to issues of violence against women. And finally, tell me how the SHP's attempt to eradicate this mindset in men is bad or wrong, exactly.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 12:01 PM on October 4, 2002 [4 favorites]


grrarrgh00, you're my new hero.

Having said that, the SHP needs to find new language to express itself.

We feel that street harassment in its varying forms is an expression of male supremacy and sexism and a form of terrorization of women, with the ultimate effect of threatening any public activity. We believe that all women are subjected to street harassment.

Now, it's not that I think these things are untrue, but phrases like male supremacy have been so successfully mocked over the years they can't now be used seriously. It's the same with patriarchy. You can't win an argument with terms like these.

And we reject the idea that this situation is inevitable and unchangeable, and that this behavior represents innate male nature.

Did any of you who ranted about feminazis read this sentence?
posted by Summer at 12:28 PM on October 4, 2002


grrarrgh00 - Why do these men feel they're entitled to offer public and unsolicited comments on a woman's appearance or to gesture lewdly at women?

Why do you think anyone is entitled to never hear annoying statements from strangers? The mindset that the entire world has a duty reshape itself to avoid annoying any particular person is what many people here object to.
posted by NortonDC at 12:29 PM on October 4, 2002


On the harassment as a prelude to assault debate: frankly I'm not concerned with statistics.

That's fine. I am. I'll ask again: does anyone know if there's a definite link (or definite lack of link) between men who are verbally aggressive toward women and actual rapists?

I'm not dismissing any concerns women have about the possibility of being assaulted by strangers they see (or, in this case, hear) in public; the reason I'm asking is that the stereotypical picture of a rapist I have in my mind is less "hey, baby, nice tits!" and more sneaking around in a dark hallway late at night, waiting for the woman across the way to come home. I am quite prepared to have my mental image shattered, I am just wondering who the real rapists actually are.
posted by deadcowdan at 12:56 PM on October 4, 2002


Hey, NortonDC, nice way to answer a question with a completely irrelevant question! How about you actually read my question, answer it and get back to me? Then, I will be happy to answer any relevant questions you have for me. With declarative sentences even!
posted by grrarrgh00 at 1:06 PM on October 4, 2002


Why do you think anyone is entitled to never hear annoying statements from strangers? The mindset that the entire world has a duty reshape itself to avoid annoying any particular person is what many people here object to.

NortonDC, what's your point? It seems to me that you're saying, "This is the way the world is, why should we change it just because you don't like it?".

I'll admit that my real worry, reading this post, is that a large number of the MeFi contributors whose comments I've been reading and enjoying over the past year or so are, in fact, the types of guys who shout at me in the street. If that comes across as a troll, I'm sorry - it isn't meant to be one. But that's my feeling. I'm not pulling a stupid and pointless 'that's it, I'm outta here', and I doubt I'd be missed much anyway, but I have to make the statement that this discussion has left a bad, bad taste in my mouth and I think that my perception of MeFi people has been changed by it more than by any other thread. I'm not really sure if this place is for me.

I also want to share these stories of my own ... not things that have made me fear being raped or attacked. But things that have pissed me off.

When I lived in London I would travel to work at night on the Tube for a few stops. Once, a man sitting opposite me said a couple of times, "I'm going to rape you". Was I scared? Nup. (Whether or not I should have been is another matter). Was I annoyed? Take a wild guess. It kinda put me off concentrating on my book.

Another night I came out of the Farringdon Tube station and it was raining cats and dogs. I had my umbrella and put it up. A man at the station exit asked me if he could share my umbrella. I wasn't exactly overjoyed (so maybe I'm not a very nice person, but y'know ...) but I said OK, and we began walking (bear in mind that I was now getting half-soaked). He put his arm around me, and I said, "Sorry, you can't put your arm around me", and he said to me, "Don't flatter yourself!". That makes me laugh even now. I pulled my umbrella away and went back to the Tube station, where I then had to stand for a while to make sure he was gone, before taking a different way to work. (Wanker!)

