Feminism

being outside while being a woman

I’m in Denver, walking back to my dorm during a summer post-graduate course when a car pulls up next the sidewalk and slowed down, keeping pace with me. The driver rolls his window down, and the men inside of it start yelling at me. I do my best to ignore it, to just keep walking, but when they became angry some of what they say registers.

“Fat ass.”

“Ugly bitch.”

“We were just being nice to you– why couldn’t you just talk to us?”

I keep trying to ignore them, but then he starts revving his engine and jerking his car toward the sidewalk. I walk faster– he speeds up. Suddenly the low-level anxiety I’d been feeling bursts into full-fledged panic. I could see a bluelight, part of the campus security system, and I run for it, hoping I could make it before something awful happens. I pick up the phone while the driver speeds off, screaming obscenities and threats.

I’m in St. Louis, hired to photograph some of the unique architecture in a downtown area for a local guidebook, and a man starts shouting at me from his truck. “Hey! Hey, baby! You wanna take a picture of my dick?” and then he laughs and drives off.

Florida: I’m walking in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart, and a middle-aged man who’d been walking from the store turned around and starts following me. “Hey, how are you doing?” I give that half-smile that every women knows, the one that says please I just want to be left alone while also pleading please don’t hurt me. “Hey, why won’t you answer me? I’m just being nice! Cunt.”

I’m sitting in the middle of a traffic jam in North Carolina, and the men in the car next to me start shouting. I look up, and one of them has drawn a picture of a penis in his notebook and has it pressed against his window. I do my best to ignore them, but for the next three hours they sit next to me, taunting me, shouting at me, drawing more and more graphic and lewd pictures, alternately “complimenting” me while screaming that I’m a bitch for ignroing them.

I’m waiting for a bus, and a man tries to strike up a conversation. I keep my answers muted and monosyllabic while trying to seem friendly because I have to stand there. I can’t leave, I’m trapped. I’m desperate to do anything I can to make sure it doesn’t escalate. At first it’s ok, but then he starts asking really invasive and obviously in-poor-taste questions, and I’m so relieved when I see my bus pull up. I do my best to extricate myself from the conversation as smoothly as I can– “hey, it’s been nice chatting, but my bus is here!”– and I move into the crowd of people waiting, trying to put a buffer between us. He immediately starts screaming a litany of profanities and threats, and three other men join in, shouting “why couldn’t you just talk to him?! He was trying to be nice to you, bitch!”

I go out to get the mail in my apartment complex, and two men follow me all the way there and back to my apartment, starting off with “hello!” and “nice ass”, but then escalating to “bitch” and “whore.” Eventually I’m so fed up with it I flip them the bird, and that’s when they start screaming at me, and I’m scared. I’m ten yards away from the stairs– can I make it? If I scream will my partner be able to hear me?

I’m in Virginia, antiquing, looking for Christmas gifts. A man starts following me, waiting for me outside of every store I go into. He doesn’t say anything, he just follows me, and stares. Eventually I go inside a coffee shop and ask the employees inside to keep that man from coming in– I’m frightened. The barista recognizes him because he’s done this to many other women, including her.

I’m taking out the trash, and someone driving past yells “hey!” and then when I don’t respond, “you want to fuck a n*****, bitch?” out of his window at me, laughing when I jump.

I’m sitting on the metro in DC and a man who watched me as I got on moves from the complete opposite end of the mostly-empty car to stand directly in front of my seat– he positions himself directly in front of me, trapping me. He was so big, he filled up the entire space, I’d never be able to get around him. I open up my book and do my best to keep my eyes glued to the pages, even though I can’t read a word. I sit there and pray that he has to get off before my stop.

~~~~~~~~

It took me a long time to recognize this sort of behavior for what it was because it’s been happening since what feels like forever. It started when I was 12 and creepy old men would come up and start stroking my waist-length hair without my permission. It happened so often that one day I’m with my father when it happens and he gets angry at me because why didn’t  I do anything? and I don’t know what to say because all I can think is I don’t understand why you’re upset this is normal. I turn fourteen and suddenly hips appear and every time someone follows me around a parking lot to shout things about my rear end I just assume that I’m not dressed modestly enough, even when I’m already wearing a skirt with enough fabric you could camp under it.

And then I’m in my twenties and researching feminism and I finally connect the dots: what has been happening to me my entire life is harassment. It is not a compliment, and it is not my fault.

So yesterday, when I saw Shoshana’s video, I wanted to stand up and cheer.

Then I saw the comments, not just on the video, but on the pages of the friends who’d posted it. I saw the rape and death threats. And I’m exhausted. I don’t want to expend any of the energy to respond to the (usually white) men who just don’t get it. They don’t understand. They’re screaming about “how can just saying “hi” be harassment?! Feminists are just so stupid and sensitive,” and I want to scream because most of the street harassment I’ve ever experienced in my entire life starts with “hi”– and it never ends well. You say “hi” back and all of sudden you’ve given them permission to follow you. You flip them off, and they get pissed– really pissed. You ignore them and suddenly it’s all about how ugly you are and how they’d never fuck you anyway.

Men don’t have to deal with this. They don’t understand how every single time I hear the word “hi” something inside of me wants to curl up into a ball and hide because I know what’s coming. I can count on my fingers and toes the number of men who have looked at me and given a polite “hello” that wasn’t the precursor to insults and jeers. That’s not normal. When a man is polite and respectful to me in public, it is actually startling to me because I don’t expect it.

That is something all those men shouting about how these entitled little jerks are just “being nice” will never understand.

Update 9:47p: When I saw the video yesterday the only thing I was watching was her face, and, like in my real life, not paying attention to who in in particular was harassing her. But I saw this statement earlier today from Aura Bogado:

That catcalling video you all posting is deeply problematic: It perpetuates the myth of the cult of white white womanhood by literally placing this white woman in neighborhoods where men of color will be the ones who catcall (or, in some instances, say hello to) her. Doing so makes it appear as if men of color are the perpetrators of all that is bad on this planet, which can only be balanced with the exigent need to therefore save white women above all else. This stale, ahistorical association also makes invisible the disproportionate harassment that women of color face broadly from men (including white men)–and the very tangible violence that trans women of color face in particular.

So I went back and re-watched the video and I agree with her thoughts. As a white woman, I can afford to see this video primarily as a useful tool for talking about the constant barrage of harassment women face on a daily basis, but we must never forget that everything we do, everything we create, exists in a system dominated not just by sexism but by racism and other oppressions. It’s unlikely that the editors consciously chose examples for this truncated video that focused on the actions of black men, and because I didn’t follow Shoshana around for 10 hours I don’t know if she really only did walk in black and/or brown neighborhoods, but the end result is racist.

In my personal experience, I am harassed by men of all races, but because of my context, I’m harassed primarily by white men. I’ve decided not to remove the video because it’s also helpful to illustrate how white people have used, and continue to use, the racist assumption that black men pose a particular threat to our white women.

