Why You Shouldn’t Tell That Random Girl On The Street That She’s Hot


Ah, spring. What a wonderful time of the year. Flowers are blooming, birds are chirping, terrified college students are graduating, and dudes on the internet are pondering that age-old philosophical question: “But whyyyyy can’t I tell that random girl on the street that she looks hot?”

It seems that men are finally starting to realize that many women do not like street harassment (or, in the parlance of the uninitiated, “unsolicited compliments about a stranger’s appearance”). This is really great and a sign that activists are doing a good job.

However, predictably, I’ve also seen a surge of men desperately trying to find loopholes so that they can still, yes, give women their irrelevant and unasked-for opinion on their appearance. Hence all the “But what if I say it this way? But what if I say it that way? But what if I make it REALLY CLEAR that I’m NOT TRYING TO BE CREEPY? But why can’t I just give a girl a compliment for crying out loud?”

Okay. Before I say what I’m going to say, here are some things I’m NOT saying:

  • Finding a random woman attractive makes you a Bad Person.
  • Wanting to tell her she’s attractive makes you a Bad Person.
  • Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, it makes her uncomfortable/scared.
  • Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, that is harassment.

Here’s what I AM going to say:

  • If you find yourself really invested in the idea of complimenting random women on the street, you should do some serious soul-searching and figure out why that idea appeals to you so much.
  • It may very well be possible to compliment a woman you don’t know on her appearance in an appropriate way.
  • But, if you choose to compliment a random woman on her appearance, you run a high risk of making her uncomfortable/scared, even if she doesn’t show any outward signs of it. Are you willing to take that chance?
  • If you choose to compliment a random woman on her appearance, you may be harassing her.

So, about really wanting to compliment random women on the street. I’ve seen this attitude from many guys that women “deserve” compliments when they look good or that they “should” feel better about themselves, and it bothers me for many reasons that are articulated very well in this article.

The idea that women are all wallowing in a miserable pool of their own insecurity and desperately need a man to come save them by giving them compliments is really just a modern take on the Prince Charming fairytale. Yes, many women are insecure. Most of them are insecure not because no guy has ever expressed a desire to fuck them, but because of the dangerously unrealistic standards our society sets for women’s appearance and for the behaviors they must perform in order to maintain that appearance.

So as nice as it would be if all that could be solved by noble, kind-hearted men taking valuable time out of their day to compliment female passerby on their appearance, that’s not gonna happen. Women don’t need men to save us from insecurity. We need to stand up and speak out ourselves against the ways in which our culture keeps us fearful and insecure, and the ways in which we help it to do so.

Of course, this is rarely, if ever, what it’s really about when men “compliment” women they don’t know on how they look. If it were, then the collective male response to women’s advocacy about street harassment and our insistence that these “compliments” make many women feel violated, scrutinized, and afraid, would be, “Oh fuck, sorry, I had no idea. I’m going to think very carefully before doing this again, if at all.”

And really, how often is that really the response?

Usually, it’s a little more along the lines of, “Oh come onnnn, it was just a compliment, why can’t you just say thank you, why can’t I tell a girl she looks good, why’s everybody so over-sensitive these days.”

So it’s not really about making me feel nice, now is it? If this is your response to our opinions and you’re still claiming that you “just want to make a girl feel good about herself,” then this is a serious look-at-your-life-look-at-your-choices moment for you. Because maybe it’s not really about making people feel good. It’s about making yourself feel good, about feeling the power that comes with judging and expressing opinions about a woman’s looks–even if those opinions are positive.

Here’s the thing. Men in our culture have been socialized to believe that their opinions on women’s appearance matter a lot. Not all men buy into this, of course, but many do. Some seem incapable of entertaining the notion that not everything women do with their appearance is for men to look at. This is why men’s response to women discussing stifling beauty norms is so often something like “But I actually like small boobs!” and “But I actually like my women on the heavier side, if you know what I mean!” They don’t realize that their individual opinion on women’s appearance doesn’t matter in this context, and that while it might be reassuring for some women to know that there are indeed men who find them fuckable, that’s not the point of the discussion.

Women, too, have been socialized to believe that the ultimate arbiters of their appearance are men, that anything they do with their appearance is or should be “for men.” That’s why women’s magazines trip over themselves to offer up advice on “what he wants to see you wearing” and “what men think of these current fashion trends” and “wow him with these new hairstyles.” While women can and do judge each other’s appearance harshly, many of us grew up being told by mothers, sisters, and female strangers that we’ll never “get a man” or “keep a man” unless we do X or lose some fat from Y, unless we moisturize//trim/shave/push up/hide/show/”flatter”/paint/dye/exfoliate/pierce/surgically alter this or that.

That’s also why when a woman wears revealing clothes, it’s okay, in our society, to assume that she’s “looking for attention” or that she’s a slut and wants to sleep with a bunch of guys. Because why else would a woman wear revealing clothes if not for the benefit of men and to communicate her sexual availability to them, right? It can’t possibly have anything to do with the fact that it’s hot out or it’s more comfortable or she likes how she looks in it or everything else is in the laundry or she wants to get a tan or maybe she likes women and wants attention from them, not from men?

The result of all this is that many men, even kind and well-meaning men, believe, however subconsciously, that women’s bodies are for them. They are for them to look at, for them to pass judgment on, for them to bless with a compliment if they deign to do so. They are not for women to enjoy, take pride in, love, accept, explore, show off, or hide as they please. They are for men and their pleasure.

Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are genuinely good guys who just don’t understand why their comments might be unwelcome. Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are creepy predators. Most are somewhere in between, and guess what? I don’t know you, I don’t know your life, and I have no idea if you’re going to leave it at “Hey, you look good in that dress!” or follow it up with “But you’d look better without it! Har har! C’mon, where’re you going? I know you heard me! Fucking cunt, nobody wants your fat ass anyway, bitch.”

When you compliment a random woman who doesn’t know you, no matter how nice you are about it, there’s a good chance she’s going to freak out internally because for all she knows, you could be that latter type. And I get that it’s really unfair that women would just assume that about you. I get that it sucks that sometimes, expressing totally reasonable opinions like “hey you’re hot” will make women terrified of you or furious at you. That’s not fair.

But if you’re going to lay the blame for that somewhere, for fuck’s sake, don’t blame the woman. Blame all the guys who have called her a bitch and a cunt for ignoring their advances. Blame all the guys who may have harassed, abused, or assaulted her in the past. Blame all the people who may never do such a thing themselves, but who were quick to blame her and tell her to just get over it. Blame the fact that if she stops and talks to you and then something bad happens, people will blame her for stopping and talking to you.

In a perfect world, none of this would happen. In a perfect world, you could tell a woman she’s hot and she would smile and say thank you because there would be no millenia-long history of women’s bodies being used and abused by men, no notion of women’s beauty as being “for” men, no ridiculous beauty standards. Complimenting a woman on her appearance would be just like complimenting a person on their bike or their shoes or the color of their hair; it would not carry all the baggage that it carries in this world.

But that’s not our world, and it may never be. Yeah, it sucks that women often take it “the wrong way” when you give them unsolicited compliments. You know what sucks more? Yup, patriarchy.

So, guys, if you find yourself wanting to compliment a random woman you do not know and who is not asking for your opinion, ask yourself this: why does your opinion on her appearance matter?

Why do you absolutely need to express that opinion, even knowing that it might make her uncomfortable?

Why is it her responsibility to deal with that potential discomfort or “get over it,” not your responsibility to keep your opinions to yourself unless they are relevant or solicited?

And, most importantly–if complimenting people matters so much to you, why not compliment a female friend who knows and trusts you? Hell, why not compliment another man?