NortonDC, the words spoken by these dickheads didn't particularly scare me, but they were extremely annoying. But they're pretty much par for the course if you're a woman. Are you saying that I just need to deal, because things are the way they are?
posted by different at 1:09 PM on October 4, 2002


Why do you think anyone is entitled to never hear annoying statements from strangers? The mindset that the entire world has a duty reshape itself to avoid annoying any particular person is what many people here object to.

Right, let's look at that.

never hear annoying statements. You see, you've made that sound passive. Like people are going about their business making innocent statements and these oversensitive women just happen to hear them. That's not what's being discussed here. We're talking about verbal assault direct at the women.

The mindset that the entire world has a duty reshape itself to avoid annoying any particular person

What you're saying is that men who verbally assault women shouldn't stop, because they have no duty to change themselves to avoid annoying that woman. Men shouldn't stop verbally assaulting women because what? It's part of who they are? Their culture? Are you going to mention freedom of speech next?
posted by Summer at 1:16 PM on October 4, 2002 [1 favorite]


I'll admit that my real worry, reading this post, is that a large number of the MeFi contributors whose comments I've been reading and enjoying over the past year or so are, in fact, the types of guys who shout at me in the street.

I don't think that's the case, different, but I know what you mean. This is what I always think when the feminist issue comes up. Men who decry the inhumanity of the burqa in other threads won't give thought-space to the rights of the women they date, work with and are related to. Which is why I always cringe when men use the women's rights argument when discussing why 'we're' better than 'them' in east versus west debates.
posted by Summer at 1:25 PM on October 4, 2002


Thanks, Summer, I hope you're right!
I guess I'm just amazed that men don't seem to realise the extent of street harassment, whether or not they see it as something serious. The idea that it's only a problem if it makes you fear for your safety is interesting, too.

A male friend told me years ago that he got sick of his girlfriend complaining about men harassing her, and one day he followed her down the street (she knew he was there) a few paces behind, to see if she really was treated differently without the 'protection' of a man. He admitted that he was shocked at the unwanted attention that she received.

This thread has been a real eye-opener for me, and for that I'm grateful.
posted by different at 1:33 PM on October 4, 2002


To respond to all the "Where's the Empathy" posts, here's the point that I am trying to make:

I agree that unwelcome sexually forward comments and gestures are a loathsome practice. I certainly understand that it really is a different world for women in public alone than it is for men.

BUT,

Harassment is not something that is limited to male vs. female. I feel that I have been harassed in public with unwelcome advances, and insults. I've been made to feel unsafe on the street. I don't practice this behavior myself and frankly I resent being lumped in with those who do. I also resent the fact that the women who put up this website feel that harassment on the streets is exclusively a problem for women perpetrated by men.

In short I agree with many women here and abhor men who make lewd remarks and rude sexual advances to women in public. I think the exclusivity of the presentation of this issue is counterproductive and personally I resent that me being harassed on the street is not included in the bigger picture which is respect for one another in public.
posted by aaronscool at 1:52 PM on October 4, 2002


Women: "Don't harass us."
Certain Men: "Feminazis".

African Americans: "Treat us as equals."
Certain Whites: "Uppity niggers."

Unbelievably stupid, degrading comments...

Some men harass women in the streets. If I see it, I try to put a stop to it. So should anyone. It is the right thing to do. And there is nothing wrong with women calling for greater respect from all men. Women are treated as inferiors right up to the present day.

NortonDC: Why do you think anyone is entitled to never hear annoying statements from strangers? The mindset that the entire world has a duty reshape itself to avoid annoying any particular person is what many people here object to.