Photo by Paul Cleary
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  • I appreciate your explanation – it’s not about the guys saying “hi.” That’s always the obvious objection that you (and others) are overreacting to someone just saying “hi.” If it were only saying “hi” and that were the end of it, it wouldn’t be a problem. Normal people say “hi” and don’t harass, but like you said, virtually all harassment begins with “hi” and escalates into something else.

    So as a female, if you don’t know what type of male you are dealing with, you don’t know how to react to “hi.” As you said, the safest response is to just get away as soon as possible in case the situation turns.

    • Yeah, it’s stressful, right? I never know what to do. Do I head bob and say hello back, or is that in invitation to follow and harass? Do I ignore him, or is that an invitation to curse me out and follow and harass? Is this guy going to keep it at hello or follow me or escalate or curse at me or hit me or get in my personal space or worse?

      The #NotAllMen guys don’t get that there’s nothing to differentiate between the guys who have those different reactions until they’ve actually had them.

    • Tim

      Yeah, just quickly wrt the “just saying hi” excuse. I come from the midwest where saying “hi” to someone you pass in your neighborhood or in the store is pretty common and socially ok, so I get that. But that’s not what the guys in the video were doing. There’s a difference between walking toward someone in your neighborhood, passing them while they’re walking the other way, waving, making eye contact, smiling, and then saying hi when they make eye contact and smile back, vs what the guys in the video are doing. They’re mostly hanging out on the side of the street, watching people pass, and calling out hi to the women they think are “hot” even though there’s no eye contact or any indication that the woman is open to being social. Laurel tells me she got that all the time when she was living in DC and basically ignored it, but it was obvious to her (midwestern girl) that it was not the socially acceptable greeting she grew up with. It was harassing.

  • Exactly.
    Maybe some of these guys think they are being nice, giving compliments – but they don’t have to fear being attacked on their walk home from work, do they? Imagine if they had to be on guard every flipping place they walk, and then people started giving them unwanted, often profane, attention. It’s sometimes scary and frequently disrespectful – so if their goal is actually being kind, maybe it could start with trying to understand where we are coming from.
    (And if their goal is treating a woman like an object, they can go retake How to Be a Human 101).
    Unfortunately, until the catcallers get stopped, they’re ruined it for those who actually want to be nice.

  • Ugh, this post pissed me off so much. And sadly, I was reminded of my own incidents with this kind of harassment as well. You know what really hurts? When other women encourage you to just “accept the compliment,” because if you were ugly you obviously wouldn’t get ANY male attention at all.

  • K. E. D. – They know what they’re doing intimidates – if they didn’t think so they wouldn’t respond to objections with abuse. They’re people who like intimidating and have found easy targets.

    <sarcasm>It’s all about ethics in videogame journalism.<./sarcasm>

  • Abby Normal

    As a woman and an introvert, what I wish more guys understood is this: it doesn’t matter how nice you are–I don’t owe you my attention. Most of the time when I’m walking somewhere, it’s because I have stuff to do and don’t have a lot of extra time to spend interacting with people. I also have a hard time interacting with people I don’t know–it saps my energy. So, I have a low tolerance for small talk–it’s exhausting and serves no purpose.

    I don’t really receive street harrassment based on my looks anymore–I look too much like someone’s mom now, I guess. But I still seem to be a target for chatty old men when I’m trying to read, or pushy salespeople, or street preachers and the like. I wish I had a card to give out that says “Just because you said hello and I smiled politely does not mean that we have a relationship now.”

  • I follow Julie Borowski (a young female voice in Libertarian circles) on Facebook. She is anti-feminism, saying that it is little more than an angry female version of patriarchy. Someone posted the linked video to her FB timeline yesterday and asked her to comment. The discussion that followed made me sick to my stomach–in that “omigod, do I have to relive this trauma again?” sort of way. The comments could be summed up as:

    –some women like it so the rest of you should just shut up.
    –men’s rights to self-expression trump a woman’s right to feel safe.
    –it’s Those People (of color) in Those Neighborhoods (poor, largely non-white) that were the worst (and I don’t even know if that is accurate because I couldn’t bring myself to watch the video, I know it isn’t true in my own experience or the experience of many women) so just don’t walk there (I guess if you have to be there, well, then sux2Bu).
    –men are just trying to be nice and women such a bitch about it.
    –men are already “showing exemplary self control” (yes, I’m quoting) because no one dragged the woman off to have their way with her. Women should be grateful.
    –it’s just the ill-mannered men among us and, no, we can’t be bothered to help teach them better manners.
    –this is reality, if it is bothersome then you just need to suck it up, buttercup.
    –if a woman feels uncomfortable, she should just leave or never go there to begin with.

    And when asked why such harassment rarely takes place when a woman is accompanied by a man: men don’t want to get into a fight with the man, “women are still seen as possessions” (again, quoting actual comments) and if a woman is alone she is available and fair game for conquest.

    The same comment thread insisted that the myth of “rape culture has been easily debunked” and there is no instance of inequality or gender-based degrading going on.

    I woke up dreaming about that sense of being unsafe. I couldn’t sleep for over two hours in the middle of the night because I remembered that insecurity, knowing that I have two teenage daughters about to head into that same world, terrified because I cannot protect them and society won’t either.

  • I live in the Dominican Republic and I was walking once with a Dominican guy friend and a couple of American girl friends. More than once various Dominican guys we passed shouted, “Dame una!” which means “Give me one!” Our Dominican friend finally said, “Walking with you guys is annoying! People won’t leave us alone.” We laughed and were like, “Seriously? You have NO idea. This is our life.”

    What most of those random Dominican men on the street don’t know is that I both understand and speak Spanish. Usually I just ignore the “dame unas” (unless I respond, “We are not things to be given and received.”) but I usually respond to “hello” and “good morning” because I walk everyone in this city and people know who I am because I’m American and I’d rather not have people think I’m rude, for safety reasons.

  • I see cat-calling as a violation of space. By cat-calling, the man forces me (or attempts to) into an interaction with him regardless of whether or not I’m up for it. There are ways to initiate a conversation AND make sure both partners are willing participants. However, if a woman is walking in a directed and purposeful manner, talking to you isn’t a priority, nor is receiving a compliment from you.

    That being said, I know that there are different cultural norms. For example, I’m from the not deep South, but I went to school in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and my mom’s a durn Yankee…Plus I’m awkward. Whenever I pass someone in an empty hallway, I never know whether to do the awkward half-smile head bob “how are you?” while avoiding strong eye contact or if I should just ignore them, so I try to take furtive glances as we approach each other to see if they’re looking at me, and if they’re not attempting eye-contact, I stay quiet.

    The Southern “greet everyone” is different from the greetings shown on the video. Those tend to be quick nod and hello, not stare downs like she was getting. The people saying crap like, “Oh, I miss the South where people weren’t to PC to say hello,” don’t know what they’re talking about.

    Also, I’ve had female strangers walk by and compliment my dress or shoes and, I didn’t feel threatened or upset by it (it’s irritating if it’s an older woman but pleasant if it’s someone my age) the way I would have if it had been a man. I wonder why that is. It’s just different coming from an older female or from a man.