Look. When women want your opinion on how we look, we will ask for it. But I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you.

~~~

Note: I’ve written about street harassment before and I’ve tried not to repeat any of the same arguments, but regardless, you should read that piece if you’ve ever heard a guy say–or been the guy who said–“Yeah, well, I’d LOVE it if women ‘harassed’ ME on the street!”

Update: Hello, new readers! Please take note of my comment policy. I’m pretty strict about it and let’s just say that quite a few of you are failing to follow it! :)

Comments

  1. CaitieCat says

    Also, consider (men who want to do this) its effect on other people watching. Other men watching, quite possibly men without your sterling qualities and unquestionable niceness, will see this happen, if your fantasy goes right and the woman is okay with or enjoys your compliment.

    What they won’t see is what’s in your head: a decent guy trying to say something nice to someone for no other reason than she seems unhappy; the woman seems pleased, and all move on with their lives.

    What they will see is a guy making a comment on a woman’s appearance, and winning, in the eternal game of “women control all the sex, and it’s all a big game for men to try and win some”. Or a woman will see that someone just got a result with their attempt, and now they’ll have incrementally more men trying it on.

    Which means that later on, after the guy tries it himself and, due to his ineffable jerk qualities, is rejected or spurned or “loses” the sex game, he’ll write an angry screed about how the bitches just can’t take a compliment, or how awful it is that a nice guy like him can’t do it when that other jerk did, and why don’t the bitches like him anyway?

    It’s rape culture. It contributes to the idea that women’s bodies are for men, owned by men, and that men can do what they want with them. Because just as most women can’t tell whether you’re a decent fellow or a rapist making his first move, other people watching can’t see the awesome, unstoppable decentness of you when you do this.

    So partly why you can’t? Is because other guys fuck it up for you. So start trying to fix them, whydontcha, and leave the perfectly reasonable responses of women alone.

    Great post, Miri.

    • says

      Excellent comment, and very relevant to some research I’ve been looking at recently. Observing the behavior of others is a major way in which people assess social norms and calibrate their own behavior. Unfortunately, many social interactions read very differently when divorced from their context, which is what happens when you’re casually noticing strangers interacting.

      Imagine (this isn’t true, but say it were) that I enjoyed making racist jokes with my friends even though we’re all TOTALLY anti-racist and sooooo committed to challenging white supremacy and blahblah. We make these jokes totally “ironically.” When we make them, we’re laughing at the mere idea that someone would think this way, because we’re all so enlightened and would never think less of a person based on the color of their skin.

      So we make these jokes out in public and someone overhears them. This person isn’t consciously and intentionally anti-racist like we are. This person doesn’t think much about race at all. But they see us laughing at these racist jokes and thinks, huh, maybe that’s pretty funny after all.

      Or a person of color hears these jokes. They don’t know how super duper anti-racist we actually are. All they hear are a bunch of white folks making racist jokes. How are they going to feel? How welcome will they think they are in this environment? How willing would they be to interact with us now?

      Anyway, A+ comment.

      • katykay2010 says

        Miri, Thank you for your comments 1.1 regarding “racist” jokes/context: public/private. This issue has weighed on me a long time, and I have challenged work place or public racist, sexist comments, but have questioned myself with other “anti-racists/activists if any racist/sexist comments made, when we laughed, even tho they were critiques of the idea that someone thinks like this.

        …”Imagine (this isn’t true, but say it were) that I enjoyed making racist jokes with my friends even though we’re all TOTALLY anti-racist and sooooo committed to challenging white supremacy and blahblah. We make these jokes totally “ironically.” When we make them, we’re laughing at the mere idea that someone would think this way, because we’re all so enlightened and would never think less of a person based on the color of their skin…

        At some point, I decided to abstain from even ironic laughing, and express my discomfort amongst friends, expressing that I didn’t think less of them because I felt I understood the irony, knew the source, but I still felt uncomfortable, as though just our critiquing them, laughing, was putting this hatred in the universe and countering our activism. Some said I needed to lighten up, perhaps I was too serious. Others expressed some similar discomfort, so we have food for thought, and reading your comment put this in a broader context for me. Will share. Thinking now that critiques using racist comments, for me, need to be not just laughed at amongst like-minded, even ironically unless they are followed by serious thought and follow-up on studying how to easily and comfortably refute racist or sexist statements in other public or family contexts. Have never successfully countered by God-fearing friends, family, co-workers about agnosticism or “heaven” forbid, atheism……Lots of people praying for me daily….lot’s of luck with that praying, friends, romans, country/people…..I’m really ok.

        Your comments, as always, are astute and helpful.

      • Rob says

        Isn’t the corollary that if we (i.e. “well-adjusted men”) model positive interactions with strangers of all genders, that observers of that behaviour will then see what it is to interact happily and positively with each other?

      • James Poole says

        All your bombastic paragraphs and words, your convoluted ideas of propriety cannot hide the fact that you are jealous of the attention other woman receive. Dropping the sanctimonious feminazi act and doing something nice with your hair will work wonders for your chronic case of misandry.

        *post intentionally written in hipster lingo so the recipient will understand it.”

        • Corinne says

          Wait… so are you telling me that the women who dislike receiving attention on the street are jealous of other women receiving attention and that’s why they’re asking men to stop? See how this doesn’t make sense?

          Funny (actually not really) how you think women exist to please men, that they think and act to please men, and that if they don’t have all the men they see on the street falling for them and complimenting them, then they turn on to hating on other women.

          Let me tell you about an experience of mine while travelling in Morocco. The situation was much worst than here because of the general perception of women, but the treatment I got there is a similar but magnified version of what happens in North America. I ended up spending a few days there on my own. I’ll give a bit of context with the hope it’l refrain you from blaming the situation on me.

          While I was there, I wasn’t wearing a headscarf (Morocco is much more open than other Muslim countries) but was still fairly conservatively dressed by western standards. But yes, I was a women alone in Morocco. Just like I could be a women walking alone on the streets back here. (Bad idea? Maybe. But not because of me. But you know what, now that I’ve told you about the context, I want to tell you that it is totally irrelevant to the story. And to try to think about what lies beyond the context).

          The fact is, every man I would cross on the street, no matter what I did or how old they were took it upon them to talk to me. Sometimes, if I was lucky, they would just say hi. Others, however, would take it upon themselves to call me beautiful or anything else really that crossed their minds. I wasn’t insulted by any of them. But you know what, they might’ve well had. Because with every hi and ever beautiful came this feeling that I didn’t belong to me. Because they were men and I was a woman, they believed they were granted the right to talk to me, to approach me, to call me like they wanted. The fact that I may not have wanted this attention probably never crossed their mind and I’m guessing because my wanting to receive it or not didn’t really matter to them. I was a piece of meat they could do whatever they wanted with.

          I’ll contrast this with another encounter. There was this one guy who acted differently from all the others. Instead of just assuming I was there for his own enjoyment he called me miss, then he said he didn’t want to bother me in a very polite way. I stopped and listened. He seemed nice. When he told me he thought I was very pretty, his compliment made me feel good and not gross like the others. I didn’t feel invaded by it. It was different than the others.

          I really hope you can take a moment to think about how these two situations were different.

          The problem is that, while it doesn’t happen here as often as it did for me in Morocco, most of the compliments coming from men fall in the former category. They dehumanize us. Like the article states, it is possible to compliment women in a good and respectful way. To me, this is what happened with this one person (out of hundreds) in Morocco. But most of the time, when we’re doing our own things on the street, we don’t want to know that you think we’re beautiful. That doesn’t mean we don’t (or at leat I) care about how we look. Just that we don’t look the way we do specifically for you. We do not owe it to anyone to be good-looking.

          My recommendation to you, if you see a woman on the street you think is good-looking, treat her like a real person and not like a beautiful piece of meat. You’re allowed to go and say hi in a polite way and to introduce yourself. But you also need to be ready to accept that this woman might not want to talk to you, and maybe for a reason that has nothing to do with you (e.g. is late for work and doesn’t have time to stop, or just not in a social mood). Be respectful and considerate of other people’s feelings and desires. That’s all I ask.

        • Erica says

          Wha…? Women are…. jealous of other women getting harassed oh I’m sorry “complimented” lol by uglozoid creeps like yourself. Yeah that’s totally it, you so totally understood women’s motivations there champ.

    • Joe says

      So because some guy with below par intelligence takes this series of events as a recipe for “winning” we should be forced to lower our interactions with others to a level that can’t be misunderstood by the lowest common denominator? I understand the desire to not be objectified and I can agree there is a fine line between compliment and objectification but I really think avoiding the problem by removing it as a possibility is the wrong way to go. This, over time, pushes people away from each other for fear that saying anything (not just the wrong thing) may be offensive.

      I don’t mean to intrude in these conversations but today is my “understand feminism” day.

      • says

        This, over time, pushes people away from each other for fear that saying anything (not just the wrong thing) may be offensive.

        But CaitieCat’s argument has nothing to do with saying things that are “offensive” or “offending” people. It’s about considering the possible negative externalities of your actions and being mindful of the way they affect others–not just the others at whom you direct those actions, but those who witness them, those who interact with those who witness them, and so on.

        If you’re operating from a utilitarian viewpoint, you may still decide that the good you get from doing something outweighs the bad that it may cause. Okay. But this has nothing to do with “offensiveness.”

        • CaitieCat says

          Indeed, I didn’t use or intend the word “offensive”; it’s not anywhere in what I said.

          What I said was, the sense of entitlement that makes some men think they have a right to comment on women’s appearance, and which leads to the entitlement that is rape, is constructed from semi-okay moments like this, and “good” men’s willingness to let this kind of thing skate, probably because they want to retain the possibility that they, too, will one day have a Meet Cute with a Manic Pixie Dream Girl who will make their life all fairy dust, blow jobs, and sammiches. Which only happens in crappy movies, but hey, it’s an important right to be able to preserve, and WAY more important than women’s right to partake in society as men do.

          And if that means some low-intelligence type takes it to construct a rape culture, and then rather predictably decides to rape someone, well, that’s not my fault, obviously. I never did anything ever that demeaned a woman in any way at all, especially when anyone could see or hear me, because I am floaty-dudebro-Jesus, and above all suspicion.

          And if you’re thinking of calling me out on my tone, don’t make me make another comment pointing out how appropriate and not-the-slightest-bit unreasonable my tone really is.

          • Joe says

            I’m not going to call you out on your tone, I’m a visitor,a passerby, in the online feminist circles and I came into this in an attempt to understand some of these concepts as well as discover how seemingly innocent acts may generate hostility. It would be a bit like me walking into someone else’s house, getting yelled at, and telling them to watch their tone when talking to me. I won’t do that

            I will say that I fail to see justification of this snowball chain of logic. That a compliment of any nature, when seen by someone else, potentially leads to rape making interactions of unknowable context to outsiders unacceptable. Basically constraining interactions based on the overall perceived intelligence of those who may be watching which is most often unknowable. So because of these factors, which can never be immediately measured, no interaction should take place even if the intent was simply to brighten someones day.

            My use of the word offensive wasn’t repeating what you had said but was extrapolated as the implied result of the scenario you presented. You didn’t use the word offensive but it was implied that any action like this, due to the externalities (thank you Miri), leads to my reference of offensive, or criminal, behavior.

            I’m not sure if the “floaty-dudebro-jesus” label was intended for me. If it was I’m guessing it’s assumed that because I am a man that I must be demeaning towards women or must have been demeaning towards them at some point which just isn’t true. For a bit of background I was raised by my mom and two sisters I married into a family of only women. Everything in my life I owe to them. I would never disrespect.

          • CaitieCat says

            I will say that I fail to see

            “Well,” as Jamie says, “there’s yer problem.”

            Sadly, I have a life to conduct, so I’ll leave it to you to find out why the chain of logic exists, and why I don’t feel I’ve got to do the educating on this one. Google is your friend. Start with “rape culture”, find out what it is, and you might just begin to see the connection, and hopefully start to see past your own terribly important right to pester random female passers-by, to their right to not be pestered all the frakking time.

            Because – here’s your revelation of the day – you’re not the only one doing it. And if 90% of the interactions I have with men “giving me compliments” are negative and unwanted/inappropriately timed, whose fault is it that I have a poor response to all attempts? Mine, for making the reasonable self-protective inference, or men’s, for making the conditions such that the inference was necessary for continued sanity? And in that standoff, where are you going to stand? In line with the 90%, or in line with the women who just want to be able to go about their day unpestered?

            Or you might not. Not my concern, nor my responsibility. I hope you have, or have had depending where you are, a nice, and for our sake thoughtful, Friday.

          • Jenny says

            “Well,” as Jamie says, “there’s yer problem.”

            And as Jenny says, there’s *your* problem. And the problem of an increasing number of feminists. You will not listen to other people’s opinions, even dare to concede that (whisper) you might not be 100% right, and you don’t even want to try to help people who ARE willing to listen and learn.

            You, CaitieCat, are why feminists are seen as closed-minded and the movement seen as reductive and harmful to 50% of the population of the planet.

            Kind regards,

            A real feminist.

          • says

            Well spoken, Jenny. Personally, I’m grateful to have a lot of friends who, like you, are out there doing it right. It gives me hope that things can be different for my daughter when she is old enough to worry about bigger-than-three-year-old problems. :)

            (It also gives me hope that one day I’ll be able to run around even Utah in some of my favorite clothing which is different colors than the traditional military drab assigned to men, and not get quite so many strange and/or threatening looks from others.)

          • Brad says

            Thank you Jenny. Although many people will automatically call you out as being wrong because two men immediately agreed with you, I think you hit the nail on the head. CaitieCat, taking an 8 word quote out of context and then responding to it is unfair. Joe is trying to understand the problem and YOUR the one being condescending and making him feel like he should just know what everyone wants. The easiest way to treat someone how they want to be treated is just ask. So you shouldn’t get all huffy if he wants you to explain his points of contention with you viewpoints. Furthermore, you do realize that not every woman will have your viewpoint on this subject right? I’m not trying to be like,”Oh some women like random comments from strangers,” but I think your demeaning women if you say your all mindless drones and have the exact same viewpoint on one issue or are brainwashed by society if you don’t. Just my opinion.

          • Catcalled says

            As a woman, I do dislike catcalling and I feel discomfort when I get approached by strange men on the street who comment on my appearance. No matter how polite men are to me, I don’t enjoy it. Sometimes being overly polite can raise even more red flags. I’m a waitress so I also have men approaching me to compliment my appearance at work, quite frequently. I’ve learned to act like the comment holds meaning to me, but they don’t.

            I don’t really feel the need to meet beauty standards. Probably because I like how I look no matter how much effort I put into looking good. There is no low self esteem here with regards to my appearance and there never has been. Insults or compliments on my appearance have no effect on me, but men feel as though I must have some insecurities because ‘all women do’. When I admit that I have none, people feel the need to tear me down, maybe to prove that I have some? Men act like it’s something novel.

            Anyway. I’ve always felt that a polite “You look nice today” was rather harmless. To me, the harmful catcalling has always been when a man comments/compliments my appearance and my response isn’t satisfying to him, so I immediately become “hateful bitch”. To me, it becomes harmful when men believe I owe them a response, I owe them a thank you, I owe them my time, I owe them a date because they said something nice to me. While I’ll never understand the need to compliment strangers on the street, I can’t see the harm in quick and polite compliments on my appearance when the individual expects nothing in return (including a response).

            Most perplexing to me is I’d never tell random attractive men on the street that they are attractive. Probably due to how our society would interpret that from a woman. The assumption would immediately be that I must want it from that man, that there is something sexual going on there.

            Sorry for rambling, and I apologize if my English doesn’t make sense.

      • says

        Hi Joe, I can’t find the reply link for the latest comment you wrote in this thread, so just consider this a generalized reply to you.

        I’m a female who uses public transit. I can’t walk down the road without at least one person honking their horn at me, yelling “hey baby” out the window, or even sometimes slowing down as though I’m really actually going to get in their car. In the article, where Miri gives the following scenario:
        “…I have no idea if you’re going to leave it at “Hey, you look good in that dress!” or follow it up with “But you’d look better without it! Har har! C’mon, where’re you going? I know you heard me! Fucking cunt, nobody wants your fat ass anyway, bitch.”

        That is not some feminist fantasy about how men treat us. That *actually* happens to me at places like the bus stop, maybe once or twice a year.

        If I forget my book or don’t feel like pretending I’m on my phone– I will get hit on, I will get asked for my number. It has gotten to the point where I am not even friendly to guys who say hi to me on the bus– because I have never had that gone without an unwanted solicitation. So I am an ice bitch, which makes me uncomfortable because I am usually nice, but it only took one person following me off the bus for me to realize that I have to protect myself before I protect your feelings, or give you the benefit of the doubt.

        Every time someone “compliments me”, my heart beat rises– I don’t like confrontation, and I don’t know how they are going to take rejection if they (and they usually do) try to move things forward, which I am 100% going to give during a public transit situation. In case you’re wondering, yes that has sometimes went negatively for me, and I’ve seen it turn negatively for other females. Sometimes, it doesn’t matter whether I am actively busy. People interrupt me reading to tell me they like how I look, immediately following up trying to find out where I live or where I’m going. In those cases where it just appears to be a random compliment, I don’t bask in an inner glow of, “wow, I feel so flattered and attractive!” More like, “Why won’t people just let me be… what do they even get out of this shit?”

        Maybe someone feels like they have something special that will make the compliment well received (a common delusion). But, as CaitiCat and Miri are discussing, you are contributing to a culture that inevitably makes women deal with uncomfortable and possibly dangerous situations. I’m not on public transit for your compliments or your solicitations, you’re not the only one that finds me attractive and I really don’t care that you do, and you don’t get to be the special snowflake who gets to do it because you’re somehow not in this “lowest denominator” (which by the way, people imitating people is not just a behavior of people with low IQ…). So, yes I *would* be fine if this scenario was completely removed from the culture so I can go about my day without being bothered.

        • Meghan says

          First off, kudos to Joe for showing some interest in this issue. It’s tough for a lot of guys to understand, because they aren’t exposed to it on a daily basis like women are, and it’s great that you’re trying to get where we’re coming from.
          A couple months ago, I was at a bar with my boyfriend and two of his (male) work friends. I was talking to one, innocently, and my boyfriend was talking to the other less than a meter away. The guy I was talking to, suddenly, and out of absolutely nowhere, made a gesture at me, imitating a sex act that I don’t care to describe. My boyfriend saw this, grabbed my hand, and we ran to the nearest metro station. The whole way home, he was in shock, telling me he had no idea what an asshole his “friend” was. He insisted that we walk the long way from the metro to our apartment because it was lit better and he didn’t feel like I was safe otherwise. It made me wonder why he was so much more upset than I was (and believe me, I was upset). The answer was that, even though he knows I get negative attention and have been called names, harassed, and even assaulted before, he has never actually seen it happen. He couldn’t have possibly understood before.
          To everyone who doesn’t understand why it’s not always alright to comment on a woman’s appearance, consider the following: this guy was supposed to be a friend of my boyfriend, who was standing right next to me, and he had made no previous comment on my appearance (we were talking about music or something). Now think about the fact that most women have been through something similar or worse. How can we possibly trust a man we don’t know and who is immediately fixated on how we look or how we’re dressed?
          The other problem is that I have never gotten a compliment from a random guy about anything other than my appearance. For example, I don’t have guys coming up to me after class and telling me that they were impressed by an argument I made or my interpretation of the readings for that week. If you compliment women on their appearance, you’re reinforcing the notion that our inherent worth rides on our appearance.
          So next time you want to give a girl a compliment, tell your friend you think she’s talented. Or let your sister know you admire her creativity. Tell your coworker that her presentation was impressive. And then turn around and give a man a compliment too.

          • alanjay1 says

            Your story reminds me of a time I was traveling in Vienna, Austria with two white dudes from Wyoming. We wandering around, sightseeing, when we were stopped by two police officers who demanded to see our papers and asked a bunch of pointed questions about what we were up to. After about 5 minutes of this, they let us go. One of the dudes I was with asked why they stopped us, and the officer told us straight up that it was because there were lots of black heroin dealers in the park and they were suspicious of me in particular.

            I was admittedly more amused than anything that the officer admitted to racially profiling me, but the white dudes were completely incensed. Similar to your story, whereas I have experienced racist behavior on many occasions (ranging on a continuum from possibly to obviously racist), the two white guys had never seen conclusive proof of it in their lives. It was much more of a shock to their system.

            All that to say that I have empathy with where you’re coming from, and maybe my story can help other males put it into context.

          • Brad says

            Thank you Melanie and Alanjay for making a concerted effort to help people understand. This is how you actually educate people and encourage change. I know that most men who do this are cowardly predator types because my ex would always tell me about the things that happened when I wasn’t with her, but not one man would compliment her when I was. If you can’t give a women a compliment if she doesn’t immediately appear single, then to me that must suggest some ulterior motive.

          • Catcalled says

            Meghan, that sounds like similar experiences I’ve had. Guys often feel the need to comment on my appearance wherever I am, even when I’m busy. Usually they aren’t polite and only do it under the assumption that I’m single. They harass me and wont leave me alone unless I act rude, unimpressed, and aloof. Usually they’re too cowardly to do it when I’m with my boyfriend, so he never really understood how bad it could get until I was at a party with him and several other friends. At this party I began talking to a mutual friend of ours, and that mutual friend’s friends. When my boyfriend left to get a drink, they basically swarmed me and started commenting on how I look and saying how my relationship must not be too serious if he left me alone with them (because I’m a silly woman who can’t be left unsupervised with other men). They wouldn’t let me be until my boyfriend grabbed me and took me home. He seen first hand how bad it can get.

            There was another situation in which I was in our apartment alone one day, and normally I’m afraid to open the door to strangers if my boyfriend isn’t there with me. He used to find my fear irrational until one day three men came knocking on the door looking for ‘donations’. I told them I had no money and went to shut the door (I was getting ready for work) when one of them put their foot in the door and came into my apartment. The three of them started commenting on how I look, and they started asking who I live with, where I work, if I’m single, etc. They only left because a neighbour peaked their head in to ask questions regarding recent constructions to the apartment complex.

            There was another time in which I was walking at night by myself and a man behind me started making comments on my appearance (hey baby, you look sexy, etc). Normally I never walk alone at night, but I had no other choice that time because I was trying to get to a shuttle to catch a flight. I pretended to ignore him, but he grabbed me by the shoulder, pushed me into an alley, put his hand over my mouth. I managed to fight the drunk man off of me, but I thought for sure he was going to assault me. A security guard came by to check out the commotion, causing the man to run off. I haven’t walked alone at night since.

            The worst time is usually when I’m downtown.
            It’s like you’re being swarmed by a starved pack of wolves.
            It’s almost as if they’re trying to wear you down until you accept their advances,
            or they’re trying to frighten you intentionally…

        • Kay says

          I have had very similar experiences. I have been catcalled and sexually harassed so many times on the way to work that I no longer feel comfortable walking outdoors. I made a similar comment on another blogpost of the same topic. I have stopped jogging outdoors at a nearby park because I would get yelled at by random men sitting on benches.

          The other day I was purchasing a coffee at a café and the male cashier (of about middle age) said, “You look nice today.” I thanked him politely, but honestly thought that his comment was out of place. The most personal comment I ever got from a cashier was “I like your shirt.” However, having worked as a cashier myself, I would never think of just telling a random customer “You look really nice”, even though it is technically a compliment.

          That being said, I don’t think I will start a campaign against polite compliments that are slightly out of place. Yes, they are slightly creepy, but I can get past an unsettling cashier. It is the public transit/street harassment that has to stop.

      • Saeri says

        Joe, I think understand what you’re saying–that just because there is a chance of the interaction becoming something bad, it doesn’t mean that the interaction should be avoided completely, right?

        What I’m going to say is not that I think reacting negatively to “strangers’ compliments” (which, let’s face it, is more often in the form of inappropriate comments and catcalling followed by insults for not responding positively….than in the form of a genuine “hey, I like your outfit today!” or “you look nice, I hope you have a good day!”) is necessarily the *solution*, it’s actually an understandable response, considering what women go through on a daily basis.

        I’d suggest looking up “Schrodinger’s Rapist”, which I’ll try to describe, but I’m sure there’s someone else who can do a better job. If you’re not familiar with Schrodinger, he’s this guy who came up with the foundations of quantum physics…I think? Basically, his premise was this: put a cat in a box with poison gas (it’s mean, I know…). The box is completely opaque, so you can’t see inside. Is the cat dead?

        Well, logically, the cat should be dead, right? But you won’t actually know until you open the box and look at the cat. (In chemistry, this is applied to the motion of electrons, where you will be able to know its velocity but not its exact location, or you will be able to know its location but not its velocity. I’d rather not go into detail about that because chemistry and I don’t get along).

        So, in ‘feminist circles’ (if that’s what you want to call it?), that’s applied to men and the possibility of sexual assault. Basically, one never knows if that guy talking to you or hitting on you, or complimenting you, is a normal, decent guy who just thinks you’re really attractive and is interested in getting to know you….or a rapist. As the saying goes–better safe than sorry, right? Especially because firstly, rape is such an awful, traumatic thing (and saying it that way is really an understatement), and secondly, because not only do victims have to live with the memory of such an awful crime committed against them, but also because of victim-blaming, rape apologists–the fact that she will be blamed for the rape (why were you talking to that guy? why were you so friendly with him? why did you go out late? why did you dress that way?).

        Now, why is it that women have been socialized to be so weary of men? Because of the countless rapes that happen, and the countless rapists never convicted. Because of the long history of abuse, oppression–and because that still happens, today. An analogy I’ve found is banks. Apparently that have a real shitty reputation in America, so I guess if you’re American (or in a country with shitty banks and corporations), you’d understand it better than someone who isn’t.

        You hear all these bad stories about banks, about unjustly taking people’s property, about misleading loan conditions, foreclosure, etc, etc. I can’t think of more examples because I’m young enough that I don’t deal with banks often, and I don’t live in the USA. But you get my point, I’m sure.

        And then, this guy in a car with a bank’s logo printed onto its side door rolls up in front of your house while you’re watering your lawn, or whatever. He steps out, gives your house an appreciative once-over, and looks to you and says, “hey, nice house.”

        He could just be on his way to work and happens to find your house architecturally amazing, or likes the exterior paint, or whatever. Just like a guy might find a women’s face attractive, or like what she’s wearing. But after spending the majority of your life listening to stories about banks, and that’s not what you’re thinking. You don’t think it’s just a compliment. What does the bank guy want with your house?! And, in regards to the issue being discussed here–what does that guy want with me (as a woman)?!

      • Trish says

        Joe,
        I think that is a far stretch. If the only reason that you would interact with this person is because you want to comment on their looks, then this is not true interaction. If you want to court her, then I am sure that you have better approaches up your sleeve – i.e. ask her for coffee, talk to her about something other than her looks.

        In addition, men can acknowledge when a man looks good – in a non homophobic way – but you do not compliment them, correct? So it is safe to say that the only reason that you are commenting on a woman’s looks is for reasons other than just wanting to spread good cheer. Common, now. Let’s not be unrealistic.

    • katykay2010 says

      Re. Comment 1, CaitieCat, great comment, THANKS. “It’s rape culture”, perfect tie-in to perpetrating this violence, we see it in sports, politics, everyday life. No wonder eradicating it is extremely difficult, and personally, after so many years of trying to educate men in political/personal life, I can’t do it any longer…..Hopefully, the internet and public figures, some feminist educators, bosses, , ??? blogs can reach “reachable” men and they can begin to take responsibility to stop violating women, whether in street harassment, rape, domestic violence, mental/psychological control issues. I disagreed with feminist activist friends who said “we all need to teach them what our culture denied them, in their socialization,to make future better for women”….though i made some attempts. The several degrading, or condescending or demeaning attitudes, snide comments on my “ultra-sensitivity” over nothing was enough for me to say ENOUGH. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR VIOLENCE, YOUR “ENTITLEMENT” TO WOMEN’S BODIES, MINDS, SOULS. GET HELP. And for those men out there who say they would never violate a woman, educate your brothers, fathers, sons, or your sisters, mothers, daughters will be violated, that is the reality.

      I see a few men (very few) have, and I raised 2 sons who are tender, caring, more sensitive to respecting women, men and children, not quite feminist, I would say, but hope for the future in the way they think of and treat the women in their lives, and they do challenge sexist and racist behavior and comments, so they are not “bystanders”. However, until more men stop being perpetrators of rape culture by being “bystanders” and giving implicit and/or explicit ok to men violating women, we have a long, long uphill battle. It continues.

      In pursuing conversations with so-called “enlightened” men, the deeper we get, their understanding is superficial, and I don’t know what will cause them to change, if change is possible. It is about power and control of men over women, the system of patriarchy, yes? and those with power don’t give it up willingly, usually…..it must be taken, but how without violence? I continue to search for answers.

      Thanks to Miri and many commenters for wise and helpful writing.

      • CaitieCat says

        Thanks, katykay2010 – if you (or anyone else) want more* great writing about rape culture, I cannot too strongly recommend Shakesville (www.shakesville.com), a group blog led by its founder Liss McEwan (disclosure: I blog there myself, though not recently, and Liss is a friend of mine). She’s a fiercely brave writer, and has written extensively about a lot of feminist topics. Much of who I am as a feminist, I learned from Liss.

        Also, I like your name. Great minds think fairly alike, no? :)

        * More than the wonderful and totally unfun Miri. :)

        • katykay2010 says

          Thanks, CatieCat (1.3.1), I like my name, too, wish I had told my parents how much I liked it, never thought to….sad…(only changed my name to husband’s in the “olden, grotesque days”, when, in Florida, at least, the lenders wouldn’t approve home loan, even with marriage certificate, because my name was not his!!!…dark ages, I know…we have moved an inch or 2.) I love CatieCat, too fun, and much thanks for the Shakesville.com resource on rape culture, can’t wait to check it out.

          *Miri’s blog/writing is phenomenal as are many of the replies, (yours landing at top, and I am such a questioning mind, bet Miri and you, many others are too, and happy with new resources. Great to have so many good minds sharing.

  2. mythbri says

    Great post, Miri.

    If anyone is confused about this, here are some suggested alternative titles for it that might be helpful:

    Why You Shouldn’t Honk Your Car Horn At That Random Girl Who’s Out For A Run

    Why You Shouldn’t Shout Out The Dollar Amount At That Random Girl, Which Is Presumably The Amount You Would Pay Her To Let You Fuck Her

    Why You Shouldn’t Deliberately Cross The Street Toward That Random Girl When It’s Very Dark Out, Staring At Her The Entire Time And Then Flashing A Smug-Ass Grin When You Realize You’ve Scared The Shit Out Of Her

    Why You Shouldn’t “Accidentally” Rub Up Against That Random Girl In A Crowded Public Space

    Why You Shouldn’t Try To Talk To That Random Girl Wearing Headphones Who Is Staring Fixedly At Her Book And Not Making Eye Contact

    And all of the other ways in which women are harassed on the street or in other public spaces.

    • Justin says

      I think the fact that you are associating all of these completely inappropriate actions with a straightforward complement is indicative of how sick and paranoid American society has become.

      I agree with the blog post’s assessment of the root of this. Centuries of patriarchy can have that effect on society, though I would add that globalized media’s tendency of calling our attention to horror stories, thereby making it seem like crime is on the rise (very much NOT the case) can be blamed for much of our paranoia and unease regarding strangers.

      And certainly, I’m afflicted with exactly what this blog post seems to want men to be afflicted with: I will never complement a stranger (man or woman), on their appearance, or on anything, for that matter, lest they think my interests in them, god forbid, would ever exceed the most fleeting of innocuous thoughts. And I’m not being sarcastic. Well, not really. Just because I would never visibly take note of a stranger, let alone outwardly flirt with one, doesn’t mean I’m proud of this.

      In many cultures, especially more liberal ones than ours, Americans are viewed as being needlessly repressed, and our lack of ability to give straightforward complements, or be honest and straightforward, is a source of consternation and ridicule. They seem to wonder why this is.

      I believe it’s, at least partially, because of blog posts like this one, which attempt to put a bandaid over the aforementioned centuries of patriarchy by shaming the few of us who are actually willing to be straightforward with the opposite sex. Not everyone who complements someone else does so because they think their opinion is “so important”. Many will do it because they feel an attraction and want to see if it’s mutual, and if a date might be arranged. And here’s the kicker: There’s nothing WRONG with that, so long as they don’t press the issue after a rejection.

      I think the reason why all those actions you offered as “alternative titles” are as prevalent as they are is because men are increasingly discouraged from just being straightforward that they instead adapt desperate and inappropriate methods of engineering situations in which they can get close to women without laying their cards on the table. That doesn’t mean that they’re not pigs for doing so, and such actions shouldn’t be tolerated, but I think it’s what inevitably happens when children (who tend to express feelings of interest by throwing mud at each other) grow up into adults (if you can call them that) without ever being encouraged to tell women how they honestly feel.

      • says

        As a non-American, I can honestly say that the perception of America isn’t that your society has become too paranoid to say what you think. The perception is that your thoughts are often so regressive. There really is no shortage of people in the US willing to speak their mind against what they see as “Politically Correctness” gone wild.

        Many will do it because they feel an attraction and want to see if it’s mutual, and if a date might be arranged. And here’s the kicker: There’s nothing WRONG with that, so long as they don’t press the issue after a rejection.

        Not necessarily. You’re pretty much saying that the desire of a man for a date with a random stranger (without having to go through the usual steps of getting to know someone first, I might add) should trump the desire of a woman to not have a random stranger bother her. There’s a clear sense of entitlement there that isn’t harmless.

        • Magic says

          You write “You’re pretty much saying that the desire of a man for a date with a random stranger should trump the desire of a woman to not have a random stranger bother her. There’s a clear sense of entitlement there that isn’t harmless.”

          You’re implying that this desire of a woman to not have a random stranger bother her is in all women. I have talked to girls on the street that liked me so much they appreciated my attempt to have a date with them. I also ignore girls that look frustrated or walk quickly to somewhere. Social cues are everything. I smile she smiles back and I talk to her and she starts asking me about me then she is interested and I continue. If she keeps looking at her phone then I’ll leave.

          • gabby13 says

            Then good on you, you are taking cues and watching for their reaction; you are one of the few. Persistence, and unwanted attention sum it up – as you have said, you realise they do not want your advances so you don’t make any – the problem is, this does not deter most people – im not sure if its deliberate or if many men are just unable/unwilling to pay attention to signals. Most represent themselves as people who care more about their desire to bother you than your desire to be left alone

        • Flowers says

          Deen, you say (without having to go through the usual steps of getting to know someone first) Talking to them is the first step!?

      • Barbs says

        Hi Justin.

        You are right. The world sees the American people as closed, cold and paranoid. But it is not because men are afraid to speak their minds about women, but because the country now is politically cynical, fucking conservative and because interactions between people are cooler and absurdly difficult.

        I am Brazilian and my country, although it is extremely conservative, is considered liberal by the rest of world. Personally, I am incredibly open. I can meet you today and tomorrow I’ll you call for a beer at the bar, that can mend with a party at a friend’s house and the next day we already are best friends or lovers. Or both. Yes, I think it’s amazing. I live in Canada now and I feel a great difficulty with the north american culture, I feel inadequate most of the time. Here, when I meet someone I give them a handshake. In Brazil we give hugs and kisses to anyone that we are presented to. And, yes, we are a society more open to friendship, affection, to body contact.

        But in my culture, open and friendly, there is no difference in the way that we react to men that talk to strange women on the street. I remember the first “compliment” I received from a stranger. I’m 34 now and this happened when I was 12. I was a child. It was the second time I was alone on the street. I crossed the street to buy bread. An old man came walking toward me and said, “I want to suck you all the way”. I never forgot that he wanted to suck me. I never knew a person could suck another. He added: “Keep walking around with those pair of shorts to see what happens to you.” I looked at myself and I was wearing my playful shorts.The same ones I used to go to school and play with friends.

        Two years later, when I had heard enough jokes in the street to be afraid of everything, I started to dress like a tramp. Instead of wanting to suck me men now want to tell me how ugly I was, that I was obviously a lesbian and needed to be cured with a big hard dick inside my pussy.

        For 22 years I heard all kinds of sung in the street. And curses too (depends on how I was dressed, the time of the day and if I was or not with a company of a male person). During that period of time men putted their hand in my ass, men have tried to rape me – several times (and effectively sexually harassed me once), I have had my hair pulled back so they could steal a kiss, I was hit by men on night clubs, I was chased down the street, called all kinds of names and heard all kinds of threats. Today I’m conditioned to show the middle finger to ANY man talk to me on the street. If a man talks to me on the street, I do not look at him, I do not smile, I tell him to fuck off and I run away. And if I hurt someone by doing that, I can tell you that this is much less severe than what has happened to me for not doing so in the past.

        As I said before, I live in Canada, where people are much cooler than those of my native country. But here the number of random men compliments is significantly lower, what makes me really happy. I’m here for two years and I think only 3 times someone spoke to me on the street. To two of them I pointed the middle finger, and one man was actually ok.

        I was leaving work. He was leaving a nightclub. The two were taking our bikes to go. He looked at my bike and I loked at his. We exchanged glances and a smile. Then he said: “Your bike is really nice.” I replied: “Thank you, yours is also very beautiful.”He asked for my phone number and I said I was not interested. He smiled and walked away and I did that too. What’s so different between this man and the other men? He saw that I was open to talk before starting anything and when I said no, he responded with a smile. Maybe next time he can get a phone number.

        So, men, stop pretending that you know how it feels to get a compliment on the street. Stop wanting us to be happy and caling us paranoid. You just have NO CLUE what happens over here. No clue at all.

        Cheers!

        ps: please forgive my terrible English. I’m still learning.

        • CaitieCat says

          I can only speak for me, but this fellow Canadian found your English absolutely clear. Nothing to apologize for at all, you’re really remarkably good at that! :)

          Thanks for sharing your story – the transcultural element is really interesting.

      • Catcalled says

        I agree somewhat with Justin. I don’t mind straightforward and polite compliments when males expect nothing in return. I do not have to give them a stupid smile, I do not have to accept propositions, they don’t get offended/react violently when I ignore them, I do not have to thank them for complimenting me. If males give me a compliment, they better expect an icy response to that compliment though. From my experience, compliments are never just compliments. Acting polite to men usually gets me harassed, whether by words or by actions. Almost like they feel justified in it because I lead them on with niceness. They act as if I invited them over to harass me when I respond with politeness. You are damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

        As someone who is north of the boarder, I would say Deen hit the nail on the head. Americans are seen as repressive conservatives here. America is seen as having no shortage of people willing to speak out against what they perceive as political correctness gone wild, this is a perfect way to describe it.

        Most men who take the methods mentioned by mythbri do it so that they can be jerks, they mock women with their friends, they approach them so that they’re intentionally intimidating, they’re trying to get laid (even if that means through coercion), they don’t see women as people, they don’t care enough to relate. It’s never because they have the intent of seriously dating the female.

        Don’t blame blog posts such as this for a man’s inability to be straightforward. Blame the notion that to be masculine is to hide one’s feelings, it is to lack empathy. Man up and stop crying like a little girl.

        What has happened to Barbs from Brazil has happened to me in my side of the world since I was a 9 year old girl. I live in a small Acadian village where two people could have just met each other and one would probably invite the other home for dinner, tea, or beer with the family. People don’t shy away from physical contact. People are very open and aren’t afraid to speak their mind. We have no shortage of men who catcall and harass women, almost as if it is a god given right. Maybe it’s something about the culture that expects men to act ‘masculine’, maybe it’s our Catholicism.

        I remember being groped on my way to school. Older school boys called me ‘Tits’. They’d play a game where they tried to touch me. I remember being at my grandmothers house for dinner where a man 50 years my senior would feel up my thighs under the table so no one would notice. He told me that if I told anyone, he’d tell my grandmother that I’m bad and that I did things with him/I’m a slut. He used to tell me how pretty I was. This man tried to have sex with me before I even knew what sex was. Walking down the road during the summer and men would stop to tell me I’m pretty and ask if I needed a ride. I remember becoming 15 and having significantly older (married) men trying to feed me alcohol at a beach so they could have sex with me, because they thought I was pretty. This has been a constant throughout my life.

        There is no desire for communication here.

      • gabby13 says

        @Justin
        I have never once encountered a man who gave me a simple compliment that did not fit one of the above situations above. The closest I had was a very old and fragile man approaching me, shaking my hand, and saying “Have a wonderful day”, before wandering off. He paid his compliment and wandered away.
        I have had all the above situations occur to me, some many many times.

        and…..
        geeze, you think Americans are viewed as being needlessly repressed??? HA! biggest laugh I’ve had all day.
        Middle upper class white christian males being repressed???? Perish the thought!
        I’m a kiwi. And no, that is not the conception the rest of the world has – America and repressed rarely go together in a sentence, unless you are talking about specific minorites or groups that face discrimination, such as the gay community, african americans, latinos, women etc

        “not everyone who complements someone else does so because they think their opinion is “so important”. Many will do it because they feel an attraction and want to see if it’s mutual, and if a date might be arranged. And here’s the kicker: There’s nothing WRONG with that, so long as they don’t press the issue after a rejection.”
        —-You are 100% correct.
        The fatal flaw is, this argument is directed not at mutually interested partys, but at situations such as a man approaching a women who clearly does not want to be approached. Well, maybe not just these situations, but they are definitly a point; the whole girl-staring-fixedly-at-book-who-obviously-doesnt-want-to-be-disturbed and yet this obvious signal fails to act as a deterent to male attention??
        Actually, there are further problems with this, two fold:
        One, even if the women is obviously engaged in something else, is it a womans duty to put up with being approached, propositioned, made to feel uncomfortable from unwanted attention everytime they go out? And no, it is not something that might happen a few times a year, it is something that will happen multiple times a month (the unwanted attention bit at least).
        Two, what would happen if she said yes? It is not culturally or even really socially acceptable for a women to accept the advances of a complete stranger; this implies casuality with sex, which implies the girl is a slut. I’m not fishing for insults here either, this is a legitimate response of society to women responding positively to advances from strangers. Its the same old same old, sexual men are players, sexual women are sluts — this percetion is not changing very fast.

        • UtB says

          I am open to correction if I am misunderstanding, but I would just like to make a comment here:

          geeze, you think Americans are viewed as being needlessly repressed??? HA! biggest laugh I’ve had all day.
          Middle upper class white christian males being repressed???? Perish the thought!
          I’m a kiwi. And no, that is not the conception the rest of the world has – America and repressed rarely go together in a sentence, unless you are talking about specific minorites or groups that face discrimination, such as the gay community, african americans, latinos, women etc

          repress means “to experience suppression”, which can be externally or self-imposed.
          I believe that you are interpreting the word in terms of external suppression (i.e. oppression), whereas Justin is using the word to refer to self-suppression (i.e. self-control).

  3. says

    Honestly, this article was a little too biased for me. I’m not a woman, so I guess I don’t know what it’s like being harassed on the street, but…

    The amount of stares I get from women is really kind of ridiculous. I don’t think I’m particularly good looking, but I think it’s perfectly normal for people of both sexes to see other people that attract them on the street. That being said I’ve never “holla’d at a bitch” (please forgive the expression) on the sidewalk, but the way these women sometimes stare seems to imply they’d at least enjoy some conversation.

    So, I find myself in need of your advice. If you see a guy you think is attractive while walking about, what would you like him to do about it?

    • says

      I don’t think I’m particularly good looking, but I think it’s perfectly normal for people of both sexes to see other people that attract them on the street.