~ too much ~

The hypocritical behavior of some of our friends on MetaFilter NEVER fails to amuse.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:23 PM on October 4, 2002


aaronscool, I'm sorry that you also have a problem with street harassment. Maybe you should also start a Street Harassment Project, seeing as how this is so bothersome to you. Meanwhile, I see no reason for you to denigrate the efforts of these women, who have focused their energies on combatting the pervasive problem of men sexually harassing women in public.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 2:57 PM on October 4, 2002


I see no reason for you to denigrate the efforts of these women, who have focused their energies on combating the pervasive problem of men sexually harassing women in public

Let me re-emphasize: I support the elimination of street harassment...period. This is not the message of the founders of the slightly misnamed streetharassmentproject.org who's mission statement seems to suggest that street harassment is only directed against women by men, equate said harassment with rape (First point in the beliefs), and equate this harassment with some kind of male dominance conspiracy to keep women in their place.

I take umbrage to these claims, specifically:
1, Street harassment can happen to everyone and anyone, Male or Female.
2. Words, though they can be hurtful, mean, and offensive DON'T equal rape...this does not mean that they are not hurtful, mean and offensive and should be stopped.
3. I would believe that Sexual Harassment Against Women in Public (a far better description of what this website is about) is motivated much more by our social and behavioral patterns that dictate that the man must be the sexual aggressor in order to fulfill his sexual desires (i.e. he must beat his chest, make the first move, ruffle his feathers etc.) than they are to "Keep women in their place".

My point is these women are claiming to fight against Street Harassment and are really fighting again Sexual Harassment in Public Against Women by Men. Perhaps they should focus on Sexual Harassment rather than bring "Street Harassment" into it.
posted by aaronscool at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2002


Every day of my life - not an exaggeration - every single day of my life when walking down the street I am harassed by men.

Not that I disbelieve you, but these kinds of claims just flabbergast me. I hardly ever hear catcalls or rude comments made to women on the street. In fact I can't even remember the last time it happened in my presence. I wonder where all this stuff is taking place that I see it so rarely.

don't preach to me how it is women who have to change.

Well, I wouldn't say I was exactly preaching. But there are two sides in every conflict and expecting men to be the only ones who have to change their attitude strikes me as unrealistic.

There are 200 child kidnappings by total strangers a year in a country with close to 300 million people. Statistically insignificant. But, parents still worry about the possibility.

They shouldn't. That is my entire point. It is counterproductive.

No one is suggesting to treat "every man you meet as a potential rapist."

I was responding to someone who said that in fact that was exactly what they did. (Well, every male stranger, which is a distinction I think is useful and tried to maintain in my post.)

When a man on the street harasses me, I don't think about the number of men that commit rape, or how likely it is to happen. I worry that it will happen.

In my opinion people should do more thinking and less worrying. That would actually be a pretty decent summation of my post.

Emotions are not you; they are something that happens to you. You can, in essence, be harassed by your own emotions. Just as with harassment that comes from outside you, how you react is completely under your control, while the stimulus itself is not always so tractable.

118,411 reported rapes perpetrated by strangers in 1993 alone

My reading of that document puts it closer to 80,000 sexual assaults (of which actual rape would be a portion) committed by strangers (see chart at top of page 4). That's still rather more than I expected, to be honest. Assuming that no woman was assaulted more than once in the year, and that there are about 140,000,000 women in the country, and that the risk is evenly spread geographically (it's not, obviously, it's much higher in cities), the baseline risk of a woman being sexually assaulted by a stranger is about 0.06% per year by my calculations. Of course that covers both males and females (almost all victims are in fact female so I didn't break that out) and it only covers reported incidents. The government estimates that only about a quarter to a third of such incidents are reported, which throws a monkey wrench into the numbers -- I'd expect that incidents involving strangers are reported more frequently (the most obvious pressure not to report, that of the perpetrator being in a position of power over the victim, not being present in a stranger-assault situation) but won't make any such assumptions. This would put the baseline risk of a sexual assault at something like a quarter of a percent per year, which means that over a hundred years a woman would have a risk of 25% that they will be sexually assaulted. Given that risk isn't evenly spread, and it's not preposterous to imagine that urban areas are five times riskier than rural areas, it would seem you could make the case that most women in cities are likely to be sexually assaulted at least once in their lifetimes by a stranger.