    • It’s not as threatening if it’s from a woman and it’s more likely to be sincere, simply because of the socialization of women and girls towards paying attention to things like clothes and shoes and such. At least, that’s my theory on the matter. I’ve never gotten much attention in ANY direction in my life. Part of that might be because my husband keeps me so sheltered that I’ve never really been In Public without him when I was of an age to be noticed.

      • That makes a lot of sense 🙂

        Do you want to be that sheltered?

        • To be honest, I’m of two minds about it. On the one hand, I’m grateful that I don’t have much first hand knowledge of the daily harassment that women suffer just for being women in today’s society. On the other, I do not want to be treated like I’m either his mother or his child and never his equal. It’s part of the reason I’m actively looking for a way to get out of this mess.

  • Crystal

    I have an article for you to read. It is very good and written by a man. It is about rape culture. The link is as follows: https://medium.com/human-parts/a-gentlemens-guide-to-rape-culture-7fc86c50dc4c. I hope you find it very good.

    I remember Kate Shepard (she’s a New Zealand feminist who helped get women the right to vote) saying that one of her desires for women was for women to walk safely in the streets without being harassed. See how far that’s gotten. We should keep walking towards it. It’s a crying shame when a woman can’t even enjoy her life without a man being such an ungentlemanly pest. Why can’t they just leave us be? We’ve done nothing to hurt them!

  • Nine

    It took me a very long time to understand this. I’m a big, fairly scary-looking white guy… But I’m also very shy and extremely introverted. I don’t really talk to people in public. So when I’d work up the moxie to say hello to someone in public, male or female, it was a pretty big deal for me. I’d get all shaky and my heart would start racing.

    I could never figure out why a lady would hardly ever have a conversation with me. With my stew of body dysmorphism and gender identity issues, it made me feel like some kind of a monster – like I was simply so abhorrent that I wasn’t even worth speaking to.

    Now I know better, I understand that it’s not about me. That a refusal to engage with a stranger is a necessary defense mechanism in a culture that is dangerously hostile to women.

    It breaks my heart that I’ve got a body that this toxic culture has conditioned people to be afraid of, and there’s nothing to be done about that… Except change the culture.

    • As a socially awkward introvert myself, I get this. It can be so hard to try to approach someone, anyone, which is why I’m always incredibly conflicted and guilt-ridden when I have to walk around the world so suspicious. I’d love to be able to give every guy who talked to me a chance, but … like you said, I can’t. I think a lot of women might feel the same.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m so glad everyone’s talking about this. What I’ve started talking to people about is how to respond, rather than just ignoring (depending on the situation – if it’s public enough, and safe enough). Cos maybe if enough of us start challenging it in some non-escalating way, and backing up others we see trying to challenge it, at least some of these ppl will hesitate before doing it next time. It’s important to also be discussing the bigger picture (culture, law, etc), but what about the individual level – what can we as women do, on an individual level?

    • Crystal

      Elizabeth, I am not an expert. However, I do have a few ideas in response to your question about what we as women can do on an individual level.

      These are theories – only theories, but I think they might help.

      Don’t take cheek from a dude. If he tries harassing you, don’t stand for it. In some cases, involve the police.
      Don’t tolerate dirty jokes about other women, or harassment to other women. If you see it happening to another woman, step in real quick and back her up!
      Don’t let men hurt other women you know, whether by word or deed, if you can stop it.
      Don’t let other people put down your mind and feelings. You are very smart.
      Do teach your sons, students and the men in your life the meaning of being a manly man.
      Do set up lectures and speak out about this sort of thing.
      Do make others aware of the problems.
      Do please don’t let a man shut you up when you speak about this.
      Do speak up for equality.
      Do act tough too. Staring down a man and acting bigger than you are can help.
      Do teach your daughters their rights.
      Do teach everyone – they are HUMAN!!

      These articles should help: http://www.mediacoop.ca/blog/norasamaran/30866 and https://medium.com/human-parts/can-a-man-have-female-role-models-ea65b341edf9.

      These are only a few of my suggestions. I’d like to offer others a chance to answer the question, but I don’t have all the answers. So anyone out there that can answer Elizabeth’s question – take a shot and see how well you do.

      • Elizabeth

        Thanks Crystal, those suggestions are great. Those articles are interesting, especially that one about role models. I’d never thought about that aspect of sexism, but it’s so right – women aren’t typically seen as people to look up to and aspire to. And what’s with “women’s issues” as if it’s a subset (eg we have a minister for women, but I’m pretty sure we don’t have a minster for me). We’re more than half the population!!!

        • Crystal

          That’s okay, Liz. We should have a conversation about this sometime.

  • It always starts with hi. And it ends with me letting my dog urinate on the carpet because if I take him out while my husband’s at work, I got harrased by the next door neighbor, even if I went out in the baggiest sweats I own. I stopped wearing makeup, I stopped dressing up, and eventually I stopped going outside at all by myself. The fear is real.
    (Thankfully we live in a new, safer neighborhood now.)

    • Sympathies. It’s not about sexual attraction; it’s about power. So you see, it didn’t matter how you were dressed; it could have been a burka for all the SOB cared.

      This is one of the hardest things about harassment for normal men and women to grasp!

  • Cathy Hendricks

    their mothers must be so proud to have produced garbage cans.

  • Crystal

    I know of a Western girl whose family are very protective of her – I mean, really protective. They won’t let her anywhere by herself when she goes out shopping (she always has to be accompanied by someone else in her family) because they are aware of men harassing and raping and want to keep her safe from harassment and rape. I’d like to know other people’s thoughts on such a practice. Do you think that’s good or sexist?

    • Sexist in the extreme.

      1) Being around family/trusted friends all of the time isn’t guaranteed to protect you from rape, only rape from strangers. Since the vast majority of rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and trusts, trying to shelter her from rape in this way is useless.

      2) She might not have to face this constant barrage of harassment, but what is her life like instead? She has no freedom, no autonomy.

      In my personal experience, though, it’s likely that she’s still being harassed. I was never outside of my house without one of my parents/trusted authority until I was 17 and I was still harassed every single time we were in public.

      • Crystal

        Ouch! You’ve touched on quite a personal note.

        I’ve experienced such a family myself. My parents had very good intentions for doing this. I will say, briefly, that the men in my family not only treat me and my body with respect even today, but also that they not only would never personally harass or sexually abuse me but wouldn’t tolerate anyone else doing it to me either, nor would my mother for that matter (she was much stronger on this guarding thing than they were!) Also, I had a lot of freedom because we lived away from the city, although they didn’t like me going out at night or on areas of the property near the road by myself (I do love to wander at night, so that was quite restrictive on me and I missed many lovely moonlit and wild nights). My mother was the one who didn’t want me walking by myself at night, on the street, etc., but my father was more willing to give me space. She was highly protective of us children and never left us alone with anyone, not even with extended family or friends because she knew some of them had problems. If either one of us had complained about being touched improperly, she would have believed us in a heartbeat. She still would. She says you should always believe your child when they tell you they’ve been treated like that because it’s probably true!

