Don't tell me to take it as a compliment April 11, 2007 2:50 PM   Subscribe

This question about harassment seems to be striking a chord for a lot of folks. Possible sidebar?
posted by serazin to Feature Requests at 2:50 PM (58 comments total)

Yeah, like probably half a planet full of folks.

It's a great thread. Favoriting is the yellow click road to sidebar, right?
posted by iamkimiam at 3:16 PM on April 11, 2007


er, I meant "probably at least", no intend to exclude the fellas or any other group that is not the immediately-recognized subject of catcalls (would that be dogcalls?)
posted by iamkimiam at 3:19 PM on April 11, 2007


no intend to exclude the fellas or any other group that is not the immediately-recognized subject of catcalls (would that be dogcalls?)

eh, I've been catcalled a total of once in my life (some chick on a New Haven bus yelling 'hey sexy,' and blowing a kiss at me out the window. I assume she did it on a dare or was high) and I found it flattering. If it happened everyday, it'd probably get old.
posted by jonmc at 3:22 PM on April 11, 2007


jonmc, your experience and a woman's are not comparable. I'd be happy to provide a diagram if this is unclear.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:24 PM on April 11, 2007 [3 favorites]


EB: I know. That's why I added the last sentence.
posted by jonmc at 3:25 PM on April 11, 2007


Well, thanks for providing that personal insight, jon, even though it has nothing to do with the topic at hand.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:30 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


It doesn't need to happen everyday. One incident for you and one for a woman are not comparable because the social context is vastly different.

On the other hand, if you've been in prison and were catcalled there, I stand corrected.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:30 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


you're welcome, dave. and actually it was a direct response to iamkimiam's comment, meant to show that different people react differently to different things.
posted by jonmc at 3:31 PM on April 11, 2007


This is what burkas are for.
posted by Burhanistan at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2007


Yeah, great thread. Though one of the nice things about being a guy is that whenever something like this comes up I always feel like it's a total anachronism, like "People still do that? Were they also harassing the squares at the diner and wielding a motorcycle racing trophy?"
posted by klangklangston at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2007


If you actually had experienced anything remotely similar, you would probably want to post about it to the original thread, not in one here that discusses whether or not to put a link to the thread in the sidebar.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2007


Dave Faris: were you a hall monitor in school? NTM, I'm not insane enough to even set foot in that thread, where any response from a man beyond a meek apology for my whole gender would be met with a massive dogpile, so no thanks.
posted by jonmc at 3:40 PM on April 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Don't be so sensitive or you'll break out in a rash, Jon.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:42 PM on April 11, 2007


jonmc - I thought the point of your original comment was to say that indeed, men do not experience harrassment in the same way that women do. I had no problem with what you said.
posted by serazin at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2007


Dave, I've been called everything but a Reuben sandwich on this site and I'm still here (without a new username). It's not sensitivity, it's sanity.
posted by jonmc at 3:44 PM on April 11, 2007


serazin: exactly. thank you. (and I'd even add that some women I know even consider catcalls flattering, but that dosen't mean that those who don't should have to put up with them), but in the big rush of the 'feminist males' to condemn me, that point got missed.
posted by jonmc at 3:46 PM on April 11, 2007


I wonder if I can market undie bundle removal kits to selective markets? (relating to MeTa users today, not to the AskMe thread)
posted by edgeways at 3:56 PM on April 11, 2007


Jonmc, from the bottom of my heart, I think you are a Reuben sandwich. There, I said it. Now it's all been done. ;-)
posted by iamkimiam at 4:01 PM on April 11, 2007


"but in the big rush of the 'feminist males' to condemn me, that point got missed"

I don't believe that I condemned you. Which part was that? And I wasn't motivated so much by the fact that I'm a feminist than by the fact that you just don't get it. You're not getting it so conspicuously and gratuitously is what annoyed.

After posting my "if you've been in prison and were catcalled there" line, I felt pretty smug because I was sure that this would get the point across. Apparently not.

The difference between what happened to you and how you clearly think about this phenomena and the real world of women being catcalled, is that in each particular instance there's quite often more than a hint of the possibility of sexual violence and, in general, because of the prevalence of sexual violence against women in our culture, for a woman being catcalled is threatening in a way that a man being catcalled by a woman or another man almost never is. Unless, of course, you're in prison. How would you feel being catcalled in prison? Would you feel flattered or threatened?
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:03 PM on April 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


Jonmc, from the bottom of my heart, I think you are a Reuben sandwich.

