Street Harassment: Ladies Just Can’t Win

If you’re a fan of Nice Girls on Facebook (and if you’re not, then you should definitely go click “like” right now!), then you’ve probably already seen this post I shared yesterday.  Trigger warning: there’s an account of a pretty verbally violent situation.

A friend of mine had shared it, and I got pretty angry at the conversation in the comments on her page.  I had never been witness to such oblivious “mansplaining” in my life.   I’d like my readers’ thoughts on this conversation (names have been intentionally omitted):

Person A (male):  I can understand where she is coming from but telling someone “Leave me alone im reading” comes off as very rude. If it were a hot young girl or a fat old man who said this to me, I would take offense in both scenarios. Reaction is going to be based on delivery, and hers is terrible.

Original Poster (female):  his reaction to her is still bullshit. It doesn’t make it OK for him to respond that way. It doesn’t justify his violent outbursts. Period.

Person B (male): That’s the parallel. If you’re too nice then it encourages the creepin’. Too mean and you get a violent overreaction.

Person A (male): No but if she said it in a more polite manor, it may have not blown up like that. A simple repackaging of the same message would lead to less angry reactions. I would also like to point out that getting approached by men, at least in SF, is not something that only women are subjected to.

Original Poster (female):  when women have been polite, yet decline, we have still gotten advances. Sometimes they get more and more aggressive. I just mentioned in the comments that I was polite and declined someone AND GOT FOLLOWED HOME ANYWAY. Eventually at times we HAVE to rude to be very clear with people. After dealing with crap within the same night of course she is aggravated to have it happen again. I still call bullshit on “if she said it in a more polite manor,” because that’s exactly what it is. Bullshit.

Person C (female):  Perhaps a different choice of words would have defused the situation. But it’s just as likely the guy was so coocoo for cocoa puffs that no amount of tact would have satisfied his bruised ego. The problem wasn’t that she reacted to him rudely. Maybe she did. But a touch of rudeness doesn’t warrant a frothing rant.

Person A (male):  Of course her reaction didn’t warrant him going apeshit, but think about action/reaction in a different instance. You ask a store employee for help and they tell you “leave me alone im stocking this shelf” you are going to get pretty angry, maybe even say something back to them. Now that same thing but the employee says ” Sorry I have to get this shelf stocked but Steve can help you” and you would walk away and go look for Steve instead of having an issue with the person stocking the shelf. With that said, crazy is going to be crazy, but doing whatever you can to minimize the chance for crazy to come out would seem like a good idea.

Original Poster (female): sure, but you responding with that to this post makes it seem like you are completely missing the point. The fact that this can be a regular thing that is dealt with on a regular basis and why it’s scary for us is the point. Dealing with it constantly makes our patience run out and sometimes we are rude. That it’s not OK no matter what the response is, polite or rude. That it’s not justified nor is it OK. That making suggestions to what she “could have done better,” all things considered, is not a valid argument.

Person A (male): The opening of the post highlights that men have no idea, when I can tell you quite to the contrary that at least some of us know how it feels. I treat people with courtesy, regardless of if they are talking to me at work, the gym, or the train. The only time I would not follow that, is if someone was being rude, like the blog post.

Nice Girl:  Hey Person A, the problem with your scenario above (the employee stocking shelves) is that you are equating someone who is doing their job, who is specifically there to help you, with a woman who is just going about her daily business.
The woman is not there to entertain you, she is not there to talk or flirt with you, she is just trying to get home/finish her shopping/go to work/go to the gym/go see her boyfriend/go see her friends.
It is the store employee’s job to help you. It is not my job to talk to a strange man.
Women deal with this shit on a DAILY basis. I’ve been polite, I’ve been nice, and all that does is get me harassed even more. I’ve been in a situation where I gave a very large and intimidating man my phone number because we were in a secluded area, and he wasn’t taking no for an answer. It wasn’t until three days later, when he wouldn’t stop calling or texting me (I never once responded) that I told him I was terrified of him and that I never wanted him to contact me again.
It is not my job to protect some jerk’s poor wittle fee-fees when he decides that he deserves my attention. I shouldn’t have to put up with verbal abuse when he gets angry that I am not flattered by his attentions. I am firm in my responses to men when they approach me. If that makes me rude, then so be it. They are rude for assuming I want to talk to them.

Person A (male): My point is that in any scenario, work or personal life, if you act like a dick as a male OR female you are going to get treated accordingly. Its terrible that you are handling the situation politely and still getting harassed, but im pointing out that the poster being rude is only going to make things worse. Thats all im trying to convey.

Nice Girl:  Have you considered that a man who approaches a strange woman is being a dick? Like Original Poster said, when you deal with this kind of stuff on a daily basis, your tolerance wears thin.