        What alternative would you suggest to such a family to such guardedness (the girl is in her late twenties and this stuff will continue likely until she leaves home) that would give the girl more freedom but still protect her? I suggested self-defense and the children (brother included – he’s very egalitarian in his views) were all for that option, but the parents didn’t believe it was ladylike to defend yourself with boxing, martial arts, wrestling, etc.

        So in other words, it all depends on the man’s honour. If the men are good and honourable, and would eschew hurting the girl sexually, and treat her with honour, she’s safe enough. But if the men are bad, she could get hurt worse by them than by a stranger.

        I catch your drift.

        I know the family well, and the men there fall into the first category, not the second. I know because they’re similar to my family. Unfortunately, such good men are rare, and your answer, although not exactly applicable in this situation on the sexual level, would be far more common than expected if the girl is being guarded. So be suspicious is what you’re saying.

        So if you’re going to guard her like that, but temporarily, until she gets on her feet, it’s natural human protectiveness. But if you’re going to do that and not let her learn self-defense, then that’s sexism. Am I correct, because, that’s kind of what I’ve thought although influenced by feminist thought a lot. How do you get to a family like that and encourage them to let her grow if they believe they’re right? Thank you!

        I want to keep talking about this. I have more to say on the subject but would not feel comfortable saying it all in one piece.

        • Crystal

          I need to add that whenever my family knew someone had harassed me, they took action to keep me away from my harassers immediately.

          • Crystal

            And they wouldn’t let someone harass me and get away with it.

        • Crystal

          However, harassment seldom happened because I was always with my family. I forgot to say that. Sorry for adding too many remarks to the stream of thoughts.

        • Crystal

          In case I sound resentful, I need to say I do strongly appreciate my family’s efforts to look after me, as they lived up to their standards of treating me well that they expected of others, but I wanted to know a feminist perspective on it, and strongly appreciate your sharing your thoughts with me, as I like to hear what you have to say on things.

          Excellent post, by the way!!

  • Gary Eddy

    This really bothers me. I was not taught to act or speak this way to a woman. If I did my mom or dad would have smacked me across my head for being so disrespectful. I will admit I have probably looked at women too long in my younger days. But after getting back to Christ and being envolved in recovery ministry at church. I came to understand how women feel when looked at as an object or spoken to as an object and not a person with hurts, fears, etc. What I began to practice talking to and respecting a woman’s personhood and treating a woman that way at all times. This goes for all women. What I found was when I treated any person with respect and honored that they are a person not an object I could speak with just about any woman or man and they would reciprocate that respect and there was much less fear and the next time I meet that person they were not looking away avoiding eye contact or just leaving and avoiding me altogether. It makes my life & theirs much healthier.

  • I was on a track scholarship in college. A female student saw me leaving for a late night jog and asked to join me. We were running around a park and a car was parked on the curb. I was running on the outside and she was on the inside, but when we drew level with the car she saw two guys sitting in it and freaked. She screamed, jumped and headed for the inside of the park. This was the first time I realized how a woman feels in the dark and seeing strange men.

  • Matt

    I really do hope more men start going their own way and just ignoring women altogether.

    • I hope that men who can’t figure out how to engage with women without being rude/entitled/creepy/general asshats will all “go their own way” and yes please stop talking to women altogether.

    • Hey, me too! Those men who find posts like this offensive stopping making anyone but themselves unhappy would indeed be win-win.

      • Matt

        Not offensive, but I do think Samantha is embellishing to make her story fit the feminist narrative. I have three sisters, all attended college and are attractive. None so much as mention the things that Samantha apparently endures on a daily basis. I really, honestly think she’s lying.

        • And you lack the self-awareness to realize the brutal clarity of the picture you just drew of why you’re the absolute last person any of your sisters would tell about being harassed. So, have fun with that.

        • Oh, Matt.

          Go fuck yourself.

          • Bri

            I second this. And also beroli7’s observation that Matt has demonstrated why he’s the last person his sisters would ever tell.

            Matt, you have no fucking clue. None. Sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up.

          • Matt

            Awww… are you trying to “silence” me? Isn’t that precious.

        • (Alas that there is no edit button here)

          …Also, you do realize what you’re doing isn’t ignoring her, right? You are crushing my glorious vision of a world where men like you ignore women, leading to billions of happy, confident women who can cheerfully strike up conversations with strange men in public (or say “sorry, I’m in a hurry” without needing to sugarcoat it or be indirect or avoid eye contact), secure in the knowledge that a man’s speaking to her is itself proof that he isn’t the kind of man who would harass, insult, or attack her. And only a matter of hours after you proposed it, too.

          • Matt

            I am crushing your glorious version of the world where men like me ignore women?

            Good, my work for today is done.

            But seriously, most of us “horrible, neckbearded, mysogynistic, basement dwellers” aren’t easily identifiable in public. We have jobs and mortgages and kids. Some of us are married. Some of us are divorced. Heck, some of even date feminists.

            If every guy like me started ignoring women (and I don’t mean refraining from cat calls and street harrassment), women would notice… and they wouldn’t like it.

          • Crystal

            Matt, are you trying to DELIBERATELY misunderstand this post?

            I am a woman – a young woman – who knows what it is to be sheltered and not allowed to go anywhere outside the property by myself. You don’t. STOP being offended AND do try to be a gentleman for pity’s sake!!!!

            What we ask, Matt, very humbly, is please – please just LISTEN and instead of acting like this, show good manners as a man and speak respectfully to any lady you see. If a lady doesn’t want to speak to you, respect that. That’s all we want, honestly.

          • Crystal

            I don’t resent my parents for their protectiveness, but seriously, Matt, listen and learn. Use your eyes and ears AND stop thinking we’re stupid. The reason you don’t see this is that you don’t WANT to see it, or your sisters might be in a different place from Samantha. Some people get more picked on than others, you know.

            Oh, and I don’t believe Samantha is a liar. Not by a long shot. Women are liars because they are women, not because they are liars – of course that’s what you would think.

          • Really, now, Matt. Reasserting the terms of your revenge fantasy do nothing to occlude the simple, mysterious fact that the one man whose behavior you have control over, is not behaving as you stated you wish more men would. Whyever would that be? Unless, of course, you do not really hope what you said you “really do hope”–your first comment had no purpose but bile, a slightly more articulate version of writing, “LEARN YOUR PLACE, $*%&^” over four times.

          • Bri

            I assure you, there is not a woman in the world who would miss being told that we must be lying about harassment. You’re not nearly as great as you think you are. We have no use for you.

          • Matt

            LOL! Bri… may your cats be many and your vibrators always be charged. Enjoy spinsterhood.

