Bookus interruptus. 3.

Whenever I ask guys why they think that approaching women engaged in their reading in public places is OK, I’m generally given four reasons for the behaviour:

  1. Romantic. “But her eyes shone like the stars and she was perfect in every way and she is clearly a goddess amongst women and I might have never seen her again!” I appreciate that “our eyes met across a crowded room” is a trope that sometimes comes real. However, that’s eyeS, in the plural. And no, that doesn’t mean just the two you have been furnished with. If someone catches your attention and you catch hers back, or vice versa, yippie. If someone catches your attention and you have to forcibly interrupt whatever she’s doing in order to catch hers, that’s a different trope altogether. Not a nice one, either. Even “The One” may balk at being approached thusly, and you’ll have ruined your chances. Also, Romeo & Juliet met at a party. Different kettle of fish. Also a different century, while we’re at it. And a different culture. So, like, not many parallels, really, when you think about it.
  2. Pathetic. “If I didn’t hit on women when they’re out and about, I’d never have a chance to do it at all.” Son, then there’s something seriously, seriously out of kilter with your life. If your only contact with women occurs when you get the chance to corner them in a public place doing their own thing, you might wanna see to that. And the fact that you consider it OK to force them to interact with you under those circumstances may well be part of your issues.
  3. Entitled. “I have a right to speak to everyone I want!” Hmkay. But they have a right not to want to speak to you back, though… or haven’t they? Would that make them stuck-up? Is their time and attention a public service they’re selfishly withholding? Do they owe you something, just because they’re having to share a space with you? Do you feel the same way towards men, and if so do you act upon those feelings? “Is it asking too much of women these days to be able to just chat with them in a public place?” Let me turn this around. Is it asking too much of you these days to expect you to keep yourself busy without demanding the attention of strangers? And how comes is it always “women” you go on about? Are guys really happy to drop whatever they’re doing in order to entertain you? Or do you just leave them alone, and if so, why the gender bias?
  4. Misogynistic. “If women didn’t want to get hit on, they’d stay home/go out chaperoned.” “If women didn’t want men to notice them, they’d not go out looking attractive.” “If you think you’ve got it bad here, try Saudi Arabia.” Do I even need to explain why this is messed up?

I just can’t fit this in my head. In fact, I understand it even less than cat calling. I understand some berks wanting to engage in a power-play to brighten up their day; I don’t agree with it, I don’t like it, but I understand it. This interruption business, though, is not supposed to be motivated by shittiness. It’s supposed to be a genuine attempt at creating a connection. Yet it’s about as well-thought-through and about as effective as standing in the middle of a field banging a metal bucket with a ladle in order to attract deer. And then shouting at the bloody deer for not behaving according to our wishes. Because that’s bound to make it better.

And yet, despite overwhelming anecdotal evidence, we can’t seem to get this through to certain guys. Every time I’ve tried, I’ve been told that I’m wrong; or that women are wrong in reacting like that; or that there is some wrongness in the system, the universe, or everywhere but in the behaviour itself. So many women seem to spend so much time calmly and rationally trying to explain to so many men why this kind of thing doesn’t feel very nice to us, why it’s unlikely to be well-received, why it’s ultimately unlikely to work. And everything we say is just poo-pooed, as if our opinion on the subject was immaterial. As if we weren’t participants in that exchange; just marionettes failing to perform their assigned role.


One thought on “Bookus interruptus. 3.

  1. Yep. I read all the time. I designed my house around a library (which I have completely outgrown, and it has quietly spawned two shelving units in the basement….and a third one will be needed shortly).

    During small talk at work, when asked what I’m doing over the weekend, or about my hobbies, I say “reading”. People look at me like they’ve just noticed I have a third eye in my forehead. They ask, well, what are you *really* going to do? Or “what is your *real* hobby. Which makes me despair for the future of the human race.

    What blows my top about this is that I’m a scientist, and work as a scientist, and work with engineers. Who, one would assume, enjoy at least technical writing and reports, if not novels.


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