Moment of Clarity

Every so often, a situation hands you exactly that way of explaining clearly why a given behaviour is bullshit in a way that even people who really struggle with this feminism thing can find kind of revealing.

I often want to forget how difficult it is at times to explain to people why street harassment sucks, and that it’s not designed to compliment, it’s designed to intimidate. Betacandy did a fantastic job spelling a lot of this out in a general way a while ago. Specifically, I really like this point:

Most often, catcalling at a woman is a way men socialize with each other. You’re trying to impress each other with who can say the most outrageous things, or who can get a smile or glance from the most passing women. The woman is just part of the scenery, so it’s no surprise you’re oblivious to her feelings. Her responses don’t represent a person with sensitivities to you; they represent a finish line, and tell you whether or not your verbal volleys are scoring.

I don’t know how many different ways I can explain to some people that what they’re doing is decidedly not treating women they’re catcalling like human beings, so I do like these convenient anecdotal demonstrations of the point – A friend just told me a story about how she was walking home from work a couple of weeks ago and a bunch of guys started giving her the standard bullshit catcalls. “Hey baby come on over here” kind of shit, whatever whatever whatever. They’re in a group of about ten or twelve, she’s by herself. She’s ignoring them, making a point not to look at them, and speeding up her pace.

Suddenly, one of them recognized her, and realized she’s someone the entire pack of guys knew, so he said “Hey guys, stop it – it’s M. Leave her alone”. And they did. A couple even shouted apologies (which she also ignored).

If asked, I’m pretty sure these guys would not have copped to trying to intimidate random women on the street. But as soon as it was someone they knew, there was this level of consciousness to it – oh, we’re bothering her, and she’s someone we like, so we should stop. She has a name, she’s someone we’ve spoken to, she’s a damn human being – and lo and behold, as soon as that gets recognized, her emotions and discomfort are clear, and this is an unacceptable way to treat her.

Again with this women are people thing. Why the fuck is this so damn hard to grasp?


5 thoughts on “Moment of Clarity

  1. BetaCandy says:

    Ouch. That’s so telling it kinda hurts.

  2. Mendacious D says:

    Control. I think anyone reading here knows that.

    I’ve chewed out friends of mine for this behaviour, mentioning this very point that women are entitled to not be harassed, just like guys. And frequently I get the response that they’re “just being guys.”

    “Not guys a lot of women would want to know,” is what I’ve said before. “You’re just showing what kind of guy you are.

    I especially like Betacandy’s point that “harassment isn’t communication.” When the women walk away, justly offended, I’ve known guys to say much worse things about them under their breath.

    Quite telling.

  3. purtek says:

    Mendacious D, exactly. If you *get* this stuff, then it’s obvious that the insults after (usually reasonably polite) rejection, even if they’re made under the breath or to friends, are Plan B, control-wise. But for people who *don’t* get it, the C-word often shuts down the conversation right there, which is why I like these anecdotes.

    Re: “Just being guys”. No. You’re just being assholes.

  4. Mendacious D says:

    Re: “Just being guys”. No. You’re just being assholes.

    Believe me, I’ll pass that on to the offending parties next time I have the chance.

  5. […] Moment of Clarity « A Secret Chord “I often want to forget how difficult it is at times to explain to people why street harassment sucks, and that it’s not designed to compliment, it’s designed to intimidate.” (tags: important harassment sexism assholes feminism men) […]

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