          • Bri

            Spinsterhood. Oh, that’s original. What is it with you pathetic little men thinking you’re the best option we’ve got? I hate to tell you this, sweetie, but there are PLENTY of men out there who would not DARE to tell a woman that she’s lying about being harassed. So go ahead, stop talking to women for the rest of your life. Tell all your buddies to do the same. We’ll be glad to be rid of you.

        • Looks don’t matter; the harassers will target any vulnerable woman, regardless of appearance.

          Harassment is not an expression of sexual attraction.

          For the rest, I suggest you ask your sisters and listen to their answers.

        • Elizabeth

          Hi Matt. I’m glad you’ve read this blog, and are interested in having a discussion about this. I suspect that your sisters probably just don’t mention it because it’s so common that they wouldn’t think to talk about it. After watching this video, I talked to my partner about it, and he had NO idea just how much I experience this – I’d just never mentioned it. And not because of hiding it or anything, or that we’re not very close. It’s just that it’s so common that I don’t think to talk about it. Where I live, I fortunately don’t experience it anywhere near as much as in the video, but it’s not at all uncommon either.
          If your sisters haven’t experienced it, I’d be very surprised, and happy that there’s a place in the world where this doesn’t happen. But it’s very common generally. Have you asked them since watching this? (you’d have to make sure you ask in a way that’s genuinely curious and open, and gives them time to think about it – they also may just not think about it cos it’s so common, I’ve read of women who only after thinking about it realised just how often they experience it)

          • Crystal

            Elizabeth, I love your gentle way of handling Matt. If only I could be half so gentle!

          • Crystal

            Not that I’m taking his side. He’s becoming incredibly stuck-up and beastly in some of his remarks.

  • OLAS

    Just discovered your blog, SF, and couldn’t break away from several articles.

    The “Walking in NYC” video is startling. I mean, beyond the obvious disgust one feels for the reasons why it needed to be made. It’s startling because from my Canadian west coast perspective, it looks like a movie. Exaggerated, scripted, extreme… in a word, unreal. Yet there it is.

    In my urban environment, this doesn’t happen. If it does, I’m not seeing it (of course, being a male, that’s entirely possible) and if anything, we live in another extreme where even eye contact is rare. We exist in cold, sharp lines where there is a destination and purpose. Random exchanges with strangers do not occur on the street. In rare, brief moments, a smile is exchanged… and it’s like the sun breaking through the clouds. Nothing is spoken aloud, but the smile sinks down into one’s soul, and the day becomes brighter.

    I understand the anger of feeling obligated to return a verbal greeting/challenge/comeon… If this is perceived as the norm, something’s gotta give. And we all lose.

    • I can’t speak from frequency, because I’ve never lived on the Pacific coast for any length of time, but Vancouver was the first time a street harasser physically touched me (age 16). Guy staggered out of a bar, leered at me, and called me “the most beautiful woman in the world” while trying to feel me up. So it definitely happens there.

    • Bri

      If you’re a male, then you’re in NO position to say whether it’s happening or not or how much.

      I can promise you, it is.

      • OLAS

        Fair enough. I’ll leave it at the video being an ugly comment regarding a percentage of males.

  • Anonymouse

    I’m not sure if it’s related to where I’ve lived or to my bitchy resting face or what, but in the US I’ve rarely had to deal with catcalls. In a different country it was constant, but in this country the worst I’ve had to deal with is being followed by a car of guys whistling and one time a guy tried to surprise me into getting into his car by pretending he knew me. Otherwise, I rarely notice even nonverbal disrespect. Maybe I just look like I could kick their ass so they don’t try? (I do feel relatively badass most of the time, so my attitude probably comes across). I have had arguments with young male friends who genuinely thought that their habit of catcalling young women was complimentary and that because the girls usually smiled back that they liked it. My sister tends to do the smiling-to-defuse thing, but she gets harrassed a LOT more than not-afraid-to-glare me, so I recommend pretending your eyes are lasers!

    • I’ve tried that– for me it utterly fails every time. They just skip straight past even pretending to be nice.

      What helps the most in my case, depending, is just plastering a vacant looking smile on my face.

  • I find this video, along with the experiences you shared, disgusting. Samantha, even though I don’t agree with a lot of what you write here, I truly am sorry you have ever had to deal with this. I feel this type of thing has gotten worse recently. As a Hispanic man, I also recognize the men among my “people,” are horrible about harassment. I remember once we hired a mechanic to fix our car wen I was a young teen. I rode with him to the parts store and as we walked in he called something lewd in Spanish out to a lady walking by. I doubt she understood him. I felt angry. I told my momma when we got home. She said that some Latin men thought they could talk to ladies like that, but that we should never. It was the first time I had seen this kind of thing. I was raised by my single momma, and the other women in our family. As I watched this all I could think of, what if that was my momma? My Aunt, or my cousins (all women). Gross.

    • The most terrifying incidents I’ve ever personally experienced have been from white men. To be honest, when I get harassed by a Latino man it’s bearable– usually along the lines of “damn you’re fine”, but then they don’t turn ugly when I ignore them. I don’t appreciate it but at least they don’t frighten me.

  • Not to divert, but this is interesting, Cubans who are not of African descent, consider themselves white. So at first I read your comment and didn’t quite understand the distinction. Typically when I see this behavior from the folks I grew up with it’s in Spanish. Thus the women don’t even realize the men are behaving unseemly. Why can’t us men just learn some manners?

    • I can tell when I’m being harassed, even in a foreign language. I don’t need to know what they’re shouting at me when they’re shouting at me and I can hear the tone in their voice and the look on their face.

  • Where on Earth do people learn that this is a good way to behave?????

  • While I understand the issue of street harassment having suffered through enough of it myself, much of what was in the original video which has since been taken down was not harassment. Further, much of the worst of it came from White Men, which has since been edited out. I find this entire video disingenuous and frankly, vile; but not for the reasons people might wish me too.

    Yes, harassment of women is vile; whether on the street or elsewhere. We though need to be able to tell the difference and we need to be able to handle both. There is nothing wrong with, ‘Hello’ or ‘Have a blessed day’; neither of these are harassment. The rest, yes it is and as women we must learn to fight back, with words or pepper spray or whatever else we need to use.

    This out of work actress though, hired Bliss to make a video that would go viral and get people talking. She teamed up with another organization focused on ‘street harassment’. They picked their target area, they edited the content and they got exactly what they were aiming for. They hit all the hot buttons.

    • There is nothing wrong with “hello” or “have a blessed day” depending on context. In my experience, when a man isn’t going to be a raging asshole he’ll make eye contact, maybe wave or nod or smile. The men who say “hello” when I’m walking down a sidewalk like she was are almost always the ones trying to get my attention and get incredibly pissed when I don’t respond.

  • Tyrone

    What I find sad is that not only are women harassed, but when they try to talk about it, they are told they are liars. I followed my wife one time so I could get an idea of what she was talking about and it is real and very scary for her. I just about got into three fights and I am a very calm man. Men are freaking pigs and th rinse denying it are usually the worst offenders so Mike is probably really upset that he has been called out for his street harassment. Douche.

