Privilege Of Desirability

Reader “Charles” left this comment on my post “Why Guys Catcall”:

Charles: “It’s the downside of the privileged position women occupy. The desired. The valued. Men have no street value, their bodies are not desired, in fact their nudity is considered visual assault. Catcalling may be a way for the oppressed to reclaim power and agency which the mating game forbids them.”

I know Charles personally, and I realize that he really enjoys debate and finding the political significance in just about ANY scenario, haha, but he brings up a valid and important point.

Women complain, as they very well should, that guys that they don’t feel like hooking up with approach them without invitation and discuss whatever type of sex they want to have with her or try to get a date or just tell her how sexy she looks today. That’s now known as Street Harassment. At the same time, the alternate reality of the vast majority of men needs to be considered as well, which is that women *NEVER* approach them and suggest sex. o_O Continue reading “Privilege Of Desirability”

HollaBack Girls 04

I found out about HollaBack Girls three years ago, back in 2007. Their apparent goal is to create a space on the internet where women can express themselves about what they call “Street Harassment”:

http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/2005/10/hollafaq.html#q2: Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces.

My previous articles about HollaBack Girls are located here, here & here. Continue reading “HollaBack Girls 04”

re: Tricia Wang

re: Tricia Wang’s “Web 2.0 Vigilante”

Interesting points, Tricia.

First of all, I think the “fact” that Ryanne is white (she looks white, so I’ll assume she’s white) is less important here than you make it out to be. “Jim Crow” is about “you are black, so don’t interact with white chicks”. IMO, this situation would have gone the exact same way if the construction workers had all been white. I have no reason to assume that Ryanne would have let white guys slide, so there’s the immediate difference between “Jim Crow” and this situation.

I also have no reason to believe that she KNOWS anything about “black culture” in order to “ignore” it, as you called it. Ignoring it implies an understanding of the differences and then not applying that understanding to your judgement. Having said that, you’re absolutely right that there’s a different dynamic in minority neighborhoods where chicks are “holla’ed at” all day, every day, going to and from work, the store, the gym, wherever. I’m not saying this is a good thing. I agree with you that whatever was being said was probably in some form of social jest, whether positive or negative. As someone pointed out in the comments on the original post, we don’t get to hear what was actually said. We hear Ryanne’s account of what she heard, which was “woof woof” and “hey slim”. Depending on the context, those remarks could be an indication that they thought she was attractive or that they thought she was unattractive. Either way, she felt disrespected, and it’s clear on the tape that she’s affected and upset. I’m sure there are quite a few minority women that get game kicked to them all day, every day that are more sick of it than she is, and would like to do the same thing, if they thought it would do them any good.

The signal of future punishment was clear. Again, I think the construction guys being black isn’t as important as you make it out to be. If she had taped Italians in Bensonhurst, you wouldn’t have written this article at all.

As far as web 2.0 vigilantes, you bring up some good points. I hadn’t heard of gaettongnyeo before today. I think that’s a fine example of retribution getting out of hand. Did the girl deserve to be shamed? Of course. She let the dog “make a mess” on the subway, and then refused to clean it up as if it wasn’t her fault. According to reports, there were “elders” around, who told her to clean it up, and she STILL didn’t (major error #2). So they took her picture and she got embarrassed. That’s good for her. She won’t be pulling stunts like that in the future. πŸ™‚ However… There are at least two problems with the HollaBack technique… well… three, if you count the one you bring up at the end of your post.

Problem #1 is for the harasser, or in this case, the harassers. In the cases where guys do egregious stuff like they outline on the HollaBack sites, they’re getting what they deserve. I think there should definitely be some way that women can make themselves feel more safe or make habitual harassers known to others in the neighborhood so they can be aware. There are other situations where women didn’t like being called “baby” or being looked at from across he boulevard. I’m not sure that all the offenses warrant the same treatment/cagegorization. By posting these guys’ (I can say guys, because I didn’t see any pictures of lesbian harassers on those sites) faces to the net, they’re being seen as ‘guilty’ merely on the say-so of the poster. What happens now if someone’s boss’ wife goes on the site… or if their boss happens to be a woman and goes on the site herself and sees him and the description of whatever it is he’s supposed to have done? What if he gets fired because he tried to meet a chick he thought was attractive in the street, and thought he was kicking it to her in the expected fashion by calling her beautiful or asking if he can walk with her? What happens if this guy’s married and his wife sees what was posted about him and his relationship gets messed up? What happens in a group situation like in Ryanne’s video? What if one or more of the guys in the shot didn’t have jack to do with the harassment, but there they are on tape with everyone else? What happens if the boss sees this and decides to sanction everyone there, since there’s no telling who said what? You might be saying “So what? If extra stuff happens to them, that’s what they get for harassing!”… Well… “So what?” is Problem #2.

