don't forget your empathy at home
January 26, 2015 12:32 PM   Subscribe

On Running and Street Harassment
This past Saturday, eight different men verbally harassed me. Two stepped into my path and said they wouldn’t move unless I gave them a high five. The murmurs, the coos and looks, all serve as reminders that I am not a person to them.

By the seventh man, I was tired. He told me he could look at that ass all day. I told him to shut up. He said to me, “Don’t worry, baby, I still love you,” and my skin went clammy with defeat. And there was something about hearing the word “love” come out of his mouth that made me want to push him into traffic.
When I talk to my dad about this, I want him to get it — how these interactions, over and over, tear at the soul. I want him to get that yes, not only am I angry, but I have a right to be. That regardless of whether or not I am polite in my response to these men, it is not my response that is the problem. I think he does get that, but I also think he still sees my anger as the thing that could get me in trouble. [SLToast]
posted by saucy_knave (168 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
What I love about this is that it doesn’t stop at her experiences of harassment, but that it gets into how crushing it is to try and discuss those experiences with a loving, well-meaning, sweetheart of a father who Still Does Not Get It.

“Well maybe if you have a gun/pepper spray/self-defense training,” can feel like a loving thing to say, I’m sure, but it feels like yet another form of the “have you tried [X]? Think about trying [X]!” response to a problem that has no solutions that can be provided by anything I can do as a woman, anything she can do as a woman, anything anyone can do as a woman who dares to go outside while brazenly wearing a woman-body.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2015 [29 favorites]


“I’m just trying to be recognized as a person,” I say.

He goes quiet. “I know, Kate,” he says, and I can hear now that he is more sad than angry. “But you might be asking for too much.”


Too much. It's too much to be recognized as a person. Even her Dad knows it. If that doesn't break your heart and make you want to burn the world down, I don't know what would.
posted by emjaybee at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2015 [153 favorites]


Ugh, yes. This happens to me, although not nearly to the extent described here. The New York City running scene is surprisingly polite, mostly because there are so many thousands of runners in various states of undress. I have, from time to time, gotten cat calls or been called a "retard", but those instances are few and far between. When it does happen, I try to remind myself that I am an awesome, beautiful runner, and anyone who doesn't like it can go to hell.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:49 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I totally sympathize with the running/street harassment thing - it's basically stopped me from running outside because the experience is too miserable, even with headphones on, because it just makes the men shout louder.

The "my dad wants me to get a gun" stuff felt icky though, along with the suggestions not to travel. Feels vaguely racist to me. Not just that but the suggestion that "get a gun" is any sort of a solution, like killing a man isn't going to have a psychological impact. However much harassment I have received (which is a LOT), I think the impact of killing someone would weigh on me more. As much as the "hey cutie" stuff can escalate to violence, I think education about "women are people, don't do this" is more effective and appropriate than "carry a gun."
posted by zutalors! at 12:50 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Too much. It's too much to be recognized as a person. Even her Dad knows it. If that doesn't break your heart and make you want to burn the world down, I don't know what would.

And this is why no man who claims to respect and value women as equals should have any problem identifying as a feminist.
posted by dry white toast at 12:51 PM on January 26, 2015 [57 favorites]


I knew a woman who told me she liked the winter (in the UK) because it meant she could run in the dark & men wouldn't harass her on the street.

This is all kinds of wrong, and I don't know how to make any kind of difference except call it out when I see it, but I hardly ever personally witness this kind of behaviour even though I know from friends' personal experiences that it must be going on.
posted by pharm at 12:52 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


My trick to avoiding catcalls while running was to be a frequent sufferer of overexertion barfing in the summer and bloody noses in the winter, and yet even then some epic creepers were undeterred.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


I've been catcalled a ton in NYC. Not sure about the running scene, but if I strap on shoes and head out the door I'll get a ton of it, unless I'm in a park and have headphones on, in which case it's bikers shouting to get out of their way, even if I'm not in a bike lane.
posted by zutalors! at 12:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Like dude, seriously, you can see and likely smell the banana puke on my shirt, but your dick is still gonna shout through your mouth? you are a sad, strange little man.
posted by poffin boffin at 12:58 PM on January 26, 2015 [30 favorites]


One thing I think guys can do is not be intimidated by attempts to make "white knight" into a term of mockery or disparagement. Don't put up with this shit from anyone you know and keep a close eye on situations you see developing on the street. It's impossible to generalize on whether or how to step up in these situations, but being a witness and doing some not-discreet cameraphone recording might be minimally useful noncontrontational options.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


"The “best” street harassment I have ever received came from a man with one leg calling out “Do your thang, girl,” as he gave me two thumbs up. I couldn’t be mad about him."

I am so confused.

To be VERY clear, I wish I could just wave a magic wand and end this crap everywhere, or somehow institute some kind of unavoidable penalty for people who do this crap, and I will never ever tolerate anyone I know acting harassing a woman, but this...is one seriously problematic statement.
posted by trackofalljades at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]




"The “best” street harassment I have ever received came from a man with one leg calling out “Do your thang, girl,” as he gave me two thumbs up. I couldn’t be mad about him."

Yea it's stuff like that that made it read more "xojane" and less "Toast" to me.
posted by zutalors! at 1:08 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


[comment removed, please reload the thread before responding to something.]
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:14 PM on January 26, 2015


Women are not outside for your entertainment.

Dehumanization is catastrophic. We know what it does to prisoners, to abused children, to racial minorities.

Yet somehow, good people when hearing how women are dehumanized constantly, while simply existing in a public space, still find it appropriate to tell the women how to change their behavior, their attitudes, their responses, that they are expecting too much from the world by asking it to stop dehumanizing them.
posted by crush-onastick at 1:17 PM on January 26, 2015 [35 favorites]


What I love about this is that it doesn't stop at her experiences of harassment, but that it gets into how crushing it is to try and discuss those experiences with a loving, well-meaning, sweetheart of a father who Still Does Not Get It.

Yep. IME, talking to someone about being on the receiving end of sexual harassment when they just profoundly Don't Get It at all can sometimes feel even worse than the experiences that prompted the conversation in the first place, because while the people who harass you are usually complete strangers, the people you're relating your experiences to are usually friends or loved ones. It's always a bummer to be reminded of how terribly strangers feel comfortable treating other strangers, but when it's your own dad (or boyfriend, or brother, or husband, &c.) asking you Why You Didn't Just [x] when that dude pinched your ass or snapped your bra strap on the subway, it's downright heartbreaking.

Pro tips for men whose women friends trust them enough to talk about sexual harassment around them: Please refrain from starting your response with "Why don't you just..." or "Have you thought of..." because trust us, whatever you're saying? We already know. Knives, guns, mace, cute and pointy kitty trinkets, car and house keys strategically gripped between white-knuckled fingers? Thin-lipped menacing grins, narrow-eyed non-acknowledgments, jaw-grinding pseudo-smiles? Stony silence, socialized acquiescence, trying to let it roll off your back because you're just totally goddamn exhausted and you don't want to make waves? Been there, done that. ALL OF IT.

So unless you're into the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with, if we start speaking to you about our experiences with harassment, it's totally OK -- superlative, really -- to simply acknowledge our humanity by responding in a non-accusatory and accommodating way, like, "Ugh, gross. People suck. Do you want to talk about it?" or even "Is there anything I can do to help?"
posted by divined by radio at 1:19 PM on January 26, 2015 [84 favorites]


My running partner is a former student of mine. She's about twenty years younger than me and, quite frankly, could literally run circles around me (in fact, she has literally done that several times when I'm huffing and puffing up a hill). Why does she put up with my cement feet and lard ass? Because the alternative is running by herself and putting up with this shit. She tells me that she doesn't get a whole lot of catcalls, but when she's by herself, she gets eyed up all the time in a way that she doesn't when she's running with me.

When I run, I like to look at the mechanics of how different people run - how their foot strikes, how much they lift their legs on steps, their pace, etc. I've made it a point in the last few years to only watch male runners because holy shit I don't want to make women feel like I'm eyeing them up. Outdoors is for everyone and there shouldn't be a soul who feels like if they go out for a walk or run they're going to be treated like objects.
posted by Joey Michaels at 1:20 PM on January 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


There have been a couple of times in the past when I had noisy neighbours. Like, ruin-your-life noisy. Part of what made it so awful was that even when they weren't making noise I couldn't be fully comfortable in my own home because I was always on edge, waiting for the noise to start up again. So I can't even imagine how crappy it must be to feel that way about the whole god damn world, except even worse because my neighbours were merely annoying me, not verbally assaulting and/or sexually harassing me.

I wish all of these assholes could be shot into the sun.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


The only way I've gotten through to male friends of mine who claimed they were just being polite, supportive, friendly, etc was to ask, "Would you say that to a male stranger on the street?" Because the answer is almost always no, so the question becomes, "Then why do you feel comfortable saying that to a female stranger?"
posted by sallybrown at 1:21 PM on January 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


It's too much to be recognized as a person.
REAL men don't believe there is such a thing as a "person", there are only MEN and WOMEN. (And maybe a third category for those Not Real Men) And that is what the "Mens Rights Movement" is all about, to enshrine this permanent double standard where MEN always are something more than WOMEN.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


I liked that she talked about the disregard of the experience by others after the experience, it's an aspect of this that's been bugging me as I see it play out on social media. Her Dad's perspective also seemed to be the perspective of a lot of older concerned female relatives I saw posting on my friend's walls when they talked about talking back to harassers on their feeds. The pressure to just shut up and ignore it comes from all directions at once.

On preview what dined by radio said.
posted by edbles at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


What exactly is carrying a gun supposed to do? Does her dad literally expect her to pull it on a guy who yells "hey baby" or leers at her? That's not remotely going to solve the problem even if she does it every single time.
posted by desjardins at 1:23 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Part of what made it so awful was that even when they weren't making noise I couldn't be fully comfortable in my own home because I was always on edge, waiting for the noise to start up again.