    • Matt

      Like I said in my first comment, it would be best if men (particularly on college campuses) did not approach women… ESPECIALLY when alcohol is involved. Best to take a page from the soushoku danshi (Japanese herbivores) and focus on other pursuits. Rape hysteria has reached epidemic proportions… the risk is most certainly not worth the reward.

      • And yet, you continue to demonstrate your inconsistency. Or is this a bid to retcon “I really do hope more men start going their own way and just ignoring women altogether” into “I hope men on college campuses start not-approaching women when alcohol is involved,” to avoid that thing where a trivial comparison of your actions to your words exposes total hypocrisy?

      • If you follow that “rape hysteria” line of thinking any further, you will end up supporting rape apologia. That will result in you being immediately banned.

        • Matt

          To your credit, I’m a little shocked I haven’t been banned yet.

          • Technically you haven’t violated my comment policy yet, and you haven’t been such an asshole that I’m just done putting up with you, either. You’re getting exhausting, though, not going to lie.

      • Crystal

        Rape hysteria, racist hysteria, hysteria over Christian rights – I did forget there were nice little movements called “men’s rights” and “parental rights”!

        I suppose the blacks were hysterical about their rights too. It’s called the Civil Rights Movement, dude. Do some study on it.

      • Bri

        It would be best for women everywhere if you would stop talking to us at all. Please.

  • ExCurse me, I meant Matt is probably an offender. This is a great subject and needs to be discussed. My sons will never see this behavior as anything but vile. They will be raised as real men, not petulant boys.

    • I think most men are. This is why Mike’s revenge fantasy is so empty; if every man who thinks like him started ignoring women, it would eliminate the worst ten percent or so of men from women’s theoretical “dating pool,” for no downside from the viewpoint of either women or most men, and no upside from the viewpoint of those men like Matt who were fantasizing about women begging them to resume catcalling them.

      …I’m seriously tempted to see if I can write a novel with a premise based on this now.

      • Matt

        I’m sure it will be a page turner.

        • Crystal

          Thanks for the sarcasm, MATT.

      • Tim

        You mentioned “the worst ten percent” here and that is part of what I thought about as I watched the video – ten hours, 100 incidents, that’s about ten per hour, or one per six minutes. But in New York, you’ll pass around 50 people in six minutes. There’s no rigor to this calculation for a lot of reasons, but it seems like on that particular day in NYC maybe 5 percent of the men she passed were harassing and the other 95 percent weren’t.

        Of course from the standpoint of the woman being harassed, she may experience it as harmless, as annoying, as insulting, as threatening or frightening. If you experience it as more on the threatening or frightening end of the spectrum, even one incident during the course of a year can be significantly damaging. The fact that the rest of the year went swimmingly doesn’t cancel that out.

        Laurel tells me that the guys who do the harassing aren’t trying to intimidate so much as they are hoping to get lucky in some sense, whether that means a conversation with an attractive woman, digits, or maybe a hookup. I’d be interested in seeing a video that focuses on one of the cat-callers over a 10-hour period. I imagine it would be somewhat like a video of a lion pride stalking a herd of gazelles. Probably most of the women they catcall will just be dismissive, but I imagine they get some positive reinforcement some percentage of the time or they wouldn’t keep doing it.

        All very foreign to me. I’ll let my boys know that this behavior exists when they get older, and teach them to call out their knuckle-headed friends who engage in any of that nonsense if they see it first-hand.

        • The pieces I’ve read about the motivations for street harassment talk about it in terms of a male bonding exercise– they get positive reinforcement from other men who egg them on or cheer them on.

          • Crystal

            Then the men need to be manly, and stop reinforcing this trollop.

          • Crystal

            Besides, can’t men bond in a male bonding exercise in sports or outdoors work? Why do they want to create a bond through abusing females, one of the most unmanly exercises in the world? I’m confused.

          • Because harassing women is actually very “manly.” It communicates that he’s more powerful, and it reaffirms that he is A Man, Not a Woman. Harassment is essentially an activity that reminds everyone involved exactly who the man is.

          • Crystal

            But Samantha, we must redefine the terms “manly” and “chivalrous” and “gentlemanly” and “ladylike” so they can’t serve their dumb stupid purposes anymore. Manly to me means (I’ve told you before) that a man should empower, protect, and serve women, plus allowing women to empower themselves!

            Even the idea that men and women are intrinsically different could be used to benefit equality ideals because it would show if men and women ARE so very different, why CAN’T women contribute THEIR DIFFERENCES to their field of work – you know, the very things that complementarians use to keep them OUT of the man’s world, and vice versa.

            Please tell me if you find my ideas confusing. I don’t want to bewilder anyone. It’s a new train of thought that’s come on me recently and I want to share it with everyone.

          • I don’t really think gender essentialism, even involving “and both genders have something unique to contribute!” is…well, accurate, for one thing. Or valid. Or safe.

            Even if I thought complementarians wouldn’t claim (and, in a number of cases, actually mean and believe) that they’d been saying that all along, I think we can aspire to something better than qunari society*.

            *Dragon Age computer game reference; for the benefit of anything reading who hasn’t played it, the qunari have a society which has incredibly rigid gender roles and very strictly defined spheres, but the spheres do appear to be actually something close to equal, rather than one being in charge and the other being supposed to submit. For example, only male qunari can join the military, but only female qunari can own a business.

          • anyone* Hate typos.

          • They’re not confusing, I just disagree.

            I don’t think it’s useful to try to redefine words, especially words that are so incredibly loaded with sexism and classism like “ladylike”.

            We have words like “ladylike” because of income inequality, become of class oppression, because of sexism.

          • Crystal

            That’s okay, everyone, I’m trying to think things out about these issues. I can assure you now, I’m not a complementarian, but I have wondered about these ideas. I personally tend to lean towards an egalitarian worldview myself. These thoughts about redefinition are ideas that have come to me recently, and I wanted to know what others thought of them. Could you please tell me – and I mean this respectfully – what terms you would suggest in their places so that we have terms of vigour and empowerment for humaynkind (that’s my novel spelling of humankind – patterned after womyn).