Drat! I despise Russian dressing.

how you clearly think about this phenomena

do me a favor, don't tell me what I clearly think. I think most catcalling is infantile at best and, yes, threatening at worst. I just find the whole 'apologizing for my whole gender' thing to be a bit much.
posted by jonmc at 4:11 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I don't think any happy, healthy woman finds harrassment flattering. Everything has a line. The definition of catcalling lies on the side of harrassment for some, an (arguably backhanded) compliment to others. And everything in between. None of this justifies public harrassment, regardless of your definition of catcalling.
< /soapbox>
Sorry Jonmc, not meaning to pile on you here, or anywhere else. I'm not offended by your comments, and I think I interpreted your catcalling experience as you intended it to come off. But if I saw you on the street I'd probably yell something horribly insidious, like "YOU EFFIN REUBEN SANDWICH YOU!" But it'd be a compliment, and I hope you'd take it as such.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:14 PM on April 11, 2007


It doesn't sound as though jonmc's comment about being catcalled was meant to even be entertained in the same context, nay planet, as that of the OP. I thought it was kind of self-deprecating [she was obviously high or pressured, etc.] You guys looking for a fight over some imagined misogynist insensitivity sound like complete tools.
posted by docpops at 4:18 PM on April 11, 2007


like "YOU EFFIN REUBEN SANDWICH YOU!" But it'd be a compliment, and I hope you'd take it as such.

only if you substituted mustard for the Russian like on this work of art. (and fwiw, I agree 100% with your asessment. where conflict enters society at large is where the definition of 'harassment lies, but that's for better minds than mine)

(also, I hasten to add that I didn't mean my retort to EB as an insult, as I consider him a good guy and a friend, even when we differ)
posted by jonmc at 4:29 PM on April 11, 2007


I think it's a very interesting thread. My impression is five years ago she would have been told to just ignore it. Now people recognize it is harassment. Apparently things have changed for the better.
posted by Listener at 4:35 PM on April 11, 2007


I found the thread quite enlightening. I didn't realize that this was still as prevalent as it obviously is.

I was also pleased to see so many quality responses, as I suspect my first reaction would be to start lobbing something at the offender. Grenades for preference.

Which is why it's probably a good thing that 1.) as an ugly guy, I don't get harassed in this way, and 2.) I don't have ready access to explosives. Because I would use them far too often.
posted by quin at 4:36 PM on April 11, 2007


"also, I hasten to add that I didn't mean my retort to EB as an insult, as I consider him a good guy and a friend, even when we differ"

Same here. I like you a lot and think you're a good guy with a good heart.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:37 PM on April 11, 2007



Which is why it's probably a good thing that 1.) as an ugly guy, I don't get harassed in this way,


ay, mira papi chulo. (just figured I'd make your day)

FWIW: i was once in a gay bar (long story) and the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. after a few minutes of bullshit, he said, 'you're kinda cute' in a..weird tone. I just grunted and nodded. 'I paid you a compliment there, buddy,' he said. I looked at him and said with a hard look 'I'm just hanging out, ok,' and he backed off. The fact that I'm fairly good sized and kind of 'rough' looking probably helped. Dealing with that on a daily basis going to the supermarket would have to suck.
posted by jonmc at 4:43 PM on April 11, 2007


Not that interesting a thread. Too many answers were the same boring "tell on him".
posted by smackfu at 4:45 PM on April 11, 2007


only if you substituted mustard for the Russian like on this work of art.

OMG, that lascivious picture brought out my primal desire to yell obscenities and lick my lips in a very suggestive way. Oh, the mustard! I hope we never meet Jonmc.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:47 PM on April 11, 2007


you think that's lascivious? check out this. But when people get untoward, I respond with this.
posted by jonmc at 4:53 PM on April 11, 2007


It's all over when somebody posts a picture of a plate of beans. You know that, right? (or is that when it really begins?)
posted by iamkimiam at 5:09 PM on April 11, 2007


Question for others, since I didn't want to disrupt the thread:

Should the original poster "toughen up"? Rather than being reduced to tears, shouldn't she learn how to handle such assholes on the spot, rather than allowing them to overwhelm her?

