There is are good reasons why many women come to think of all men as potential predators.
Valerie Steighner authored a powerful essay titled “My 11-Year-Old Daughter Just Got Catcalled for the First Time and I Don’t Know How To Teach Her to Protect Herself From Predators.” Please read it. Here’s an excerpt:
She is 11 years old. She just graduated from elementary school and still plays with small plastic animals. And now along with vocab words, I have to teach her how to protect herself from disgusting men.
I told her that what that man did is called catcalling and catcalling is aggressive behavior and the best action is to ignore it. Usually, men that are willing to yell slurs about you and your body, if provoked, can be unpredictable and dangerous; it’s best to keep walking; don’t make eye contact and stand tall.
I felt so defeated as the words came out of my mouth. Basically, there is nothing we can do, but pretend it’s not happening….Obviously, I was sexually active all through my twenties, but there is a difference from being what others want and finding what you need…The predator lives everywhere. He lives on our streets, in our grocery stores, on our billboards and in our malls. He constantly reminds us what our value is and where we belong. How do I teach her to catch him, see him and to protect herself from him? How do I teach her that her body is not a source of shame but a source of power and strength? How do I teach her to hear the predator’s words to know what they mean and still stand tall and confident? How do I teach her to protect herself and still be open?
It sucks. It sucks that this has to happen to my daughter in 6th grade. It sucks that it’s only the beginning. It sucks that she has to learn about her body in the context of men noticing it.
What also sucks is that the problem is a failure of ethics and civilization to move fast enough. Men are programmed to want sex and to procreate, and once upon a time in America the kind of conduct a disgusting 50-year old focused on the writer’s barely pubescent daughter was a cultural norm. In some places, it still is. Women had no other function but to find a man, have his children and make the home run smoothly, and not finding a man was, in some settings, a catastrophe. In the American West, a woman in her thirties who was uneducated and unmarried was very likely to end up a prostitute: it was the single largest occupation for unmarried women. When so many women are whores, men get in the habit of treating women as whores, and women who don’t want that fate will provide positive reinforcement to flirtations that are really harassment and disrespect. [You can find the many Ethics Alarms posts related to this topic here]
Old habits supported by hormones, traditions and bad role models—like, say, Jack Kennedy, Joe Biden and Donald Trump–will die hard or not die at all. In many ways, the culture still supports the ugly behavior Steighner’s daughter experienced. Many ways. For example, in a current Geico commercial, the Gecko shows his trophy accompanied by that briefly popular song “Whoomp! There it is!,” which is essentially street harassment in song form. You will also hear it in sporst stadiums.
Eventually women, many of them, will give in, or up,and either submit to the ancient rules of the male dominance sex game, engage in equivocal and inconsistent conduct depending on their mood and the man involved, exploit it, or try to fight it. All are understandable options; none are perfect, or even adequate, though they may work for individuals in individual cases.
Men, with some justification, feel that they get mixed signals. I recall witnessing a famous encounter in a D.C. association workplace where a lovely and well-endowed female employee loudly reprimanded an older male executive for appearing to look at her chest. He immediately pointed out that she was hardly modestly dressed (cleavage in the workplace!) and said, equally loudly, “Don’t give me that. If you didn’t want guys to look, you wouldn’t dress like that.” And, in truth, she did want guys to look. Just not that guy.
I know I was confused by the rules growing up. I was raised with a brilliant younger sister, and by a mutually respectful mother and father who taught gender equality and manners, with no exceptions. As I result, I was always uncomfortable with any flirting as I passed into junior high and high school, nor could I react to it, or most of the time, detect it. I was polite, treated my female classmates with respect, had lots of female friends, and didn’t have a date until I was sophomore in college. Meanwhile I watched young women I wanted to know better get involved with jerk after jerk. (I also found out that some of my female friends spread rumors that I was gay. They were hot and I never tried anything. Obviously I wasn’t interested.)
All that was before the feminist movement, which just made things worse. An ethical culture would have figured out a way by now to ensure that people still have love, romance and babies without men acting like Alley Oop and women acting like helpless sex objects. We just haven’t, and everyone is confused and angry. The sexual assault witch hunt on campus is just a symptom of this ethics gridlock. Writing about street harassment a couple of years ago, I wrote…
“The amazing thing is that this kind of ritual harassment would vanish with some slight behavioral additions to our culture, many of which once were the norm, habits of good conduct like etiquette, manners, consideration, civility, fairness, kindness, respect, and the Golden Rule. They could become cultural norms again, and rather easily, I would think, with an increase in responsible parenting, a responsible popular culture, and the development of role models with integrity. Not featuring serial and unapologetic sexual harassers as stars of sitcoms (Charlie Sheen) and political conventions (William Jefferson Clinton) would help; so would a serious effort by Hollywood not to trivialize workplace harassment as cute or amusing, as in the long-running “Cheers,” or in current TV dramas like “Criminal Minds” and “NCIS.”