Person A (male): Kind of a sad society that we live in if you get mad at someone for making small talk.

Nice Girl:  I’d argue that it’s kind of a sad society when someone assumes that they have a right to my attention.

Person D (female): not to stir the pot too much, but honestly…my own experiences confrim what ever other woman here is saying being polite very OFTEN makes the situation worse. it made it worse wheni was in Jamaica and it makes it worse in the united states. I have felt most “safe” when taking a stand and telling someone to fuck off. sorry if that’s not acceptable for some of you but it’s REALITY.

Person A (male):  Im not trying to detract from your personal experience Person D, its appalling that random people touch you or say the things they have. The ONLY thing that im trying to say here is that if a person A treats person B rudely, the likelihood of person B going crazy is going to increase.
I am NOT saying that if you treat someone with courtesy, they will 100% of the time be courteous back, but the chance of them going bananas on you is far less.

Person D (female):  I don’t know what to tell you Person A….but i guess the type of man that approaches women in this way is not “normal”…they are easily offended whenther you are polite or not…and if you give them any opening that they may have a chance..it’s a snowball. The way i see it…you can try to out crazy them “oh yeah…well I’m just reading up on how to treat this wicked outbreak of herpes I have” and hope they atren’t turned on by that…or you tell them to get lost. either way it’s 50/50 that they will react poorly no matter what you do.

The only thing missing was Person A flouncing out of the conversation in a huff because us pretty little girls couldn’t understand how to behave politely to strange men who are accosting us for our attention.  I actually had to rage-quit the internet for a couple of hours after trying to get this guy to understand that he doesn’t LIVE this everyday.

Later, yesterday evening, Fiance and I were having dinner at a local pub, and as soon as he walked away to purchase sodas for us, I was accosted by a strange guy who thrust his phone up to my ear and demanded I tell him what artist was playing.  The strange guy was pleased when I looked at him, clearly scared, and answered (correctly) Stevie Wonder.  Strange guy walked away to his friend when Fiance returned with our drinks, and started talking loudly about how I should be with a guy like him, instead of Fiance.  I just smiled at Fiance, and said “this is what it’s like, being a woman”.

In a very timely fashion, a pretty famous porn actress wrote about something similar today on her tumblr.

I really think it is past time for guys to remove their heads from the sand.  Come on guys, open your eyes.  This stuff happens in front of you every day, but by and large, you’re oblivious.  If you witness your buddy acting this way, call him out on it.  If you witness a lady looking uncomfortable as a man is trying to talk to her, walk up and ask if everything is okay.

Posted on September 5, 2012, in Feminism, Personal Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I’m sure you noticed, but at one point I just stopped responding to him. I was tired and it was like talking to a brick wall.

    Meanwhile, there is the story about the woman that was assaulted at a party during PAX weekend: http://www.explodedsoda.com/2012/09/boundaries-and-penis-incident.html

    Though some are supportive of her and revolted by the guys actions and the lack of the security guards actions, some are out in full force of “blame the victim.” :/

    • I did read about that. I was suffering from rape fatigue a couple of weeks ago. I think I’m suffering from harassment fatigue now.

      If guys had to spend one month being treated the way that women are treated, they’d understand.

      • It seriously is exhausting responding to men that just seemingly REFUSE to acknowledge or understand what it’s like. It’s exhausting and depressing how so many men flat out try to REFUTE our direct, long-time experiences.

        At the very least, I’m glad that we are not alone in these experiences. There is some refuge in that.

        I’m thinking the more stories like this that come out though, the better. The more we share the experiences, the more it becomes impossible for them to deny.

      • I agree completely, on all accounts. I did find it sadly funny that after trying to convince someone that this happens, all the time, and is terrifying, that it happened to me not 3 hours later.

  2. I actually think every point presented here is valid. I think A, whether or not he means what he says, is carrying his argument well. Like this discussion, society is based upon interaction. We’ve forgotten that in our hyperindividualized world. That being said, if you don’t want to deal with someone you shouldn’t have to. Let’s just not forget that this issue is about gender more than liberty, which is of course much stickier. For the record: the Constitution doesn’t protect an individuals right to privacy. That is something we must defend for ourselves in the everyday, regardless of gender, though I understand that is unfair.

    I know it’s not a one-for-one comparison, but the issue of man-on-man harassment was never touched. I work a service industry job in the heart of the Castro. I HAVE to confront men who try to engage me in the exact same way. I’m a slim, fairly attractive dude, so its not uncommon to get hit on. Little comments about how I’m cute are flattering; the stares, glares and unnecessary touching are not so much. It’s rough dealing with it every day, but imagine if dealing with it was your job. Do you think my manager or the union are going to protect me? Fuck-to-the-no. I am the proprietor of my own safety whether or not its fair.

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