Having dealt with both issues on a long-term basis I can tell you that this is EXACTLY WHAT IT FUCKING FEELS LIKE UGH.
posted by poffin boffin at 1:24 PM on January 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


I tend to be self-conscious in my everyday life as a rule, but that gets ratcheted up to stratospheric numbers when I decide to start running in the summer. Obviously yes, of course, because I am female, but also because I am a female of the busty variety. I never feel so alien and so othered when dudes on the street and in the park feel compelled to harass the busty lady (who wishes to God she weren't most of the time) just trying to have a good run on a beautiful day.
posted by Kitteh at 1:24 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


So unless you're into the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with

I'm... I'm kinda into that, yes
posted by desjardins at 1:25 PM on January 26, 2015 [135 favorites]


What exactly is carrying a gun supposed to do? Does her dad literally expect her to pull it on a guy who yells "hey baby" or leers at her? That's not remotely going to solve the problem even if she does it every single time.

posted by desjardins at 4:23 PM on January 26 [+] [!]


I feel like we're pretty safe in assuming that this is an unexamined attitude of his and more simply interpreted as him stating, I do not know how to solve this problem at all but feel I need to offer some sort of practical guidance so here's this rock you could carry to keep tigers away.
posted by edbles at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2015 [21 favorites]


How about an online and poster campaign that Feb 29, 2015 is National Knife-A-Catcaller Day. The idea being that the publicity is the point, since the day doesn't actually exist.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:28 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Does her dad literally expect her to pull it on a guy who yells "hey baby" or leers at her?

Her dad is as lost as she is. They both know it's dark humor in the face of something neither of them can change.
posted by clawsoon at 1:29 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yet somehow, good people when hearing how women are dehumanized constantly, while simply existing in a public space, still find it appropriate to tell the women how to change their behavior, their attitudes, their responses, that they are expecting too much from the world by asking it to stop dehumanizing them.

I think it's difficult for a lot of men because of the old observer's paradox. The mere presence of a man changes the phenomenon. A woman walking (or running) with a man gets radically less of this shit than a woman on her own. The harassment witnessed by a man who doesn't actually perpetrate any of this himself amounts to the occasional moments when he happens to intersect with a particular moment when some asshole harasses some woman not connected to him. By their nature such moments are fleeting and scattered. So it's one of those "but the cops never hassle me" (or, put another way, "no one I know voted for Nixon") problems.

And, of course, it's also one of those problems whose cumulative effect is difficult to imagine from single instances (again, the kind men mostly get to witness). Some random construction worker shouting out "hey, gorgeous" as a woman walks by? Heck, he's not a threat--he's separated from the woman by a fence, he's busy working, she's gone in two seconds. By itself it looks relatively innocuous. But, of course, it's the endless, cumulative grind of such encounters (and the fact that you never quite know when they're implicitly threatening and when they're not) that makes this a grueling, daily gauntlet for so many women.

So, I think for many men, it's just hearing an account of the world that seems so far away from the reality they inhabit that the first instinct is to think "oh, there must just be some tweak we could make that would bring that reality into harmony with the one I inhabit." It's just a version of that thing we all do where we hear about problems alien to our experience and think "geez, if they just lived the way I live, that wouldn't be a problem!"

I say this not to excuse anything, of course, but just to kind of try to understand some of the cognitive challenges that even "good people" face when trying to put themselves into the position of others.
posted by yoink at 1:32 PM on January 26, 2015 [23 favorites]


Her dad is as lost as she is. They both know it's dark humor in the face of something neither of them can change.

I think that's mostly true, but I also think it's partially a "and what if one of them does more than just catcalling" thing. That is, he's not thinking she should draw the gun on every man who catcalls, but have the gun in case the situation moves beyond catcalling.
posted by yoink at 1:33 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Why is it that in our country, a gun is the first thing that springs to mind to get even, be in charge, etc?
I used to run a daily. I was at the time, single. When I ran with the woman I later married, no one bothered us. But when she ran along, there were the whistles etc. Oddly, then, men seem to recotnize the old convention that a woman with a man was not to be bothered in any way. And that is why the notion of a chaperone was a tradition: a woman alone was assumed to be open game. Things change. Some do not.
posted by Postroad at 1:37 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I think people, guys particularly, and guys in supportive roles like fathers especially, find it hard to just listen and sympathize. They want to advise, suggest, fix the problem.
posted by George_Spiggott at 1:37 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Still spectacularly unhelpful.
posted by agregoli at 1:38 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


So unless you're into the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us

Yes. I literally, unreservedly want this.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:44 PM on January 26, 2015 [34 favorites]


Oddly, then, men seem to recotnize the old convention that a woman with a man was not to be bothered in any way. And that is why the notion of a chaperone was a tradition: a woman alone was assumed to be open game. Things change. Some do not.

Which rested on the assumption that a woman cannot own her own body - either she is claimed by a man, or she is general property ("open game").
posted by sallybrown at 1:45 PM on January 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


So unless you're into the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with

I'm... I'm kinda into that, yes



You are Mallory Ortberg, and I claim my £5.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:47 PM on January 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


Please try to imagine your child talking about being accosted by a "pack" of strangers and saying something to set them off.

That's what the "joking, but he’s not" suggestion for a gun is about. He knows trying to get his daughter to bear it silently isn't going to work. He doesn't want his daughter to be murdered. He's not trying to end harassment for everyone or just his daughter, just keep her alive.
posted by morganw at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2015


What exactly is carrying a gun supposed to do? Does her dad literally expect her to pull it on a guy who yells "hey baby" or leers at her? That's not remotely going to solve the problem even if she does it every single time.

Having grown up in suburban-ish Michigan*, I think something slightly different might be going on. There's often a general sense, especially among the older crowd who would be senior citizens now, or pushing that age, that when you go off to The City (i.e. Detroit or Chicago), you need to "be careful" and "take precautions" (i.e. carry a gun) because "you never know," or because... well, often the sentence trails off there but it's implied that it's because, you know, there's so many of those people.

That doesn't expressly relate to street harassment, since of course that could be perpetrated by people of any race. But I think it's a matter of everything looking like a nail when you have a hammer - this guy probably firmly thinks his daughter should carry a gun in Chicago, and now that something dodgy happens, even if it's really kind of different than his previous fears, it just reinforces that belief.

So, bottom line, she should carry a gun to deal with street harassment because racism.

* Not that there's necessarily anything unique about the place, in this sense
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:52 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with

Ideas, intriguing, newsletter, etc.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:53 PM on January 26, 2015 [18 favorites]


There's often a general sense, especially among the older crowd who would be senior citizens now, or pushing that age, that when you go off to The City (i.e. Detroit or Chicago), you need to "be careful" and "take precautions" (i.e. carry a gun) because "you never know," or because... well, often the sentence trails off there but it's implied that it's because, you know, there's so many of those people.


Yea this is what I was getting at before, and I'm surprised so many people are talking about her poor helpless father. Lots of dogwhistles in her description of his "advice."
posted by zutalors! at 1:55 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


This won't stop until a LOT more work is done with boys at an early age, to ameliorate the macho approach to interaction with women.

It starts at home, which doesn't portend well for the near future because kids are bombarded with objectified images of women (and increasingly, men) in the media. The Internet and its vagaries are wide open to 10's of millions of kids whose parents are too ignorant, too lazy, or too stupid to know better.

Several years ago I was waiting outside an elementary school for my partner's child, after school, to drive him home; this is in a very upper-middle-class neighborhood. I couldn't believe my eyes or ears, when several 4th and 5th grade girls were whistled at and catcalled by a bunch of 4th and 5th grade boys - e.g. stuff like "hey, baby!" and "I like what I see!", etc. It was a real eye opener. These kids were at an age where they were not driven by hormonal imperatives (to be clear, "hormonal imperative" is no excuse for adult men to act this way); the kids were modeling what they see, every day, all around them.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:56 PM on January 26, 2015 [16 favorites]


For those of you who have been street harassed, I'm wondering if there is an age divide. Are young men (under 25) doing this too? I've only observed this before as a man, and in NYC, and it did seem like it cut across all ages.
posted by cell divide at 2:07 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Are young men (under 25) doing this too?

They sure do to my partner.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:09 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Lots of dogwhistles in her description of his "advice."

Hmm. You may be right, but she's open with him about the harassment she receives. That would be enough to provoke a protective response from almost any parent. He's not talking with her about vague generalities of the Dangerous City and the Dark People who live there; he's talking with her about eight specific men who harassed her over the course of the previous hour and a quarter.

And she trusts and values him enough to share it with him.
posted by clawsoon at 2:10 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


He's not talking with her about vague generalities of the Dangerous City and the Dark People who live there

Yes, that's why they're called dogwhistles.
posted by zutalors! at 2:15 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]



For those of you who have been street harassed, I'm wondering if there is an age divide. Are young men (under 25) doing this too?


Yes.
posted by zutalors! at 2:16 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yep. Men and boys of all ages and races and (so it appears) economic background. Being gross is equal opportunity.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:19 PM on January 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Are young men (under 25) doing this too?

Hi, I am 35 and I have been catcalled by a kid who was no older than 12.
posted by clavicle at 2:20 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


I've seen men teaching it to young boys who are walking with them.
posted by zutalors! at 2:24 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


There is one thin small ray of light in this.

Speaking personally, in the last couple of years (I think really from that incredible AskMe about approaching a woman in a coffee shop) I've been a lot more conscious about how differently women experience daily life, and I've noticed that amongst my male friends and colleagues we now talk about this. I've found myself talking to other people who say "oh it's just a joke/compliment/harmless/whatever" and pointing out that day after day after day it's none of those things and then having discussions about that.

And I have also noticed (although maybe I am looking for them more, and am more interested in them now) more women talking about this online in articles like the linked one above.

Women can't really stop this behaviour - it's up to men to stop it. And that requires men to admit there is a problem. And then talk to other men. So maybe the one thin small ray of light is that it is starting to happen.
posted by awfurby at 2:28 PM on January 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Wouldn't this kind of thing be fairly directly addressable by legal reform and police action? That is, by the very nature of the offense, it's publicly observable and relatively easily recordable. Couldn't we set something in place that's rather like speeding tickets--a first offense receives a relatively small fine, but keep piling offenses up and you end up in deep water. Have a dedicated police squad with some undercover policewomen and start ticketing people for harassment. Wouldn't that send something of a directly targeted message about social norms while making men think twice about opening their yaps?
posted by yoink at 2:30 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I think technology might also start shifting the attitude a little bit as well. More women (and men) are going to have smartphones, wearables, and maybe even body cameras on themselves more and more. Constant sousveillance, or maybe even the possibility/threat of being recorded would probably make some men at least think twice about doing it. At the very least, it will provide a face or voice that can be uploaded on the Internet and scrutinized.
posted by FJT at 2:31 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


How on earth am I to prove in a court of law what a man said to me on the street? I'm sorry but that's a useless suggestion. Carry a cop around with me? If this happened men would try harder to get away with it, is all.
posted by agregoli at 2:32 PM on January 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


I can imagine it now. Police arrive on the scene, assess the situation, and join in the fun.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Wouldn't this kind of thing be fairly directly addressable by legal reform and police action?