Today I think that was far too optimistic and flip. Yes, widespread respect and civility toward women would be an improvement, but I don’t know how respectful new gender roles that lead to healthy relationships can be devised that don’t still pay tribute to biological imperatives. Signalling a desire for an intimate relationship sometimes—most of the time?—requires crossing lines of decorum, making assumptions, and risking being seen as rude, presumptuous, or sexist. So does training for the time when such desires are serious, yet this is a culture that arrests 13-year-old boys for stealing a kiss.
I don’t know what the solution is.
I just know the current situation sucks.
30 thoughts on “From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…”
I think what we have to do with gender relations (and so many other things) is expose the extremists as extremists, reject them, and let the moderates get some airtime. Of course an adult catcalling a prepubescent girl is wrong and should be addressed, but no, Rebecca Watson wasn’t sexually harassed when a guy in an elevator asked her on a date (Google “Elevator Girl”) ((That isn’t hyperbole)).
As I recall, wasn’t it 4am when the guy in the elevator asked Rebecca Watson to come to his room for “coffee?”
Granted, they had been talking/debating for a long while beforehand, which mitigates it somewhat, and he could really have been asking her only for coffee. But it still wasn’t the same as asking her for unambiguous coffee at the cafe down the street the next day 4pm.
As a woman, I do know it can feel jarring and gross to have long, platonic conversation with a man before it suddenly turns sexual. Again, it’s not harassment per se, but I understand Watson’s discomfort and her feeling like her only worth to this guy was as a potential hook-up.
Actually, they’d been drinking “coffee” and conversing at 4 AM, and he suggested that they continue the conversation up in her room. “Coffee” ended up being code for beverages in the hotel bar, but “conversation” whether code or not, was straight from Rebecca’s mouth. After being told no, according to Rebecca the guy took it well and went to his own room. After this started to become a Big Thing, she lied about having a disease where she couldn’t identify faces to avoid revealing who the person was. To this day, skeptics aren’t entirely any of it happened, and I’m not convinced that isn’t a reasonable position to have.
As a man I know damn well when I have decided to take a platonic conversation non-platonic, and if I know it, I am damn sure the woman knows it. I also know the difference between that and throwing out a “feeler” or two to see if the woman MIGHT be interested. If those feelers come back negative, there is no point in changing direction, it’s going to end badly.
This just highlights one of the lunacies of modern feminism… Even assuming the worst case scenario, apparently asking someone if they’re interested after spending a night together is apparently sexual harassment.
“Men, with some justification, feel that they get mixed signals. I recall witnessing a famous encounter in a D.C. association workplace where a lovely and well-endowed female employee loudly reprimanded an older male executive for appearing to look at her chest. He immediately pointed out that she was hardly modestly dressed (cleavage in the workplace!) and said, equally loudly, “Don’t give me that. If you didn’t want guys to look, you wouldn’t dress like that.” And, in truth, she did want guys to look. Just not that guy.”
Bullseye, Jack. That’s been the problem for some time now with women wanting to attract the alpha males and “put it all out there” to do it, except there’s no way to do that that doesn’t “put it all out there” for the men they are at best “eh” to and the men they wouldn’t give the time of day to because they’re good-looking, they know it, they are willing to use it, and only the highest standards of physical attractiveness will do, no glasses-wearers, shorties, baldies, or fatties allowed. Anyone who doesn’t meet that standard so much as LOOKS for a second more at exposed fake-tan cleavage or spray-on bronzed thighs that are visible from buttock to ankle, bent with impossibly high heels, “Eeeeeeeeeeeeek! A pervert!” Anyone who falls short says so much as “good morning” and it’s “beat it, creep, stop harassing me.” When a glance or a civil greeting will land you in hot water, it’s time to pack it in.
