Skepticism

Rambling thoughts on sexism and annoyance

Man, I totally forgot that it was Tuesday, my day to post over on the SGU blog and cross-post here. Boy, do I have absolutely nothing. It’s mostly because I’ve had a rough few days, with nightmare commutes last night and this morning. Also this morning, before work, I was standing in a coffee shop quietly sipping a cup and looking out the window while waiting for my bus. I was wearing a short jacket, a skirt that comes to my knees, and boots that come up to the middle of my calves. I was feeling pretty good when I left the house, since the boots are brand new and I’m in love with them. They’re badass, with thick soles and long laces and metal studs. They look like they are made for kicking things you don’t like.

A man walked up to me and said something along the lines of “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.” He leered for a second, then turned and walked back to his seat. WTF.

It bothered me a little, not necessarily because I felt threatened – after all, it was in a public place during the day with lots of people around – but more because I knew he wanted to be threatening, and I knew that there are many women who would feel threatened.

We’ve discussed the problems with catcalling before on Skepchick, but it’s something I think about a lot. Most of the time, I really genuinely enjoy interacting with strangers. I like smiling at them, talking with them, making random people on the subway laugh. So if a stranger gives me a compliment, I accept it cheerfully.

Of course, this was not a compliment, nor was it intended to be. It made me wonder: is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded? And if not, is that just because of the fact that most men will always be more physically powerful than most women, or is it because as a society we still have a ways to go before we achieve true equality of the sexes?

I imagine that were the sexes reversed in my situation, a guy would just roll his eyes and turn away . . . which is exactly what I did. However, I think a guy in my situation wouldn’t have given it much more thought.

I’m curious how the women here react in situations like this. I considered leaving the coffee shop, but it was cold outside and I had a good ten minutes before the bus arrived. After thinking it over, I decided that I’d rather stay anyway, instead of being driven from a coffee shop by one inconsiderate jerk. So I stayed, drank my coffee, and ignored him completely. What would you have done?

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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234 Comments

  1. I stole my catch-all response to these guys from a wiser and gutsier woman: I hold up my pinky finger and look sympathetic.

    Quick, concise, and the meaning cannot be mistaken by any man. I’m telling him, “If you’re going to sexually demean me, I’m going to do it right back.”

    You’re right, Rebecca. The difference between a random, flirtatious comment and a demeaning, threatening taunt is hard to define, but it’s obvious to any woman who has experienced both.

    I figured out long ago that any sort of verbal response to the latter only gives the guy exactly what he’s after (your attention), yet I’m unable NOT to respond because to ignore it feels like I am accepting the behavior as something inevitable. So the pinky finger, for me, provides a satisfying alternative requiring minimal effort.

  2. That was way too creepy. I probably would have done the same as you, but, in my opinion, a sharp retort wouldn’t have been out of line. A sharp kick would have been better, but maybe not entirely appropriate.

    I can imagine a woman being able to say something pretty cutting and cruel that would make a man feel worthless, but not with the same ease as the reverse situation, and especially not with strangers. I think it’s because of both reasons you mentioned. That ease of casual degradation is built into our culture, and if you complain too much about it, you’ll get accused of it just being your problem.

  3. You did well. You thought of yourself first and did what was best for you.

    Another possibility–and I have done this to particularly egregious male aholes when I have been stressed to the limit by the difficulty of trying to function in a demeaning-to-women world–strut around the fool, tsking all the time, staring at his crotch, and say in a loud voice, what a tiny little dick you are.

  4. I think I would have done the same as you. I think it’s important not to dignify his actions with any reaction at all. I don’t think he was being threatening, in the sense of actual intent to do harm, but just wanted to act threatening for the entertainment of seeing your reaction. No reaction, no (or hopefully, less) incentive to keep doing it.

  5. As I tried to impress on my sisters, growing up; Men are Pigs.
    Obviously, I don’t have any real insight into how women would react to that situation, but I think you may be wrong about how men would if reversed. I think most of us would be telling people about it for days. “The weirdest thing happened to me in the coffee shop. I had on this new pair of Docs that were making me feel pretty cool and…”

  6. I had a guy approach me in a coffee shop once and say, “I find you extremely desirable.” To be fair I don’t think English was his first language, but I was having kind of a bad day, so I said loudly, “PLEASE GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALONE RIGHT NOW.” (Yeah, I did say “please”. What can I do? I’m Canadian.)

    I like interacting with strangers, too, even strange men (though I’m married and thus not in the hunt), but when a man says something like that it’s not because he wants to have a relationship or even a conversation with you. Either he wants to intimidate you or he’s seriously clueless.

    A man who wants to get to know you comes up with a lame excuse to talk to you – “Hey, nice hat,” or “Is that the latest Harry Potter book? How is it?” or “Have you tried the carrot cake muffins? Are they any good?” – and goes from there.

  7. Since it was a public place, I would have ignored him, too. Although later I probably would have vented to a friend and thought of a witty response that I *should* have said.

    @saganite: You’re right that by interacting with him, you’d be giving him what you want. And I’ll bet if she would have gotten angry and said something nasty he probably would have just said something like “Ooooh, and feisty, too!” or just made it seem like she’s the one with the problem.

  8. Not dignifying his leering with a response is the safe way to go. Someone acting in such a way is scum. A cutting remark like Logicel said would be good, but I like KristinMH’s response the best. It says, “Everyone l0ok over here and see the annoying pest!”

    Yeah, were the situations reversed, I’d have to with KristinMH’s, sans the “please”, since I’m an American bastard.

    I also, probably unwisely, say “Nope!” when panhandlers say “Hey, can I ask you something?”. People with legitimate questions or goods get straight to the point with “do you know how to get to this place?” or “fresh fish! We catch ’em, you buy em!” But I digress…

  9. @saganite: I like the pinky idea, very nice!

    @KristinMH: Your point about lame excuses (which I usually find very charming) reminded me of one of my favorite anecdotes. I was standing in line at the post office a few winters ago, waiting forever as everyone was mailing out and picking up Xmas packages, so I was in a bit of a bad mood. While rooting around in my bag, I dropped a mitten. An old man walked by, leaned down, and picked it up. Handing it back to me he said (with the best smile ever), “You know, in my day the ladies dropped handkerchiefs.”

  10. I had a roommate who used to shove a finger up her nose and start digging whenever she’d get catcalls or unwelcome comments from men – while completely ignoring the offender, of course. While not a retaliatory gesture, most guys found it very unexpected and it worked well to defuse the situation.

  11. @Rebecca:

    That old guy kicks ass. I bet you he gets ALL the GILFS.

    Oddly enough, I saw you this very morning… you were getting onto the very same train I was exiting, but one door up. And I noticed you were wearing the new boots, and was glad you made a good decision.

    Which is why I’m gonna agree with dezrah and say that you should have USED the boots. I’ve seen them, they’d have made the point quite well!

  12. I think you did the smartest thing. Dealing rationally with other people’s insecurities, especially men, is dangerous ground. The advantage you have in a coffee shop is the guy was probably sober.

    The only other approach I have seen work is a friend of mine when similarly approached responded loudly enough for all to hear, “I WILL NOT TOUCH YOUR PENIS, AND IF YOU ASK AGAIN I’LL CALL THE POLICE.” It worked that once. The guy scooted with haste.

    Speaking as a man I can honestly say that men suck. Even though I have never done such a thing nor ever would I can understand where the impulse comes from. This scares me more than a little.

  13. @Expatria: “Which is why I’m gonna agree with dezrah and say that you should have USED the boots.”

    I don’t know if you’re kidding, but what the guy did was likely not illegal. Assault certainly is. Creeps are not worth going to jail over.

  14. The guy was probably just trying to get a reaction from you, one way or the other. If you had taken him up on his presumed “offer,” most likely he would have slunk away, not sure how to handle such a forward woman.

    You handled it perfectly. Rolling your eyes let him know you didn’t take him seriously, and holding your ground showed you didn’t think he was worth worrying about. Not that any of those things consciously went through your mind. Being a strong woman, that kind of behavior is, I imagine, your default setting.

  15. Is there anything you can say to a strange man that’s as instantly demeaning as a threatening catcall is to a woman? The only thing I can think of would be something like, “Faggot.”

    Although the type of guy who would actually feel emasculated by that would probably hit you in response, and given male privilege in our society, you probably couldn’t make assault charges stick because you provoked him. Hooray.

    But that’s an interesting distinction, of course. What’s instantly demeaning to a woman is to call her a slut, i.e. a woman. What’s instantly demeaning to a man is, essentially, to call him a fag, i.e. a woman. (I’m going, here, by patriarchal gender roles where “woman” becomes essentially interchangeable with “semen receptacle” and male homosexuality is somehow effeminate despite the fact that there are no vaginae involved.)

  16. Know what I love? When I’m walking aroud the city and some dumbass guy stops in his car and asks, “Sweetie, do you want a ride? I can give you a ride, honey, it must suck walking!”

    This once happened once at 5:30am during the winter when it was pitch-black and no one else was on the road except me and the truck that rolled up behind me and stopped. (And this is only one example of many.)

    I MEAN COME ON!

    I was so pissed.

  17. After reading this I knew I had to put in my first post. “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.” WTF? Was there Disco Music playing in the background of this coffee shop or something? Did a time portal to the 70’s with a light up dance floor magically appear? Sorry that was probably the dumbest thing I ever read. Actually what I think you should have done is thrown your coffee in his face and say, “I’m Rick James B**ch!”. And I would just like to apologize for the stupidity of some men. BTW I love SGU and the Skepchicks keep up the good work.

  18. I live in Rio de Janeiro, in fact I lived here all my life. Here we have a very sexist, machist society, maybe less then in other location in Brazil but still this kind of approach is very common here, and it is even more common then you think since we are a much more sexual society.

    When I was a teenager there was a friend of mine that once got a rude “come on” when she was entering a bus. She had a Popsicle, and one of the cave man on the back, the part that in those times were before you pay, said “How I wished I were this Popsicle”, she answered right away, “for what? just to have a stick plugged on your ___?”. All the other neanderthals that were with him laughed at him and she simply passed to the payed sector.

  19. @Joshua:

    I might have elaborated on that and responded at somewhat greater length: “And you look like you like to suck dick!”

    (Yes, in an ideal world, that would not be an insult. There’s no crime in giving pleasure well, etc. But the recipient would take it as such, and it’s the sort of thing I could imagine myself saying if I’d been in the coffeeshop with Rebecca, particularly if I hadn’t had my caffeine yet. I’m not exactly temperate in the mornings.)

  20. When I was in high school, my bum was pinched during a firedrill. I’m a fight-not-flight kind of girl, so I turned around with my fist ready and yelled “What the f*ck!”. The guy took off running. These days I have to be cilvilized, so I just smile and ignore them. They annoy me, but it’s better than an assault charge.

  21. Eye rolls, looking disgusted, or just ignoring them are how I respond.

    So I was walking home a couple months ago all bundled up in scarf and hat because it was windy. Just as I was getting near the sleazy porn store that I have to walk past, a man who had just come out of said sleazy porn store approaches me and says, “Have you always been so beautiful?”

    Granted, not the worst thing to have yelled at you, but it didn’t escape me that he’d just come out of the SKETCHY PORN STORE so my knee jerk reaction was one of complete disgust that was written very very clearly on my face. So clearly that his response was, “Well, at least you made a funny face!”

  22. I find these sorts of comments so ridiculous that my immediate reaction is to laugh in their faces. It’s like the signs in the primate house at the zoo: “Don’t mock the baboons.” It’s not terribly different. These machismo guys don’t like looking stupid or being made fun of so laughing directly at them will be confusing and then infuriating. Go full on cackle and be sure to show your teeth!

  23. Upon waking each day, we will all encounter a significant number of imbeciles while navigating from here to there. To expect one’s day to be filled with mutually satisfactory interaction with sentient beings is unrealistic. People who accost strangers exhibiting some aberrant behavior are obviously suffering from a veritable cornucopia of mental issues that will not be etched away by the verbal application of caustic comments. Better to ignore such pests outwardly, while spending five-seconds finding inner peace in the absolute surety the cretin will one day dig a hole they cannot squirm out of.

  24. Being of non-female gender, I cannot imagine being on the receiving end of such comments/acts.

    In first-year law school torts class, you learn that it is not an assault on a person to ask them to engage in various intimate physical acts. For the species to continue, ultimately there is either a question or some other unacceptable option.

    While some of the above-discussion seems to suggest that the comments were objectively repulsive, are not they in-fact subjectively repulsive? Not to detract from the very real feelings induced by the question and the interpretation of the *look* – but it seems to me that for any person, it is possible to find an anti-person who can induce similar feelings by use of language and actions that others would either find innocuous and maybe some may find welcoming or seductive.

    In an alternate universe with an alternate person similarly dressed who in fact loves to freak and admires glances that some may consider as leering, the outcome could have been much more different and also differently-heated, perhaps?

    Bell-shaped distributions being what they are, the actual content of the verbal exchange seems to be irrelevant – isn’t what is important is understanding what to do when on the receiving end of such actions.