Problem #2 is for the woman taking the picture. What if the guy you take a picture of is on parole and wasn’t supposed to leave VA, but you take a picture of him in NYC? What if the guy doesn’t want his wife to see him on the net… or his boss to see him on the net? What if the guy just plain doesn’t like the fact that you took a picture of him and decides to do something about it?

Problem #3 is what Tricia states towards the end:

Sites like hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/ are passive in the documentation and function to empower the woman who posts a picture of her cat caller. The cat caller is never truly confronted for his behavior, therefore it’s not really effective in preventing harassment as there is no true confrontation.

This is true. The cat caller isn’t confronted at all. From the women’s own reports, most of the time there’s some yelling, or maybe someone gives someone the finger. Other than that, nothing happens. Sometimes, they say to the harasser that they’re going to put him on the net. Some of the pictures are from very far away or the back of some guy’s head or a picture of his car that’s parked somewhere… The sites are more for venting than anything else, and that’s very useful for women who don’t want to feel like they’re the only ones stuff like this happens to. The reason this is a problem is that the end may not justify the means if the taking of the picture makes a bad situation much worse than it originally was for the picture-taker. It certainly doesn’t justify the means if the camera’s confiscated by the harasser.

Anyway… Everybody knows women are going to be shouted at as they’re passing construction sites. It’s a pastime as much as having a beer or watching sports. That doesn’t mean Ryanne has to accept that for herself. The guys in the video, black, white, whatever, are not hanging out on crates in front of a closed storefront. They are working. This means they have a supervisor, and that supervisor has a supervisor and that supervisor has a supervisor. Somewhere along the line, there’s someone with the ability to impose sanctions on those guys for “misrepresenting” the construction company… even if the owner is the most sexist guy out of all of them. πŸ™‚ I think the workers have more of a responsibility to know that they could get in trouble for yelling either compliments or insults at a woman walking by the site more than Ryanne has a responsibility to understand minorities’ different style of being friendly or socializing.

HollaBack Girls 03

Rox said in a reply to “Hollaback Girls 02”:

I’m all for some consciousness raising Bill and you’re to be lauded by jumping in here. I draw a distinction between “boys being boys” and actual harassment and assault. Women who are waiting for men to change will wait forever to feel at ease on the street. Girls, it’s an inside job! Let’s start building up our “ignoring muscles” and stop letting them get to us. “Aura In” and they’ll either notice you less or you’ll notice it less, or both! Vent as necessary to get back on center. And to those slime balls who cross the line to actual assault, haul ’em into court.

Thanks Rox. I agree with making distinctions in these situations. A lot of what I read was egregious behavior that should be reprimanded, and some of it prosecuted. There were other cases where the women were upset that a guy was looking at them from far, far away or that he added “baby” or “sweetheart” to his verbal greeting to them. They were upset by ANY indication that a guy wanted them, sexually. Unfortunately, except for test-tube-babies and sperm banks, that’s what we’re all doing here…. SOME guy wanted to have sex with SOME girl, and they did it and someone raised that baby and now that baby is YOU. I think those women that are hoping that guys are going to stop being sexually attracted to them could use your “Aura In” suggestion. πŸ˜€

OTOH, there’s tons of incorrect behavior that goes on that should be stopped. Again, I have the benefit of being a guy, so I can walk past construction sites without incident. I can order food or a beer without someone asking me personal questions. I can walk down the street and think without random people interrupting my train of thought because they want something from me. I can walk past a group of guys that I KNOW are going to harass the next attractive female they see without them saying anything to me. It’s easy to not be able to empathize with women in these cases, because A) men don’t get sexually harassed in the street, and B) our reaction to harassment is going to be the buildup of adrenaline and aggression as opposed to fear and just HOPING nothing happens to us or counting on words to get us out of the situation instead of physical action.