      Where did I say that it’s not okay to see other people that attract you on the street? In fact, I explicitly said that being attracted to/wanting to compliment strangers isn’t wrong.

      So, I find myself in need of your advice. If you see a guy you think is attractive while walking about, what would you like him to do about it?

      I’m not sure I understand what you’re asking. if I see a guy who’s attractive, I don’t want him to do anything about it. If I wanted to talk to him, I’d talk to him myself, except I never do because I respect the fact that strangers don’t necessarily want me all up in their business.

      *Edit* To add to that, I’m not sure why you think that enjoying looking at an attractive person necessarily means you want them to hit on you, or you want to talk to them, or you want to do anything other than look. Looking at attractive people is fun; almost everyone enjoys it from time to time. It means nothing other than that we like looking at attractive people, though. When I’m looking for sexual partners (or even new friends), I look for them through friends, shared activities, classes, etc. I don’t look for them out on the street while I’m trying to carry my damn groceries home or get to work.

      • Freddie says

        Miri, don’t you think it would be just such a sad world if we let the minority ruin social interaction for everyone? Granted there are some people who make us guarded towards one another but do we want the price to avoid that being that we can’t approach people in the street? We can’t talk to strangers?

        The world you picture is so bleak. People scared to approach each other because of the mistakes of a tiny minority. Two people wanting to have a conversation but stuck in place by some overbearing social construct.

        One of the criticisms people have of cities is that there is no interaction at this level; people ignore each other on buses, people sit apart whenever possible. It engenders distance and a lack of respect for your fellow citizens. The people who want to compliment a woman in the street are not the same people hollering from a construction site, and lumping them together has such damaging implications.

        • picardnotkirk says

          Dear, dear Freddy, you are missing the point.

          Everyone checks out strangers on the street. Every single person. It’s what we do, as fellow people, check out the people around use. Sometimes, if someone is particularly compelling, we will even talk to them. Strike up a conversation (eg. “Oh, you shop a whole foods?” He queried, noticing her shopping bag, “I love it there.”) or pay a well meaning compliment, based on an observation. If you approach it from a standpoint of “this person is a stranger, but based on my observations of them they might be cool” then you are not the guy in this article. If you approach it from “This girl is super hot and maybe, just maybe, if I tell her that she’ll let me have sex with her” you are that guy.

          If you are the guy who rode by me on his bike yesterday and shouted “Hey, you look hot” in passing, you are that guy. If you have ever done a “slow roll” in a car past a woman, you are that guy. If you have ever said the words “Hey sexy” in a non-ironic fashion to a woman you weren’t actually in bed with, you are that guy. If you have ever made clicking noises at a stranger in an attempt to summon her the way you would summon a cat or a horse, you are definitely that guy. If you have never done any of those things, and when you try to talk to a woman on the street she shuts you down, it’s because one or all of those things happens to her, and she doesn’t want to chance it.

          Even if you are trying to strike up non-weird conversations on the street, women standing alone are probably not who you want to be talking to. Oftentimes, we are already on our guard and don’t want to take a chance that what could be a normal conversation will turn out not to be.

          Finally, practically speaking, how many friends have you made just be striking up random conversations with strangers? Usually, the answer is “none”

          • Tristan says

            Picard — love the name, PS — I honestly think you’re the one missing the point. I personally am very extroverted and have literally made *lots* of friends by brazenly going up to people and introducing myself in a purely out-of-context fashion.

            But even if that weren’t true, Freddie’s point would apply all the more. In the 1950s, despite any other problems society may have had, neighbors would freely converse, people wouldn’t get nervous if they saw a stranger interacting with their children, and there was as lot more openness than there is now. What ruined that was, in part, the actions of an idiotic or dangerous minority creating an environment of excessive concern and fear.

            On my part, I never go up to women and tell them that they’re attractive — but, all the time, I do go up to people and start conversations, men and women. Many of the arguments I’ve seen here for why I shouldn’t tell a girl she’s attractive would apply to why I shouldn’t start random conversations with women. To quote a particularly telling line from Miri,

            “If I wanted to talk to him, I’d talk to him myself, except I never do because I respect the fact that strangers don’t necessarily want me all up in their business.”

            That is probably the saddest thing I’ve seen on this thread. As Freddie says, what a bleak picture. No, I think the best way to create change for the better is to go ahead and start random conversations, interact pleasantly, and show that latent fears that people may have are only pertinent to an unfortunate and very small minority of people.

            Most people are good, decent, and not at all intimidating. We should work towards everyone appreciating that.

          • picardnotkirk says

            Tristan, dear, you did that thing where you didn’t actually read what I said before telling me I was wrong. Maybe It is unusual that I find interactions with strangers to be fleeting and not particularly fun, even when they are harmless. Good for you that you can make lasting friendships with strangers on the street. I said by all means, go for it if you’re looking for a casual interaction and not a sexual one, but don’t be angry if you get shut down by a woman alone on the street. She is probably on guard against unwanted, uncomfortable advances of the variety listed in paragraph 2. I did use examples to illustrate my point, but that’s the essence of it.

          • picardnotkirk says

            It is also important to note that it isn’t a small minority of men who interact like idiots with strangers. Those uncomfortable interactions comprise about 90% of my interactions with strangers on the street. If I take a risk by to a strange guy who doesn’t seem like a creeper, it’s just that: a risk.

          • Justin says

            Of course a high percentage of your interactions with strangers are like that. When virtually all of the well-meaning strangers are shamed into not interacting with others, you’re left with those who are not so pleasant. In a lot of other cultures, freely interacting with strangers, including ones which start with a complement, with the stated intention of gauging interest in dating, is considered the norm. This is especially true in many cultures that are much more liberal (and, imo, healthy) than America.

            The idea that one shouldn’t approach someone, on the basis that if they wanted to interact, they would approach you first, is indeed a very bleak one.

            For my part, I’m extremely introverted. I’m terrified of approaching anyone, let alone attractive women, let alone with the intention of flirting with them. My girlfriend (of almost 7 years now) had to force the issue, over and over, before I would initially reciprocate. And it wasn’t for any lack of interest. I was just so scared of laying my cards on the table that I needed to know, explicitly, and with no risk of misunderstanding, that I wasn’t going to take even one tiny step over any line that might exist. In short, I’m emphatically NOT the guy this post is addressing. And if all the men and women in the world had the affliction which this post exalts as if it were a virtue, then “bleak” would be an understatement.

          • Meghan says

            It is interesting to note that men generally seem to be posting about what a bleak outlook this is, while women are backing up the content of the article. The problem is that men don’t see what women go through. Most men (unfortunately not all) have not been sexually harassed, assaulted, or raped while the majority of women have. And beyond this, most men don’t even realize how often it happens to us. Most of my male friends don’t realize that several of my female friends have been raped and that every single woman I know has at least been harassed or assaulted. The first time I was harassed by a stranger on the street, I was twelve years old. It hasn’t stopped since, and I’m not an exception among women. The notion that you shouldn’t talk to random women so freely may seem bleak. But the notion that I could be raped today is worse. The notion that if I choose to talk to the wrong person and something bad happens to me, it will be seen as my fault is so far beyond bleak you can’t even imagine. I have been assaulted and harassed enough times that I actually flinch when I walk by men who I know could overpower me. We should not have to live in fear and pretend it doesn’t happen just to fulfill some fifties/Mr. Rogers wet dream about everyone talking to everyone and trusting everyone all the time. That doesn’t mean you can’t strike up a conversation in line at a grocery store or with the person next to you on a bus. It just means that you need to be mindful of your environment, why, exactly, you have chosen to talk to a woman, and how she might feel about it.

        • skepticallydenpa says

          Let’s assume it is a minority of people who are made to feel uncomfortable on the streets. Are you really so apathetic to that minority that you would rather them be made uncomfortable than to hold back your unsolicited compliment?

          If you’d bother to read the post and the comments that followed, you would recognize that this isn’t about all interactions with strangers. There are perfectly reasonable ways to begin conversations with a stranger that don’t involve telling them how attractive you find them.

          In regards to big cities, I tend to find the residents more honest than the smiles I’m greeted with in small towns. Regardless, if you think telling women that you think they’re hot is going to make everyone’s day better, you either think rather poorly of women or highly of yourself. As Miri addressed in this post: Why is your unsolicited compliment more important to you than the fact that it makes many women feel uncomfortable.

        • emilybites says

          Freddie, your lack of awareness is laughable.

          ‘don’t you think it would be just such a sad world if we let the minority ruin social interaction for everyone?’

          Dude, I don’t know what your experience of walking down the bloody street is, but mine is being approached on a weekly or daily basis (sometimes several times a day) by men who apparently need to tell me how fuckable/not fuckable they find me. This makes me jumpy, irritable, sad, and means that sometimes I give the finger to people I know who are trying to get my attention via honking the car horn!

          DO YOU UNDERSTAND, FREDDIE? ‘Social interaction’, for me, for a lot of women, is NO FUN. It is ALREADY RUINED. It is ruined by the men harassing us. That minority is already ruining WOMEN’S experience of social interaction.

          What you mean, apparently, is ‘it would be such a sad world if things had to change because I like it this way’. And that, Freddie, is not something on which we agree. I don’t care if no man ever whistles at, meows at (yup), follows, leers at, or yells at me on the street ever again. I don’t care if no man on the street ever says ‘Hey sexy,’ to me ever again. I would like to be left the fuck alone. So, now that you know I exist and that’s how I feel, don’t you agree it would be better if men didn’t just ‘take a chance’ (gambling with MY feelings, remember: they have nothing to lose) on ‘complimenting’ a woman and hoping she likes it? Because they might have bumped into me, and I HATE random strange men on the street telling me how sexually attractive they think I am. Better to err on the side of not being an asshole, don’t you agree?

          • Freddie says

            Ok, I don’t have enough time to really give you a detailed response but I will say this; firstly you must be incredibly good looking for this to be happening to you several times a day, and living in a terrible place, this sort of thing is far less of a problem from my perspective. Secondly, I’m not arguing that any of those things aren’t wrong, but that a man should be able to genuinely compliment a woman on her appearance in the street.

            Finally, not everything revolves around you. You don’t have a right not to be spoken to, you have a right not to be harassed, but I am not arguing about harassment, and nor is the article. The article is saying, ‘because it might feel like harassment, women should have the right to not be approached in public’. It’s like saying ‘dogs could be dangerous, so no dogs’, it is not addressing the problem, which is harassment, and it is creating a gulf of anxiety that Tristan describes above. As a bottom line, just because you don’t like attention doesn’t mean that everyone else should stop complimenting each other. It seems like a very selfish angle to take.

          • says

            I am a first-time reader. I am also in my 60s, which means I have had about 50 years of being hassled by men. No, the times they do not change!

            Freddie and Justin and Tristan and Joe, you all believe you are good guys, but in the course of your comments you have gotten more mean-sounding than you may understand. If a woman gets harassed she “must be incredibly good looking” (said with doubt that she could be). No. Practically all women get this crap. Are you under the impression that only shapely blondes between 16 and 24 get raped? Get real! Being female and alive puts you in the group of people who get raped. No women are somehow immune from comments about their looks.

            For those of you men who told us how well you get along with your mothers and sisters, why not ask them how they personally feel about having strangers on the street comment on their looks? Ask your girl friends! Ask the women you work with! Presumably these women have some knowledge of you and might be a little less sharp-tongued in their answers if they understand where you’re coming from.

            I am curious as to how many couples you guys know who have been happily together for 30 years or more, who first met when he whistled at her on the street (or made an equivalently anonymous approach). Somehow, I doubt that that is how long-lasting, healthy relationships start.

          • gabby13 says

            Hallelujah you speak the truth. Some days, its so bad, I feel I don’t even need to bother puting the middle finger back in my fist – just keep it out, another honk will come along soon, and it DOES

  4. says

    “…but regardless, you should read that piece if you’ve ever heard a guy say–or been the guy who said–”Yeah, well, I’d LOVE it if women ‘harassed’ ME on the street!”

    Actually had that happen to me once, was standing at a bus stop and as a woman passed by she said “Orange is your colour.” ( I was wearing an orange t-shirt) Then she just continued on her way. Very weird experience, I wasn’t really sure what to think then, or now really. I can understand how it would be weird or disconcerting if it was happening all the time .

    • leftwingfox says

      I’m of two minds on that.

      Part of me feels that complementing a person on their clothing is different that complementing them on their body. Fashion is a choice, and is not as intimate as a comment about the body, so there’s some social distance and validation of a person’s efforts that makes them different issues.

      The other mind is the part of me that survived Jr. High with deep scars, in part because a lot of the bullying was complementing me with sincerity to my face, while mocking me behind my back. Complementing me on my clothing will probably send me into a “OH GOD WHAT DO THEY MEAN!?!?!?!?!?!” tailspin for the next few hours, if it’s coming from a stranger.

      So… yeah.

      • says

        You`re right its not exactly the same. I`m just self conscious and neurotic enough that It really did weird me out.

    • Benita says

      Here’s the thing: a man being catcalled by a woman is NOT the same as a woman being harassed by a man. The only way it’s equal is if men were street harassed by other men, someone who is a physical threat. Someone who can block their personal space in a threatening way, someone who can frighten and intimidate them, most women do not pose that type of threat to men, so that argument is meaningless.

      • Vox Logos says

        *ahem*
        On behalf of the male populace, I would like to point out that not all men are 6ft tanks that can overpower everyone they meet.
        Nor is harassment ever okay or lesser because it’s directed at men.
        It’s still just as wrong.
        (And in fact, it sounds far too close to idiotic gender roles about how men are always strong & enduring, and women are somehow all weak & vulnerable)

        • canadian psychotherapist says

          Agreed Vox Logos. All men are not big and all women are not physically weaker. I am pretty sure that I can physically defend myself against some men, as I have already done. But even when I defended myself against multiple unwanted advances, physical attacks, and rape attempts every single time I was shaken to my core and it left me with an ever increasing sense of the profound imbalance of power and safety between men women in the world.

          The issue is that the vast majority of rape and assault of women is done by men and the vast majority of rape of men is NOT done by women. That alone is enough to make your average woman wary of any unsolicited, random, pointed male attention. When 1 in 6 men have been raped, molested, or assaulted from infancy to senior citizenry (yes, babies and old women get raped) by women, when women raping men is so pandemic that it is likely that you and most of your friends have been raped or just escaped it, then let’s see how guys like Freddie and Justin and Tristan and Joe feel about getting “compliments” however well meaning from however nice of a girl. I am perfectly happy to concede my point, if guys could switch places with us and then tell us they long for more open social interaction when they are swimming in a rape culture where the object of rape is them.

          I am not trying to sound menacing or hyperbolic. So here are some statistics to back up this “bleak” world you speak of. According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network) 1/33 men are sexually abused. By contrast, an American woman has a 25 to 26 percent chance of being raped in her lifetime (1 in 4). (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 573; Horowitz, 413; Lips, 233). Furthermore, the FBI finds that only one in four rapes are published in the Uniform Crime Reports. The Uniform Crime Reports do not include rapes that end in death, since those are reported as homicides. (Anderson, 276) And finally, in a survey answered by hundreds of rape and sexual assault support agencies, they estimated that 93.7 percent of male rape perpetrators are male and 6.3 percent were female. (Greenberg, Bruess and Haffner, 575) I know there are slight variations in all of these figures depending on year, country of report etc., but generally it is a well established fact that women are at real risk in a culture of rape and all this is to say that, I have read through a lot of the comments (not all 358 at the time of me writing) and of course Miri’s salient article, and the comments from the men belie a fundamental knowledge gap, the knowledge of the extent of how dangerous it is to be a woman. I could not agree with Diggit (above) more. Ask your moms, sisters, girlfriends, female collegues about how they feel when strange men comment on their sexual attractiveness. I applaud your willingness to enter into the discussion. I will choose to assume it is because you want to be educated.

          P.S. Thank you Miri for writing this great blog. It’s the first time I have ever commented and I hope it is a helpful contribution to the discussion of the fellow responders whose contributions I respect.

          • says

            Hey Canadian, this is some good solid data you’re dropping here, and I really appreciate the way you are addressing others’ viewpoints with mutual respect and intellectual distance. I’ve unfortunately been too entangled dealing with others on this thread who aren’t doing things that way to give you your props for that. That said, my basic crusade in a lot of these discussions is to point out my own little thoughts and experiences with the PHMT thing, in the hopes that broadening the discussions of sexual harassment and rape to deal with the whole problem will help build consensus and make good things happen. One thing that troubles me is when statistical data, however well designed and put together, is given too much weight in prioritizing issues to deal with (and especially to be aware of at all). I would never say that dealing with violence against women is not a top priority. But I know from personal experience that the number of male victims who report harrassments, assaults, and rapes HAS to be an astronomically lower percentage than female victims, because as stigmatized as women who admit to being raped are, that sociocultural stigma is absolutely deathly unacceptable for men in a patriarchal society. I served four years in the military, in an environment where harassment was every minute, assaults about daily, and rapes pretty darn common. But here’s the thing. As often as these things happened to the men there, virtually the only incidents reported let alone punished were those against women. So from that microcosm, and more that I’ve seen here and there, it seems pretty easy to conclude that most any gender-conforming man or boy in North America at least is going to be scared shitless to admit he was ever overpowered or pressured sexually. It stands to reason that this contributes to why young boys don’t come forward with their rapes until 20 or 30 years later in so many of the cases that we do see on the news. So I guess my point is that they are both big problems, and while it can help to put things into perspective for those who don’t understand how big a problem violence against women is, the danger of comparing the two is that you may get people to tune out sexual and domestic violence against men completely. I think that’s a legitimate risk and it frankly doesn’t sit too well when I see it happening. :)

          • says

            Good points, Brett, although I wish you wouldn’t conflate “intellectual distance” with making a good argument/being respectful. Being able to keep “intellectual distance” from a given topic is a privilege that not everyone has. Those who have been assaulted or harassed cannot always take an attitude of cool, calm distance from that subject. It’s too emotionally loaded for them. It’s certainly fair to say that you prefer discussions that are cool versus discussions that are heated, but that’s your own personal preference and it has nothing to do with the merits of people’s arguments, whether they are intellectually distant or not.

          • canadian psychotherapist says

            Hi Brett,
            Thank you for making the excellent point that the overwhelming rape statistics about female victims obscure that men have even greater societal pressure to never report, and as such we have no idea as a culture how many cases of male rape are actually occurring, and thank you for the even more excellent point, that it is terrible. Lastly, thank you for broadening what I gave just the broadest brush strokes to: we live in a rape culture, women, men, children, elderly being raped. It is horrible for every single victim, female or male, any age, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And I think that’s the axis on which change will spin: empathy.

            So much of the male reader/commentator frustration that I am seeing seems to be partially because they either can’t fully empathize (they might sympathize, but not empathize), or some of their female fellow commentators can’t empathize with the others’ lack of understanding or their style of communicating. Brett, you seem to really understand how real of a threat this is, have a full grasp that we live in a rape culture and so your point to my comment is excellent and illuminating for the overall thread.

            But when we see the thread breakdown into open written hostility, it makes me think that no one’s the bad person here, but we clearly have a gulf in our culture between those who are acutely aware of the culture of rape, and I would extend it to psychopathology (the enjoyment of power-over and the suffering of the other), and those who are not aware how pandemic this is. Yes, privilege can be provoking, but it is not the fault of the person to be born into fortunate circumstances (and its often attendant ignorance and arrogance) any more than the victim’s to be victimized. I don’t see a “we get it” vs. “they don’t get it” antagonism. I think that doesn’t serve any of us. I see a “those who don’t agree to it in principle” vz. “those who get it and enjoy hurting others” conflict. I see this thread and thousands like it as constructive dialogs where we can realize that it isn’t men vs. women, or privileged vs. un-privledged but those who agree to healthy societal norms of not hurting others and those who need counseling and a culture that needs a serious overhaul in its value systems to move away from lauding and protecting socially sanctioned psychopathology (date rape, army rape, financial institutional rape of the economy etc.) towards accountability and sending a clear message that it is not acceptable. Men standing up along of women would be a great addition to this and every man’s, just as every woman’s, voice counts. I don’t mean to sound like a politician’s speech but I am just genuinely heartened by your comment that a brighter future is possible. I understand why this is such a hot topic. I suspect many of the commentators have very personal experiences of being harassed or worse and still feel justifiably defensive. I am personally trying to navigate who to let my guard down to and who not and language plays a big part of that, so I try to offer what I would like to receive, be it “intellectual distance” or basic respect. I am genuinely interested in what the commentators here have said and grateful that everyone has the courage to write. I am new to this and frankly a little in awe of how candid, personal, and thoughtful the responses are. I think it’s brilliant and am grateful to Miri for hosting such a great thread.

          • says

            Yay again, Canadian! The way you just broke that down is precisely why I adore the field of psychology so much, its very existence gives me warm-fuzzies. :)

            And thank you, Miri, you are absolutely right about arguments not necessarily losing their validity just because they are tied to emotion. Something can be just as true or untrue no matter how it is stated. You may have noticed by this point that I am at my very core a pragmatist, though, and I think it just pains me to see people who might otherwise have great shots at winning civil lawsuits, influencing school boards and city councils, winning referendum votes, etc. etc. losing those battles because they failed to win the *empathy* of someone in power who perceived the argument as lacking in substance (and so tuned out the actual substance that was hiding in there) because it was too emotional/anecdotal. I think it’s that pragmatism, and the incorrigible pedant that has been developing in me as I’ve practiced to enter the teaching field, that keeps me harping on it. I’ll grant that a blog isn’t the place where people need to win others over in that sort of serious civic way, but I think unconsciously I always just want to nudge people toward behaviors that will bring them success (especially people with important causes). :)

  5. says

    Phew! I was TERRIFIED that this comment section would get to double digits before some dude swooped in to “yes, but” it, miss every good point, misinterpret the bit he did comment on, and try to direct the thread to be about himself.

    Honestly, if you think the article was biased, I bet its in proportion to it speaking to shit you think is totally OK to do.

        • Tristan says

          Everyone, if you’re trying to self-congratulate, this sort of mockery is fine, but if you’re actually trying to reach a broader audience, you might want to defend those who make non-inflammatory, calmly-stated points, rather than mock them.

          After all, isn’t the very point of this thread about how to create welcoming, non-hostile environments?

          • says

            After all, isn’t the very point of this thread about how to create welcoming, non-hostile environments?

            Actually, no. This article is about why men shouldn’t tell random women they’re hot. The thing is, one can choose to avoid the comments sections of my articles if they find them inhospitable. But a woman can’t choose to avoid having random men on the street comment on her body.

            Sometimes arguments are so ridiculous that they should be mocked.

  6. smrnda says

    Great post. Complimenting strangers should just be acknowledged to be an area that calls for a bit of sensitivity where if the purpose is to make the stranger feel good, it’s better to be cautious.

    In my own experience, I spend a lot of time and effort dressing to look nice, and I’m used to getting compliments on specific things I wear, usually from other women, but men do it as well, but “I like you hat” is a lot different than “Damn, you’re hot.”

    This is something a little off topic but similar, but I’ve noticed that a large % of guys seem obsessed with getting women who are cashiers or other service personnel to laugh at them. In fact, I once went to a church to find out what went on in them, and the pastor actually talked about how if he thinks the cashier is having a bad day he would ‘try really hard to make her smile.’ I about walked out, since it’s implying that IF something is going wrong in the woman’s life, it’s something so trivial that a wisecrack from a random stranger can make it all better. It just seemed like an example of the same kind of clueless male perspective behind the guy giving random women compliments on the street.

  7. says

    Vanity, I see your point, however I think you’re mistaking the attempt to strike up a conversation with a woman and the attempt to push a random statement on someone clearly trying to mind their own business.

    If you are trying to strike up a conversation, it may be helpful to think through why you want to talk with the woman on which you’re focused…and realize that her response may focus on the lowest common reason why men try to chat with a woman, to develop some type of relationship. While I’m sure there are some women who rush through their work/play/whatever times thinking “Gosh, when am I going to find the perfect random man to chat with so as to ignore everything else I’m doing at the moment?”, I also can be sure you will most likely never meet her…

    Of course, I have always thought that it would be invaluable to have the guidance of someone who reads as if she has a good perspective on the entire men chatting with women concept…i.e. the female one…who could help clarify the appropriate or inappropriate method of talking with a woman. Perhaps I’m an anomaly, and perhaps most men just want to assume their method is correct, regardless of reality. LOL.

    • says

      My take on chatting up women you don’t know is pretty simple: in most cases, don’t.

      Now, there are social contexts in which it’s appropriate to just start talking to a total stranger: bars, parties, other places where people go in order to meet people. Places where, if someone doesn’t want to talk to you anymore, they can just leave.

      When I’m on the subway or walking down the street or waiting in line at the post office, I’m NOT there in order to meet men or anyone else. I’m there because I have shit to do, and in the case of the subway, I can’t even just leave if someone’s bothering me.

      I completely sympathize with that desire to just suddenly meet someone and “click” and start off a beautiful relationship. But please leave strangers going about their business out of it. In reality, most people meet partners through mutual friends, through activities they’re both involved in (like a club or a dance class or an activist group), or through work or school. Yeah, sometimes weird coincidences happen and two strangers somehow start talking and the result is a great friendship or relationship. But that’s very rare.

      If one has good social skills, they can gauge the potential interest of a person in meeting a stranger this way. For instance, if you see a woman wearing a t-shirt for a band you love, you could be like, “Oh hey, I love that band. I saw them live just a few weeks ago.” Then see what happens. Maybe she’ll ignore you. Maybe she’ll smile a little or say something totally small-talky like “yup they’re pretty good” and then go back to what she was doing. That probably means she’s just being polite. But maybe she’ll be like, “Wow, sweet, what’d you think of the show?” But if you’re not good at reading people, it’ll be too easy for you to misinterpret the tiniest bit of compulsory politeness that someone shows you as a sign of interest. This happens often to women, which is why we often just want strangers to leave us the hell alone.

      Remember that the fact that someone finds you attractive doesn’t mean you’re going to like them or give a fuck about them at all. This is why opening with a compliment about someone’s appearance is a bad idea. I don’t want to date someone just because they think I’m hot. I want to date someone because we share interests and values, because they find me interesting and smart (and I think the same of them). That’s why it’s so rare that you’ll meet a stranger and just “click”–the only thing drawing you to that stranger is that you find them attractive. So what? You’ll meet many attractive people over the course of your life.

      • Magic says

        As a male who has talked to hundreds of strangers including many females on the street, this post really opened my mind. I have always gotten smiles and great conversations and even a few dates out of my conversations on the street. I talk to people that I find intriguing and interesting.

        The main issue is the lack of social calibration. When I talk to strangers I always see if they’re comfortable. I talk to them about the city or what is going on around the both of us and then I see his or her response. If it is uncomfortable or tense, I say “I better get going nice meeting you” politely and leave them alone. If he or she seems really interested then I’ll bring the conversation to a deeper place.

        Context is everything when it comes to things like this.

    • Catcalled says

      Hello Jonathan.
      In my opinion, I would respond significantly better to a man who began talking to me about something of substance. Once a conversation shifts to my appearance I almost immediately shut them out, but if they approach me to discuss music or books, or even the weather, I’ll probably be a lot friendlier.

      However, don’t approach a woman for a chat if she’s alone at night. Don’t approach a woman if you’re with your friends, she’ll feel intimidated and outnumbered. Don’t approach a woman in a way that leaves no room for escape.

      I personally don’t mind being approached in crowded places, even on the subway or in a line up, as long as I feel safe and you aren’t talking to me to hit on me, mock me, or make sexually explicit comments about me. If I don’t give you much to go off of, as in “Maybe she’ll smile a little or say something totally small-talky like “yup they’re pretty good” and then go back to what she was doing.” – like Miri said, it probably means I’m just being polite. Often a woman being polite is misinterpreted as a sign of interest. I smile at everyone, it’s not special.

    • gabby13 says

      You’ve got to look for the cues; does she WANT to talk to you? —-its incredible the number of guys who blatantly ignore booming social cues and signals that she doesnt want to talk to you…headphones, reading a book, pointedly looking in the other direction, closed body language, body facing away from you etc

  8. Chahk says

    Guys just need to imagine another guy passing them by, winking and saying “Dude, you’re hawwwt!” See how that makes them feel. For most guys, as a hint of homophobia kicks in, they’d feel weirded out at least, and disgusted or even scared at worst.

    • CaitieCat says

      I’m not sure I’d think it very fair to my queer brothers if I were to invoke the very homophobia that is so often used to make their lives hellish, in order to make their lives less hellish.

      That is to say, I’m not sure making life better for women has to stand on the backs of gay men to do it. Nor vice versa, of course; we ought really to be on the same side, as the kyriarchy is busting all our asses.

      I say this as a bisexual woman, by the way, and say “brothers” above because we’re talking specifically about the form of homophobia that is in the “disgust displays by insecure men” category.

      • says

        Everything you say is gold. Do you blog?

        I think Chahk’s point is well-taken, but only in the sense that men who think street harassment is a-okay never imagine being harassed by someone that they’re NOT attracted to and don’t want any sort of sexual interaction with. But I agree that rather than using their homophobia to teach them a lesson about women, we should be working to expose that homophobia for what it is. After all, these sorts of straight men don’t just freak out if gay men make creepy public passes at them; they often freak out at the mere IDEA that a man might be interested in them, or when a guy politely asks them out or whatever. That’s NOT the same as when a woman doesn’t want a guy to make creepy comments to her in public. That’s, well, homophobia.

        • CaitieCat says

          Nominally, I blog. At Shakesville (though not for a year or so now), and personally at twice-immigrant.livejournal.com. But again, not recently. Depression has been kicking my sorry ass all over the shop. Not for lack of wanting, just lacking the git-up-and-go.

          Trying to work back to it by reading and commenting more. Becoming less of a hermit. :)

        • CaitieCat says

          Also, you have my e-mail if you wanted to continue the conversation in private. :)

        • Lucy says

          I don’t remember where this is from, but there’s this quote kicking around in my head from somewhere:

          “Homophobia is the fear that other men will treat you the way you treat women.”

          It’s two sides of the same patriarchal coin.

  9. Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

    When men consider themselves just compelled to tell random, women strangers how awesome they are at ordering military subordinates and generally commanding a room, at conjugating irregular verbs in some random language, at teaching, at driving, at leatherworking, at customer service, at virology, or at long distance running, we’d live in a very different world in which we never get anything done for all the time men spend complimenting women, so it’s merely for **efficiency’s sake** that they only compliment us on appearance. I mean, relationships happen all the time and lots of things could be the basis of attractions, but it’s not F’ing sexism at all that it’s this ONE thing that guys just feel compelled to address with random women strangers.

    Why are we women so sensitive?

  10. katykay2010 says

    Each post ties so much critical pieces together, beautifully, passionately, professionally written. Gratitude to you Miri, for articulating for me stuff that would take me days, maybe weeks……well, how about forever, and never reach the level you do…Gratitude for the Internet which has educated me far more widely and profoundly than 15 years of education. Hope you are around a very long time, and always writing….lifelines, truly.

  11. Mark Powell says

    Thanks all for sharing your line of thought, it was helpful to me. You may have just saved me from making some woman embarrassed or afraid. I don’t have to take it personnel. It’s about owning myself and not trying to own someone else. Thanks again.

  12. says

    Dear random dude
    So, this morning you washed yourself, got shaved, used some nice aftershave and then put on your nice blue jeans. I think that, although I really like a nicly shaven, clean, well-smelling guy in tght-fitting jeans, we can clearly assume that you didn’t think about me when you did so on accounts of us not knowing each other.
    I think we can also safely assume that you’re probably not interested in my comments on your cheeks and ass. Right? Neither are you interested in my opinion on your lunch, I guess.
    So, can you please just pay back the favour and leave me alone, too?

    • queequack says

      Actually, I would be very interested in those comments. That would make my month. Please, consider harassing men on the street. Encourage other women to do the same. I would like nothing better than to receive positive reinforcement about my appearance. I would like nothing better than for someone to verbalize an attraction to me, or to inform me what they would like to do to my body. As it stands, no one in my life has ever intimated that I was desirable in any way. Actually, that’s not true; once on Chat Roulette, someone said I was cute and looked like Castiel from Supernatural. That was one of the best days of my life.

      I used to comment fairly frequently on gender-related blogs; about a year back I stopped because it was soaking up too much of my time, and I had an undergraduate GPA to tend to. But the the more I read, the more convinced I became that the majority of women simply have no goddamn clue what it’s like to be a younger man who isn’t exceptionally attractive. Our experiences are so vastly different that there is simply no common ground upon which there can be productive discussion. Okay- in general, when women complain of romantic woes, what they really mean is that a cursory glance at their line of hopefuls does not reveal someone who meets their exacting preferences. On the other hand, when men complain of romantic woes, what they mean is that they cannot find a single person who doesn’t find them utterly repulsive. This might sound off-topic, but it’s is all emblematic of the cosmic gulf of communication on this subject, and it’s why discussions like this will always, always, always devolve into people talking past each other. I cannot fucking imagine how emotionally validating it must feel to have people actually express active desire for you, even if crudely. To have someone approach you with a smile? To have reliable access to emotional validation? To have a choice? in your sexual partners? This is madness! And yet most women- even intelligent women- have no clue. You want an example of “privilege blindness”…

      I’d love to take all these smug, arrogant, self-satisfied e-feminist bloggers and turn them into men for, say, 3-4 years. I think it would be a rude fucking awakening for them. Maybe once they understood what it felt like to be treated like extraneous trash…. maybe then they be a little less fucking insufferable. But I’m not holding my breath.

      • says

        Actually, I would be very interested in those comments. That would make my month. Please, consider harassing men on the street. Encourage other women to do the same.

        Already covered that: http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2012/10/14/on-men-who-think-street-harassment-would-be-awesome/

        I’m truly sorry that things have been difficult for you. However, when you say you cannot imagine what it’s like to have strangers comment on your appearance, well, that’s because you can’t imagine it.

        I think what you wish is that you were more conventionally attractive, not that people yelled random things about your appearance to you on the street. It sounds like they might not say very nice things if they did that.

        I’d suggest reading Captain Awkward (http://captainawkward.com), you might find it helpful.

        Regardless, personal attacks are against my commenting policy, so no more comments about “smug, arrogant, self-satisfied e-feminist bloggers.” If I see any more personal attacks from you, you will be banned. This is your only warning. Thanks!

        • queequack says

          Well, ok, sorry.

          Also, I didn’t really mean “harassment”, I worded it that way because I’m stupid. The aggressive street harassment that you talk about in your link generally doesn’t represent a pick-up attempt; it’s an instance of homosocial bonding. Maybe not always, but generally. I thought this was pretty well documented. And so by definition that’s not going to be coming from an earnest hopeful nice guy or whatever. I was referring to these more innocuous “compliments” that are the subject of this post.

          I get that your point is that these “compliments” are necessarily placed in a context in which aggressive harassment is also going on. And it’s true that I can’t imagine what it’s like to have someone comment on my appearance. But it’s also true that most women (and certain lucky men too), can’t imagine what it’s like to have no validation whatsoever; to be, like I said, treated like extraneous trash. I still maintain that, were those people to experience what that’s like, they would not be so dismissive of people like me.

          I never denied that certain forms of street harassment could be wearying or unwelcome or threatening, and that sucks. But ultimately this is a shitty corollary of the enormous boon that most women get, which is emotional validation, as well as a feeling of consequence, of mattering to other people. Which doesn’t make unwelcome street harassment ok, and I never said it did. But what it does mean (and this was my point, which sort of got lost in the shuffle) is that when it comes to this topic, you’re always going to have people talking past each other. (I mean, look at the comment thread right here.)

          Anyway, I wrote way more than I intended, but there you go. I’m sorry for being overly aggressive earlier.

          • CaitieCat says

            And here’s the part where you don’t get it.

            But ultimately this is a shitty corollary of the enormous boon that most women get, which is emotional validation, as well as a feeling of consequence, of mattering to other people.

            NO. NO NO NO NO NO.

            A) We don’t need emotional validation from random strangers on the street. That’s rape culture, to think that women “need” this.;

            B) The emotional “validation” you claim happens, doesn’t, if the woman happens not to fit the cultural stereotype of what “beautiful” is; yeah, you may actually really like fat women, but most, by far, of the interactions they get about their looks are sure as fuck not going to be “validating”.

            C) You’re continuing to suggest that people have a right to comment on one anothers’ bodies. No, they really don’t.

            D) There’s no emotional validation for the nominally “pretty” woman either; she’s being congratulated on performing femininity well by the current standards. And since she didn’t ask for the attention (no, dressing ‘sexy’ is still NOT asking for your attention), it’s still harrassment.

            You’re talking about how much we don’t get the mens’ experience. You forget: we live in a world where 90% of the media tells us about nothing BUT the mens’ experience. Look up the concept “male gaze” sometime, and prepare to be amazed, if you’re willing to be open to a new idea.

            You don’t get our experience. At fucking all. Believe me. I can speak to this, as for the first 23 years of my life, I was (apparently) a successful jock on the varsity hockey and soccer squads, before I transitioned. I’ve lived both sides of this – you haven’t. So don’t fucking tell us here anymore than we have no idea what your life is like. We’ve only rarely seen anything BUT your frakking life in our media.

            Get outside your little pitybox, and start trying to understand how things are for people who are SERIOUSLY oppressed by the patriarchy, and not just how your little flesh-wound booboo hurts so much, and how we women couldn’t possibly understand the depth of your pain. We’ve lived that pain every frakking day.

          • queequack says

            We don’t need emotional validation from random strangers on the street. That’s rape culture, to think that women “need” this.

            I didn’t say that; what I said was that most women receive validation more generally, and unwanted “compliments” are a shitty corollary of this. Which is not to excuse oblivious “complimenting”- but again, I was only trying to articulate why this topic is always so heated. It’s because many men hear women rejecting what (they think) they desperately want, and it’s very unintuitive. Like I said, our experiences are so vastly different when it comes to this particular subject, it’s very hard to talk about. But one step might be acknowledging them.

            You’re continuing to suggest that people have a right to comment on one anothers’ bodies. No, they really don’t.

            No, I’m not suggesting this.

            [..] women couldn’t possibly understand the depth of your pain

            Well, in this specific instance, yes, that basically is what I think. Of course, there are probably other things I don’t understand about being a woman.

            We’ve only rarely seen anything BUT your frakking life in our media.

            Thanks, but you don’t know anything about my life.

          • Catcalled says

            I like the way I look. There is no emotional validation here. Men telling me I’m good looking does nothing for my emotional well being. I do not care about how strangers think of me, my worth is in what I do and not how I look. If a person really felt the need to talk to me, they have so many other topics to choose from.

            I haven’t met a woman who enjoys being approached by strangers on the street. Look to the women on this blog speaking out against it as proof. Female friends that do not meet society’s beauty standards often find being catcalled even more distressing because they can’t tell if they are being mocked or if the man is showing genuine interest. And usually the nice comments they receive on their appearance goes as follows: “You look nice, for a big girl”, “You’d look really pretty if you lost weight”, “I don’t mind that you have a few extra pounds”, “I’M A NICE GUY, I LIKE YOU DESPITE THE FACT THAT YOU’RE A FATTY”. Usually, though, guys just laugh and call them fat fucks. Tell me, what choice do you think they have over sexual partners that you do not have?

            Most men are out to harass, a compliment is never a compliment. They are always expecting something in return. I do not owe them gratitude for a superficial comment on my appearance.

          • DK says

            … emotional validation, as well as a feeling of consequence, of mattering to other people.

            Sexual harassment does the exact opposite of this. You go one minute feeling like a person of the world, enjoying your day and existence, to being reminded that you are a piece of meat to be ogled at by men on the street. You feel like you do not have the privilege of existing in public w/o harassment and comments. It puts you on edge. It depresses you. It makes you want to cry. It makes you want to hide. And most of all, it makes you feel like an object.

            This is not hyperbole. Trust women when they tell you this.

          • gabby13 says

            Validation aint got nothing to do with it. I can be wearing chunky boots, jeans, and a giant puffer jacket with a scarf and glasses obscuring most of my face; doesn’t matter, I’ll still get rattling car horn toots on the street. They aren’t saying, you know what, I find you really attractive or actually, I think you’re pretty – they are saying, with their cursory car horn toots and the occasional obscenity yelled out the window, that well hey, I can just barely tell youre female under all those layers, want to go for a ride?? These ‘compliments’ are for their own purposes, their way of saying “I need a fuck, your female, you up for it?” – it has nothing to do with us, our appearance, our emotions, or validation.
            I’m sorry you are having such bad experiences, heres something that may or may not help; sometimes what is most attractive in a male is confidence. In fact, in any person, confidence is an attractive feature; Scarlette O’Hara in Gone With The Wind for instance, is refered to during the beginning, that there were many girls far more beautiful and pretty than her, but she was so charming and confident; no one noticed. I have had this experience myself, being attracted to someone purely because they were comfortable in their own skin.
            Another note = just because men want to have sex with us; do you think we feel good because since we have a vagina, that makes us “worth” something???? It does not.

            “The enormous boon that women get” — personally, I would like to be able to have control over my sexuality, not have it defined by others because I am a women – and I am, if I have lots of sex, that is morally wrong, I am a bad person, I am a slut. Even worse, if I then am sexually abused, it is my fault, I was asking for it.
            Just because I, as a women, would theoretically be able to find a random sexual partner potentially easier than a male would; do you think this would provide me with validation? From where? I’m validated because I have a vagina??? GREAT

            @DK – well said. wonderfully said, actually

          • CaitieCat says

            Just a quick heads-up, gabby13, queequack has left the building, courtesy of Miri’s Amazing Unending Well of Patience having a temporary shortage.

            I.e., he’s banned. Liking your comments, though! :)

      • says

        But the the more I read, the more convinced I became that the majority of women simply have no goddamn clue what it’s like to be a younger man who isn’t exceptionally attractive.

        Well, I guess it’s probably like being a not conventionally attractive woman minus all the random and not so random people who tell you that you’re a total waste of space because you’re currently deemed unfuckable.

        Our experiences are so vastly different that there is simply no common ground upon which there can be productive discussion. Okay- in general, when women complain of romantic woes, what they really mean is that a cursory glance at their line of hopefuls does not reveal someone who meets their exacting preferences. On the other hand, when men complain of romantic woes, what they mean is that they cannot find a single person who doesn’t find them utterly repulsive.

        You seem to think that there are no lonely women. That women who are single are so by their own choice because the guys who’d like to be with them aren’t Prince Charming.
        Tell you what, it’s utter bullshit. What you’re thinking about is King Thrushbeard and that’s a fairy tale.

      • says

        In addition to ignoring all the women who are not conventionally attractive, or lonely, as Giliell pointed out, you’re also ignoring all the men who consider themselves feminists, most of whom aren’t going to be particularly attractive, and who therefore can experience what it’s like. Please don’t do that.

  13. says

    I have an idea: Be a bit more witty and intelligent in striking up a conversation with a woman. Seriously, what she looks like isn’t even low-hanging fruit. You’ll have to scoop it up with a spoon. And be 100% and utterly prepared for her not having any interest in talking to you. Not even about the weather.
    The tips above refer to social situations where a chat might indeed be ok

  14. says

    WHAT A LOAD OF GUFF. I am a straight woman and I make it an absolute point to give strangers genuine compliments. Why can someone not do the same just because they are male? Ridiculous. No wonder people think feminism is tiresome.

    • says

      Why can someone not do the same just because they are male?

