This Vote Is Legally Binding
September 2, 2016 8:45 AM   Subscribe

Someone always says it, whenever it comes up: "I guess I'm just not allowed to talk to anyone any more!" Well. Yes. It is my duty to inform you we took a vote...
This week's Twitter discussion about how to approach a woman wearing headphones (protip: don't) has now inspired poetry from noted writer and illustrator Ursula Vernon (previously, previously).
posted by sciatrix (97 comments total) 66 users marked this as a favorite
 
"Your mom abstained."
posted by praemunire at 8:47 AM on September 2, 2016 [29 favorites]


God help you if you think you deserve my attention while I am out with my earbuds in.
posted by Kitteh at 8:48 AM on September 2, 2016 [13 favorites]




I'm actually partial to this other opinion piece from the Washington Post on the issue:
You can talk to anyone, you tell yourself.
It is only a woman, you tell yourself.
But you know that it is not.
Women were something different.
Your comrade made the awful mistake of talking to the Woman Who Is Reading A Book On The Subway. You watched it happen.
He made her look up from the book and her basilisk eyes fell on him, unblinking, and he melted.
You still remember the screams.
They were so horrible that the city lay awake for days trying to forget them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:02 AM on September 2, 2016 [95 favorites]


My favorite version of How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones is much more heartwarming.
posted by straight at 9:03 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I think the only time I ever tried to talk to a lady I didn't know wearing headphones was to let her know she had a really long piece of toilet paper hanging off her shoe, even then it was less talking and more pointing at her foot. I'm happy with the concept of explicit "don't talk to me" coding and I would love for that to be respected.
posted by Ferreous at 9:04 AM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


We went into the women's room at the Applebee's at the corner of 54
and all the others streamed in through the doors
into that endless liminal space,
Ahem. We're not supposed to use that phrase anymore.
posted by rorgy at 9:06 AM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


can you guess what the piece of paper he dropped on her artwork said

yeahbut ACTUALLY thatsanenvelope so SHE isclearly LYING. Sheprobably justmade the WHOLE THING up to get likes.

pleasesubscribe to my youtube channel where I make similar incisive 20minute truthtellings in a whiny monotone.
posted by bonehead at 9:08 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


This one time, I really wanted to talk to a woman who was not on headphones but ahead of me in line at the DMV. I really, really wanted to talk to her.

Not to hit on her, but because she had a tattoo around her ankle that read

"onmia causa fiunt"

and I really, really wanted to know whether the misspelling was intentional or not.

I'll never know, and that's okay.
posted by gauche at 9:09 AM on September 2, 2016 [12 favorites]


I'm simply amazed that anyone thinks it's OK to bother anyone else who's wearing headphones, unless it's to point out they're sonically oblivious to some approaching calamity.

As a straight white guy, I honestly can't imagine anyone but another straight white guy suggesting or following this advice. But it's at least provoked some really wonderful responses.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 9:15 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


I'll never know, and that's okay.

It would have been gauche to ask.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 9:16 AM on September 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


Jesus, poor Mel. I hope somebody recognizes that handwriting and roasts the dude responsible. Wait -- on second thought, I don't think I hope that, it looks like he might have an intellectual disability. It's more likely than him having a big-shot friend in the industry.

This dustup reminded me of when I was carrying a large framed picture to my office on the T in Boston, about nine years ago. It was a Sunday and I thought I'd have the car almost to myself, to take up extra room with the picture, and not bother anyone. But no, I -- and my headphones -- had to sit next to a small behatted dude who sat as close as he could, and repeated why aren't you talking to me? Hey! Hey, I'm trying to talk to you, you should take your headphones off alllll the way to State Street, in a childlike, whining way, as if girls had been told they had to ignore him and Rise Above him all his life and he was entirely used to ignoring that from them in turn.

The only solution I can offer is to get nine years older. This has worked, and although invisibility is not entirely what I wanted, I can at least walk through the streets, listening to podcasts, confident that men of all kinds will allow that my time is my own.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:17 AM on September 2, 2016 [9 favorites]


her basilisk eyes fell on him, unblinking, and he melted

"Actually, the gaze of the basilisk causes one to turn to stone, not melt."

[^--monsplaining]
posted by The Bellman at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2016 [7 favorites]


What's the proper way to signal "I'm currently listening to music, but if you're an interesting person who can engage me in a good conversation I'll be happy to take off the earphones and talk to you instead"?
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:19 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


My favorite version of How to Talk to a Woman Who is Wearing Headphones is much more heartwarming.

...I have no idea what this picture means at all, but all the responses seem to get it, so I take it there's something significant there.
posted by Four Ds at 9:20 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


What's the proper way to signal "I'm currently listening to music, but if you're an interesting person who can engage me in a good conversation I'll be happy to take off the earphones and talk to you instead"?

One earbud in your ear, one dangling loose. That's how you listen to music while signalling willingness to also listen to fellow humans. Two earbuds in means "I don't want to be able to hear you unless it's a fucking emergency. Your boner does not count."
posted by sciatrix at 9:22 AM on September 2, 2016 [58 favorites]


Your boner is not an emergency should probably be added to the sex ed curriculum.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 9:24 AM on September 2, 2016 [129 favorites]


1. Create a podcast
posted by sanedragon at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


...I have no idea what this picture means at all, but all the responses seem to get it, so I take it there's something significant there.

The person in the picture is Chris Remo, one of the hosts of the popular Idle Thumbs podcast, and partner of Sarah Argodale.