There really isn’t a reverse equivalent. Women can’t sexually harass men in the same way. As long as the woman is attractive to the guy, he’s going to be glad she’s kicking it to him. He’s still going to choose whether he has sex with her or not (because he’s married, because he thinks she’s “too easy”, whatever), but it’s a POSITIVE thing that she’s interested in getting with him. From what I read, a lot of women just hate the fact that guys want to have sex with them without knowing anything about them other than what they look like, or in the cases where their bodies are covered, just the fact that they’re females. I’m not talking about the guys that clearly have no chance of getting on and are just saying things to the women in order to be jerks. I’m talking about the guys that have a certain percentage chance that a woman’s going to like how they look and accept their rap and take things from there. They say the same things to women all day and all night, and most of them don’t go for it, but some of them do.

If the woman ISN’T physically attractive to the guy, hahaha, that’s STILL not the same thing, because the element of intimidation isn’t there. If he’s not attracted to her, he’s not having sex with her, regardless of what she says, so it’s more like an annoying fly buzzing around. If she presses him, it’s the same situation as the bum in front of McDonalds. She’s going to have to back off, or there will be “consequences & repercussions”! πŸ˜€ (Eddie Murphy, “Life“)

The point is that many of the things that make women feel harassed, like a guy saying “hey baby” can’t really be understood by guys, because there’s no equivalent. Any pressure put on a guy is going to lead to self-defense. It all falls under the umbrella of ‘disrespect’, and will be dealt with accordingly. Women have too many examples of their own and from other women where a situation started out “just like this” and ended up in a really bad situation for them. The only way around this, IMO, is to increase male awareness about the intimidation aspect that women perceive in what they’re doing. I know guys that will go “hey ma” and “hey beautiful” and “you look good” etc etc ALL DAY, up and down the block… but if they see some guy actually harassing one of these women, they’ll beat the living tar out of him. This is because what they’re doing is SOCIALIZING. They’re making it known to the women in whatever style they use that they’re interested in them, and they’d like to spend some time with them. If the women aren’t interested, they keep going and that’s that. The guys doing it have ZERO bad intentions towards the women, but I’m sure a lot of them don’t connect their socialization style to the women feeling intimidated at all.

OTOH, there are lots of guys that act like jerks just because they can, to guys & girls alike, and they enjoy and abuse the advantages they have over women, so all you can do is “fight the good fight” of education, awareness and rarely, legislation.

HollaBack Girls 02

Having read the archives of HollaBackBOSTON, HollaBackNYC and HollaBackDC, that I found out about the other day and posted about… I gained more of an understanding of what their complaints are.

[Disclosure: Anyone who actually KNOWS me knows that there’s nothing I like more than an attractive chick, and I’ll be the FIRST one to check her out… regardless. :D]

The way I can empathize with what they’re saying is to consider bums that we have on the streets of NYC. For instance, you might have a bum standing outside of McDonalds, who has taken it upon himself to act as the doorman. As you go inside, he’ll hold the door for you and perhaps say something pleasant to you. On your way out, he’ll hold the door again, and then ask you for some change. That’s pretty annoying. First of all, it’s not like he has an actual JOB with McDonalds. Second, it’s not like you ASKED HIM to open the door for you either time. Third, you go to McDonalds all the time and open your own doors, so what in the world do you need HIM to open the doors for, and FOURTH, why would you choose to pay him for a service that you didn’t ask for. That’s a couple of levels more annoying than going to the bathroom in a restaurant or club and finding out that there’s some guy whose job it is to stand next to the sinks and hand you paper towels, and he expects you to tip him. πŸ˜•

The reason I see the bum @ McDonalds as a simliar situation is that he’s attempting to interrupt whatever you were doing, saying or thinking in order to try to get some money for you, totally to HIS benefit, and none to yours. This would be similar to the guy on the street that makes some complimentary statement to a woman so maybe he can ‘get on’ in the near future. The reason it’s NOT similar is that I’m a guy. I have all these fantastic, aggressive male options available to me, such as telling the bum to shut up or mind his business, saying I don’t have any change, or letting him know I take offense to him bothering me and if he keeps it up, I’m going to do something about it.

One difference is that many women are intimidated by male harassers and aren’t willing to attempt to get them to cease and desist. This makes sense, because most men like women that are smaller than they are, so they would be physically intimidating to the women. Another difference is that women can’t act like they don’t have what the guy wants. The fact that the guy has chosen to try to get some from her indicates that he’s already decided she has what he wants. The bum doesn’t know whether I have change on me or not. If I tell him I don’t have it, and he persists, there’s going to be a problem.