    The leer would seem to similarly treated as the verbal exchange. Mr. *Lech* is not a mind-reader who may want to meet women who love to freak and he could have intended to have provided an admiring glance (admiring that is to a person who in fact loves to freak). (Couldn’t he have?) (Is it wrong to ask this question?)

    How wrong and insensitive is it of me to think that this topic is largely subjective and that the real question is what to do when someone approaches you with what you perceive to be offensive language/action and there is no real objective measure of the offensiveness quotient of any exchange?

    Men can be pigs, no doubt about it.

    Y_S_G

  25. Malkavian2008 “After reading this I knew I had to put in my first post. “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.” WTF? Was there Disco Music playing in the background of this coffee shop or something?”

    Yeah, I wondered about that too. What does the verb “to freak” mean? I’m old and a bit out of touch so the first thing I thought of was the Thriller zombie dance. I’m guessing that’s not what he meant, though.

  26. The effectiveness of such comments against the large population of women is that in our culture we have created such a strong binding between a woman’s self worth and her appearance. It is an easy shot for a man to make as most women are sensitive to how they look in this culture. This is easy to take advantage of since “looks” can be evaluated so casually by even a stranger, whereas, other qualities cannot.

    I cannot think of something nearly as universal for men, though. A lot of men put their self esteem in their power or strength, though many geeks instead place it in their intelligence. A lot of fathers put their pride and self-esteem in providing for their family, but not every man is a father. And it would be hard to come up with an insult to affect that part of his self esteem without knowing him personally. Maybe if you saw a man in an unemployment line and made a comment about it.

    You could go for penis jokes or sexual prowess jokes, but the man would know that you know nothing about him in that regard. Though, it always leaves the ex-girlfriend with a way to humiliate a man in front of his friends.

    I think that other than how one looks sounds or smells, there is nothing that a stranger can make fun of about that person. So if your self esteem is only loosely tied to those easily evaluated attributes, a stranger hold no power over you in this manner.

  27. Yikes, I have a friend nicknamed Trouble. Whenever any male on the street cat-calls or says something intimidating to her she typically says something to the effect of, “women don’t appreciate it when you talk to them like that”, and it’s the way she says it. Not with contempt or scorn but rathier matter-a-factly. Like, “oh you poor retard, you don’t understand appropriate social interaction, let me correct you. ” As if no one informed her that those comments are to make women feel weak or vunerable. She is fearless. Also she says it loud enough so others can hear how this guy is being a complete douche bag. The only down side is that more than one guy has responded by threatening to punch her. She counters by getting more aggressive and not backing down herself. I could see how this could one day lead to problems.

  28. Whooo, that’s a complex question you raised there. Why is it that there’s not really anything a woman can say to a man to make him feel threatened?

    The typical physical strength differences are definitely a part of it: the “average woman” is not a threat to the “average man”. (It’s a little weird to abstract that on to “most women” and “most men”, given that I know a dozen women who could kick my ass at the drop of a hat, and I’m a better fighter than average… but that’s what happens.)

    However, there’s also a great deal of perceptional psychology going on. For example, many women perceive a verbally-threatening man as a likely rapist. There’s an odd mix of realistic fears (rape really does happen, and it’s horrible) and disproportionate perception (there aren’t rapists lurking around every corner, but it can feel that way).

    To top that off, there’s social education differences. Boys are mostly taught that the majority of threats are posturing, and that if they aren’t, they shouldn’t be afraid because it’s “unmanly”. Girls are taught that any man they don’t know is dangerous, and so these kinds of implied threats evoke a much more visceral response.

    And there are a myriad of other things that have an effect. This is a tough problem to lick, and it’s compounded by the real risk that any damaging verbal response on the part of the woman might escalate the situation.

    Better education for boys about treating women with proper respect (that is, the respect they show a peer) would help. More women with serious defensive capability would help. More men willing to assist and/or intervene in such situations would help dramatically. I’m not sure what would “fix” it except slow and comprehensive social change.

  29. Sorry to double-post, but I had an additional thought: why did everyone else in that area ignore that behavior?

    If my father had been there and I’d done nothing, he’d have smacked me upside my head for not getting involved when someone was being an asshole.

  30. @SkepGeek: All though I do have to say, I had a coworker in the military who had a saying, “If going up to random women and asking “do you wanna fuck” only works 1% of the time, then I just have to ask 100 women. ”

    I might have thought it was funny except for I had seen him and his kind in action. Harrasing alot of women until they finally found a women who was looking for that kind of attention.

  31. “is that just because of the fact that most men will always be more physically powerful than most women, or is it because as a society we still have a ways to go before we achieve true equality of the sexes?”

    Sorry if I’m being overly analytical, but isn’t saying something like the “true equality of the sexes” like someone saying they’re a “true christian”? “True” in most cases is an undefined defined absolute.

    True could mean absolute parity between genders, physical size and strength, both sexes can carry and birth a child and breastfeed it, no one (or everyone) wears skirts and high heels and women don’t grow their hair long and preen and put makeup on and shave their legs, etc, or at least the men do? There really wouldn’t be 2 genders at that point though.

    Or it could mean everyone treating everyone else the same, despite the stark differences between the genders, no gender typing from birth, and all occupations are equally populated with both genders, from Pro Football and computer programing to homemaking and prostitution? In a world like that, not being freely bisexual would probably be considered sexist.

    The bottom line is that there are differences between the genders, which is, quite frankly, kind of nice most of the time, but everyone has their own threshold at which noticing or acting on those differences becomes sexism. “Women can get pregnant” vs. “Women should get pregnant.” If you’re extremely religious, both of those statements are true and neither is probably very sexist to you, but if you’re not…

    Being female, you’re obviously going to have a broader definition of sexism than I would, but to me being sexist involves discrimination. Hitting on the opposite gender (which it sort of sounds like he was trying to do, maybe testing the waters a bit) isn’t sexism to me. It’s… well it’s just what people do isn’t it? (Clearly I am not an expert on hitting on women) I’m not defending the guy, but I think your problem with him wasn’t that he was being sexist, it’s that he was being a jerk. If he had said something nice about your boots, that would technically still be sexist, assuming that he wouldn’t have said anything if you were a guy wearing boots? and if you were a small guy wearing some pretty boots, it’s just as likely he might have said something as well. And if some giant woman who felt assured that you wouldn’t sock her one had come up to you and said the exact same thing, would that be sexist? Catty, sure, but sexist?

    Bleh, I’m thinking about it too hard. I’m going to give my brain a Charlie Horse. (Or a Charline Horse) Anyway, I don’t know what my point is. I’m rambling. I just caught the “true equality” line and my brain went off on a tangent – as it tends to do.

  32. @Dynotaku: Sorry, I thought it would be obvious that when I write “true equality,” I’m referring to, for instance, the ability of a woman to enjoy a cup of coffee without a man feeling the need to denigrate her. Not that men should suddenly start having babies.

    And no, that’s not just what men do. Barf.

  33. is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded?

    Yes, it has happened to me a couple of times. When my kids were much younger and I had been divorced from their mother I would often take them to a park near our house for them to play. They would be running around on the playground playing and I would be sitting watching. Three times I had women walk up to me visably upset and hostile and demand to know what I was doing at the playground. One even said she was going to call the police. I was almost always the only man at the playground. It always, well you know.

  34. @skepticalhippie: I don’t know that yourskepticalguy is in fact being sarcastic. As @Steve: already pointed out:

    There’s this weird quirk of nature that one of the most powerful motivators is sporadic success. It encourages gambling, good luck charms, superstitions and, unfortunately, really bad pick-up lines.

    So maybe what Rebecca interpreted as vile, lecherous and an attempt to intimidate, this guy viewed as an effective compliment and pick up line followed by confident appreciation. There really is no way of knowing for certain without hunting him down and getting an explanation of his words and actions.

  35. autotroph “Girls are taught that any man they don’t know is dangerous, and so these kinds of implied threats evoke a much more visceral response.”

    You ain’t just whistlin’ Dixie. When I was hitting puberty, my mother warned me that any guy might rape me if he got aroused enough, and I would be unable to stop him.

    As long as girls are subjected to a worldview in which it is assumed that all men are dangerous, and boys are taught that aggression – physical, verbal, and otherwise – is “manly”, I think that situations like Rebecca’s will continue to occur.

  36. @killyosaur42: I appreciate your willingness to give a third party the benefit of the doubt since he’s not here to defend himself. However, you’re wrong that none of us know what his intention was. None of us are mindreaders, but there are many times in life when one can deduce what another person is thinking based upon their actions. He was not trying to compliment me.

  37. In college, I had a guy make a stick figure drawing of what he wanted to do with me and give it to me during class. I just sat quietly and stared at my book. He never even spoke to me and I avoided him the rest of the quarter. If it happened now, I would respond by drawing a picture of him lying in a pool of his own blood.

    I don’t get approached…having 2 kids tagging along tends decrease one’s attractiveness to most men.

  38. Something I’ve noticed since moving to London – black guys will suck their teeth at me. It’s very odd. It’s shorthand for ‘hey baby you look good, I’d do you’, I think (hope), but I can’t decide if it’s more threatening or less threatening than an outright catcall.

  39. @killyosaur42: You know what, your right. This probably is really just a big misunderstanding, maybe by asking Rebecca if she likes to freak he was was just making small talk. Really this is Rebeccas fault. If she didn’t want random men asking her if she likes to freak then maybe she shouldn’t be wearing whore boots that give off the impresion that she is a women of weak morals and indeed likes to freak with random men.

  40. The Washington Post’s humor columnist (and skeptic) Gene Weingarten gave advice to a woman who got cut off in traffic by a guy who then “rolled down his window and said “F— you, you fat, disgusting, ugly pig!”

    His advice to the woman: “I’ve said this before: What you should have done is hold your thumb and index finger about an inch apart, and driven off. That’s it. Point made.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/discussion/2006/11/07/DI2006110700573.html

  41. It is hard for me as a rather mediocre looking male to imagine something akin to a cat call being made at me. I think once some girls drove by me roller-blading in college and honked their convertible, and I did like that. But that is just as likely to be a false memory in my case.

  42. That’s just… weird. The problem with reacting to him is that he has already demonstrated that he lacks basic social controls. In this way, he is potentially dangerous. Reacting could elicit a severely more aggressive attack.

    That being said, in a public place, sometimes being loud and honest works best. A very loud “I’m sorry, what did you just say to me? And you think that’s an appropriate thing to say?” such that it gets the attention of everyone around you might be enough to at least shame him and demonstrate that not all women are willing to put up with his BS.

  43. And another point that some of you may or may not find worthy of discussion: prior to the incident, I was planning to wear a similar outfit this weekend, but with the addition of a funny yet suggestive t-shirt. Now I’m thinking, should I not? Or do I wear it all proudly?

  44. @YourSkepticalGuy: Are you kidding me? There was no excuse for his behavior. None. He was a lech and an idiot and disgusting. Period. He wasn’t at a freak party. THEY WERE ON THE STREET.

    It’s intimidating and threatening. Obviously you’re not a woman, because you’ve never been leered at or catcalled by some man who thinks he has a right to do it, just because you’re a woman.

    And that’s what it is: These men think they have a right to say whatever they please to women because they are men. Period.

  45. What a boor… Obviously, this person was deprived a childhood role model on being a human.

    When I was a young teen, I once said something disrespectful to my sister within hearing of my father. He took me aside and explained that women experience certain situations very differently than men, that they might experience fear where a man might feel he is only trying to be funny. He calmly suggested if I was unable to understand the concept he was more than willing to manufacture a situation where I might experience physical intimidation. Magic! Without resorting to violence, or even raising his voice, I intuitively understood the message…

    In the future, I suggest you respond to a comment as follows:

    Idiot: “Girl, you look like you like to freak!”

    You: “Yes I do, but not with you…”

    –Boomer

  46. Skepgeek – I hear you. I spent most of my life astoundingly obese. And then I started running, and one day I was running, 150lbs less, no shirt, just shoes and shorts, and a truck full of 20-something women drove by and hooted. I had to stop and look around to see just who exactly they were calling out to. When I figured out it was me, it brought up a whole slew of emotions. I can’t imagine what it’s like for that to be a regular part of life.

  47. @Ezekiel: It’s weird in a sense that it SHOULD be weird, but it’s not weird because shit like this happens all the time.

    That’s why whe people say things like killyosaur42 implying that maybe they were just trying to compliment you, I want to start punching people. IT IS NOT A COMPLIMENT.

  48. Alternatively, simply turn away while making a shooing motion with a free hand — as if to shoo away an annoying insect.

    The bottom line, nothing you ever say or do to such an @ss will ever make him understand the depth of his ignorance.

    –Boomer

  49. @jules505: It doesn’t matter, jules. You can look completely frumpy and unwashed, and STILL get catcalled. It happens to me when I’m in sweats and a hoody and I’m wearing no makeup and you can’t even see my face. They can tell I’m female, so they take the opportunity to catcall.

    Again: These men aren’t trying to impress or compliment. They are trying to show their manly-manness. They do it because they think, as men, they have control over women and can say or do as they please, because they are men. Period. That’s it. It’s a way for them to say, “HEY I AM A MAN AND YOU ARE JUST A WEAK LITTLE GIRL HEAR ME ROAR!”

