beige_alert: (kilt)
[personal profile] beige_alert
There are some anti-street-harassment videos circulating at the moment, and you know what they say about reading the comments. Yeah.  That.

I'm reminded of the heyday of the voluntary waterboarding. Remember that? Macho Tough Guy ™ writers and TV personalities told us all that this notorious means of torture, used by notorious torturers for centuries, didn't sound so bad to them. In fact, they were going to show us it's not so bad by having themselves waterboarded. Not, you know, first being kept awake for two weeks, having a leg and and an arm broken, no food, genuine fear of death, and so on, just a quick, gentle waterboarding administered by friends of theirs, with a safeword, and paramedics standing by, just in case. The least possible dose of the torture. What did they discover? Wow, this notorious means of torture is really, really awful to experience! Who knew?

Well, yeah, the rest of us didn't have to try it to believe it, though I'm sure they have an appreciation for the true experience the rest of us don't have.

"Stop being oversensitive." "Technically, what that guy shouted is a compliment, can't you even take a compliment?" "I'd love to have women shouting at me."  Some people are capable of just believing people who say that they don't like being harassed.

Deliberately setting yourself up to be harassed to see what it feels like is a dangerous game.  (And harassing someone to teach him a lesson is a dangerous game.)  I can't really recommend it.  But I can assure you that wearing a kilt in public will get you some comments that will teach you something about what it really feels like.  Comments from women.  Technically, that's the straight men's fantasy of having women yell stuff at them.  I already believed that having drunk people shout stuff about your underwear would be uncomfortable, I didn't really learn that.  But I have a new appreciation for it.

And while I'm on this topic, while dressed in, well, attention-attracting ways, I have had people say things that were absolutely wonderful and delightful comments and compliments, and I've had people say things that I honestly believe were intended as complimentary and funny but which were nevertheless somewhat uncomfortable.  I've also had drunk women behave like drunk people, which was never really going to be good.  I did learn from this.

People like to post selfies on facebook with their new outfit or new hairstyle or new eyeglasses or whatever.  I do.  Let's be honest, we're fishing for compliments when we do that.  Now I think very hard about what I write.  Most especially with women who I don't know very, very well.  I very specifically want to avoid writing something that could be edited down to "I'd like to make use of your vagina."  There are times and places for that kind of thing.  Other times, "that pattern is fantastic" is much more appropriate.  A woman once asked me about my boots in the toothbrush aisle at the drugstore.  That was not a bad experience but it was odd.  Two women at the grocery store told me they thought my (exceedingly colorful) pants were fantastic.  Said in a very quiet voice while passing by, giving me the option to just say thanks and move on or else strike up a conversation, which is what we did do.  It can be done comfortably, but you'd best be very, very careful.  Now, at a party where everyone is all dressed up fancy?  Different thing.  Seriously, think about this stuff, don't just go out being Captain Awkward: Straight Dude Of Cluelessness. 

Date: 2014-10-31 02:36 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I have reluctantly but entirely given up any sort of compliments to people I don't know, for these reasons. I cannot tell when my compliment will come across as creepy.

Date: 2014-10-31 08:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Wow - thank you for that awesome, thoughtful post. I'm usually not a sensitive person. I am old enough and well rooted in my personality and sexuality that a few wolf whistles and comments won't faze me. But there is a fine line between a nice comment, flirting, and sexual harassment and unfortunately every person has their own perception of where that line is.

The problem is (in my experience) to educate people that communication is a two way road and a comment is bad when the *receiver* says it's bad, and the sender in that case does not get a vote in that. The sender can only decide if they want to say "I'm sorry, I didn't mean it that way" and refrain from it from now on, or if they go "oh, you're too sensitive" which translates to "I really don't care if I hurt you. Your problem."

I'll keep the kilt in mind and tell men that before they can judge, they will have to wear a kilt for a week. They can claim they lost a bet or something, but I really think that's a good educational experiment :-) I can just imagine the comments you got to hear.

Date: 2014-11-01 04:18 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I actually do recommend the kilt experiment. I think there is a pretty big population of basically stereotypical appearing/acting straight cis white men who have literally never, ever, been on the receiving end of this sort of thing. I wasn't, for a long long time. It's eye-opening. Not just drunk women saying stuff. Also being very conscious that you are being conspicuously unusual and hoping you don't encounter someone who wants to make too big a fuss about it. And the wide range of the non-obnoxious comments, from friends and strangers, which is really an education in how easy it is to stray from the completely nice to the relatively awkward.

Date: 2014-10-31 12:20 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
For me it depends on the location. If I'm at a convention, and I see someone who has obviously made an effort with their hall costume, or masquerade costume, I'm likely to say "Wow, nice outfit!" I have occasionally said "wow, how did you get the jaws of the mask to move when you talk? That's great!" or something like that.

But the point of the compliment is to make people happy; if I make someone uncomfortable, I've failed. And as a woman, I've been socialized to stay well away from expressing sexual feelings in public, so that's one whole avenue of creepiness I avoid.

Date: 2014-11-01 01:45 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Context is a big thing. Dressed up, whether in elaborate costume or just something far more unusual than one would typically throw on in the morning, at a social gathering, some comments are quite expected. The thing that I've found sort of odd is wearing the least unusual part of that outfit in my icon, the boots, along with plain old blue jeans and a boring shirt. Sure, they're fancy boots, but look around, probably twenty percent of the people are wearing boots at least as fancy. Granted, very few of them are men, so, yes, I get that, but still, they're just boots. Memorably, once I was in the toothpaste aisle at the drug store, picking out a toothbrush, and someone asked me about my footwear. It just seemed out of context. Not particularly disturbing, but of course for me I can just put "normal" shoes on with the jeans and gray shirt and I guarantee that everyone will go back to ignoring me. If I got that sort of thing on a regular basis any time I was out in public no matter what I did, it would get old mighty fast as a great many women know all too well.

Date: 2014-10-31 01:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you for getting it (even if I'm really sorry that you've had to experience harassment of this sort. That's not cool.)

Date: 2014-11-01 02:16 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I'm always quick to note that the male privilege is generally still in effect even when I'm being made uncomfortable. Obviously, I can and sometimes do feel unsafe, but in these situations I'm describing I had no fear for my physical safety. It's been somewhat surprising to me just how uncomfortable some situations have been given a conspicuous absence of fear. I'm very aware that even just a bit of fear would make a big difference.

Date: 2014-11-01 04:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is why I love you, Michael, and why you will always be the Amazing M to me.


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