Which is indeed pretty freaking scary. So, thanks for the eye-opening data. I still think it's an overreaction to worry that every male stranger you meet could be the one who'll perform the statistically-likely assault, since you pass many tens of thousands of strangers in a city over a lifetime, and the vast majority are harmless. But the idea that you're almost guaranteed to be attacked at least once in your life by one of them -- that's not very fun at all. This makes me much more sympathetic to the fear -- and also makes me hope that my calculations were off by at least an order of magnitude.
posted by kindall at 3:30 PM on October 4, 2002


Ohhhhh, you're upset at the cooptation of the term "street harassment." Well, when you start your club, you can call your street harassment "urban terrorism." Problem solved.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 3:33 PM on October 4, 2002


Every day of my life - not an exaggeration - every single day of my life when walking down the street I am harassed by men

It's honestly true, kindall. Not so much a claim as a statement.

I wonder where all this stuff is taking place that I see it so rarely.

Melbourne, Perth, Wellington, London ... and now Amsterdam.

I was going to respond to the rest of your post, but frankly your cold-blooded calculations (Assuming that no woman was assaulted more than once in the year, and that there are about 140,000,000 women in the country, and that the risk is evenly spread geographically ... ) put me off completely.

Something else that interests me is the idea that as one is statistically unlikely to be attacked, one shouldn't waste time worrying about it - ignoring the fact that the media make much of these killings/rapes by random strangers, and that women (in my experience) are frequently told by well-meaning loved ones that they 'shouldn't' go out alone at night, travel by themselves, etc. Hmmm. So really in order to function, I should separate myself from my culture and surroundings - ignore the 'catcalls', ignore the stories in the papers, ignore my friends and relatives.
posted by different at 3:41 PM on October 4, 2002


No my beef is misrepresentation:

Male Dominance in Society=Street Harassment=Sexual Harassment=Rape

I think they have it wrong.
posted by aaronscool at 3:46 PM on October 4, 2002


Melbourne, Perth, Wellington, London ... and now Amsterdam.

I had understood that Europeans are somewhat more likely to do this than Americans (I've heard particularly galling stories about the behavior of Italian men in particular, though they may be just stories). I can only say that in the US I have never personally witnessed anything like what you're reporting (i.e. a neighborhood so bad that any given woman was likely to be the target of at least one harassment incident every day). It boggles my mind, but I'm trying to get a handle on it.

I was going to respond to the rest of your post, but frankly your cold-blooded calculations ... put me off completely.

Sorry, if you want to know how afraid you should actually be, it takes math. If you'd read to the end of it, though, you'dhave seen that I was surprised by how likely it actually turned out to be, and thus became rather more sympathetic to the widespread fear of sexual assault.

So really in order to function, I should separate myself from my culture and surroundings - ignore the 'catcalls', ignore the stories in the papers, ignore my friends and relatives.

Better to separate yourself from your culture and surroundings then to allow them to lead you to false conclusions that make you live in fear for no reason. Not that that's necessarily the case here, as I mentioned.
posted by kindall at 4:56 PM on October 4, 2002


aaronscool, I'm not getting that from the link you provided.

street harassment, rape and assault are connected issues; that all stem from attitudes of dehumanization... Street harassment is a form of terrorization... primarily about power and control... part of a socially constructed "masculinity"... We recognize that there are many forms of harassment... may be based on race, class, immigrant status, sexual orientation, gender expression, homelessness, police targeting--or have other "causes." ...We have, however, in THIS group, chosen to focus on the harassment of women by men:
a) because there is no other group solely devoted to this important work and
b) because we believe we must fight as FEMINISTS against street harassment--and in the context of a larger struggle against male supremacy and sexism.


