From The”On The Other Hand” Files: Before You Are Too Hard On Feminists Who Arrive At College Resenting Men, Read This…

Street harassment sign 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. Continue reading

Ethics Quiz: The Beautiful Young Woman In Georgetown

beautiful-face

Late last night, the previous post regarding the video showing a woman being repeatedly shouted at by rude and intrusive males as she silently walked down New York City streets sparked an ancient memory from my past.

The incident before my career shift into ethics, indeed before I was married. I was in Georgetown on a lovely fall day (like this one), and it had been a lousty week. I was feeling lost and depressed. Suddenly I was aware of the young woman walking slightly ahead of me toward the corner of Wisconsin and M streets, Georgetown Central. She wasn’t merely beautiful, but heart-stoppingly beautiful, the kind of rare combination of perfect genetics aesthetic taste who makes one realize how dishonest Hollywood’s representation of humanity is. Maybe this young woman would have blended into the scenery in Tinseltown, but I doubt it very much. Greek myths described how mortals, if they saw a god or goddess in their true form, would be instantly burned to ash, and that was almost the effect this woman had on me.

Yet she did not have the aura of a star or a model who was aware that she was gorgeous and conscious of her effect on those around her—I have seen that many times. Beautiful people generally know they are beautiful and are used to being treated differently because of it; they sometimes have a “leave me alone” force field around them, and this woman didn’t have that either. For some reason, perhaps because the jolt she had given me renewed my flagging enthusiasm for life in general at that moment—I literally never do this, not before and not since—when we reached the corner together, I turned to her and said, as I recall it,

“Excuse me, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but your are incredibly lovely, and seeing you today has made me happy, when I was anything but happy before.  I just wanted to say thank you.”

Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz:

Was this wrong?

Continue reading

Hollaback And Awareness of Street Harassment—What’s the Point?

 

If people who engage in specific unethical conduct know it is unethical and don’t care, does it serve any useful purpose to tell people who know it is unethical and would never do it or tolerate it that the unethical individuals are engaging in it?

I wonder.

From Vox:

Hollaback, an organization that wants to stamp out street harassment and intimidation (a.k.a. catcalls), produced a video in which it videotaped a young woman walking around Manhattan for 10 hours this past August. A hidden video camera was placed in the backpack of a man walking in front of her, catching every catcall, whistle, and even one persistent character who walked alongside the woman for five minutes.

The results are startling. According to Hollaback, there were over 100 instances of verbal harassment in that 10-hour walk, not including winks and whistles. In the video, the woman remains silent. She is dressed in a T-shirt and jeans.

Check the link to Hollaback, and you will see that the organization claims that “you have the power to end street harassment.” No, really you don’t. There can’t be a law against shouting out to someone ( to its credit, legislation isn’t one of the group’s recommendations), and the tradition of men harassing attractive women on the street is old and persistent. This isn’t an everybody does it excuse, this is an “assholes will be assholes, and there will always be assholes” statement of fact. I would expect that street harassment is getting worse, thanks to counter-productive muddled feminist efforts like the recent video with little girls repeatedly saying “Fuck.” Women killed chivalry by treating it as an insult—indeed, it was subordinating and condescending, but at least well-intentioned—and are surprised now that its polar opposite thrives? See, the chivalrous men, those with manners, were called pigs and made to feel guilty about being nice. The men who intentionally and openly harass women? They can’t be made to feel guilty. They do this because they like it.

Remember “the Hunger Project”? It was essentially a 1970’s scam that purported to seek an end to world hunger by saying that it could be ended without really doing anything that could possibly accomplish that goal. Gullible members gave money to the organization, and felt they were doing something to end hunger by giving, when all they were really doing was supporting a group that said world hunger could be ended. Is Hollaback any different? I know there is a long list of “actions” it recommends, but none of these  are likely to penetrate the culture that causes the problem. Basic ethics—the Golden Rule, mutual respect for others, manners, civility—already tells us that shouting at women on the street is disgusting and wrong, and civilized human beings don’t do it, ever. Nor do groups of civilized human beings engage in this conduct.

Men who harass women on the street are exactly like men who have indiscriminate and irresponsible sex, or men who drink so much they can’t hold a job, or men who cheat on their wives, or men who molest children. Nobody needs to tell them that civilized, ethical people think this is wrong. They know it’s wrong. They do it because they like it.

There is no chance, none, zero, that increasing awareness among the comparatively few people who don’t know this is a vile social behavior (I was surprised that the harassment in ten hours wasn’t worse) will do anything to end or even reduce it. So what’s the point?

This, in Vox’s last sentence…

“The video is a reminder that men asserting their dominance over women and intimidating them is simply all too common.”

That’s the message. The awareness campaign is designed to make sure everyone regards women as victims of men generally, and to group men who would never engage in this kind of boorish and threatening conduct with those who do. Then all men can be vilified and placed on the defensive. Dare you question whether a woman should have her contraception paid for, regardless of means? Why, you are just like those harassers on the street, asserting your dominance over women!

I will decline Hollaback’s invitation for the self-indicting trap it is.

Nice try, though.