      Because, as I just discussed, there’s an entirely different history there, and based on the way men are socialized to think about women and their bodies, there is likely to be a very different motivation behind their compliments.

      For instance, if most women went through their entire lives being shouted at and harassed on the street by other women (i.e. “I’d tap that, bitch,” “I’d suck on those tits,” “Come back here, cunt, I was talking to you”), then compliments coming from women would feel very different to women. But since there isn’t such a pervasive history of sexual assault, harassment, and abuse of women by other women, it reads quite differently, doesn’t it?

      Besides, the point under discussion in this post is not whether or not men “can” compliment women. The post is asking men to examine very carefully their reasons for doing so.

      • Tristan says

        Miri, an interesting phenomenon here is that I’m seeing a fair number of people agree with you, and a fair number of people disagree.

        My impression, so far, is that you’ve made a very good point that is spot-on *for some people*, but very pointedly not for others. Lyzzi, above, clearly doesn’t have the sort of sensitivity or history that would make her respond negatively to male compliments. I know many people who feel as Lyzzi does, but I also know people who feel as you do.

        From this, my inclination towards a broad-spectrum solution would be to say the following: give people compliments if you are so inclined, but be careful about doing so in ways that are appropriate, and not out of context. Yelling out of a moving car is obviously disrespectful. Using a tone that indicates mutual respect, rather than objectification, is essential. Going up to someone and starting a conversation should be completely permissible so long as 1) you aren’t interrupting them in the middle of an existing conversation or activity, and 2) you remain receptive to cues that you are unwelcome.

        I believe that this would satisfy both those who don’t desire unsolicited compliments / conversation, and those who do. What do you think?

        • says

          I think what you’ve said is quite valid. But I still don’t understand why compliments must necessarily be about a woman’s body as opposed to her clothing, hairstyle, actions, or other things.

          For instance, once on the subway I gave up my seat to an elderly woman who was having trouble standing because the train was shaky. Then a man came up and said that he thought it was really admirable what I did. I said thanks and went back to what I was doing, and he left me alone. I felt really nice. I wouldn’t have if he’d been like “hey you’re gorgeous.”

          Yeah, compliments can be really nice, even from strangers. But they need not have anything to do with people’s bodies.

        • Padme says

          Tristan,

          As a WOMAN, I agree wholeheartedly with you! I LOVE being complimented. And I love when guys tell me I’m pretty in a non-creepy way. AKA, not shouted out of a car or with profanity. I take great care in getting ready and I love it when people notice and say something, whether it be a little girl at school (I’m a teacher) telling me she likes my dress or an elderly gentleman at the grocery store telling me I remind him of his wife when they were first married, or a younger man my age just telling me he thinks I look hot. I’m VERY shy and won’t talk to people first, unless they are under 18 – kids don’t scare me, and the teens I work with at camp in the summer, or at church don’t either – just other adults. When someone – particularly a guy near my age, notices me and compliments me I don’t feel so invisible (which shyness can make me feel often).

          So PLEASE guys, don’t stop complimenting women, just think about how you do it, and how you react to our reaction. You will always make me smile and feel good, but unless I have time and feel like I am able to have a real conversation I will just say, “thank you, have a great day.” Be friendly and give me some space when you come over to talk to me and I won’t be worried at all, and smile graciously if I walk away after thanking you.

          After all if no one approaches anyone with a compliment, then how are we supposed to know if someone is interested, and complimenting an activity or item (like say the book I’m reading) doesn’t tell the person you noticed them, just what they are doing/have. And it is really nice to be noticed from time to time. And definitely guys if you catch me looking at you, really looking at you, then I would love to chat, but can’t do so, and a nice compliment that says you noticed me will get you more of a conversation than just a “I saw what you did” type comment. And I know a lot of girls like me, so we are out there too. Its all in reading the person as you approach.

        • Jenn says

          A lot of the time, you can’t tell if it’s wanted or not. In my personal experience, I often hide the fact that I’m uncomfortable with conversations from strangers because I don’t want to create any negative backlash for not being interested. And that’s the real problem, it’s hard to tell who is willing to have a conversation and who isn’t. The question here is whether or not you’re willing to take the chance of making someone feel incredibly uncomfortable just to talk to them for five minutes.

          If we were in a society where women weren’t afraid to show their true emotions, then of course you’d be able to strike up a conversation with strangers and be able to tell whether or not they were interested. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case, which is why people need to be a lot more careful on how they approach others to make sure they don’t feel unsafe.

    • Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden says

      Lyzzi – read my #9.

      No one is saying that men should never compliment anyone, or even any woman.

      This is about compliments
      1. on appearance
      2. given to complete strangers
      3. by men
      4. to women

      in a context where it is
      a. commonplace [but not universal] for the men in question to get upset if women don’t respond in a way they desire
      b. women don’t have telepathy to figure out which compliments are preludes to harassment
      c. women don’t have telepathy to figure out how to respond to the compliments that are preludes to harassment

      and, please note for emphasis
      d. compliments about other things, like glorious expressions of righteous anger, do not elicit compliments from men to women when the two are complete strangers to each other.

      “giv[ing] strangers genuine compliments” is not discouraged by feminism.

      Try reading for comprehension.

  15. scenario says

    Commenting on a total stranger’s appearance out of the blue is kind of creepy especially if the comment is directly or indirectly sexual in nature. What’s its purpose?

    I don’t see anything wrong with trying to start a casual conversation on the subway or a plane etc. to pass the time as long as you don’t take offence when the person you’re trying to talk to doesn’t want to talk. I get bored on 5 hour plane flights and talking passes the time. People are usually pretty good at letting you know if they are interested in talking. A business person typing a report on their laptop or reading is a pretty blatant way of saying, I’m not interested in talking right now.

    What about commenting about a funny t-shirt? I’ve got a shirt that says Bank of Dad and I’ve had strangers laugh and say that they love my shirt several times. I don’t take offence. If I notice that a women is wearing a shirt for an obscure TV show that I love and I comment on the shirt, is it a comment on a fellow fan of the show or her appearance?

    • says

      What about commenting about a funny t-shirt? I’ve got a shirt that says Bank of Dad and I’ve had strangers laugh and say that they love my shirt several times. I don’t take offence. If I notice that a women is wearing a shirt for an obscure TV show that I love and I comment on the shirt, is it a comment on a fellow fan of the show or her appearance?

      Yeah, I didn’t really have the chance to get into other types of compliments in this post because it was already so long, but I think that things like that are totally okay. I do think that some women will still find them uncomfortable because of past experiences or whatnot, but I think that at that point the risk of making someone uncomfortable is low enough that it’s okay.

      For instance, I wear a lot of political shirts and I’d definitely be happy if someone complimented me on them, just as I like it when people compliment me on all the stickers on my laptop. If I wore my shirt from the Muse concert I went to and someone started asking me about seeing Muse live, sure I’d talk to them.

      But with all of this you have to be cognizant of the fact that women often respond very politely and even in a “friendly” way, even if they don’t want to talk to you, because they’ve been socialized that way. So a good rule to follow when chatting up strangers is that you ask them a question or two, and then you wait and see if they reciprocate by asking YOU questions or elaborating on the topic you asked them about.

    • NoGenderNecessary says

      I find this amount of erudite back and forthing about complimenting and not complimenting abhorant. It’s missing the underlying cause of why someone is complimenting someone else’s appearance in the first place. The function of issuing a compliment is to make someone else’s day a bit brighter. The problem is that the phrasing of the compliment for a total stranger is sooo blah. It isn’t complimenting to tell total stranger “You’re hot!” “You look good!” “You look charming.” It’s selfish. It’s you thinking of yourself (gosh, wow! I have to tell them how they have made me feel!) before you have thought of them. You did it in a pathetic attempt to open up a conversation. If they really are amazingly hot, they probably already know it. They don’t need you to tell them. They’ve probably heard it twenty times already today. Can you imagine what it must be like hearing it that many times already? It’s a boring conversation starter. You failed by speaking without first thinking and finding a way to make that person’s day a better one. It’s not specific to women; men too shut down your compliments in the exact same way for a variety of similar reasons. The way to compliment a total stranger’s appearance is, “I love your dress/tie/eyeliner/breifcase/shoes. I was thinking of buying one similar to that for myself/spouse/mate. Where did you get it?” That’s a conversation starter and it’s made their day a bit brighter. They’ll respond breifly (they don’t want to chat with a stranger right now) or gush the details.

  16. Kendal says

    Oh noes! I might make someone “uncomfortable” by giving them a compliment! Send me straight to prison! Sorry, /end sarcasm. I just don’t see the point here. A kindly offered, non creepy compliment about how someone looks can be just that, a compliment. I understand that there’s guys who do it to hit on women,,or worse, but many have no agenda besides letting someone know they’re appreciated. Sometimes it’s just you speaking your truth, unfiltered. We’re a social species, speaking to each other is human nature. Now you suggest we keep all opinions to ourselves unless asked. Not gonna happen. Maybe the focus should be on you. Why are you feeling so assaulted by a nice compliment (and I do mean a nice one, and I assume you can tell the difference) I also disagree that women are conditioned to think that men are the arbiters of their appearances. We are all social mirrors for others, some just more that others. It more about the value you assign to someone’s opinion. Why take it for more that it s worth? Sometimes in our lives, we’re going to be uncomfortable about something someone says, and that’s just life. It seems like this article is just preaching to the choir.

    • says

      I’d suggest you reread the article a few more times, because it’s not actually about the fact that women sometimes feel uncomfortable because of unsolicited compliments. It’s about why men feel the urgent need to make them in the first place.

      • Kendal says

        I read every word. And I stand by what I said. You make huge leaps of logic and massive assumptions. I actually agree with you impart; when a solicitation disguised as a compliment, especially a crude or base one – it is very wrong, and usually offensive. I see other comments here too, that are just flatly assuming that no unsolicited compliment can be without an agenda or malice somewhere in it. All I am really point out is that there are some men who have good hearts, and good intentions, who can give a compliment on someone’s appearance and not mean one single other thing by it. It is possible! Really. You are justo painting with a very broad brush here. And I was right about one more thing, based on a response you just have another commenter; you said if they had the desire to say anythingnlokenthatbto a stranger don’t! Yeah, that’s a nice society.

        • says

          HAHAHA, you ACTUALLY didn’t read it though!

          You:

          All I am really point out is that there are some men who have good hearts, and good intentions, who can give a compliment on someone’s appearance and not mean one single other thing by it. It is possible! Really.

          Me:

          Okay. Before I say what I’m going to say, here are some things I’m NOT saying:

          Finding a random woman attractive makes you a Bad Person.
          Wanting to tell her she’s attractive makes you a Bad Person.
          Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, it makes her uncomfortable/scared.
          Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, that is harassment.

          And later:

          Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are genuinely good guys who just don’t understand why their comments might be unwelcome. Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are creepy predators. Most are somewhere in between, and guess what? I don’t know you, I don’t know your life, and I have no idea if you’re going to leave it at “Hey, you look good in that dress!” or follow it up with “But you’d look better without it! Har har! C’mon, where’re you going? I know you heard me! Fucking cunt, nobody wants your fat ass anyway, bitch.”

          When you compliment a random woman who doesn’t know you, no matter how nice you are about it, there’s a good chance she’s going to freak out internally because for all she knows, you could be that latter type. And I get that it’s really unfair that women would just assume that about you. I get that it sucks that sometimes, expressing totally reasonable opinions like “hey you’re hot” will make women terrified of you or furious at you. That’s not fair.

          But if you’re going to lay the blame for that somewhere, for fuck’s sake, don’t blame the woman. Blame all the guys who have called her a bitch and a cunt for ignoring their advances. Blame all the guys who may have harassed, abused, or assaulted her in the past. Blame all the people who may never do such a thing themselves, but who were quick to blame her and tell her to just get over it. Blame the fact that if she stops and talks to you and then something bad happens, people will blame her for stopping and talking to you.

          This is NOT about your intentions. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person and your intentions are similarly wonderful. This is about WHY it’s so important for you to comment on how women look, and about how THEY perceive it when you do so–which may be very negatively, and this is not their fault.

          • Kendal says

            Okay, so two things we have discovered here, I read too fast, and I also try to type too fast, lol. I stipulate on the disclaimers you made. I must have glanced over those and just got to the creepy-guy parts. As far as some introspection on why I would compliment a stranger on her looks, or appearance in any manner; I am a generally happy upbeat person. In my life’s experience, I have found that the greater number of people, men and women, usually like hearing something positive about themselves – even from a stranger. Some, especially from a stranger. If I make someone uncomfortable, I certainly hope it would pass quickly out of their mind. I am a”wonderful person” and I guess I think that if I do compliment a woman, she might be able to tell I am not a creeper, or a rube.
            Tl:dr, When I compliment a person about how they look, it’s me speaking my truth, and hoping I make their day a little bit.

          • says

            In my life’s experience, I have found that the greater number of people, men and women, usually like hearing something positive about themselves – even from a stranger.

            Sure. But why does it always have to be about how they look? Aren’t there other things about people that are important, perhaps more so?

            When I compliment a person about how they look, it’s me speaking my truth, and hoping I make their day a little bit.

            I believe you. But a random stranger on the street doesn’t know this about you. Maybe the last person who told them EXACTLY what you’ve just told them also followed them down the street screaming obscenities because they didn’t respond.

            There are many great ways to make someone’s day that don’t require taking this risk, or nearly as great of a risk. Compliment their clothing and leave their body out of it. Hold the door for them. Pay for their coffee and then walk away, leaving them alone and not expecting conversation in return. Do all this stuff for another guy, because gender shouldn’t make a difference when it comes to whose day you’d like to brighten.

            Here’s a story. Once I was shopping with my mom and my little brother. My little brother found a toy he liked and really wanted, but my mom said no because it was too expensive. We paid for our stuff and left the store. Suddenly we heard the cashier yelling to us, running to catch up. We turned around. She was carrying the toy. “The man behind you in line got this for you,” she said.

            We never even saw him. We never got to say thank you. But I still remember this YEARS later.

          • Kendal says

            So, correct me if I am wrong; you’re suggesting that I do anynofnthose other things, but avoid the comment on looks, because the person may have had some bad experience at some point in their life? That’s pretty codependent in my book. I guess I have lived my life being kind and considerate, but also not imagining all of the bad things that ‘may’ have happened to someone that might make them hate the fact that I just said they have beautiful eyes.
            I’m not some insensttive bull in a china shop, but I cannot comport my life in a meaningful way thinking about all of the “might-be’s” about other people’s lives. I can live with the idea that me giving an honest compliment may not get the reaction I am thinking ill get. That’s okay, I am also not the kind to suddenly be rude to anyone because they reacted oppositely from how I thought they would. I might just smile and say Sorry.

          • says

            So, correct me if I am wrong; you’re suggesting that I do anynofnthose other things, but avoid the comment on looks, because the person may have had some bad experience at some point in their life? That’s pretty codependent in my book. I guess I have lived my life being kind and considerate, but also not imagining all of the bad things that ‘may’ have happened to someone that might make them hate the fact that I just said they have beautiful eyes.

            Nope! I’m suggesting that you realize this, think about it, and ask yourself whether it’s more important to express your opinion on how women look than to avoid hurting someone who’s already been hurt too much. This isn’t some extreme niche situation, by the way. Most women have been harassed, assaulted, or abused by men. Not all of those women will react negatively to a compliment from a stranger, but you should recognize the privilege that you have in not having to live in fear of strangers on the street.

          • says

            I guess I have lived my life being kind and considerate, but also not imagining all of the bad things that ‘may’ have happened to someone that might make them hate the fact that I just said they have beautiful eyes.

            Wrong.
            You spent your like trying to be kind and considerate. But intent isn’t magic. I tell you here and now: If some random dude passed me telling me that I have beautiful eyes, I think you’re a creep. You’re going to make me deeply uncomfortable.
            I tell you something else: I’m also very likely to smile and say “thank you”.
            Why?
            A) Conditioning. Women are conditioned to accept other people intruding on their personal space “gracefully”. They’re also told from day one that their appearance is The Most Important Thing about them. Speak of Pawlov’s dog.
            B) Better safe than sorry. I’m usually in a rather vulnerable position, having two children in tow. If you think that dudes wouldn’t threaten a woman with two little children you’re wrong. I once got threatened on the elevator when my youngest was just a baby when I asked a guy not to smoke in there. Made me very careful for the future.
            Oh, you would never threaten a woman, of course. You’re a nice guy. Here’s the deal: We’re talking about stranger interactions. I don’t know that. I have no idea how you’re going to react until you do. I can’t read your fucking mind.

          • Kendal says

            To Giliell: I can see what your saying, but still I cannot take responsibility for your past experiences. I also cannot know what you’ve been through before I creep(t) you out. If I offer a nice comment to you like “wow, you have very beautiful hair!’ and I keep on my way past you – even if you say nothing at all, I am fine. I just feel like you can’t even imagine a man saying that without some deeper and dark agenda. If I am good with who I am (and I am), then what I offered was just some gladness from my heart. But, because (and I quote) “I can’t read your fucking mind.” I just go on about my day.
            I am done responding here, I know who I am, and I know why I say and do the things I do. I never intentionally wish to harm anyone at all, even emotionally – but since I have no way of knowing what’s in you, I will keep on as I am. To anyone out there that I have, or ever will offend, or scare because I said something nice about how you look, I meant you no harm. I am one of the good guys. Please try to remember that there are some of us out there.

          • says

            Kendall, your last announcement basically boils down to, Yes, I can’t claim ignorance anymore, but I don’t give a frak about anyone but myself so I’m not going to alter my behavior.

            That’s, shall we say, not very nice.

        • emilybites says

          Kendal: ‘I never intentionally wish to harm anyone at all, even emotionally – but since I have no way of knowing what’s in you, I will keep on as I am. To anyone out there that I have, or ever will offend, or scare because I said something nice about how you look, I meant you no harm.’

          People have told you that harm arising from your actions is inevitable. If you keep on as you are, you will harm women. You understand that Gilliel would be harmed and Miri would be harmed. You understand that there are some women you ‘offend, or scare’ with your actions. You are going to keep on as you are ANYWAY, knowing that your actions harm women. Because…it’s more important that you give out Notes From Your Boner than not harm women.

          You’re not one of the good guys, you’re an ASSHOLE. Do you see the distinction?

          • says

            Kendall: No, you can’t control my past experiences, but you can help control my future ones, which is, in fact, all that is being asked.

            Here’s a recent example of how a street conversation often goes: (note: I am middle aged, fat, and was dressed in jeans and an old tshirt. I was not wearing makeup and my hairstyle is not one that might be considered conventionally attractive. I was sitting at a bus stop with my toddler son waiting for my adolescent daughter’s bus to come in. It’s a Friday)

            Him: Hi! What’s your name?
            Me: (my name), and yourself? (I’m not particularly interested in a conversation with this guy, but he hasn’t been outwardly rude, and I have no reason not to be polite)
            Him: Kenny (extends a hand for a handshake)
            Me: Hi, Kenny (shakes his hand – but starting to feel a little uncomfortable. I don’t really want to touch this guy)
            Him: How are you today?
            Me: Good, and yourself?
            Him: Good. Party Time, right?
            Me: Sure, I guess. It’s a beautiful day. (looking away, now. I’ve done my pleasantries, I’ve been pleasant and polite, but I’m more uncomfortable about the conversation being prolonged with reference to “partying”)
            Him: Do you go to bars?
            Me: (definitely wanting to end this conversation now) Sure, sometimes.
            Him: What kind of bars?
            Me: Uh, whatever kind, I guess (looking away again)
            Him: I like to go to ladies’ clubs
            Me: Oh (look away)
            Him: you know what I mean?
            Me: yeah (look away)
            Him: Have you ever done anything like that?
            Me: (curt) Nope
            Him: But there’s nothing wrong with it, right?
            Me: It’s none of my business

            This guy didn’t then call me a cold bitch, which has happened, or a cock-sucking dyke (ok, that one made me laugh), or an ugly cunt when he FINALLY got the picture that I wasn’t enjoying our conversation. Does that mean he was just a misunderstood nice guy who was just trying to strike up a conversation because he’s just naturally friendly and outgoing?

        • Meghan says

          Kendall: You actually can assume that a woman has dealt with harassment in the past. I know a lot of women and I don’t know a single one who hasn’t gotten unwanted attention. That I know of, several of my friends and family members have been raped. I, personally, have been sexually assaulted on more than one occasion. I don’t live in a rough neighbourhood either.

    • says

      Kendal:
      I find the view that “I did not INTEND any harm with my comment” to be an unhelpful response in situations like unsolicited compliments given by men to women. No woman has any way of knowing whether your intent is to strike up a conversation or if you are going to stalk her.
      How *would* they know?
      They cannot read your mind. They can only judge you by what you say or do. In a society with deeply pervasive sexism, where far too many people value women for their looks rather than the content of their character, their intellect, or their integrity rests-comments from strangers can and do (not always) make many women uncomfortable.
      You have no way of knowing how a given woman will respond to a random appearance based compliment either.
      You do not know what she has gone through that day, that week, or that month.
      You do not realize how often she gets complimented or how tired she is of THAT being the so-called beginning of the conversation.
      You do not realize that she might be at the gym working out for her own benefit, rather than act as your eye candy.
      You do not know if she was sexually abused and is wary around strangers.
      You do not know if she likes men.

      You know none of these things. Yet you still find it ok to approach a random woman to compliment her body in a non social environment. You are thinking entirely of yourself. Now this might be a genuine feeling you want to share, but since she has no way of knowing that, the advice Miri is offering “think twice about how your words and actions could affect the woman you want to approach” should be a big honking clue that maybe some women do not enjoy being approached in such a manner. Approaching the situation with some thought or consideration of HER (the hypothetical woman you seek to compliment), rather than feeling she is deserving of said compliment, or worse–feeling like you are entitled, might just be more respectful of her as a person.
      And hey, one less dudebro in the world who finds that the value of a woman is
      A- not determined by men
      and
      B- is not determined by her appearance
      Is a good thing.

    • Linnerd says

      Hello there,

      Yes, some compliments really ARE done just to make someone else’s day brighter. For example, when an old man at the bookstore tells me I have great taste in books, or the lady beside me in line for the cashier compliments me on my shoes. HOWEVER, these are NOT what the author is talking about in the article. You need to get that straight. The author, Miri, is talking about comments that GENERALLY women receive from heterosexual males in the street or in a some other public place, and which are nearly always about the woman’s appearance. That, my friend, is the kind of interaction that the vast majority of women strongly dislike, and which does NOT make their day a little brighter. It makes them uncomfortable, anxious, or in the worst case….actually scared. So please do NOT approach random women in public and compliment them on their appearance. If you REALLY wanna start a conversation with a random person, smile at them …. wait to see if your smile is reciprocated, then begin a conversation with a funny, neutral remark. Something about their bike, what you guys are doing, the building in front of you….the way you would try to start a conversation with a friend.

      Please, for the love of God, do not go up to a random woman in public and tell her she’s pretty, has pretty eyes, or has pretty hair. That is ridiculously awkward and invasive. How would you feel if another man came up to you and said that, a man who was larger and physically stronger than you, who could easily overpower you? Think about it. Imagine it. How would you feel?

  17. P says

    I’m a girl. As every girl does, I get comments from random men on my appearance.

    I don’t care.

    I am not particularly insecure so wouldn’t say that I need assurance from strangers to make myself feel good, but that doesn’t mean it’s not nice to know that people find me physically attractive.
    If someone comes up to me and tells me I look good, I’ll say ‘thank you’. Out of all the men that approach women to tell them they look good, the proportion of them that think they’re gonna get a shag out of it is minimal.
    How can you tell if you want to talk to someone until you talk to them? I have to say that I think it’s quite brave for these guys to just go over and say something – as much as it could be a passing comment, it could be the start of something.

    Now just to clarify, I’m not talking about those times that someone yells ‘nice ass’ out of a car window, or asks to motorboat you when you’re walking down the street.
    I think we need to draw a line somewhere. But why should it be over the whole thing? We are getting to the stage where soon it will be unacceptable to say ANYTHING to ANYONE you don’t know. Where will that leave us?

    I do not understand what is creepy about commenting on a strangers appearance in a non-derogatory way . We talk about celebrities all the time in the most obscene ways and we do not know them. Why is this different?

    • smrnda says

      “We” talk about celebrities in this way? Who is this “we?” People Magazine?

      On not being able to talk to anyone about anything… let’s just totally overreact there. Compliments about a woman’s appearance aren’t the only thing you can start conversations about. It isn’t like people already gave examples of situations that would be *acceptable* as opposed to situations that wouldn’t. Why do you think people wear t shirts with their favorite bands, movies and TV shows on them?

      Let’s also think about context. If I’m at a cafe in front of a computer with headphones on, I think this broadcasts that I DO NOT WANT to talk. Not everybody seems to get the message, and yes, when I am there I am working much of the time.

      Now, if I’m at an art gallery, my feelings on conversation will be different. I’m sort of there just to look at art, but sort of willing to talk.

      Perhaps a reason why I might find *innocuous comments* creepy is that when the same guy keeps following you around to make these compliments, it gets creepy pretty fast.

      • P says

        I find it hard to believe that you have never commented on the appearance of someone famous – I’m not just talking about Kim Kardashian.

        I am aware that it was an overreaction – it’s called hyperbole. And I know that compliments aren’t the only way to start a conversation, but why should somebody starting a conversation in that way automatically mean that you shut them off? If they are inappropriate with the way they do it, fine – no one wants that. What I am saying is, if a normal guy just wants to start a conversation that way and you don’t like it, tell them not to. There is never any excuse for anyone to be rude out of the blue.

        I’ll give some scenarios.

        1.
        guy: you look hot in that dress (normal intonation, no sexual connotations made)
        girl: piss off you pervert

        ….now THAT is overreactive.

        2.
        guy: damn I wanna get my hands round that ass
        girl: piss off you pervert

        …more acceptable

        As regards ‘context’, I think your example of having your headphones on is a perfectly reasonable example. I just have issue with people who can’t simply say, sorry I’m busy at the moment.

        I have seen so many girls say rude and offensive things to guys who haven’t said anything offensive, purely because they are guys and they think they can take the hit. THAT is what I’m talking about.

        And in response to your final comment, I did actually make a point to clarify that I am not talking about those moments. I am purely addressing the less extreme forms of communication that people have got up in arms about. I would feel the same way as you would if someone was following me around.

        • says

          As regards ‘context’, I think your example of having your headphones on is a perfectly reasonable example. I just have issue with people who can’t simply say, sorry I’m busy at the moment.

          Except often when women do that they receive invective/abuse in response. So yeah, I’d like to avoid that. In fact, often that’s the response they get when they simply, calmly ignore the person: http://captainawkward.com/2012/09/15/conversations-on-a-train/

        • smrnda says

          I’m actually not that in the now on who is famous these days, so I can’t comment on things I don’t know.

          On people talking to me and my obligations to humor them, I don’t exactly feel bound to provide a conversation to anybody who happens to walk up to me and starts talking. I won’t be outright hostile but padding the egos of guys who want to tell me I look good isn’t a high priority. Luckily this doesn’t happen very often since I’m usually *obviously busy* and don’t get that much unwanted attention.

          I have said I don’t mind being complimented on fashion, and I will respond to people who actually have something interesting to say, but I don’t feel like I owe random guys who talk to me any special courtesy.

        • says

          How on earth does “you look hot in that dress” NOT carry any kind of sexual connotation?

          It isn’t “you look nice” or “you look fabulous” or “you look great in that color”. It’s “You look HOT”. “Hot” automatically carries the connotation that they are looking at you sexually.

          OK, maybe not if it is 110 degrees and you are wearing a crinoline, but somehow I don’t think that’s a common situation.

    • says

      I’m a girl. As every girl does, I get comments from random men on my appearance.

      I don’t care.

      Congratulations!

      I think we need to draw a line somewhere. But why should it be over the whole thing? We are getting to the stage where soon it will be unacceptable to say ANYTHING to ANYONE you don’t know. Where will that leave us?

      Slippery slope fallacy. Nobody said anything about not saying “ANYTHING” to “ANYONE,” as smrnda pointed out above. But in any case, where that would leave us would be a world in which people can go about their damn business in peace without getting bothered by annoying strangers. And you know who you can always talk to? People you know, or with whom you are doing something together (taking a dance class, watching a concert, etc.) It really doesn’t always need to be walking up to a total stranger and making a comment about how they look.

      I do not understand what is creepy about commenting on a strangers appearance in a non-derogatory way . We talk about celebrities all the time in the most obscene ways and we do not know them. Why is this different?

      It’s not! I find that weird. It’s one thing to talk about an actor’s movie or a singer’s music or an athlete’s stats. It’s another to talk about how they look when it has no relevance to why they’re famous.

      But also, the fact that you might discuss someone’s appearance with your friends is not at all the same as walking up to a total stranger and remarking on their appearance. To equivocate those two things is just a stunning misunderstanding of how conversation works. For instance, I might tell someone that I don’t like my friend’s partner, but I’m sure as hell not going to say that to my friend! (Unless I’m sincerely concerned that my friend is being abused or manipulated or something.)

  18. scenario says

    I do think that some of it is in the context. The people commenting on the Bank of Dad t-shirt while we were in a crowded amusement park where 4 small soda’s costs $20. A comment to the person sitting next to you on the subway is different than a comment on a lonely street. If I say I love MST3k and she says what’s your favorite episode?, I take it as an invitation to talk. If she ignores me, I usually just walk away.

  19. johnnyk says

    “Hell, why not compliment another man?” What a good suggestion. It’s like you are implying that this rarely happens…
    As radical as you might believe your suggestion is, I receive just as many compliments from men as I do from women(it seems women don’t have a problem with street harassment either?). It has nothing to do with the patriarchy. I think some people are open with their thoughts and the way a lot of women experience this is through unsolicited compliments from men. However, this is hardly the male-on-female issue that you and many other feminists are portraying it as. You are taking something universal to both sexes and trying to gender it based on your own experiences and the limited female perspectives that you listen to.

    • says

      Do you tell a man he looks really hot in that outfit? Do you tell him those jeans really show his ass off? Do you greet him with “Hey sexy”? Do you tell him his girl had better keep an eye on him or someone might just steal him from her?

      • Zoran Stojic says

        I always feel nice when women compliment my looks that way. Why shouldn’t I?

          • Zoran Stojic says

            I don’t understand why you put men in one category and women in other.

            One person compliments another person.

            It could be regarding the:

            Looks
            Status
            Accomplishments
            etc.

            They are compliments, that is all.

            Should we prohibit strangers from complimenting because someone’s feelings might get hurt?

            What about freedom of speech?

            We are not talking about the hate speech, calling upon violence or anything of a kind.

            We are talking about one human being complimenting another, which you somehow find wrong.

            Why?

          • glodson says

            What about freedom of speech?

            What about it? Did she say, anywhere, that complimenting a woman on her looks is, or should be, illegal?

            The point was that it might be a bad idea. For the reasons she stated. You are free to compliment random women for their looks, just as she’s free to have whatever reaction she’s going to have.

          • Zoran Stojic says

            “…the value of freedom of speech and freedom of expression lies with social interactions. Moon writes that “by communicating an individual forms relationships and associations with others – family, friends, co-workers, church congregation, and countrymen. By entering into discussion with others an individual participates in the development of knowledge and in the direction of the community.”[37]

            Freedom of speech, liberty to say what I want, whenever I want, as long as I don’t incite violence or hate.

            “Because, as I just discussed, there’s an entirely different history there, and based on the way men are socialized to think about women and their bodies, there is likely to be a very different motivation behind their compliments.”

            You imply that all man are equal. That’s wrong.

            You also imply that society has not evolved during the centuries. That is also wrong.

            I don’t even know where do you find the men that fit your description.

            This is XXI century, we are all equal in our rights.

            You do have the right to get offended but it does not go against my right to say whatever is on my mind, therefore this whole discussion is pointless and sums up nicely with this line:

            *You* don’t like being complimented by persons you do not know.

            Fine, but that’s just you and gender has nothing to do with it.

          • says

            You imply that all man are equal. That’s wrong.

            I do not imply that.

            You also imply that society has not evolved during the centuries. That is also wrong.

            I do not imply that either. I do think, however, that since women ARE constantly subject to harassment and violence by men, that they may be forgiven for wanting strangers they don’t know to leave them the hell alone.

            This is XXI century, we are all equal in our rights.

            HA. Demonstrably false.

            *You* don’t like being complimented by persons you do not know.

            Fine, but that’s just you and gender has nothing to do with it.

            Actually, I just wrote an entire post explaining exactly what gender has to do with it. Men are socialized to believe that their opinion on my appearance matters more than my own. Not all men end up believing this, but that’s the socialization that they get in our culture. I’m tired of that, I don’t care what a random dude I don’t know thinks about how I look, and I want to be left the hell alone when I’m going to work or carrying groceries or sitting on the subway in silence. And there are literally websites full of women who feel the same way. That you believe that, despite being a man, you understand our experiences better than we do, does not change anything.

            http://www.ihollaback.org/

            http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/

            http://www.streetharassment.org/

      • johnnyk says

        “Do you tell a man he looks really hot in that outfit? Do you tell him those jeans really show his ass off? Do you greet him with “Hey sexy”? Do you tell him his girl had better keep an eye on him or someone might just steal him from her?”
        Personally, I don’t talk to anyone I don’t know because I simply don’t have the confidence to do that. I wasn’t defending using unsolicited compliments myself…I was just explaining that unsolicited compliments is not the male-on-female issue that you were trying to and continuing to make it.
        So no, I wouldn’t say any of those lines. However, I’ve heard similar lines directed towards me from straight males as well as females. For example, an old man stopped to tell me how handsome I was and was staring at me for a very long time about two weeks ago. When the weather started getting better recently, a woman in her 30s told me that she was glad that summer was coming because muscular boys would be wearing less clothing. She said that while smiling. And of course, last winter an obese woman sat on my lap unsolicited, squeezed my thigh, and called me a “cute ass white boy”. Unlike the previous two examples, that was in a nightclub and not in public. But that does not excuse that kind of behaviour.
        So, in conclusion. While I’m definitely not defending these actions, especially when they become physical. I am objecting to you portraying this as a male-on-female issue. It can also be female-on-female, male-on-male, female-on-male, someone who doesn’t identify with either-on-male and so forth…

        • CaitieCat says

          Oh, ffs.

          Seriously? You don’t get what an obnoxious jerk you’re being?

          Look, if Miri had written a post about how cute bunny rabbits are, would you write in and complain she didn’t mention manatees or flying lemurs? Or would you maybe engage with the post she actually wrote, instead of presenting a list of demands of things she should be writing about, in your totally humblebragging opinion?

          • johnnyk says

            Pretty weak analogy as it leaves room for other possible options. If she declared that bunnies were the cutest then readers would rightfully disagree. The quote from my original post and her response suggests that men complimenting other men doesn’t happen or isn’t comparable to men complimenting women. This is a biased view from her experiences and resources which exclude males. There isn’t really a need for me to engage with what she wrote as is it addressed strictly to males who compliment women in public on their appearance and I don’t do that.

          • says

            The quote from my original post and her response suggests that men complimenting other men doesn’t happen or isn’t comparable to men complimenting women.

            How did I imply it doesn’t happen? I’ve literally said that it happens in other comments here.

            And while it’s certainly “comparable,” given that it’s the same category of THING, it’s not the same, because it works differently based on gender. Are male victims of harassment told that they should’ve been dressed more modestly? Are female victims of harassment ever told that this makes them “less of a woman”? Yes, these things are different. This is demonstrably the case.

          • johnnyk says

            “Are male victims of harassment told that they should’ve been dressed more modestly?”
            YUP! They sure are. They are even told that it is a good thing, so they even show it off! Here is some examples from a random video I just happened to be watching:
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD6IjBUDFhc&t=14m5s
            “I wanna feel up his ass” young girl
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MD6IjBUDFhc&t=15m53s
            “dat body” while she is taking creepshots
            Numerous gropes in that video too.
            That stuff makes me sick. When I complain I get blamed for wearing revealing clothing(revealing bicep lol), or that I should be thankful.
            “Are female victims of harassment ever told that this makes them “less of a woman”?”
            I think the only difference is that the standards for attractive men are a lot more difficult to reach due to a lot of genetic factors out of their control, so it happens to the average man less often. To be a six foot plus(well above average height), full head of hair(50% of men will go bald), great physique(years of dedication and genetic factors for aesthetics) makes them more of a man in the eyes of society, so that line doesn’t come up often.
            I can relate to a lot of stories of female harassment so I would say that they are not undeniably different.

          • says

            You can relate to those stories because they are both harassment. None of that means that every time we talk about one we have to talk about the other. Do we have to talk about poaching of elephants every time we talk about poaching of rhinos? If you ask someone who works on either of those issues, they will tell you no.

            You are welcome to have your own blog where you talk about your experiences of harassment as a man–I’d probably love to read it. Likewise, I have my own blog where I talk about (among many other things) my experiences of harassment as a woman. A gay man might write a post about being harassed in gay clubs. A Black woman might write about being harassed by racists. This is all completely acceptable in my opinion.

          • johnnyk says

            Another weak analogy…you said that you wrote that you acknowledge that harassment is not only male-on-female in comments but it’s certainly not the picture painted in the main article and I haven’t read anything that isn’t addressed to me so I wouldn’t know. Your response afterwards was that harassment is different between the sexes which again is a problem. Men are constantly told not only by society but also those aware of gender roles that their experiences are different and mostly not equal to that of a woman’s. This is a problem because men don’t feel comfortable coming out about their experiences and it leads to situations like that video where they are made to feel proud about being sexually harassed instead of reporting it.
            Right, it is your blog and you can do whatever you want with it. Even if I or other people have a problem with it. I certainly don’t object to that…

          • says

            you said that you wrote that you acknowledge that harassment is not only male-on-female in comments but it’s certainly not the picture painted in the main article and I haven’t read anything that isn’t addressed to me so I wouldn’t know.

            Well, duh! That’s because the main article is about harassment of women. That’s right there in the title. This is not an article about harassment of men. I think harassment of men is wrong. I also think that same-sex couples should have the right to marry, that we should reduce military spending, and that raping children is wrong, but I didn’t mention any of these beliefs in this article either. Are you going to assume I don’t hold these beliefs, either? Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence, and I can’t possibly write about everything in a single article. Besides, I’ve already said that I think harassment of men is wrong, so I’m not sure what you’re still going on about.

            Further, I even wrote about male harassment in the older article I linked to at the end of this one. I take it you didn’t bother reading that either, but here’s what I wrote in it:

            This is perhaps the most important point I’ll make in this entire piece: men who say things like this are effectively erasing the experiences of male victims of sexual harassment and assault. Believe it or not, many (if not most) men don’t actually enjoy it when women pay them unwanted sexual attention, “unwanted” being the key word.

            A male friend of mine mentioned that whenever a guy points out that, no, he does not want to be harassed by women on the street, he gets ridiculed by other men. That, right there, is why it’s so difficult for men to admit being harassed or assaulted, and why male victims are marginalized. Male rape is still largely considered either impossible, “not a big deal,” or, as I’m discussing in an upcoming post, simply hilarious. I don’t know how else to say it: this is a fucking problem.

            So, you said:

            Men are constantly told not only by society but also those aware of gender roles that their experiences are different and mostly not equal to that of a woman’s. This is a problem because men don’t feel comfortable coming out about their experiences and it leads to situations like that video where they are made to feel proud about being sexually harassed instead of reporting it.

            Now, where exactly do we disagree?

            I will not apologize for not writing about what you want me to write about, especially since, as I’ve just noted, I’ve already done so.

          • CaitieCat says

            Miri, can’t reply to your latest comment, but:

            BUT BUT BUT MANATEES AND LEMURS!

          • johnnyk says

            Already posted the quote of the article I had a problem with, as well as your response to me. I wasn’t going to examine your entire blogging career or other comments to see if you wrote something that also agreed with me. I’m glad you guys are devolving into meme spouting, one that I find pretty offensive as a rape survivor but whatever. WHAT ABT DA MENZ LOL XD XD XD

          • says

            Look, I believe that gendered violence differs depending on who perpetrates and who is victimized by it. That is all. This does NOT mean that I consider certain forms of it “okay” or “not as big of a deal.” Just that I choose to write about what I have personal experience with and empirical research evidence for, and I’ll let other activists handle the other stuff. If you’re not interested in what I write about, leave.

    • Joe says

      Isn’t that basically just saying it’s a difference of tact? It seems you are highlighting a difference between something like “you look beautiful” or “you look handsome” and a more sexually explicit arrangement.

      (Again I’m not trolling your blog, I really am trying to understand this.)

      • says

        Isn’t that basically just saying it’s a difference of tact?

        Isn’t what? Sorry, so many comments…

        (Again I’m not trolling your blog, I really am trying to understand this.)

        I believe you! Thanks for clarifying.

        • Joe says

          Ah sorry didn’t see the sub comments blew up. I was referring to the examples of “look hot”, “jeans really showing ass off” and the like versus a compliment that is not sexually explicit.

          • says

            I think the relevant difference isn’t whether or not a comment is “sexually explicit,” but whether a comment is about a woman’s body versus some other, chosen aspect of her appearance (like clothing or hairstyle) or, better yet, something that has nothing to do with how she looks. Yes, “hot” and “beautiful” mean slightly different things, but at the end of the day they both still mean “I’d like to fuck you.”

  20. Zoran Stojic says

    Here is another thought, human beings like stating their mind:

    Whoa, what a nice car, whoa we found higgs bossom, whoa what a cool song, whoa what a nice lady, whoa I did this good…

    Just a compliment… ’tis all.

    • says

      Humans like lots of things! Humans also like eating chocolate and greasy french fries, but that doesn’t mean they should do that nonstop. Humans also like having sex, but that doesn’t mean humans should always have sex with anyone they want to have sex with regardless of whether or not that person wants to have sex with them. Humans like sitting around relaxing or playing video games or eating or sleeping all day, but humans have to go to work to earn money so they can support themselves. Big deal.

      Sometimes humans also think that someone is ugly or wearing ugly clothing. Is that appropriate to tell someone who didn’t ask for your opinion?

    • glodson says

      Goddamnit. It is a boson! Boson! Not a bossom. And that’s not even a compliment, it is the fact that we found an excitation in the Higgs Field which shows that the field exists, which is important to the Standard Model. At least try to get the name right.

        • glodson says

          A little time. I’ve tried to help explain it, where warranted, but this is the first time I’ve seen the spelling mangled so badly that it jumped out at me.

          • glodson says

            I just noticed that I misread your reply to me. I added an “a” before “little time,” which completely changed the meaning of the sentence.

            So, the clarification was unneeded as I mistook comment as a positive about me. Now to see what else I can mistake.

            Oh, since I didn’t say it earlier, great post in the original. I just got caught up in the comments. The feminism thing is a newish part of me, and I’m always surprised by how something pretty simple gets misunderstood. Badly misunderstood. And that’s with the assumption that this “misunderstanding” isn’t intentional.

      • Zoran Stojic says

        True, my bad! English is not my mother tongue :-)

        Boson it is!

        “Is that appropriate to tell someone who didn’t ask for your opinion?”

        Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.

        The problem Miri, is that you saying “all compliments are bad, don’t speak to me if I don’t ask you” sound just as bad as all those rude people.