Sorry to port all of that over here, but now I can ask: do you not see the excessive qualification taking place in these statements? "Connected" to rape and assault, not "equal." Their mission statement seems very clear. Where do you see them equating sexual harassment with rape? "Exclusivity"? So you won't support their efforts until they have the money/power to eradicate all injustice in one fell swoop? I don't understand.

kindall, human interaction is a little more directed than you seem to be implying. Rapists don't float through life in a sort of Brownian motion. Is it so hard to believe that they could actively seek out potential victims without your knowledge?

Protecting yourself isn't a matter of security through obscurity, but of keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior. It just so happens that psychological profiles of rapists show that he often shares characteristics with the typical on-the-street catcaller: sees himself as simply "expressing his masculinity"; displays excessive bravado; gets a thrill out of the obvious displeasure he causes. How are women supposed to decide within a matter of seconds whether the guy following them down the street making lewd comments is doing so in good clean fun or if has something more sinister in mind? Why do they owe these strangers the benefit of the doubt?

Here's a bad analogy: when you're out shopping, where do you keep your money? In a pocket? In a wallet? Why? Not everyone you meet in public is a thief, and I am personally offended by the implication. Don't let your neuroses leak into the public sphere, okay? If you're walking around with a wad of cash and I should shout "Hey, nice billfold!"-- well, that's just a compliment, okay? Statistically speaking, the chances that I want to mug you are small. Don't be so uptight! You're letting the pickpockets win!

Silly? Sure. But it seems pretty similar to what you're saying to women about harassment, and it's a safe bet that they value their own bodies more than you do your cash.

Oh, one more thing: I love the way certain people in this thread are so offended at the broad brush they're supposedly being tarred with, while elsewhere...
posted by tyro urge at 5:59 PM on October 4, 2002


grrarrgh00, my question is entirely relevant, as it deals with the assumptions underlying yours, namely that avoiding annoying you is worth abridging the set of things everyone else is allowed to say. Sorry, no. Even a single random person's entitlement to speech dramatically exceeds your entitlement to not hear whatever gets on your nerves today, to say nothing of the folly of restricting what every other person is allowed to say.

different - I'll admit that my real worry, reading this post, is that a large number of the MeFi contributors whose comments I've been reading and enjoying over the past year or so are, in fact, the types of guys who shout at me in the street. If that comes across as a troll, I'm sorry - it isn't meant to be one. But that's my feeling. I'm not pulling a stupid and pointless 'that's it, I'm outta here', and I doubt I'd be missed much anyway, but I have to make the statement that this discussion has left a bad, bad taste in my mouth and I think that my perception of MeFi people has been changed by it more than by any other thread. I'm not really sure if this place is for me.

Wow, let me paraphrase to make sure I've got it: "Because you people have failed to condemn what annoys me, I'm going to tell myself you might do what annoys me if we met on the street, and therefore I may stop typing words on a computer screen with the group of thousands of people that includes you."

Wow.

You know, it just might be worth considering that the world doesn't always neatly divide up into convenient us vs. them dichotomies. People may vehemently disagree with you and still be good people. And disagreeing with your arguments does not have to be an endorsement of what you oppose, it may just be an objection to the assumptions and reasoning in your arguments.
posted by NortonDC at 10:48 PM on October 4, 2002


Thanks for the interesting reading, tyro. While your links don't quite seem to support your contention that potential rapists typically "act out" (in fact, the one on cyberstalkers says that in real life such men are unlikely to be a danger), it does look like some rapists do act out (the example of Mike Tyson one page uses is particularly illuminating). That is a far cry from saying that men who act out are potential rapists, but given that it's one of the few traits women have to go by, I can't blame them for using it as a criterion. After all, we're currently worried about Arab terrorists; while we know that all Arabs aren't terrorists (far from it), we do know that the terrorists we're looking for are Arabs, which means we look at Arabs more closely. Same deal with men who make lewd comments to women; they're probably not rapists, but we do know that one sign of a potential rapist is this sort of behavior, so, better to be on your guard.

