Sunday, July 12, 2009

Walking as Rebellion? A Follow-Up

Wow. I had no idea that my experience would be shared by so many vocal, awesome commenters. Thank you to everyone who has shared anger over similar moments, support, solutions, thoughts, or opinions.

A few things that have been coming up in the comments that I want to address:

1. Harassment as compliments
I think a few readers have misunderstood the kind of harassment I'm concerned about. There is no way to mistake a "suck my dick" comment for a compliment. And yelling something from a car, even something meant kindly is not the appropriate way to compliment someone. Ever.
If a guy feels need to tell a girl, who he doesn't know, that she looks nice or that he likes something she is wearing, that is a totally different situation. And one that deserves a separate blog post.

2. Solutions: Silence or The Middle Finger
In the original post, I mentioned that I have a hard time ignoring the situation, so I usually flick the bastards off. I lot of commenters responded that they choose to simply ignore the situation because a reaction is what the guys are looking for. But, I just can't do it that way. I feel a need to respond, and the quickest way in my situation, which is mostly cars driving by and commenting is flicking people off. That's just me though. I do realize that ignoring the situation is probably the best, productive way to handle it, but at this point in my life it just makes me feel powerless, something I don't want to feel.

I've been thinking more about this. I was texting one of my guy friends, while I was walking home the other day. I was complaining about the harassment, and his response:

"Girl, what are you wearing?"

Now, this is a really smart, kind friend and his question didn't bother me too much at the time. But, days later, its irking me. Obviously, this parallels a rape victim being asked what she was wearing. It is a form of victim blaming and nothing new. But, I think it does brooch the importance of talking to people you know about the issue and educating them about what its like to be on the receiving end of such "compliments." A lot of commenters have stressed this, and I think it is so important.

We need to take action. So, let's start an impromptu re-education movement. Seriously, it is a slow start, sporadic, and spontaneous, but it can't hurt. I'm going to start talking to my friends, especially the men in my life, about this issue, and I'm gonna post about when I do. Any reactions or questions or miscommunication will be written about here, so people can refer to them to answer their own questions. And because I'm clearly not an expert, I want you to do the same. You can post here in the comments or email me the story and I'll make a separate blog post for it. I even set up a new gmail account Or start your own blog and just link here. There have been lots of awesome hollerback sites started, but this are a documentation of harrassment. I want to start a documentation of avoided harrassment and positive teaching and learning experiences.

We also need a title for this action, I think. In my internship, I'm learning how important clever titles are. Any ideas?

Alright, let's begin! Go talk.


Rebecca said...

It's interesting to read this in conjunction with the thoughts I've been having about misogyny and the objectification of women, and how it's affected me differently pre- and mid-transition.

The major conclusion I've come to, and it seems you're in the same place, is that 'the little things' shouldn't be allowed to slide. It's incredibly tempting to ignore minor jokes or the small issues of objectification, but I think you're right that the only way to affect change is to speak up.

dammit janet said...

I remember when I studied abroad, we went to Brussels (by far the most diverse city we visited - in every sense of the word). Afterwards, A male friend of mine, and the only black person on the trip, mentioned that he loved Brussels because of its diversity. Many of the women expressed a pretty strong dislike for it, because you couldn't walk 10 feet without catcalls - my gf got propositioned (not just yelled at) a couple times by 50 year old men on the street, and we constantly felt unsafe walking at night. Interesting how that changes your perceptions so greatly.

He kind of blew off the comments by saying that was the culture of the immigrants, blah blah blah, but I still hate Brussels.

Zippa said...

Sadly, titling is not my forte, but I'm happy to join you on this particular crusade.

Michael said...

1. Harassment as compliments <--- This absolutely deserves a separate blog post, especially if you'd examine it with the idea of Male Gaze in mind. I've honestly never seen it discussed seriously outside of a few occasions where it was discussed by feminists for an audience of feminists. With respect to the more broad topic of public catcalling/etc, polite compliments are definitely a far lesser evil, and maybe even relatively a "good" thing, depending on your perspective.

There's a lot of ways to look at that particular issue.

2. Solutions: There really isn't a good way to respond immediately, because even not responding will probably be considered a response, and getting the angry ,,|,, reaction is exactly what they want you to do. I really like the whole hollaback idea in theory, and I can see it appealing to an audience sympathetic to the feminist cause, but I personally can't imagine it having an impact on catcalling as a social phenomenon.

Saranga said...

Great idea. I'll have a think and probably send something in.

Young Han Lester said...

It's weird; I've noticed that people seem to have an almost-ingrained desire to shout/honk at pedestrians, seemingly for no reason. My friends and I are regular pedestrians for personal and financial reasons and we can't go two blocks without someone screaming something obscene or honking repetitively.

Where my experiences depart is that I'm male, and as a result the things being shouted take on a different character. I still get a fair ammount of "suck my dick!" and "faggot!" but I think it's safe to say that our respective cat-callers have different motives (especially those bros that drove by and threw a lit firecracker at my friends and I last week), and I will note that, for me, it's a much rarer occurrence that the greetings take on a sexual or abusive turn (usually it's JUST honking.)

Though our situations are different for a few reasons, I've recently started carrying a bicycle horn with me so I can respond to the motorists in their "native language." The sound is abrasive enough that I find it psychologically gratifying and adequately angry, yet absurd enough that I like to think it sticks in the shouters' brains long enough to make them wonder what exactly it is they're doing.

naughtyzut said...

^ How about an air horn? That would give them something to think about--or clear their sinuses. :)

I ignore them--I understand the urge to retaliate but, frankly, people who speak to me like that are beneath me, and are worth neither my time nor attention.

I have to take that back--once some teenage kid said "Honey, you wanna suck my dick?" and I replied "You wanna suck mine, sweetheart?" That stopped him in his tracks. He had to think about that one.

It helped that I deepened my voice when I replied.

They aren't worth our attention--they aren't worth our time. We will never be able to re-educate those how have such mentalities. I'm not saying "give up", but I have better things to focus my attention on than a bunch of insecure misogynistic assholes.

Ashley said...

I blog about a similar experience here:

I've since started taking note of every time this happens to me at the gym, and not being shy about telling a guy to just mind his own business. Your posts here have given me the confidence that I'm doing the right thing. Thanks!