Reminds me of this one and this.
posted by kmz at 9:27 AM on September 2, 2016


I was out last night with a few friends from my department, and we were having an animated discussion about the Turkish coup (one friend just finished up her dissertation research excavating in Turkey and was there for it all). Things were kind of serious. Three women, drinking beer and making eye contact with each other and talking about geopolitics. Definitely not inviting any other people to participate in our conversation. But. There was a fourth, untaken seat at our table.

An older man walks over to us, puts his beer down, and sits in the empty seat. "Hello, ladies." We stop, mid-conversation, and all stare at him, kind of baffled. "Would you like to hear a joke?" We continue to stare at him, still baffled. He's accompanied by another man, who helpfully adds, "We want to chat with some college chicks!"

"No, I think we're OK, thanks," I finally say (and internally kick myself for not saying NO GO AWAY NOW WHY DID YOU COME OVER HERE AND INTERRUPT US ANYWAYS!)

"Jeeze, it was just going to be a joke!" says the older man. "You don't have to be rude." And he walks away, complaining to his friend about stuck up girls.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:28 AM on September 2, 2016 [100 favorites]


BTW, can you guess what the piece of paper he dropped on her artwork said? Actually, no need, here's his entire nasty, entitled rant.

behold, so very few things are as frustrated as a man whose existence was denied.
posted by numaner at 9:29 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]




What's the proper way to signal "I'm currently listening to music, but if you're an interesting person who can engage me in a good conversation I'll be happy to take off the earphones and talk to you instead"?

I've never encountered such a person in public. I don't believe they exist.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:40 AM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


What's the proper way to signal "I'm currently listening to music, but if you're an interesting person who can engage me in a good conversation I'll be happy to take off the earphones and talk to you instead"?

i mean, i guess you could get a sandwich board

as an added bonus, then you could use your sandwich board to bludgeon people who write articles in favor of invading women's spaces
posted by Mayor West at 9:44 AM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


. . . He's accompanied by another man, who helpfully adds, "We want to chat with some college chicks!"

Oh my God. My best guess is that these dudes, being older, as you say, were raised alongside girls who were ordered to think of themselves as "chicks" and be willing to pay attention to any reasonably ambulatory man, lest they end up on the shelf. So he figured he could just come up and order a "chat with some college chicks" like he would order from a barista. My heart aches for the numberless women he has bored since the 1970s.
posted by Countess Elena at 9:50 AM on September 2, 2016 [27 favorites]


FWIW, there are time when it is appropriate to talk to a lady in headphones. It is appropriate if their hair is on fire, a car is about to hit them, or zombies are attacking.
posted by JJ86 at 9:56 AM on September 2, 2016 [16 favorites]




"Now imagine all women are wearing headphones."

Vernon's poem is so perfect. Responding to entitled dudes with "Yes, a request to leave us alone when we've made it clear we don't wish to speak with you is precisely equivalent to you being prohibited from speaking to any woman ever again. The secret cabal of all women on the planet has decided. SO MOTE IT BE" is truly living the dream and this is just a beautifully and succinctly expressed version of it: we didn't think about you again /
except that I had to carry this message.


Because setting aside the vivid awareness that he might actually fucking kill you for "rejecting" him, is there anything more emotionally satisfying than reminding a man he is not actually entitled to your time or attention? Somehow we are still living in a world where if any man wants to talk to any woman, that woman doesn't just have to tolerate him no matter what until he finally shuts the fuck up, she has to listen. And she doesn't just have to listen, she has to listen and respond to him in a way and to a degree the man finds both agreeable and ultimately satisfactory, regardless of what that entails or how long it takes. And any women who don't want to do this are bitches or antisocial or DENYING THE MAN'S EXISTENCE.

Which is why en route to separatist land for a campout this weekend, 30+ years of "what's your problem? I just wanted to compliment you! bitch!" will be propelling me all the way there. It's seriously amazing to spend an entire weekend knowing that you only have to talk to people when you want to, never having to use signs or signals to express your desire for distance or fear that your "no" will be met with violence.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 9:59 AM on September 2, 2016 [29 favorites]


IT is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune women talking to each other in a public space, or reading or listening to music alone in a public space, must be in want of a wife male company.
posted by rtha at 10:00 AM on September 2, 2016 [37 favorites]


I am male and would never ever ever try to talk to any one in headphones, the message is clear.

Plenty of people do seem to have no problem talking to me and from my experience it is overwhelmingly women who do this, I actually cannot remember a single time where it was a guy. I am not an attractive man, it certainly was never a pick-up attempt, most of the time it is asking directions or something similar.

I have no lesson from this, just interesting.
posted by Cosine at 10:02 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ew ew ew ew ew ew from the blog:

For a human female, she also is more attracted to an alpha male more than a lower-ranking male. A human alpha male is a guy who uses his confidence and emotional masculinity to go after what he wants in life and keep pushing forward no matter how challenging life gets.

WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK
posted by cooker girl at 10:03 AM on September 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


This is true about reading a book as well; it is a combination of something I enjoy and a signal that my attention is elsewhere. I have chosen the activity of reading; I did not choose the activity of talking to you, and it's maddening and often scary when a stranger tries to make my choices for me.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:04 AM on September 2, 2016 [13 favorites]


Once I had a guy approach me at the gym while I was running on the treadmill with headphones on. He just sort of planted himself in front of the machine and gestured for me to take off the headphones. I wasn't about to interrupt my workout for some rando, and I didn't think the gym was on fire behind me...
posted by imnotasquirrel at 10:04 AM on September 2, 2016 [22 favorites]


Don't keep us in suspense, was it?
posted by biffa at 10:13 AM on September 2, 2016 [17 favorites]


I honestly don't get the disconnect some people have on this. Man or woman, I'm on the bus, I've got headphones on, I'm reading a book, do I also have to wear a sign that says fuck right on off? WTF?!
posted by evilDoug at 10:15 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Well, it adds about +10 creepy points when it's a man trying to get a woman's attention to hit on her... But it's still always incorrect and inappropriate to try to talk to someone wearing headphones. Just two days ago a woman on the street started to GRAB my headphones off my head in order to talk to me (and ask me for money). I backed up quickly, put my hands in a defensive position, at which point she put her hand on my shoulder. I backed up and loudly explained that PERSONAL SPACE was a thing, and she needed to respect mine, and not touch me.

I can only imagine if i was a woman (and it was a man trying to hit on me) that my discomfort would be exponentially higher.

While it's true that more and more people have headphones in public, this is in part because people with headphones don't want to talk to you, whoever you are, whatever the reason. Sheesh, this isn't complicated stuff.
posted by el io at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


When someone tries to start a conversation with me when I am wearing headphones, I always feel a little scared, because what other social norms will that person comfortably violate? #meandeveryotherwoman
posted by prefpara at 10:18 AM on September 2, 2016 [52 favorites]


It's so widely applicable!
posted by Drexen at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2016


I caused a guy to take his headphones out while I was walking home yesterday, but that was because his backpack was unzipped and it was starting to rain. And I still felt shitty for having done it!
posted by majuju at 10:19 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


10ish years ago I was on a bus listening to music and a guy sitting beside me TOOK OUT ONE OF MY EARBUDS to ask me what I was listening to.
posted by littlesq at 10:20 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


The funny/sad thing about that hypothetical interaction from the original blog post is that there is actually zero indication from the fictional woman that she is interested in this conversation. Literally the only word the author has her say is her name. It's so amazing that even in this ideal scenario, the signals that the woman is giving would take a lot of imagination to be seen as enthusiastic.

The person in the picture is Chris Remo, one of the hosts of the popular Idle Thumbs podcast, and partner of Sarah Argodale.

Sorry, who is she in relationship to that tweet? Sometimes reading Twitter I feel like I'm looking at a half-completed jigsaw puzzle.
posted by lunasol at 10:20 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


Wait so what's the etiquette when you're trying to read and someone is listening to music very loudly on their headphone and there's nowhere else to move (and the music just happens to be something that annoys you to no end, and you can't listen to your own music because your phone is low on battery)?
posted by numaner at 10:23 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


If you haven't read the link that EmpressCallipygos points to, go do it now. You're welcome.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:25 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I don't want to be able to hear you unless it's a fucking emergency. Your boner does not count

The TV keeps saying that anything over 4 hours counts. The obvious solution is to stare patiently and creepily for four hours, then talk.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 10:27 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'll never know, and that's okay.

Everything happens for a reason!
posted by brand-gnu at 10:29 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Pretty sure you're joking, but that scenario is upsetting enough to envision for me that mostly I just feel even more grossed out and upset than I do when I remember dudes who have pulled this "I just want to TALK to you, GOD" crap with me in public when I'm wearing headphones, reading, or both.
posted by sciatrix at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


It's funny because it's really scary, I guess?
posted by sciatrix at 10:47 AM on September 2, 2016


Sorry, who is she in relationship to that tweet? Sometimes reading Twitter I feel like I'm looking at a half-completed jigsaw puzzle.

The tweet a reply to a tweet of Sarah's. (And Sarah is in turn one of the first respondents to it.)
posted by kmz at 10:50 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


It is appropriate if their hair is on fire, a car is about to hit them, or zombies are attacking.
Nah, just get on with dumping your coffee on them or shoving them out of the way or whatever...
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:50 AM on September 2, 2016


That poem is hilarious!

The edit history on the offensive headphones article is interesting. The version from a few days ago is full on "the woman owes the man her attention". But they recently added a couple of bits about "respect the woman’s right to not want to talk to him." The article as a whole is hideous, but I thought it notable they added a fig leaf of decency after the criticism.

But the article has a much longer history. The original version has the same basic gist but different formatting and stock photography and is just as creepy but not nearly as well written. I imagine there's a whole graduate student research person to be written comparing the two versions, the evolution of MRA language.

What I find really interesting is this article has been revisited and touched for three years. I imagine some SEO asshole realized they had some valuable search terms that would show valuable ads and sell PUA bullshit to insecure men and have slowly honed their Googlebait. What a weird form of parasite.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


When I am God-Emperor what I think I will do to people who do stuff like this is edit their sensorium so that for some fixed time period everyone they see is an attractive 25-year-old woman. Maybe that person you want to hit on is actually a young woman. Maybe it's your boss. Maybe it's a 300-pound biker. Is your attitude about bothering people different now? Well, is it, punk?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:54 AM on September 2, 2016 [20 favorites]


The worst case of this I ever experienced is when I was watching a movie on a plane and the guy next to me kept tapping on my shoulder cause he just wanted to chat with him. Because I was especially spineless then, I never got to see the end of my damn movie because this guy desperately wanted to tell me something about his life that I have now forgotten.
posted by carolr at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


The tweet a reply to a tweet of Sarah's. (And Sarah is in turn one of the first respondents to it.)