It is a matter of making sense of this and assimilating it, and facts like the ones you have provided help a lot.

Additionally, it seems women would do well to stay away from unskilled laborers and the unemployed, as they make up more than half of rapists, according to one of your sources. That seems like a pretty common-sense precaution to take. Although it will really bum me out if I should be laid off to have all the women avoiding me. I mean more than they do already.
posted by kindall at 1:00 AM on October 5, 2002


NortonDC: You don't get it, do you? Take off some of that intellectual armor for a minute and try to feel what it must be like for a woman reading this thread. Here, maybe this will help: Suppose someone posted a link to a group opposing harassment of blacks, with a comment about "I know some people are doing bad stuff, but I'm not, and I resent being lumped in with them just 'cause I'm white." Now suppose the next comment were "Fuck them, let them go back to Africa." Somebody else says "This civil rights talk reminds me of college, and I didn't really like college." Various people debate the statistics -- are cops perhaps justified in taking a harder line on blacks? Are blacks paranoid? A few blacks post harrowing accounts of having been stopped and roughed up for no reason; they're pretty much ignored, except for perceived shortcomings in intellectual consistency. If you were black, would you feel welcome?

posted by languagehat at 6:01 AM on October 5, 2002 [1 favorite]


kindall, and those others who write in the same spirit: I am really not quite sure what your problem is, or why you are so defensive.

I think it is abundantly clear that there is an issue here. Instead of trying to "statistically" undermine the claim, deny its importance, magick it away, deny personal responsibility or ignorance of conditions on the ground, why not simply listen to what some of the other members of this community are saying?

Why not assume that these reports are made in good faith, and take them at face value? What would it take to get you to accept the reality of this situation?

BTW, my girlfriend walked past at the point where Italy came up, and commented that she was disgusted with Italian men. It is not the first time I have heard that, either, and it meshes with my personal experience of Mediterranean countries. I think this may well be a more visible issue in some cultures than others.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:02 AM on October 5, 2002


There it is, finally: "You don't get it." The universal declaration that one's point can't be proved and therefore one's dissenters are to be denigrated and their mental or emotional faculties discounted.

The next comment wasn't "Fuck them, let them go back to Africa," or any analog of that. And you know that.

Civil rights, interesting angle to bring up. Which do you think is a more fundamental civil right, free speech or freedom from hearing annoying speech? I don't have a lot of doubts on this one. When the question comes down to hurt feelings versus fundamental rights like free speech, feelings lose, and rightfully so.
posted by NortonDC at 6:54 AM on October 5, 2002


NortonDC, this isn't a civil rights issue, no one tried to take it there, and I think "you don't get it" is a completely fair statement given that you have repeatedly attempted to dumb down people's arguments to make them fit with your ideology. These women are not the government and they are not acting on behalf of the government, and I challenge you to show me one place on this statement of intention that even begins to suggest that they are considering legal redress for this harassment. Take your "fundamental rights like free speech" to another argument, because again, it is not relevant here.

If men are entitled to denigrate, humiliate and threaten women as they walk down the street, then women are entitled to work in concert to inform the men that they are unbelievable pigs. Simple as that. That is my thesis statement, and instead of dancing around it with completely irrelevant rhetoric, I'd love you to confront that statement head-on and tell me what your problem is with it exactly.

And languagehat said exactly what I was going to say with the racial corollary. If I, as a black man, walk down the street and repeatedly hear "punk nigger" and other such comments from white people, then you can be quite certain that I will work in concert with my fellow black folks to tell as many white people as possible that these statements belie a mindset that I think is fucked up. And if I sign on to MetaFilter and someone says "Fuck these nigga-nazis" (which, contrary to this inexplicable denial, is an almost exact reproduction of Dark Messiah's words) and other posters proceed to expand upon and defend that line of thought, I damn sure am going to reconsider some assumptions I had made about the nature of this community.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 8:26 AM on October 5, 2002 [2 favorites]


Voicing threats is a crime. The repeated attempts to link what annoys you to a crime are not advancing your argument. Find a new approach.