  50. @Rebecca:

    Screw em. Wear what you want. And ya know what? The more I think about it, the more I believe that simply acting like you have no idea what the guy wanted would have been the best approach…

    Dude: Aww baby, you look like you like to freak!
    Rebecca: What? What does that mean?
    Dude: Umm. I mean, you look like you like to get down!
    Rebecca: I’m not following…
    Dude: I’m saying you’re fly, you look fly…
    Rebecca: Fly? Like the bug?
    Dude: Aww, forget it!

    At least it would be an amusing situation. There are few more pleasing things than feigning ignorance of perfectly normal speech :)

    And I wonder what it says about my mental health that I’m imagining this conversation in a VERY similar manner to Anton Chigurrh’s conversation with the gas station attendant in No Country For Old Men… You should totally have pulled out a coin and had him call it!

  51. Well safety first. It’s pretty sad that women have to keep that in mind. For instance, if someone is crazy enough to make a comment like that to you, or say cut you off in traffic, or something to make you uncomfortable….they are looking for a reaction. Also, they are probably a little unbalanced in some way. No response is the safe response.

    That said, wear what you want to wear. ALWAYS. don’t let assholes influence what you wear. Let your cool friends influence you! Seriously, your sense of style rocks. You aren’t a bland American Eagle type woman and I like it.

    When I was in France with my young teenage daughter… it was very interesting. Men actually meow. No really, they make a cat sound. On the Eiffel Tower a worker there came over to me and told me “you have a very beautiful daughter”. But oddly, it was all in a sense of fun. She would blush and laugh, but no one was over the top. Simply a “looking good girl” but in French. Mind you, mom was right there. What I found funny is that didn’t stop anyone!

    I do have to say that I went with this same daughter to a specialist doctor yesterday. The doctor came in the room and said “oh, now is this your sister? Oh your mom! Wow, your mom is very young looking.” At my age, yes I will even take that lame a compliment! (The doctor was in his early 60’s, and after that compliment to me he looked HAWT).

  52. And the ONLY thing that may make a man feel even slightly as uncomfortable is if you call him a “faggot” but even then it’s just a taste, since it means they have to be a homophobic bigot anyway, so they likely feel just as offended by teh gays on a daily basis.

    I think only gay men can sympathize, and only in certain situations.

  53. @kittynh: They actually aren’t necessarily looking for a reaction. Most catcallers just want to show off their big penis (which is likely tiny). If you DO react, they tend to shut up, because they don’t expect a reaction. Not always, but most of the time.

    Still, safety first. Just don’t react.

  54. @Rebecca: I would need more details to give you my opinion. For the most part women have the right to wear what they want and not be harassed. However, women who wear a shirt that says “look at my tits when you’re talking to me” shouldn’t be offended to find men staring at her tits.

    So when you look at my last comment compared to this one I’m a giant hypocrite, and I’m fine with that.

  55. @skepticalhippie: If I wear a low-cut shirt, I’m aware that people will glance at my tits. I totally do that too — nice tits/cleavage are hard to ignore! But there is a HUGE difference between an appreciative glance and a leer. HUGE. It’s almost always easy to know the difference.

    If you’re wearing a shirt that says “LOOK AT MY TITS!” then yeah … don’t get pissed when someone is lookin’ at your tits. But it’s unfair to us (as women) that we can’t even go outside sometimes without getting catcalled and leered at.

  56. @Rebecca: I’m referring to, for instance, the ability of a woman to enjoy a cup of coffee without a man feeling the need to denigrate her.

    I guess my point was that it didn’t seem sexist, just jerky. I was off on a tangent there, sorry.

    @marilove: Obviously you’re not a woman, because you’ve never been leered at or catcalled by some man who thinks he has a right to do it, just because you’re a woman.

    I guess if you’re a woman, getting cat-calls all the time is tiring and possibly threatening, but if you’re a a guy and a woman does it to you… well, I’ll let you know if it ever happens, but I assume it’d be kind of nice every once in a while.

  57. @Dynotaku: “A man walked up to me and said something along the lines of “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.” He leered for a second, then turned and walked back to his seat. WTF. ”

    And who in their right mind would say that isn’t sexist?! What is not sexist about it? Not only did he feel it was his right to walk u pto her, but he felt it was her right to be sexually suggestive to her, and he also felt it was his right to leer at her. And call her “girl” to boot.

    Not sexist? What?

  58. @marilove: Oh yeah, totally agree, but this does bring up another question that’s always made me wonder. Don’t you think there’s a continium of minding ones own business to getting attention? And somewhere along the line there might be some confusion?

    Not defending the douche bag in Rebeccas story as that is out and out intimidation. But you can’t say that you haven’t experienced, or at least witness a ugly guy leer at a girl and it caused a look of disgustion and then a hot guy leer at a girl and it caused her to smile and blush.

  59. @Dynotaku: I remember one time (I was mid-20s at the time) walking down the street late at night and a car full of women cruised by, leering and catcalling. I was the only one walking there and theirs was the only car on the street, so it was obviously intended for me. I was so startled, I didn’t know how to react. I can’t say that I felt either complimented or threatened. It was just …weird. I think my first thought was “Oh, they’re drunk.”

  60. @Steve: I think it’s different for men because men aren’t completely talked down to like they are children, they aren’t told when they can and cannot have children, they aren’t thought of as “the other” all the time, etc. We live in a patriarchal society, so when a man gets catcalled or leered at, it’s out of the ordinary and maybe funny, but it’s not out of the ordinary and never funny when it happens to a woman.

  61. @Steve: Ha!

    Any time I’ve had a similar experience my first thought has either been “Oh, they’re drunk…” or “Hmm. They’re being ironic. My self esteem’s bad enough already without you, jerks!”

    I think there’s a big difference between being hit on and being catcalled, and being catcalled is basically almost never pleasant. It’s a demeaning thing for men and women alike.

    Now, as for being hit on randomly…that’s another story!

  62. My boyfriend is a feminist (I wouldn’t date a man who wasn’t) but he still wasn’t prepared one day when we were coming home from dinner and a jeepful of douchbags pulled up and said, “Nice ass!” and when he turned around and told them to shut up, they laughed at him.

    He was much more upset than me. He had never been made to feel so worthless and powerless. There was nothing he could do. His words didn’t affect them and they just sped away. He even snapped at me when I tried to comfort him. I’m used to it, of course, but I usually still feel cold and a little fearful inside when it happens.

    Once, when I as in a really bad mood (new shoes were cutting my feet and I wanted to get home but every step was torture) a group of men going the other way stopped and one of them started leering at me. Normally I’d sink inward and just keep going, but this time I whipped out my keys and brandished them and screamed, “Shut up!” He winced and I spun around and left.

    I don’t know how he took it because I never looked back. I kind of regret losing my temper, but it doesn’t excuse that he tried to make me feel small and vulnerable because he thought there was nothing I could do about it.

  63. @skepticalhippie: “Don’t you think there’s a continium of minding ones own business to getting attention?” I’m not sure what you mean here? Because the ones doing the leering and catcalling should be minding THEIR own business.

    And yes, I will admit that sometimes there is a difference if it’s an ugly guy vs. a good looking guy, but also context matters. I’ve gotten COMPLIMENTS from complete strangers (male) — ugly, good-looking, old, whathaveyou — that were not offensive nor what I would call leers or catcalls. I’ve gotten LEERS and CATCALLS from good looking men just as I have ugly men, and both make you feel just as uncomfortable.

    Walking up to a girl and saying, “Hi, my name is Jeff, and I just wanted to say that you have a great smile” is not a leer or a catcall and it’s not what we’re discussing right now. (Though even then it can be annoying because sometimes you just don’t want to interact with people, but it’s not the same “grosssssss” feeling you get after you’re leered at.)

    AAAAND, there are a lot of women who think catcalls and such ARE compliments — because hey, they are getting attention about their looks so it must mean they are worth something! They AREN’T compliments, but some women do find them to be, and that’s troublesome in itself and just another example of our patriarchal society — a woman’s worth is based on her looks first and foremost.

  64. @marilove: I guess what some of the fellas are saying is that we should be grateful that they’ve honored us with their attention and smile and say thank you like good little ladies. I mean, aren’t we all just waiting for someone to compliment us on our bootyliciousness and doability? I for one definitely need the constant reminders that I’m just here for the enjoyment of others, otherwise I might get thoughts in my head and do stuff other than preen and get ready for someone to give me a baby.

    Conversations like this always remind me that “skeptic” does not automatically mean “with-it”.

  65. And to make the distinction between a compliment and a catcall, I got on the streetcar one day, feeling miserable and looking, I thought, like a drowned rat and this young guy wearing a hat saw me as I was taking a seat and tipped his cap to me with a polite smile. It made me feel awesome.

  66. @Eliza: So so so so so spot-on.

    @Cola: Those are always great! It’s a polite acknowledgement, and that’s it.

    Once I was in McDonald’s re-reading “East of Eden” and some old, old dude came up and said, “Wow, I wish other young people would take the time to read such great literature outside of class!” I smiled and said, “Thank you!” and he said, “You have such a nice smile!” nodded his head, and took off.

    I dunno why, but that made my damn day.

  67. @Cola:

    My boyfriend is a feminist (I wouldn’t date a man who wasn’t) but he still wasn’t prepared one day when we were coming home from dinner and a jeepful of douchbags pulled up and said, “Nice ass!” and when he turned around and told them to shut up, they laughed at him.

    See, the correct response in that case would have been for him to say “Thank you!” instead of “Shut up!” The assholes know how to react to aggression from another man, but not that kind of emasculation.

  68. Compliments don’t invade your mental and physical space. I once had a guy say, “You have the most beautiful eyes” as we passed each other on the street. He didn’t stare, he said it in a casual friendly manner, and he kept walking. That was really nice.

  69. @Eliza: I must be careful not to speak for other men, but I think the inappropriateness and rudeness of the action is not in dispute. But I would not be as quick to judge this person’s intentions as some. I doubt that he thought about his remark much, and I am not so sure he was consciously trying to intimidate or express his power over Rebecca (I was not there of course and am speculating to a degree).

    And even though intimidation is the effect of much of this cat-calling (which I readily agree is rude and inappropriate), I don’t know that it is often the desired effect. I think of it as a modern version of the chimp masturbating at another chimp that arouses him; crude, disgusting and rude, but unlikely done with malice.

  70. But just to clarify… you do like to freak don’t you? Because I worked real hard with the Bedazzler on a pair of cut-off denim hot pants that say “Supa-Freak” in rhinestones across the seat, and well, turns out they don’t go with any of my outfits, and I was going to give them to you.

  71. @SkepGeek: Oh, please. Stop defending this behavior. It’s sexist and disgusting and they KNOW it is. You don’t leer at and make sexually explicit comments to strange women on the street unless you are trying to exude power over them and show that since he’s a man, he’s boss.

    Please.

  72. @SkepGeek: And Eliza made some great comments and you completely missed them. It doesn’t have to do JUST with intimidation. It has to do with the fact that these men think they have a right to say and do these things, because we, as women, are only their for their pleasure. Period. That’s it.

    You don’t walk up to a strange woman on the street and say disgusting, sexually explicit things if you think they are equal to you.

  73. Obviously as a woman you can’t actually be alone anywhere, ever, and be remotely dressed up without the threat of harassment hanging over your head. You are also not allowed anything that shimmers, because it interferes with your brain waves. Its, like, science. duh.

    I go back and forth with the whole issue of wear this, and I’ll get looked at like I’m a piece of meat. I usually go by mood. If I’m getting dressed and know I have a busy day where I might be all frazzled and kill someone who leers at me, I usually go to the side of caution. On the other hand, I should be able to wear any darn thing I want because I like it, and not for anyone else’s enjoyment. I’m a girl, and on occasion I like to wear shimmery eye makeup or pants with crazy embroidery on them. There’s a HUGE difference between leering or being creepy and giving a nice compliment. Being a whole person who both likes to think, and likes sex, I like the occasional compliment. I just want to be seen as a whole person, not a glorified blowup doll for someone else’s enjoyment.

    Sorry for the semi-rant, this whole issue just stirs up some strong feelings.

  74. @marilove: Who’s defending cat calls? My point was that sometimes women get dressed up to get noticed, and then not appreciate who’s noticing them.

    Elevator eyes from guy A might be seen as leering vs elevator guys from guy B is him checking me out.
    But anyway, it’s a stupid point so I digress.

    @Eliza: as marilove said “there are a lot of women who think catcalls and such ARE compliments — because hey, they are getting attention about their looks so it must mean they are worth something! ”

    So go ahead and take it up with those women, I don’t think me or any other guy on this blog think you should be “honored” by disrespectful attention.

  75. Skepgeek- I agree that one should be careful not to so quickly attribute to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence. If I may step briefly into the world of vast, sweeping, generalizations, the fact is the world is populated in many ways with a species of human known as “morons.” Not all of these morons are mean spirited, they’re just, well, morons. Regardless of their intentions though, what you receive from them is ultimately (to a large degree) what matters. Clearly, aggressive male displays are not appreciated, by the general populace..

    What I do like hearing here are the examples of the compliments that weren’t creepy or bizarre.

  76. @marilove:

    I don’t defend it. I think I make that clear. you are making a strawman there.