Forgot to add, it's basically a personalized variation of "Create a podcast."
posted by kmz at 10:55 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Thanks, kmz!

The worst case of this I ever experienced is when I was watching a movie on a plane and the guy next to me kept tapping on my shoulder cause he just wanted to chat with him.

I once was chatting a bit with my seatmate on a plane as we were taking off, but the conversation wasn't really going anywhere, and I was really into the book I was reading, so I pulled it out and opened it. He was completely oblivious and kept talking to/at me, until I finally got in a word edgewise and said "OK, I've got some reading to do." He spent the rest of the flight sighing, side-eye-ing me, and fidgeting. Clearly he hadn't brought anything to do but couldn't bear to just sit quietly, so he was expecting his seatmate to entertain him (by listening to him talk?). Actually, "expecting a woman to entertain you when you're bored" is a pretty big subset of male entitled behavior.
posted by lunasol at 11:10 AM on September 2, 2016 [62 favorites]


Other “articles” written by the “author” of this piece, Dan Bacon:

“My Ex Doesn’t Want to See Me Any More”

“How to Get My Ex to Listen to Me, Rather Than Being So Stubborn”

“Why Doesn’t My Ex Girlfriend Care That We’ve Broken Up?”

“I Can’t Deal With the Thought of My Ex Being Happy With a New Man”

"My Ex Girlfriend Feels Pressured to Be With Me Again"

[real]
posted by a fiendish thingy at 11:18 AM on September 2, 2016 [40 favorites]


OMG how are so many men so entitled and clueless at the same time
posted by agregoli at 11:21 AM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think the thing that is weirding me out most about 2016 is how much we need the [real] and [fake] tags.

Re: this amazing poem, oh how I wish I'd read it when I was 15, I would have saved so many lost minutes/hours listening to certain men drone at me pointlessly for reasons ranging from "trying to pick me up despite obvious evidence I am not into him," to "just bored, thinks I am there to listen to him talk randomly."

Being middle-aged/having a well-cultivated Resting Bitch Face, I get far less of it now. It's very restful.
posted by emjaybee at 11:24 AM on September 2, 2016 [8 favorites]


yeah my resting bitch face has evolved into an i'm actively dreaming of multiple homicides face so now when people do approach me for actual legitimate reasons (does this train go where i think it goes, did i just miss my stop, help me pls im lost, etc) they do it with a highly enjoyable timidity.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:42 AM on September 2, 2016 [24 favorites]


...I have no idea what this picture means at all

There are three pictures. The first is a dude talking into a microphone, which is kind of the whole joke by itself (talk to a woman wearing headphones by recording something she chooses to listen to). The second is the name of a podcast (which seems obviously what the dude was recording). The third is the same dude kissing a woman in some big marble building. I didn't think you'd have to know it was a courthouse and they'd just got married to get the gist of the story.
posted by straight at 11:54 AM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


Something I've always struggled with is having my attempts at maintaining RBF completely overshadowed by the fact that I am very small, physically unintimidating, and in possession of that Midwestern corn-fed je ne sais quoi that seems to give men the sense that I'm likely to quietly acquiesce and give them the attention they crave.

Seeing as donning headphones while reading a book and frowning doesn't keep them away at all, how can I instantly telegraph my utter lack of interest in interaction with male strangers when I stand at a towering 62 inches in height and sound like I'm on the supporting cast of Fargo? I'm about to replace my entire top-half wardrobe with stuff like this and this and this and be done with it.
posted by amnesia and magnets at 11:56 AM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


I've grayed sufficiently enough that I'm left alone at this point, thank goodness, but I used to be hassled while reading all. the. time. The last time it happened, the guy tried to impress me by discoursing on Lord Byron, the great Victorian novelist, which did not have quite the effect he anticipated.
posted by thomas j wise at 12:03 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


the guy tried to impress me by discoursing on Lord Byron

He's like the patron saint of dudes who think their boner is an emergency.
posted by straight at 12:05 PM on September 2, 2016 [59 favorites]


yeah my resting bitch face has evolved into an i'm actively dreaming of multiple homicides face so now when people do approach me for actual legitimate reasons (does this train go where i think it goes, did i just miss my stop, help me pls im lost, etc) they do it with a highly enjoyable timidity.

I wish this worked for me, but apparently even my powerful RBF cannot overcome my corn-fed Midwestern-raised wholesome look. Instead the effect is of someone who (a) knows her way around but (b) will explain things to you nicely.

(Actually, I like helping lost people and so on if I'm not completely strapped for time. I will look at your map, I will try to speak to you in my several tourist-languages despite the comic effect. But then there are the dudes.)
posted by praemunire at 12:06 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


He's like the patron saint of dudes who think their boner is an emergency.

Yeah, Mary Shelley basically invented sci-fi as a way to get away from Byron's boner emergencies.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 12:12 PM on September 2, 2016 [76 favorites]


yeah, the overwhelming impression I get from all the Dan Bacon pieces is "wow, this guy's audience sounds like they're acting like teenage girls who haven't gotten over their first crush."

And now I'm wondering if there is some way to spin that observation into some kind of triple-reverse-psychology thing to get them to do an about-face and leave their exes alone.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2016


I read it, felt inordinately angry, and then I realized my hands were clenched into fists.