“I know I was confused by the rules growing up. I was raised with a brilliant younger sister, and by a mutually respectful mother and father who taught gender equality and manners, with no exceptions. As I result, I was always uncomfortable with any flirting as I passed into junior high and high school, nor could I react to it, or most of the time, detect it. I was polite, treated my female classmates with respect, had lots of female friends, and didn’t have a date until I was sophomore in college. Meanwhile I watched young women I wanted to know better get involved with jerk after jerk. (I also found out that some of my female friends spread rumors that I was gay. They were hot and I never tried anything. Obviously I wasn’t interested.) ”
Nice guys finish last, Jack, that’s been the case since before World War II. The hotties will always go for the James Dean-wannabes who can bring excitement into their lives…and sometimes look for the decent guys after that sneering jerk whose ass looked so great in tight jeans has either moved on or landed himself in jail or an early grave, except now they’re no longer hot and have 2 kids they’re hoping some guy will be dumb enough to help them raise. I was never great-looking, and I am quirky due to Asperger’s Syndrome that wasn’t even a diagnosis until I was out of college, still struggling to fit in in a world I only understood on some level. I managed to pass the bar and function as a practicing attorney, but I haven’t even been on a casual date since I was old enough to date. Mom stopped pushing a long time before she died last year, my brother and his wife gave her what she really wanted: a grandchild, but Dad is still pushing for me to “find someone while there’s still time,” not really grasping that you can’t play the bottom of the 9th in a game where you never took your first at-bat because you already had three strikes called against you. I am polite to co-workers, I don’t flirt, and when I go out to events by myself I stay quiet. My goal is to just make it to the end of this life with no one able to level bs accusations at me without being laughed at.
A couple of observations.
1. Women, at least in the work place, usually dress to impress other women. There are exceptions of course.
2. Nice, hot girls usually go out with jerk guys in high school and college because those are the ones who have the courage to ask out the pretty girls. Nice guys were too shy, and nice girls likewise were to shy to do the asking themselves. I remember being floored when I attended my 10-year class reunion and a couple of my male friends confessed to me that they had a crush on me all during school. I would have definitely gone to homecoming and prom with them if they had asked.
3. Dating is fun Steve and don’t let the Asperger’s stop you. All of us have issues, quirks, etc. on some level. Plus, it gives you a great excuse in all social situations.
4. Not all women want someone to marry and to foot the bills. Half of my friends are single and plan on staying that way even though they enjoy dating. It’s a brave new world Steve, and I believe that there is someone out there for everyone.
1. If you say so, I frankly never noticed, nor did I think of it in that light. Obviously I was being extreme with some of the descriptions, since I have been with my current office we have had no “Disco Dollies,” and there is no eye candy here. That’s how I prefer it, it means there’s no distractions.
2. I went to all-male high school, so I can’t speak to that experience. I was told in college by one guy who fancied himself my friend to just keep my head down, lest I weird anyone out. I had crushes, but I wisely kept my mouth shut. I wonder if I would have fared better now with online college possible. By the way, I was twice used as a “best friend and confidante” after college by women, both of whom dated and later married abusers. In one case it was particularly egregious as the person had been through 2 relationships with men who beat her, and married a third who beat her, fought with other men, had affairs (at least one with a girl who was underage) drank like a fish, and locked her out at night. This left me wondering just what kind of creature a woman is, who can discard a friend who listens to her bawl her heart out for hours, lends her money, and so on, but marry a horror like this guy and pronounce him the best thing that ever happened.
3. I have no idea. Like I said, I think it’s better for the whole world if I just keep my head down and stick to my more mainstream hobbies (like photography and history) until the Grim Reaper decides my time is up and I move on to whatever’s next.
4. You know, right before that second person ended contact with me (because she was going to now be the perfect little wife) she said the same thing, although I think what she was saying was “I got mine, sucks to be you.”
I second Beth.
1. Women often do dress to impress other women, because we may think other women are dressing to impress men. Also note that with a little skill and know-how, many women can transform themselves into “eye-candy” for someone, and you know, with good grooming and confidence, so can a dude.
2. Steve, with all due respect, and knowing little about context, I don’t believe that guy was your friend. I don’t believe those women were, either.
I have one or two female friends in college who hung out one-on-one with male “friends” who liked them, who they knew liked them, who didn’t like them back (or claimed not to), and who kept hanging out with them one-on-one anyway. I wish I had had the guts to suggest they cut the “friendship” loose, as I couldn’t see what was worthwhile about it. But that was far, far away from all my female friends, who are now mostly healthily single or married to nice guys.
Point is, I agree with you that those kinds of relationships are unhealthy, and it takes a needy, insecure woman to maintain one. Most women don’t behave that way, though, especially not past college age, and “nice guys” don’t have to be victims of this crap. Someone in the situation needs to pluck up their courage and declare their love or cut things off. Easier said than done, I know, but I promise, what you experienced there won’t be what you experience every time you show interest in a woman.
3. Dating is fun, if often cringeworthy, and at the very least gives you fodder for other social situations. As Beth said, women do have their own quirks and issues, too. We’re neither a different species nor a hive mind. We can also be fatties, shorties, glasses-wearers, and occasionally baldies. And rejection sucks, but it’s the only thing you really have to fear.