It just struck me as bizarre that she's been in NYC for five years and hasn't learned how to deflate these guys.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:11 PM on April 11, 2007


Large, loud people who publicly harrass smaller people minding their own business is a bit overwhelming. Fold in the probability of violence, a culture that makes this behavior acceptible, the likelihood of trauma from past experience(s), and the element of surprise...yeah, maybe she should stop being such a pussy. Just my 1.60¢
posted by iamkimiam at 5:18 PM on April 11, 2007


"FWIW: i was once in a gay bar (long story) and the guy sitting next to me struck up a conversation. after a few minutes of bullshit, he said, 'you're kinda cute' in a..weird tone. I just grunted and nodded. 'I paid you a compliment there, buddy,' he said. I looked at him and said with a hard look 'I'm just hanging out, ok,' and he backed off."

I've been to gay bars a few times with friends and my strategy for dealing with advances or invitations to dance was to say with a smile, "I'm flattered, but I'm straight and just here with friends". Which I thought was cool because it was both gracious and honest instead of just a turn-down. But one time it really upset this guy who was, it became obvious, closeted. He got very upset and said that he, too, was straight.

In retrospect I realized that my response threatened what had been, for him, a safe space free from normative heterosexuality. My honesty, well-intentioned, broke that bubble. So from then on I just responded with the "I'm flattered, but no thank you" part without the assertion of heterosexuality.

I'm not sure if I felt the need to assert my heterosexuality because of some degree of homophobia. I've never thought so, although it's certainly possible. I think it was more that I wanted what seemed to me to be a valid reason for turning them down. This, I think, has much to do with my own, much-hated, experience as a man asking women for dances in clubs and the like. No matter what anyone ever says to the contrary, every rejection has always felt like a rejection of me as a desirable, attractive person. It's always felt personal. And so I think that I wanted to say that I wasn't gay as a way of saying that my rejection wasn't in the least personal, that it had nothing to do with them, that I wasn't interested in any man in the room, or that could be in the room. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So it was especially disturbing that I did, anyway.

All that said, I have to say that having the tables turned and being the one singled-out and approached was quite gratifying and enjoyable.

Which reminds me that a woman answered my online personals ad the other day and I haven't replied yet. I'm not sure I'm interested, but I think it's best to nicely respond to anyone who makes the effort to write. Women, especially, don't answer many of these ads while men, in contrast, tend to answer them indiscriminately (though I don't, I'm too picky, I think).
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:19 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


And jonmc takes over yet another thread.
posted by Khalad at 5:21 PM on April 11, 2007


yes, using my miracle weapons of words on a screen.
posted by jonmc at 5:22 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


"Should the original poster 'toughen up'? Rather than being reduced to tears, shouldn't she learn how to handle such assholes on the spot, rather than allowing them to overwhelm her?"

I'll take your question seriously because it seems you are well-intentioned in asking it.

There's one sense in which this might be good advice. One of the things I learned doing rape crisis, formally in training and continuing education but also just from observation of rape cases, is that rapists are attracted by perceived weakness. In stranger-rape situations (the minority, but they are still important), women that act more fearful of being raped are more likely to be raped than women who do not act fearful. There is no fairness about this, it's just a consequence of the psychology of the rapist.

Does that mean that it's a good idea for women to avoid acting fearful? Yes, it's a good idea. Does that mean that, in acting fearful, they are in any way responsible for anything that happens to them? No, it doesn't.

Allow me to digress for a moment here. A concept that many or most people have great difficulty with is that, in violent acts, responsibility isn't zero-sum. There's a lot of talk about how women can make themselves more or less safe from rapists. This has the very unfortunate side-effect of implying to women that, if they fail in some way to protect themselves, they are responsible for the rape. Which of course isn't true.

Let's look at a different kind of crime: burglary. Is it unwise to leave your house unlocked? Your windows open when you're out-of-town and your newspapers scattered on the lawn? Sure. And in some sense it's true that the choices you make have consequences and you have a responsibility to yourself to make choices which produce the consequences you prefer. But whatever responsibility there is that you have to lock your door, it has nothing to do with the responsibility the burglar has to obey the law and to not victimize other people. Nothing you do lessens his responsibility over his own actions.

Just so with a rapist. A woman may be more or less safe, and that's her choice and her business. I'm not saying it's not important to think about, because it is. But ultimately she's not responsible in any way for someone violating her. No matter what. People have a responsibility to protect themselves and other people have a responsibility to not hurt them. The two responsibilities are independent.

So, now back to the question about "toughening up". With what I wrote about rape in mind, there's the likely fact that "toughening up" will probably discourage some of the harassment. Furthermore, if a woman lives in a culture or subculture where she's constantly being harassed, sadly there's no legal remedy that's going to change that culture or subculture. So, sure, to some degree, as long as she's in that environment, she has to learn to live with it. And that's okay advice as long as its in a context of a lot of other things.