        You are generalizing one gender and painting it as an archaic image of a bad person that victimizes other persons.

        That is not helping the women that were victims of a violence.

        By linking real victims with your petty “don’t tell me I am pretty if I don’t ask you” you are disrespecting the suffering of the real victims.

        Not all men are made equal or educated.

        If you say they are all bad, then there is no solution, isn’t it?

        Let’s scream at them, let’s tell them to fuck of if they try to speak to us?

        Yeah, that will sure do some good.

        • says

          The problem Miri, is that you saying “all compliments are bad, don’t speak to me if I don’t ask you” sound just as bad as all those rude people.

          That’s a fallacy called tu quoque. It doesn’t work!

          You are generalizing one gender and painting it as an archaic image of a bad person that victimizes other persons.

          Nope! Notice how many times I said in this post that some men are great people, some men are terrible people, and most are somewhere in between.

          By linking real victims with your petty “don’t tell me I am pretty if I don’t ask you” you are disrespecting the suffering of the real victims.

          Where did I do this?

          I did say that women who have been the victims of “real violence” are more likely to have a negative reaction to street harassment/unsolicited “compliments.”

          Also, what are “real victims”? I am a victim of sexual assault. Am I a “real victim”?

          Let’s scream at them, let’s tell them to fuck of if they try to speak to us?

          Yeah, that will sure do some good.

          And where did I do this?

          Dude, you’re just bringing out random accusations that sound like they’ll support the points you’re trying to make. I made none of the assertions you think I made; I did none of the things you think I did.

        • glodson says

          The problem Miri, is that you saying “all compliments are bad, don’t speak to me if I don’t ask you” sound just as bad as all those rude people.

          No, she isn’t. At all. Okay, I get that English isn’t your native language. But she didn’t say that at all.

          It was specified in the original post. A random woman on her appearance. In a vacuum, this wouldn’t matter. But it doesn’t. There’s a pressure on women to look good, more so than felt by men. And often women find that their appearance always seems to be an issue. Being reduced to your looks in all cases can get tiring.

          This isn’t universal to all women, all compliments, all times, all situations. It is just if a man is going to compliment a woman on her looks, he runs the risk of coming off as a creep. Maybe the woman won’t be bothered by it. But if the concern is over making the woman feel better, or strike up a conversation, it might be best to just say something else first.

          By linking real victims with your petty “don’t tell me I am pretty if I don’t ask you” you are disrespecting the suffering of the real victims.

          She addressed this very well in the original posting.

          In a perfect world, none of this would happen. In a perfect world, you could tell a woman she’s hot and she would smile and say thank you because there would be no millenia-long history of women’s bodies being used and abused by men, no notion of women’s beauty as being “for” men, no ridiculous beauty standards. Complimenting a woman on her appearance would be just like complimenting a person on their bike or their shoes or the color of their hair; it would not carry all the baggage that it carries in this world.

          There’s nothing I can add to that. We don’t exist in that world. We exist in this world. Even if you are just trying to be nice, trying to just make someone a little happier, all these little facets of our culture can change the meaning of your words.

          That’s all this posting was, an attempt to explain why random compliments on a woman’s appearance might not always be wanted, and might make a woman uncomfortable.

    • says

      Zoran: The string of “thoughts” you provided serves as the perfect example of how women are treated like objects. To speak about a woman’s (or man’s) body should not be equated with speaking about inanimate objects. To imply otherwise is to utterly disregard consent.

    • says

      “Human beings like stating their minds” is a poor defense for any action. Especially when talking about how sharing your opinion on a womans appearance can be annoying, insulting, harassing or worse.
      Aside from that, if “stating your mind” were some foolproof defense of whatever drivel someone has to say, then homophobes and racists would not be pushed to the fringes and told their views ar unnacceptable.
      Sometimes stating your mind is unwarranted.
      Sometimes it is.
      Sometimes stating your mind might lead to offending others unnecessarily.
      Sometimes not.
      Perhaps the lesson is to THINK about the consequences or your words before you speak them.

      That is, if you care about others at all.

  21. says

    Right on! This article is absolutely amazing. You summed up the often overlooked injustices of women in the Western world perfectly. The comments are depressing to read, honestly.

  22. says

    I appreciate your advice to men. It’s a good corrective to boorish behavior. But there is aspect I’d like to bring into the conversation.

    I once had a vigorous discussion with some women on this very topic. The general consensus was that they hated such comments, but after some probing they admitted that they mostly hated compliments from unattractive men. Comments from those they considered attractive were more welcome; the more attractive the men, the more they were enjoyed.

    Natural selection teaches us that a small advantage, over time, can lead to reproductive success. Men may be fools, but we can see that if someone, somewhere has good results from random compliments, why not give it a shot? Compliments to random strangers are a relatively inexpensive investment that may lead to a happy outcome.

    It’s like buying a lottery ticket. You are probably not going to win, but hey, it’s only a buck and someone’s going to walk away with a jackpot.

    If a boorish comment did not, on rare occasions, result in a happy outcome such behavior would wither away. Men’s behavior toward women are largely shaped by women’s choices. A man that shows interest, even if it is somewhat aggressive, is more likely to enjoy a woman’s company than one that is always polite and correct.

    It is certainly important that women speak up when they feel wronged, and what you say may indeed speed the day when no one will feel uncomfortable because of a stranger’s remarks. However, until the success rate resulting from such comments reach zero they are likely to continue.

    • says

      I once had a vigorous discussion with some women on this very topic. The general consensus was that they hated such comments, but after some probing they admitted that they mostly hated compliments from unattractive men. Comments from those they considered attractive were more welcome; the more attractive the men, the more they were enjoyed.

      I’d believe that, but that’s definitely not the case for all women. Personally, my enjoyment of compliments depends on other factors–how I’m feeling that day, the tone of the guy who says it, how recently I’ve last been harassed, etc.

      Natural selection teaches us that a small advantage, over time, can lead to reproductive success. Men may be fools, but we can see that if someone, somewhere has good results from random compliments, why not give it a shot? Compliments to random strangers are a relatively inexpensive investment that may lead to a happy outcome.

      Yeah, but I really doubt that’s why they originated. Natural selection takes place very slowly, and it’s only recently in human history that we’ve started living in settings where we see lots of strangers. Early humans lived in tribes where everyone knew each other. Not exactly applicable, is it?

      More likely, patriarchal societies teach men that their opinions on women’s appearance are relevant and must be expressed. They teach them to love the power that comes with holding someone’s self-esteem in their hands like that. It’s not like men never call women ugly, after all.

      It is certainly important that women speak up when they feel wronged, and what you say may indeed speed the day when no one will feel uncomfortable because of a stranger’s remarks. However, until the success rate resulting from such comments reach zero they are likely to continue.

      Yeah, they will continue to a small extent. But social disapproval has very strong influences on human behavior, probably just as strong (or stronger) than “evolutionary” impulses. Street harassment continues because it’s considered a normal part of life, and because women who speak up about it are silenced.

    • says

      The general consensus was that they hated such comments, but after some probing they admitted that they mostly hated compliments from unattractive men. Comments from those they considered attractive were more welcome; the more attractive the men, the more they were enjoyed.

      I thought about that too. Sometimes the only difference between creepy and not creepy is whether or not the complimentee finds the complimenter attractive. I think there’s probably some truth to that.

      But then I remembered times when I’ve received “compliments” from good looking men that freaked me out enough to make me check for the nearest exit.

      And I remembered another time when an elderly panhandler who was drunk complimented my hat and totally made my day because it wasn’t a loaded come on.

      If for some crazy reason those were the only two men left on earth I’d probably have picked the homeless alcoholic 30 years my senior.

      Seriously, watch this video of a woman waling around Brussels. Some of these men are very good looking. While I don’t think this is an everyday experience for women in most places, but I think you can see clearly that it isn’t about what the men look like. It’s about what they say and how they say it.

      PS I had to log in my twitter account because there is no login option for my usual accounts. Not sure why… Anyway, I normally post around FtB under the user name “Leni”. I feel like an imposter, but I am not one :)

  23. Zoe says

    Let’s get back around to what the blog is actually about, which is why some men are really bent on telling strangers their personal opinion of them. Why is this necessary? It isn’t. It’s just about What I Want To Do And Screw What She Wants.

    Here’s a descriptive comic: http://leftycartoons.com/street-harassment/

    A lot of the men on this thread and in real life appear to think that when they make comments to strangers, they’re the first one who thought up this blindingly original idea. They appear that way because if they didn’t, why would they be butthurt when a woman who has been putting up with unwanted comments and being accosted on the street all day, all week, all year, for YEARS, doesn’t respond with gratitude to THEIR comment?

    If the good men want to change the culture so that women can relax, they need to be willing to do what women have been trying to do for just-about-ever, which is deal with the jerks among them. I wish, as the good men do, that the bad guys had signs on their foreheads so we could easily tell which one is which. Too bad, they don’t. Go ahead and have an opinion. Go ahead and admire people you find attractive. There is simply no imperative to accost them and tell them about it. That part is about making YOU happy, not them.

  24. Grant says

    In the past seven years I have never received a negative reaction when complimenting women I do not know on the “street” (in my case a college campus.) I would like your opinion on what I see as the difference between the kinds of things I say to women and what I think you might be getting at. Just as an example, and correct me if I am wrong, but to me, it seems like your blog is appropriately targeted at men who think that statements like these, taken and edited from one of your posts above, are compliments.

    “You looks really hot in that outfit. Those jeans really show your ass off. Hey sexy. Your man had better keep an eye on you or someone might just steal you from him.”

    These kind of statements are vulgar and should be considered harassment. I hadn’t thought about this “rule” before reading your blog, but it sums up my opinion on the issue. As a rule, I would never say anything (compliment or otherwise) to a woman that I would not say to my own mother. For example, if I see a woman on campus, there is mututal eye contact and exchanged smiles and I notice that she is wearing cute sneakers I’ll say, “Great shoes!” Or if it is obvious that she has put a lot of effort into styling her hair, I might say, “I love your hair!” etc. etc.

    I have only ever received thank-yous, smiles, phone numbers and dates. So is my behavior and personal experience different from the type of “compliments” you address in your article? Or am I just being naive?

    • says

      In the past seven years I have never received a negative reaction when complimenting women I do not know on the “street”

      Well, first of all, I just want to point out that women are socialized to respond politely even when they’re extremely uncomfortable. They are also to some extent socialized to actually enjoy these remarks because they are brought up to believe that affirmation from men is important and vital.

      But anyway, back to your question!

      As a rule, I would never say anything (compliment or otherwise) to a woman that I would not say to my own mother. For example, if I see a woman on campus, there is mututal eye contact and exchanged smiles and I notice that she is wearing cute sneakers I’ll say, “Great shoes!” Or if it is obvious that she has put a lot of effort into styling her hair, I might say, “I love your hair!” etc. etc.

      I think that’s a good rule and I think those are great comments to make, because you’re complimenting something the woman chose to do–find cool shoes or do her hair a certain way. To me, that’s like complimenting someone on being able to dance really well or run a mile in some short amount of time or draw really well.

      As I’ve said in other comments here, I do think that there are women who might not appreciate those comments, but I think that’s MUCH more rare. I also think these sorts of compliments are coming from a much better place than those focused on a woman’s body.

      So yes, I think your behavior is different from what I’m talking about. I think it’s still good to remember to read social cues (i.e. if someone looks like they really don’t want to be bothered, don’t bother them!) and to introspect about why you compliment women and not men (unless you compliment men, too), but I wouldn’t personally have a problem with anything you’ve said here.

      Thanks for asking!

      • Jeffrey says

        I really appreciate this thread, and I think highlighting the difference between a creepy comment and a not-creepy comment would clear up a lot of the confusion that men are having. It’s not hard (as seen from many comments) to mis-read your post as “don’t talk to strangers, they all hate that”, which is obviously untrue, and not what you meant.

        Something I would love to read is a discussion on “how to respectfully talk to strangers without being creepy or promoting the patriarchy”. Not only is it useful information (most people are strangers), but it would be a great thing to point at when well-meaning men come in and misunderstand you.

      • Teddy says

        I agree with Jeffrey, it is good to see the difference in the two and also see you Miri acknowledge it as well. Though I did want to state however, that though I have complimented men on their appearance before you tend to become dissuaded from such things as it would seem that a lot of guys out there seem to be a touch homophobic and when complimented take it entirely the wrong way, and as we all know males sometimes ask questions later. At least this is my experience. That is not to say that I haven’t had some give a smile and thanks either, nevertheless.

  25. doublereed says

    I am a man and I have no experience with this. I’ve never done this or even seen this before.

    I am so confused why men would act like this. It’s patronizing and just bizarre. Why would you compliment random strangers? Isn’t that awkward? What possesses men to do these things? It’s like cat-calls. I thought people only do that kind of stuff in movies. Men don’t actually act like that, right? Right???

    …sigh…

    • says

      Men don’t actually act like that, right? Right???

      Considering how many other commenters here are leaping to find any possible hole in my argument so that they can continue accosting random women on the street, it appears that you’re wrong…

    • says

      Dude, you have no idea how much we wish that it was fiction. I’ve had people honking at me when I’m quite blatantly with my bf, smacking my ass when I walk through town, staring at very inappropriate places and telling me “you look nice”. Eughhhh.

  26. EquityLibrary says

    Miri wrote, “I want to be left the hell alone when I’m going to work or carrying groceries or sitting on the subway in silence. And there are literally websites full of women who feel the same way.”

    I believe this discussion needs to happen in a gender neutral context. Can we not simply resolve to cut off needless interaction with one another in public settings? Not only would this address the issues raised in this post, but would also remove the perception that its not OK for unattractive straight males to talk to women, while everybody else is free to do as they wish.

    Miri: “Nobody said anything about not saying ‘ANYTHING’ to ‘ANYONE’… But in any case, where that would leave us would be a world in which people can go about their damn business in peace without getting bothered by annoying strangers.”

    I’m sure you agree, there are many people who do not want to be approached in public, regardless of their gender, and for multitudes of reasons (mental health problems, social phobias, busy day, etc.), so why don’t we broaden this guideline to be inclusive of everyone? Head down and mouth shut makes for an easier day by all.

    • says

      I’d agree with this, actually. But the reason people like me write about man-on-woman street harassment is because that’s simply the vast majority of cases, so that’s what’s first and foremost on our minds.

      But as I’ve also written before, men, too, can be victims of street harassment.

      I just feel that removing gender from the conversation is ultimately harmful because it hides the ways in which these phenomena are gendered. The cultural meaning of a man harassing a woman is not the same as that of a woman harassing a man. That doesn’t mean they’re not both wrong, of course, but only that examining the differences in how these things happen and how they are perceived, interpreted, and responded to by others can be useful.

    • says

      Head down and mouth shut makes for an easier day by all.

      I’m in complete agreement with the thrust of Miri’s article. However as an extrovert what you are describing sounds like a living hell.

      • says

        Well, that’s not what I was saying at all. I was only talking about unsolicited compliments by men, to women they don’t know, about their bodies. There are plenty of ways strangers can talk to each other that do not involve a man complimenting a woman on her body. But I mean, also, you can talk to people you know.

        • says

          @Miri, I’m completely on board. I’m just trying to hash out if EquityLibrary is serious when zie said the above. That’s a dystopian introverts paradise that I would not fit into at all! I’m a pretty dependant extrovert. I need environments with lots of people in them or I get really anxious. If I found myself in an environment where “head down mouth shut” was the norm I’d go completely round the bend.

  27. says

    I believe this discussion needs to happen in a gender neutral context.

    And ignore the very much gender-based socialization that is at the root of this particular issue (i.e. unsolicited compliments based on appearance)? Why? What good does trying to have a discussion do when you’re deliberately ignoring a huge part of the issue?

  28. Joey Joebob says

    Maybe countries like Saudi Arabia aren’t so backwards, after all. All men, at their core, are pigs. Keeping them separate from women leads to a better society.

    • says

      This is false, and as a feminist, I disagree.

      Best words ever written on this subject:

      The thing is, it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable. It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways. Feminism holds that men are capable of more – are more than that. Feminism says that men are better than that, can change, are capable of learning, and have the capacity to be decent and wonderful people.

      • Joey Joebob says

        “it’s patriarchy that says men are stupid and monolithic and unchanging and incapable.”
        I agree with your disagreement here.

        ” It’s patriarchy that says men have animalistic instincts and just can’t stop themselves from harassing and assaulting.”

        Men CAN stop themselves from harassing and assaulting. However, men DO have animalistic instincts that they cannot help from having. It’s analogous to the way we stereotype people based on race. An informed person does not act on his stereotype and makes a conscious effort not to let it influence his behavior — but he still feels the stereotype.

        “It’s patriarchy that says men can only be attracted by certain qualities, can only have particular kinds of responses, can only experience the world in narrow ways.”

        I agree with that the second point is wrong — men can have more than one type of response, and they can train themselves to be more considerate, etc, in their social interactions. However, I disagree with the first point quite a bit. People cannot help what qualities they’re attracted to. To say otherwise would be to side with folks who claim that being gay is a choice.

        That doesn’t mean that being drawn to someone’s looks has to be the end-all, be-all of attraction, but it’s the first and foremost thing for men.

        “Feminism says that men are better than that, can change, are capable of learning, and have the capacity to be decent and wonderful people.”

        I agree with you on this. But let me ask you this: If someone acts considerate and respectful on the outside, but on the inside he’s repressing an urge — not necessarily an urge to assault a woman or be overtly rude — but an urge to give an unsolicited comment, does that mean that man is still a decent and wonderful person?

        Another thing: Do you think that fundamentalist Muslim cultures are wrong in the way that they segregate women? What about the women who say that they like living like that? They look at Western culture and consider us a bunch of deviant sickos. They feel sorry for Western women. Are their views invalid? Are they Uncle Toms?

        • says

          However, men DO have animalistic instincts that they cannot help from having.

          Prove it?

          I agree with that the second point is wrong — men can have more than one type of response, and they can train themselves to be more considerate, etc, in their social interactions. However, I disagree with the first point quite a bit. People cannot help what qualities they’re attracted to. To say otherwise would be to side with folks who claim that being gay is a choice.

          Right, people have preferences. But that doesn’t mean that men as a group have particular preferences. Also, people CAN actually change their preferences; it just takes work.

          But let me ask you this: If someone acts considerate and respectful on the outside, but on the inside he’s repressing an urge — not necessarily an urge to assault a woman or be overtly rude — but an urge to give an unsolicited comment, does that mean that man is still a decent and wonderful person?

          I don’t know if I’d call him “wonderful,” but then there are very few people I’d call that. But he’s a decent person, yes. That’s actually exactly what I’m saying in this whole post. People often have urges or desires that they choose not to act on because it would be inappropriate. In fact, I’m sure most of us have been in that situation, women included. I’ve definitely wanted to punch people before. I’ve wanted to say something nasty. I’ve wanted to sleep with someone I shouldn’t. I decide I’m not going to do those things, so I don’t do them.

          Another thing: Do you think that fundamentalist Muslim cultures are wrong in the way that they segregate women? What about the women who say that they like living like that? They look at Western culture and consider us a bunch of deviant sickos. They feel sorry for Western women. Are their views invalid? Are they Uncle Toms?

          I don’t know nearly enough about this to argue about it. I wasn’t saying anything about it at all. I think that if someone wants to live in such a society, that’s their choice. But the problem is that it’s often NOT a choice in the world we have today. People are born there who maybe want something completely different, but they can’t leave. Do you think the women who are victims of honor killings and acid attacks would have chosen that fate for themselves?

  29. Nicholas Loder says

    Miri, thanks. I feel capable of change because of your post and ripostes to counter arguments. Thanks.

  30. ben says

    It is very good advice for a man to not compliment a woman on her looks. I recently read a book by PUA expert Roosh V, and he said you are best off asking about an object of some kind, could be anything from a laptop, phone, t shirt design, book etc and just initiating a chat without revealing your intentions. It is far more naturalistic and gets you in under her radar, so she is more likely to judge you on who you are, rather than a knee jerk reaction. It is interesting to me that a feminist and a PUA would give the same advice, there must be something to it.

    I would never compliment a woman on her looks, it just seems weird. Also, it is a very hollow compliment as it is no achievement to be born good-looking.

    You also have to take into account that the overwhelming majority of females expect males to make the first move. I would prefer it if it was the other way around but it simply isn’t. It takes a lot of courage to do this and is very easy to sit back and criticise guys for their poor attempts at this, but in truth it can feel very uncomfortable to open yourself up to rejection. I am aware that someone with no social skills could make this feel uncomfortable for the female as well, but you cant outlaw awkwardness, everyone feels it sometimes, it’s part of being human.

    • says

      It is interesting to me that a feminist and a PUA would give the same advice, there must be something to it.

      Sure; here it is. The feminist will give the advice as a way to be a decent human being, essentially for the sake of being a decent human being and not making people uncomfortable. The PUA will do so because they know that most people like decent human beings, and pretending to be one, they believe, makes one a better predator (And that’s what PUAs are; predators).

      I’m pretty much the definition of “guy with no social skills/extremely awkward”, and I know how uncomfortable it is to open oneself to rejection. The best way to avoid that? Don’t put yourself in situations where you’re much more likely to experience it.

      Also, if you, for some absurd reason, feel the need to see more material by Roosh, I’d recommend seeing it on Manboobz (where he’s treated as he deserves to be), rather than contributing to Roosh financially.

  31. baronmarcus says

    Miri, if you do some soul searching you might see the danger to women in your pretense of speaking for all of them…

    “compliments” largely make us feel violated… etc.

    In some ways it plays into the same power dynamic you describe – only in this case it is not the patriarchy telling women what ‘they’ are, but a kind of feminist proxy-patriarchy. You become what you so hate when you demean women collectively as subject to your sweeping claims – in a very similar way that many men have done traditionally and still do. It is simply gross and you really should feel bad about that.

    Women, men, trans and all humanity is far too complex for your sweeping and aggressive value judgments. It is particularly sad, because what you say otherwise has a point. Compliments can be a power dynamic, and they can cause (inadvertently or otherwise) unnecessary discomfort. This message is lost in the sexist hypocrisy of your delivery. Yes, it is simply devaluing and sexist to say “All women are…” Miri, did you ask ‘them’ all?

    Person to person I challenge you with this and hope you take it to heart next time you want to so inappropriately speak on behalf of anyone but yourself. You are not, and will never be, qualified to speak on behalf of all women.

    On the topic of compliments, I agree that they are particularly high risk communication. All communication is risky to some degree or another. Have there been cultures where direct eye contact with the wrong person is criminal? Are there cultures today where showing ones face, or talking at all to the opposite sex in pubic punishable? Maybe these cultures were developed in the context of the fear of risk of human contact and communication. So the question is, what is the ‘rule’ – what is reasonable?

    Last night I was at a bookstore and complimented a stranger spontaneously. They complimented me back and we had a genuinely delightful conversation for about 20 minutes. I am trying to deconstruct that experience in light of your article. It would be a pity not to have that shared moment of positive humanity with a stranger on the account of fear (fear of awkwardness for them or rejection for myself). All I can conclude in that little case study is that there are no hard fast rules. However I do believe in a reasonable cautionary examination of the agenda of the communication (in this case a compliment) – particularly in light of the patriarchal traditions you touch on in your article. It IS reasonable to think twice.

    I agree that simple compliments can be used to manipulate or interfere with people, unconsciously or on purpose. Do we lose the joy of spontaneity and possibility of mutual human celebration (as I experienced last night) or do we work to reduce the risk of unwanted interference? The possibility of being hurt reasonably trumps the possibility of celebration, so I find myself on your side here.

    • says

      First of all, drop the condescension or I’ll ban you. My is that annoying.

      Second, you claim I’m making a “pretense of speaking for all [women.]”

      Let’s examine the evidence for this claim, shall we?

      It seems that men are finally starting to realize that many women do not like street harassment

      Okay. Before I say what I’m going to say, here are some things I’m NOT saying:
      […]Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, it makes her uncomfortable/scared.
      Every time you compliment a random woman on her appearance, that is harassment.

      many of us grew up being told by mothers, sisters, and female strangers that we’ll never “get a man” or “keep a man” unless we do X or lose some fat from Y, unless we moisturize//trim/shave/push up/hide/show/”flatter”/paint/dye/exfoliate/pierce/surgically alter this or that.

      When you compliment a random woman who doesn’t know you, no matter how nice you are about it, there’s a good chance she’s going to freak out internally because for all she knows, you could be that latter type.

      Notice what I didn’t say? “All women.”

      And if you find a single point in this article where I said that, let me know and I will retract and correct it immediately because it was a mistake.

      Now, when I say “us,” I’m talking about myself and women who agree with me, because I’m emphasizing that I’m not the only one who feels this way. Yup, not the only one! There are entire websites full of posts and stories by women who feel the same way. Shocker, I know:

      http://www.ihollaback.org/

      http://www.stopstreetharassment.org/

      http://howmanywomen.tumblr.com/

      http://fuckyoustreetharassment.tumblr.com/

      http://fuckyoustreetharassment.tumblr.com/

      In some ways it plays into the same power dynamic you describe – only in this case it is not the patriarchy telling women what ‘they’ are, but a kind of feminist proxy-patriarchy. You become what you so hate when you demean women collectively as subject to your sweeping claims – in a very similar way that many men have done traditionally and still do. It is simply gross and you really should feel bad about that.

      I sense a little bit of concern trolling, here.

      No, I will not “feel bad” about anything I’ve written here, especially since I’m not even doing what you claim I’m doing. I will decide how I feel. Not you.

      • baronmarcus says

        “First of all, drop the condescension or I’ll ban you.”

        What you mean is stop being critical – or you will ban me?
        That is a case in point that you run the risk of aping the very patriarchy you have issue with. Another approach might be intelligent reflection (rather than threats).
        I do not put myself in any other position than peer-to-peer with you.

        To answer your request, here is your “typo”:

        ““compliments” largely make us feel violated”

        May I suggest:
        “As far as I know many women find “compliments” largely threatening”
        Just a suggestion.

        “Yup, not the only one! There are entire websites full of posts and stories by women who feel the same way. Shocker, I know:”

        I see – so you can’t stand “condescension” form others, but you feel entitled to sling it around at will? Gross.

        I have shared a relevant experience and reflection that is on topic – and I have been accused of “Concern Trolling”.

        I really hope your other readers see this.

        Please re-read what I have posted and know that my criticism of your tone is earnest, and the shared personal experience and related reflections are on topic.

        I think it is sad that an important message like what you are bringing to light has to be from a bully.
        Look in the mirror. If you were a guy you might find yourself the kind that “compliments” a lot of people.

        I have no idea what you feel – I have no pretense to effect that. I am saying that, in my humble opinion, you as a person ‘should’ feel bad, not about the important message on ‘complimenting’ that deserves more awareness, but certainly on your threat and cynical response to my earnest contribution.

        • says

          What you mean is stop being critical – or you will ban me?

          Nope! Look how many other critical comments there are on this post. Look how few of them (that is, zero) I have threatened to ban. I like criticism. I hate condescension.

          May I suggest:
          “As far as I know many women find “compliments” largely threatening”
          Just a suggestion.

          Sure! I’ll change it. Pretty minor quibble, though.

          I see – so you can’t stand “condescension” form others, but you feel entitled to sling it around at will? Gross.

          Actually, that’s right there in my comment policy:

          If you use a condescending or otherwise rude tone, I’ll probably call you on it and ask you to stop. Or I might just respond in kind. Depends on my mood.

          Looks like I did both. If you quit being condescending, I will too. If you don’t, I’ll keep being condescending and I’ll also ban you. My blog, my rules. Sorry bro!

          I think it is sad that an important message like what you are bringing to light has to be from a bully.
          Look in the mirror. If you were a guy you might find yourself the kind that “compliments” a lot of people.

          Nope! I respectfully disagree.

          I am sorry that you feel unwelcome here. But I find your comments remarkably disearnest, in part because you claimed that I “speak for all women” when that is demonstrably not the case. This suggested to me that you came here looking for something to be pissed about.

          I provided evidence from the post that I did not do what you say I did. You haven’t argued with that evidence except for one sentence. One sentence out of a 1,800-word post, which I’ll change.

          I will not have a discussion with you about my personality, my merits as a person, or anything else of that nature. I don’t have to defend those to you. So either present further evidence that I “claim to speak for all women” or acknowledge that you were wrong.

          And as for your repeated use of the word “threat,” warning someone that they are in violation of my comment policy and may be banned imminently is not a “threat.” That’s my comment policy and I have the right to enforce it and warn people when I’m about to do so.

          Given that many people who write online get actual threats–rape threats, death threats, doxxing threats, and so on–your use of this word seems a bit silly to me.

          • baronmarcus says

            My comments are not dis-earnest. I have not come here looking for trouble – it was the topic that drew me here. One that I think is under-discussed in our society.

            I call it as I see it and I sincerely hope that you eventually find discomfort in double-standard. But that is each our own journey.

            All ‘packaging’ (the way something is said) aside I am interested in your thoughts on cultures that have ‘buffered’ contact in public, possibly as a reaction to the very dynamic covered in this topic.

            As I said in my original post…
            On the topic of compliments, I agree that they are particularly high risk communication. All communication is risky to some degree or another. Have there been cultures where direct eye contact with the wrong person is criminal? Are there cultures today where showing ones face, or talking at all to the opposite sex in pubic punishable? Maybe these cultures were developed in the context of the fear of risk of human contact and communication. So the question is, what is the ‘rule’ – what is reasonable?

            My question is, should public communication have enforced limits under law? In your opinion, what might be a model for this? I can see points for, and dangers of, this line of thinking.

          • says

            Have there been cultures where direct eye contact with the wrong person is criminal? Are there cultures today where showing ones face, or talking at all to the opposite sex in pubic punishable? Maybe these cultures were developed in the context of the fear of risk of human contact and communication. So the question is, what is the ‘rule’ – what is reasonable?

            My question is, should public communication have enforced limits under law? In your opinion, what might be a model for this? I can see points for, and dangers of, this line of thinking.

            Well, I’m not extremely knowledgeable on this by any means, but I think there might be such cultures. Someone in another comment brought up certain Muslim countries where men and women are segregated, for instance.

            I don’t think that public communication should be regulated by law except in the case of threats and such, although there’s obviously a lot of disagreement regarding what constitutes a threat. That’s one danger of trying to make laws on such things.

            Where I think the solution lies is in education and activism. Except for what is probably a small minority of people (including sociopaths), most people generally want to get along well with others. They don’t want to hurt people needlessly. They want to minimize the risk of unintentionally making someone upset for no good reason. Compliments to strangers are tricky because many people don’t realize that what to a man might seem like a generic nice thing to say might, for a woman, play into a lifetime’s history of unwelcome appearance-related comments by men.

            Consider this: it used to be acceptable to say blatantly racist things in public. Now it’s not. In fact, people are so strongly motivated to avoid the possibility of appearing racist that they often refuse to discuss important racial issues at all (which is a shame, in my opinion).

            What happened? Did we make it illegal to say the n-word or make racist jokes? No. Social norms changed.

            And as you can see, in some ways there have been some negative affects and I wouldn’t deny that. Also, racism is far from over. But on the bright side, people of color can now go about their day without having to hear racist epithets hurled at them, and white folks know that doing that is not longer okay in our society.

          • baronmarcus says

            Hmm. Well said and I agree.

            I have seen first hand the change in social norm around racist jokes. It was not officially made illegal, but the change (over decades) did take place. Hence the essential nature of discussions like this. This is a mechanism of that kind of change.

            There is room, I believe, for escalation from ‘social norm’ to legality. Workplace harassment is an example of social norm with legal consequence.

            You are right that ‘compliments’ have a unique place in that it may look one way on one side and another on the receiving end. But that is what makes this topic particularly interesting and important.

            My understanding is that in the Victorian age, it would be unheard of for a gentleman to approach and comment on an unknown woman (again it was not illegal, but it was very against social custom). In its place a smile, nod and tip of the hat were the limit. Despite the miserable times (particularly for Women) that the Victorian age represents, maybe that is a tradition worth resurrecting?

          • says

            My understanding is that in the Victorian age, it would be unheard of for a gentleman to approach and comment on an unknown woman (again it was not illegal, but it was very against social custom). In its place a smile, nod and tip of the hat were the limit. Despite the miserable times (particularly for Women) that the Victorian age represents, maybe that is a tradition worth resurrecting?

            Hmm. I like that a lot. Of course, the reasons for it were probably all wrong (i.e. not because women would be hurt or terrified by sexual comments but because it was probably inappropriate to mention sex in public or to respond sexually to “someone else’s” woman), but that would feel nice to me, personally. I generally like it when strangers smile politely at me or hold the door or something. Certainly I don’t like feeling like they’re just doing it because I’m a woman, but I try to do the same for people too.

          • baronmarcus says

            Oh yes! Not because of being a woman – rather a smile, a nod and a tip of the hat to all the better parts of humanity itself. :)

      • Padme says

        Actually Miri, not to be mean, but I was very uncomfortable with the tone of your original post for the very reason that baronmarcus stated. Your words may have not said “all women” but your tone said to me, as a woman, “if you don’t feel this way, you aren’t a real woman.” So while that was most likely unintentional, the tone of your original post did read to me, and to friends that I got the link from (also all women) as if you feel that all women should feel the same way about random compliments. And that is the only reason I read the comments – because I am a woman – with a bad history – and your tone made me feel like I was less of a woman for not feeling the same way. I understand that it is your blog and you have the right to write whatever you want. But think about your tone when you do, because I hope you don’t want to make other women feel the way you do when guys compliment you on the street, and that is how you made me feel with the way this was worded.

  32. jovan1984 says

    Women can be victims of street harassment at anytime. Street harassment in the South is the most prevalent in the winter.

  33. Amy Beth says

    You’ve been linked on Reddit so prepare yourself for some potential trolls, of what magnitude I can only guess. You’re near the front page, but not quite on it. I loved this article and I added you to my RSS as well as my feminist resource website The Feminist Agenda (thefeministagenda.weebly.com)

  34. says

    Yeah, let’s pretend there’s no gender aspect to this.
    Let’s pretend that women don’t get told that what matters most is their beauty from day one.
    Let’s pretend that girls don’t get taught that getting compliments on their looks is a good thing and that they should be grateful for them and should try to get more.
    Let’s pretend that little girls don’t have their bodily autonomy violated randomly by strangers who think it’s OK to pet them.
    Let’s pretend that they don’t get taught to smile to this and take it like a good girl
    Let’s pretend that this has no influence on how adult women feel about those things.
    Let’s pretend that “compliments” never escalate into severe harassment or even attacks.
    Let’s pretend that women can totally know in advance which guy is just going to leave them alone and which guy isn’t.

    • says

      Why pretend? What’s wrong with any of these things you list? (minus “escalating in to harassment or attacks
      – totally unrelated activities.) Flirting with and appreciating women is not bad just because some women don’t like men. Trying to score a girl as a mate is not bad, it is the most fundamental, necessary part of nature. I realize that lesbian feminists aren’t much interested in finding a man to mate with, and are not likely to enjoy being flirted with or pursued; however, that’s the woman’s problem as she is the one with the aberrant sexuality, not the heterosexual man doing what is natural.

      • says

        I realize that lesbian feminists aren’t much interested in finding a man to mate with, and are not likely to enjoy being flirted with or pursued; however, that’s the woman’s problem as she is the one with the aberrant sexuality, not the heterosexual man doing what is natural.

        Not being heterosexual is not having an “aberrant” sexuality. It’s having a sexuality that’s not heterosexual.

        You’re being homophobic and homophobia is against my commenting policy, so you’re banned. Congrats!

        BANNED

        • Teddy says

          Begging your pardon but considering that “aberrant: means deterring from the norm homosexuality is in fact an aberrant sexuality as it deters from the norm of heterosexuality, which I will concede is slowly changing, nevertheless it does deter from the norm which is why there is such a controversy surrounding it. Admittedly his final statement was a tad unnecessary, he is still not wrong. Also homophobia is the fear of homosexuality and he displays no fear there. Though his argument is flawed, and crude in structure his terms are not wrong.

          Just an added addition to this topic and comments, I’d like to point out that men are also objectified. I have seen it personally and been subject to it myself. I grew up as what one can only call “a girlfriend” sitting among women listening to their complaints about this or that, when they started when they will end, do you like this store do you like that store, why did he do this to me, etc etc.. and that hasn’t changed too much I have seen women blatantly say look at him, and when asked about dating him, oh no he’s just fuckable wouldn’t dare date him. and many more things of that nature, watching women oogle men who have a bit of abs or other such things. Just look at the examples johnnyk used of his own personal experience, I cannot recal most of mine because they tend to be forgotten quickly. Yes it’s true that some men do indeed gooble it up, but it doesn’t change the fact that we too can feel like we are nothing more than an object. Hence the one woman saying she couldn’t wait for the body-builders to wear less clothing, or something of that derivative. Most feminists I’ve seen, always spout men do this or that to us, and don’t, even in the slightest regard, mention that men largely have to deal with the same thing. Just like when it comes to rape. People say it’s impossible to rap a man and that men always want sex, and all this other garbage, when the true fact of it is. neither I, nor you, can say with utter certainty what is on the other’s mind.
          This is I believe what johnnyk has a problem with. You argue that this and that happen to women but leave out that it happens to others and women are not the sole victims of such crimes. Regardless of what you are speaking of in your blog(a poor argument by the way) you still have to give way that you are not the only victims, it alleviates the issue just like when you felt the need to state the “I’m not saying” section. You are a writer, and a damn good one I might add, but you are as it would seem an argumentative writer as most of your topics I have seen having read a few by following links and such, speak on the topic of feminism; at least in some regard. In that you have to be able to accept rebuttals and not shoot them down and eliminate them stating that they have no precedence in the argument. Because it does in fact have something to do with your blog. And to use your analogy, “if you are talking about the poaching of elephants does that mean you talk about the poaching of rhinos?” Not necessarily no it doesn’t, but because you are talking about poaching it could come up as they are similar animals who live in the same general area, and are generally poached for the ivory of their tusks, I’m not sure if it’s called a tusk for a rhino, but you get the general picture. In this instance you speak of harassment, and rape, and to which women are not the only victims so it is natural for one to state that you failed to mention it. Especially, seeing as you are seeking equality for women in society, fact it is such equality goes both ways. Regardless of whether you want to see or admit it or whatever may be the reason, but fact is when it comes to this topic though women do struggle rather harshly with it, men sometimes end up with the much lower end because whereas you could potentially holler rape and get the guy arrested, a guy cries rape, and he’s likely to be laughed at (figuratively and literally).

          Either way point is, you cannot strike up such a controversial topic allow people to comment and expect them to only say what you want them to, it doesn’t work like that, and it baffles me that you seemingly do so, and you are a budding Psychologists, I would think you have a better understanding of the human being as a whole because of that.

          Also, ladies if you would humor me, as most of you within this forum (save for those such as Jenny) when explaining something to a male in this forum use nonspecific pronouns. Meaning don’t use the term “you” because that once again generalizes men and has you blaming that individual for whatever it is that is the topic of your rant. It’s not fair, you don’t know him from Adam. In keeping with equality gentlemen should do the same as generalizations are what gets many in topics of this nature in trouble. I undoubtedly have a few flaws in my argument above. It happens no one’s perfect. Thank you for listening

      • Saya Nicks says

        There are many things wrong with it. For starters, a woman’s value should not be based upon her looks, nor mostly upon her looks, nor first upon her looks. Second, teaching women from a young age that being complimented by men should be a boost to their self-confidence is completely and horribly wrong, because self-confidence should come from oneself, hence SELF-confidence. It also wrongfully implies to the young girl that unwanted comments are warranted in any situation, and that she needs to put her effort not into bettering herself for her own enjoyment, but for that of someone else . Third, having strangers touch on any young child is unacceptable, no matter the gender, especially if contact is unwanted by that child. It doesn’t matter how “cute” the stranger believes the child to be. Fourthly, telling someone to smile is unacceptable. That person has every right to frown if they feel the need to frown. An uncomfortable/upset/angry/sad/etc. woman has every right to express the fact that she is uncomfortable/upset/angry/sad/etc., and she does not need anyone’s permission to express those feelings. She can smile if she feels the need to smile, and grimace if she feels the need to grimace. Her face does not exist as a showcase for you. In short, there is everything wrong with what is on that list.

        There is a difference between appreciating a woman and harassing a woman. Appreciate your mothers, grandmothers, and sisters for being your family and being there for you when you need them. That is appreciation. You are harassing a woman sexually when you randomly comment upon her body, with the degree dictated by your level of vulgarity. Just because you find her attractive doesn’t mean she is a possible mate for you, many men mistakenly believe this. Now, flirting with a woman who actually wants that kind of attention, and harassing a woman are also different. The difference being that the woman accepts and warrants the attention. Learn the difference, you would do well to acknowledge it. The fact that you describe dealing with women as “trying to score” implies that it is a game, and sexual harassment is not a game. You should be able to look at a woman without thinking about how you can “score”. This is NOT appreciating a woman, this is viewing her as a lust object, and it is unacceptable.

        The fact that someone is a feminist does not make them a lesbian. That is a logical fallacy, and quite frankly it is a stupid and nonsensical opinion. A lesbian has every right to be attracted to females, just as you do. Her behavior is not aberrant, it is what is natural for her and her partners. But a feminist believes that women are not under men, and having that opinion does not make one a lesbian. Also, being a lesbian is not an insult, so please do not use it as such.

        Furthermore, just because you feel the “need” to mate with someone and “do what is natural” doesn’t mean that the female you are trying to “score” with wants to mate with YOU, and if you approach a woman in such a vulgar manner, her reaction will most certainly be your problem, not hers. Additionally, if you have no idea how to properly speak to a woman, that is YOUR problem, not hers. Likewise, if a woman rejects your unwanted advances, she has EVERY right to do so (regardless of the fact that you are male, regardless of the fact that she be heterosexual, regardless of the fact that you’re her friend), and your feelings of rejection are YOUR problems, not hers. It doesn’t make her a lesbian, it doesn’t make her a prude, it makes her selective with her mates, just as you are.

        There is a reason that there is a problem with double standards; those that perpetuate them are often both uneducated and bigoted. Thank you for presenting these examples.

        • Teddy says

          I must say that I agree with you entirely save for one thing “Just because you find her attractive doesn’t mean she is a possible mate for you,…”. Though I’m sure you have a different connotative meaning to what you wrote here, I just wanted to state that the act of finding another attractive is generally what creates the urge to speak to someone in pursuit of a possible mate; the problem is that many get this urge with just about everything that moves or fancies their eye. I should clarify however that when I see the word mate in the context that you used it, it signifies one to create a family, a life with not just copulate.

      • smrnda says

        I really get sick of being told to smile. It’s not friendly or considerate, its obnoxious. Guys who tell me to smile don’t care how I feel; they just want me to be so OUTRAGEOUSLY HAPPY that men are talking to me. My mood is not your business unless I make it your business

        • Meghan says

          The best is when random guys tell you “you’re prettier when you smile” and expect it to be romantic or something.

        • Teddy says

          To be perfectly honest I have said “smile” before, however, at the time I was a server in a restaurant and I said, “Smile, it can’t be that bad.” Which usually prompted them to smile and then say I’m just tired or something of that nature, I would then make it my goal to get them to smile a real smile before they left, and most of the time I succeeded. My point in this story is that not all guys want you to be “so OUTRAGEOUSLY HAPPY that men are talking to [you]” sometimes they genuinely want you to smile, in hopes you have a better day, and to be fair sometimes they just want in your pants too, nevertheless, despite all this dribble, there are still good guys out there. And I like to think I’m one of them, though I have undoubtedly earned the name asshole from some. No-one’s perfect..