Theoretically yes, but it would be great if the enforcement was done in a way that didn't just criminalize harassment from minority men on streetcorners, but also was aimed at upperclass guys driving BMWs and people who say gross things to waitresses and the million other ways this happens.

And even then, how do you criminalize something like saying "Dayum!" to your friend, but just loud enough for her to hear, when a woman walks by? The plausible deniability is going to be strong in a lot of these cases.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


How on earth am I to prove in a court of law what a man said to me on the street?

That wasn't my suggestion. I'm saying have it be something that we have a dedicated police force for; they don't sit around waiting for other people to get harassed and to lodge complaints, they use undercover policewomen to bring harassers into the open and ticket them on the spot, just like a speeding driver (or a jaywalker) is ticketed on the spot, without calling for any witnesses other than the arresting officer(s).

The point would be to treat this as a general degradation of the urban environment for all women rather than as a specific hostile act directed against one particular person.
posted by yoink at 2:38 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


For those of you who have been street harassed, I'm wondering if there is an age divide. Are young men (under 25) doing this too? I've only observed this before as a man, and in NYC, and it did seem like it cut across all ages.

The last time I was street harassed, it was a carful of 14-17 year old boys.

Which I know because I tracked them down and told their parents. Hahahaha.

I am 50 damned years old (although, in their defense, I was a dewy youth of 49 when that happened), and I was motivated to track them down because a teenaged girl who saw it happening told me not to feel bad because they do that to everyone. Which got me thinking if they feel so comfortable being that aggressive and obscene with a grown woman, what must they be doing to 12 year old girls?

BTW, I know most men mean well when they make suggestions about how to respond to these things, but we women are much more familiar with the situation than you are, and we're better at handling it. Please keep your focus on educating other men, not telling women how to react.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:39 PM on January 26, 2015 [73 favorites]


And even then, how do you criminalize something like saying "Dayum!" to your friend, but just loud enough for her to hear, when a woman walks by?

Well, that's where a model that's like speeding tickets seems to me useful. I mean, lots of tickets get handed out based essentially on judgment calls by the traffic cops. What exactly qualifies as coming to a "complete stop" at a Stop sign, for example. And if someone feels really strongly that the cop exercised poor judgment, they can always fight the ticket before a judge. But in the vast majority of cases you just think "ah, screw it, I'll pay the fine."
posted by yoink at 2:42 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


Which rested on the assumption that a woman cannot own her own body - either she is claimed by a man, or she is general property ("open game").

A real eye-opener for me was getting separated from my extremely capable SO in a crush on the sidewalk in a big city. She'd worn a little black dress to work because we were going out after and backed out of the crowd after getting groped to try and spot me. By the time I got there, she was yelling "Who the fuck asked for your opinion?" And people and cops were gawking like she was the crazy one?

She had this way of stomping one foot and spreading her arms that really scared those guys. I came up behind them and called her name and they apologized to me? And then I point at the cops and the guys slinking off and nothing.

If my SO had used her boot knife or I had pulled a quart bottle out of the trash can, I bet we would have been arrested.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yoink, I'm sorry but I don't see this as a practical or even desirable way to curb street harassment. In many ways it could make things worse. And how to target areas it happened? It happens EVERYWHERE.
posted by agregoli at 2:45 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


And honestly, that kind of "maybe we could fix it like this" suggestion is very tiring.
posted by agregoli at 2:47 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


It's up to men to police men. We need to to make it unacceptable to act this way toward women. We need to shun guys that act like pigs to the women we love. We need to ridicule their behavior and make it as shameful and insulting as racist jokes. Then, maybe, women can walk down the street and not have to be constantly peppered with reminders of their objectified status in so many men's eyes.
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:48 PM on January 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


no i like the idea with the knives
posted by poffin boffin at 2:49 PM on January 26, 2015 [55 favorites]


So unless you're into the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with

Joining in the chorus of yes, here. Reminds me of a line in one of Spider Robinson's books (Lady Slings the Booze, maybe?): "roving gangs of bull queers looking for gaybashers to chainwhip."

In other words yes please do this thing

I came up behind them and called her name and they apologized to me?

That's because she was obviously your property and therefore they had offended you, the only other person present. That's not ironic sexism, that seems to me to really be how their minds work.

I honestly do not understand how women survive without just exploding and shooting every man in sight. I seriously don't.

Gotta echo what was said above: men need to be vigilant for this and need to call it out every time it happens. NOT in a "there there dear now you're protected" way, in a "who the hell do you think you are? Stop that" way, if the distinction is clear. Or what Mental Wimp said much better.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:50 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


I wouldn't dismiss Yoink's idea so quickly. We could combine it with the roving bands of shiv-wielding warrior nuns.
posted by I-Write-Essays at 2:52 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yoink, I'm sorry but I don't see this as a practical or even desirable way to curb street harassment. In many ways it could make things worse. And how to target areas it happened? It happens EVERYWHERE.

Great; have them patrol EVERYWHERE. The idea isn't that every single act of street harassment would be punished, any more than every single instance of speeding is punished. The point is to put the thought into the back of every harasser's mind when they see a woman and think "I'm going to tell her how fine she is" a little niggle of doubt "but what if she's a cop?"

And honestly, that kind of "maybe we could fix it like this" suggestion is very tiring.

I'm not saying "if women only did this one simple thing, they wouldn't have a problem"--I'm asking what we, as a society, could do to send a message that this was an unacceptable form of behavior and to try to impose costs on that behavior. I don't know if it would work or not, but I'm not, so far, hearing any very clear arguments against it.

It's up to men to police men.


What? How? If I see some guy saying something to a woman I'm supposed to walk up to him and engage him in a lecture? To punch him in the nose? Challenge him to a duel for insulting the woman's honor? This seems like sexist, chivalric nonsense.

Why not make the behavior illegal and commit actual resources to punishing the people who engage in it?
posted by yoink at 2:53 PM on January 26, 2015 [5 favorites]


If I see some guy saying something to a woman I'm supposed to walk up to him and engage him in a lecture?

What would you do about someone saying something racist? Just let it go?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


the idea of packs of heavily-armed, eerily silent women wandering the streets and quietly shivving every guy who says something terrifying or hideous to us while we're just trying to walk around the world in the bodies we were born with

A theory: men get more respect because they'll do something stupid like stab someone over something "stupid" like being mildly harassed

There's nothing the men I know can do about it. They aren't friends with men who harass women. Women don't get catcalled when with them. So... what? cry about it on tumblr? you think those guys on the street are reading?
posted by flimflam at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


Huh? Its hard to take you seriously with the current state of policing in America...which includes cops not believing women about RAPE. Also, see make politicians having to pass this law, public male non-support and ridicule, etc. And I wouldn't want it, because it doesn't stop the root of harassment . These are clear arguments against it.
posted by agregoli at 2:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


We could combine it with the roving bands of shiv-wielding warrior nuns.

Well, yes, except that shivving people who do this is obviously something we couldn't endorse as a civilized society and is clearly just a joke suggestion, but fining them seems actually entirely doable and practical, so long as police resources were devoted to the task.
posted by yoink at 2:58 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Men in this thread. I am giving you all homework. I am begging you.

Tell every single man you know that you think this behavior is unacceptable.

Of course, you would really like to believe that you don't hang out with men who behave this way. And you don't hang out with men while they behave this way. Because the vast majority of men who treat women like shit do it very privately. And beyond that, they think every man (or at least most men,) behaves this way.

I implore you all to do this every time a thread like this happens. And I mean it more every time.

Tell them they are wrong. Best case scenario, you confirm that every single man you know is in fact an ally for women. Encourage them to pass it on.

Worst case scenario, you find out that NOT every man you know is an ally for women. Fucking help us fix that.

Please.
posted by bilabial at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2015 [35 favorites]


which includes cops not believing women about RAPE

Again, you seem to be missing the key aspect of the proposal, which is that the only person the cop has to believe is herself. "Did I just hear that guy say that? Why yes I did!"
posted by yoink at 2:59 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


They aren't friends with men who harass women.

They probably are.
So... what?

Listen to women when they talk about their experience. Also, bilabial's homework.
posted by zutalors! at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Flimflam, I'm willing to bet they hear casual misogyny. They can start with calling that out. Or, hey..maybe they could start by NOT throwing their hands up at this difficult to solve problem and think about how they COULD help?
posted by agregoli at 3:00 PM on January 26, 2015


It seems like an enormous amount of finite police energy and money to spend on something that if you and I and everyone else who identifies as male spent a lot more time shutting down, would start coming to an end.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:01 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Again, you seem to be missing the key aspect of the proposal, which is that the only person the cop has to believe is herself. "Did I just hear that guy say that? Why yes I did!"
posted by yoink


My point there is most cops ain't gonna give a shit. Or participate themselves. I see you're imagining some fantasy all female task force that defends women, but this is not at all something feasible in real life. I'm finding this both so ridiculous and you so hostile that I'm over it at this point. It's a bad suggestion, and yes, tiring, because of its absurdity.
posted by agregoli at 3:05 PM on January 26, 2015 [13 favorites]


Not to mention that placing the burden of protecting women from the behaviour of men onto women is pretty grotesque, yoink.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:06 PM on January 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Seriously, feckless, thank you. Couldn't quite grab that myself but you put it perfectly.
posted by agregoli at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


also we get the "let's make it illegal problem solved" argument in all street harassment threads and no one's ever like "wow, never thought of that, no problems there"
posted by zutalors! at 3:09 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Can someone please propose a solution to the problem so I can pretend it has gone away?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:13 PM on January 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


There's often a general sense, especially among the older crowd who would be senior citizens now, or pushing that age, that when you go off to The City (i.e. Detroit or Chicago), you need to "be careful" and "take precautions" (i.e. carry a gun) because "you never know," or because... well, often the sentence trails off there but it's implied that it's because, you know, there's so many of those people.

Ironically, my cousin is just the sort of man who gets dogwhistled about. 20-odd years ago, when I left the Midwestern town I was from to come to the Big Bad Apple, he also advised that I have a gun, while trying to give me one of his semi-automatics. !!!!! Although in his case, he wasn't using any sort of whistle in discussing who he thought would be most likely to bother me, and straight-up used the phrase "low-class, no account [n-word]s". This, when both of us came from the ghetto. I guess he thought he was telling me "the truth". And he wasn't old, either, he was 25 then.