The driving sentiment behind Dark Messiah's comment is "That's ridiculous!" Absent from it is the sentiment that those spoken of don't deserve to share the same space as the speaker, which is prominent in the false analog. They do not equate. Referring to someone as a "feminazi" is not an endorsement of segregation, racial or otherwise. And again, I'd be surprised if you didn't already know that.

And I did not raise the civil rights angle, languagehat did with his introduction of segregation, discrimination by the government, and race-based physical assualt. If you don't find the racial/civil rights comparisons illuminating, fine, but don't blame it's introduction on me.
posted by NortonDC at 8:59 AM on October 5, 2002


This is my last comment in this thread, but NortonDC, I would encourage you to go back through and actually read the words have been written in this thread rather than reading only what you want to hear into everything. E.g.: You say the "driving sentiment behind Dark Messiah's comment is 'That's ridiculous!'" Well, read again, because Dark Messiah's comment actually is "Fuck these feminazis." That selective interpretation does not flatter you, darling. And you say, "If you don't find the racial/civil rights comparisons illuminating, fine, but don't blame [their] introduction on me." Truth be told, I do find comparisons between race-based harassment and gender-based harassment to be illuminating, and had you read my post, you would know that. Once again, NortonDC, all I can advocate is that you read the actual words written on this web page, and stop merely rearranging your prejudices. No matter how much you try to dismiss "I'll eat your cunt, bitch" as an annoyance rather than a threat; no matter how much you insist that someone, somewhere in this thread or on this website is advocating litigation, the fact remains that you are simply arguing that the rights of men's speech not to be "abridged" somehow supersedes the right of women to tell the men they are fuckwits.
posted by grrarrgh00 at 10:15 AM on October 5, 2002


Care to point out where I advocate any restriction on anybody's speech? Or is it only you that gets to accuse peope of not reading?

As for Dark Messiah, if you were to go back and read his comment you'd see that the sentence directly preceeding the one you choose to quote derides the idea that he has a claim the streets as his turf, a sentiment diametrically opposed to the false analog that endorses racial segregation.

And did you really just call me "darling" in a thread in which you argue in favor of suppressing unwanted advances? Gee, and I thought there were holes in your position before.
posted by NortonDC at 10:30 AM on October 5, 2002


Instead of trying to "statistically" undermine the claim, deny its importance, magick it away, deny personal responsibility or ignorance of conditions on the ground, why not simply listen to what some of the other members of this community are saying? Why not assume that these reports are made in good faith, and take them at face value? What would it take to get you to accept the reality of this situation?

I am listening. And then, after listening, I must determine whether what people are saying is valid or not. It's stupid to take what anyone tells you "at face value." Reporters have a saying: If your mother says she loves you, check it out. Everything must be analyzed if one is to arrive at the truth, or anywhere in its general neighborhood. When it comes to choosing a course of action on an issue like this, I can't believe anyone wouldn't want facts and analysis.

What it took to make me "accept the reality of the situation" is facts from a reliable source and a little number-crunching, of the sort a high school student could do. After analysis, in case you haven't noticed, I came to see that this is a real problem. I say this again in case you missed it the last couple of times I said it. I shared my analysis to help convince the skeptics that there was indeed something more here than hot air.

After talking to a couple of female acquaintances in different parts of the U.S., neither of whom reported being harassed frequently or feeling very threatened on rare occasions when they were, I'm not entirely convinced that "street harassment" is a widespread problem in this country, but my awareness of the potential dangers has certainly been raised, and if I should ever see it happening in front of me, I am far more likely to take action now (even if it's just giving the men involved a dirty look or a "hey, cut that out, you're making yourself look like an ass") than I would have been before I looked at the facts.