          And Meghan, personally that is the lamest line I’ve ever heard and yet….I’ve seen it work, to every woman their own is all I can say.

          • ellee says

            i know this is an old’ish post, but I wanted to say something about the “it can’t be that bad” comment. I think of all the things men say to me this has been one of the worst (the same for other women I have talked to). Yes Teddy, sometimes it is that bad, Sometimes we have family members or friends who die, serious illnesses, financial struggles or children and relationship problems…..How do you decide who “needs” a smile?

            A great article about this by Damon Young from a man’s perspective-

            “If you really are that hard-pressed for a woman to smile, tell a joke, slip on a banana peel, pay her phone bill; basically, instead of asking a stranger to fake an expression for you, do something that might legitimately brighten her day. Who knows, she might even smile. And, she might not. You have no control over that, and that’s kinda the point.”

            Read more at EBONY http://www.ebony.com/news-views/when-i-stopped-asking-women-to-smile-981#ixzz2hXkikkhO

      • says

        I really like it when random dudes make assumptions about my sexuality based on the fact that I don’t want their dick within 50ft of me, let alone inside of me.
        Simply the best. joke. ever…

  35. says

    “Ew, please never read anything by Roosh or any other PUA ever again. You will do all the women you ever meet and date a huge favor by this. That is all.”

    I saw this and I HAD to reply. PUA changed my life. I would never be with the women I am with now if it were not for their teachings. There is no one out there that teaches self improvement better. Learning to interact with women is just one of them things no one teaches you but everyone expects you to just know. There are bad apples in every community, but some of the most inspiring people I’ve come across were in the PUA community. I hate how feminists down it right away without looking past shit that was used 10-15 years ago (negs etc).

    Why would you hate something that has given men so much?

    • says

      If you want to learn how to interact with women, check out captainawkward.com or doctornerdlove.com. If I hate “something that has given men so much,” consider that it may have had harms you’re not considering. Also, Roosh and his posse literally bullied one of the bloggers here off the internet.

      • says

        You do not check out a website to learn how to interact with women. You learn by being practise, gaining social skills is a very linear growth curb in my opinion. If there was a known more successful method of doing anything in life, surely you would use it? When on PUA bootcamps, instructors show you exactly what to do, when and how, the results are there for you to see. PUA material is light years ahead of the generic “be yourself, be confident, if she crosses her arms across her chest she wants to stab you” terrible advice you get in magazines and webzines. I don’t even know who Roosh is, I’ve never heard of that name.

        PUA is more of a college course then a way of life, that was me about 7 years ago. You take what you need from the experiences you have and you get on with your life. It may interest you to know, my current girlfriend of 3 years is head of a feminist organisation (real life). Although she dislikes some of tactics employed, she herself has realised how useful PUA can be for men who have little experience with women.

        I’ve come to realise, its fine for women to discuss ways of “bagging a man” using various tips from cosmos, but there is a double standard, and a strange dislike to men doing anything to improve their chances or options with women. I guess it will always be this way.

        I enjoyed your article. I think there is a serious problem with street harassment. At the same time, I the first time I saw my ex girlfriend, she was in a coffee shop reading a magazine, I just approached her an got her number, we were together for quite a while. If I had never of taken that risk, I would never of had the wonderful experience of sharing that part of my life with her.

  36. says

    Nice post. I think you’ve touch on a lot of truths here; however, you’ve elected to take a defensive, victim perspective. People procreate with who they are attracted to. Much of attraction is instinctual. Guys are attracted to girls for their looks (how pretty and healthy for children they look.) Girls are attracted to guys for strength and money. For matting anyway. There’s been studies showing that women actually like more feminine, weak men for raising kids, but are attracted to the most aggressive and masculine men while most fertile and in ripe for procreating. I agree that men focus 99% on a woman’s looks. Why is that bad? it’s nature. And, I don’t think it is wrong, weak nor trivial that a women in turn cares about her looks and makes it a high priority to look good for guys. That’s a girl’s calling card. That’s her future and her family.

    • says

      Right, so, I’m taking a course on this right now, and I can assure you that you’ve got it waaaay oversimplified. You know what you’re forgetting? That little thing called culture.

      Also, I don’t see what’s “defensive” about my perspective. I’m sharing my opinion, that’s all. My opinion is that this aspect of human society needs to change. And it can.

    • DK says

      “Hey you fucking bitch. I know you heard me. Answer me you cunt. cunt cunt cunt.”

      This is the reality of sexual harassment and catcalling. Seem like a poor way to procreate, no?

  37. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    One of the criticisms people have of cities is that there is no interaction at this level; people ignore each other on buses, people sit apart whenever possible. It engenders distance and a lack of respect for your fellow citizens.

    Personally, I consider random strangers encroaching on my personal space and feeling entitled to my time to be showing a lack of respect. If I’m minding my own business, while taking a tram to work, I would not appreciate strangers chatting me up. That doesn’t say anything about my respect for these unnamed strangers, but is telling a lot about their respect for me if they start bothering me and continue after my explicit show of disinterest.

    You are greatly exaggerating what Miri has said. Nope, asking you not to bother random strange women on the street is not “ruining social interaction”. It’s making social interaction more comfortable because she is asking you to take care that the person you are interacting with is enjoying the interaction too, not suffering it.

  38. hjhornbeck says

    Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are genuinely good guys who just don’t understand why their comments might be unwelcome. Some men who want to compliment random women on the street are creepy predators. Most are somewhere in between, and guess what? I don’t know you, I don’t know your life, and I have no idea if you’re going to leave it at “Hey, you look good in that dress!” or follow it up with “But you’d look better without it! Har har! C’mon, where’re you going? I know you heard me! Fucking cunt, nobody wants your fat ass anyway, bitch.”

    I’m surprised no-one has pointed out the obvious parallels to Schrodenger’s Rapist.

    In this Russian roulette scenario, you, Reader Who Would Never Rape Anyone, are an empty bullet chamber. But not all of the chambers are empty, and on a given turn, the people playing the game have no idea whether the chamber that’s lined up to fire is you or one with a bullet in it. Until the gun is fired, Schrodinger’s Bullet. This is analogous to the type of situation Schrodinger’s Rapist is describing.

    Anyone who compliments a woman on the street is forcing them to stop and assess the situation. It may be bringing up memories of assholes who escalated the situation, turning a compliment into a downer. As Miri points out, there’s no good reason to compliment a woman you don’t know, about something she may have little control over, so why not put everyone at ease and not do it at all?

  39. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    As regards ‘context’, I think your example of having your headphones on is a perfectly reasonable example. I just have issue with people who can’t simply say, sorry I’m busy at the moment.

    It should be obvious I’m busy at the moment since I have my headphones on. I’m not the one who is in any way obliged to be polite to someone who has been impolite to me. Because yes, I consider someone bothering me while I am sitting quietly listening to music, just to comment on my looks, impolite. If they asked about a street they are looking for or what time it was- fine. But bothering me because they want to tell me I look hot? I’ll probably just pretend I didn’t hear it or give them ‘a look’, or if it’s a teen tell him to fuck off.

    I have seen so many girls say rude and offensive things to guys who haven’t said anything offensive, purely because they are guys and they think they can take the hit. THAT is what I’m talking about.

    Well, I kinda doubt that what you and I consider offensive matches.

  40. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Damn, I could swear I clicked reply under comment 17.1.1.

  41. skepticallydenpa says

    Kendall – I want you to recognize the difference here. Giliell said she can’t read your mind, therefore you compliment is going to be perceived as a threat. Your response was that you can’t read her mind, therefore how your compliment is perceived is of no consequence to you. Your unsolicited compliments are about making you feel better more than it is about making others feel better. Otherwise, you would care about the effects you compliment actually have.

    • says

      Shorter Kendall: “Yes, I realize that many women might hate it when I compliment their bodies but my right to express my opinion on a woman’s appearance matters more than that, so I will keep doing it anyway.”

  42. H2s says

    I already posted this comment at Butterflies and wheels, that linked here, but this seems to have a lot more discussion going on so I hope this cross post is ok. I agree with the article, random appearance based compliments are (IMO) really weird, I don’t understand what people are doing with that. I think people reinterpret what is said to mean “never ever talk to women”, no matter what disclaimers are on it, decode that’s ridiculous and then dismiss the whole discussion.

    I had an interaction with a stranger, I’d like to know what people here think. I (would like to) think it was fine, and i think it’s important that we do point out and discuss what is fine and what isn’t.

    I was exiting an underground station on the escalator, and was looking around. It was the first proper hot day of the year, so everyone’s wearing different clothes. I notice a nice looking girl slightly ahead of me on the adjacent escalator, and she turns around and sees me. I look away, blah blah, she looks again, I smile, she smiles.

    At the top of the escalator, she slows down and looks back a bit askance, ie she doesn’t want to look like an idiot if I breezed past. I catch up and say “Hello, how do you do?” ( obviously, feeling awkward like everyone does in that kind of situation) blah blah, we have a nice but short chat about meaningless small talk and then she suggested to meet for a coffee next week.

    So, partly from Butterflies and wheels and others, I think some people think some other people would think this was bad.
    Now I have to admit I do worry that maybe some have an absolutist opinion on this? My reasoning as to why this is ok is
    A) I think that the eye contact, smiling and slowing down, looking back indicates its not unwanted attention. I never would have talked to her if that hadn’t been pretty blatant. And if there had been any indication that it wasn’t wanted at any point I would have made my apologies and left quickly feeling like a bit of an idiot… Not blamed the girl for my mistake.
    B) it’s not in some secluded space, there’s a lot of people about and I never was in a threatening position – not crowding in or touching etc
    C) I was not being suggestive or lewd, all conversation was on a light hearted level with many face saving exit points available…

    I’m explicitly not using the fact that in this case it did turn out mutually beneficial, as its where people misinterpret that the issue arises…

    One objection would be that, well, ok maybe someone thinking about this and making sure not to be an ass can do it in a reasonable way, but that’s not many people – so the behaviour shouldn’t be attempted by anyone.

    Thoughts?

    • Kori says

      Hi, I’ve never commented on a blog before, but I have been reading through these comments, and saw yours. Personally, as a (mostly) female identifying being, I would observe the situation you described as polite, cautious, and quite decent for the following reasons in reference of course to the original slant of this article. I’ll try to be careful in my wording, as I’m not an expert, and I don’t want to offend anyone. At all.

      1. She was not wearing headphones, or behaving in a manner that seemed to discourage approach. People make eye contact, and when this occurred, she did not look away or ignore you as someone who is uninterested in social interaction would often do. And it seems from the sound of your post that you are an individual who is sensitive to that kind of social cue (as indicated in your statement ‘A’). You in fact looked away first, it was she who gave YOU the second look, indicating a potential mutual interest. From reading this article, and from general life experience, one can assume that body language is an incredibly important aspect of communication between people, especially when we are fraught with various red-tape culturally. Willingness to communicate is essential when you take into consideration what Miri mentioned about girls being conditioned to respond politely to interactions rather than outright rejecting them. Her second look, I believe, was a fairly clear indication that (with some caution!) a word or two might be welcome. I say “with caution” because a look is sometimes just a look, but a steady look and a smile often indicates interest.

      2. She slowed. Looked at you a third time, reiterating a possible interest (but not yet confirmed) Here is where you did take the chance offered. And here is where some people (men, women, or other) sometimes make the mistake that this article is titled for. You did not do that. You said hello to a woman who was showing some positive social cues. Saying hello in this situation is the polite and respectful thing for you, and to me, seemed a pretty safe bet. It was a public place, she was less likely to feel threatened, and possibly intrigued by you. There is always the risk you may have been misinterpreting her signals, like…maybe she thought your hair or something was triple look-worthy and she was not in fact interested. However, ” hello, how are you is far FAR less threatening than even, ” You look nice.” and VASTLY less so than ” I think that dress frames your breasts nicely. ” You were not lewd as you state in ‘C’. You had a positive experience in this case, and it was probably due to your careful observation of the situation, and respectful approach.

      Some people seem to be lamenting this article somewhat in the light that “most women do not appreciate their bodies being complimented by strangers = no man should approach or speak to any woman he does not know, ever, for fear of offending her. ” This is obviously not the message of this article. Miri states it in her opening, and repeats this in comments, and the body of the piece.

      I do believe that decades of what I can only term “douchebaggery” by less than mindful members of the human race has cast a very negative shadow over the act of communicating between the sexes in general. That being said It is important, now more than ever, that mindfulness and respect are the building blocks for our social connections, anywhere, between anyone.

      It’s important to interpret social clues as well as you possibly can given your experience. Nobody is perfect, and of course we are not mind-readers~! We can be thoughtless, self absorbed, grouchy, tense, etc, and it colours the way we touch our world. What you did here, was think about HER. As you stated, you left her exits to avoid HER discomfort, you waited until she displayed a more welcoming cue than a single glance.

      I think that your interaction is actually the best example I have seen here yet of a male who went from point A: anonymity to point B: successful familiarity, traversing the risk by acknowledging the repercussions of the risk itself, deciding the potential for a human connection of benefit to both of you was increasingly plausible and doing it right (or as rightly as you could).

      Sincere congratulations! It might not work every time, but if you continue to have this outlook, it is a step in the right direction! Observe your male friends, kindly nudge them to think the same way. If you have a son one day, teach him mindfulness of others, not just women in particular, but everyone. Seriously.

      I didn’t mean to ramble so much, but . . .I just feel like so many of us are social creatures (some not!) that is would of course be a pity not to interact. This article is not about telling you not to speak to people. It is suggesting a more successful way of doing so, and spotlighting LESS successful methods that have the potential for harm in many situations.

      I feel like you cared enough for this woman at a glance that you took pains not to encroach upon her, not to offend her. The point was, you CARED.

      Thank you for that.

  43. says

    I think I disagree with one of your disclaimers, MM. With all the information available to the people having this discussion — over and over and over — if you’re a man and you insist on commenting on the appearance of total strangers without there being an already existing conversation or some other context that makes such behavior appropriate, you are a bad person.

    There’s no excuse for not knowing that a non-zero percentage of women find such behavior somewhere on the spectrum between distasteful and terrifying. Men who defend stray comments know this. They don’t care. They are, pretty much by definition, antisocial ass-blisters.

  44. Brogan says

    Some of this is great reading, which I agree with, whilst other parts are total bullshit.

    Oh wait, I have to make up or be cautious for another guy being a twat to a particular woman that I want to get the attention of? Even though you have stated that there are great men out there you seem to be edging on the side of, ‘men have been bad in the past so now this affects your future just because you have a penis’.

    No way should one man have to pay the price for the negative actions of others. Their actions were theirs alone.

    You’re also stereotyping males here as well.

    It’s no secret that women do dress up to look pretty. If that was not the outcome girls wouldn’t put the amount of effort that they do in to it. Telling someone that they are pretty is not sexual harrasment.

    Do you also have issues with males yourself? This sounds like it’s on a personal level as well as on a general one.

    • zilla says

      As a lady I get “dressed up” for me. Not men.
      ME!

      You seem to think that, for us ladies, when we step out into the world in our running shorts or our sun dress that we have it in our minds “Oh, what a beautiful day! My tits look fantastic! Come on girls, lets go show the boys!” And our every encounter is like some friendly neighborhood sing-along scene from a Disney movie where our worth is repeatedly validated by non-threatening, well-meaning, strangers.That we blush and play modest if we are good girls and we antagonize and complain if we are “man-haters”.

      And that is called “being one hell of a naive sexist”.

      Could there be ladies who imagine they live in that fantasy? Could there be ladies that truly do get dressed up for this sort of attention? Possible. And the chances of the lady you are yelling at on the street being such a lady: about one in shut-the-fuck-up-because-it-she-isn’t-one-of-them.

      You know what it is like to be in a city with aggressive panhandlers? Even just encountering one aggressive panhandler might give you a tenth of the experience of being a woman in public. It is block after block of confrontation.

      These harassing remarks would be compliments *IF* I were a stripper or *IF* I worked in a brothel, where my (hopefully enjoyable) job is to entertain customers. But I do not walk out of my house to entertain men. That you even think women are dressing up FOR MEN at all is an indication of your own serious issues with women.

      I mean, do you really think we parade our bodies around for men?
      Are you friggin serious?
      Are you a wanted serial killer yet? Your mind is in a dark place, buddy.
      You should reconsider that. That is scary.

      Check yourself.
      You have the mentality that creates the problem of street harassment and makes the world a pretty shitty place to be a woman.

    • rowanvt says

      Are you really saying, that despite the fact that I was stalked at 17 and the guy tried to break into my house to rape me, that despite the fact that I was stalked again at 20 and this guy tried to break up my engagement and kissed me without my permission, that despite the fact that I was followed through downtown late at night by a creeper, that I should have absolute no qualms about interacting with you because your feelings will be hurt?

      You are saying it isn’t fair to YOU that I have been scared for my life and fearful of being raped numerous times? It isn’t fair to YOU that I am extremely cautious around males I don’t know thanks to my early experiences?

      Oh well, I’m so sorry my master for doing anything that might make YOU uncomfortable. I guess I’ll stop dressing up the few times I do. Because clearly I couldn’t be doing it because I like the way that I look. If I don’t want comments I should just wear sweats all the time, right? That way I’m clearly not trying to attract attention. Oh, but I should also wear a head scarf because even being in my scrubs, which are unisex and baggy, I have had men come up and pet my hair. But I should take that unwanted physical contact as a compliment, right? After all, they think my hair is so nice they just haaaaaaave to touch it, and thereby me. My desire to not-be-touched-by-strangers is entirely unimportant and silly.

    • Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

      Brogan,

      I don’t “dress up” for men. What does even count as dressing up? I have to dress nicely for work, because otherwise I’ll be considered sloppy. Does that mean I’m inviting comments on my looks 5 days a week when I’m going to or from work?
      Not to mention at work. I have a creepy guy who was totally creeping me out a couple of days ago, when it was a really hot day and I wore a dress. A rather short dress, about which I had second thought but figured I want to feel comfortable and fuck the assholes who think a short dress is an invitation for anything.
      But thanks for supporting the belief that my dress is an invitation. Thanks for contributing to the beliefs that will make me have to chose between cooking in my own sweat and getting “looks” (and this creepy dude can give a look that makes you want to shower in acid to wash the feeling off) and/or comments about my body.

    • says

      “No way should one man have to pay the price for the negative actions of others. Their actions were theirs alone.”

      You know how psychology has that whole behavioural school of thought? Where repeated actions and consequences cause subjects to expect things? Yeah. That’s what this is.

      This is what women get:
      – Strange men telling them they look hot
      – Strange men making lewd gestures
      – Strange men who think they’re entitled to touch them
      – Strange men following them/shouting slurs and violent imagery at them when they ignore or decline them
      – Friends telling them about the strange men that do these things to them as well
      – The media going on about sexual assault after sexual assault
      – People constantly assuming that the only way to combat rapes is for women to be wary
      – People assuming that rapes only happen between strangers

      And this is the luckier ones, to be honest. You could easily add in experiencing rape, abuse, or a million other things. And if you consider that most women begin to experience this at the BEGINNING of puberty, do you really still wonder why we’d be wary of a strange man coming up to us unsolicited?

  45. zilla says

    Dudes whining because that their interpretation of their own shitty behavior is more justified than the experiences of their female targets!?

    Gasp! No…..

  46. says

    Wow, I think I need to print this for my clerk at work. I tried to express to him today that he shouldn’t be going around telling every female that she is pretty- that it could make them feel uncomfortable. I’ve seen him do it a few times- he says it is because his dad told to do it, but I think he thinks it is VERY acceptable behavior- he can do as he pleases when he is off, but at work he shouldn’t do these kind of things.

  47. says

    When interacting with a stranger, their looks are the only thing you have to go on; there’s nothing wrong with interacting with a woman based on looks initially and than finding out who she is/what she’s about via approaching and talking to her. I am NOT defending behavior that is harassment, nor am I ignoring women’s feelings about past harassment but I have no way to know if any random woman has been harassed or not. Cold approaches can be done in an effective manner that doesn’t creep the woman out, I got to this article via a link from DNL’s facebook and he advocates cold approaching too. I met my first girlfriend in the gym. Want to know why I noticed her? I thought she was cute, physically attractive (gasp!); and she looked absolutely lost in the gym so I helped her out, and eventually we started dating. Were my intentions not pure because they were sparked from how she looked initially? I think you’re going to have to perform a pretty great feat of mental gymnastics if your answer to my question is yes.

    • says

      nor am I ignoring women’s feelings about past harassment but I have no way to know if any random woman has been harassed or not

      Ergo, don’t approach random women going about their day. This is true independent of intention. The former sentence is true regardless of whether your intention is to deliver a compliment with no ulterior motive, or whether you’re a predator trying to pick someone up. You don’t seem to understand that intention isn’t the ultimate arbiter of all things.

      Helping out someone who looks lost may be different. But not just any random person on the street you find attractive.

    • says

      “I have no way to know if any random woman has been harassed or not”

      Here’s your method:
      Is she female?
      Is she pubescent or older?
      Answered yes to both those questions? There’s a 90% chance she has been harassed.

      Okay? Thanks, bye.

  48. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Another one who hasn’t even read the post.
    Hint: the post was about words coming out of your mouth, not about thoughts.

    —–
    *raised eyebrow* for the use of “cold approaching”. Does anyone who isn’t taking lessons from PUAs use this term without sarcasm? (not American, so maybe that plays into my ignorance about this)

  49. Zoe says

    “I have no way to know if any random woman has been harassed or not.”

    Exactly. Did you hear what you yourself said?

    Chances are excellent, really excellent, that any random woman has been street harassed. The question isn’t whether or not this has happened. The question, for you, is whether that matters to you or not. Do you care how the woman feels, or don’t you? That’s really the bottom line.

    • says

      I do care how they feel, however you cannot make a direct logical connection from women has possibly been harassed to don’t approach regardless of the situation. Sorry.

      • zilla says

        Logically, when members of a group are telling you how NOT to treat them, you would listen to their experiences as being more valid than your justification for that behavior.
        Odds are pretty damn good that any woman you attempt to approach with a comment on her appearance has been harassed….because Statistics.
        Sorry.

        Women don’t want strange men remarking on their bodies.
        Ergo, don’t remark on women’s bodies. We, women, on the receiving end of the behavior, are giving you feedback on your approach. And we are telling you: You’ll be doing us a favor by not bringing it up.

        This is not a micro-aggression, this is a cultural trend that qualifies a type of harassment. It becomes a trend because it is deemed acceptable because it plays on the well accepted stereotype that women must maintain an aesthetic quality. This contributes to sexist oppression.
        Sorry.

        There are plenty of other ways to approach women because, check this out, we are human beings. And there are plenty of ways to open communications with new human beings without talking about their bodies or sex right off the bat.
        Use your imagination. Practice some social skills.

        Most ladies respond better to guys who treat them like human beings with intellectual qualities than some aesthetic figure, piece of meat or golden idol.

      • says

        I do care how they feel, however you cannot make a direct logical connection from women has possibly been harassed to don’t approach regardless of the situation.

        Sure you can; it’s actually not all that difficult.

        Assert the following premises:

        P1: Priority One is to ensure nobody is harassed/made to feel uncomfortable.

        P2: You don’t know whether a particular strange woman on the street will be made uncomfortable by a “cold approach”, meaning that any cold approach has a chance of making the woman uncomfortable/feel harassed.

        C: Therefore, don’t cold approach women.

        If you have a different priority one, then this doesn’t hold. But then, if you have a different priority one, what does that say about you?

  50. emilybites says

    Letting harassers define what is and isn’t street harassment would make as much sense as letting criminals define what constituted a crime! Harassers behave a certain way, women say ‘This is X,’ and the harassers say, ‘No, it’s Y!’ That’s not how interactions with other people work. Guys, it is our subjective perception that makes harassment a Bad Thing. Women’s feelings about what is done to them define the nature of what is being done. If we say it’s unwelcome, it’s a Bad Thing. It’s really, painfully, totally simple. So obvious and so simple that we might think these harassment-defending guys are just trying to wear us down and make us shut up so they can get on with being dicks to us and facing no social consequences.

  51. says

    I think this is really, really, REALLY simple: if you are the sort of person who cares more about what they want to do to other people than they care about how other people may react to it, you are the sort of person who should not approach strangers to talk to them, because you’re a creep. There’s some complicated but learnable stuff about when and how to talk to other people, and if you’re going to reduce it to “Either I do it however I want without regard to what the other person does and doesn’t want, or I’m not supposed to talk to anyone ever” then you should probably stick to the second option. Your desire to “hit on” people doesn’t mean anything at all, and if your refusal to learn how to interact with others in a decent manner means you die bitter and alone, that’s AWESOME. Other people aren’t responsible for your happiness, they don’t owe you a millisecond of their time or attention, and you’re being an ass if you think “being in public” is consent for you to interrupt other people’s lives to make your “pitch.”

    And it IS a sales pitch, in a way. You’re trying to sell yourself to this stranger when you talk to them, so that you can get something from them. Try to be a little less narcissistic, and imagine how you feel when someone interrupts you with any sort of sales pitch, and then try to imagine salespeople following you around every moment you’re outside. Imagine people shouting corporate slogans from their cars, attempting to sit down with you in a restaurant when you’re having dinner with family to show you the new spring catalog, cornering you at work every day to get you to test drive a car when you really have work to get done. How about if someone blocks your path when you go for a walk to try to get you to try this new lotion. You know how to buy things on your own, right? You don’t want, need, or appreciate a constant barrage of sales pitches from strangers, and it would drive you to anger and frustration if it happened enough. And that stuff isn’t even personal or intimate. You add that layer, and frankly I don’t know how women cope.

    • says

      Any romantic advance from either a man or woman is a sales pitch; you know that right? Whether the pitch is made Other people aren’t responsible for your happiness right? So if you have a romantic partner, you’ve solicited and manipulated them into wanting to be in a relationship with you.You know that’s what you’re implying, right? Of course you don’t, because you’re too wrapped in your self-righteousness to see how flawed your logic is, funny in a blog website that’s supposed to be dedicated to reason. Since this is FTB I’m guessing you’re an atheist, well you’re not doing us (or women for that matter) any favors with this unreasonable rant.

      • zilla says

        Wait!
        This dude thinks that human relationships are acquired through manipulation!?
        It is soooo adorable when people call upon reason and logic and barf out the most asinine, antisocial, unscientific, unfounded, bigoted, bullshit out of their ass. And then they get all smug, like they convinced someone they have Logic by the balls.

        It is like being in an undergrad philosophy class all over again.
        Gawd, if I have to hear another relativist argument or hear another misuse of argument anatomy again I might shake someone….I don’t wanna hurt ‘em…..I just wanna make them smarter.
        Intelligence is an ongoing practice, not a costume you can parade around in. You don’t get to summon it by name and wear it.

        “Any romantic advance from either a man or woman is a sales pitch; you know that right?
        Whether the pitch is made Other people aren’t responsible for your happiness right? So if you have a romantic partner, you’ve solicited and manipulated them into wanting to be in a relationship with you.You know that’s what you’re implying, right?”

        Yeah, you are implying that romantic, or perhaps even sexual relationships, are founded on insincerity and superficial –perhaps even dishonest–reasons. That you must bend the other person into committing (or submitting?) to your wish to be with/possess them. This is under the assumption that all romantic/sexual human interactions are a latent contract. And that if you find yourself unhappy in the pressures of someone imposing themselves on you for this reason is unreasonable because, you assume, there is no other way.
        So very clever.

        I am so glad I never bought into that bullshit.
        And I am so sad so many people think this is normal.

        ” Of course you don’t, because you’re too wrapped in your self-righteousness to see how flawed your logic is, funny in a blog website that’s supposed to be dedicated to reason. Since this is FTB I’m guessing you’re an atheist, well you’re not doing us (or women for that matter) any favors with this unreasonable rant.”

        Pot; kettle. yaddayaddayadda
        Don’t speak for atheists. I work hard to distance myself from the sexists and pseudo-intellectuals that make us look like whiny, antisocial diaper babies.

        • says

          I was commenting on the implications of what ImprobableJoe was saying, those aren’t my thoughts on romance. I would think a bunch of social scientists and writers would have better reading comprehension than that.

      • says

        I don’t think you quite understood what ImprobableJoe was saying. It was along the lines of “If relationship propositions are a sales pitch, then ‘cold approaching’ is akin to salesmen following and harassing you every moment of every day”.

  52. opposablethumbs says

    Great post, Miri, and impeccable take-down of trolls and the willfully ignorant together with remarkable patience with those who are – or just conceivably might be, for the sake of arguement – genuinely unaware. Chapeau (and to the many other great voices on this thread too)!

    CaitieCat

    Oh,. wait, i know this one.

    The complement is 1-(~p).

    What do I win?

    :-D :-D :-D

    • CaitieCat says

      LOL – glad someone noticed it. I happen to be doing, as my main work these days, tutoring several hours a day with an Arabic-speaking academic. Right now, we’re doing stats, so I really couldn’t resist responding to the complement thing. :D

  53. GutKaok says

    Oh for the love of whatever…I can’t believe so many people are missing the points being made here. Perhaps you’re all being too eloquent!

    Look, the main point made, as I see it, is that it’s inappropriate for men, or women, to try to initiate social contact with a STRANGER on the basis of their appearance. This is because of two things: the historical FACT that (mostly)women have had negative experiences with being evaluated SOLELY on the basis of their looks, and also that people have NO idea about the intent of whoever is making the “compliment”, and will understandably err on the side of caution with respect to further interaction.

    There’s a whole lot of other ways to initiate conversation that do NOT involve comments about outwardly appearance, but it takes a bit more imagination and, sometimes, courage. It’s true that the most obvious thing about a stranger is their appearance, but that is also probably the most superficial of their characteristics.

    You can start with the banal…talking about the weather, or you can talk about politics (if you dare), or you can talk about the muzak in the store or the elevator, or you can talk about a situation you’re in (“Wow, why don’t they have more bank tellers on duty when there’s this many people waiting in line?”), and you will get a very quick indication of whether the person you’re talking to feels like having a conversation. If they’re non-commital in their response, TAKE A HINT AND BACK OFF(graciously, without taking offence)! If they engage, and show some thought in their responses, then carry on…but DON’T go right to “Wow, you’re attractive”, that’s something that isn’t really appropriate until and unless you’ve met someone a few times.

    And keep in mind that “attraction” is a multi-faceted phenomenom, and physical attraction is only one very superficial aspect of that. Just because someone is physically attractive doesn’t mean that they’re an attractive person overall. They may be nasty, maliscious,manipulative, and superficial people beneath the surface, and you’re NOT going to find that out unless you get to know them on a more meaningful basis than their outward appearance.

    I know that our modern North American society has widely conditioned us to value physical attractiveness beyond all reason, but that doesn’t mean that as self-aware and conscious individuals we can’t break free of that conditioning!

    • says

      The only way to see if someone who is physically attractive is also an attractive person is to go talk to them. I wouldn’t date someone who I wasn’t physically attracted to and I’ve met plenty of people who were attractive inside and out. Valuing physical attractiveness doesn’t mean that’s the only thing you value,

      • GutKaok says

        But I think that physical attraction is often a whole lot more than just someone’s physical condition or “shape”. For me, confidence is always attractive, and you CAN sense it, if not see it. A open smile is physically attractive, so is (and this is a bit old-school) good posture. Someone who isn’t afraid to look me in the eye is physically attractive, although I realize that may be culturally determinant. All those things have very little with how they’re dressed, and I wouldn’t think it appropriate to comment on how “hot” they were unless I knew them quite a bit better than on first impression.

    • Padme says

      The problem with your solution is that small talk just isn’t comfortable for everyone. I won’t respond, I’m too shy and if there isn’t anything in it for me, its not worth the nerves trying to think of what to say. HOWEVER, if a guy comes up to me and tells me I’m pretty I will ALWAYS respond, either with a “thanks, but no thanks” simple response or by attempting to have a real conversation, as awkward as it may be. I would never have dated if guys hadn’t taken the initiative to tell me point blank that they found me attractive and gave me a reason to talk. You can’t assume because someone is bad at small talk that they are uninterested, they just may be really bad at small talk.

      • says

        Well there’s really no way to get to know a person without talking to them; are you saying you’ve never done small talks in any of the dates you’ve been on?

  54. says

    Sorry to all of you who may be offended, but…

    I grew up in Montreal where it was OK to look at a nicely dressed person or either sex. It was also OK to talk to strangers. Even though I am a uni-lingual Anglo, I find phony prim-and-proper Victorian attitude of North Americans outside Quebec painful and, well, stupid.

    It wasn’t ’til I moved to Toronto that I found out all non-work-related male-female meetings were mentally prefaced by “Is this person marriage material” and the resulting “do-not-dare-to-talk-to-me” attitude from the disapproving party or parties.

    You can’t say “Hi” to strangers in elevators or they press for the next floor and run away. (It is fun, though,m to get in last and face the back wall and look at each person individually.)

    You miss so much of life when you can’t just be nice to each other. Freud pointed out that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes a nice shirt is just a nice shirt and a colour choice that stands out can be admired.

    • says

      I’m glad you got that off your back.
      Now kindly stuff your assumption that everybody here is from the USA where it belongs.
      Because really, that’s quite arrogant. And stupid.
      Have you ever bothered to follow the “Everyday Sexism Project” which exists in at least three languages?
      And pleaaase, don’t act like Montreal is some special place where nothing bad ever happens, especially not to women.

    • Zoe says

      Don, it’s also OK to look at people and talk to people in the U.S. It’s just not OK to harass women on the street. Those are three different things: looking, talking, and harassing. When you are able to articulate the differences, it will help you contribute to the discussion on a post like this that is about not harassing women, and that is specifically *not* about looking at people in general or talking to people in general. Your comment makes it clear that you do not understand what street harassment is.

  55. says

    I did read the post, most of it is nothing I haven’t seen before and most of the questions (especially the ones at the end about why men don’t compliment men) were completely useless to the discussion. It should be completely obvious to someone who isn’t question begging why a man would complement a woman.
    Cold approach = approaching a complete stranger in a setting not familiar to either person
    Luke-warm approach = approaching a stranger in a venue where there is a common theme (a convention or a gym (<- how I met my first gf) or something along those lines)
    Warm approach = approaching someone you know (you know them via family or friends of varying degree)
    Alot of the PUA material is garbage but some schools of PUA go about what they do in a completely healthy way and don't say things that all that different from what alot of feminists say. PUA has done and is continuing to do great things for my confidence with women. It's because of PUA that I explicitly DON'T creep women out when I approach them now
    I am not, have never, and never will defend harassment, the thing I think lots of guys are taking issue with is that the author is lumping a random guy approaching a random woman with a compliment with the assholes doing cat calls at women in the street. They are NOT the same thing, you might think they are, but they'e not.You don't have any way to know if the guys intentions are noble or not, that is true, but again I'm not defending nor am I encouraging harassers to do what they do to women. Now I'm expecting you'll come back to my post asking if my desire to approach the woman matter more than the woman's feelings ,and I'll say that's the wrong question to ask.

    • says

      the thing I think lots of guys are taking issue with is that the author is lumping a random guy approaching a random woman with a compliment with the assholes doing cat calls at women in the street. They are NOT the same thing, you might think they are, but they’e not.

      See, this was addressed in the post. The reason the lumping occurs is because it is impossible to tell a harasser apart from a complimenter at first encounter, and frankly, getting a few random “nice dress!” type remarks is NOT a benefit that makes up for street harassment, and that’s why most women would prefer it if you’d just give up the sense of entitlement that leads you to believe, mistakenly, that it’s important to offer your opinion about the appearance of random strangers.

      • says

        I have 0 entitlement issues when I do approach random women. It isn’t a ‘nice dress!’ thing it’s a ‘hi, I thought you looked nice, my names x, what’s yours?’. I have no delusions that my opinion is important or not, again, that’s the wrong question to be asking.

        • says

          WHEN you approach random women? Please, tell me more about how your determination that whatever desires lead you to do that trump those of the random woman in question somehow does NOT betray a sense of entitlement. “You’re nice, this is my name” is STILL not a sufficient trade-off to the abusive bullshit women are regularly subjected to, in case you’re wondering.

    • says

      some schools of PUA go about what they do in a completely healthy way and don’t say things that all that different from what alot of feminists say.

      Care to link to these? I’ve yet to see a PUA site that wasn’t blatantly predatory in nature.

      You don’t have any way to know if the guys intentions are noble or not, that is true, but again I’m not defending nor am I encouraging harassers to do what they do to women.

      You don’t seem to quite understand; intention is irrelevant. To repeat an old cliche, intent isn’t magic. If you approach someone and make them feel uncomfortable or harassed in doing so, your intention doesn’t diminish their feeling at all.

      Now I’m expecting you’ll come back to my post asking if my desire to approach the woman matter more than the woman’s feelings ,and I’ll say that’s the wrong question to ask.

      If the woman’s feelings don’t matter or are superseded by some other overarching interest (implied by claiming the question is ill-posed), then what the hell is the right question?

  56. says

    Thanks for this piece. I really like the way you debunk the guys who think it’s their right to tell me their opinion of my looks, or the guys who think that as long as their comment is positive, I should be a happy camper about their judgment of me.

    I wrote a piece about street harassment on my own blog, jumping off the experience of strange men telling me to smile for them, and all that that implies. Maybe you’ll enjoy it.
    http://alainamabaso.com/2012/03/28/after-twenty-eight-years-i-am-finally-saying-it-i-dont-owe-you-a-smile/

  57. Slacktrack says

    I read the post, reads all the comments then re-read the article again. I can’t help but get the sense that I should be ashamed of being male. Miri, you start off by stating that you’re not saying finding a random woman attractive makes you a Bad Person or wanting to tell her she’s attractive makes you a Bad Person. It seems to me that the rest of the article and many of the comments vilifies maleness. They point a feminist finger at me and says “you are a Bad Person because you are a male and thus act in a stereotyped fashion”. I point to your statement that many men believe women’s bodies are for them, to look at and pass judgement.

    I can’t help it, I have eyes. I interact with my world primarily in a visual fashion. I may be looking at you because you’re pretty or it might just be my ADD kicking in and that little metallic beret in your hair is flashing in the sunlight. No, I’m not going to tell you that you look pretty because I’m too introverted to speak to strangers. Yes, you can feel threaten by my prolonged gaze, it’s your right. How you deal with it is your problem and until we interact, it’s not my problem. However, I feel as if I am being lumped in without the benefit of doubt with base idiots who feel it is okay to call a woman a cunt because she won’t talk to them. When we do interact, it’s now my problem because you have made a snap judgement about me which will now taint our interaction with negativity. It ends up being a you are what you eat scenario. Tell a person that they are worthless enough and they will believe it. Tell a man that he is the problem often enough and he will be a problem.

    It all leads me to wonder what role models of acceptable maleness are out there? Tell me, since the macho/patriarch role model is no longer valid, who should I aspire to be like? I don’t have any facts or studies or stats to back up what I feel which is why I am leaving it at that – how I feel. Surely my feelings must have some sort of validity.

    • says

      She says finding a random women attractive and wanting to tell her so doesn’t make a man a bad person, she then turns around and implys the man who follows through with his desire is a bad person, and she means to apply this generally to all men. She’s wrong and this is where the issue comes from.

      • zilla says

        She is saying finding other human being attractive is A OK!
        But finding someone attractive does not give you any right to intrude on their personal space or entitle you to their time or politeness.
        Mr Lopez seems to think that “finding someone attractive” must be “followed through”.

        What Lopez is struggling to understand is that what is “following through” to him, as someone who feels women are something to chase for his own interests and not human beings going about their own business, is that “following through” on a random attraction toward a complete stranger contributes to a whole trend of harassment uniquely experienced by women in public.

        Mr Lopez is of the misunderstanding that “being attracted” must be followed by pursuit and, to him, there is no difference between experiencing attraction and trying to persuade a response from a random woman.

        I don’t know why he fails to grasp the differences-perhaps they are too subtle- but the original article separated random attraction from random pursuit.

        • says

          Mr Lopez seems to think that “finding someone attractive” must be “followed through”.

          There’s no misunderstanding, I do think that, you miss the chances you don’t take in life is a decent rule to live by and if you’re attracted to someone there’s nothing wrong with pursuing them even if they’re a stranger (within reason of course).

          • smhll says

            There’s no misunderstanding, I do think that, you miss the chances you don’t take in life is a decent rule to live by and if you’re attracted to someone there’s nothing wrong with pursuing them even if they’re a stranger (within reason of course).

            The issue I have with your statement is that some men are playing a percentage game, and are annoying several or many of dozens of women every day or every day that they act like this, maybe some days they are busy or reluctant. (In my mind I’m picturing a pushy guy at a bus stop.) You stated “there’s nothing wrong with pursuing them”. (I’m not sure if “them” means women or chances.)

            It is wrong to pursue people in a way that upsets them. It is wrong to drop the feelings of the women involved from your calculation, as you appear to have done, as you don’t mention the potential feelings of strange women in the text of your post. (It was a short post, so I won’t score the omission as a sin.)

            Approaching strangers to tell them they look “hot” isn’t illegal, and maybe it isn’t unethical, but much of the time it is rude and likely to be perceived as a bother. That’s why it is being discussed. I believe we are talking about street approaches and approaches in indoor public places that are not parties or social events (e.g. coffee shops).

    • zilla says

      You are conflating “feeling attracted” with “reason to harass”.
      Being a guy does not make you any different from me when I see someone I am attracted to. When I see a dude jogging shirtless down the street or through the park, my brain jumps into visions of neck-biting, back scratching, sweaty, shameless, sex. I find it very arousing. I find it very attractive.
      And do you know what I do about it?
      I leave the dude alone.
      He doesn’t need to know I want to want to bend him over and peg him. Chasing after strangers in public is pretty goddamn sad.
      But this is what we teach men about “treating women” and “finding sex” and “being a man”.
      And it is fucked up.

      Here is the thing: Here are women telling our culture that they are being subjected to a bad behavior that men are raised to have and you, as a man, are complaining that women aren’t happy with the way men are taught to treat them.

      You are effectively asking “Well, this is the only thing I know about being ‘a man’ –what could there be? What else can I do?!”
      And this is evident of how horribly prevalent and normalized sexual harassment is in our culture. If this makes you feel negative about being a man, rightfully so! You’ve been told that being a man means being a sniveling sex monster that must either coerce, dominate or humiliate women. And you’ve been shown no other option.
      And for you, as a man, that is seriously a fucked up thing to struggle with. Now the pressure is on YOU to redefine masculinity in a culture that is constantly threatening to take away your Man Card if you deviate from the patriarchal standard of “Man”.
      In this struggle, feminists are your allies….even though it seems like they are pretty pissed off at you right now.

      If you need a role model, try this guy….
      http://www.upworthy.com/a-ted-talk-that-might-turn-every-man-who-watches-it-into-a-feminist-its-pretty-fantastic-7?c=ufb1

      And know that there are many male feminsist/profeminists out there who are always trying to find more men to connect with and provide a community for men who don’t subscribe to the shithead-definition of masculinity.
      http://www.mencanstoprape.org/
      http://www.mencanstoprape.org/The-Men-of-Strength-Club/

      • says

        I’m not a feminist (does believing in men’s rights make me masculanist?) Not every woman thinks like you do (and some of them are commenting on this very thread, very convenient that you’re ignoring them), some women would go talk to the guy.You don’t speak for every women, alot of them (not all, clearly, but alot) like being approached, and men who desire to do cold approaches or want casual sex (like lots of women do, that doesn’t make them sluts) are not sniveling sex monsters (I thought we were mature adults here). ‘Chasing after strangers’ is not sad, being able to introduce yourself to a random stranger and even convincing them that you’re worthy of being a potential date is a skill that’s pretty damn difficult to cultivate and tends to make your dating (and social) life easier in general. Painting public interactions as sad because you’ve had bad experiences doesn’t make it so in general, so spare me the patriarchy feminist theory jargon, I’m not a ‘shithead’ nor do I ascribe to all the ‘standard’ views of masculinity and I still think cold approaching is a valid (and not harassing) way of meeting people.

