Since the release of this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b1XGPvbWn0A (I think that’s the right one there’s about a million iterations floating around) the topic of Street Harassment has become a hot button issue. Awesome. Fantastic. I couldn’t be happier. Street Harassment is real, there is a male culture that perpetuates it, young males are taught that it’s ok, that women are bitches if they don’t respond etc. etc. I am ALL for stopping such a culture from spreading, and if possible reversing it.
Why then might you ask, does my tone seem so negative? Because I am so completely done with people sensationalizing things.
I have alot of problems with the responses this video has been getting. First there’s the race element (the missing white guys from the video in case you haven’t noticed). Then there’s the element of idiot men who’ve come out to threaten to rape and/or kill the woman in the video (wow seriously?). But the commentary I keep running into is:
Guy: “So I can’t even say hello to a woman anymore”
Woman: No. You Can’t. You are not entitled to say anything to a female ever because it’s part of a culture that makes you think you have a right to my body (continues for 3-5 more paragraphs, you get the point).
(Proper response, that has yet to be heard): “No, I didn’t say that. There is a difference between, “Hello, How’s your day going” and “Dammmmnn Ma why you aint tryin’ to let me holla?! Stop being such a bitch. That difference is the line between trying to start a conversation or dialogue to better get to know someone, and talking AT them as though they are an underling or an object. Get it?
Here’s the issue with this dialogue, it doesn’t aid the cause in any way shape or form. Women need to stop telling men we’re not allowed to speak, that’s not how equality works. You get to talk AND I get to talk. A man saying “Hello” to a woman is not harassment, it’s the start of a conversation.
Now I’ll pause here for the common pushback that I receive which is that well if a man says “Hello” or “How are you” or any equally arbitrary sentence he’s obviously trying to bang you.
Except well, now you’re assuming just as much about my intentions as a man as you ask me not to assume of you as a lady. You tell me not to assume you’re promiscuous if you want to wear a short dress on a Friday night, right? Then don’t assume I’m a rapist because I said “Hi”.
It’s called equality. You don’t get to tell us when or when not to talk, and neither do we. That’s the ideal we should be working toward, and anything else is simply counterproductive. I’m sick of all the “well it’s ok because the patriarchy does it to us” bullshit. I feel bad about it, I do, but realize that me saying “Hello” is not the patriarchy trying oppress you. It’s me trying to make a friend. Or ask you where you bought those shoes because they’re just like the ones my girlfriend said she wanted for christmas. Or whatever of a billion reasons people say fucking hello.
Remember all those years spent fighting for the right to own property, vote, have a VOICE. I respect that struggle entirely, and am on board to help. However don’t tell me I now don’t get a voice because I have a penis and that makes me dangerous.
One blog I read written by a woman told men, “If you’re going to say hello to me you might as well say it to every man, woman and child you see.” I would argue, how do you know that I don’t? And even if I don’t, it is clear that this blogger believes that women can choose who to talk to and who not to (she laid out a variety of social settings in which she’d feel comfortable approaching people), why as a guy am I not allowed to do the same?
I LOVE starting conversations with strangers, but in my lifetime men have become demonized to a point where I can’t strike up a conversation with a woman without being called a creep, I can’t ask for a dance without having an intent on banging you and I can’t teach a young kid how to throw a football without being called a pedophile.
Newsflash, a burley old man who lived next door taught me how to throw a football because he was good at it. A woman who taught my 10th grade history class taught me how to dance with no intent on sleeping with me (at least not to my knowledge) because that was her fun way of getting us to remember historical facts and countless people have randomly started conversations with me from grade school to current day; it’s sort of how people make friends.
I recognize the world is a big scary place full of creepy characters that we all need to be alert and on watch for. I also recognize that in 2014, in a time where more media exists than ever before, that statistically instances of rape, sexual assault, child abuse, and just about everything else you hear about on the news (save for terrorist attacks, missing planes and school shootings) have stayed pretty level. You’re just been taught to be more frightened by them because we spend 80% of our days in front of a screen, consuming what roughly 10 companies decide to put in front of us. We’re more disconnected than ever and that’s what makes the mere idea of humans talking to other humans now qualify for “Harassment.”
So Let’s Be Clear as We Recap:
Screaming “Dammmmnnn You Look FINNNNNEEEE” or anything equivalent IS harassment (side note: Woman & Men both do this, I’ve heard you and seen you. My friends, myself and my family included).
Telling a woman she’s a bitch because she won’t give you her number IS harassment.
Physically touching, grabbing, smacking etc the body of another IS harrassment and likely assult as well.
Following a girl down the street, stride for stride, for 6 minutes IS harassment, And likely you’re starting toward a new crime called stalking at that point.
But Saying “Hello,” “Good Morning,” “How are you” “Those are cute shoes” “I love your dress, you look dashing/amazing/pretty/beautiful” is not harassment. I’m sorry to break it to you. You can choose to accept or decline anyone’s compliments or interactions, that is completely up to you.
But Please Please Please, let’s stop making things bigger than they are, some of us, maybe the minority of us (I’ve been the minority my whole life why stop now)that believe it or not, just want to say hello. Maybe to make a new friend, maybe to talk about a show we watched recently or just what’s happening around town. You know, like people used to.