Sunday, August 17, 2008

Why, if you think women should be flattered by your harassment, you are stupid

Ahhh street harassment. This topic is a major point of contention between myself and some (shocking) mostly male posters on a current events board. They can't seem to wrap their heads around why I don't find street harassment (or as my husband said "terrorism") flattering.

This one goes out to you, guys.

It’s not up to you what I find flattering
Approaching women in packs isn’t flattering. In fact, it’s threatening.

Being approached by a group of strangers rather than one lone stranger is always intimidating, no matter your gender, the context, or how big and strong you are. Being outnumbered by people you don’t know well enough to trust gets your guard up. You know this because you are alive on Earth and you’ve ever been approached by a group of strangers at some point in your existence. You know what that feels like. And you can’t seriously think that when the strangers are commenting flatteringly on her body (which is most likely less physically imposing than any one of theirs) this mitigates the effect. It’s often quite the opposite, in fact, as it calls attention to her vulnerability.

You know deep down it’s not flattering; that’s just your excuse.

If you’re honest with yourself, you know it’s not really about how attractive she is. It’s about one of two things: [the men, or intimidating women].
It’s not so much what you say as how you say it
But harassment isn’t communication

The best definition of “harassment” (of any sort) I can give you is one-way communication. It’s that simple. It doesn’t even have to involve an ugly motive; it’s just someone talking at you instead of with you. While everyone has a different tolerance for that sort of behavior, no one likes it and that’s why you need to stop when someone tells you to back off. The man who yells at a woman about her boobs isn’t engaging with her; he’s talking at her. The religious zealot co-worker who lectures you about your evil ways every day at work isn’t engaging with you; she sees you only as a potential point on her score card of godliness. When someone’s engaging with you, they stop to listen. That’s how you know the difference.


  1. To me, this is kind of a no-brainer; but then 'no-brainer' could also describe the people who just don't get why harassment is a problem.

  2. I totally see your point on this.
    I find it flattering myself.. but I'm all too aware that they are talking AT me, and I only find it nice because someone notices me for something nice for a change.
    I can see though that if I felt more comfortable with myself, and had better (read: some) self-esteem, I might feel much like you do.

  3. I carry the mail--literally!--and on a recent day I was walking up to a house where men were working on the roof. I looked up, and three of them are just standing there like Huey Dewey and Louie, with their hammers in their hands, doing nothing but blatantly staring at me. (note: I'm average looking) Then as I was walking away, they're making their appraisals. God, what apes.

    At lunch at a sandwich shop a few days before that, I had gone to throw away my wrappers etc, and these guys all turn and just stare, with that bored, because-I-can look on their faces. Ugh!

    It feels like an assault, I hate it.

    Btw, good ole Whatsername, lol, I am adding you to my links at my blog, if you don't mind :-)


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