        • zilla says

          In a systematic oppression, such as sexism, in which one group is regarded as the status quo (thats you, buddy) and the others get left out of how things are run and what decisions are made (in this case, women), the best the oppressed group can do with their lot is to associate as closely to the status quo as possible. It is how oppression is founded.

          If you had any familiarity with social sciences, which you don’t, this would be, like, basic material that all other intersections will refer to. Notice: Women self-objectify and body-shame and slut-shame each other–even though these are a few of the strongest tools in the oppression of women. Strange? This is a symptom of oppression. As is the cooperation of the oppressed in their own oppression. If you were as clever as you want us to think, you might wanna go educate yourself before engaging in these sorts of discussions.

          These are big kid ideas built on facts and scientific research. Not whiny memes on reddit.

          While I sincerely appreciate your distancing yourself from slut-shaming, understand that the sexual climate of our culture is hostile toward women. LEARN that women are routinely intimidating, coerced, threatened, shamed, guilted, blamed, and -well, harassed for sex and about sex all the time. LEARN that what you consider a “cold approach” is just one of many ways men impose themselves on women. LEARN that what men consider a “cold approach” is typically uncomfortable for women. LEARN that when women reject the men who approach them they risk receiving a hostile blowback.
          LEARN how women must constantly police themselves to avoid hostility and blame.

          When we live in a society with a healthier sexual climate that doesn’t objectify or oppress women–cold approaches would be far from harassment. If we lived in a culture that did not harp on the appearance of women, commenting on someone’s face or dress would actually be “a nice thing to say”.

          Unfortunately, you and every woman yu are going to met have been dumped into a patriarchal society that makes “Cold approaches” accumulate into harassment. Women are bombarded with it. In these conditions, this is a shitty strategy.
          By insisting that your right to Cold Approaches is more important than the personal comfort of your targets, you are insisting on your right to contribute to the problem. Not because you are a man, but because you are a selfish person who is allowed to be selfish because you are a man and the current structure is built with your interests in mind, not ours.

          • smhll says

            LEARN that what men consider a “cold approach” is typically uncomfortable for women. LEARN that when women reject the men who approach them they risk receiving a hostile blowback.

            Yeah. If every single man who was turned down for sex was really, really nice about it, we’d live in a completely different world. And in Completely Different World, “sure, I’ll have coffee with you” would be a lot more common. (I predict.)

          • HeatherG says

            What Zilla is saying here is spot on.

            Let’s take the male-female out of the equation and try for a different example.

            In the Roman Empire, it was fairly common for slaves to own other slaves. Or, after they’d earn or buy their manumission, slaves would show how “up the societal pole” they’d climbed by becoming exactly what had previously owned them. In one known example during the late Republic, a former slave owned 4,000 slaves once freed–he’d earned quite a lot of his own money and bought a lot of land. Many slaves treated their slaves worse than they’d been treated themselves (slaves weren’t always treated badly, sometimes they were). It should also be noted that this was also seen at some points during the more recent period of slavery on sugar plantations in the Caribbean: freed slaves would buy their own.

            Slaves also had their own social hierarchy that mimicked the non-slave hierarchy.

            Now, this seems screwed up, because, knowing how it feels to be a piece of property, why would you do it to others? (I would ask the same question to people who have been bullied who then do the same to others, but that’s another subject). The answer is: societal norms of the period/s. Doing what your alleged “betters” do means you get to “fit in”, and by extension, receive the approval of those that hold that norm. At present, the societal norm is that women are judged, often, by their “fuckability”–their worth to a man’s penis. It is pervasive, and girls are bombarded with it — by men and women, advertisers and TV programmes, movies and books — from before the time we’re old enough to read Beauty and the Beast (“he treated her like shyte–but he has a *library* so that’s okay” memes even now promote that, even unintentionally, and most often spread by bookish female friends I know).

            I spend a lot of time gaming, and it’s even worse there (again, another subject)–but worst of all are the females who are so keen to not have to give up their hobby and play with the “approval” of some of the hyperaggressive dominants and therefore experience just a wee bit less harrassment, that they’ll lambast women who ask the blokes to stop it.

            btw, I’m not American (I’m from Australia) and even the fact you’re calling all of this a “cold approach” is ridiculously creepy to me. People really talk like that? Mate, you sound like you’re constantly using your mouth as a sales tool for your dick, even if that is not your actual intention.

  58. Padme says

    No. but in that case I already know the person I’m with is attracted to me, so there is incentive. What GutKaok suggested was for guys to approach girls and make small talk instead of complimenting them when they randomly meet in public and to use that to gauge interest, in that situation I wouldn’t respond because I don’t know if you are bored or interested, and its too much work if you are just bored. But if you compliment me, tell me I’m pretty I will respond. By the time a date happens I’m much more comfortable talking to that person and would be ok talking about anything. A date isn’t a complete stranger, you’ve agreed to be there with them at that time. (I DON’T do blind dates – terrifying)

  59. Padme says

    my reply to you Chucky keeps jumping to the bottom its #59… cant figure out how to get this to work at the moment…

  60. Scott says

    As a male I want to say great article Miri. I agree with everything you said here. I never approach a random woman to hit on her, comment on her appearance, or pursue some kind of romantic/love/sexual interest. Though I’m not afraid to have friendly conversations with women when the circumstances are right and obviously appropriate. And then if mutual flirting happens then so be it and with any flirting, stranger or not a stranger, being able to hear what they are saying, read body language, and know when the flirting is mutual or not is essential.
    I can’t imagine what it’s like to be treated the way women are in our society. The two things that I’ve experienced that are semi-similar are one: being hollered at by the same type of dudes who are yelling at women from car windows except they don’t hit on me they just want to start shit, looking for a fight. It sucks to be walking down the street minding your own business and have some dudes yell some shit at you and want to fight. That obviously doesn’t happen nearly as much as women get harassed but it does happen occasionally. Second, I live in a pretty gay-friendly neighborhood in a big city and I have had the (rare) experience of walking down the street and had a group of gay men cat-call me and stare me up and down as I walk by. Its a little uncomfortable when your walking toward someone and you can tell by that aggressive stare that they are going to say something to you when you walk by. And I know women get that all the time because I see it happen.
    With that said, Miri, the tone of the article does come across as a little bit harsh, stand-off-ish, or cold. I know the situation is harsh but if you want to have more men consider the points you make you might try being more friendly and encouraging with your tone. When people feel attacked they get defensive. Just my two cents.
    Anyways, great article!

  61. says

    I study physics and engineering for my big kid ideas, I do think alot of this is common sense and there’s alot of conflating of the issues with regards to the social sciences (not all, but some). Cold approaching is not imposing on women or their rights (generally men are not the uber confident ass holes doing cat calls, quite the reverse actually, the less-confident men are scared shitless of women and rejection in general). It can and cannot be uncomfortable, you’re basically ignoring the women who either don’t have an opinion either way or who actually like being approached. They do actually run the risk of receiving the hostile blow back, but those assholes who blow up in a woman’s face for rejecting them aren’t men, they’re babies.
    There’s nothing wrong with ‘harping’ on a stranger’s physical appearance, that’s the only thing two strangers who are interacting have to go by (perhaps also body language); no one is a mind reader so until you talk to them you’re basically guessing.
    You’re being too general with the assumption that cold approaching is harassment, learning how to cold approach I never, ever, lumped that action in with harassment. There is no right that I’m insisting on, again, that’s the absolute wrong question to ask. Women should be allowed to approach who they want with no social back lash too, this has nothing to do with being a man. Approaching itself is not the problem, the manner in which approaches are made is the issue and harassment is the problem. False equivocation isn’t solving any problems. If wanting what I want makes me self fish than I guess I am (and any one who want’s what they want) is a selffish person.

    • says

      (generally men are not the uber confident ass holes doing cat calls, quite the reverse actually, the less-confident men are scared shitless of women and rejection in general)

      Acknowledged, and filed as irrelevant. The confidence of a man has little bearing on the potential for discomfort or harassment.

      It can and cannot be uncomfortable, you’re basically ignoring the women who either don’t have an opinion either way or who actually like being approached.

      As well one should. When you have an action that may make a stranger uncomfortable, the priority is on not making people uncomfortable (well, unless you believe your desire trumps the rights of another to potentially be made uncomfortable or harassed).

      There’s nothing wrong with ‘harping’ on a stranger’s physical appearance, that’s the only thing two strangers who are interacting have to go by (perhaps also body language); no one is a mind reader so until you talk to them you’re basically guessing.

      It’s always a guess; and a guess that could go very, very wrong. Thus, if your priority is to meet people while ensuring that you have a minimum chance of causing any discomfort or harassing anyone, you’ll restrict approaches to places where approaching is more appropriate.

      You’re being too general with the assumption that cold approaching is harassment, learning how to cold approach I never, ever, lumped that action in with harassment.

      And yet, I’d bet my income for the next five years that at least one of the women who rejected your cold approach felt harassed, even if it wasn’t verbalized.

      Approaching itself is not the problem, the manner in which approaches are made is the issue and harassment is the problem.

      Indeed! Approaches themselves aren’t the problem, as there are a large degree of different possible approaches. The problem, as you partly mention is harassment and potential for harassment. It’s never possible to get the latter down to zero, but it is possible to minimize it. And cold approaching, simply due to the fact that many women don’t like it in any circumstance, is inherently much higher in aforementioned potential than other types of approach!

      If wanting what I want makes me self fish than I guess I am (and any one who want’s what they want) is a selffish person.

      “Wanting what you want” (and other tautologies) isn’t the problem. I see plenty of attractive women on the street, and sometimes feel a desire to approach them. However, because of the possibility that they may not want to be approached or may feel harassed as a result, I don’t approach them on the street. The problem is when you “want what you want” to the point that you’ll disregard the potential feelings of discomfort or harassment your approach may engender in the woman you’re approaching.

      • says

        ‘Because of the possibility that they may not want to be approached or may feel harassed as a result, I don’t approach them on the street.’
        Ridiculous. If they don’t want to be approached they will make their feelings clear and it is my responsibility as a mature adult to honor their desires. Until then there’s no reason to assume anything. Approaching doesn’t mean you’ve assumed they’re going to be receptive to your advances, and for the final time NO JUDGMENTS ON RIGHTS HAVE BEEN MADE.

        • Benita says

          In a perfect world, women would be free to verbalize their displeasure at being harassed by a man. We do not live in that world. We live in a world where women are socialized to smile and accept even the lewdest of comments less we be verbally or in many cases, physically intimidated by men. I’ve had men grab me and hold me in place because I walked by when they tried to chat me up. I’ve had men follow me to work, hurling insults because I refused to talk to them.

          Whenever you approach a woman you need to assume that she has experienced all of these things and worse because this is the world that women live in and it differs a lot from the one you inhabit.

  62. says

    Well, I’ve had construction workers call down from several floors up on a busy street to tell me, “Great knockers!” I’ve had guys honk and cat-call at me as they drove by. I’ve had a guy swing his car around in the Post Office parking lot to block my path while I was carrying a big, heavy box to be mailed so he could ask me for a date(!). I’ve been physically grabbed on numerous occasions – the whole, annoying, nine yards – and hated every minute of it. But.

    One day, after getting dressed for work and noting in the full-length mirror that my unremarkable skirt hung in just such a way that it made my legs look great, I stepped outside the house and a workman in the street looked up as I was walking by – and with a look of some surprise and maybe a bit of awe paused in his work long enough to say, “Great legs” (with no exclamation point). And he obviously wasn’t trying to chat me up and it was as if the comment had come to his lips unbidden, and it was just an appreciative comment on a pleasant fact. So I smiled and said, “Thank-you,” and continued on to work.

    And it felt good. Not because A Man had provided his approval of my legs, but because a fellow human had said something nice and I was grown-up enough to just thank him instead of reading him the riot act.

    I’ve had other occasions since then where strange men paid me a compliment like that, obviously not trying to chat me up, perfectly happy to on their way and leave it at that. It *can* be done.

    So I do it, too. When I see another woman who is looking good, I say, “That dress looks great on you,” or, “Your hair looks so cool,” or whatever it is that caught my eye – and they smile and say thank you. They know I’m not trying to hit on them, and they appreciate the compliment. It makes everyone smile – it improves our day.

    The trouble with most guys is that they don’t know how to do that – they can’t just say you look good and make it clear that that’s *all* they are doing. Guys yelling down from three floors up with all their buddies are *not* trying to do that – they are performing for each other – but let’s be clear that these are two different things.

  63. opposablethumbs says

    Fine, Chucky, you’ve made your position amply clear. Your right to take any chances YOU want to, so as not to risk “missing the chances you don’t take in life”, trumps the right of random women generally, whose path you may cross, to go about their business uninterrupted and in peace. Notice how YOUR desire is the only one that matters here?

    Why not reserve following through on these desires of yours for times and places where it is more likely that your interruption might not be an imposition – such as bars, parties, dances etc. You know, places/events where people generally go to socialise.

    But no, Chucky must not miss a single chance he wants to take. Women’s right to get through a normal day without being interpellated by some random dudebro (for the nth time) is as nothing to Chucky’s right to act on his desires. Clear as crystal, pal.

    • says

      @opposablethumbs the people I want to meet might not be at the part and dances, I met my first girlfriend of nearly 2 years in the gym, I INTERRUPTED HER WORKOUT and nothing bad came of it (quite the opposite), taking the extreme position that public interruptions are not allowed anywhere isn’t helping your case any.

      • says

        Yo, all I know is, if anyone tries to interrupt my workout when I’m at the gym, I will be absolutely furious because I’m trying to fucking exercise, not chitchat with total strangers, and you’re ruining my concentration.

          • says

            You don’t speak for all women

            Of course not. But you seem completely incapable of understanding that women like me exist, too, and that not all women are like your girlfriend, and that some of us would like to go about our business in peace regardless of whether you find us attractive or not.

          • says

            I can’t reply to certain comments when they’ve become too nested in the comments it seems. I understand women like you exists, else why would I be reading this blog, but if I want to meet a person on the street, making the assumption that they’re all like you would make social interaction very bleak. You don’t speak for all women, yet you’d like to impose rules that would apply to all women. No judgements on rights have been made, I DO NOT ASSUME MY RIGHT TO APPROACH IS ABOVE ANOTHER PERSONS’ RIGHT TO NOT BE HARASSED. I find this line of reasoning and the very question laughable, that isn’t the issue here.

    • barksaidthedog says

      Correction. I realize I may have phrased this ambiguously the first time I wrote it. “telling someone to change their behavior for your comfort when they aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, which is also not ordinarily threatening, is othering.” -a la schrodinger’s rapist.

    • says

      Correction. I realize I may have phrased this ambiguously the first time I wrote it. “telling someone to change their behavior for your comfort when they aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary, which is also not ordinarily threatening, is othering.” -a la schrodinger’s rapist.

      You don’t get to determine for people what “is ordinarily threatening”. Especially not when, especially as regards women, “ordinary” often condones harassment, and sometimes worse. Even more so when “ordinary”, in this respect, is constructed to the point of marginalizing ~50% of the population. To put it another way, it’s hardly “othering” to expect things to become more equitable, when “ordinary” is inherently othering to begin with.

      And you do realize that, if you were attempting to argue for approaching strange women on the street using the schrodingers rapist concept, that it essentially articulates one of the reasons why a lot of women feel uncomfortable with being approached on the street or in the course of a normal day?

      Unless of course you’re arguing against Schrodingers rapist in concept, in which case I’m not sure what to say to someone who believes that women should be required to be telepathic (so they can read strangers intentions flawlessly) in order to preserve the right of men to approach women on the street without regard for the womens potential discomfort.

      • barksaidthedog says

        The last thing you said is closest to what I was getting at. I’ll be back with a response after I get my laundry and cooking for the evening started.

      • says

        Says the one saying men should be telepathic with regards to the women he approaches. Not approaching ever in settings that aren’t social venues isn’t the correct answer and the question of right to approach vs right not to be harassed is a laughable and useless question.

      • barksaidthedog says

        Back, anyway, to clarify, I don’t mean people harassing others, though I think what harassment is needs to be defined for the purposes of this conversation. I think casual conversation has the power to escalate into harassment but I don’t think casual conversation with a stranger is intrinsically harassment, no matter how often it’s initiated and no matter how unreceptive someone is to it. This is coming from a born and bred brooklynite who sees casual conversation as intrusive BUT also sees that my view of this is biased by the social conditions that are inherent to city life (regarding personal space, comfort, etc). If what someone normally does is to start conversation with strangers (which, when it is not in the context of cat-calling or any out of the ordinary vocal behavior, is actually not that weird or unusual in most parts of the US away from the metropolitan centers) then your fear of that encounter escalating into something that could end horrifically for you, should not be an impetus for them to moderate their innocent behavior. That is not to say that women who are unreceptive to any sort of conversation prompt in public from strangers are crazy, like I said.. I’m from brooklyn.. I’m unreceptive to it too.. but that is to say that that is perfectly reasonable for THEM and has nothing to do with the man in the scenario.

        That said, doing whatever the hell I do every damn day is not threatening. This is one of those crucial differences that needs to be understood. Your freakout does not necessitate something worthy of freaking out over. That’s what phobias are about. It’s like the SMBC comic where they illustrate the difference between “it’s offensive” and “I’m offended”. While it is not up to me to determine what is objectively threatening, I think that together, we can determine what makes someone look fricking crazy to be afraid of (ie conspiracy theorists, agoraphobes, etc).

        • says

          So, you think that purposfully disregarding somebody’s apparent lack of interest in any conversation with you is not harassment as such, no matter how fucking often it is repeated?
          So, tell us: Wher do you start harassment starts?
          And while we’re at it: Why should you get to decide that instead of the person who feels harassed?

          should not be an impetus for them to moderate their innocent behavior.

          Wrong. Their behaviour isn’t “innocent”, it’s blantly disrespectful.

      • barksaidthedog says

        I also feel that discomfort is something that is within the realm of an individual’s ability to influence, not by convincing themselves there is no danger (because that’s irresponsible), but rather by truly mitigating the danger that others pose to them. It is often my stance that anyone who feels unsafe in public spaces around other people are within reason in lamenting that they shouldn’t have to feel unsafe in public (the world SHOULD be a better place) but that the responsibility that they have to their own safety is much more adequately met by taking up a martial art.

        • says

          That’s a good idea. Let’s just fuck children and disabled people and elderly people. Hey, it’s your responsibility not to be harmed.
          And we will also fully support you when you break that guy’s nose, right?

          • Bark,thedogsaid says

            [You’re banned. Stop trying to comment here. Run along now! -M]

  64. barksaidthedog says

    What constitutes manipulation (in a negative connotation) isn’t in the act, but the intent. Manipulation (in the neutral connotation) is the intended use of a tactic to create a particular outcome. It’s neither a good thing nor a mad thing, morally speaking, but a phenomena by name. In this regard, Chucky is correct. Everyone who ever even remotely considers the impact of a desired action on another human being and incorporates that consideration in their decision making process, whether it alters the decision or bolsters it, is practicing a low-consciousness form of manipulation. And, in respect to how relationships work, he’s right again but I believe there’s a problem of communication, especially between you two in the course of this thread. Most relationships do work on a principle of low-consciousness sales pitches that are presented verbally and through actions. If someone sees something they don’t like in your sale’s pitch, it will alter their opinion on whether they want to “buy in”. This goes for both genders equally, though the criteria used for judgment may differ.

  65. says

    Nope, still not okay with the relationship-as-capitalist-transaction model of relationships. Part of the reason is that it’s always creepy dudes promoting it, like here on this thread.

      • says

        Wow that rebuttal. Amazing.

        In other news:

        if I want to meet a person on the street, making the assumption that they’re all like you would make social interaction very bleak.

        I truly don’t get it. What exactly is “bleak” about resigning yourself to attempting to fuck only strangers you meet in the coffee shop, the hotel lobby, the grocery store, the gym, the library, the museum, any one of a million zillion bars, etc., etc., etc?

        Seriously.

        Bleak? What kind of world do you live in?

  66. CaitieCat says

    Is it just me, or is someone here just a *little* bit obsessive about asserting their right to their feelings coming before anyone else’s? And is anyone else beginning to speculate about the sort of person who’d be putting this much effort into a SIWOTI that they allegedly totally disagree with and really couldn’t care less about it? How important, one might put it, that it seems to this person to impose their opinion on a group of women they don’t know?

    Just makes you think, sorta, Lady Macbeth style, if ya follow me.

    • says

      I love to argue, I feel alot of the opinions being stated (like the question about rights/feeling coming before anyone else’s, that’s the wrong question to ask) aren’t necessarily wrong but warrant commenting and correction. .

      • says

        You’ve offered no corrections. All you say is that these are the wrong questions to ask. Okay, what are the right questions to ask? And what are the answers? And why are these the wrong questions to ask? And what makes your questions better?

        See, if you could start actually saying things besides cryptic bullshit and painfully obvious things, like not all women feel the same way about X, maybe an actual conversation could be happening. But then, coming from a person who admits that he’d like to “correct” someone (tell it to your Mistress, buddy), I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that there’s really no potential for dialogue here.

      • Benita says

        The problem is that women are here telling you that your behavior can constitute harassment and you feel that they need to be corrected.

  67. Barry Newton says

    I prefer to be a little subversive about the whole thing. If I see a good-looking stranger, my reaction is usually to smile at her. Sometimes she smiles back, and then we both feel good about ourselves. Why does life have to be more complicated than that?

    • barksaidthedog says

      If only everyone thought like this. We could end overpopulation right this instant ;)

        • barksaidthedog says

          Of course not. I also don’t blindly label all approaches that occur in public as harassment. I also recognize that some percentage (which neither of us know,… so don’t even try and ballpark it to strawman me or anyone else) are the result of people who met as a result of a public interaction between strangers…

          You know.. because all of our parents can’t meet in seedy bars, parties, by interrupting someone in a book store or a coffee shop (where they are just as likely, if not more likely, to be engaged in something that they may not want their attention diverted from) or from introductions through friends.

          • barksaidthedog says

            It was a joke. With snark in your tagline, I thought you’d have caught that….

            But it was also to shed light on the fact that, as illustrated by this sub-thread, your opinion on one of the ways in which people have interacted for the duration of human history (and thus a source of relationships which drive reproduction and ultimately the survival of our species) is somewhat askew of the way the world has worked and does work, absent of harassment.

    • Alain says

      I agree to Barry’s approach; a genuine smile is a nice thing to see, from a woman or a man, and is not likely to make them feel uncomfortable. And that doesn’t mean that you’re not hitting on someone; it’s just a harmless -and rather efficient- way of doing it.

      Why are so many men on this blog not realizing that if a lot of women say they don’t like being complimented on their physical appearence because it often lead in their past to abusive comments, harassing behaviors, etc, they may be right? And that this article is making the argument that if a lot of women (add any percentage you want, it doesn’t change the point) WILL feel uncomfortable when complimented by strangers on their body in public spaces -where they feel the most vulnerable- then maybe it might be a good thing to think twice before doing so? And strangers; there are still a lot of things you can compliment them on, and if your goal is to seduce them, it actually might be more efficient if you don’t go down the road that might scare/annoy a good number of them. Right?

      We men have been in control in society for a long, long while, and still are having a hard time handing out some of that control by giving women their deserved place, let alone a safe one. My mother, my sister and lot of my female friends have been sexually abused by men. Often men they knew. So I understand why strange men might feel threatening sometimes, even the good intentioned ones. Now I have two daughters, and I want the men in their lives -or the ones seing them on the street- to be able to be responsible for their actions. Not telling my daughters how they should feel. And it all starts with me, the man in their lives, setting the right example. You go girls.

  68. says

    your opinion on one of the ways in which people have interacted for the duration of human history (and thus a source of relationships which drive reproduction and ultimately the survival of our species) is somewhat askew of the way the world has worked and does work,

    Citation very much needed.
    Please, put up your evidence that men cold-propositioning and generally intruding on women’s time and space are
    A) Sources of relationships
    B) is a necessary precondition to “the world working”
    Please note that “it’s always been like that” isn’t a very good argument, especially if you look at how “mankind” treated women during much of human history.
    But I really like the smell of “you want to end the human race” in the early afternoon…

  69. Taylor says

    I LOVE this piece. I used to walk home from school when I was a teenager and, despite living in a lovely area, I got whistled at and had men yell deplorable things at me from cars or trucks as I walked past. I was born (blessed? Cursed?) with large breasts so the unwanted attention is non stop. The issue is that these men are objectifying women because they know absolutely nothing about me or who I am, they just see boobs. So it doesn’t matter that I’m a human being with emotions or a brain. I’m just a walking pair of breasts. So I started wearing jackets every day when I walked home, even in 90 degree heat, just to avoid the stares and whistles and cat calls.
    When I tell men these stories, it is quite amazing to see how quickly they ALL say “I NEVER do things like that! Who are these terrible guys you keep running into?! It must just be you. I only associate with ‘nice guys'”
    It’s not just me.
    There are plenty of men out there who do this and think it is funny or acceptable.
    Nothing is more violating than a man giving you the up-down or coming up to you to tell you, “hey nice tits”.

    • says

      I did. He left a comment with some creepy threat about REALLY hurting my feelings, and ain’t nobody got time for that. I will not allow threats in my comment section. Sorry you had to deal with that.

      • says

        Thanks for the reply. And I’m not blaming you.
        It’s somehow symptomatic about the whole thing:
        Guy gets told off in one place, guy has uuuuuuuuuuuuurgent need to let a woman know what he thinks, guy follows woman and dumps his shit on her in a totally inappropriate manner.

  70. says

    It’s pretty clear to me what you asset about street harassment, but it is not clear for men, and I live in Latin America. In here, you would have to wear a knife in your chest and a gun in your ass for men to respect you, because I can’t even go to the store near my house to buy a piece of bread without a man whispering dirty words on my ears when passing next to me, or a boy yelling some “compliment” from a car, or an old man giving mea dirty looks. It’s like the Garden of Eden, paradise itself. I tell you, it’s a sad world, a small world dominated by dark men. The thing is that street harassment is just a tiny winkle on the strawberry. If we are to build a new world with justice for men AND women, so that we woman feel we are part of the community, and not just sex toys, or weak people, or fragile roses, or crappy symbols patriarchy have managed to sustain through the ages, we are to understand that we are living in a sexist culture where men are privileged and women are inferior, socially. This statement is too hard to prove, because we are not to fight for legal rights, we are not to fight against constitution “sins” that wouldn’t allow us to study, or work, or talk. We are to fight against symbolic dominance. The symbolic is invisible, because is subtle, you can’t prove it, you just feel it and assume it. It’s the hardest war ever, but it is our duty and our joy to join and support each other. It’s sad to me when I see there’s conflict between feminists, because it only makes the problem worst. We must be solid, united, ONE.
    As far as I am concerned, I will struggle to improve women’s existance, not because I am a woman and I want revenge, but because I see the abominable every single day, and the expressions of misogyny is limitless, and I can’t stand and stare how women are harassed, abused, beaten, raped, killed, everyday, just for being females. It is humiliating and it’s unfair from every point of view.
    I send my best wishes to all of you, and I invite you do proper research on the subject. This blog is a good start.

    God bless.

  71. UpLate2570 says

    I’m liking a lot of things in this article. You address a lot of good points that I agree and to list a few:
    A woman’s fashion and actions are not all done for the purpose of pleasing men.
    Street harassment IS a problem that promotes physical violence and should be put to a halt.
    Men need to understand the effect of their “complement” upon a TOTAL stranger.

    However, my issue here is that the proposed solution is instead of educating men about negative and positive behavior, heterosexual men should stop approaching women who are strangers. You even suggest in your conclusion that if the need to complement someone if so strong, complement a friend who is a girl. My question then is, if men can’t approach women, how do they make these girlfriends?

    I run a very simple Pick-up/Self-Confidence class(which I know has a negative connotation to it, but please hear me out). In my class, I often incorporate ideas that I myself learned from feminist such as why sexual intercourse with a drunk girl is rape, not sex. The very important difference between a sexy woman and a sex object, how to complement, not lay a claim on a woman. The last class I mentioned goes into similar themes you addressed here, how the sense of entitlement some men have for woman is absolute bullshit, how to recognize when a person is uncomfortable, the difference between giving a complement and harassment.

    I review this things with guys in order to educate them on the proper ways to treat a woman because some people think the solution is to stop the interaction with men and women, rather than take the time to educate young guys on how to treat a woman. A lot of young guys are confused by what to do with a girl because of the multiple messages there being sent. For example, this article will tell guys not to complement a stranger because it’s creepy while another article will tell guys to be direct with strangers. As a result, you get this “nice” guy who tries to give an earnest “complement” and ends up losing his cool and calling her a bitch because she rejected him. I like this article, I do, but I think the issue is that guys are taught the wrong way to interact (street harassment), and instead being told this is the wrong way, here’s how you want to do it, they’re told you doing it wrong so just stop. This just leads to confusion and young men turn to “superior” alpha-males who teach them the wrong ways all over again. I constantly have feminist join my sessions just so guys can hear things from a woman’s point of view. How the behavior of men has gotten so terrible that giving a complement puts some girls in the terrible position of trying figure out if this guy is the good, the bad, or the ugly because of previous street harassment. But instead of never approaching a stranger, we(men and women) should teach positive approaches, teach how to recognize signs her being uncomfortable or of rejection, and for pete’s sake, teach a positive way to handle rejection (such as bidding them a pleasant day and moving on). P.S. I’m doing a paper on rape culture and the need of consent in sex education, could I use your article/ maybe have a brief interview over e-mail?

  72. AnOldXu says

    Very well written but…I am slightly confused on a point.

    Are you saying then that you would prefer men-folk to NOT do this? Or are you saying to not get so worked up about being turned aside? Because I have differing reactions to each one.

    The former I doubt will ever change and for that matter I don’t believe it actually should. Some times people DO like this and it DOES work. You can never really tell and so you just have to try. Sometimes it works sometimes it doesn’t. It can explode with someone being outright furious but other times…well let me just say I need both hands to count the number of friends who are engaged to women they approached with something along the lines of “Hi you look absolutely gorgeous I wanted to come by and get to know you better my name is __________ what’s yours?”

    The latter? Indeed! I’m so glad someone finally understands that everyone has a right to say no and question circumstances. Granted, if you will say no give good reasons and as you listed they are all excellent but…..yes in this respect my day has been made significantly better.

    Also there are some cases however, where people are unjustifiably rude in responding. It might not be abuses it might just be a terrible character or some perceived slight that never occurred.

    *NOT* claiming that your above slights are imagined but there are some out there (none of the ones you listed) that are non-existent. All in all though, no matter what point you were trying to get across: a good read!

    • Benita says

      What you are still saying (along with so many men here) is that your right to try and pick up women trumps their right to be left alone. It’s great that so many of your friends have met women and they are in happy relationships. What you aren’t telling us is how many women your friends approached who didn’t want to bothered, who felt threatened, who felt that their personal space was violated. If your friends do this often, I’m guessing that number is pretty high and you are telling us that their personal feelings don’t matter since your (male) friends have met so many women this way.

      • AnOldXu says

        Madam I just wished to point out that no system is perfect. I merely inquire that perhaps another system could be suggested? Because social circles while still a great alternative for some are no alternative as it so happens, The ones they have are not fulfilling in the slightest for a chance at a romantic relationship. I don’t think anyone would say its appropriate to simply drop from one’s social circle because they haven’t a chance at a relationship there and does one simply form those just to find somebody? That would be no different and would in fact be: “I’m only interested because maybe you’ll like me at a higher level.” Which is…..unfortunately how some go about it and is also terrible.

        If one wishes to tear down a system that’s fine and good but please give an alternative. One that fulfills the same purposes but with everyone coming out better off. And if that can be done I’ll support it 100%.

  73. Dmitriy says

    Great article. Many arguments I have thought about, but many fresh ones I have never considered. It would be interesting to see you write about what does make women comfortable and how women like to be approached. After all we do live in a very fast paced society and often it is hard to meet women at work, school because they are much older or married, etc. etc.

    • says

      Hello.

      I want to respond to your comment because I see an angle where I can express you the thought of a woman towards “meeting and dating guys”, I think you are very polite and considered when you say that you want to know more about what makes women comfortable and how would they like to be approached. I can understand you are a person that is willing to meet a woman and start a relationship, because you say it is hard to meet women at work, school because they are much older or married.
      Well, first of all, I’d like to make you know that there’s a huge distance between “dating” and “harass a woman on the street”. You can’t put these two aspects of interaction in the same group, because dating is a social convention where both man and woman agree to go out. But If you approach a woman on the street just out of the blue, and you compliment her, and If she rejects you insult her, you are doing harassment. I believe a citizen has the right to interact with society with liberty and tranquility, and no one has the right to disturb people when walking on the street or any public area.

      Now, I’m going to let you know about my personal point of view of men who approach women with romantic intentions in any public or private area: I think it’s a lack of respect when a guys try to flirt with me just like that whithout even asking me If I want them to do that. I am person who likes being without a relationship, I enjoy my life being on my own, and I find it disgusting when a man thinks he has the right to disturb that feeling.
      So my advice, it’s that you could try being delicate to the woman you care, and ask her If she is willing to accept your compliments.

      Good luck.

  74. Astrid Hope Nelson says

    Miri, thank you for your well-written article filled with so many great turns of phrase I kept picking the next one I read as the best of the bunch. Suffice to say you have many bon mots from which to choose to remember, but I will vote for “You know what sucks more? Yup, patriarchy.” as my takeaway phrase. – Astarid

  75. says

    Comment submitted:
    Hey Miri, I am sorry i do not have any valuable critcism to offer, but i just wanted to let you know that in my opinion this is a great aricle and after reading this i am certain to read more articles on your blog :) ! also this is really funny, it made my day: “If you make it obvious in your comment that you haven’t actually read the post you’re commenting on, I will tell you so and you’ll feel silly.” ( commenting rules)
    best wishes

  76. Revo says

    Great post. Kind of. It’s a bit misandrist and doesn’t seem to really get the male perspective, but it does contain a valuable female perspective. The problem is, the tone of the article makes it all about how men are bad and evil, despite all your disclaimers at the beginning about how you don’t want to make it about how men are evil.

    Here’s a male perspective on the same subject with a similar message, for men:

    It’s unwise for men to compliment women, unless she’s done something super unbelievably amazing. If she’s produced a piece of art that is on par with a mid-level modern master, then it’s OK to say “That’s a pretty good painting.” If she’s a musician or dancer, and you’ve seen her perform, it’s OK to say afterwards something like “I really enjoyed your performance.” But don’t make it about her beauty or looks, because she’s more than a fleshy bag of sexual images. So don’t go there. I know you want to, but just don’t.

    If you meet a woman in public that you’d like to date, don’t EVER compliment her directly, even if you’re interested, even, or ESPECIALLY if she’s hotter than a Miami sidewalk in July. And I”m not even talking about from a “rape culture” perspective, but from a purely pragmatic man’s perspective. It’s just a fact, women respond very poorly to compliments, unless you’re already intimate with her. Look, the entire article above is proof that women hate, hate, hate to be complimented. Repeat, you must already have a deep, intimate, consummated sexual connection with a woman before you drop any compliments for most women, and often, not even then.

    For men who are really interested in a woman you just met and want to have a chance at dating her, unless you are Tom Brady, and maybe not even then, a direct compliment is like telling her you’re a sex-starved desperate loser.

    Your best bet is to approach obliquely, and engage her in conversation about something not directly related to her. She’s walking a dog? Find out about her dog. Relate a story about dogs that is humorous. Talk about the weather, the bike she’s riding, the boots she’s wearing, the books she’s reading, the coffee at the coffee shop, ANYTHING but her.

    Show her that you’re a social human, capable of wit and humor, and (this is key) find out if she is capable of reciprocating. If she is capable of holding normal social interaction, (lots of modern females are not, just as many modern males are not), and provided she tickles your fancy and gives you at least some body language hints that she’s interested, then you can get her contact info, then close the conversation politely, and leave the vicinity, or it will get weird. What to do after that is a worthy subject for many books & articles, but I hope this has given you a way to participate in normal intersexual relations without using compliments or other unappreciated forms of communication.

    • says

      Hello Revo.

      I want to respond your comment because I found it interesting.
      I think it’s necessary for men to know about what women actually feel when a guy compliment her body in the street and then insult her If she doesn’t react submissively. There is great symbolic violence in this act, and I think we can agree that in comtemporary civilization, no human has the right to harass other human in public areas. I think both men and women have the right to walk in the street without anybody yelling at him/her his/her thoughts or opinions about his/her body. It’s a lack of respect and it ofenses human dignity.

      There is a significant difference between being nice to a person and harass the person.

      It’s actually pretty sad that the border between these matters have blurred.

      I also think it’s important to know a man’s opinion on the subject. The way you expressed it was not agressive, which is a good sign.

      I do not have time to write about dating, or intersexual relations, so i’ll just copy a fragment of the response I gave to Dimitry.

      “…Well, first of all, I’d like to make you know that there’s a huge distance between “dating” and “harass a woman on the street”. You can’t put these two aspects of interaction in the same group, because dating is a social convention where both man and woman agree to go out. But If you approach a woman on the street just out of the blue, and you compliment her, and If she rejects you insult her, you are doing harassment. I believe a citizen has the right to interact with society with liberty and tranquility, and no one has the right to disturb people when walking on the street or any public area.

      Now, I’m going to let you know about my personal point of view of men who approach women with romantic intentions in any public or private area: I think it’s a lack of respect when a guys try to flirt with me just like that whithout even asking me If I want them to do that. I am person who likes being without a relationship, I enjoy my life being on my own, and I find it disgusting when a man thinks he has the right to disturb that feeling.
      So my advice, it’s that you could try being delicate to the woman you care, and ask her If she is willing to accept your compliments.

      Good luck…”

      I think no one has the right to impose intersexual relations, there are people who don’t want to be involved romantically or sexually, like me for example.

      Good luck.

      • Padme says

        But how is someone – anyone – supposed to know before they say hi that you don’t want to even talk to guys? Until they at least approach and say hello there is no way of knowing whether they are looking at a girl like you who has no interest or someone like me who is just really shy and wants the other person to make the first move and say hello. You have every right to say no thank you when someone comes to talk to you (be it a guy or a girl – cause it isn’t unheard of now for girls to chat up other girls – at least in the areas I frequent) but unless you want to wear a sign – or insist that others wear a sign that they do or don’t want to be talked to then really you have to accept that other human beings are going to say hi. And Revo specifically said he wouldn’t start by flirting but by attempting a generic conversation, if you aren’t interested say you are busy and move on, but he isn’t imposing himself on you, just being friendly.

        And Revo, you can come chat with me whenever, you are obviously respectful and that is all we should ask for – from anyone of any gender.

        • says

          I concurr you are a little lost on the subject, and I don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable, but I believe there are better ways to meet boys than in the street (clubs, weddings, parties, general social activities…). I think you are right when you say that there wouldn’t be a way to know If someone don’t want to be approached unless you talk to that person, but I also think there are signs like body language, looks, gestures,… I think no man or woman has the right to insist on bothering someone who doesn’t like to flirt, and I say this because apparently a man won’t take a NO for an answer.
          Your comment proves there are different kinds of girls, who would like to be compliment or approached or romanced, …; but I believe a man has to be ready for a NO, and respect it.

          I have read you hate feminists, and it’s sad to me because you owe them all privileges you have now.

          Regards.

          • Padme says

            While those places may be good places to meet people if they were available they aren’t everywhere for everyone. I’m hoping by clubs you mean groups that like the same thing not dance clubs but I will address both: I live in a very rural community, there are clubs for college age kids at the local community college and there are the old timers clubs at the senior center – I fit neither of those categories so those are out. I have joined a big costuming/charity club – its international so I have virtually met a lot of people. BUT there are strict rules against using it for dating purposes and the nearest other members are over an hour from me, not quite my age and married and while they make good friends that doesn’t help. I tried joining the local hiking club cause it is open to all adults but almost all the other members were old enough to be my parents if not my grandparents and that just made it uncomfortable and as they were all retired they scheduled hikes when I wasn’t able to go so open in theory but not in practice to the younger crowd. If you meant dance clubs I am EXTREMELY uncomfortable in them (same goes for bars) and I don’t want to be socializing with drunk people. Weddings and parties require having friends who are getting married (none of mine are, nor are they planning on it any time soon) or who actually throw parties that men would attend – jewelry and tupperware parties don’t count. Those are the parties my friends throw. And social activities in my area consist mainly of the places that have been mentioned here as places where men should NOT approach women: the park, street (main street specifically), the (singular) bookstore, the library, and the coffeeshops/bakeries/diners. These are the places I go to meet people and socialize – if I just wanted coffee I would go through the drive thru or make it at home – but these are all locations that have been specifically mentioned as “do not talk to others” zones. And yet they are the safest places to talk to new people because there is ALWAYS someone else around. And if I’m out and someone that is not interesting (or I’m just busy) comes over and starts to talk to me I just politely tell him (or her – cause honestly I’ve had more issues with women harassing me then men) that I’m busy or not really interested and they (at least the guys in my experience) say ok have a nice day and leave or I walk away depending on where we are. It is that respect upon rejection that we need to focus on, not telling people never to talk to anyone in public.

            And what privileges do I owe feminists? To be told repeatedly that I have the “right” to work and so should be happy doing it, or should look for a more prestigious position when all I want to do is get married, stay home and have kids? To have to worry that the guy that asks me out will expect me to pay for my dinner when he picked the restaurant and it is way above what I can afford on the little work I’ve been able to find? (and yes I fully believe that the guy should pay for everything if he does the asking. If I’m going to ask a guy to dinner it will be at my place and I will be cooking it – out of my normal grocery purchase. You ask you pay and you plan, simple as that.) Or is it to be harassed by feminists who think that just because I’m a woman I must agree with them on all issues and hey why wont you sign this petition or volunteer for this event or donate money to this cause? Cause I have been followed, harassed and yelled after more by women with clipboards incensed that I don’t support their “women’s cause” than I ever have by guys I’ve turned down. And all my good dates, even if we discovered we had nothing in common to go forward on were with guys I met on the street, in the park, bookstore, coffee shop, etc, and all my most horrific dating catastrophe’s were with guys that my girl friends set me up with because they knew their brother, cousin, high school friend, etc would be perfect for me. So I really don’t see any privilege I’ve gotten because of modern feminists. Certainly nothing since WWII has been much of an improvement for me.

          • says

            Hi.

            The reply button is not available in your comment.
            I actually didn’t have the time (or interest) in reading your complete answer, but I get the main points.
            All women and men like you are one of the reasons the world won’t be a fair and better place to live. But it doesn’t matter because history have proved to human kind that justice always lands on proper skies.
            I don’t see the point on replying each imbecile statement you wrote, apparently the concepts you have are nonsense, but even worst, are the most selfish crap I have ever read from a coward woman (yes, I think you are a coward, because instead of choosing your life, life chooses you, it’s much easier adapt than stand).