This dude is out of his mind if he thinks that women behave in the way he describes because that's how HE'D like them to behave. That presumption is why I wanted to hit him. But he may as well have been writing a fairy tale, because no, women are not sitting around listening to music like we're in the Men's Pick-up-A-Gal Office awaiting our turn.
posted by droplet at 12:17 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


> yeah my resting bitch face has evolved into an i'm actively dreaming of multiple homicides face

A year or so ago I went to some Con panel or other with Mel Hynes and J. Grant (of Two Lumps fame). It was there that the esteemed Mr. Grant introduced me the phrase "resting bar fight face".

Yours might be better, albeit less succinct.
posted by sourcequench at 12:46 PM on September 2, 2016 [6 favorites]


In agreement with all who say, please don't talk to me ever, in public. For some reason (is it written on my forehead?) I get a LOT of people harassing me when out and about. I've had men order me to take my headphones off, sit really close to me on the bus or train, or remark on my tattoos, my clothes, my body, my interest in my phone, ANYTHING to get me to pay attention to them. I have been groped by a man on a crowded bus where no one did anything to stop it. I have had a man approach me at a bus stop (where unfortunately no one else was waiting) and ask me to look at a picture of "the cutest baby in the world" on his phone, and when I said as politely as possible, since you never know when a rando stranger will become suddenly abusive and terrifying, "Oh, no thank you, I'm reading," he began screaming at me, calling me a slut, a whore, etc, accusing me of being unfriendly, on and on. This went on for 10 minutes while I sat there petrified, trying to think of what to do, until the bus came and I got on it and sat behind the biggest and yet friendliest looking man. I shook all the way home.

I do not ever want to be talked to by strange men and yet it seems to happen to me everywhere I go. Good to hear that other people have this experience, as sometimes I feel like I have some kind of target on my back that says "Easy to fuck with." I wear headphones everywhere and am always reading. I get scared to go places that feel possibly threatening because I've had so many bad experiences in public with men. My partner is trying really hard to understand this, but he still gets frustrated sometimes because IT NEVER HAPPENS TO HIM, and he just doesn't get that visceral fear sensation.

If anyone has any stellar "how to cultivate yr RBR" ideas, lay them on me. Stay safe, women.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 1:32 PM on September 2, 2016 [11 favorites]


This is reminding me of the lovely story I heard last night about a girl living in France who got FOLLOWED HOME off the subway (or whatever they call it there, I forget). She actually brought him home and into the house because she couldn't figure out how to get rid of him without making him more dangerous and hoped her older lady roommate would get him to leave. The roommate was stumped as well. She had to call some guy friend of hers to come over and fake being her boyfriend. The stalker guy dropped by the house like a week later "to say thanks for having me over" and then complain about her behavior not being welcoming enough.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with men that they act like this?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:52 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


Wow. This is an issue somewhat near my heart.
PUA shit is so weird and pandering and objectifying, I find it hard to believe that people actually go and google stuff like this or take it seriously. I know, they do, though.

So, this specific scenario (standing next to someone, on the street, constantly gesturing to take off the headphones, "I WANT TO TALK TO YOU") is just way the fuck over the line.

My wife, when single, and even for long periods of time before getting married, wore a cheap brass ring that she called her "man-repellent", and the stuff would still happen.

The funny thing though? People (usually women) do this to me all the time in a different situation. I'm a married chubby dude in my late 30's who dresses more or less the same that I did as a teenager. Also, to put it charitably, don't really exude a "hey lets have a conversation" vibe.

But I read at bars / restaurants. I pretty much always have headphones in, and my focused reading death glare. Its happened at night when people are out on the town, but also in basically empty sandwich shops at lunch time and ask what i'm reading / listening to / playing (happens with my DS, too). Its not always hitting-on, sometimes its just a drunk asshole, sometimes it ends up being pleasant.

What's puzzling is that it happens at all.
posted by lkc at 2:01 PM on September 2, 2016


Ursula Vernon is awesome. I also enjoyed How to talk to a woman who is holding and AK-47 and mace .
posted by catatethebird at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have enjoyed several of the response tweets.
posted by ckape at 3:00 PM on September 2, 2016


Ursula Vernon is awesome. I also enjoyed How to talk to a woman who is holding and AK-47 and mace .

Misread the title, was disappointed to realize it wasn't "...AK-47 and a mace".
posted by McCoy Pauley at 3:11 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


this happened to webcomic artist Melanie Gillman at the Small Press Expo (SPX)

For clarity, SPX isn't for another 2 weeks; if this happened just now, it didn't happen at SPX.

I think the Twitter account identifies them as affiliated with SPX (?), so they're "Mel at SPX" in that sense. I hope nothing like this happens at SPX, damn.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:22 PM on September 2, 2016


Forgot to add, it's basically a personalized variation of "Create a podcast."

I knew who Chris Remo was, listen to Idle Thumbs on a regular basis, know he's now married to Sarah Argodale, and have even listened to the book club podcast the two of them have, and STILL did not understand that tweet until just now. I am the slowest person alive.

(I was like, what, did she listen to the podcast before meeting him? Is there something I'm missing? What? WHAT?)
posted by chrominance at 3:28 PM on September 2, 2016 [1 favorite]


But I read at bars / restaurants. I pretty much always have headphones in, and my focused reading death glare. Its happened at night when people are out on the town, but also in basically empty sandwich shops at lunch time and ask what i'm reading / listening to / playing (happens with my DS, too). Its not always hitting-on, sometimes its just a drunk asshole, sometimes it ends up being pleasant.