The worst is when you think you're going to pass a man in silence, both of you minding your own business, but he leans in to hiss something disgusting, and because you're in motion, you've already passed him by several paces so you can't tell him to go fuck himself without looking like a crazy person. It's like, How have I not gone to prison yet for slamming one of you fuckers to the pavement face-first?
posted by droplet at 3:14 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Seriously if the two (tiny, ancient, frail, and magnificently/bespokeily attired) Quentin Crisp lookalikes on my block can muster up the initiative to shake their canes and say "how dare you!" and "you vile cur!" to some big lumbering sweaty dude who said DAMN GIRL LOOKIT THEM TITTIES to me in the middle of the sidewalk last summer then I think it's probably nbd for guys to say to their guy friends "hey this shit isn't fucking cool".
posted by poffin boffin at 3:23 PM on January 26, 2015 [69 favorites]


also one time they complimented me on my "wonderfully erect carriage" and it was p. hilarious
posted by poffin boffin at 3:26 PM on January 26, 2015 [37 favorites]


poffin boffin how are you commenting from a silent film in 1923?
posted by zutalors! at 3:32 PM on January 26, 2015 [32 favorites]


Yoink - if you really think you can convince your municipality to actually sincerely take harassment seriously enough to the point that the criminalize it, please try.

Actually, seriously, please try. Ask your mayor or police chief to set up such a task force and see what they say. Maybe then you may start to discover that the problem isn't that they don't know how to work out the logistics - it's that they don't want to.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:33 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


west village, same thing p much
posted by poffin boffin at 3:35 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


Yes, some men do catcall women to harass and intimidate and scare, but some do it as public performance. When the corner is the local social club, some guys play the fool and act out, and putting them in their place is part of big-city life.

Yes, and when women protest (naturally) being used as a mechanism for male bonding, the male bonding demands she be punished.

I don't see the difference here. It's still treating women as objects for men to perform their masculinity with. It makes us props for this ongoing theatrical exercise.
posted by suelac at 3:42 PM on January 26, 2015 [11 favorites]


> What? How? If I see some guy saying something to a woman I'm supposed to walk up to him and engage him in a lecture?

You could go, "Dude, that's gross," if you hear a guy say something when you're near. I've done it. What's happened is that I get cussed out. But I still did it, no lecture required.
posted by rtha at 3:46 PM on January 26, 2015 [10 favorites]


Street harassment already is illegal in many places. This site has links to the relevant laws in the US states.

I don't see them being enforced that often, but they are there. So obviously, just passing a law isn't the answer.

I am not privy to male-only discussions, but I'd imagine that men could help address the issue just by being open feminists among their friends. You know, not letting things like casual objectifying and default maleness slide. So when someone is speaking in universals and assuming (usually straight) maleness, remind them that most people are not male. (This happens so frequently that even women miss it, too.) I dunno, do men really rate women amongst themselves a lot? Maybe address that. Not necessarily to eliminate it entirely, but to at least draw attention to it and call out any particularly shitty instances. Call out other casual sexism, like using femininity as an insult or a joke or making stupid sexist assumptions. Talk to your friends about women you admire. Talk about the things you admire about women you all know that have nothing to do with their sexuality. Recommend books and movies by and about women. Recommend women for jobs, ask for their help in traditionally 'male' domains, and give them credit for things they've worked on and things they've helped you with. Openly taunt sexist idiocy, from griping about 'chick flicks' to assumptions about gender roles. You don't have to be dour and humorless about it or anything, and you don't have to lecture. Sometimes, it's as easy as just gender flipping or calling someone a dumbass.

And if you do have a friend or acquaintance who unapologetically harasses women, go ahead and treat them the same way you would if they were habitually and intentionally doing any other gross antisocial thing, like shitting on the floor as a joke.

This isn't a simple, discrete problem with a simple, discrete solution. It's a big cultural issue all wrapped up in with a billion other little micro-issues, and it needs to be addressed over and over and over on a million different levels. Everyone can help. Everyone has to help.
posted by ernielundquist at 3:50 PM on January 26, 2015 [12 favorites]


Came here to say the same thing as Ideefixe - there's definitely a racial aspect to complaining about vocal people (c.f. that one video) and that, coupled with the enthusiasm for stabbing people and possibly killing them (the sun, really?), completes a picture of something a bit evil. Also, in my city, at least, police have much more vulnerable women to assist than runners getting catcalled and they need to prioritize.
posted by michaelh at 3:54 PM on January 26, 2015


Two stepped into my path and said they wouldn’t move unless I gave them a high five.

I was completely unfamiliar with this one until my partner K brought it up. She's, erm, scary(think Eska from legend of korra). She has only gotten harassed on the street, other than what i'm about to discuss, a single digit amount of times while we've been together. People turn to her, she stares at them, and they just shut up. It's kind of amazing actually.

What she does get though is this "high five!" thing. We were walking 10 feet or so behind some random acquaintances of mine at night, down one of the busy main streets near my house(in the center of town, bars and clubs all around, etc). Mid conversation for both them and us some random toasty dude reaches up his hand and is all "HEY HEY!" going for a high five. They don't even make eye contact with him and just keep walking and he gets this "Hey, WTF?!?!" look on his face.

Completely, record ripped off of needle, K goes "O MY GOD I HATE THAT BULLSHIT". The guys walking by us at this point, and obviously heard it, which was probably the point.

Apparently this shit happens to her all the time. Including the i'm going to get in your way so you have to version. Despite the fact that no one will ever talk to her, even at a bar or something, they totally want high fives. This has happened to me a single digit number of times and was usually obviously a drunk(or sarcastic drunk) "bro" thing.

Just seeing the look on the dudes face though, it's some kind of "HIGH FIVE MY PENIS ;)" thing. omg look i got attention from those girls aren't i awesome?.

And i mean, not that any harassment makes logical sense, but this one is so basal that it shocked me. It's basically GIVE ME VALIDATION BY GIVING ME ATTENTION OOG OOG.

On the flipside of that whole thing where it does get scary and weird, i was walking down 4th ave in downtown Olympia. Some olympia bros*, turn to my friend and go "Hey baby, high five!" and she says something to the effect of "leave me alone". INSTANTLY it turns ugly and goes "Well FUCK YOU ugly bitch!". She got all what the fuck did you just say to me? and they all swarmed in on us. It was ridiculous. There was a ton of them, and a ton of us, and my craziest friends were there including a guy in a hugh hefner robe who was trying to shatter a champagne bottle over the head of the guy who said that.

It really shows the aggression under the surface of these types of comments, even the most passive innocuous ones that don't include any comments on appearance or even implied sexual language, that the instant you say no to the "offer" it turns verbally, and even physically aggressive.

I know that's probably nothing new to a lot of people here, especially women. And i've seen it discussed before. But it was still shocking to me to see things go from "hey, high five!" to the actual threat of violence and massive tension in the situation that quickly.


*This is a fairly unique species that should be studied by scientists or something. Equal parts frat boy, redneck/hick/rural kid, and eco hippie/bonghead. So like basketball jerseys, with hemp necklaces, and a lifted hot rodded truck that isn't just some brodozer with chrome wheels but obviously gets mudded and has some scars. Known to talk about water reclamation projects/living in sustainable housing and say "what up n****" to their white friends 10 seconds later. Way in to psychedelics AND playing madden. Rents an RV and buys 12 30 racks... to go to the oregon county faire or rainbow gathering.
posted by emptythought at 3:57 PM on January 26, 2015 [26 favorites]


Waitaminit...there's a potential revenue stream in this ticketing idea...maybe it can replace drug use as a tool for our well trained and always courteous law-bringers to perform their social/racial engineering functions.
posted by cookie-k at 3:58 PM on January 26, 2015 [4 favorites]


Street harassment tickets issued by Agony Aunts. A woman can dream.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:07 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


there's definitely a racial aspect to complaining about vocal people

There is no racial aspect to not wanting to be harassed on the street by misogynists.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:08 PM on January 26, 2015 [20 favorites]


We need to shun guys that act like pigs to the women we love.

Kind of addressing this to both this comment, and every other one to this effect. But... we do this?

I know maybe one or two guys like this off the top of my head. They're both friends roommates. My entire friend group, even the people who barely knows them, brings up that they're pigs like this any time they're discussed. They have a HUGE reputation for it, and everyone has discussed it with them and explained in depth what's fucked up about them. All the men, many of the women, and several women they've dated(who are, ugh, often "not like other girls!" types).

Where i'm going with this, is the problem that people self-segregate. People who act like this end up only having friends who are either also this type of asshole, or don't really give a shit and minimize it. People who object to it unfriend people like that.

So in the end, how is it different than this?

Don't reject these people, engage them and tell them why they're wrong. Kicking them out of your life is a valid option if you just don't have the energy, but it also solves nothing. These types of men will just group together with other shitty men who condone their behavior.

Honestly, as my life is structured, i rarely encounter people like this anymore. The few that i do are tertiary to my life and often people i've known or known of for many years. I kinda honestly wish i encountered more, just so i could talk to them about it, but that's just not how it works. If you're a Decent Person, you end up surrounded by decent people who just... don't act this way.

The people you see doing this are likely almost entirely unlinked from your group of friends, if you're posting in support of doing something about it on here. The only times you'll ever see them is when you venture outside that circle on work lunches or something.

I'll occasionally, when i feel it would make a difference or i won't get assaulted, go "hey man, shut the fuck up" or something when i see a guy acting this way on the street. Sometimes other people around say something too. That's about all the chance i get, though.

There is no racial aspect to not wanting to be harassed on the street by misogynists.

I think this comment you're replying to is trying to shove the thread over the event horizon that documenting street harassment thread went over ages ago of "hey there's black men in your video, that means you're a racist because you're focusing on them!" or whatever. Men of color do this, and some people stereotype this as a men of color issue, so if you call it out then it's some kind of dogwhistle thing or... something.

There's some truth to it on a case by case basis, but it often feels like it's being disingenuously used as a club.
posted by emptythought at 4:14 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I know maybe one or two guys like this off the top of my head.

I bet you know a ton more who make casual sexist comments that ping the radar less than the "pigs" do.
posted by agregoli at 4:18 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


What exactly is carrying a gun supposed to do?

