Yet again, the debate has been opened about How Men With Romantic Intentions Should Approach Unknown Women Wearing Headphones Or Generally Obviously Busy Doing Their Own Thing And Not Wishing To Be Disturbed, Like Seriously Read The Signs, What The Hell. And I’ve noticed something weird about it.

The debate, as it stands, is taking place between:

  • NOPE. At one extreme, the “please just don’t.” These people insist that hassling women giving clear “leave me alone” signs is generally not enjoyed by the women thus hassled, and wouldn’t it be just peachy if we could all stop doing that.
  • YUP. At the other extreme, the “yeah dude, go for it!” These people maintain that people have a right to talk to other people in public places. (The fact that they don’t feel the necessity to exercise that right in order to talk to people they wouldn’t wanna bang is totally immaterial.) They insist there’s no harm in it. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. If women want to say no, they’re perfectly able to do so. And if women feel threatened or objectified by the behaviour, it’s because they’re misinterpreting it or paranoid or just being women, yannow, they always make a fuss.

That’s the thing I noticed: there’s a marked shortage of women in the “YUP” front. Very few women appear to be actually asking for an increase in the number of intrusive, random interactions they are forced into having with unknown men. Some women state that, if a number of provisos are met, they may not be completely against every instance of these practices. The bulk of the women commenting on the subject tend to be quite clear as to how they really just want it all to stop and go away.

It’s the same with the Great Catcalling Debate, whenever that resurfaces. Well, ok, it’s similar. It can’t be precisely the same because catcalling is inherently shitty, if you’ll pardon my bias. Catcalling is an deliberate intrusion assuming a dominant/submissive relationship. Interrupting someone while they’re reading or listening to music or counting potatoes may be vexing and intrusive, but doesn’t always stem from the same power trip. But there are parallels.

On one side, there’s a whole bunch of men and women saying that catcalling is a crappy, crappy thing to do, and it ought to stop. On the other side, there are some men  – just men, no women – saying that it’s not so bad, really. Just a bit of fun. They’d be glad if it happened to them. Women should take it as a compliment. And these men apparently don’t even notice that women  – the women they are allegedly trying to connect with – do not support their point of view.

Plenty of women are willing to state very clearly how unpleasant they find this kind of thing. Whether it makes them feel threatened, vexed, imposed upon, violated, cheapened, objectified, annoyed, frustrated, offended… it doesn’t make them feel good. Yet the guys who go for this kind of thing continue to protest that they’re not bothering women intentionally. Yes, they are doing something that a multitude of women have said they find bothersome. Loudly and clearly. Countless times. But that doesn’t mean that those guys are setting out to bother women. They just do their thing, and the bothering seems to happen.

I appreciate the lack of actual data on this subject – a bunch of people with a gripe doth not a scientific sample make. However, we’re not precisely in the dark about these issues, really. We have a whole load of anecdotal evidence; evidence that could be used to guess what’s most likely to happen in that kind of circumstance. But this evidence goes broadly ignored by street harassment proponents, who, if they notice us at all, just tell us that we should stop being such bitches about this. We look prettier when we smile, after all.



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