So you seem to be criticizing me for coming down firmly on the women's side on this issue. I don't get it, but whatever floats your boat, I guess.
posted by kindall at 10:34 AM on October 5, 2002


This thread is breathing its last, but I want to respond to NortonDC one last time to try to clarify what I thought was obvious, although as grrarrgh00 says Norton seems determined to misunderstand. Still, kindall managed an open mind, maybe there's hope for NDC. So: I was not using civil rights as a logical parallel (street hasslers = denial of right to vote) but as an emotional parallel. If you can imagine how excluded a black would feel in the situation I described, perhaps you can stretch those spiritual muscles and imagine how a woman feels reading this one. Not a matter of statistics or exact correspondence, just of attitude. I could try other parallels, but I suspect you have no desire to understand, so... never mind. Over and out.
posted by languagehat at 2:10 PM on October 5, 2002


I think I might see the problem. NortonDC, you've set up something of a logical straw man here:

I don't have a lot of doubts on this one. When the question comes down to hurt feelings versus fundamental rights like free speech, feelings lose, and rightfully so.

A perfectly valid sentiment, but where is anyone calling for the curtailment of free speech? It's not mentioned in the link; if anything, the link is calling for an expansion and protection of a woman's right to respond to harassment with an equal freedom. These women aren't campaigning for a revision of the First Amendment; they're vying for their own speech rights. Look at the site-- they're passing out cards and flyers and talking about "Educating/raising awareness" and "creating a forum." Where are you getting this "trying to trample our rights" angle? They are clearly just fighting for their own.

It's fairly common knowledge that sexual harassers sometimes get angry and physically threatening when publicly chastised for their behavior. That is the only form of censorship I can see here, if any.

And that's exactly what this group is fighting against.

Unless I'm really misunderstanding the crux of your argument, I think you're taking the wrong side.
posted by tyro urge at 7:13 PM on October 5, 2002


tyro urge, I don't exactly concur with your take, but you are paying closer attention than many others in this exchange. Note that my original post is an objection to lumping the annoyance of unwanted advances in with the crime of rape, a theme that is echoed later in objecting to likening that annoyance to other crimes.

To my mind, I haven't taken "either" side, I've vigorously objected dangerous and distatsteful tactics and reasoning employed by some of the participants. My expectations are high for those that would fight for right.
posted by NortonDC at 1:39 AM on October 6, 2002


And in all of your objections, NortonDC, you continually refer to harassment as an "annoyance" and don't bother to attempt to understand what people are saying in context at all. I find that as dangerous and distasteful as anything written here.
posted by Dreama at 2:21 AM on October 6, 2002


You are mistaking disagreement for misunderstanding. There is no misunderstanding.
posted by NortonDC at 10:53 AM on October 7, 2002


harassment statistics and assault: Again, I'm not concerned with statistics, I'm concerned with safety. If someone were to show that men who harass are not likely to assault women, this would not make me feel any safer in public. If people who read this thread can not understand this position, read babylon's post.

Harassing women in public is about claiming pubic space for men. It is about making women feel unwelcome, unwanted and powerless. A man who harasses knows that I can not defend myself against his attacks. He makes these remarks because there are no consequences for his inappropriate and threatening behavior.
posted by birgitte at 5:12 PM on October 14, 2002


Before this thread gets archived:

Seems like Sapphireblue made good on her Metatalk exit speech. The irony of someone leaving Metafilter because of the perceived negative tone in a discussion about a site dedicated to standing up to negative speech...

I have my own particular peeves about Metafilter-- who doesn't?-- but you won't change many minds by withdrawing, and you can't expect to win everyone over in one fell swoop anyway. I really disagreed with what some people were saying here, but I didn't think this thread was that bad. A good heated argument can help you reevaluate your own position sometimes; that's what this thread did for me.

You're haven't really gone for good, have you? I hope you reconsider...
posted by tyro urge at 9:12 PM on November 2, 2002


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