I think when straight white men imagine being sexually threatened by a rapey male stranger their knee-jerk reaction is "I'd kill him!" And they assume they would be right to do so and would be praised instead of arrested because self defense and TV shows and reasons. In that scenario, a gun makes perfect sense.
posted by fshgrl at 4:22 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


the enthusiasm for stabbing people and possibly killing them (the sun, really?), completes a picture of something a bit evil.

If using bog-standard hyperbole to express frustration at how women can't go about their lives without experiencing a constant and inescapable torrent of harassment and threat is 'a bit evil', somebody give me a moustache to twirl.

Preferably this, tia.
posted by amery at 4:23 PM on January 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


I just came here to support consensual high-fiving. Lets just all congratulate each other on the street. None of this blocking someone's path or being mean when you don't get the return high-five. But I tell you, nothing makes me happier than an unexpected, consensual high-five. Just brightens up my whole damn day.
posted by banished at 4:30 PM on January 26, 2015


There is no racial aspect to not wanting to be harassed on the street by misogynists.

There is a racial aspect whenever laws are selectively enforced.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:30 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


I'm 70 and have been running for 34 years. I almost always run with my husband but even then I will get some comments from teenagers (boys and girls) who think it is bizarre for an "old lady" as in "Look at that old lady!" which I don't appreciate and makes me always on the lookout for such kids.

We do about 20 - 30 miles a week like the woman in the article.

If possible I would advise women to always run on the prescribed running trail in your area and avoid the streets if they can. That's where the trouble lurks. I have done it and its awful - some men holler positive things like "good for you" but others yell I should "hurry up!" One guy - a middle aged man with his friends - actually stopped to make fun of the way I run which is mainly watching the path like mad as I am afraid of falling (again) - weak ankles. Also, I only wear black - tops, pants and shorts. Makes me feel more invisible.

This fall we moved to a new area and 'were jogging over to the park trail and some young guys were walking towards us. My spidey sense told me to cross the street but I decided I would just hurry past them. 'Should have folllowed my spidey - one of the little creeps spit on me.
posted by Tullyogallaghan at 4:32 PM on January 26, 2015 [7 favorites]


There's some truth to it on a case by case basis, but it often feels like it's being disingenuously used as a club.

No, there is truth to it on a systemic level and it means the solutions need to be less ham-handed and gleeful if they're to have a chance of working fairly.
posted by michaelh at 4:47 PM on January 26, 2015


There is a racial aspect whenever laws are selectively enforced.

That wasn't mentioned at all in either of the comments that brought up race. And selectively enforced laws are only a problem when they're enforced at all.

No, there is truth to it on a systemic level and it means the solutions need to be less ham-handed and gleeful if they're to have a chance of working fairly.

Please. Educate the group as to how women sick of being harassed on the street are being racist.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Guys I am telling you what the answer is.

It's not carcel justice.
It's not roving bands of grannies.
It's not confronting frothy strangers while they harass women.
It's not totally ostracizing men who do this.


The answer is gentle conversations with men you already know, in neutral spaces. Confirm your belief that every man in your circle is on the same page wrt the humanity of women. Confirm that they DO NOT give unsolicited compliments to strangers (don't call it harassment, most harassers can find a away to special snowflake their behavior into something that isn't harassment).

Ask them to really listen to women who tell these stores and to stop suggesting we 'learn to take a compliment/take martial arts/stop being so stuck up/turn the tables around and compliment lots of guys sometime/just ignore it/say thank you/travel in packs/avoid those neighborhoods/stay in after dark/whatever.'

And yet. Every time I ask a guy to have this conversation with men he knows, I'm told 'but I don't know any of these guys.'

I don't buy it. Somebody knows these guys. You know how I know? Because they wear suits in from of the court house. They drive taxis. They wear police uniforms. They walk their kids to school and whisper hiss at me when they think their sons are far enough ahead to not hear. These men ride in elevators with me. These men wait at bus stops and holler out of their idling cars.

Let's stop pretending that this is being done by a group of imaginary ghosts.

If you are a man and you refuse to open this conversation with other men, I consider you to be complicit from now on.
posted by bilabial at 4:48 PM on January 26, 2015 [45 favorites]


For everyone who thinks their circle of friends doesn't include any of these guys, how do you know? You may know they're not doing it around you. But for someone who engages in street harassment, he doesn't have to see his guy friends doing it to assume they probably do it, too. He assumes it's like masturbation; everybody does it, and nobody needs to talk about it with their friends. The way to continue the status quo is for non-harassing guys to assume none of their friends ever street harass, so there's no need to say anything; and that way, the harassing guys can go on assuming they're just like their guy friends who all totally say these things to women from time to time because it's so normal there's no need to discuss it.

And if guys examine their discomfort at possibly saying something gently to their best buds about this in a neutral setting, maybe they will realize a little more deeply what they are asking of women when they expect the woman being harassed to say something sharply about it to a stranger in a public setting.
posted by Bentobox Humperdinck at 5:25 PM on January 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


Kind of addressing this to both this comment, and every other one to this effect. But... we do this?

Not enough of you are, then.

Metafilter may be a self-selected subset, though, I grant. The guys who should be getting that request are probably on other sites where this conversation doesn't happen.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:29 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Please. Educate the group as to how women sick of being harassed on the street are being racist.

i missed the link in my last post, but they certainly tried over here.
posted by emptythought at 5:48 PM on January 26, 2015


If possible I would advise women to always run on the prescribed running trail in your area and avoid the streets if they can.

I hear you on that, Tullyogallaghan. But, there is something to being isolated on a running trail? It's a tough call. You are more likely to encounter other runners/outdoor sport enthusiasts on a designated trail but you lack the safety of more eyes, plus places to go (homes, businesses) if someone decides to be horrible. On the other hand, if you do get harassed, a co-trail runner would be more likely to come to your aid/defense than a random sidewalk commuter or person waiting for the bus.
posted by amanda at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2015


If possible I would advise women to always run on the prescribed running trail in your area and avoid the streets if they can.

But, there is something to being isolated on a running trail?


The fact that we have to do this sort of risk mitigation calculus simply to exercise outdoors is just... god damn. It's one thing to think it automatically but to see it typed out is really depressing.
posted by gatorae at 6:30 PM on January 26, 2015 [8 favorites]


Men (ie, people who are socially male) have to confront other men on this one. Even while we all try to raise and teach kids this is unacceptable.

Because of my masculine presentation, I am asked to condone or participate in sexist/gendered microagressions against women and gender nonconformists *constantly*. *Everyone* in my friendship circle is adult and either queer or well-aware of feminism, yet people are still doing this crap. Really, daily, in person and online. I call it out whenever possible - right now I'm more of keyboard warrior as I am currently mobility impaired and casual public space harassment is as likely to turn on me, as the original target.

The constant barrage of harassment is designed to keep "the other" inferior to masculists, and as most of us know, the harassment works. Well, I get it both ways and I am not willing to perpetuate it.

Most recently, as in 2 days ago, it was my dyke roommate's 10 year old son - who is a "nice" kid - saying sexist crap about his *mother* to her ftm boyfriend and me. I shut him down and made him cry, then tell his mom what he had said, why it was wrong, and apologize. Then the ftm boyfriend opined I had been mean to the kid and gender-slurred ME in front of the son! If I could have made him cry and apologize too, I would have. I settled for "Is this your idea of leading (the kid) by example of how to talk to/about other people?" and "STFU bigot".

Maybe I need a shiv.
posted by Dreidl at 6:47 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Oh yeah, dudely inappropriate rating of a woman's looks happened at synagogue on Saturday. Admittedly by one of the bro-e-ist Jews in the shul, but I told him his comment was disgusting. Admiring her shoes quietly between us is one thing, rating her attractiveness is Not To Be Done.
posted by Dreidl at 6:58 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


So... what are women supposed to do so we don't feel so degraded after someone cat calls us (until decades of social change regarding how acceptable it is to harass women)? I mean, I can't kick someone in the groin every time someone tries to talk to me. Because I will probably get arrested, not because I don't want to.
posted by starlybri at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


Let's stop pretending that this is being done by a group of imaginary ghosts.

This really is incredibly low-hanging fruit. Maybe you are evolved past saying and doing this shit yourself, but you almost certainly cross paths with men in the world who say things to you because they believe you are their ally. Maybe it's "you know she's not going to come back after maternity leave" or "bitch" in reference to a coworker, maybe it's a comment involving the phrase "old enough" or "drunk enough", or hooting at someone walking by, or whatever. Being gross.

If you do nothing, or you fake-laugh to keep the peace, that person has just turned to you and said, "I'm a disgusting piece of shit. Totally normal, right?" and you have answered, "Perfectly status quo, my bro," with a big thumbs up. That guy's going to get off the elevator believing that he lives in a world where that's okay.

If you're not ready to start with, "WTF is wrong with you?" try looking horrified. Pretend they just turned to you and said, "Man, I would murder a big old buffalo turd sandwich right now, know what I mean?" Big wide eyes, small step back. "Uh, no," your body language can say, "why would you put poop on bread and eat it DEAR GOD WHY?"

If you can make just one guy - and maybe it's some asshole on an elevator, and maybe it's your brother - reflect back on that look later and think, "what happened that that guy looked at me like I was eating a turd?" you have planted a seed.

Yes, hopefully, there are also opportunities to turn to a friend or coworker or stranger and say, "Hey, if you think I'm going to agree with you because I'm a rapist/sexist/racist/pedophile/cretin, sorry no." or "Dude, no, you're not going to do that in front of me" or "You know, you should think about getting some help. Something's wrong with you." That's awesome, but you can start with turd-sandwich face until you're comfortable.

I had to start that way with racists, because I'm a fat white middle-aged woman and people mistake me for something other than what I am. I know that men are doing this to you, the same way that store clerks and randos and (this was so horrifying) some of my customers would just turn to me and say fucking unbelievable things right to my face. And I freeze up pretty much any time I'm surprised, but I can drop my jaw and blink. After a while, you get more agile with the comebacks.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:27 PM on January 26, 2015 [25 favorites]


Unleash the leopards! Heads up: From a fiveish-year-old meTa about sexism!
posted by rtha at 7:30 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


This kind of behavior is a cultural affect within certain cultures. I'm not sure there's any way to change this kind of thing in current generations. It takes multi-generations.
posted by CrowGoat at 7:34 PM on January 26, 2015


It takes multiple generations of current generations making it their problem, yes.