Such as the fact that she can do something about some specific instances of harassment, especially if its chronic. "Toughen up" is a reasonable part of a larger program which includes asserting oneself and stopping objectionable behavior where it's possible. "Toughen up" as advice in isolation is bad advice and just entrenches someone in their powerlessness. It's advice often given by bullies to those they bully. That should tell you something.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 5:43 PM on April 11, 2007 [7 favorites]


More importantly, should jonmc toughen up, because really, that's all we care about.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:50 PM on April 11, 2007


That should tell you something.

Such as? Bit of confusion here for me.

As to the rest, I agree with it. I just thought that there should be advice on how to deal with these situations, since they can overwhelm her and the catcalling will continue.

How does a young woman "toughen up" against such attacks and what specific techniques can be used to teach them on how to do this?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 6:12 PM on April 11, 2007


"Such as? Bit of confusion here for me."

Bullies advise their victims to "toughen up" because it makes their victims' unhappiness the victims' responsibility and not the bullies'. It's part of the victimization. This is exactly what's happening with knee-jerk advice to women to "toughen up" when they complain about sexual harassment.

"How does a young woman 'toughen up' against such attacks and what specific techniques can be used to teach them on how to do this?"

Well, in the reply I just wrote in that thread I pointed out that acting on this example of harassment by going to the construction company will, in the future, make it easier for her to deal with harassment. She'll know she's not powerless. Emotionally, that's the essence of "toughening up".

Even if you look at the example of the Stoics, their trick to accepting the shit that life throws at them was their theory of the inviolability of the soul and that the soul contained the entirety of self. Therefore, they couldn't be hurt. They weren't truly powerless. They became thick-skinned.

The way for a woman to "toughen-up" is to empower herself. Especially for women, who are taught to be passive, taking action—almost any action—is a revelation and empowering. Not acting, locking herself in her office and crying, is just reinforcing her feeling of vulnerability.

It's a myth that you first learn to be thick-skinned and then you aren't as easily hurt. Unfortunately, it works the other way around: you learn to not be as easily hurt, and then you become thick-skinned. How do you learn to not be as easily hurt? By protecting yourself. By not being as vulnerable. It's not that the thick-skin is useless because there's a reinforcing cycle: you're more able to protect yourself, you are less afraid and less easily hurt, and you become even more able to protect yourself.

But just being exposed to being hurt isn't enough to develop a thick-skin—just as often, or moreso, that will result in depression and self-loathing. And just telling oneself (or someone else asserting) that "this doesn't hurt you" isn't going to do it, either. In a sense, we only know something when we see it, or feel it, and so experiencing being tougher—often in the form of stopping the hurt—proves something to us we aren't going to believe just by assertion.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 6:29 PM on April 11, 2007 [2 favorites]


It just struck me as bizarre that she's been in NYC for five years and hasn't learned how to deflate these guys.

I have lived in NYC for 3 years, and although I get my fair share of random male attention/harassment, I have never encountered anything like the poster described. The same guy over and over, who won't stop even when she asks him too? That's really sick. I've gotten used to the normal stuff (years ago, long before I moved to NYC, someone said, hey, I saw you walking down the street, didn't you see me in my car, I honked at you? Like I acknowledge honking cars, ha!), but I think something that serious would affect anyone.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:06 PM on April 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


I found the thread quite enlightening. I didn't realize that this was still as prevalent as it obviously is.

It is, sadly, disgustingly prevalent. And as another recent MeTa thread has shown, the concern shown in the original poster's title was also quite justified: there are even guys here who will not hesitate to tell women they should be flattered by such crude attentions, that they're either too sensitive and overstating the problem or else they must be inviting such harassment by their style of dress or behavior. (And for the original poster's sake, I am grateful as hell that those cavemen either didn't bother to shit on her thread in the first place, or else had their comments rapidly nuked by the mods.)
posted by Smilla's Sense of Snark at 8:08 PM on April 11, 2007


This is what burkas are for.

I don't see how making the harassing construction workers cover their bodies would help anything.
posted by medusa at 8:58 PM on April 11, 2007 [5 favorites]


This is what burkas are for.

In Egypt there is a huge amount of cat catting, even to women fully covered.
posted by k8t at 10:01 PM on April 11, 2007


I say: Instead of taking the guy's pic, show him one:

Goatse the asshole! [pun intended]
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:26 PM on April 11, 2007


I very much like 'follow the yellow click road'.