            I still think redefining the terms manly, gentlemanly, and manhood might be a good idea because nothing holds a spell over a man quite like the word “manly”; that word has the power to crush or raise a man up. So if a man thinks feminist ideals are manly, and is taught to think so by his community, then he will view people who are trying to suppress women as giant wimps – at least that’s what I assumed. Chivalry, however, would be tougher due to its sexist, parental connotations, and I don’t think women should be parented over at all. When you hit 18 that’s it; you’re an adult, and I find being treated like a weak toy AND not being allowed to do anything the guys do not a little insulting. I do believe in camaraderie between the sexes; even as a child I believed that, and seek to but sometimes fail to hold to that as my ideal. Ladylike tends to be absolutely OUT of the question. You however are, I think, saying that we shouldn’t worry about the words ladylike, etc because we should think of people as people, not men and women exclusively. I agree with and think we would be happy with that. Some of the things in my life (including some of the radio programs I’ve heard) have made me wonder about these things. What do you think of the notion that men and women are neurologically different? For me, I’ve found that men and women are different physically (men and women have different body shapes), hormonally (as in physical strength, etc), and reproductively (men and women have different reproductive functions for the procreation of the human race). However, when it comes to neurologically and sociologically, I’ve found that that’s when you start to slip down the road. They used to say that girls were different than boys because they wore pink and weren’t allowed to climb trees. Society has changed so much that they want the aggression to keep going, so it’s aha! Neurology, etc. The differences get more and more internal the more you advance. My thoughts you disagree with are a mental experiment, honestly. I am not a complementarian or I would be hating every minute of your web-log.

            Thanks for kind disagreement with the thoughts, and not frying me over this. I like thinking through issues like this, and thoroughly understand your perspective. So why would I wonder about redefining terms? Well, I wondered if such thinking is plausible. From what you say, it might not be, whether in some or all I’m not sure (but I grasp your thoughts on the word ladylike!). I’m definitely open to feedback, correction, debate or affirmation on anything I write. I’d love to keep talking about this. Please have pleasant days, all of you.

          • Crystal

            When I thought of these words, I thought of my definitions, not the old ones. I forgot to say that.

          • Tim

            I appreciate your comments, Crystal. I see you trying to work through the implications of some ideas in public, and looking for some feedback on thoughts that occur to you and I think that’s fine. I think Samantha is basically right that if the end goal is a more equitable and less oppressive society, redefinitions of words is not a path that’s likely to achieve that goal.

            There are probably a wide variety of paths that are of some utility in making progress towards that goal, and some of those paths are complimentary. I’m most in favor of pursuing the path of “love one another” and “treat other people in the way you would like to be treated.” It comes from recognizing that really everyone is our neighbor, regardless of gender, skin color, beliefs, nationality, etc.

            If one of my boys is particularly strong (not all that likely, actually – we tend to be athletic, but on the small and skinny side), I’ll talk to him about using his strength to provide for and protect people who are weaker, regardless of their gender. If one of my girls is strong, I’ll talk to her in the same way. If one of my boys is particularly intelligent (more likely) I’ll talk to him about using his powers for good instead of evil. But the conversation will be about him individually and the concept of the good in general moreso than about him as a man and what a good man would do vs what a good woman would do. That’s just my particular approach.

          • I still think redefining the terms manly, gentlemanly, and manhood might be a good idea because nothing holds a spell over a man quite like the word “manly”; that word has the power to crush or raise a man up. So if a man thinks feminist ideals are manly, and is taught to think so by his community, then he will view people who are trying to suppress women as giant wimps – at least that’s what I assumed.

            Yes, but why doesn’t being manly “hold a spell” the way it does? It can’t be removed from the fact that the sorts of men who are “manly” are the ones who have privilege and power and control, and those who are “unmanly” don’t because they’re like women.

            What do you think of the notion that men and women are neurologically different?

            This video– a presentation by Cordelia Vine on Sexism in Neuroscience— should be helpful.

            For me, I’ve found that men and women are different physically (men and women have different body shapes), hormonally (as in physical strength, etc), and reproductively (men and women have different reproductive functions for the procreation of the human race).

            A lot of your perception is probably cognitive bias. Everything in our culture from the second that a baby is born starts gendering them along socially constructed lines. Since I’ve started shedding some of that conditioning, I’ve realized that men and women don’t really have as different body shapes as I’d once believed, and that it’s actually unusual for visual signifiers to be accurate regarding things like physical strength.

            For example, my rapist was 6’1″ and about 200 pounds, so not huge but still large, especially when compared to me being 5’7″ and 120 pounds at the time. However, one day my father asked him to help carry an old-style large TV (so incredibly heavy) and my rapist could barely move it 10 yards and almost fell over, so I took over and moved it the last 10 without anywhere near as much trouble. I was smaller and much skinnier– but in that instance when it came to carrying something, stronger. Same goes for my partner today– he’s much stronger than a lot of men I know, even though stereotypes say that he shouldn’t be stronger than the guy who lifts weights as a hobby and is “built.”

            Also, “men” and “women” aren’t chopped up into two completely different reproductive boxes like that. Trans* and intersex people exist.

          • Matt

            “Manly to me means (I’ve told you before) that a man should empower, protect, and serve women…”

            And what benefit does a man derive from your definition of manliness?

            Comments like this make me so glad I changed my sexual orientation.

          • Crystal

            Samantha, it’s me again. Oh, finally I can reply to someone! It was getting too crowded in that box up there, and I had some things to say, but couldn’t.

            To Matt: “And what benefit does a man derive from your definition of manliness?” No insult meant to you, your identity, or anything. I meant by my statements about a man having the benefit of being a protector and fulfilling that instinct because he wants to protect women (I’ve been told men want to protect women, but sometimes I wonder about exploitation – also, Samantha, do you think this thing about men protecting women is a societal thing, because I know of some women who like to protect others, and I happen to be fairly protective but timid in personality as well) – BUT – AND THIS IS A HUGE BUT IN MY THINKING – my intention was that such a protection would be a temporary thing and a man would be protecting a woman by teaching her to protect herself as well, and would get a thrill out of watching her take the self-defense lessons he taught her to heart (he’d be glowing inside thinking “I taught her that; I’m a good decent human being and a real man for supporting her right to be human and protect herself from harm” – if that is sexist, I must rethink it on a sociological level), or else would heartily support another lady doing the teaching. He would be an ally to self-defense, that’s how I meant it, and if I’ve implied he should have power or control over a woman’s decisions on this field, I apologise for the false implication as I don’t believe he should at all. I also thought that manliness meant humility; if a woman wants to protect a man he should feel secure enough to accept it and not feel that it crushes his manhood to be protected by a woman as men and women should protect each other because we all belong to a great human family. However, due to discussions with Samantha and others plus trains of thoughts and readings long before this time, I think that the idea of men being an exclusive protector (especially when women depend on them for this and do not make efforts to protect themselves – self-defense, etc) is sexist. Yes, I looked over some of what I’ve said, there could be potential for abuse, because – well, what if he’s not a human being of character and a man of character? But if a man protects but is willing to acknowledge that he also might be in need of protection regardless of the source, then I think that’s okay. So in the finale, it really does come down to the common goodness of humanity rather than a man fulfilling his “God-given role” although I’ve thought men and women had certain instinctual patterns (men want to protect women, for instance) but from what others have told me, this could be a grave misunderstanding of human nature and could lead to abuse. So yeah, something to chew over. Also, Matt, what benefits do you think men should receive from manliness? Or do you think everyone should be equal? I ask this because some of the statements you put up imply that women are causing problems through their intense desire to be safe from sexual harassment, and you blame feminism. WHY do you blame feminism? Your first remark about men leaving ladies alone was something I agreed with until I saw some of your other trains of thought. I was deeply disappointed in your uncharactered way of handling disagreement, plus some of the vicious remarks you leveled at those who opposed you, although everyone does naturally feel the urge to defend themselves.