This is my generation and my problem. I accept that I probably won't see much change within my lifetime.
posted by gilrain at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2015 [9 favorites]


Prior to transitioning I was pretty large-chested and I just happened to find enormous solace in running. Like the author, running was 'me' time and my escape from reality -- it was cathartic. Unfortunately, the treatment I received from strange men -- nauseatingly similar to what the author details -- slowly drove it out of my life. I even tried running at night before giving up entirely. That was over 13 years ago and those experiences have stayed with me. I was changed by them. And while I certainly would be far less likely to be harassed these days, it created such a negative association that it seems unlikely I'll ever be a runner again.

What's interesting, and what I find most problematic though, is how dismissively the issue of street harassment is treated. Everything suggested to remedy the problem seems to place the responsibility of change on women, rather than addressing one of the misogynistic (and patriarchal) roots of it: that a woman's worth -- as all physical possessions' -- is largely tied to her physical attractiveness. Therefore, not only should she expect commentary on her appearance (at any given time), she should also be grateful to receive it (especially from men).

I think the advice often given to women by well-meaning men (ignore it, carry a gun, take karate, etc.) generally comes off as insincere or patronizing. I found it incredibly frustrating. Many women have already thought of it and tried it, I assure you. But I also understand that these well-meaning men know that to not accept the 'compliment' is to draw into question the perpetrator's world view that he's internalized since childhood: that a woman's worth is all about her beauty and sexuality; women both know this and like it. It's a 'game' -- life is a 'game'. If a woman rejects compliments on her beauty she's not playing by the 'rules' -- she's rejecting the notion of beauty equating to worth and many of the men guilty of this behavior simply can't accept that (it would mean accepting their views are wrong). The only conclusion they can then arrive at is that the woman must be wrong -- she must be unware of her beauty (ie: more aggressive complimenting is needed), must not be as attractive as thought (ie: suddenly ugly) or too aware of her 'power'/worth (ie: a bitch, stuck up, etc). Depending on the situation and the man, he could then think it his responsibility to remind her of the 'rules' of the 'game'. Some well-meaning men know this and know that the brief encounter you have with a street harasser is not nearly enough time to try and change someone's whole world view -- it's dangerous and it's not your job. Men who are street harassing don't see women as equals to begin with and it's unlikely they respect them enough to listen to protests/lectures about their offensive behavior.

This is why we need more men to try and bridge the dialogue with other men (including harassers) when they can. This is far more helpful to women, least likely to cause escalation and more likely to cause an actual change in behavior over the long run -- especially if more men stand up and publically shame this sort of behavior when they see it. And learning how to recognize the harassment (which can be subtle thanks to our patriarchal world) is why it's so important for women to continue to share their stories and for men to really listen to them.
posted by stubbehtail at 7:50 PM on January 26, 2015 [14 favorites]


This kind of behavior is a cultural affect within certain cultures.

Certain? You misspelled 'all.'
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 7:51 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The fact that we have to do this sort of risk mitigation calculus simply to exercise outdoors is just... god damn. It's one thing to think it automatically but to see it typed out is really depressing.

It really is. After I read this thread, I went out to a yoga class. Just getting from my car to the building, I passed by some individuals and felt very on edge, very vigilant. One guy who came around a corner even made me jump a little. So, for me, even this "garden variety street harassment" thread was a little triggery. Pretty stunning actually. I consider my history of street sexual harassment to be "moderate."
posted by amanda at 9:05 PM on January 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's something else that isn't being considered. The men who are giving advice to women about staying safe also say things to other men as they have opportunity. It's not one or the other. Also, men in different cultures and different combinations of cross-culture interactions have different ways of getting other men to behave. Some are more intense and some are quieter or more proactive methods (like making a call to get a homeless man some shelter, which happened near us last week.) And not everyone's going to advertise a private word they had with someone out of consideration for that person, to not seem self-righteous, or just out of shyness - and all of those reasons are okay.
posted by michaelh at 10:40 PM on January 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


The men who are giving advice to women about staying safe also say things to other men as they have opportunity.

Some do. Clearly it's not having much effect.

And not everyone's going to advertise a private word they had with someone out of consideration for that person

We should mollycoddle shameful and hateful behaviour because why?
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 12:07 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


As the parent of a young son, I decided to send this email to my contact list:

So, I’m sending this to you all. If you are a woman, please call me out if you see me engaging in this sort of behaviour, to any degree. If you are a man, stop this shit. I’ve done it in the past, I’m sure most of you have too. I don’t mean actual street harassment, I mean the sexism inherent in the system (yes, Monty Python reference).
Link to this thread here.
It’s not just the linked article, read the comments too, please.


It's nice to be able to ask them all to actually READ the comments. On most sites, that's an invitation to stare into the abyss...
posted by birdsquared at 12:14 AM on January 27, 2015 [5 favorites]


What? How? If I see some guy saying something to a woman I'm supposed to walk up to him and engage him in a lecture?

The lecture need only consist of, "Buddy... don't be an idiot."

You say it with the dismissive confidence that you're in the clear majority, and that he/they are clearly idiots. The goal is to plant the seed of doubt in their mind; are men who harass women viewed as idiots by other men? Will my membership in the secret club of manly men be revoked? Am I doing masculinity wrong?

Alternatively, there's anti-bullying advice out there which might be worth looking at, since street harassment is very damn similar to bullying.
posted by clawsoon at 4:13 AM on January 27, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you can make just one guy - and maybe it's some asshole on an elevator, and maybe it's your brother - reflect back on that look later and think, "what happened that that guy looked at me like I was eating a turd?" you have planted a seed.

I have my own little story about this. Many years ago, in school, I was sat in the sixth form common room between classes and looked up to see a guy I knew play fighting with his girlfriend by holding on to her arms whilst kicking her in the shins. Not hard enough to injure, but hard enough to hurt & she wasn't strong enough to make him stop. It never crossed my mind at the time to intervene directly - I was smaller, lower on the social totem pole & the interaction was just over the border of "just messing around" for plausible deniability on his part if I made a fuss - so I just gave him a dirty look and left it at that, even though I felt I should have done more.

Years later she came up to me in a local bar and told me that being looked at with such open disgust for his behaviour was something he talked about afterwards: He genuinely worried about what I thought about him & what that meant. I don't know how much difference it made to his behaviour, but it clearly did have some impact.
posted by pharm at 4:35 AM on January 27, 2015 [20 favorites]


The thing about bullying, a subset of which is street harassment, is that it is a successful technique in our society. Bullies are celebrated. I have lost count of the number of stories I have seen about men who bully their way to getting what they want. The message is pervasive.
In a culture that values bullying over co-operation establishing dominance hierarchies is not going to go away. To some extent bullying is part of human nature. Tackling this issue is not simply a matter of eradicating street harassment, and that is a massive task.
posted by asok at 5:40 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


Women in other cultures get catcalled and pissed off by it too (and in my experience, men of all races have catcalled at me). Shooting someone a dirty look for yelling something gross is not cultural imperialism. Obviously rolling your eyes at someone yelling gross is not cultural imperialism. Saying, "That's shitty, don't do that" when someone yells something is not cultural imperialism. You can't back out of this by claiming cultural sensitivity.
posted by ChuraChura at 6:18 AM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


The men who are giving advice to women about staying safe

this kills me - what gives them the right or the knowledge to do this? "so, this thing you experienced that i've only ever seen a sliver of (unless i engaged in harassing women myself), and this thing that i mostly don't believe is as bad as you say it is, well here is how you fix it!" yeah, no. i'll take a roving gang of shivving women over that sort of advice, thanks.
posted by nadawi at 6:49 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


uh, women who shiv, not a gang shivving women.
posted by nadawi at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2015


As a man, I do deplore the situation of sexual harassment, and what women have to live through on a daily basis. You have my sympathies for this situation.

HOWEVER - I do resent the actions of *some* men being taken as representative of all of us. I don't behave like that, and none of my friends do, either. I simply wouldn't be a friend of someone who displayed sexist, racist, antisemitic or homophobic behaviour.

Metafilter is a wonderful place, and partly because the those kinds of people are (generally) not here. This is not a welcoming place for any kind of prejudice and the moderators do a good job of keeping it that way. Thus, I doubt if you'd find anybody who disagreed with the premise of the post. You're preaching to the choir here.

It's analogous to the rise of Islamic extremism. Every time there is another atrocity, you always have right-wing (it's always right-wing!) commentators blurt out how it's up to the moderate Moslem community to deal with the problem. I find that sort of attitude irritating and unhelpful. Moderate Moslems don't like the extremists any more than the rest of us, probably less so, since so much Islamophobia comes their way.

So I guess what I'm saying to the women here: the men here are on your side. Don't tar us with the same brush, because that's equally irritating and unhelpful. Save your ire for the *individuals* who deserve it.
posted by salmacis at 8:56 AM on January 27, 2015


The thing about bullying, a subset of which is street harassment, is that it is a successful technique in our society

It is exactly like bullying. If you confront a male bully about his behavior or the way he talks to women, or even veer a little off the script of what he thinks is an appropriate response to his remark, then he might just shift his focus to bullying and dominating you. And if that bully is a co-worker or an acquaintance you see regularly, then you've just become their new daily game for them.

I think it's a bit of an assumption to think that men always respect and listen to other men. That's not always the case, and there are some men that will just as readily use their tactics against another man if he perceives them as weak or even just different from them.

To put it another way, I'm listening and see the importance of picking up the flag for civil and decent public (and private) behavior. But just remember, the person with the flag tends to become the person with a target on their back.
posted by FJT at 8:57 AM on January 27, 2015


I've given up on telling the men in my family about street harassment. My dad tells me to take it as a compliment. My father in law has decided running is dangerous (as opposed to, you know, being stationary in a public place) and is trying to badger me into carrying a gun by telling me (in front of my son, thanks) about the woman down the street who was shot and killed while she was on a run you don't want to be next, do you?