That is all.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 10:48 PM on April 11, 2007


Which reminds me that a woman answered my online personals ad the other day and I haven't replied yet.

Yeah. I figured you just weren't that into me.
posted by ottereroticist at 11:42 PM on April 11, 2007


there are even guys here who will not hesitate to tell women they should be flattered by such crude attentions, that they're either too sensitive and overstating the problem or else they must be inviting such harassment by their style of dress or behavior.

Sure there was hestitation, qualification even, and you completely made up the "inviting such harrassment" part. Nobody said that.

And what if they had? Do we welcome (and tear apart as needed) a variety of views here or not?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 6:35 AM on April 12, 2007


"Sure there was hestitation, qualification even, and you completely made up the "inviting such harrassment" part. Nobody said that."

Bruce did, a couple of days ago. Scroll down ye MeTa.
posted by klangklangston at 7:08 AM on April 12, 2007


still stuck on me, eh klang? i know i'm in the minority around here, but i feel no need to apologize for my gender. this new question followed so closely on the heels of the other, i wondered if it wasn't just a vehicle for anodyne public affirmations of political correctness. the questioner was unspecific whether it was just whistles or complimentary interjections on the one hand, or threats of sexual violence on the other (which i would condemn as roundly as any of you). i don't "catcall" strange women, but i acknowledge that some guys do, i just don't think it's one of the top 40 pressing problems of our age, and i refuse to condemn my gender for being obsessed with sex or aware of the presence of desireable women. i see this as (some) women trying to seize complete power over the initial interaction, to the point where men deemed undesireable by the subjective standard of the woman will somehow be punished for their overture, and i believe that if women want the catcalling to stop, they will have to forge some kind of agreement with men, rather than a unilateral power grab. for those of you who just want to get a hate on, go right ahead, doesn't bother me, happy to be of service in some way.
posted by bruce at 8:54 PM on April 12, 2007


Didn't read the fucking title, did you?
posted by casarkos at 9:57 PM on April 12, 2007


well casarkos, i have freedom of speech but you must remain silent out of deference to my exquisite sensibilities, moral and political higher ground and more skillfully fabricated victimology.

see how stupid that looks when you put it in writing?
posted by bruce at 12:03 AM on April 13, 2007


You are all retarded.

By "you" and "all" I mean bruce.
posted by Dataphage at 4:58 AM on April 13, 2007


Bruce are bruce retarded?

But yes, bruce, you have the right to say whatever stupid fucking shit you want (though pretending that the first amendment applies here is yet another thing that marks you as a moron), but equal to that right is the right of everyone else to make fun of you for being a retarded misogynist.

However, I'm sure it was those big bad women discriminating against those poor construction workers again. When you huff the gas, do you like a higher octane?
posted by klangklangston at 5:44 AM on April 13, 2007


After a lifetime of silently enduring street harassment, I am all for "seiz[ing] complete power over the initial interaction," Bruce. And why shouldn't I, or any other woman (or any aggrieved and harassed man, for that matter), want to subvert that power, taking the legs out from under someone who is habitually wielding his presumed power against us?

C'mon, womenfolk! Unilateral power grab!
posted by Elsa at 6:23 AM on April 13, 2007


Bruce seems to have issues with being rejected, doesn't he? God forbid women have standards, or guys like him might have a chance.
posted by casarkos at 6:48 AM on April 13, 2007


Look, I'm being neither silent nor deferent!

Also I'd like to point out that you wrote it.
posted by casarkos at 6:50 AM on April 13, 2007


i don't "catcall" strange women, but i acknowledge that some guys do, i just don't think it's one of the top 40 pressing problems of our age, and i refuse to condemn my gender for being obsessed with sex or aware of the presence of desireable women.

This makes some sense.

i see this as (some) women trying to seize complete power over the initial interaction, ... and i believe that if women want the catcalling to stop, they will have to forge some kind of agreement with men, rather than a unilateral power grab.

This doesn't make a lick of sense, especially as a continuation of the thought before it. What exactly is the power grab? The same guy(s) is disrupting is the AskMe poster's life, in a way she finds threatening and insulting, daily. I honestly have no idea of what "some kind of agreement" you think she should make with him would consist of.

Normally, I would say that if you do have a suggestion for the specifics of such an agreement, then you should post it an answer to the AskMe, but I really don't think you could pull it off respectfully and would prefer that you didn't try.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:44 AM on April 13, 2007


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