This is where I empathize with the HollaBack series the most, because a lot of the women who post there aren’t willing to do anything but talk to or about their harassers. Some guy says something or touches them or does something he knows damned well he shouldn’t be doing, and their only recourse is to talk about how ugly he is or how old he is or how out of shape he is or how badly he smells or how pathetic he is or how disrespectful to women….

The pattern is clear, though. In the vast majority of the cases, by the women’s own posts, the men didn’t give a damn AT ALL what the women thought or wanted, and they still don’t. This is something they understand, but they don’t seem to benefit from this knowledge. Knowing that the guys don’t care what they think or say doesn’t cause them to revise their complaints to a more efficient format that might bring about education and perhaps some degree of change. It’s the same reason why the porno industry is big business. The women look good, do what the guys want them to do, and have ZERO opinions about ANYTHING. It stands to reason that if you take someone whose only interest in women is how good they look and “what they’re good for”, and put him on the street and he does whatever he does, it’s not an effective retort to say stuff like:

“you’re old enough to be my father”
“you don’t even know me”
“your breath stinks”
“you’re disrespectful to women”
“would you treat your mother or sister like that?” (my personal favorite :D)
“have you no home training?”
[flipping the bird or cursing him out]
[some statement to him that she wasn’t “dressed sexy” at all]
“did I ask you to talk to me?”
“I didn’t give you any indication I was interested in you”
etc etc etc etc etc…….

I think HollaBack’s idea of the women taking pictures of the range of guys from pervs down to regular guys just trying to meet a woman he finds attractive is a good idea, although a dangerous one, for obvious reasons that I won’t bother to go into. Apparently they also give speeches and have other programs that they do. I think that’s great, because increasing education and awareness is key, IMO. They’re never going to outlaw guys trying to talk to girls… That’s just not going to happen. Society’s set up so that guys have to chase girls, period. That’s why guys court women and take them out to dinner and buy them drinks at the club, etc etc. It’s all an attempt to gain favor with her so he can eventually get whatever it is he wants from her… sex, a relationship, free food, a place to stay, money, whatever. Biologically, women are more of a commodity than men, simply by the incredible difference between how much sperm men have and continually create, and how few eggs women are born with and then they don’t get any more. It’s never going to be different, so the best bet is to increase awareness that women feel endangered when guys press up on them in the street.

So… With my new understanding of what the issues are for women being harassed in the street, I decided to take a walk tonight and pay attention to the interactions I had. I walked to a bar without incident. The male “doorman” checked my ID without incident. The female hostess greeted me without incident. I ordered my beer from the male bartender without incident. The few people that needed to get by where I was standing, some male and some female, excused themselves, I made way for them and they went by without extraneous comments. I left the bar without incident. I walked around the neighborhood some more, passing individuals, couples walking together and groups… no incident. I went into Barnes & Noble. I asked a woman there with a laptop if she was using a wireless connection. She wasn’t. I asked this guy behind the counter if B&N had wifi, he said yes, and got me a pamphlet on it. I thanked him and left. I ordered food from a female cashier and didn’t hear any extraneous remarks from her or from the waitress that was hanging out near the front of the place. I went to another store, then walked back home without incident.

Just about every one of those situations is mentioned in a story by some woman on those HollaBack sites, and I’m sure whatever other support groups that were created for this kind of thing. I can’t imagine how annoyed I’d be if every time I went to do something, someone tried to strike up a conversation with me or get something from me. For me, it would be like bums standing in front of every place that I want to go into and always asking me for change! πŸ˜€ Still, I can’t fully “get it”, because my aggressive nature makes me see situations like that as a challenge, not something intimidating. I don’t feel pressure… I just feel annoyed.

Anyway… Good luck to the HollaBack Girls. Some of the guys on those pages are legitimate creeps and need to be prosecuted. A lot of the guys are just “boys being boys”, and I can tell you, as one of the boys, a lot of them just don’t get it as far how the women feel physically intimidated by their street raps. A lot of guys aren’t going to care one way or the other, and they’re going to enjoy women as they see fit. I think that there are also a lot that would change their ways of being if they received some sort of education that what they consider flirtation and socialization is seen by many women as harassment and physical intimidation.