    I am simply playing devil’s advocate because I don’t buy your explanation for the behavior (“trying to exude power”). At least I doubt it is always the case, and I am surprised by your certainty.

    Neither of us agrees that the behavior was appropriate, and we both agree he probably knew better. I just am not so ready to assume I know why he did it.

  77. There both is and is not a continuum between compliment and catcall.

    There is NOT a continuum inasmuch as that, as the ladies have noted, dignified people see a bright line between the two. No matter how sexually attracted I am to a woman (which is often a lot), I understand that an overtly sexual remark, even one with zero aggressive posturing, is never an appropriate way to introduce myself, whatever the context.

    There IS a continuum as well because there are (alas) both men and women who think such behavior is macho/sexy/acceptable/whatever. And so, as some lads have pointed out, such behavior persists because, unfortunately, sometimes it works. that is the fault of both the men who do it and the women who buy it (…but mostly the men).

    It is the task of those of us who see the bright line to not put up with those who don’t. That doesn’t mean we always have to confront them directly, because that’s sometimes dangerous. But it means, at the very least, that we not temper our convictions by providing excuses for that behavior.

    Even if, as I very much doubt, Rebecca’s oaf thought his line would turn her on, that would make no difference to me.

  78. @skepticalhippie: “Who’s defending cat calls? My point was that sometimes women get dressed up to get noticed, and then not appreciate who’s noticing them. ”

    Um, what? Women like to dress however they want (sometimes that means dressing up!), without worrying that someone will “appreciate” them with leers and catcalls. And women don’t always “dress up” because they want to “be appreciated”.

    These attitudes have a LOT to do with our patriarchal society.

  79. @molly: i know right? it’s totes not malicious to make unwated, sexually explicit comments to a woman you don’t know on the street!

    @SkepGeek: “I am simply playing devil’s advocate because I don’t buy your explanation for the behavior (”trying to exude power”). At least I doubt it is always the case, and I am surprised by your certainty.”

    Yeah, it kinda is about trying to exude power. Feminism 101.

  80. @SkepGeek: And, I repeat, a man does NOT walk up to a strange woman on the street and make intimidating, sexually explicate and disgusting remarks if he thinks she is her equal. Period!

    Would you ever do that? No, you would not. Know why? Because I know you respect women and I know you think they are equal to you.

    That man does NOT respect women and he does NOT think they are equal to him.

  81. @marilove:
    Because of delays between starting and posting a response, I did not see #93.

    I think you are absolutely correct there. You don’t say things like that to a person if you think of them as having same value as a human being as yourself.

  82. @SkepGeek: Exactly! And a lot of men don’t. I didn’t say “most” because I think there are a lot of awesome men out there, but a LOT of men think they are superior to women. And the only reason a man will catcall a women is if he thinks he is superior to her, and thinks she is not his equal (that and because he wants to show off his manly-ness to his friends).

    Catcalling is always sexist and always wrong.

  83. I think I’ve calmed down a little since my first post. He was probably thinking that he’d really like to talk to Rebecca, but knew how boring a person he really is. Instead he decided to go back to what he learned in the schoolyard where he’d push a girl and then run away hoping that she would chase him. Basically immature and insecure.

    @Rebecca: As long as the T-shirt doesn’t say “I Like to Freak.”

  84. @Chew: Are you kidding me? I explained above that there is a difference between a glance (because we have eyes and it’s hard not to notice nice cleavage!) and leering. Just becuase I wear a fucking low cut shirt does not mean suddenly you have a right to leer at me or make disgusting remarks. That’s like saying, “She wore slutty clothing, she deserved to be rape!”

    How ’bout the men take responsibility for their eyes and mouths?

  85. @SkepGeek: You’re welcome. I know as a (straight) man it’s kind of hard to understand, and also you have the double bonus of being a reasonable human being, and you respect women, so you’d never do what the man described did.

    That feminism 101 site is actually really good at explaining things! I’ve sent it to other guys and suddenly they went “OH OH OH I GET IT!”

  86. @Chew: Also, as a woman with rather large breasts, it is very hard to find shirts that don’t make them obvious. So, because my breasts are so obvious (and downright obscene in a turtleneck! It’s like “HELLO BOOBS!”), I am asking to be stared and leered at? REALLY?

  87. @marilove: You said there was a huge difference between a glance and a leer and it’s easy to know the difference, but you didn’t explain what the difference was. 1 second? 1 minute?

    And I have the right to leer at anything I want.

    @SkepGeek: But if I ask for help, will you cover my back?

  88. @ Chew: if you would be pissed if someone looked at your sister or mother like that, then it is a leer.

    It is also a well known fact that leering is the natural, unavoidable result of being a creepy bastard. (Other symptoms include social and erectile dysfunction.)

  89. I only read through the first 50 responses, but although I love the idea of the pinky or saying something denigrating … you really do have to be careful. I’ve generally stood up for myself, and loudly, but one time I was physically attacked in Sweden for doing so. On a subway. The Swedish males around me just looked away as the guy started smacking me with, get this, his newspaper. It was totally surreal, but also reminded me that if he’d chosen to use his fists, he could have. Apparently nobody was going to help me.

    Sometimes it just sucks being a woman. I do not think all men are pigs, or most men, just a small percentage. But it can be really, really hard to be a woman. I was totally freaked out after the Sweden incident, and I had the whole rest of the continent to get through … by myself.

    The idea of you not wanting to wear that outfit again makes me want to cry. I totally get it, I’d feel the same way, but what awful power that guy has.

    One idea (if it happens again, and I sure hope it doesn’t) is to go tell a manager, or someone who has the power to help out. I’ve done this at my gym, where I get unwelcome attention from time to time. It’s worth it to me not only to get the guys to stop bugging ME, but to think twice before bugging *any* woman.

  90. There are three things I’d like to pull out of this discussion for a quick consideration as I think they are too easily confused and conflated:
    1) Catcalls are offensive and inherently threatening
    2) the individual making a catcall know that they are threatening

    I will readily agree that number 1 is accurate, any man so treating a woman is engaging in an inherently threatening activity but I do not know that 2) follows from this. Engaging in an act does not necessarily entail knowledge of the consequence of that act. If men are socially conditioned, as I think many are, to believe that such activity is both welcome and rewarded then he may have no cause to recognize the behaviour as unwelcome and threatening. I have talked to more than a few guys who earnestly believe that women appreciate this sort of attention; I have also spoken with many women who earnestly claim to appreciate this sort of attention. Given such a situation it is unfair to assume that any man acting in a way that is threatening is in fact aware that he is being threatening. For men who fail to make such a recognition, education rather than villification is appropriate. It’s possible that this coffee shop guy felt that his statement was appropriate and non-threatening. However, this is not to say that there are not men who are fully aware of the social dynamic of their statements and utilize them for precisely the sort of power play that Marilove is referring to. These guys are toads and despicable ones at that; education is lost on them the boot may be an appropriate reaction. Not being there myself I’m inclined to accept Rebecca’s assessment that the guy intended to be threatening. This is inexcusable but it is not universally the case.

  91. @marilove: It’s not about making a compliment. It’s about power. Men catcall because they think, as men, that they have the right to say and do whatever they want to women. Period.

    I guess I wouldn’t know as I’ve never done that to a stranger. I mean, I’ve done it to female friends, and actually I’ve done it to male friends if they get really dressed up, but it was always meant, and taken to be harmless.

    @marilove: Walking up to a girl and saying, “Hi, my name is Jeff, and I just wanted to say that you have a great smile” is not a leer or a catcall and it’s not what we’re discussing right now.

    But would you consider it sexist? He most likely wouldn’t have paid her the compliment if she was a guy, right? That’s sexist if you’re being literal. Or is it only sexist if it’s mean?

    @marilove:And who in their right mind would say that isn’t sexist?! What is not sexist about it? Not only did he feel it was his right to walk u pto her, but he felt it was her right to be sexually suggestive to her, and he also felt it was his right to leer at her.

    In this case I just don’t see the difference between being sexist and just being a jerk. It’s just in this case he was being a jerk to a woman.

    @marilove:And call her “girl” to boot.

    Not to be pedantic but she is a girl, right? I don’t know maybe that is sexist, if a guy or girl walked up to a guy and said “those boots make you look like a stud/fag/trollop guy.” is that sexist? Or are you putting emphasis on the age group that’s implied by calling someone a girl as opposed to “young lady” or “woman”? I guess in that case it’s… ageist. To me girl/lady/woman all mean ‘female’. It wouldn’t occur to be to be offended if someone called me ‘boy.’ I’d be thinking that “yes in fact, I am male.”

    I’ll shut up now, I obviously don’t see it from the same angle that you do, but in my defense, I’ll say that I’m white, male, atheist, skeptic, carnivorous, heterosexual and probably a few other things that all add up to mean that it’s basically impossible to offend me, (what could someone say? “God is a lie!” “Right on brother!” or “Meat is murder!” “Yeah, delicious murder!”) so I’ve never been in that situation. Also I’m a fairly big guy so there are very few times in my life that I’ve felt like I was in danger or intimidated. Clearly our world views are somewhat different.

  92. @marilove: No, I just really like boobs.

    @Eliza: My sister has been leered at many times. When I tell her someone is staring at her rack, she takes the appropriate action (ignores them, ridicules them, exchanges phone numbers, etc).

    @sylvan.nak: I was on a train in Japan when a drunk sat next to my friend’s wife and started touching her. My friend and I were talking and didn’t notice what was going on when an off-duty cop grabbed the guy and beat the snot out of him until the next train station then threw the guy off, bowed and apologized to my friend’s wife for his fellow countryman’s behavior. Chivalry? Gallantry? I doubt it. It’s more likely the cop was embarrassed that a fellow Japanese would behave that way to a foreigner and besmirch his nation. Ain’t Sweden supposed to be a great place to live?

  93. @ Dynotaku: >> Not to be pedantic but she is a girl, right? I don’t know maybe that is sexist, if a guy or girl walked up to a guy and said “those boots make you look like a stud/fag/trollop guy.” is that sexist? <<

    I don’t mind being called “girl” in the right context, but it can be used in an insulting manner. If you were a black man and someone called you “boy,” you’d have a problem with that, I imagine.

    Context and intention are really important. If someone says something with the intention of offending and intimidating, that changes the meaning of their words, right?

    We’re talking here about someone who clearly intended to upset, belittle, and intimidate, and that’s where “girl” became a problem (on top of everything else he did). Something offensive becomes sexist if it’s tied into someone’s sex.

  94. @Eliza: @marilove: What if I’ve been drinking, is leering still me exuding my power over women in an attempt to establish my dominance over you and put you in your place? Because honestly, I don’t even know that I’m doing it. I mean after a couple beers I catch myself leering and looking at boobs way longer than I should. I admit it, four beers in me and I’m a leerer.

    I know I shouldn’t, it’s not right, and I need help. Just…not… right…now.
    So to all women, past and future. I apologize. My lingered gaze upon your chest was in no way an attempt to uphold the patriarchal society in which we live.

  95. @sylvan.nak: If you were a black man and someone called you “boy,” you’d have a problem with that, I imagine.

    I guess if I had received the newsletter telling me that I was supposed to be offended by it. I wasn’t aware that was in insult.

  96. @ skepticalhippie: Thanks for apologizing in advance, and we apologize in advance for kicking you with Rebecca’s boots.

    Actually I have some sympathy for the biology involved in boob-staring; even I catch myself glancing too much at women’s boobs if they are more eye-catching than most. I’m used to eyes dropping to my boobs (even women do it if the shirt is cleavegey) so it doesn’t really bug me unless the gaze lingers too long. It’s polite to avoid boob-gazing, and if you can’t control yourself something’s wrong with you.

    If someone is drunk I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. The leer on the other hand? No slack cut for you on that. Leering is just creepy. Get out the boots.

  97. @sylvan.nak: Are you an American black man? I wasn’t aware anyone *didn’t* know how insulting that was.

    No, I’m whiter than bleach. I guess that’s just never come up around me. And no I’m not being silly. Well, okay maybe a little, but the idea that the word ‘boy’ is a racial epitaph blows my mind.

  98. @skepticalhippie:
    read this. Read it? good. Where in my statement did I ever say what Rebecca should have done in this situation or that what this guy did was the RIGHT thing to do? I was just discussing the possibility that based on the prior given information, that there was something of a miscommunication. I even quoted Steve’s position that there are those who do and say stupid things because they believe them to be effective when they are not. Getting all emotional about it isn’t really going to move the conversation forward, nor help us to better understand possibly what his motives might have been. However, in the much more rational response from Rebecca, she made it pretty clear that there were other factors of which I would not be aware of because I was not there, that suggested to her that it was an attempt to intimidate. I figured that since I will not likely ever get both sides to this story (and this is one of those instances where such a thing does have merit) I will have to concede to the facts as presented. I’m just not willing to take everything I hear as some kind of absolute truth, even when it comes from someone I respect.

    @marilove: Never said he wasn’t (though then there’s this quote from A Beautiful Mind:

    Nash: I find you very attractive. Your aggressive moves toward me indicate that you feel the same way. But still, ritual requires that we go through a number of platonic activities before we
    [brief pause]
    Nash: have sex. I’m simply proceeding with those activities. But in point of actual fact, all I really want to do is have intercourse with you as soon as possible. You’re gonna slap me now.

    so it is possible that he just has no social graces whatsoever).