4. I believe you, and I’m sorry, but again, she was one woman, and many more of us exist. Some of enjoy making our own money and being independent (which turns some men off). Don’t give up hope.
1. You might have something there, and yes, for a time a few years back I did transform, to the point of being called a Don Juan and having my sexuality questioned (colored shirts and matchy-matchy ties, but no significant other).
2. In retrospect no, this guy wanted to be a leader but had no followers, so I became one because I was all alone otherwise. Ahaha, sounds like your friends were engaging in the practice now known as friendzoning and a few other things, where a woman knows a guy likes her, she doesn’t like him back, or at least not enough to get involved with him romantically, but she keeps him around as a friend so that there is someone she can ask to do favors, lend her a few bucks when she needs it, listen to her and lend her support when she needs it, and so on.
For her its all the benefits of being in a relationship without any of the problems, because she knows she can go to this guy any time and he’ll make time for her, but if she’s with the bf she’s really into, or just doesn’t want to hear he friend’s issues like he heard hers she can make herself scarce.
For him it’s the opposite, it’s all the bad parts of being in a relationship without any of the good parts (commitment, affection, etc.). Yet he won’t call her out on this because (usually) he’s lonely and dreads losing the friendship, which she can easily imply is what will happen if he doesn’t loan her a few dollars or buy her that thing she wants (“you’re too cheap” or “you don’t trust me to pay you back”), do her that favor like moving her couch or picking up some item (“if you’re too busy to help, that’s fine”) or listen to her problems for the umpteenth time (“are you getting tired of me?”) . Somehow, though, if there aren’t favors involved, she’s always busy, and sometimes she’s even refined it to the point where, as soon as you’ve moved that couch into place, her cell phone rings and it’s “Hi honey…yup, I’ll be down in five minutes… Hey, thanks, but that was Rob and I gotta go meet him. Can you drop this in the mail for me? Thanks, shut the door on your way out, ok?” Yet hope springs eternal, because no one else will give him the time of day.
3. If you say so. Frankly I have enough to worry about without the pain and distraction of another date gone bad or woman telling me I’m just not going to amount to much.
4. Nothing to be sorry about. Maybe in the end I got the better end of that deal, who wants to be married to a clingy, neurotic punching bag?
I will bet that within one day you will get at least one feminist troll (both words in that phrase are important) with a disdainful comment about male entitlement, in the same way Scott Aaronson got slammed.
Hang in there….I grew up with three brothers, no sisters, and, like Jack, parents who told me to treat everybody the way I wanted to be treated. That led to me having a lot of female friends and missing a lot of signals but I finally got it right. For every pot there’s a lid.
Beth, if women dress to impress other women, I guess women must like lots of cleavage and exposed undergarments.
I laughed when I read this because my Grandmother used to say “For every pot there’s a lid.”
My brilliant sister with Asperger’s (undiagnosed except by me, wrong generation) found a great guy who was also brilliant and on the spectrum. But, there are not always conventional ways of dealing with relationships. Steve-O many people experience what you’ve experienced. (That is probably not much help.) I have no answers, but as an introvert I completely get your method of dealing with it.
Women do dress to impress other women, but sometimes they’re not trying to impress them with class. More like in-your-face I’m sexy and you’re not. Women see through the facade very easily when it comes to other women, just like men see it in men.
Bullseye with the last paragraph. To another guy, a guy showing off pumped-up muscles, tattoos, and pants so tight you can tell his religion is just a jerk. The women are too busy swooning and thinking of how to snag him.
No — when we see a guy like that we say, “Crap, another hot guy and OF COURSE he’s gay!” 🙂
Hmmm, those three things aren’t necessarily indicative, BUT could be. Usually you have to wait for the guy to talk or see how he decorates his workspace before you know which way he swings and whether to prep the jokes…for about a minute, poking crude fun at a co-worker can cost you your job and it ain’t worth it.
Right. Replace “say” with “think” — and outside of the work place of course.
Studies have shown that women want sex just as much as men do; biological imperative is thus a rather meager explanation. The innate differences between male and female sex drives are very subtle, and the vast majority of difference is in cultural expression.
Did I say women DON’T want sex? I don’t think I did.
I doubt that 11-year-old girls do, however….