I also read at bars and restaurants (though without headphones), and people always interrupt. But that's just casual friendliness or rudeness, depending on the situation, and it never has the threatening or entitled aspect that this post is about. It's not really comparable, though I am still surprised at how many people will treat a book as a reason to start talking, rather than as a signal of non-chattiness.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:03 PM on September 2, 2016 [4 favorites]


Mel Gillman - yeah, SPX 2016 hasn't happened yet. A lot of comic creators put their convention location details right in their Twitter name when there's a show coming up where they'll be attending or exhibiting (e.g., "Janet Smith BCC216" for table 216 at Boston Comic Con). This probably means that Mel will be at SPX but maybe not at a specific table (I don't see their name on the exhibitor list).
posted by cadge at 6:32 PM on September 2, 2016


These discussions always remind me of decathecting's excellent analogy:
Imagine, for a moment, that a significant portion of the population believed, based on your looks, that if they encountered you in public, you owed them a dollar. These people are total strangers to you, but they believe fervently that any time they see you in public, you are obligated to give them a dollar. They're willing to make polite conversation with you in the hopes that you'll willingly give them the dollar, but if you don't they're willing to follow you down the street and bug you about it until you fork it over. And if even that doesn't work, they're constantly scheming for ways to pick your pocket or steal your stuff in order to get the money that is rightfully owed to them by you and everyone who falls into the category of people like you who have spurned their dollar-seeking advances over the years.

After a lifetime of this, you'd likely be super-annoyed and out of patience with these people, wouldn't you? You'd (rightfully) suspect anyone who tried to chat with you in public of just trying to get their dollar out of you. You might even be afraid of most or all strangers, because you know that they're going to harass you until you hand over your money, and some of them may even get violent. But you'd still have to go out in public sometimes, to work or to buy groceries, and every time you did, someone would try to chat you up or put their hands on you in order to get their dollar. And every one of them would probably say, "why is that guy so angry and nervous? I'm only asking for a dollar, and that's not very much money, and if I take it out of his pocket without him knowing, he probably won't even notice that it's gone." Because they wouldn't be thinking about the thousands of times before that someone has asked you, pestered you, forced you to give up your dollars. They'd only be thinking about themselves, and their need to have their wallets filled by dollars from people like you.

I realize that this may be hard to imagine, but this is the reality of life for many women. A substantial portion of the population believes that they have a right to a woman's attention, and if they don't get it, they get offended, mean, and sometimes even violent. You're just one of many, many men who believe that any woman you like owes you something. It's exhausting and sometimes terrifying to be on the receiving end of that. If your goals involve, in any way, getting this woman to like you or making her happy, your current actions are diametrically opposed to achieving that. And if you're not concerned with the comfort and happiness of other human beings with whom you interact, I suggest that you get some professional help to determine why you view women you like as walking ATMs of attention for you.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:52 PM on September 2, 2016 [40 favorites]


Also: I loved Ursula Vernon's poem.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 8:55 PM on September 2, 2016 [2 favorites]


"I honestly don't get the disconnect some people have on this. Man or woman, I'm on the bus, I've got headphones on, I'm reading a book, do I also have to wear a sign that says fuck right on off? WTF?!"

I actually have a button that's the size of a jar lid with "Fuck Off I have Enough Friends" written on it in really big, clear letters, which I would wear on my coat collar next to my face, and I still had men trying to talk to me while I reading with headphones in. I even had one guy try to turn it into a pick up line "Oh, really? You sure? You're not friends with me yet." And I'm a tall woman, fairly intimidating, and at the time was pretty into wearing my body weight in inch long spikes and deadly makeup. The only way I could have been signalling FUCK OFF was to have pre-emptively kneed him in the crotch.
posted by Jilder at 9:16 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I was sitting at a rather busy bus stop in Seattle a couple of weeks ago (Montlake Blvd and Pacific St, bus bay 1, for my Seattlites) with my earbuds in, music going full force, and reading the news on my tablet. There were easily 20 other people standing around and in front of me. Someone still pushed through the crowd to wave a hand between my face and tablet, loudly asking "HEY DO YOU KNOW HOW TO GET TO RAINIER AVENUE?"

When someone has been that rude to me, I usually gripe at them in German and did so here. Not to be deterred, the person tried speaking broken Spanish (joke's on that person, I'm also fluent in Spanish), so I changed to cursing in that language. The message still wasn't received and the miscreant turned to another waiting passenger with a "WOW CAN YOU BELIEVE SOME PEOPLE SEATTLITES ARE SO F-KING RUDE I CAN'T WAIT TO GET THE H-L OUT OF THIS D-MN CITY."

But even having personally experienced that, I still am not as pissed as I am at my fellow humans after reading these articles. I think it's time to start grabbing lapels and demanding to know if people have no decency.

(It's not just transit, either. I've been in my car at an intersection and had people motion for me to roll down my window just to comment on some sticker or ask how my day is going. This floors me.)
posted by fireoyster at 10:19 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


Countess Elena, the men bothering Chura Chura and her friends were presumably exposed to Free to Be You and Me, footage of women's rights issues, the original Bad News Bears, Title 9, etc. as kids. If they were taught manners, they knew perfectly well that it's rude to interrupt others.....but I suppose that with them the mindset that women are public property trumps all. >:-(
posted by brujita at 11:05 PM on September 2, 2016 [3 favorites]


I agree with all the frustration, and it is a feeling I share as a woman, although street harassment is now nearly gone due to my age and probably my weight as well... .