  99. My impression is that the difference between a “look” and “leer” is not a function of the length of time spent looking, but of the expression on the looker’s/leerer’s face.

    That is, there’s a difference between staring at someone’s boobs and leering: both can be obnoxious, but the second becomes somewhat threatening by including a “What are you going to do about it?” attitude.

  100. @Joshua: I disagree, I’m just playing “Devil’s Advocate” here but I feel that sometimes people take strong stances on things they haven’t really thought out. So I challenge their believes in an attempt to understand there position better, even though I may not actually have a strong opinion one way or another.

    Nay, your right, I’m just an asshole who likes to argue with people.

  101. @Dynotaku: I wouldn’t call it a “racial epitaph” exactly. A long time ago it was used to refer to adult black men. Watch “North by northwest”. Cary Grant is in a hotel and calls down to the front desk and asks them to send the “house boy” up to his room. A few minutes later a 50 yo black man comes to the door! In “Casablanca”, Ingrid Bergman asks the waiter to ask the “boy” playing the piano to come see her. Nowadays the word is incredibly condescending.

  102. @marilove: I was implying that the GUY THOUGHT IT WAS A COMPLIMENT not that it was a compliment or in anyway a good thing to say. That is what I got from YourSkepticalGuy’s post, that one person’s perception of what is and isn’t an appropriate thing to say to another is not always what other’s view as appropriate, and that there is the possibility that much of how we view certain phrases are generally a result of the culture we grow up in. I, like he, merely used this particular idiot as an example of where that might be. Like, and I will preemptively invoke Godwin’s Law here, protecting the rights of Neo-Nazis to protest, march and print their insidious and often hateful ideas in a public space where there might be Jews, even holocaust survivors. But as previously mentioned, based on things such as certain body language that is difficult to put into words in a post, leaving me with just what was available, and nothing further for evidence to work with.

  103. I have a tendency to either start snorting, like I’m trying to suppress laughter, then resorting to outright guffawing and asking them to repeat themselves, then telling them to go away.

    It does seem to take the wind out of their sails.

    Granted, the first time this happened it wasn’t on purpose, it’s just that what the guy said WAS really funny, however unintentionally.

    Only once have a I had to resort to pulling out the straight razor I carry with me at all times then going completely stone-faced and saying, “No, really. Go the fuck away now.”

    A friend broke the finger of a guy who reached out to touch her hair after catcalling her and trying to get her to talk to him. When the guy brought the cops back, and the cop got her side, he told the guy he was lucky she hadn’t broken something else and asked her if she wanted to press charges.

  104. @killyosaur42: Look, we may have to “agree to disagree”, it’s just that given Rebecca’s original description it was clear to me, and just about everyone else, that what the guy did wasn’t, “[viewing it] as an effective compliment and pick up line followed by confident appreciation.” but rather, as marilove correctly put it, well, she correctly put it in a lot of ways but basically it was meant to harass her. But, granted, you don’t see it that way. We agree to disagree.

  105. @ Carbon: >> That is, there’s a difference between staring at someone’s boobs and leering: both can be obnoxious, but the second becomes somewhat threatening by including a “What are you going to do about it?” attitude. <<

    Well said! I was trying to figure out how to explain the difference, too. Again, it comes down to intentions. A glance that you can’t help because evolutionarily speaking, our eyes are drawn to breasts … that’s one thing. No ickiness intended, and 90% of the time the owner of the breasts can tell.

    A leer is intended to threaten, challenge, or engage the breasty person in some icky way. And 90% of the time we can tell the difference.

    Someone like John Nash, who was cited earlier — he was NUTS. Not just personality-challenged, but completely schizophrenic. An outlier. Someone like this may not be able to help themselves, in which case they shouldn’t be blamed; but they ought to be medicated. And if they’re going to get aggressive, they ought to be removed from the rest of us.

  106. Rebecca: I appreciate you posted this. There have been so many times when I thought of a more appropriate reaction much too late. Then, I am beside myself thinking about my reaction – I always get preoccupied with that kind of stuff. Once, when I was about 15, in the next town at a mall with my friend, we were harrassed by two older girls, complete strangers, who flicked a cigarette in our face. It was humiliating and I obsessed over it for months. So, it isn’t just men who do this – women do it too as a power play.

    However, I interpreted this douchebag’s comment as an expression of his feeling of intimidation by a strong, independent woman. You didn’t fit his idea of a submissive broodmare slave – he didn’t like that. You might feel proud at how you made such an impact on him. You SCARED him.

  107. @ GeekGirlsRule: I wouldn’t carry a straight razor. It could get used against you. I’d carry pepper spray and/or a whistle. When I lived in Scotland, I had a friend who carried a “scream,” which was this little device that emitted an incredible loud, shrill sound. She used it on more than one occasion as we’d be walking home from the pubs. It worked very well.

  108. Ok so before this became a discussion about whether or not this kind of thing is appropriate you asked what could be done. So here is my personal recommendation:

    Find another women in the shop. Quickly explain what happened and ask for her assistance. The two of you then walk up near to this individual and proceed to have a conversation based mostly on his looks. This conversation should not be too loud except when pointing out any sort of abnormality. That should be said just loud enough to be heard, pointing and giggling would likely also be effective. If safe and possible following outside as he leaves, with any luck he drives a shit box, and again pointing, giggling, and rude comments just loud enough to be heard.

    Just my opinion.
    As far as appropriate, it is not the polite thing to do. And the maybe the world could use a little more of that these days.

  109. @Dynotaku: The use of the word “boy” goes back to slavery, when all black men, of any age, were called “boy” in order to demean them and make them feel subhuman. I’m going to take it as a sign of progress that everyone doesn’t know this. Maybe it’s sliding into esoteric history.

  110. If I have to, I have no problems using the straight razor. Been raped, no desire to go through that again.

    Also, pepper spray can be used against you as well.

    I also bench press buicks (ok, not literally, but you get the idea) so I’m fairly confident in my ability to defend myself now that I’ve broken the conditioning that says I shouldn’t.

  111. @bug_girl:
    More than 110% sure. That will never happen to me again.

    And a lot of thought went into the selection of straight razor over any other sort of bladed weapon. It definitely gives me a psychological advantage because it is so jarring and frightening to most people.

    I don’t WANT to use it, so I want it to freak people out if I have to pull it (which has happened exactly once in the fifteen years I’ve been carrying it). But do not mistake not wanting to use a weapon with being unwilling to. It isn’t the same at all.

  112. @GeekGirlsRule: I hear you. I took a “model mugging” class, so I feel reasonably confident I could kick ass if needed … have you heard of those?

    I understand why you chose straight razor, but I’m still going to argue against carrying it around. Obviously your choice. But if someone uses pepper spray against you, it’s unlikely to kill you.

    Is it legal to carry a straight razor?

  113. @jabell2r: Although it’s fun to fantasize about, I feel uncomfortable with this as an actual course of action. If Rebecca were to hunt the guy down and humiliate him, she could be putting herself in more danger, and that’s not really worth the one-upmanship.

    That’s why I recommended turning to the manager of the coffee shop for help. It’s not nearly as aggressive, therefore less likely to turn the guy from a jerk into a raging maniac.

    Just from the perspective of someone who got attacked.

  114. @tkingdoll: Re sucking teeth. Is that what that means? I always do that when estimating something!

    Like “(Suck teeth) we’re gonna need at least 10 rolls of wallpaper” or “(Suck teeth) I reckon it’ll take about 3 hours to drive up there” etc etc

    I’ve been walking round giving people the come on all over the place!

  115. “is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded?”

    Honestly, probably not. However, women do hold the power to make men feel “powerless, or worthless, or degraded” when they do know us. My fiancee does this on a regular basis.

  116. I recall Stephen Fry saying that when he was at his (all boys) boarding school, if he was getting grief from a bully he would say “Oh please, please don’t touch me, I’ll only have an orgasm”. This he claims immediately got the bully to leave him alone. While it wouldn’t work in the current context, I think the general idea is to turn the freak up to 11. How about saying “Actually I have a cock, would you like it in your arse?”.

  117. @GeekGirlsRule: 9 inches??? Maybe a hunting knife but not a concealed knife. 9 centimeters, maybe.

    This reminds of my sister’s favorite joke (stop me if you’ve heard this one already): “Why are women such poor judges of distances?” {Hold fingers 3 inches apart] “You’d be a horrible judge of distance, too, if you were told your entire life this is 12 inches.”

  118. @Chew: Cary Grant is in a hotel and calls down to the front desk and asks them to send the “house boy” up to his room.

    Ah see, I’m sure I’ve seen that, but it never occurred to be that it was offensive in any way. Isn’t that position referred to as a bellboy no matter the age/race/gender of the employee?

    @sylvan.nak: I’m going to take it as a sign of progress that everyone doesn’t know this. Maybe it’s sliding into esoteric history.

    That’s a good way to think of it. I’ll take it that way too.

  119. “is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded?”

    I find this a intriguing statement. I have Asperger’s Syndrome and apart from being “non-verbal blind” like most AS people I struggle with the whole “Caring what other people think” thing.

    How can anyone insult/degrade you if you don’t know them? Why should you care (beyond threats of physical violence) what anyone else thinks? I enjoying blogging because it’s a form of interaction I like, but I don’t care what people who have no influence over my life think.

    Why should you care what I say or think (other than if I make threats to your safety)? You don’t know me? Why should my opinion matter to you? Yours certainly doesn’t matter to me.

    It’s only degrading if you agree with the person trying to degrade you in the first place. As I see it “cat calls” are a way of showing intent AND asserting dominance verbally (reminding the subject of their relative status). However to feel degraded, one would have to concede to the “caller” their correct assessment of the hierarchy in place.

    i.e. If someone called Obama, n*gger, he’d be bemused rather than degraded as any object assessment of the hierarchy between the “caller” and subject would place the subject in the higher status. Or I wouldn’t be upset if Bush called me an idiot, I’d be puzzled.

  120. To go back to the original question “is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded?” What makes you assume that men don’t find comments like that degrading?

    I was waiter in a 24 hour restaurant. I flirted with my customers. I flirted with women and I flirted with men because when you wait tables that’s how you get big tips. I never once had a gay guy do anything unseemly, but I was leered at and pawed at by a lot of MIwoundnotLF. It made me feel like trash. Every time. I had one customer who grabbed my crotch pulled me to her table and told me all the things she though I should want to do to her.

    I went back to the pickup window and asked any of the other waitresses (I was the only male on the floor staff) if they would take the table. They laughed at me and asked if I was gay, since any straight man would like that. The rest of the time I worked there they would pat my ass and rub their boobs on me as the walked by and laugh at me and ask me how my wife ever got pregnant.

    Marilove: i don’t doubt that we live in a society of male privilege. But I didn’t feel it much there.

  121. @russellsugden: I can’t speak for others, but I think cat calls and the link can be perceived as “degrading”, not because of what the person thinks of you, but because they are intentionally trying to intimidate you or use you as a way to show off. So the person is reduced to a toy or an object. Although it’s not terribly bothersome, what they think, the fact that they think they can act that way to a total stranger and get away with it is unnerving and threatening. Would they go up to another person of the same physical stature and do the same thing? Probably not. IMHO, it’s an action in a situation where they feel they have the power that they would not do otherwise, which is telling of their personality and affects people’s perceptions of personal safety.

  122. @skepticalhippie: My argument wasn’t ultimately about that any way. Due to the fact that I hadn’t gotten far enough into the rest of the arguments, I will now defect my argument to @SkepGeek: , @SkepGeek: , and @ksmcgimpsey: who said it better than I did apparently. I do not, as Marilove doesn’t, agree with SkepGeek’s original position that the act of catcalling has little to nothing to do with exuding power, I just might disagree as to whether or not it is a conscious attempt to do so.

    Plus, I never said I did not see it as an attempt to harass or intimidate. I just merely stated that I am unwilling to accept with absolute certainty that it was the original attempt. I don’t have all the data, I only have one position from which to go on, I must, as pointed out by ksmcgimpsey,
    “accept Rebecca’s assessment that the guy intended to be threatening. This is inexcusable but it is not universally the case.” That is all my point ever was.

  123. @sylvan.nak:

    Someone like John Nash, who was cited earlier — he was NUTS. Not just personality-challenged, but completely schizophrenic. An outlier. Someone like this may not be able to help themselves, in which case they shouldn’t be blamed; but they ought to be medicated. And if they’re going to get aggressive, they ought to be removed from the rest of us.

    This is completely true. However, the point (somewhat poorly made I’ll admit) was to show that it isn’t an all over intelligence thing that results in making stupid comments. Even mathematical, schizophrenic geniuses can be idiots at times.

  124. @Kimbo Jones: Which is why Rebecca’s response to the situation was adequate, and had she decided that he posed a real threat, any further action (boot to the groin) would have been completely justified. Evolution gave us the fight or flight reaction for a reason, if we didn’t us it, we’d have died out as a species a long time ago.