            To Samantha: “Yes, but why doesn’t being manly “hold a spell” the way it does? It can’t be removed from the fact that the sorts of men who are “manly” are the ones who have privilege and power and control, and those who are “unmanly” don’t because they’re like women.”

            I’d never thought about that before, I have to confess. Thanks for pointing that out; that is ABSOLUTELY something I must remember whenever I discuss terms. As for your articles you showed me, I am very grateful for the exchange of information. And no one had seriously pointed out to me what you said about height versus strength, and the mention of reproductive systems as well. Much of what you say makes sense to me on that point. I hope I haven’t been too exhausting for you and that you feel reasonably resilient after having this little discussion. I do think that deep down, I want the same goal as you on this issue, but I also think that changing my approach might be a good idea. Do you think that we agree on the issue but disagree with the way we would handle things? Thank you for the friendly debate; we learn something new every single day. I’ll keep studying, and I do have an open mind about this. And as for people being judged on the basis of behaving like human beings and not on the basis of a perceived gender or sex, I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU ON THAT POINT. It is a point we shouldn’t miss and we SHOULD strive to keep that vision before our eyes whatever we do in our lives. So yes, I think I was so enthusiastic about redefinitions I did forget that for a while. Thanks for bringing it back to my remembrance!

            Samantha, if I am in any way being rude, exhausting for you, or causing a problem in any way on your web-log, feel free to tell me. I like you and I want you to feel you can talk to me about things.

          • Crystal

            If you have anything else to say to me, keep talking. I’m listening and finding the discussion most insightful, actually!

          • Gary Eddy

            In my neck of the woods harassing women like this on the street is not considered manly but childish

          • Tim

            I guess I wouldn’t know from first-hand experience. Have you read any first-person accounts from a guy who engages in the behavior exploring his motivations, his experiences, how the experiences make him feel? I haven’t, but I imagine they’re out there. The percentage of guys doing it may be low, but the total number of guys doing it is probably in the millions. Some of them are likely talking about it.

            Laurel is bi-racial; grew up in a mixed midwestern neighborhood a little more African American than white, and I think that background is part of what she brought to her experiences with being cat-called in DC and the assumption that the guys doing it for the most part were hoping to get somewhere with the girls they were cat-calling.

          • Crystal

            To your reply to me about what you would teach your children – fair enough, Tim.

  • astrolabe262

    As a white male, I was stunned to read your real-life examples of harassment/abuse. It is difficult for me to imagine anyone being that overt. I am sorry that you have had to and obviously continue to endure this type of behaviour. I am also saddened that society is so dysfunctional, that women have to be concerned about a simple, “Hello”. You have really shaken me up today. Once again I’m sorry.

    • The absolute best thing you can do is notice when this is happening around you and call the sorts of men who do this on it when it happens, even if it’s your friends. 🙂

  • When I thought of these words, I thought of my definitions, not the old ones. I forgot to say that.

    I remember Samantha responding to a sexist “50 ways to be a woman” article with a “50 ways to be a person” post.

    I think that’s a better approach than reserving some virtues to one gender and other virtues to another: to promote the idea that respecting our fellow people makes us better humans, and behavior like catcalling makes someone, not unmanly or unladylike, but a bad person.

    • Crystal

      You know, I think you’re right. I might still use my terms of manly, etc., more for the benefit of those who believe in the old definitions sometimes, but I totally agree with your sentiment. And I didn’t mean to ascribe some virtues to one sex and other virtues to another. I don’t believe in that because I see the image of God in everyone He created. Every person does have the capability for both logic and emotion, so I think the men are more logical argument falls flat on its face. We all have the capability to be compassionate, so women are more compassionate and nurturing is rubbish. I do agree with what you say deep down.

      “…[T]o promote the idea that respecting our fellow people makes us better humans, and behavior like catcalling makes someone, not unmanly or unladylike, but a bad person” – I think you could be right actually. I think that showing such people up as a bad person would have more long-lasting effects than just saying “manly” for the tribe (manly still means I do it because I’m a man, not because I’m a person, and I fear now it could be used to condescend, so do I agree with what you say? Yes), although I think “manly” might be a good weapon too. You’ve definitely given me some backtracking to do and some thoughts to consider. Thank you!

  • I’m sure you’ve probably already noticed this issue (& seen the Jezebel video addressing it). I immediately thought of you since you’re an intersectional feminist with no qualms about calling out racism, or simply pointing out the need to broaden the conversation.

    http://www.themarysue.com/woman-of-color-harassment-video/

    • Indeed, I think she has noticed it.

      When I saw the video yesterday the only thing I was watching was her face, and, like in my real life, not paying attention to who in in particular was harassing her. But I saw this statement earlier today from Aura Bogado:

  • Matt

    Crystal, thank you for conversing with me as an actual human being. To answer the question you posed about men instinctively wanting to protect women and children… I’d say that, all things being equal, yes, men desire to do this. However, due to certain cultural shifts, many men are becoming more and more reluctant to get involved where there help is (probably) not wanted. I’m not saying that it’s right or wrong… just that things appear to be trending this way. After all, it’s better for a man’s personal wellbeing to stay out situations where he’s not needed or wanted – why risk being branded a “creep” or worse?

    Why is it happening? Well, because women are every bit as capable as men… at least I believe this. You can’t jettison the drawbacks of complementarianism but retain the benefits — it just doesn’t work that way.

    • There are no “benefits” to complementarianism. If there’s anything good in it, it’s when it asks people to be decent respectful human beings. I am perfectly fine with jettisoning complementarianism because I know most people aren’t complete dirtbags.

      • Crystal

        Thank you Samantha. I have found you to be a somewhat startled but kind debater, and I am grateful for everyone else’s input on the question as well (I especially appreciated Tim’s kindness; he is kind). I’m still thinking it through, but now that it’s been explained, I see your point very clearly. What you say about people being people makes perfect sense to me. I had almost forgotten it when I put my remarks up there.

      • Crystal

        I hope you didn’t get startled when I used the word “startled”; I meant it must have been a sort of surprise to hear such things from a supporter. I didn’t mean to surprise you. And Matt, I didn’t mind treating you civilly. Not at all. We don’t mind you back here as long as you yourself are civil and kind to us.

        Your web-log is appreciated, Samantha. I learn so much even when I disagree with something you’ve posted. So please keep writing. You have no idea how you have influenced me and taught me things I’d never have learned from anywhere else. Thanks very much for that.

      • Matt

        Well, there were quite a few benefits for men 🙂 But there’s really no point in discussing those, because they really don’t matter. Back when I was still dating women, “egalitarian” relationships basically meant I was expected to be her
        boyfriend, girlfriend, shoulder to cry on, etc. Far too much work… men are much easier.

        • Bri

          Good. Date men and leave us the hell alone.