April 08, 2015

Calling All Cat Callers

What Men Can Do To Help Women Stop and Prevent Street Harassment

These days there are lots of things that, if they come up in conversation over the dinner table, in a bar, or wherever, people generally can agree are wrong, unfortunate and unfair. Street harassment is one of these. The kissing noises, the advances, the following, the cat calls. Everyone has seen, heard of, or experienced a street harassment incident, everything from the ridiculous to the terrifying, and everyone acknowledges that more often that not it's women who are on the receiving end. 

But even though we all know its out there, and we all agree that it isn't right, not everyone seems to be in agreement about what should be done to change and prevent it going forward. A lot of people, in fact, believe that the responsibility to eliminate this unfortunate daily occurrence lies with women. 

This idea goes a little something like this:

Women are naturally attractive, and men are naturally attracted to them. There's nothing wrong with this. And that alone shouldn't mean that men have an inherent right to harass the women that they find themselves attracted to. However, when women go out of their way to get a man's attention or to make him attracted to her, then it becomes a different story. Then, of course he's going to react. Honestly, what is a man supposed to do when he is provoked

The question is - What exactly does a woman going out of her way to get a man's attention look like? 

Often the answer surrounds the woman's appearance

What she's wearing is provocative 

- Bright colored clothing. 

- Clothing that reveals her arms, legs, back. 

- Clothing that draws more attention than necessary to her sex appeal. 
     * There is a guidebook that women receive upon hitting puberty that clearly outlines the difference   
       between necessary and unnecessary sex appeal. It is also on iBooks. 

- High heels. Obviously. 
     * Which make her look taller (and therefore more visible), make her legs look longer (and thereby      
       more attractive), cause her to shift her weight more noticeably when walking (and causing what 
       can be interpreted as a sexier walk), and which happen to click as she walks which ultimately 
       necessitates a long look. 

Demeanor is also sometimes seen as a provocation

- As she walks down the street, is the wind blowing, and when it does is she trying her best to remain    
     unaffected or is she seemingly enjoying the coolness of the breeze and flipping her hair in it like a 
     Vogue model would against a fan. Obviously the latter is just asking for attention. 

- Is she smiling? Because as we all know, a smile is an invitation. Regardless of where she is, what 
     she's doing, who she's with, how she feels, what she's listening to on her iPod or what she's 
     gleefully musing about as she makes her way, every woman knows that a deadpan face is required 
     to walk the streets. Anything less may as well be a welcome mat.

- Is she not smiling? Because okay, smiling is an invitation and she may not want to be inviting, but not smiling? Why would a beautiful woman not smile? Is she maybe confused about her place in the world? Could it be that she's momentarily forgotten, or maybe that no one ever took the time to tell her. Beautiful women should not wander the streets unaware of their beauty and unequipped with a smile. Surely any woman seen walking about with an at-rest face is a travesty that must be remedied.
Every. Single. Time. 

- Is she just kind of being sexy? Sometimes it's not a cut and dry action or inaction, right? Sometimes 
     she's just being a certain way, making others feel a certain way. And why would she do that? 
     Why...unless she was trying to subtly communicate her desire to be ravaged, courted, asked on a 
     date, winked at, air-kissed, or at the very least stared at for a very, very long time. 

Any of the above fall into the category of things that women do to make themselves attractive to men on purpose and get their attention. And when these things happen, what is a man to do? 

Well...I must admit, I do have some suggestions. And I would be remiss if I didn't share them with the world. 

A man could consider

He could consider the possibility that a woman's clothing was not an operation carefully crafted by her diabolical ego nor her relentless biological desire to be impregnated. That perhaps her yellow blouse was not selected this morning because it was the brightest color in the visible spectrum and most likely to turn heads, but because it reminded her of springtime and spring is her favorite season, so to wear it would make her happy. 

He could consider that women are naturally shaped in a way that is agreeable to men and that, arguably, he would find her attractive no matter what she had on, so perhaps the very premise of expecting women who are not interested in being approached to not inspire feelings that would lead men to approach is simply unreasonable. 

He could consider that if a woman's wardrobe revolved around the end of making herself as cloaked from the male eye as possible, the result would be an extremely limited wardrobe that would, while protecting her (and arguably, it wouldn't - because even when bundled to the brim in the coldest of winters I've still been assaulted with comments about the sexiness of my eyes, lips, cheekbones - basically any little patch of skin that wasn't covered became the target of the harassment) would simultaneously oppress her by forcing her to ignore personal feelings, personal preference, interest in fashion, etc. all in the vain attempt to escape the male libido and be left alone in public. Hardly a fair reason to don the certain headpiece that comes to mind...

He could consider that even if a woman is dressed so beautifully, so remarkably that she is simply a vision and impossible to ignore that, if she is a stranger, she definitely hasn't made herself a vision for him. Perhaps there is some event that she's heading to where she'll be on a stage, or be photographed. Perhaps she has indeed gotten all trussed up for the attention of a man - a first date, a lover, a boyfriend, a husband. But since he doesn't know her and is sure that he isn't the reason, he could avoid staring as she passes, avoid seeking her out or making intrusive/offensive comments and gestures as she passes. After all, a considerate man wouldn't want to frighten her, offend her, disrespect her or otherwise ruin her plans all because he couldn't fathom that not all beauty in the world was intended for his immediate consumption. 

He could consider how he would feel if he lived in a world where his simply being seen in public promised an onslaught of inappropriate encounters. If when he parked his car he had to worry that if there were people standing near it on the street when he returned that he might not be safe, as he would instantly be shamelessly targeted the moment he approached. If he had to do things like run into corner delis, restaurants, convenience stores, dry cleaners, just to be around other humans because there was someone following him and he didn't want to lead them back to his home. If when he had a bad day at work and just needed to sit quietly for a while he had to bring headphones even though he didn't want to listen to music because it was the only way to discourage people from talking to him if he decided to sit at a bar or restaurant alone, and even then someone may abrasively tap him on the shoulder or bang the table to get him to look up. 

It sounds a bit ridiculous, doesn't it? To imagine a man at a bar with headphones on being almost violently interrupted by a stranger - a stranger that wants to say what? "Hi, I saw you sitting here trying your best to be ignored..." It sounds so silly to imagine a man being followed by a stranger. Why would anyone follow him so randomly? It seems odd that a crowd of people would stop their conversation and suddenly start harassing a man who was just walking to his car. That a man would worry about whether he's in danger if he says nothing to the car crowd people because being ignored may anger them, or if he's in more danger if he says something to be polite because now they may be encouraged and come closer or even take action. No, men don't worry about those things.Women don't grab a man's elbow as he's walking to work to ask him what his sign is. Women don't yell out "smile, you're handsome" to serious strangers. Women don't force their company on men who are alone in public, assuming that he came to be noticed. Women don't refuse to accept that a man does not want the drink she wants to buy him and get loud and violent about it. Women do not masturbate to men in public. Women do not follow men without invitation or touch them without permission. 

On a grand scale, so much that it is inherently understood as a part our society, these things just don't happen to men.

So why should they happen to us?

Consider that. 


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