  125. is there anything a woman can say to a man she does not know that will instantly make him feel powerless, or worthless, or degraded?

    Of course there is. Lots of things. @truthwalker: gave some good examples. And as it is for women, so too is it for men: Context is all important.

    But I am hesitant to say anything more. It would seem that marilove knows all; she sees us when we’re sleeping, she knows when we’re awake, she knows if we’ve been bad or good, so I think I’ll be good for goodness sake!

    Seriously though, this is to date the most sexist thread I can recall seeing here at Skepchicks: Profoundly anti-male, full of some very bizzarre false assumptions and groundless simplifications and generalizations. Kind of makes me scratch my head a bit and wonder what was in everybody’s coffee this morning, afternoon, and evening.

    Here’s a wee for instance. Anyone who has any experience in the world knows that women too sometimes make rude, inappropriate lascivious comments to men. Yes, it does happen kids, although it may happen less frequently than men to women, but it does indeed happen. So, try this: keep the story, reverse the gender, and let’s tell the guy to take his boots to the woman for the inappropriate comment. How does that feel?

    As far as I can tell, Rebecca’s response was quite appropriate. Anything more would have been excessive and unwarranted.

  126. @ truthwalker: >> What makes you assume that men don’t find comments like that degrading? <<

    Because of the context. Rebecca wasn’t saying she wanted a way to degrade all men. She wants a self-defense weapon.

    Whether something is offensive or not *should* depend on large part on intention. Right?

    The guy who attacked Rebecca (verbal attack, but attack nonetheless) intended to intimidate her. No, we don’t know that for sure, like we don’t know fairies don’t live in our garden, but chances are really really really good that’s what he was doing.

    Rebecca didn’t intend to intimidate or offend you.

    People who get offended or intimidated by comments not *meant* to offend should feel free to ask for clarification, and to educate others, but we should save our outrage for the truly outrageous. Which is the stuff that people do intentionally to hurt others.

  127. @SicPreFix: >> Profoundly anti-male, full of some very bizzarre false assumptions and groundless simplifications and generalizations. <<

    I see that. It’s why I made sure to add, to my own first comment, that I don’t think all men are jerks, or even most men. I love men.

    What you are seeing is a venting of some pretty profound feelings. There is nothing so horrible as the feeling of total powerlessness. Well maybe there is, but it rates up there with the worst of feelings. What happened to Rebecca has happened to a lot of us in one form or another, so we’re reacting to that.

    I’m sorry if it left any men feeling wounded. It is sexist, for certain, to say that “men are jerks” although I think it was a dude who said that? Does that make it more or less sexist?

    When I told my husband Rebecca’s story, and that her question was “how could I have handled it,” his reaction was “AK-47.” He was totally unoffended by the comments here; because he sees the overall point.

    Sexual aggression, he says, almost always goes one way (despite a few anecdotes to the contrary). Railing about how unfair and politically incorrect our howls of anger are seems a little misplaced.

    If we (women) had some way of adjusting for the fundamental imbalance of power in situations like this, the discussion would be different.

  128. My third point, which somehow fell out of my previous post, ties in her neatly. I’m not sure that we should draw this along lines of sex/gender (recognizing the important distinction between these two).

    @sylvan.nak, you tagged this as sexual aggression but I’m not sure that this is an appropriate hailing of what happened here. Guys of the sort we’re discussing are violent and aggressive, gender doesn’t play much into their aggression except as filter for targets. This guy would threaten and intimidate anyone that he marked as weaker than himself. Had, assuming my interpretation of the individual is correct and if not, then we can all imagine the sort of individual that I am positing, Rebecca not been there but instead a skinny, short, bespectacled, pocket-protected dork with some Dungeons & Dragons manual, then the remark would have been different but no less threatening.

    My point here is that there are two very different concerns at play here. First, that aggression is an acceptable and often encouraged method of social interaction. Second, the notion that women are inherently weak, frail and targetable without retribution. If we fail to recognize either of these two concerns then we are missing a major obstacle in the pursuit of universal rights and autonomy. Both of these must be opposed and I’d be loathe to prioritize one over the other.

  129. I absolutely hate it when things like that happen. One time my male best friend and I were walking home from my local bar, a bit late at night, and there was a guy walking directly opposite us across the street. He walked parallel to us for about two blocks, and the entire time kept making loud kissing-slurping sounds. I don’t know if they were meant to imply that my guy pal and I were maybe about to make out, or if it was some weird, lecherous come on to me. Either was I was getting increasingly frustrated as we walked. I complained to my friend who implored me to let it go, since this person was obviously intoxicated and potentially dangerous (this coming from a 6’1″, 250+ man). I agreed to try and ignore it, but when we got to my apartment building I’d had it, so I whirled around, hand on hip, and implored the man to “Get a grip!” My friend quickly yanked me in the doorway of my building and scolded me for provoking the guy, even in such a dorky way. Sigh. It’s not fair that we can be taunted and provoked, but cannot respond out of fear for our safety. Men who do that to women DO need to get a grip!

  130. @sylvan.nak: Actually, just for reference, the pepper spray is more likely to kill me, I have chronic asthma. So even if I did use it on him, if the wind shifted wrong, I’d be just as screwed as if he wrestled it out of my hand and used it on me.

    Stupid fragile lungs

  131. I’m a guy, I’m 6’2″ and I look like I wrestle bears for fun, so I have a bit of an advantage in socially aggressive situations, but I’ve always found surprised and condesending ridicule fairly amusing (particularly in my dry English accent). I’d probably have just said (assuming I’m now an attractive woman) “Seriously? Has that EVER worked?”.

  132. Um. I didn’t think it was an attack on me.
    I wasn’t even making the point that “these things happen to men too” because they happen to women a hell a lot more often at greater personal danger.

    My point was just that a woman walking up to an average guy and making a sexual judgment about him because of the boots he’s wearing is degrading and offensive to that guy.

    This guy isn’t an average guy, he’s a predator. So the questions of what’s degrading to a guy isn’t really the issue. It’s how to stop a predator. To things are important when dealing with predator of any type. The first is your own safety, the second if possible is making others safer by removing the threat.

    I know it doesn’t sound cool, but going to the management and saying “That asshat over there said something sexual inappropriate and I don’t feel comfortable staying here as long as he is here.” works.

    Restaurant managers don’t put up with people that make their guests uncomfortable. They will probably stand by and watch feeling as awkward as the target, when it is happening, but if you talk to them they act. Hell, most places have management training that includes kicking those people out.

  133. I am struck by the difference between the responses here and those at the SGU site- which is definitely skewed toward the Y-chromosome crowd. There the concept that if such a boorish approach works 1% of the time, 99% of women are unavoidable collateral damage receives a far more sympathetic hearing.

    Of the four potential outcomes for responding (in descending order of preference: 1. he leaves, 2. you both stay without further interaction, 3. you leave, 4. you both stay with further interaction) is is difficult to come up with a means of achieving 1 without an increased probability of 4. The best/lowest risk outcome is the one you chose. The downside is your smoldering resentment after.

    I think when you look at the SGU comments, you see that the general male take was that your lack of response was as good as a slap in the face. Small consolation, no doubt, but in a society with true equality of the sexes the outcome of inter-gender conflict is likely to be what was called, in less culturally-sensitive times, a Mexican standoff.

  134. @marilove: No, when you are a father and a strange woman comes up to make sure that you aren’t abusing your children, just because you are a man, it is humiliating and degrading. It leaves you feeling powerless and scared. We have seen time after time that a baseless allegation can deystroy lives.

  135. Seriously, catcalls are about “intimidating & making women feel powerless”? That’s about as laughable as it gets, unless you yourself think women are these helpless, pathetic things.

    No one makes you feel anything. You do that to yourself.

    On top of that, “catcalling” is about as subjective as any other “opinion” people have. Some women like what I would consider waaay over the top comment, others want to stab someone in the neck if they try to approach & make small talk.

  136. @mxracer652: >> No one makes you feel anything. You do that to yourself. <<

    So if someone smacks me in the face, I’m choosing to feel pain?

    This is one of those truisms I have a hard time with. The idea that we choose to feel what we feel, and that if we’re offended it’s our choice; we could just as easily choose to be amused, or bored.

    While we do have some conscious power over our emotions, there’s an initial, unconscious gut-reaction taking place in human interaction. This is an evolved trait. It happens in other animals, too. When my dog raises her hackles and growls at the other dog, she intends to intimidate, and the other dog reacts to that. Would you say “dog A didn’t MAKE dog B feel intimidated, dog B did that to himself!” It sounds silly, doesn’t it?

    If a group of men catcalls at a woman, that woman is going to have a instant gut reaction. She can assess that reaction and use her rational mind to deal with it, but her gut reaction isn’t chosen.

    No more than a man choosing to feel scared if a group of men came after him with clubs. He isn’t being a “helpless, pathetic thing” when he feels scared. He’s responding in a completely appropriate manner, and his genes would have less likelihood of passing to another generation if he *could* choose to be bored instead of scared.

  137. @Gabrielbrawley: You make a great point that I did not think about. Also, the fact that uncles, male teachers, etc., fear being alone with children (of any sex!) for the same reasons. So yeah, that is def sexism toward men.

    I AM NOT ANTI-MALE. I love men. Never did I say “ALL” men and, in fact, if you look at one of my comments, I made a disclaimer that said: “Most men are awesome, but there are a lot of men who aren’t.” I mean, I actually said that, so I’m not sure where this “anti-male” thing is coming from. We’re talking about SPECIFIC BEHAVIORS that a lot (not all!) men do. Seriously.

    I hate that we, as women, can’t talk about this shit without being told we’re “ANT-MALE!” even when we say “but not all men are like this…” BUT NO! We are anti-male because we dared talk about this fucking sexist bullshit!

    Please.

  138. Just to comment around the periphery: I have seen women wearing a button that said “Everyone is watching you stare at my breasts.”

    I also have thoughts about how “pecking order” (dominance) fits in to this, but I don’t have time right now to cast that into a proper comment.

  139. @mxracer652: @sylvan.nak: I once had a cat that I think was missing part of his brain that dealt with evolved reactionary emotions. Dogs would charge him and he would just stand there quizzically looking at them until the dog caught up with him didn’t quite know what to do, sniff then leave. He was great with small children as most cats would hiss and swipe if a child were to pull their tail. But he just looked confused when it happened. It was if his flight or fight response was non-existent. Till one day he was killed by coyotes. My dad witnessed it happening, said the dumb cat just stood there as the coyotes attacked him. True story. I feel like there’s a lessen somewhere in there.

  140. @Dynotaku: I guess I wouldn’t know as I’ve never done that to a stranger. I mean, I’ve done it to female friends, and actually I’ve done it to male friends if they get really dressed up, but it was always meant, and taken to be harmless.

    That’s because I assume you’re a reasonable human being an a reasonable man (I’m assuming you’re a man?) and respect women and consider them your equal. No man would catcall or leer or intimidate a woman he found was her equal. Just to be clear, I’ve whistled and catcalled at friends, too, but I certainly wouldn’t do it to a co-worker or boss. Context matters.

    But would you consider it sexist? He most likely wouldn’t have paid her the compliment if she was a guy, right? That’s sexist if you’re being literal. Or is it only sexist if it’s mean?

    Not necessarily. Like I said, context matters. I once told a man on the bus that he had a great smile (he did), and once I dropped my number on the lap of some guy at a baseball game because I thought he was cute (we ended up going on one date, actually!). It doesn’t have to do with being “mean” — leering and being intimidating and saying sexually explicit things to strangers isn’t “mean” — it’s degrading, sexist, and disgusting.

    If you walk up to a woman to give her a compliment, and she doesn’t seem receptive (maybe she’s married, or gay, or busy, or just doesn’t want to talk to strangers), and you nod your head with a smile and walk away, it’s not sexist. If you continue to invade her space because you think, as a man, you have a right to talk to her, then it becomes sexist.

    In this case I just don’t see the difference between being sexist and just being a jerk. It’s just in this case he was being a jerk to a woman.

    Are you being obtuse on purpose? A man who thinks he has a right to walk up to a woman and invade her personal space, and a man who further thinks he has a right to say sexually suggestive things to her, and further thinks he has a right to intimdidate her, is fucking sexist. Period. Once again, I must repeat: Any man who respects women and who thinks women are their equal will not do that. Only a man who thinks he is superior to women. Thus, sexist.

    And, re, girl:

    I AM NOT A FUCKING GIRL! I am a woman! I am 27 years old! It IS sexist to walk up to a WOMAN and call her girl. It implies that she is less than you, because she’s just a little girl and not a woman. You wouldn’t walk up to a grown man and call him boy! You say you wouldn’t be offended, but you likely don’t get called “boy” by random women on the street, do you?

    Female can also be sexist in the right context. Most men don’t call women “female” in general conversation. For example, a random sexist hate-mail sent to a feminist blog I frequent:

    Notice how the word female is used? In this context, it’s fucking sexist as hell. It’s like saying “Female dog.”

    “Clearly our world views are somewhat different.”

    Uh. Yeah. It’s called male privilige. Which you have.

    http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/

    Please read that. It’s really informative. I don’t think you’re stupid, but I do think you have some trouble understanding what sexism is about.

