Monday, November 3, 2014

Why Harassment Is Never A Compliment

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I was driving home listening to the radio and the topic of the recent Hollaback! video of the woman being catcalled was brought up.  The male DJ/host was truly wondering what was so bad about men complementing women on the street.  He wanted to know why the woman in the video was so rude by not acknowledging the men speaking to her and wanted callers to voice their opinions on how men  "can't speak to women" anymore because it's now considered harassment.

I swear I wasn't going to talk about this.

Not because it didn't need an extra voice, but because so any people have written about it better than I could, or would. I've seen breakdowns on how women feel being catcalled, i've seen personal stories people have shared about their experiences, the experiences of loved ones, i've seen heated debates on twitter, i've looked at heated debates in the news and to me, it all boils down to this.

Men don't really care about you women.

Let's just face it because how else can you explain it? Any time someone (this someone meaning a large body of women) can repeatedly tell you that they don't appreciate something and it gets rebutted with what amounts to "Well I don't care, i'm going to say it anyway because I like it" says to me...I don't care.  Men, do you realize the need for you to get a positive response back from women is not about making women feel good about themselves?  It's for you.  The compliment sent from you, is really about you feeling good about yourself.  It has nothing to do with the woman the comment was for.

In college we had a particular stance for walking from campus to the nearest metro station.  Eyes down or straight ahead, walk fast, look busy.  Bonus if you had a friend because you could both act like you don't notice the people catcalling you on the street.  You could not take a leisure stroll through the 7 or 8 blocks needed to walk to the metro, you had to look like you were determined to make that train from two blocks away because you could see the blinking foot lights within the station from the street.  Several times I remember hearing variations of  "Hey sexy" "Come here ma" "You gotta man?" "You need a friend?" "Can I get your number?"

 If I walked fast enough, I could pretend that I didn't hear them and they could wonder if I actually heard what they said and refrain from doing or saying anything more to me.  If I didn't, sometimes I would get touched or grabbed by the arm, sometimes I would get cursed at, sometimes I would get followed.  Luckily, none of my instances turned into this or this or this or this.

I recently told a male colleague that from the time I hit puberty I've been harassed by men. Sometimes several times a day depending on where my daily travels led me.  By the time I became a legal adult, I had been so inundated by men harassing me that I became an "Expert". An expert at being rude in return, an expert at turning men down, an expert at diverting the conversation, an expert at ignoring it, an expert at giving the bitchy resting face look or an expert at accepting the unwanted comment hoping that said person wouldn't continue.

Full disclosure: Nowadays, I personally don't care if men make comments towards my appearance.  I don't like to give people that much power over my personal feelings.  Now, I consider myself an "expert" at handling unstable men who harass women.  If it's a stranger I have found a way to not ignore them while simultaneously ignoring them.  It's a Jedi move I have crafted over the years.  If it's an acquaintance/friend i'll usually direct the conversation away from my personal looks.  If it's a good friend, I simply accept the compliment. See that?  I called the latter a compliment.  It's not harassment if the person accepting it is welcoming of the comment. This doesn't mean I don't think it's worth talking about or fighting against.  

We all know This conversation was never about paying women compliments. This is about power and entitlement.  This is about the need for men to exert that power in the belief that women should enjoy whatever they do and say even if we repeatedly tell you we don't like it.  Damon Young said it best, "If you honestly don't know how and when to approach women without making her feel unsafe, you shouldn't approach any women until you figure that out."

If this doesn't apply to you, then you are not the "men" i'm talking about.  But that means you need to join the chorus with Damon. Thank you Damon, because this just might be what we need.  Hopefully adding men's voices to the conversation will resonate with other men.