I’ve probably mentioned this before, and I like this post very much, but it’s a little disorienting to have you end your essay by saying the situation “sucks.” If you want the society to stop coarsening itself, why not try saying the situation is “terrible” or “awful” or “dire” or “depressing?” English is a great language. (I’ve been speaking it all my life!) Why conclude with the now bizarrely over accepted euphemism for fellatio when talking about making the world safer for eleven year old girls (a very worthwhile endeavor)? And if you counter by saying “‘suck’ is now completely acceptable, language evolves, don’t be a priss, if you don’t like it go apply for membership in the Academie Francaise. America doesn’t believe in language police!” you’ll have proved my point.
PS. Would your Dad have used “suck?” Maybe he would have. Maybe he used “FUBAR,” I don’t know.
As to the rest of your comment, perhaps it was because I was brought up in a very Catholic household and Catholic schools, but I’ve always understood the world to be comprised of “us” and “them.” One of the “us” is decent people with the corresponding “them” being jerks. Catcalling construction workers are jerks. Half the world’s below the fiftieth percentile. It takes intelligence to be a decent human being. Go look at some Breughels if you want to see how the other half has always lived. Yes, society needs to be vigilant, but given its demographics, I think it’s more important for us as families to teach our kids and grandkids the importance of being decent and respecting yourself and making your way safely through the treacherous waters. Society’s not going to do it for any of us any time soon.
You did read it carefully enough to pick up on the fact that “sucks” is a quote, thus alluding to the linked article? I know there’s a name for this device, but I can’t remember what it is. I also used it in the Ben Carson piece. It involves duplicating immediately recognizable phrasing to show either solidarity with or to mock another author or speaker. To work, it has to be something the second writer normally wouldn’t say. So, for example, if I asked how old you would be if you didn’t know how old you was, you wouldn’t criticize my bad grammar because I was really channeling Satchel Paige and his famous quote.
“You did read it carefully enough to pick up on the fact that “sucks” is a quote, thus alluding to the linked article?”
No, I did not. Sorry. Didn’t see any quotes. I don’t not click on all the links in your blogs. I assume you are accurately representing your sources. I was shocked enough to kind of wonder whether you weren’t being facetious or otherwise making a point.
Guess that one went right over my head, Satch.
Despite all the attention the ‘catcalling’ phenomenon gets in the media, I have never actually seen it in real life (outside of high school, where the juveniles act juvenile). If this is really such an issue, why is it that in 40+ years, I have yet to see this happen outside a juvenile setting? I suspect it is because I have mostly lived in very ‘red’ states.
I have seen it on YouTube, but all of these incidents seem to happen in very liberal areas of the culture and the perpetrators are people that I was just told (as part of my institutions federally mandated sensitivity training) that I need to be lenient of if their behavior deviates from what I consider normal. If you want someone to blame for the situation lady, look at our dominant liberal culture. We have been told we need to reject courtesy and manners as ‘old fashioned’ and ‘repressive’. We have been told to be tolerant or supportive of minorities with different approaches to issues, like the Mike Brown issue and “Hands Up!, Don’t Shoot!” (Black Lives Matter). We have been told that we need to accept all hispanic illegal immigrants with open arms, but deport all the Chinese ones we can find. Sorry, but ‘catcalling’ is not acceptable in traditional ‘repressive white culture’. It is acceptable in hip, black culture and in hispanic culture. Which of these cultural norms is Bernie Sanders endorsing?
You say you are serious about fixing the situation? Vote Republican. Then maybe I’ll start to believe you.
I’m guessing “wolf whistles” are an essentially Mediterranean behavior. Maybe primarily Roman. That and pinching girls in public.
See, eg., Ruth Orkin – American girl in Italy, 1951: A bunch of guidos standing around on a Roman street whistling at a young girl, a popular print featured in lots of Italian restaurants. I’m always amazed at these street scenes where there or tons of guys standing around doing absolutely nothing in the middle of the day. Kind of like in the Middle East. Don’t the men have to do anything in these cultures other than hang out?
Many Europeans are “looking for a job” but hoping they don’t find one. After you’ve been on the relatively generous benefits there and you get to hang out, sip espresso, and flirt, it’s hard to get much of a work ethic back.
“We have been told that we need to accept all hispanic illegal immigrants with open arms, but deport all the Chinese ones we can find.”
OK, this is a new one. This progressive didn’t get the memo that we hate the Chinese now. Where have you heard this?
I make all my new employees read and sign our sexual harassment policy so there is no argument later on about what is or isn’t sexual harassment. If they don’t sign it I will not hire them. I also tell them that there will be no warning. Its one strike and out. A couple years back I had an employee tell a client as we were walking down the stairs at a job site “mm you look nice today” He said this as he was walking behind her and made it obvious he was talking about her ass. I excused ourselves from the client , walked him outside to our truck and fired him.
The client told me later that me firing him on the spot was the only thing that kept her from throwing my company off the job.