    We have come a long way, but it’s still really damn hard to be a woman sometimes. We still have to deal with bullshit sexism every day, and then on top of that, we have to deal with otherwise reasonable, intelligent men saying, “But but but … that’s not sexist! It’s not sexist to me so it must not be sexist! I mean, I’m a male so I mean … I guess I have a different world view … but it’s still totally not sexist to walk up to a woman on the streets and say sexually explicit things to her like she only exists for his pleasure. Really, it’s not sexist, just let it roll off your backs!”

    Yes it IS sexist.

  141. Um, and the example of how “female” can be sexist, since my copy-pasta finger broke:

    I’d love to have a wife who raped me repeatedly; unfortunately, I have found that there are many more females who prefer the “alpha male” (which most assume me to be based upon my necessary work persona). Frankly, I am annoyed at how passive most females appear to be. However, what is even MORE annoying are the females who devote not a thought to what their male may need even as they berate him for not giving them what THEY need. Where are the females who are empowered yet also giving?

    See how he uses “female” instead of, oh, women? That’s sexist, and more than a little creepy.

  142. @marilove:

    We are anti-male because we dared talk about this fucking sexist bullshit!

    Well, I suppose it might look like that. But for myself, I’m reacting to the very specifically anti-male “because they’re inherently pigs” type of comments and implications which liberally litter this thread.

    It IS sexist to walk up to a WOMAN and call her girl.

    It is demeaning, it is most certainly not sexist.

    I suppose we could debate the pros and cons about finallyfeminism101 later, but at this point in time my general thoughts about that site are that along with reinventing the English language using magical thinking it implicitly posits that men are born with the original sin of being male and unavoidably and inherently sexist, and because of their own particular poisoned apples and snakes they have no other option.

    Anyway, back to being en pointe.

    Skepchick is a Web-Blog attended for the most part by skeptics and, at least in theory, critical thinkers. As such, I would have thought, perhaps hoped, to see in this thread a discussion of relationship dynamics, the influence of culture and genetics on same, resonable debate on gender dynamics and roles, and the social, cultural, and genetic influences therein, the role that personal character strengths and weaknesses, shyness, arrogance, fear, etc. play in our public intercourse, the expectations we all have in regard to how the public interacts with us and how we interact with it, what fashion and clothing and our choices and our expectations for response therein imply, not to mention general behaviour theory and the various causes, reactions, byplays, and so forth and so on. Stacey knows psychology – wish she were here.

    Instead we get not very much more than angry, personal anecdote, dogma, and rants, “supported” by subjective and very individual opinion, and only a few snippets of objective ponderings peppered here and there with little thoughtful response.

    One last ponder. Does anyone know what “freak” means in this instance means? I certainly don’t, but we are all implicitly giving it one hell of a lot of assumed weight based on Rebecca’s anecdotal evidence. Hey, I am not dissing Rebecca, not at all, at all. But it is anecdotal evidence being bandwagonned like mad.

  143. @SicPreFix: I took that as a rant, really; we as women get pretty tired of having to deal with this kind of crap on a daily basis, and sometimes we have to rant, and of course this is skepCHICK. And I think men who do what the man did in the original post ARE inherently sexist. A man doesn’t do that if he respects women. PERIOD.

    We have actually had discussions on sexism before. These comments in this post were more toward airing out frustrations on sexist men than anything else, though.

    And yes, a man walking up to a WOMAN and calling her GIRL is sexist.

  144. @SicPreFix: “One last ponder. Does anyone know what “freak” means in this instance means? I certainly don’t, but we are all implicitly giving it one hell of a lot of assumed weight based on Rebecca’s anecdotal evidence. Hey, I am not dissing Rebecca, not at all, at all. But it is anecdotal evidence being bandwagonned like mad.”

    What? You have got to be kidding me.

    “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.”

    You can honestly say you have no idea what he meant by “you like to freak, girl”?! Really?

    We’re commenting on her specific experience with that man, and other women have come in and relayed their similar experiences. That’s what this discussion is about.

    “I’m curious how the women here react in situations like this.”

    See that? Yeah, that’s why we’re bringing up “anecdotal evidence” (though I’d consider it more “experiences”) because … um, she asked for it.

    It’s interesting to me that the men are the only ones trying to say that walking up to a woman on the streets and saying sexually explicit things to her isn’t somehow sexist 100% of the time.

  145. @skepticalhippie: I can be a piggish woman at times, but context really does matter. I don’t imagine you’d be piggish to some random woman on the streets. Being piggish around your friends, of any sex, is usually acceptable because you usually are aware of what is acceptable behavior around people you know.

    But yeah, now imagine getting that kind of stuff when you’re walking on the street. THAT IS WHAT IT IS! Exactly what it is. That is exactly what Rebecca had to deal with, and what we have to deal with all the fucking time just becuase we have a vagina.

    Sexist, threatening, and disgusting.

  146. @SicPreFix: “are born with the original sin of being male and unavoidably and inherently sexist, and because of their own particular poisoned apples and snakes they have no other option.”

    Oh, and I think they make the point that, as a man, you are born with male privilege in our patriarchal society, which is 100% correct, and I gather it is sometimes a hard concept for men to get, which is okay.

    You have male privilege just because you are a man, yes, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are sexist.

    I have white privilege because I am white, and also my soceo-economic class gives me a lot of privilege.

    A black, butch lesbian is pretty much screwed in the privilege department.

  147. @marilove: I am sorry if it came off that I was saying you were anti-male. I did not mean that. I was just giving an example of how a man could be negativly objectified, demeaned and made to feel worthless or threatned by woman. I don’t think many women do this but when they do it is very effective. Also I never thought you were anti-male.

  148. @killyosaur42: Good point! Though at least you can “fit in” as an atheist, a black, butch lesbian, not so much lol.

    @Gabrielbrawley: Oh no, that comment was directed toward someone else, sorry! Someone else said we were being anti-male, though I think it’s quite obvious we are only talking about specific men in specific situations. Not all men are pigs. Quite a lot of them are, but not all!

    And you made a really, really good point. And it’s not just women who do that — authority in general does it. I’ve seen it said A LOT, by men and women alike (but mostly women), that when they meet a man that says he really loves being with children, and when they meet a man who spends a lot of time with children, they immediately become suspicious. But they of course don’t do the same to women. That is sexist!

  149. @marilove: “Not all men are pigs. Quite a lot of them are, but not all!”

    And can I just say: Quite a lot of men are pigs, but women can be sexist just as well as men can. It’s not just a man-only thing. It IS different when a woman is sexist, though, but they can be sexist.

    I wish I was better at explaining feminist stuff.

  150. And of course you can call a man a “faggot” or call him a “girly-man” or some variation of that … but notice that these insults that are supposed to demean men demean them because it implies they are women, and thus lesser.

    Being a woman is other and lesser while being a man is default and better.

  151. Marilove,

    You make a valid point, although I thing the words you are thinking of are in the “wussy” family. “Faggot” has an edge lacking in mere effeminizing macho insults, and “girly-man” self-labels the user as both lame and over-obsessed with SNL skits from a decade ago. Nevertheless, it is common parlance for men to use feminine terms to denote weakness.

  152. @mxracer652:
    Strawman much?

    Women don’t need to be helpless and pathetic to feel intimidated by someone probably bigger than her getting in her face in sexually inappropriate ways. There is a real possibility of physical or sexual assault. And even if not from that particular guy, he reminds us that we’re walking around alone and there’s people like him out there. That can lower one’s feeling of safety – and that is a form of powerlessness.

    Many women are smaller than men. Many women don’t know self-defense. Does that make them pathetic? No. Does that maybe make them feel icky and possibly a little scared that a jerk feels comfortable says something like that? Sure. He’s also saying “I’m not scared of you” and that’s creepy as hell.

  153. @sylvan.nak: IMHO, when it comes to “offense” I do think that’s a personal choice. I can talk myself out of being offended by reminding myself of the person’s intentions. In this case the intention, though, is unclear and our base reactions kick in – fight or flight and all that. When it comes to a stranger accosting someone, I think there’s more there than being offended and people are totally justified in being scared without that making them pathetic or weak.

  154. @marilove: Uh. Yeah. It’s called male privilige. Which you have.

    No argument here.

    I AM NOT A FUCKING GIRL! I am a woman! I am 27 years old! It IS sexist to walk up to a WOMAN and call her girl.

    Wouldn’t that be ageist?

    You say you wouldn’t be offended, but you likely don’t get called “boy” by random women on the street, do you?

    In my experience women don’t talk to random men on the street. But my sample size is 1 and it’s possible that I’m hideous so I wouldn’t take that as definitive evidence. I honestly don’t think I’d find it offensive – partially cause I don’t find anything offensive, but I just don’t understand what’s offensive about it… unless you’re offended by someone underestimating your age. Usually people take that as a compliment in my experience.

    I don’t think you’re stupid, but I do think you have some trouble understanding what sexism is about.

    Our sexism litmus tests are definitely different. You’re obviously using much more sensitive chemicals. My basic test is that if you reverse the genders of the people involved and it’s no longer sexist, then it wasn’t sexist to begin with, it was just someone being a jerk. (The prevailing attitude here seems to be that something is only sexist if it’s bad.) I don’t buy the context argument either. If you feel that something can be done to a woman that is sexist, which is no longer sexist when done to a man, that says to me that you have a special ‘women only’ clause in your mind, which… well, makes you sexist, doesn’t it?

    So is it sexist if you walk up to a man can call him a boy? Or are you just being a jerk? (Assuming that’s an insult in the first place, which as I’ve said I don’t get.)

    I’ll definitely read up on the feminism101 blog, I’ve been doing some writing and one of the characters is a feminist, or what I thought a feminist was. Apparently I grossly misunderstand the term. I’ll either have to do some rewriting or more likely, have to re-label the character. And that little smiley face on the side of the page is creeping me out.

  155. @irishjazz: Yeah, I just grabbed a few insults out of my arse. ;)

    @Dynotaku:

    It’s not ageist. It infantilizes a woman. Callinga 52-year-old WOMAN you don’t know “girl” is sexist, not ageist. It has nothing to do with age. It’s part of our patriarchal society. Women are always called “girls” — just look at advertising or books or tv shows. It’s really evident.

    ” My basic test is that if you reverse the genders of the people involved and it’s no longer sexist, then it wasn’t sexist to begin with, it was just someone being a jerk.”

    Uuuuuuuh, NO.

    Go look up patriarchy. PLEASE. We live in a patriarchal society. Period.

    And I’m sure you’re a wonderful man, but it’s evident that you really don’t know anything about sexism, or femism, so I do encourage you to read up more on feminsm before you make a feminist character.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/

    is a great place to start. It’s not perfect, but it’s a great feminist blog.

    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/category/feministe-feedback/

    That tag has some great info, and you might want to look elsewhere on the site. It’s one of the few feminist blogs I read regularly (it’s not perfect, but it’s very active so you get a lot of different perspectives, which is nice).

    Indeed, maybe if you write them asking for advice on a man writing a feminist character, they’ll give you some tips. :)

  156. @Dynotaku: “So is it sexist if you walk up to a man can call him a boy? Or are you just being a jerk?”

    And no, I don’t think it is sexist, because we live in a patriarchal society. But I imagine my opinion on that isn’t necessarily universal, especially among men, and that’s okay. Either way, it’s a jerkish thing to do unless you know the person.

    Now, it’d be RACIST if you walked up to a black man and called him boy.

  157. @Kimbo Jones: If you (plural) feel threatened that much, you (plural) should do something about it. You are choosing to remain powerless in what is a rightly fucked up situation time & time again.

    Yes, it sucks this is what society is, but christ, take some personal responsibility.

  158. @KimboJones: >> IMHO, when it comes to “offense” I do think that’s a personal choice. I can talk myself out of being offended by reminding myself of the person’s intentions. In this case the intention, though, is unclear and our base reactions kick in – fight or flight and all that. When it comes to a stranger accosting someone, I think there’s more there than being offended and people are totally justified in being scared without that making them pathetic or weak. <<

    Yeah, I think that’s pretty much what I said?

  159. @Rebecca: “You sure look like you like to freak, girl.” He leered for a second……then Rebecca pulled out her Taser and shot him in the balls. No longer feeling threatened, she put it back in her leather purse and went back to her cappucino… :-D

  160. @marilove: “We live in a Patriarchal Society” No we don’t. It isn’t 1890, we don’t live in the Middle East or Central Asia, where Patriarchal Societies still exist.

    We live in a Capitalist-Imperialist Society where Gender is less important than Class. Talking about “Male Privilege” implies that all men are in a privileged position over all women. This is not the case.

    In the UK a girl born into a upper class family has much better life chances than a boy born into a lower class family and as a member of the Bourgeoisie her whole life and lifestyle will be based on the oppression proletariat. male AND female alike.

    Although the elite of the Capitalist ruling class is mostly white and mostly male it is not entirely. The millions of people (men and women) who’s industries, towns and lives were destroyed by Maggie Thatcher learnt a painful lesson about the nature of the Feminist mission.

    Most of the 1970’s Feminists say we live in a post-Feminist world. That it, Mission Accomplished. The truth is millions of women in the UK struggle on £5.50 a hour (women make up the majority of the minimum wage workers), work longer hours and have little or no pension savings.