In conclusion.
posted by libraritarian at 9:04 AM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


#notallmen
posted by ChuraChura at 9:07 AM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


salmacis, you are arguing the "not all men" argument. No one here has painted men with one brush so I have no idea why you feel the need to object. I guess because at least one man needs to in every discussion of this type...? Don't scold women, please.
posted by agregoli at 9:07 AM on January 27, 2015 [15 favorites]


if the conversation makes you feel guilty or like you have to answer for something, that's something you should examine within yourself. when women say, "men, talk to the men you know" we're not insulting you or your friends, we're saying we can't change this and we need your help. if you want to wash your hands of the whole thing, whatever, but don't bellyache to us about it hoping that we assuage your feelings.
posted by nadawi at 9:18 AM on January 27, 2015 [12 favorites]


salmacis, unless you are extraordinarily lucky in that you never have to leave the bubble of your friends to work or purchase goods or travel from point to point, you are moving around in a world full of men who behave badly and think you're okay with it if you do not give them any impression otherwise, and men who might not act that way but excuse it, just like the article's author's father who clearly loves her but can only advise that she accept it as her lot.

That is what every single woman here has been talking about, asking for the help of men who know better - like, the other men participating in this thread - because those people who act like shitbags do not care if women want them to stop, but might actually take notice if another man didn't think it was cool.

Coming in here and talking over all the women in this thread because there's not point in actually listening to us suggests you might actually be the individual who deserves it.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:18 AM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


@agregoli:
This sort of comment.

@ChuraChura, that's similarly unhelpful. If you're white, how do you feel about a black person blaming you personally for racism? Sexism and racism and god knows whatever other isms exist unfortunately, and we're all agreed that the world would be a better place if that was not the case. As individuals, it is up to all of us to call out that sort of behaviour when we see it, and we try and educate children not to learn that behaviour in the first place. But right now, reading this thread, I feel *blamed* just for being male.
posted by salmacis at 9:19 AM on January 27, 2015


>Why not make the behavior illegal and commit actual resources to punishing the people who engage in it?

That doesn't change anything. It won't change attitudes or mindsets. It just will make men a little paranoid. But only a little because just about everything is still stacked in their favor.

When there's no cops around, I speed. Unless you can have some kind of The Man Who Was Thursday scenario where every woman is an undercover agent of the sexism squad, it's not even going to significantly curb the problem.

This is not a solution.
posted by Tevin at 9:20 AM on January 27, 2015


It's not about your feelings, dude.
posted by agregoli at 9:24 AM on January 27, 2015 [18 favorites]


HOWEVER - I do resent the actions of *some* men being taken as representative of all of us. I don't behave like that, and none of my friends do, either.

There's that old saying, "you can be part of the problem or part of the solution."

As men, we are people who benefit from the systemic sexism in our society, whether we agree with that sexism or not. If we don't fight against it, we are implicitly condoning behaviour that says women aren't people.

If you're white, how do you feel about a black person blaming you personally for racism?

The question wasn't directed at me, but I'll give my answer anyway: for a long time it bothered me; I'm not racist. Conversations here and on Twitter and in some other places have shown me the truth of what I said above: if you're benefiting from a discriminatory structure, you are to blame for allowing that structure to continue if you are not actively working to dismantle it.

So, yeah sure I don't like being individually blamed for racism. At the same time, it's a fair cop, and it's a damn sight less awful than being collectively stepped on for one's skin colour or gender.

But right now, reading this thread, I feel *blamed* just for being male.

Yeah, that sucks, doesn't it?

Now imagine what it's like to feel like less of a person, all day every day, because you are a woman and so much of society is explicitly designed to keep you down.

tl;dr The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. (previously)
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:26 AM on January 27, 2015 [11 favorites]


If you're white, how do you feel about a black person blaming you personally for racism?

Let's not. Thank you.
posted by Ashen at 9:28 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


@Lyn Never:
On a daily basis, the chances are near 100% that many of the people I meet are sexist, or racist, or homophobic. Do you go round spending your day chastising racists?

The author's father is trying to help, even if you (and the author) don't like his advice. None of us like the situation as it is, but one man is not going to change that situation. So you have to react to the situation as it is, because there is no other alternative. What advice specifically should the author's father have given?

I'm not trying to talk over anybody, and I resent that statement. Where did I say that there's no point to listening to women? Simply by trying to inject another point of view does not imply that. Anyway, I've said my piece and I'm out of here.
posted by salmacis at 9:29 AM on January 27, 2015


Good, your perspective is old, tired, worn-out ground, and not anything women need to hear again.
posted by agregoli at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2015 [17 favorites]


Well, I personally am complicit in our racist society and benefit from being a white woman in the US. So while acknowledging my personal responsibility for the continuation of our racist society is painful and challenging, I don't take it as a personal failing or an attack when someone points out that I've done something racist or am part of a larger racist system. I'd suggest that you adopt a similar attitude - it makes it much easier to actually change things when we acknowledge that we're not perfect, that we can sometimes be part of the problem, and that we have to examine our own behavior in order to effect change.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2015 [13 favorites]


What advice specifically should the author's father have given?

"How can I help you with this?" That is the answer, not giving advice that amounts to "well, men suck, you need to protect yourself from them."

Anyway, I've said my piece and I'm out of here.

Your point of view is predicated on not listening to what actual women are saying. That's being part of the problem, not part of the solution.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 9:33 AM on January 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


Do you go round spending your day chastising racists?

Guh...buh? From my comment 20-some up:

I had to start that way with racists, because I'm a fat white middle-aged woman and people mistake me for something other than what I am. I know that men are doing this to you, the same way that store clerks and randos and (this was so horrifying) some of my customers would just turn to me and say fucking unbelievable things right to my face. And I freeze up pretty much any time I'm surprised, but I can drop my jaw and blink. After a while, you get more agile with the comebacks.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:34 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But right now, reading this thread, I feel *blamed* just for being male.

Hearing people talk about their problems or frustrations or negative experiences with injustice—systemic or day-to-day—at the hands of a cohort you fall into can be really uncomfortable. That's human nature, and it's an understandable thing to feel bothered by, because nobody likes feeling like they're getting treated poorly as a member of a group for things the group does that they don't personally do, or don't feel like they do, or don't think they see but wouldn't condone or encourage if they noticed it happening.

But sometimes life is that: you are confronted by the fact that there's shit wrong with the world, and that it's perpetuated consciously or unconsciously by a group you are a member of, regardless of your disapproval. And the outcome of that is that people done wrong by that group feel resentment, anger, distrust of that group. And that's uncomfortable. It's hard to hear.

But people being systemically done wrong are a lot more uncomfortable, and to the extent that there's somewhere where you can meet them in the middle on that stuff that's making you uncomfortable, it's not by insisting that the core of the conversation needs to be about ameliorating your discomfort at the idea of their discomfort. The thing to do is to be uncomfortable, accept that that discomfort comes with the territory, and move on to trying to make things better anyway.
posted by cortex at 9:34 AM on January 27, 2015 [37 favorites]


This sort of comment.

The author of that comment is clearly working from the assumption that the people in this thread that she is addressing are already good people who are not gross misogynists. I'm curious as to why a comment like that would make you feel bad or "blamed" unless you yourself are a man in need of a good talking to about misogyny.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:34 AM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


But right now, reading this thread, I feel *blamed* just for being male.

And thus did yet another guy try to make a thread about real problems that women face into a thread about "it is unfair that you are hurting my manfeels".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:44 AM on January 27, 2015 [25 favorites]


You are reading a discussion about how systemic sexism makes it impossible for women to do normal everyday things like go for a run without being harassed or assaulted by men. This makes you feel bad because you're a man who has never harassed or assaulted anyone. Do you:

Try and fix the problems of systemic sexism so women won't be harassed and assaulted and you'll no longer have anything to feel bad about? Turn to page 42.

Or: make the conversation all about your bruised feelings, decreasing the chance it could help women, and perpetuating the systemic sexism that's making you feel bad? Turn to page please don't do that.
posted by amery at 9:47 AM on January 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


Salamacis, since you are calling out my specific comment let me clarify.

The father in that article is Not Helping. He is actively making the situation worse. I provide advice for how men can help. I'm on my phone so I can't link back to my previous comments on this issue but if you're interested, we can take this to memail this evening for a longer discussion of how I know my tactic is helpful.

This is not just a matter of women 'not liking' advice. This is a repeated assertion of fact that the continuation of dangerous advice is frustrating and harmful.

I'm not saying that all men do this, but I am saying that 'innocent' men can do more to stop other men from doing this than women can. While that makes me sad, I have to work with the facts as get are.

It will suck to find out that you know men who think this behavior is ok (even as they swear they would never do it), but it is information you need. And hey, I did leave open the possibility that you really do not know a single 'unsolicited complimenter' (ahem, street harasser. As I said, be mindful of your framing. Ask men if they harrass women. Not a one will say yes. Ask instead about compliments and requests for phone numbers.)

And while I'm sorry that you feel uncomfortable in this conversation, I need to to know that I feel downright unsafe on the streets and in subway cars and in front of court houses and nearly anywhere I am alone with a man who looks like he's going to ask a deeply vulgar question. Especially when he asks that deeply vulgar question with the casualness of someone who can't find 6th avenue.
posted by bilabial at 9:52 AM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


Sometimes when I read about poor people - like, actual poor people and not "we will never be able to retire" like me - it makes me feel super bad.

My immediate reaction, however, is not to take a shit on poor kids just because they made me have a little ouchie in my heart.

God damn, I love/hate the phrase "checking [my/your] privilege" but that's what that little ouchie means: stop and examine the discomfort. Don't just lash out like a toddler denied a cookie.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:56 AM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


If you're white, how do you feel about a black person blaming you personally for racism?

On a daily basis, the chances are near 100% that many of the people I meet are sexist, or racist, or homophobic. Do you go round spending your day chastising racists?

This is a great example for what we're talking about! (And yes, when I hear someone say something racist/homophobic, as long as I don't feel threatened, I do say something.)

Non-racist white people should talk to racist white people about their racism, don't you think? Only white people can solve racism, since we already know that racists don't care what black people think or do. Black people can't solve racism against them by being "nicer" or whatever - they've tried that.

So one way people become less racist is by being informed - by other whites- that their racist behavior is not cool and will not be tolerated.

Same thing with misogynist men. They will only listen to other men. What other option do you see?
posted by desjardins at 10:00 AM on January 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


I commute by train to work, and at least once a day a man does something to get into my personal space at the train station. I've been approached while standing at an ATM (in the middle of a transaction), ordering a cup of coffee, walking off the platform, walking onto the platform, and sitting down. My demeanor does not matter. The number of witnesses does not matter. Like I was heading towards my train and a man once tried to KISS ME, in full view of the police officers standing not 50 feet away from me. They saw me, and did nothing; had I retaliated and shoved that man out of my space, they would likely have arrested me for assault.