To me this also reminds me of the people who don't know how to make friends and the more they desperately want to, the word it gets and the less likeable they are.

There is a gender-power thing going on here, but there is also people who can't seem to connect, getting more and more desperate to connect. There is an immaturity about these men, never having grown past behaviour typical of junior high. And that makes me sad, and also worried about our society.

How are men getting stalled at 14 year old behaviours? It's like a hideous grown-up version of the Inbetweeners to read that envelope note. (Shudder)
posted by chapps at 11:16 PM on September 2, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am still surprised at how many people will treat a book as a reason to start talking...

My theory is that this is a combo of a) an inability to read basic social cues; b) the conviction that they're entitled to your attention; and c) their own discomfort with the written word, such that they think you must be desperate for diversion if you're resorting to reading for entertainment.

Signed, Someone whose junior high classmates said, "Why do you read all the time? Do your parents make you?"
posted by virago at 7:22 AM on September 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


I am deciding, here and now, to simply respond to all such interruptions in the future with pointing back at the offending dude and issuing a long, loud, gutteral keen, a la the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
posted by shelbaroo at 9:13 AM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


(I know I'm not the target audience of this. I'm a young adult woman, very small, un-intimidating, very polite, have never hit on anyone ever.) Still, all of these discussions make me a little sad about younger-adult-me, who had (what I saw as) delightfully quirky, pixie-ish tendencies and, while overcoming shyness, just wanted to make friends with the world and make everyone happy. I liked to strike up conversations with my seatmates on the plane because they were probably interesting people and made a point of acknowledging homeless people because of their inherent humanity and wished that we just saw each other more, man.

Then I gradually realized that my desire to be a certain kind of person and tourist of the world didn't trump other people's broadcast desires to be left alone. (I never would have been obstrusive or demanding, but I might have tried striking up a conversation with someone else non-headphoned waiting nearby and felt a little sad that someone sat next to me on the train without ever acknowledging my existence beyond furniture with a glance.) I was brought up pretty sheltered, in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, and I hadn't reckoned on larger-city attitudes toward preserving a sense of personal separation to get through the day. I hadn't realized properly that many other people had had their own experiences that made their own reactions or non-reactions make sense in context. It was kind of egotistical of me to think that I was the enlightened one who was more kind or more far-seeing or something than other people, who were starting straight ahead blindly in their gray, plain lives. I guess there was also a lot of childhood rejection and bullying I was trying to counter by assuring myself I was likeable to other people.

But then I, you know, grew up. I eventually made friends (somehow) and felt less needy in my new home. I've learned to be more comfortable in my own skin by myself. I have, ironically, a more true respect for people as individuals with their own reasonable desires and stories and not as mundanes who haven't seen the light or set dressing for my own story about myself. I still smile and say hi, but I try to take it less personally when people don't reply. And I've had to fend off my own share of creeps, especially the exoticisers who want to know "what country are you from?/what ethnicity are you?" So...I get it more now. But if I ever meet you, Faint of Butt, feel free to say hi.

Also, I can't tell you how excited I am that people are still using Livejournal.
posted by spelunkingplato at 9:34 AM on September 3, 2016 [8 favorites]


Great thread. I'm thinking about the signals serial attention-demanders give off before they strike. For a certain class of man, it's too much cologne, after-shave, etc. There's also this weird kind of body prep they do. Not sure I can describe it, but it seems a lot like the kind of thing that people do when they're a little high or a little drunk and don't know what to do with their body or their hands. It's a hyper self-consciousness of having too much knowledge that you are full of one single idea and nothing but that idea and you feel like it's emanating from you and that the whole rest of the room knows what you're up to and they are preparing for it too. Of course, the secret is, they're not ready for it, and they don't know it's coming. It's a little bit of flamboyance of action, too much movement of the hands, too much mobility of the head, too much movement of the eyes, too much turning and looking, too much assessing the room and the situation and the people in it. Does that make sense?
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:52 AM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I had the experience recently of getting hit on via wrong-number text message ("damn girl, it could be the right number if you want it to be"). It was a profoundly unsettling experience: there I was, in my office, unable to finish what I was doing because this complete stranger was sending me pickup lines every sixty seconds.

I was able to end that exchange with a three-second voice conversation ("You're pathetic, I'm married, twice your age, and a man") but not everyone has that luxury.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 3:46 PM on September 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I hope somebody recognizes that handwriting and roasts the dude responsible. Wait -- on second thought, I don't think I hope that, it looks like he might have an intellectual disability. It's more likely than him having a big-shot friend in the industry.

Just to come back to this, because it's been bothering me. What about the note that was dropped indicates "might have an intellectual disability"? In my experience neither bad handwriting nor a sense of entitlement nor misogyny nor puffing up one's own/one's associates' status is linked with intellectual disability. Going to that as an explanation seems like finding excuses and shifting blame.

It seems far more likely to me that this was an ordinary guy who had deeply absorbed the cultural message that men are entitled to women's attention and was proceeding from that assumption.
posted by Lexica at 5:15 PM on September 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


I once conceived (and partially constructed) an interactive wearable art piece that attempts to work with the issue of being spoken to while wearing headphones (although not, now that I think back on it, in the best of ways. This was more of a "clever" piece than a particularly constructive one).