    HOWEVER today the daughters of the ruling class have unfettered access to the sinecures that were barred to them in the past. All Feminism has done is turn the Carrie Bradshaws of the world from a Rich man’s wife into a Rich man’s plaything.

    Where are the female scientists? the female engineers? the female politicians (it’ll take 300 years for the UK to reach M/F parity at the current rate!) The goal was never about equality between ALL men and women, but equality between Bourgeoise men and women.

    I’m not saying Capitalism hasn’t accentuated the differences between the sexes for it’s own ends (the creation of the “ideal” family), but in the current Late-Imperialist stage of Capitalism the falling rate of Profit torn down (or at least begun to tear down) these differences as women have re-entered the workforce, in a vain attempt to sure-up productivity.

    However, the idea that somehow a Proletarian man somehow is privileged above a Bourgeoise women is laughable.

  161. @russel
    Um… I think the term patriarchal society is largely a direction, not a point. No we aren’t on the dot a patriarchal society. Women do get benefit in our society, but men get a bit more, so we lean more toward patriarchy than equality.

    And I don’t think you meant it that way, but regardless of the patriarchy or class or whatever abstraction is applied to human behavior, wasn’t this guy in question a wank? And shouldn’t we do something to prevent wankery when ethical?

  162. @russellsugden: I really don’t think you’ve completely defeated Marilove’s point here. While it maybe true that in your society the higher class woman is more privileged than the lower class man, she is still the “lesser” in a sense to her male class counterpart. While we no longer live in a strictly patriarchal society where that is the only factor determining privilege, it is still a major factor in the over all structure of our society. Secondly, the type of society you speak of is more Imperialist/feudalistic than Capitalist. If this were truly a capitalist society, than, regardless of race, gender or current social positioning, a person should be able to “sell” oneself, in a manner of speaking, to achieve a better position. We have that to a certain extent here in the U.S. but not to a sufficient amount to surmount the patriarchy that is still, in many ways, in place. A woman still gets paid less than an equally qualified man, has to work harder, and present herself better than same, to achieve what is slightly less than that man is achieving. How is that not a result of a, at the very least slightly, patriarchal society? Sure this isn’t Afghanistan or Iran, or Saudi Arabia, but it isn’t the sort of society where merely class is a determiner of how much privilege someone has. Gender still plays a role.

  163. @KimboJones: I was saying that while we have a gut reaction to stimuli, our reason and logic can supersede our gut reaction. “She can assess that reaction and use her rational mind to deal with it, but her gut reaction isn’t chosen.” I think the feeling of offense is a gut reaction, and we can examine it rationally. Not everyone can put it aside, though. Some people are better at it than others.

  164. @russellsugden:
    This comment shows that you pretty clearly don’t understand the concept of privilege. “We live in a patriarchal society” does not mean that every single man is privileged over every single woman. It means that on average, if you’re male, you have male privilege. If you’re white, you have white privilege. If you’re rich, you have class privilege. It means that all other traits being equal, the man will earn more money/ have a more prestigious job/more opportunities than a comparable women.

    quote:”Most of the 1970’s Feminists say we live in a post-Feminist world.”

    Most actual feminists today would consider such an idea ridiculous. The only people saying this are faux-feminist types like Camille Paglia, some conservatives, and some who think that since woman are expected to go to college and get jobs that discrimination is over. If you go to sites like, feministing.com, the authors are arguing just the opposite of what you said.

    quote:”The goal was never about equality between ALL men and women, but equality between Bourgeoise men and women.”

    If I read you right and this statement refers to the goal of the feminist movement, I should remind you that the goals and nature of the feminist movement have changed dramatically over the past few decades. While Betty Friedan’s book spoke primarily to white upper-middle class women, her book opened the door for later books which delved into the concerns of women of all races and classes. It is more appropriate to say that we have many feminisms, with different feminist women placing priority on different aspects and consequently not always agreeing with each other on where their organization, or the movement in general, should go next.

    quote:We live in a Capitalist-Imperialist Society where Gender is less important than Class.

    I don’t see why these need to be seen as separate issues where one needs to be more important than the other. If we ignore gender when talking about class issues, we ignore a significant part of class issues. If we ignore class when we talk about gender issues, we miss a lot of important analysis as well. It’s possible for both gender and class to be significant forces in a society.

  165. @sylvan.nak or Kimbo Jones : I think it’s naive to assume that we are all perfectly logical automatons who can say, after a hurtful or demeaning comment “That person is an idiot and not worth paying attention to, so I’m going to ignore them and not let the comment bother me.”

    Sure, some people can do that, and probably everyone will get over it eventually. But even if you realize that logically you should take the “get over it” kind of action, that’s not going to mean that the comment won’t ruin the rest of your day or cause you to avoid a certain article of clothing someone commented on, when otherwise you wouldn’t. The comment is still rude and inexcusable.

    Basically, feelings are not so easily subject to logical argument.

  166. @covertvector:

    The only people saying this are faux-feminist types like Camille Paglia, some conservatives, and some who think that since woman are expected to go to college and get jobs that discrimination is over. If you go to sites like, feministing.com, the authors are arguing just the opposite of what you said.

    Somewhat reminiscent of the people who say that (in the U.S. anyway) since we’ve elected a black president, racism is over, which, any cursory study of how the various minority groups are treated pre and post Obama victory show that this is simply not the case.

  167. @covertvector: I think it’s naive to assume that we are all perfectly logical automatons who can say, after a hurtful or demeaning comment “That person is an idiot and not worth paying attention to, so I’m going to ignore them and not let the comment bother me.”

    Well that’s good, since I never assumed that…

  168. @ covertvector: >> quote:We live in a Capitalist-Imperialist Society where Gender is less important than Class. << This brings back such bad memories of my college days. Certainly not all feminists subscribe to dogmatic Marxist feminism. The randomly capitalized words alone make my spidey senses tingle.

  169. @killyosaur42 and Kimbo Jones:

    okay. It was kind of hard to tell from the comments exactly what was being argued.

    My comment was generally a response to what I believed to be the sentiment in this comment:

    “IMHO, when it comes to “offense” I do think that’s a personal choice. I can talk myself out of being offended by reminding myself of the person’s intentions.”

    which I interpreted as meaning that someone can most of the time tell themselves not to feel affected negatively by another person’s comment.

    Maybe you have a different definition of what the word “offend” means, but to me most definitions involve emotion or feelings, in which case that is what my previous comment is referring to.

    I view taking offense as something pretty tied to one’s worldview and way of seeing themselves. If someone denigrates my appearance, it would be hard to choose not to be offended (i.e. resentful, humiliated, or hurt). If I were a Christian and someone said something like “christian views are ridiculous” and I was offended I doubt I could just choose not to be offended unless I put a lot of thought into it and rearranged my worldview, which isn’t going to happen very quickly in most cases.

  170. @sylvan.nak:
    lol, that is exactly how I know what comments to read in a thread. Too high a ratio of capital letters to lowercase letters= skip. The letter I responded to was hovering on the border of acceptable, and didn’t go too far into tl;dr so I responded.

    As to the substance of the quote: yeah, this is a pet peeve of mine, when people assume all feminists think like some straw feminist concocted from 3 people they met or whose writings they read.

  171. @covertvector: I agree that Class and Gender are not seperate issues. However, I believe Gender to be a sub-issue of Class. Historically women have been in the vangaurd of the class struggle precisely because they have occupied the lowest paid and most insecure position in the workforce.

    The quickest way to increase equality (i.e. improve the lives of women) would be not to tackle “Women’s Issues”, but rather those issues which effect both working class men and women such as low pay.

    For example, increasing the minimum wage in the UK from ~£5 to £7 would benifit both men and women, but because women make up a larger proportion of the low paid, women on average would disproportionately benifit. Excluding the top 5% of the highly paid, the income gap between the sexes would be significantly narrowed.

    However doing so would have no impact on the white middle/upper class women who make up the leadership of the Feminist movement. Hence their obession with increasing women’s boardroom representation.

    Having a women CEO is less important than improving the pay and conditions of the women who clean the office.

    “It means that on average, if you’re male, you have male privilege. If you’re white, you have white privilege. If you’re rich, you have class privilege. It means that all other traits being equal, the man will earn more money/ have a more prestigious job/more opportunities than a comparable women.”

    It depends how you look at the numbers. To say that “on average” men have male privilege overlooks the fact that a tiny percentage of men are so massively privileged relative to the majority of the population (male and female) that it appears that all men are privileged when this is not the case.

    In the same way the issue of qualified women earning less than qualified men, is middle/upper class issue (returning again to middle class feminists interest in improving the lot of middle class women). A small number of qualified men ‘earn’ such astronomical sums, it appears that all qualified men earn more qualified women, when in fact excluding the top executives there is more parity between the sexes.

  172. @russellsugden: Again I still think you are missing the point. When looking at a set of people, all things being equal, men are still more privileged than women. You keep making the point that women make up the majority of the minimum wage jobs, that means similarly placed men in similar jobs are making more. If we ignore class for just a moment we can easily see this. Class is an issue, yes a higher class woman is more privileged than a lower classed man, BUT a woman who falls in the same class as a man is almost always less privileged than the man.

    It depends how you look at the numbers. To say that “on average” men have male privilege overlooks the fact that a tiny percentage of men are so massively privileged relative to the majority of the population (male and female) that it appears that all men are privileged when this is not the case.

    Even if we ignore this tiny percentage of men, there is still a sizeable gap in the privilege a man gets over that of a woman. Plus that particular group of men do not fall within the confines of the statement “women and men of the same class” because obviously they are in a class oftheir own. When we talk about the “on average” we are generally not including the small percentage of men who are obscenely privileged unless there is a comparable group of women.

  173. @sylvan.nak: You found me out! I know I have the bad-english habit of capitalising proper nouns and the subject of what I’m talking about. I have to make a conscious effort not to and I don’t always spot my own errors.

    Clearly I’m not as fluent in english as I would like to believe.

  174. @killyosaur42: I think if you look at it, all the privileges you are ascribing to men over women are resultant of their relative social position rather than their gender.

    I can not think of a single instance where a man has some privilege over a woman that is based on his gender alone, i.e. a privilege that the lowest ranking man still holds over the highest ranking women by virtue of having a penis alone. If these were many, as in a true Patriarchal society such as exists in Saudi Arabia, then I would be inclined to agree with you.

    Any disparity in the privileges between two individuals (regardless of gender) can be attributed almost wholly to their relative social position.

    I don’t dispute that there are inequalities in our society between the sexes. I think they are attributible, not to the collective oppression of one sex by another but due to the class nature of society.

    Do you suppose that all women are sisters because they all have vaginas? Possibly the one good thing about Capitalism is that is brushes aside all ancient prejudices as all the minutiae of social rankings are compressed into two opposing camps.

    I have infinitely more in common with women of my own class than I do with any Bourgeoise man.

    Given the Equal Pay Act, which in the UK is now more or less universally applied, a man and a woman doing the same job in the same business are paid the same (this makes sense as in a developed country like Britain, very few jobs require the physical strength that would exclude women. Modern steel foundries are opperated by push-button). Average Salary differances between the sexes are due, not to men earning more by virtue of being male but by the small number of women occupying the “Top Jobs”.

    Since the best way to measure privilege is financial, if it were the case that men were typically privilegd over women by virtue of their sex then male factory workers, shop workers, office workers, starbucks staff would recieve higher wages than their female co-workers as a matter of course. While this may have been the case 35 years ago, it certainly isn’t now, and even then was considered unacceptable by male workers (Male Ford employees famously going out on strike to increase the wages of Female Ford employees to rate-for-the-job parity in the 1970’s)

  175. Wow… two hundred posts and counting on what was supposedly a pot-boiler column. Of course the conversation has wandered well off the main track into the tangled swamp of class and gender inequities.

    There is a real world, statistical basis for positing continuing inequities between men and women in terms of social standing, compensation, etc. Going against the numbers is an interesting challenge, but it has little to do with the main subject.

    A guy, presumably an idiot but we lack more than a single behavioral data point, made a comment that was at best rude and boorish and at worst sexually threatening. In his defense, he might have been trying and failing to be cute. But, like a cat lovingly placing a mole head on your pillow, this is not something to be encouraged.

    Regardless of the potential justifications (which seem pretty half-assed) his actions were offensive to Rebecca- who is the person who gets to decide offense. The fool didn’t know or didn’t care that his behavior was objectionable…. neither constitutes a substantial excuse, no matter what gender inequities pertain in the society at large.

  176. “Free Corn.” God damn it, Rebecca, when I went over to your table, I distinctly said, “You sure look like you like to get your free corn, girl.” The coffee house offers a free side order of corn with every latte order, and you twist my words and publicly humiliate me by claiming I said something crude about getting your freak on??? Well, you certainly have some nerve.

    Now that I’ve revealed what really happened, I must point out that the true story is no less plausible than the earlier explanations of why, gosh, there was no sexism in the incident.

  177. I’m two days out of touch, but I felt the need to leave my two cents anyway.

    I think what you did was as necessary for the occasion. Though if it were me I’d have probably kindly asked the perp to “piss off!”

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