Oh and my being partnered doesn't matter, either. I once made the mistake of asking a man if the train I'd hurriedly hopped onto was local, and he took that as an invitation to try to proposition me for sex. "I have a boyfriend" was countered with "well do you want another one? He doesn't have to know." Because as long as I'm not visibly owned by a man who is physically present next to me, I'm still considered a free-for-all.

And age doesn't matter, either. It did not hinder a pack of teenage boys from stepping directly into my path last week, all to ask me if I wanted to "be their friend." When I flicked my hand to dismiss them* they got pissed, but I was already too far away by the time they reacted. When they found me again - because they apparently held a grudge about it - I looked them directly in the eye and told them to fuck off. Because I have to. Because avoidance doesn't always work. Because I can pick and choose my reaction at random and it will not decrease the odds of my being harassed later.

It was my recounting these tales to my partner that led him to be more aggressive about the casual misogyny he witnesses. He realized that women being aggressive about it definitely wasn't enough.

*I've come to employ the "you're dismissed" gesture against catcalling men at least twice a week now. I enjoy it because it briefly upsets their sense of control and entitlement. Sure, I've been called an uppity bitch or followed once the shock wears off, but that's happened even when I chose to ignore men. I'm not concerned about the risk anymore. It doesn't matter how nicely your "no" sounds if a man's decided that he might harm you for uttering it.
posted by Ashen at 10:11 AM on January 27, 2015 [9 favorites]


So one way people become less racist is by being informed - by other whites- that their racist behavior is not cool and will not be tolerated.

And hell, even if they stay as racist as ever, they figure out that they have to hide it because it's bad and unacceptable. It's still a win.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:12 AM on January 27, 2015 [6 favorites]


One thing I like to do is whenever someone says something racist to me sotto voce (because they know it's racist), I repeat it at normal volume. This works especially well because I have the excuse that I'm hearing impaired. "Sorry, I'm not sure I heard that correctly... you said the Mexican cleaning staff is lazy?" Trust me, they never talk that way to me again.
posted by desjardins at 10:53 AM on January 27, 2015 [22 favorites]


(I don't mean to derail into a discussion of anti-racism, but I think the same techniques are applicable to fighting misogyny.)
posted by desjardins at 10:54 AM on January 27, 2015


they figure out that they have to hide it because it's bad and unacceptable. It's still a win

Yes. I think that perhaps one of the things (if not THE major thing) that most people are most afraid of is being shunned, reviled, and despised by their peers, and even minor reactions of disgust to an act or voiced opinion will tend to have more aggregate impact on an offender than any law or rule – or even one's own deep-inside feeling of shame or guilt, if those feelings do exist.

As a rule, people just don't do things that they think will cause them to be shunned, or even just laughed at – by the cohort that matters to them, whether it's torturing puppies, or picking their nose, or smoking, or even just wearing the unfortunate thing, or using the wrong salad fork, depending on the milieu. For social conditioning there's generally nothing more powerful than even the minor disgust of those whose opinions you value, and this doesn't even have to be a voiced remonstration or big show. Most of us are pretty much hardwired to recognize even micro-expressions of revulsion, distaste, or just plain embarrassment from others directed our way.
posted by taz at 10:55 AM on January 27, 2015 [8 favorites]


I am not trying to pile on here at all, but sometimes tackling a difficult subject like this requires you to dig around and try a bunch of different approaches and find one that clicks.

There were some studies done a while back on the mindsets of rapists. Researchers interviewed a whole bunch of men and gently questioned them about their attitudes toward sex and consent, and came up with some shocking numbers of men who would happily confess to rape, as long as the researchers didn't actually refer to it as rape. And the point that I think is most relevant right here is that the male researcher (David Lisak) reported that the men who admitted to rapes took a bragging tone, as though they assumed that any random man would be impressed by their 'conquests.'

These admitted rapists seemed to honestly believe that all men were like them.

Street harassment isn't rape, of course, but it occurs on the spectrum of sexual violence, and I expect you'd find similar attitudes among street harassers as well. The assumption that all men would endorse their behaviors and attitudes toward women.

Which is why it's important to be explicit and to express real revulsion toward their behaviors.

Bigots and creeps aren't exactly brave and independent thinkers. They're very dependent on the approval of their perceived communities. And one big motivator for many street harassers is the approval and respect of other men. A lot of street harassment--not all, but a significant amount--is almost like a competition or a bonding experience. And I'd bet that a fair number of the solo offenders also assume, like the rapists in that study, that other men are complicit or at least approving of their behaviors. You do have to make yourself pretty clear.

Because that gross sexist joke that you think derives its humor from over the top absurdity may be observational humor to the misogynists you know.

Yes, this is also why us white people should be explicitly (or implicitly but obviously) responding to racism with distaste. And I think a lot of us already do.

And OK, I am also going to say that it sort of cheeses me off how offended some men get when women tell them they don't want their advice. It really kind of illustrates how unused some men are to being dismissed that even a polite, "No, thanks, actually we know what we're doing!" results in such great umbrage. As women, I think most of us are pretty used to having our ideas dismissed, ignored, and rebutted for sport, and the fact that some men are getting that offended by something so mild really points up the double standard.

In fact, street harassment itself is something that women have only begun to be able to talk about in public. I know for most of my life, despite it seriously affecting my ability to move around in my community safely and comfortably, any attempt to bring it up would just end up with accusations that I was bragging, being silly and prudish, or even misconstruing it.

It's finally our turn to talk, and it's really disconcerting how many men refuse to listen.
posted by ernielundquist at 12:27 PM on January 27, 2015 [30 favorites]


If you're white, how do you feel about a black person blaming you personally for racism?

As a white person, racism has absolutely given me advantages. I also have the ability to pretend racism isn't a problem, or jump into a conversation amongst people of color saying, "Not all white people are like that!", and to be racist and not get called on it (or get called on it incredibly mildly). I'm even a NICE white person, so when I got called on being a racist shithead I was apologized to first.

I'm completely down with black people saying to me, "What are you doing about racism?" and I already speak up when my friends are racist, and mark being white, and do a lot of other things to try to end racism - because the ugly thing is, since I'm white people are more likely to listen to me.

-----

My most recent sexual harassment wasn't street harassment (I avoid streets in general) but from the guy giving me a ride from where I was keeping my car to the airport. He started out asking about my marital status (who DOES this?) and then graduated to telling me I was lucky I was single because my boyfriend or husband might not let me go visit my family. It was one of those weird liminal places, where you're "in public" but in a locked place with someone who has more power than you (he was driving the damn car) and I tried to split the difference between be polite and be forthright, but man it made that part of my journey shitty.

In fact, street harassment itself is something that women have only begun to be able to talk about in public.

I assumed it was something that only happened to me in the worst cases until the public discussion began on... fifteen years ago? To give context, I was eleven when I was first street harassed; two college age men in a car were at the light I was stopped at and they started yelling offers of cunnilingus. I haven't been followed much, but the fifty-something year old man who wanted my number seriously creeped me out. Things like Hollaback and other conversations about street harassment are much more about women talking to women than anything else, even now; there is a comfort in knowing we all experience it, and we didn't cause it or make it worse.

Hel, hearing about the sexual harassment that girls in niqab (beginning around twelve or thirteen) experience in the Middle East woke me up to some remaining subtle victim blaming I had in my head! I had assumed niqab would protect someone because men said it did; I was wrong.
posted by Deoridhe at 12:40 PM on January 27, 2015 [7 favorites]


I had assumed niqab would protect someone because men said it did; I was wrong.

Dress codes are about protecting a man's property and pride, not about protecting women.
posted by Mental Wimp at 1:19 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


It drives me nuts that the intersection of white privilege and male privilege is this weird space for white women and men of color. I hope this comes out right, here goes: So, I think of myself as pretty progressive and willing to examine my internalized racism and hopefully can check it when I become or am made aware of it. But then I walk down an empty dark street and see a man walking toward me, I think I should cross to the other side so I don't have to deal with the potential harassment. Then I see it is a person of color. I think, shit, I don't want to cross now because I don't want this person to think "oh the white lady thinks I am a scary black man." And I know most of you have heard the jokes about a white lady clutching her purse blah, blah, blah. It's messed up that I have to make the choice of oh, I'm not racist, I just think you might be a rapist. And it bothers me that the man's first thought is "she is a racist" and not that it might be his maleness that I am afraid of. And right now I am spiraling into how far this back and forth can go.
posted by Belle O'Cosity at 1:20 PM on January 27, 2015 [10 favorites]


But right now, reading this thread, I feel *blamed* just for being male.

The first time a woman reacted fearfully to me coming around the corner in the dark, I said "What?!" and spun around because I thought something sinister was stalking up behind me. There was nothing there and that gave me pause. It was just me she was afraid of.

I didn't feel blamed but I did feel awful as I processed the encounter and so did she.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 1:56 PM on January 27, 2015 [4 favorites]


Well, I have screamed and thrown something at my own reflection in my own locked, dark house. There is a base level where scaring someone is just plain scaring someone, whether you're a man or your own reflection or the damn raccoons that would shut themselves inside my parents' garbage cans and come at you when you took the lid off.

She probably felt awful because of the pants-peeing, not that she mistook you for an assailant when you weren't.

I'm sure that many men do have greater confidence walking around at night or in an unpopulated area, but I heard my father shriek when it was his turn with the raccoons. Sometimes unexpected is just unexpected.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:04 PM on January 27, 2015


Now I feel compelled to draft a graphic novel/slashfic about the Roving KnifeWifes called Y: THE LAST CATCALL.

Unless Robocop or Whelk call dibs first, but a collabo would be cool too.

I'm on a phone, is the "watcha reading?" Discussion in related posts?

Offended men here who haven't read that already, please go do that. It really changed sexual harassment/assault discussions here for the better, I think. Helped achieve parity on many levels, though some of it ran roughshod in the middle.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 9:50 PM on January 27, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you mean this one, it wasn't: Hi. Whatcha reading?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:43 AM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Yes, that's it -- thank you Joe in Australia!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:53 PM on January 28, 2015


Worth reposting from that link is a great set of tips to shame and embarrass those who prey on women. Thanks, nooneyouknow!
posted by Mental Wimp at 2:31 PM on January 28, 2015 [2 favorites]


Wow, MeFi of 2009 had quite a bit more of the #notallmen than the current one does.
posted by ambrosen at 6:44 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


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