Anyway, it consisted of a pair of headphones with a microphone and speaker on them. The microphone goes into a voice recognition app, which pipes the text into A.L.I.C.E., then back into a text-to-speech converter, and finally out of the speaker. The headphones just play whatever you want them to play.

So the upshot is, whoever's bothering you gets to have a(n invariably frustrating) conversation with a petty weak AI (filtered through voice recognition and speech synthesis for added goodness), and you get to listen to your damn music.
posted by deadbilly at 6:05 PM on September 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I was brought up pretty sheltered, in a small town where everyone knew everyone else, and I hadn't reckoned on larger-city attitudes toward preserving a sense of personal separation to get through the day.

Spelunkingpotato you have put your astute finger on something that was also bothering me.

Having grown up in a small town, in an era before walkmans (the precursor to the headphone devices of today) I fondly remember a time of spontaneous conversations with strangers.

In fact I particularly love my dad's ability to get to know everyone on a walk, and I call him King of Kensington to my brother (canadian TV reference to a guy who knew everyone in the neighbourhood).

When I moved to university in a Still-pretty-small city, a roommate from Toronto went absolutely bonkers with frustration at the inability to be anonymous in her new city, and us small town kids thought this was hilarious.
posted by chapps at 11:27 PM on September 3, 2016


I really do think there is a difference between friendly conversation and a sense of entitlement to my time, attention, and attraction. I don't mind chatting with people at the bus stop, if I am doing something like sitting and making eye contact with them. "How 'bout that OSU game?" is a fine, if boring, way to start off my mornings. I don't mind a quick conversation with people in public even if they are really awkward. A guy I would describe as unaware of social norms asked me out while I was sitting on the bus the other day, and that wasn't malicious, that was just a guy who was probably lonely, and so I said sorry but I'm not interested and then went back to reading my book. Women (and men) have the ability to read context cues and make judgments about the people chatting with them. I can tell when someone wants to be left alone, when someone wants to say hi, when someone wants something more arduous, and when someone is so shy that the act of starting a conversation is a big step, and I can respond appropriately.

I expect that courtesy from people who want to start conversations with me. If I am not actively looking to engage with you - and if I am, you'll be able to tell because I am doing something like making eye contact and smiling at you - Leave Me Alone. The idea is that you shouldn't impose your need for validation (and sex) on random people just because they are women and the culture raised you to believe that women are there to validate you and also be sexy. But, like, this isn't an injunction against smiling at the person in line behind you at the grocery store, or saying hello to your neighbors.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:16 AM on September 4, 2016 [8 favorites]


What about the note that was dropped indicates "might have an intellectual disability"? In my experience neither bad handwriting nor a sense of entitlement nor misogyny nor puffing up one's own/one's associates' status is linked with intellectual disability. Going to that as an explanation seems like finding excuses and shifting blame.

It was the spelling errors and the quality of the handwriting, together with the impulsivity of the action (on top of everything else, he used an envelope that is meant for bills to be mailed back in). But I obviously can't possibly know that. Although I would never "shift blame" for that reason, you might well say I was "finding excuses." That's fair enough. I would rather feel pity than loathing. I'm a creampuff that way. Nonetheless, I know very well that the bottomless awfulness of dudes' entitlement appears along the full spectrum of humanity, from Nobel laureates on down.
posted by Countess Elena at 11:07 AM on September 4, 2016


I'll admit to doing this. A woman walking towards me takes her phone out of her back pocket and her student card plopped onto the ground. I recognized it because I went to the same university and I know how screwed you are if you lose your card. I called after her but she couldn't hear me.

I ran after her and tapped her on the shoulder. She swiveled around with such a look on her face! That big dude she just walked past followed her! I mutely held up the card as explanation and she visibly relaxed.

I'm glad she got her card back, that was nice. Scaring the hell out of her I regret, that was bad.
posted by adept256 at 11:09 AM on September 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


So I just finished reading The Just City by Jo Walton. SPOILER ALERT AND TRIGGER WARNINGS AFTER THIS.

One of the plotlines in this book is about rape and consent--Apollo decides to become human for awhile in part because after the Daphne incident, he doesn't get the concept of why a woman wouldn't want him, and he learns his lesson. However, the other two female narrators both get raped--while saying very clearly NO, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE SEX WITH YOU (or in the case of the second one who had originally consented, that he's hurting her now). The guys are clearly up in their own head insisting that of course she does, yes she does, because he wants to. They don't even see the women as a person who can say no, especially the latter guy who is one of those who pines for a girl for years and ignores anything she says because he wants to see her as he wants to see her.

What is it about guys where their desire to say yes overrules literally everything else saying no around them?
posted by jenfullmoon at 8:28 PM on September 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I recently had a man approach me to tell me I was missing all of the wonder and beauty of the world because I was looking at my cell phone and I shouldn't be. He was baffled that I didn't immediately change my life and was very put out when I indicated I was happy with my life choices and uninterested in him.

I thought being old was supposed to make those assholes go away.

(I didn't mind the second guy, who asked about Pokemon Go and enjoyed learning how it worked, but I hate strangers who insult me as if I should care. Ironically, one happened about five minutes after the other.)

Also, rtha, I could kiss you for rendering that Austen quote properly - but would only do so when you were not busy and after asking!
posted by Deoridhe at 11:27 PM on September 5, 2016 [3 favorites]


Doctor Nerdlove takes on The Headphones with 5 Mistakes Men Make When Approaching Women. Also uses a financial example of street harassment.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:15 PM on September 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


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