            My advice is that you can try reading Theoretics in Gender Studies and actually UNDERSTAND it and ANALYSE it. But of course that is a rethorical suggestion, because your will be too busy being a bar code.

            Good luck.

    • says

      Pro-tip: YOU are not “all men.” If you are smarting because some of these things here apply to you, that’s because they apply to you, not because you’re a man.

      And also, it’s not a question of not “getting” the “male” perspective (there you are speaking for all men again), it’s just a question of think it’s a bunch of entitled bullshit.

    • says

      Honestly, where do you get the “misandrist” and “men are evil” stuff from? Like seriously, what the hell? When we talk about misogyny, it’s usually something along the lines of, this guy sexually harasses women so he’s a misogynist. When it comes to misandry, it’s like, Oh this woman made a delicately worded request for men to refrain from harassing women, and pointed out that not all men do this, but anyway it makes a lot of women unhappy and uncomfortable, so please stop–and THAT is misandry? Sounds like anything short of “ALL MEN ARE AMAZING AND AWESOME” could qualify as misandry. Please enlighten us.

    • says

      The problem is, the tone of the article makes it all about how men are bad and evil, despite all your disclaimers at the beginning about how you don’t want to make it about how men are evil.

      Bro, that right there is a pretty good sign that you’re seeing something that isn’t really there. My guess is that you saw that you were reading a feminist blog, expected to find “men are evil” subliminally encoded somewhere in the text, and therefore, thanks to confirmation bias, that’s exactly what you found.

      Talking about how men are socialized in certain ways =/= “men are evil.”
      Suggesting ways for men to be better at taking women’s needs into account when interacting with them =/= “men are evil.”
      Showing that men can be better than this society currently expects of them =/= “men are evil.”

      • says

        I think what you and Sally are missing, and what Revo is getting at, is that while the ethical message in this article is valid, the qualifiers used to deliver that message rely on generalizing male stereotypes to the male population at large. When you said “it’s not fair,” you were on to that a bit. But then you followed with “blame all the other males…” so let me pose a logical comparison: is it acceptable to tell a marginalized group like muslims to blame all the others who have screwed it up for them instead of those perpetuating the stereotypes? Probably not. So why is that an acceptable way to deal with men?

        I definitely think that cat calls and “hot” comments/”compliments” are harassment and shouldn’t be done, but not because it’s acceptable to perceive all men as a probable threat – just like it isn’t acceptable to treat any other group that way. It’s just obvious to me that unsolicited sexual speech (which those “compliments” most often are) is simply rude and uncool no matter who it’s directed at.

        • says

          When you said “it’s not fair,” you were on to that a bit. But then you followed with “blame all the other males…”

          HAHA, now that’s an impressive misreading of what I wrote. What I wrote was, “Blame all the guys who may have harassed, abused, or assaulted her in the past.” For the fact that she’s now afraid of strange men on the street trying to talk to her. Not “blame all the other males.” I think that’s legitimate.

          is it acceptable to tell a marginalized group like muslims to blame all the others who have screwed it up for them instead of those perpetuating the stereotypes? Probably not. So why is that an acceptable way to deal with men?

          The reason white people fear Muslims is because there has been a propaganda machine hard at work in this country to blame violence and terrorism on Muslims. In fact, most mass violence in this country is committed by white non-Muslims. Oops.

          Your chance of being killed in a terrorist attack, by Muslims or anyone else, are about 1 in 20 million. A woman’s chance of being sexually assaulted by a man is 1 in 4 or 1 in 5. Her chance of being harassed on the street is much higher. Although research on the subject is still lacking, existing studies put that likelihood between 80 and 100%.

          So if you’re deathly afraid of being killed in an Islamist terrorist attack, you’re probably buying into conservative fearmongering. If you’re afraid of being the victim of sexual assault, you’re probably buying into reality. Besides, what exacerbates many women’s fear of sexual assault is knowing that they’ll be blamed for it almost no matter what. Who blames the people who died on 9/11 for their deaths?

          Also, Muslims face disproportionate prejudice, discrimination, and even violence (check out all the stories about Muslims getting beaten up after the Boston Marathon bombing) simply because they are Muslims. There are no roving gangs of women beating up men for being men. And in fact, that you would compare the marginalization that Muslims face in this country with the fact that many women are scared of random men accosting them on the street is an indicator of how little you understand about the things you’re trying to talk about.

          • says

            There are roving gangs of people beating non-gender-role conforming men (gay, bi, or just metro). Visit the South, you’ll see it. And I did not mean to imply at all that the plight of the two groups was the same, just that it’s flawed logic to generalize a stereotype based on a few to a whole population.

          • says

            There are roving gangs of people beating non-gender-role conforming men (gay, bi, or just metro).

            EXACTLY. They’re not being targeted because they’re MEN. They’re being targeted because they’re not “men enough.” They’re being targeted because the worst thing for a man to be in our society is like a woman. This is the sort of shit that feminists are fighting day in and day out.

            And who are these non-gender-conforming men being abused and assaulted by? Progressive women who want revenge because they got harassed on the street? Of course not. Mostly by other men, who are threatened by men who are insufficiently “masculine” and try to “put them in their place” to perpetuate traditional gender roles.

          • says

            EXACTLY EXACTLY! Haha this is the exact point I’ve been trying to make the whole time. :) Because a damn lot of the men I know who are “men enough” only are that way because they’ve been programmed and pressured into it… That’s why I’m saying we have to be allies on this shit instead of us and them — I know it can be done right because I’ve seen it done right! I have great feminist friends who know that the more people you include in a discussion about problems that affect us all, the more you get done. And that getting stuff done is actually really freakin’ important to me both as a non-conforming man AND as a father of a little girl.

            (it’s also worth noting, I think, that non-progressive women can often be either directly or indirectly involved in that abuse of “insufficiently masculine” men. Some straight non-feminist women do the abuse themselves [my ex wife for example, was a hitter, and several other cases I’ve known personally from male friends who’ve confided in me], or they egg it on from their tough-guy partners.)

          • says

            (it’s also worth noting, I think, that non-progressive women can often be either directly or indirectly involved in that abuse of “insufficiently masculine” men. Some straight non-feminist women do the abuse themselves [my ex wife for example, was a hitter, and several other cases I’ve known personally from male friends who’ve confided in me], or they egg it on from their tough-guy partners.)

            Yikes, sorry about your ex-wife. This is very true, though. While most of the enforcement of male gender roles that I’ve witnessed is coming from other men, conservative women definitely do it too–by expecting men to pay on dates, by expecting men to “man up” and not show any emotion, by stigmatizing men who seek treatment for mental illness or who choose careers that aren’t sufficiently “masculine,” and so on.

            Because a damn lot of the men I know who are “men enough” only are that way because they’ve been programmed and pressured into it…

            This is actually exactly the point I’m making in my post, where I talk about men being taught from day one that it is their job as men to judge and validate the appearance of women. Most men who want to compliment random women on the street are not bad people, and they don’t realize that their actions are stemming from this deep-seeded belief that women exist for them to look at. In fact, often, street harassment of women is a sort of “performance” that some men do for other men–to demonstrate their masculinity.

          • says

            “Most men who want to compliment random women on the street are not bad people, and they don’t realize that their actions are stemming from this deep-seeded belief that women exist for them to look at. In fact, often, street harassment of women is a sort of “performance” that some men do for other men–to demonstrate their masculinity.”

            Yup. And one thing I’ve been trying to say is I think it’s important to recognize that the harm of these gender conventions goes both ways. Believe it or not, I have had my ass grabbed in bars and at parties, and I have been pinched or cat called in other public places, obviously by women who thought it was okay because “well, he’s a guy, so that means he wants it all the time.” Not so, haha. I also distinctly remember the same ex wife yelling at me for not “doing my duty” when she was pregnant, my-back-hurt/I-simply-was-not-in-the-mood, and she wanted sex.

            But even though this may happen less, what I’m saying is pragmatically for the success of a movement, it’s important to create immediacy in people in the way that only relating a problem directly to them can. That is how the civil rights movement ultimately succeeded, after all. African Americans made powerful allies of some white populations (Jewish people most notably), and those people just so happened to be in a position to help a whole hell of a lot. :)

          • says

            Holy man-rape, Batman! This was not on my radar at all but it’s kind of the exact thing that comes up in such classes as Ed Law, when the subject of assault on men comes up. And the shitty realist conclusion in those classes is “well, the attitudes are A, so it’s basically impossible to prove B.” My reaction to reading it just now was equal parts – 1. “Hey thanks Miri for showing me this, it really illustrates what I try to advocate against from my side.” 2. “Holy shit, someone knows what I am talking about! (cue celestial choir)” …and 3. “Holy shit, I am super pissed now!” Haha but seriously. Wow.

          • says

            I think what disturbs me most about this case is that the arguments made by the “omg it’s not such a big deal stop whining” camp are EXACTLY the same victim-blaming tactics used on women: that he was “asking for it” because his performances are “sexualized.” That he didn’t seem to “resist” so therefore he must’ve wanted it. Yuck, gross. What the fuck are you people saying?!

            One small silver lining is that the sorts of people I hang around have all understood why this is a huge problem. But I choose my friends carefully, so…eh.

          • says

            One other fucked up thing about it is that most state statutes define rape as the perpetrator penetrating the victim. So if instead you’re forcibly taking that penis in, you can’t possibly be a rapist because you didn’t “penetrate.” <– Fucked. To me that kind of loophole seems about as bad as no laws against spousal rape.

  77. says

    I have read quite a few of the comments on this article – not all, since to be frank, life has many beers to be drank, and video games to be played, and paintings to be painted; so I apologize ahead of time if I wind up repeating something that’s already been addressed.

    Call me narcissistic, and flame me if you wish for the following, but as a bisexual male with an overall gender identity to match, I feel that I have a somewhat different perspective than many to offer on these types of gender dialogues. Please note that I did not use the term ‘feminist dialogue,’ nor did I use the term ‘gender monologue.’ I’ll explain why in a bit.

    In my chosen profession (art education), it is absolutely critical to become a keen observer of human beings and learn their motivations. I feel that the practice of this has given me a few insights into broader topics that don’t necessarily directly involve my field. And one thing I have observed from the feminist movement at large, and that this page has only reinforced for me, is the movement’s utter failure to engage men in effective ways.

    Let’s get clear on one thing first: I do feel that basic feminist principles have definite merit. Patriarchy has indeed been a very bad thing for humanity, and so has the assignment and enforcement of gender roles. The problem for feminism as a movement (whose purpose, I can only assume, is to affect permanent social change) has been the choice, whether conscious or unconscious, to address what amounts to half of the problem, and effectively illicit real cooperation from only half the needed actors.

    “Okay,” you say, “this guy thinks feminism is failing at reaching men; well how are we failing and why do we care?” The truth of why you care, or why you should, is simple. Until science figures out how to clone human beings without causing the same problems that inbreeding does, you are stuck with us (males). And you are stuck living alongside a near-equal number of us. That means for all our natural and constructed differences, we have to find ways to cooperate for our survival and well-being. In turn, that means that if you want to change the way society treats you, you have to secure the cooperation (NOT compliance – they are different concepts – compliance is the exact tool of the old systems like patriarchy and chivalry and we know how those stories end) of BOTH sexes.

    So how is the movement failing at doing this? Several ways…

    1. By presenting ethically sound principles via logically fallacious arguments
    2. By failing to recognize the harmful effects traditional gender systems have had, and continue to have on men as well
    3. By engaging in openly hypocritical behaviors and speech
    4. By directly antagonizing men in many cases

    For number one, the examples have abounded on the parts of this discussion I have read, i.e. something like “Do not approach women; we will approach you; if we want to; which is never; and you have to telepathically determine whether this is the case before you ever speak to us; but don’t forget that we are allowed to speak to you whenever we need or want to; this is because you are physically dominant, which we will vehemently deny in other discussions.” If you didn’t catch it, every statement in that bit of paraphrase is based on a logical fallacy of one type or another. Most dangerous is the final bit, because it then leads to “I assume you are physically superior/can take my punches/won’t cry/are made of rubber/are rape proof,” which is used as blanket justification for violent crimes against men – by, guess who, women too. And why don’t you hear about these? Why are they absent from statistical data? Because that data is self-reported. As little rapes and other batteries as we know are reported by women, think about the number that the male gender role, and the attitudes described above, and the fact that in our legal system the rape of a male is nearly impossible to prove have made acceptable for men to report. Common sense tells us the real facts are something quite different. I can tell you for certain that many times I have seen male friends or acquaintances with black eyes or torn skin because their girlfriends or wives hadn’t given a second thought to battering them during an argument – because “he can take it,” of course. That leads me to points two and three.

    Gender roles, objectification, and unreasonable expectations on body image and demeanor are NOT female-only problems. If you think they are, your observations are simply falling short. As I hinted at above, most men grow up pressured out of their minds to be Brock Samson (please google if you’re not familiar). His tear ducts must not function, he must provide all material needs, he must have huge muscles even if his healthy metabolic set-point is something different, he must never discuss his feelings, he cannot wear bright colors, and most importantly – he MUST blindly throw himself into bodily harm whenever the safety, nay, the PRIDE of the women in his life is at risk. Some of you probably just rolled your eyes at this paragraph, and quietly thought “wow, this dude is a wuss.” If you did, you’ve just proved my point. These expectations are EQUALLY as unrealistic and damaging as those peddled by the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. And to assume that only gay or bisexual men are harmed by them is just as flawed. So why are these facts absent from feminist discussions on objectification? And why do many of the same women who write in these forums and give speeches on campuses continue to avail themselves of this system of male protection and material providence?

    I’ve touched on most of point three already, so I’ll simply point to one example from this discussion, in which one of you responded to a male commenter by first addressing him as “dear.” Let’s get one thing straight: if men are not allowed to call you dear, darling, honey, sugar, sweetie, sweet-cheeks, or toots, you certainly aren’t allowed to use those labels on us. Pet names and other condescending speech are just as degrading and insulting traveling in one direction as they are in another. If you want to be taken seriously, please stop breaking the very rules you are professing.

    Three basically leads right into four, but let me take this brief moment to make a blanket generalization (yes, yes…). In general, if you treat someone or some group like they are your enemy, they will be. It is absolutely self-fulfilling. I remember growing up, before I knew anything concrete about feminism, my impression of the movement was that it hated me, plain and simple. It hated me for being born with a penis. I would talk to some of feminism’s worst representatives and simply have any opinion I might pose dismissed as coming from my testicles, or some such. In short, I have actually met and dealt with many near-clones of the bookshop owners in Portlandia, who seemed to have no inkling whatsoever that their behaviors were wrong on a basic level.

    The fact is, people are people. We all deserve the same dignity and respect from each other. That is even what I understand to be the ultimate goal of the feminist movement. Not revenge, but equality. If equality is really your motivation, I know for a fact that you will find many empathic allies in men. But you have to give us a proper seat at the table and a proper voice in this discussion first if you want us to really throw what we have into helping.

    • CaitieCat says

      As a public service, let me present the teal-deer version of the above, for those with better things to do.

      (ahem)

      Oh, you poor foolish girls, if only you had my weighty rationality, you’d be able to see this as clearly as I do. Being a default human, I’m uniquely positioned to speak to this issue: here are a number of ways in which you are clearly wrong, based on these important principles which I have just this moment produced in a flash of transrectal substantiation. Blah blah blah mansplain blah let me tell you about your lives and how unfair you’re being to boners blah blah blah mansplain blah.

      I hope you feel more enlightened now I’ve provided you with the Correct(tm) Way Of Looking At Your Own Lived Experience, And How To Explain It To Default Humans Better.

      You’re welcome.

      • says

        I’m sorry, did you just refer to me as a “boner?” …if so, I have no more desire to participate in these discussions, at least with this group, so congratulations on doing exactly what I just tried to warn against.

        • CaitieCat says

          Seriously? You’re threatening not to hang around condescending to us some more? You don’t really get the concept of a threat, do you?

          • CaitieCat says

            If you’d read the thread before just plunging in to tell us all How It Really Is, you’d have found you’re saying nothing new. And that numbers of your fellow Important Default Humans have already dropped the whole “BUT BUT BUT MY BONER!” many times.

            So no, since your reading comprehension seems to not be at its optimal level today, what I said was that it was being implied (yet again), that guys’ right to listen to their boners trumped their need to listen to what women were telling them about it.

            That defence has taken on an amazing number of fallacies, carefully identified by lots of feminists in the thread above. Your most recent strawfeminist? Not even the most interesting, and a long way from original, even in this thread, leave alone the number of times we’ve all heard your tired whines before in our lives.

            Seriously. Flounce already, will ya? You’re not adding anything, and you’re not trying to learn anything.

          • says

            For it to be a strawperson argument I’d have had to make something up and attack that, instead of calling out behaviors that I watched you, Sally, and a few others doing right here on this page. Strawperson =/= rebuttal. Nice try though.

    • Padme says

      This woman agrees with you completely, Brett. I hate the cattiness of the feminist movement, people need to just work together as people. And when and if we stop saying this is a guy thing or a girl thing then we might have some actual dialogue and understanding.

      But sorry, the pet names stay. I call everyone Sweetie or Honey – especially other women – BUT I also happily respond to the same and I don’t think of them as condescending but a good way to cover forgetting the person’s name (cause I’m HORRIBLE with names). I think its all in the tone that goes with them than the actual word. After all no one gets upset when the little old lady or gentleman next door asks for help with something they just can’t physically do anymore and calls you dear for doing so. I would use “dear” but I just cant pull it off, it is just such a grandparent type word and can sound condescending from someone younger.

    • says

      Here’s the thing with concern/tone trolling and telling writers/activists how to be writers/activists.

      Actually, here are the multiple things.

      1. The fact that a given rhetorical approach does not work on you is not, in and of itself, evidence that it shouldn’t be used because it doesn’t work on anyone. Different people respond best to different argumentation styles. Some people need more hand-holding that they’re going to get here. That’s fine; there are other spaces where there is more hand-holding. Some people respond well to much harsher tactics than I ever use here–for instance, PZ Myers’ blog, Pharyngula. Someone once told me that it was PZ and his harsh commentariat that made him abandon his anti-feminist beliefs. Yup! Different strokes for different folks.

      I’ve convinced many people of many things in the short few years I’ve been blogging. I’ve also failed to convince many people of many things. That’s okay. Either those people are best convinced by a different strategy, which I’m sure they’ll find their way to eventually, or those people are just too set in their views to be convinced. Yes, that’s a possibility, and I fully accept it.

      If you are not satisfied with the style used in this space because you think it’s too harsh, you are welcome to start your own space, whether it be a blog, a forum, a subreddit, a meatspace discussion group, you name it. I will warn you, though, that hand-holdey spaces for anti-feminist men can go very, very, rape-apologetically wrong, à la the Good Men Project. But if that’s your passion, give it a shot.

      Regardless, what is under discussion in this post and its comments are the ideas I’ve laid out in the post–not my writing style, not my tone, not anything else related to how I do what I do. Not only is that simply off-topic, but also, I did not ask you for advice on my writing style and tone and activism. That’s not to say that I never solicit or accept such advice–I do, but from fellow writers and activists who know what they’re doing. I promise you that there is plenty of discussion going on inside feminist spaces on how to reach men/non-feminists and all sorts of other issues that we face as a movement.

      One reason you may have received such a hostile response from my commenters is because you don’t seem to realize that 1) we discuss and debate this issue vigorously on our own, and 2) you are not the first person to come in here and offer us unsolicited advice on something we have more experience with than you. I’m sorry if that sounds rude, but that’s how it is. You are not the first person to do it on this post, you are not the first person to do it on this blog, you are not the first person to do this on ANY online feminist space, you are not the first person to do this in the history of the movement. And, by the way, if you look at the history of the feminist movement, you’ll see that it’s been massively successful despite people from the very beginning being all like “BUT HOW ARE YOU EVER GOING TO CONVINCE MEN IF YOU ARE SO ANGRY.” Somehow, we did it. We got the right to vote. We got anti-employment discrimination laws passed. We made marital rape a crime. We made abortion and birth control legal. We got Title IX. We will end street harassment, too. Maybe not this year. Maybe not even this decade. But we will end this shit. Promise!

      2. You may be misunderstanding what it is I do here. My aim with this blog is not to convince every single viciously anti-feminist man to be a feminist. In fact, it’s not to convince any viciously anti-feminist men to be feminists, although if I get a few then that’s great. If that were my goal, though, I would’ve burned out years ago, because it’s very rare that that happens. Not because I have the “wrong” style or techniques, but because that depends mostly on the person being convinced and not on the person trying to convince them.

      And, yes, the title of this post literally addressed men; that is, it was written in second-person. That’s because I would like men to read this post and think about it. But also, because it’s a good rhetorical strategy that gets attention. A post titled “Why I Personally Believe Men Shouldn’t Tell Random Girls On The Street That They’re Hot” is clunkier and less attention-grabbing, and also sounds kind of dumb. That’s all there is to it.

      So, if I don’t write in order to convert people who vehemently disagree with me, why do I write? To give people things to think about. To provide people who agree with me but lack the words to express it with arguments they can take away and use elsewhere. To show people who struggle with the same things I struggle with that they are accepted, understood, not alone. To tip the people on the fence over to my side. To inform people of things they didn’t know about before. To have fun.

      Accordingly, the way I judge my own writing is not, How many people did I convert?

      It’s, Have I expressed myself clearly and eloquently? Have I stayed true to my own values and opinions? Have I given people things to think about? Have I made people who are struggling feel a bit better? Have I taught them something? Did I have a good time writing this, and did people have a good time reading it?

      So, not only are you giving me advice that I did not ask for, but you’re also giving me advice that I don’t actually need.

      3. You, and many other commenters, claim that I and those who agree with me don’t “understand” the male perspective or don’t “take it into account.” Oh, but we do. It is impossible to be a woman in this world and not “understand” the male perspective. The male perspective is on TV. It’s in the papers. It’s the professors giving our lectures at school. It’s our fathers, and our mothers who echo our fathers. It’s shouted at us on the streets. It’s provided without solicitation in every space we ever enter, including the online spaces we try to create for ourselves.

      You cannot be a woman in a patriarchal society and not understand men. But you can be a man in a patriarchal society and not understand women.

      This blog is not a space where I have to provide anyone’s perspective but my own. While there’s much more to me than being a woman, one thing that I’m definitely not is a man. You will not see the “male perspective” in my writing, and nor should you.

      Some excellent resources:
      A Few Things To Stop Doing When You Find a Feminist Blog

      Derailing For Dummies

      Geek Feminism on the tone argument

      Geek Feminism on concern trolls

      • CaitieCat says

        Well-said, Miri. Our movement needs angry old harridans like me, and it needs bright snarky young women like you, and all the other kinds of feminist there are, including men who are feminists or feminist allies. But this space is what you want it to be, and should produce work you are proud of. It explicitly does not have to fulfill the role designated for it by visitors, particularly visitors who condescend to us and pat us on the heads and tell us How It Really Is. It does not have to be a space where not being an outright jerk should be expected to result in a shower of Social Justice Cookies.

        It is deeply uncomfortable for men to encounter women who are unapologetically feminist. We are inevitably shrill, ugly, man-hating viragos who have nothing useful to add to society.

        To which I always say, “Hey, if we’re so useless…why are you spending so much time and energy on telling us how wrong we are?”

      • says

        All I can say in this case is I suppose it boils down to “to each her own.” You both make fair points in these last two about how it’s up to the activist how she/he wants to conduct her/his business. It absolutely is. And it’s true that there exist a small (REALLY small, but I’ll get to that) subset of people who learn best by being yelled at, based on a Stockholme-syndrome-type principal at play there. I would argue three last things about this if I can though:

        1. Since I am someone who studies the actual science of teaching and learning on the regular, I really can speak a little bit to what works for the vast majority – and the overwhelming research conclusion is that negative reinforcement (i.e. hostile tone) mostly teaches a person that they don’t like you. Like you said, there are minority cases, but it’s a tiny tiny minority.

        2. It certainly is your blog, Miri. For consistency sake, though, and maybe so you get less well meaning ‘trolls’ like myself, might I suggest you scrub your comment policy page a bit for clarity. I obviously had a way different interpretation of, say, bullet points 2 and 9 on there than what you really want from your visitors.

        3. I might also argue a different view of the history of successes like suffrage, and Title IX of The Education Amendments of 1974, which to my view came out of strong alliances with groups like the Civil Rights Movement, philosophical conversion of senators and congress members and presidents (who I guarantee did not respond to angry yelling), and careful court challenges based on constitutional law. In that view of history, the yelling at people had done absolutely nothing to change things, but the careful diplomatic approaches did.

        • says

          Crap I forgot one. I would also contend that the “male perspective” you get on television and other media is a highly caricaturized one, and not to be trusted, any more than Hannah Montana could be trusted for reliable information on the experience of adolescent girls.

          • says

            Gosh! I just keep thinking of more stuff! …I have to say something about your suggestion of starting my own — I think it’s a great one, and I agree that the more different styles out there the greater your overall likelihood of reaching someone with that learning style (I still am not a huge fan of the results of the yelling style though, haha). At any rate, much of my studio art practice is propaganda based, so that could fit right in…

          • says

            Re: TV, no, you assume I watch shitty sitcoms with bumbling dads or something. I watch shows with complex male characters who struggle and learn and mess up and do good. None of the shows I watch have characters who seem unrealistic to me. Of course, TV is not a full picture of anything in any case, but I have all those other sources of male perspectives that I mentioned.

        • says

          Valid, except I don’t yell at anyone or call anyone any expletives. I have a strong, forthright style, but I’m careful not to throw around insults or try to shout people down. My tone is not “hostile” by ANY stretch of the imagination, and the research you mention concerns open hostility. It also concerns meatspace, since very little research has been done on tone on the Internet, and it’s best not to just assume that it’s the same as in-person.

          • says

            Also valid. It’s entirely possible that the data could come out different from a study design that focuses on the online environment. And you are certainly not who I’m referring to with the open hostility stuff. You seem to be fairly consistent in maintaining some basic respect. Injecting some snark here and there, but maintaining basic respect. I hope I’ve been making that acknowledgement as clear as I’ve been trying to.

          • says

            Oh and you may have noticed that on your other thread I’ve tried to somewhat make up for my part in derailing this main topic by backing up the similar main topic there (since like I’ve said, we actually agree on it in principle in the first place). Not looking for pats, but I do try to fix something whenever there’s a possibility I broke it. I do want to say though that the “tone argument” argument as laid out in that wiki can be a slippery slope to ignoring people with legit complaints about how they are being treated. For instance non-he-men like me have no perception of privilege whatsoever when commenting in a feminist space. I fully came in here with the opposite perception that y’all own this mofo, which then makes it frustrating to get little or no backup when being cursed and gender slurred out for trying to stop other guys from getting cursed and gender slurred out. It also seems dangerous from a credibility standpoint to rely too heavily on feminist wikis to back up points made by a feminist — the logic gets looking circular. Again, not presuming to tell you what to do, just giving a heads up that that perception did just cross my mind.

          • says

            Yeah, the tone argument isn’t always a non-starter. Articles like that are intended to explain why it often can be, or will be perceived as such. The reason I link to a feminist wiki is because that’s where information on such things is likely to be found. Saying that I shouldn’t link to a feminist wiki to explain feminism to you is like saying I shouldn’t link to a psychology journal to explain psychology. It’s completely irrelevant. If you automatically assume that a source is not credible simply because “feminism” is in its title, and not because you’ve actually evaluated the content of the source, well, that’s your problem. And I don’t argue with people who play that game.

          • says

            Oh and heads up, I’m getting a 404 for “A Few Things To Stop Doing When You Find a Feminist Blog.” Not to keep derailing, but I figure the milk is somewhat spilled at this point.

          • says

            Okay. I appreciate the thing about walking into a grad course and spouting 101 stuff, but to be honest that is sort of difficult to determine when you click in from a facebook stream. Just like if I’m a physics major or something, unless there’s that class schedule somewhere on the door, or some indicator in the conversation, or I know the people already, I’ll have no idea whether it’s grad studio art, or painting for non-majors. And if the statement then is that all feminists are super advanced in their craft already, I think you know that’s not the case either. I think the reason a lot of guys feel compelled to bring this shit up in conversations enough to make such bringing up its own blog-worthy topic, is that not every self-declared feminist we meet is all that educated on feminist theory, or for that matter even remotely aware of intersectionality or PHMT. So the reason your reputation can’t precede you is that we’ve been told absolutely nothing about you as individuals prior to reading stuff that’s missing the same stuff that a lot of those campus discussions are, where some of those kids really don’t have a clue that there are multiple facets to some of those issues.

            Where I fell down is that I have only ever engaged in discussions on gender and feminism in the analog world (though I have done some of my research from scholarly sources online, obviously). So this particular set of geek conventions is new to my particular brand of geek. I’m trying to quickly assimilate though.

            One thing: “men will not be attacked for acting as men.” – not always true from what I’ve seen. Within patriarchal systems, I’ve seen plenty of examples of non-feminist and feminist women alike getting fighting mad (and I do mean fighting) at men for engaging in those stereotypical “man” behaviors. Plenty of other times, it’s done via relational aggression and not direct physical (kinda like what we talked about with the conservatives and gender enforcement).

            That brings me to the wiki thing: what I really meant to say is that yeah, feminist terms are best defined on feminist sources; that seems like a given. But I think my perception a little while ago was that it was being used as more of a justification than an explanation, and when we get to justifications for actions that affect others, that makes me think that epistemology gets really crucial. Just like if I were conducting a message board on why Playstation kicks the shit out of XBOX, I would personally feel the need to have a strong rational/epistemological basis for principles that I’d use to justify any possible flaming or banning of XBOX fanboys/fangirls, other than well, you talked about PS3’s small amount of RAM, which I don’t like because I’ve heard it a million times, and read this wiki on why if you do it here you’ll get verbally drawn and quartered. That’s all I’m saying. It’s giving people a reason to understand not just why your attitudes are such, but why that affects them in the way that it does.

            I also have a sincere question for you if you’ll lend me an answer. I get the basic concept of privilege completely, but I have real trouble reconciling that with the fact that I’ve lived a life completely devoid of any specific advantage I can remotely think of when compared objectively to anyone else. Is that just because I’m queer do you think? Or because I have that identity and have lived in mostly conservative areas? Or can the privilege concept be over-applied ever?

          • says

            I also have a sincere question for you if you’ll lend me an answer. I get the basic concept of privilege completely, but I have real trouble reconciling that with the fact that I’ve lived a life completely devoid of any specific advantage I can remotely think of when compared objectively to anyone else. Is that just because I’m queer do you think?

            Privilege is best understood as a system of interacting benefits (or disadvantages). When people in a feminist space talk about “privilege,” they usually mean male privilege. All other things being equal–this is the important part–you are at an advantage relative to a woman.

            Of course, that’s only useful theoretically. In practice, gender isn’t the only thing that matters. Race, sexual orientation, gender expression, gender identity, (dis)ability, religion, skin color (within race), class, weight–all these things make a difference. (This is what feminists refer to as “intersectionality.”)

            Are you more privileged than a white, upper-class, straight, able-bodied, Christian woman? Probably not. Are you more privileged than a lower-middle-class, queer Latina woman? Probably. And your being male is only one of many ways in which you are more privileged than this hypothetical woman.

            Many men have trouble understanding or accepting the concept of privilege because they do not feel that they have much of it. On one hand, this is true–men can be poor, men can be disabled, men can be non-white, men can be queer. On the other hand, privilege often remains unchallenged because it is invisible. If you are white, you don’t spend much time thinking about the fact that you never (or almost never) get stopped by the cops for absolutely no reason, searched, and subjected to harsh questions. If you are a man of color, this is something that’s almost certainly happened to you, and a problem of which you are very much aware. Likewise, if you’re a man–unless you’re very visibly gender-nonconforming–you don’t have to worry every time you go out alone at night that someone will harass you, that someone will rub up against you on the subway platform and make disgusting sounds, that someone will follow you down the street yelling at you to come back to him. All of these things have happened to me and most other women.

            But this probably isn’t something you think about all the time. It’s natural that you’d think more about the ways your life can be challenging, not about how lucky you are to not get followed down the street by strange men all the time.

            I guess another way of looking at it is that a man can very much have a really difficult life that’s almost devoid of any privileges. But if, hypothetically, this same man with these same circumstances had instead been born a woman, her life would be even more difficult and even more devoid of privilege.

            This is why privilege is best used as a theoretical concept. It’s impossible to “measure” it. It’s impossible to know, for instance, whether you have more total privilege than me, or whether I have more than you. This is true regardless of whether or not you’re queer, actually. Even if you weren’t, we still wouldn’t know.

          • says

            And for the record, I am quite visibly non-conforming, at least to the conservatives I live around and those that raised me (and those I served with in the Corps). I wear rainbow colors and tight things and my speech is quite soft and sing-song at times. Those are inborn things that make me happy with myself, but they do result in some fairly regular downtalk, harassing language sometimes leading to physical threats, and homophobic outbursts from random teenagers.

          • says

            Yeah. :/ That’s where the concept of passing privilege comes in. Some queer folks “pass” and others don’t, so someone with the same orientation as you might still be relatively better-off if they get noticed less. Or, someone just like you could be living in Chicago’s Boystown where everyone’s like that and you wouldn’t stick out.

          • says

            ‘Kay… After a bit more thinking, here’s where the idea runs into trouble again with me. First, you’ve probably heard a half kajillion times — that perfect world scenarios (‘all else being equal’) don’t really exist anywhere, thus they are unobservable, thus theories based on them are limited to the same sort of speculative reasoning as quantum physics — so I won’t dwell on that bit.

            The thing that worries me more is that the basis (at least for the violence and bodily autonomy aspects; historic political/economic privilege is undeniable; some current economic privilege is undeniable) seems to dwell more on the types of violence that women are more likely to experience. Case in point, about 1% of American women are war veterans, as opposed to about 13% of American men (a comparable sex difference to the statistics on rape and sexual assault that have already been quoted here, and that I went and verified ’cause I’m just that freakin’ thorough); and that’s not counting those (of the same generations) who were killed in combat or are no longer living for other reasons. We also know that direct combat roles have only opened to women very recently, and only a teeny tiny percentage of female service-members have even taken the DoD up on that offer. In countries with compulsory service laws for men, I expect these differences would be even starker. Now, not all war veterans have experienced the violation of having their bodies ripped up by weapons, but *most* have experienced the horror of witnessing it happen to someone next to them and/or being forced to inflict it on someone else. And the continued stress of living under that probability seems comparable to the stress women describe when living under the probability of sexual assault during those highly likely age ranges. Both are well known to cause severe PTSD, depression, substance abuse, suicide, and a whole range of other sociological problems.

            Historically, the trend only gets harsher, just as it does for bodily autonomy of women. In World War II for example, there were an astronomical number of men who either enlisted from a sense of duty or were drafted, and the whopping majority of those men directly experienced combat. So in the end it seems hard to swallow that one sex or the other is more subject to horrific violence, even all other things being equal, when you look at the facts longitudinally.

            It seems likely from talking to you so far that you might very well have encountered some form of this followup query before, but I’d be interested to read your take on it.

          • says

            Also my OCD won’t leave this one alone:

            “the research you mention concerns open hostility. It also concerns meatspace, since very little research has been done on tone on the Internet”

            There’s actually a significant body of research emerging on the very closely related concept of cyberbullying, which is basically defined as anti-social online behavior (hostile tone would fit into that category). It’s mostly being done by the Ed Psych field, which is why you may not have encountered much of it (Basically cause we’re concerned about our little millennials jumping off the school roof over somebody’s online insults [or other online crap]).

            Here’s a good source I found that draws on a few studies:
            http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/casp.2139/pdf

      • canadian psychotherapist says

        Thank you Miri for the links. They are very helpful. From what little I have already read, they explain so much of my interactions and frustrations in dialogues with men in the past. And although I have always considered myself a feminist, I can see now not only how much I have to learn, but how helpful it would be to know my experiences are common concepts with terms to explain them. This all also makes me realize that I may very well be in the Feminist 101 camp so I will refrain from any further posting to prevent any risk of unintentional derailment of the primary topic. However, I just wanted to say a big thank you.

  78. says

    Hello all, I’ve read the original post/article and been reading the comments, or at least most of them. Now I am not saying I speak for all men, actually I know I don’t. Nor am I saying I speak for some men. I am only speaking for myself, and well, I really have no idea why would any man want to go up to a woman – a total stranger – on the streets and tell them they look beautiful. It’s so strange. Maybe it’s the whole Hollywood thing where people suddenly fall in love in movies after bumping into one another on the streets. But eh, that’s fiction, ya know. Besides, I always feel that if a woman is beautiful, she doesn’t NEED me to tell her that she is beautiful.

    Anyway, reading this blog and the comments have made me think of my own approach to women on the streets, or rather to women who are strangers. Well, the thing is, I don’t. I don’t approach women and I don’t try to strike conversations with them. I think over the past 15 years, I’ve only initiated a conversation with a woman 3 times, and each time was about a book. But those were moments of temporary insanity. And no, I didn’t ask for their numbers or anything. Conversation over? Well, it’s over.

    But yeah, I am not saying my way is right, and I don’t claim to be a great guy. To be honest, sometimes I wonder what it’ll be like to be approach a woman in a bookstore and just strike up a conversation when she is browsing. But well, I suppose for me, everything works in a set formula which I will summarise as such – a: If she wants to talk, she will come over and say hi. b: she does not come over and say hi. c: she doesn’t want to talk. d: I am not worth talking to. e: If I am not worth talking to, why should I want to impose myself on others. f: therefore, the best thing to do is to not approach her.

    Like I said, it might not be the right way or the right formula. But I don’t think I’d run the risk of being accused of street harassment. Oh and by the way, I don’t look or check out women either I hate it when people stare at me, and I try to not do the same.

  79. says

    …I also want to point really quickly to something that’s been bothering me in these posts, and that’s pet names. I talked about this in my first big comment that I can only assume was mod rejected due to length and general ranty/preachy-ness. But the thing that bothers me is pet names. I’ve caught several posters here using them several times toward the male posters and I have to say that this sort of condescending speech is just as degrading/offensive going one way as it is the other. If you don’t want to be addressed that way, please don’t address others that way. I think little things like this have real potential to harm feminist causes by alienating potential allies.

      • says

        Miri I respect your efforts to keep order in your blog, but I’m just not sure how any of what I’ve said constitutes trolling. I disagreed with some of the fundamental approaches here, and tried to lay that out for the group logically. If that comes off as egging people on, I just don’t know what to say/do about that.

        • CaitieCat says

          Maybe you should try reading more and writing less. Like the link Miri gave you, which clearly explains what concern trolling is, and how you’re doing it. The teal-deer version is, don’t tell people what to write about, or tell them how to be angry. You don’t know shit about this, and you’re not the special number one snowflake who ever thought of telling us how if we were only nicer, we’d get more converts.

          That’s what she was saying. Oddly, since you didn’t just go read it, teal-deer makes it longer, because I have to tediously explain to you something you could have educated yourself on. Which I’m guessing, as a self-appointed Prophet of Rationality, you’re not really into anyway.

          Don’t hurt yourself flouncing, k? We don’t want anyone saying we’re manhating cause you let the door hit you…

          • says

            I did read it and still mostly thought the same way, thanks.

            “The danger, of course, is that not everyone with a concern is a concern troll – and not every concern is unreasonable. In environments of genuine groupthink, applying the concern troll label may serve as a means of enforcing conformity and punishing (or silencing) dissent. And even without actual groupthink in play, many Internet posters find dismissing an argument much quicker and easier than evaluating it. In addition, the term “concern troll” focuses not on what the person is actually saying, but on some alleged “secret real agenda”. Thus, it is the perfect refuge for someone who has no counter to the actual argument: simply ignore the points made, allege some other position, and then accuse the other person of lying if they deny that that is what they’re really saying. It’s a combination of strawperson and argumentum ad hominem: make up something to attack, and ignore their actual points on the basis that since the points were made by someone acting in bad faith, they need not be addressed. “

          • says

            Also I never ever claimed to have exclusivity on those points, which I tried to express as sincerely and politely as I know how. I just saw that they were conspicuously absent from a post that should have at least included a nod, if it was trying to communicate to an audience that includes me. If the article was meant to just be a one-sided vent of anger as you say, then it’s completely different and it doesn’t matter at all to me how someone goes about that.

  80. says

    Well this is the last I’ll say before I “flounce.” So rejoice when it’s over, I guess. Either you want constructive discourse, or you don’t. Either you’re open to the criticism that comes along with it, or you’re not. I had indeed read a lot of the comments that you, Caitie, referred to as defending harassment by invoking “boner-shame.” Not only were my my arguments, that you mostly interpreted as “blah blah blah,” completely substantively different, they were trying to make the damn near opposite basic point — that nobody deserves to be harassed, so if we’re talking about harassment, let’s talk about harassing PEOPLE, not just women. Miri, you gave me statistics which I appreciate, but let’s please not always rely on those to tell us the real truth since, like I tried to say before you guys dismissed everything I said as ‘typical’ male condescension, you as a fellow student of the social sciences should know as well as I do that self-report data is EXTREMELY unreliable when social taboos dictate a certain view of events.

    So, again, bottom line is you either want fairness and respect for everyone (which takes consensus, which means making friends instead of berating people), or you want revenge and pet names. You can’t have it both ways. And people like me who actually can write in that academic style that you find so condescending could offer a helping hand to affect change, if you’d stop actively telling us to “flounce.”

    • says

      You know what else would be a welcome change, besides less sexual harassment? Less mansplaining by ignorant arrogant dudebros about sexual harassment. So, your leaving actually fits pretty well into that framework of positive change. Ta!

      • says

        Dammit, I just keep getting pulled back in. If you think you can insult someone freely without that person responding, that is interesting.

        You don’t know me. I am an A student senior at a major research university, not an ignorant arrogant dudebro. And I guess because I am a man you can write any opinions that aren’t yours off as “mansplaining?” That is ignorance. That is sexism. By all means keep living your life this way and wonder and shake your fists at the sky at why no one will like you or sympathize with anything you say or want to accomplish. Best of luck.

      • says

        It’s cute how he thinks that A students at major research universities are a set that never overlaps with ignorant arrogant dudebros, n’est-ce pas?

        • says

          It’s cute how you think that dropping a little French makes you sound more intelligent than others. Society’s kind a’ been there already: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm. Oh, wait, oh crap — George Orwell was a man so you’re going to tune him right out… Well anyway, I don’t know what university you go/went to (none?), but at mine, the stupid frat boys squeak along with ‘B’s from the professors who were in frats themselves, and ‘C’s or ‘D’s from everyone else. You see there’s this thing called authentic assessments that you do in college, where there aren’t any more multiple choice answers and professors get to see whether or not you’re full of shit.

          Just by the way, I’m well aware of what you two have meant all this time by “default human” and “dudebro,” and “straw” this and “mansplain.” I get linguistics too, AND I was conceived with a Y chromosome! MIND BLOWING! I’m just not five yours old so up till you just dropped it to that level, I didn’t feel the need to go there …See I’m pretty sure the reason you two chose me out of all the other hapless guys you’ve already chased out of ever participating to start this flame war is, first, I didn’t start delivering my observations by apologizing for said chromosome. That must have been awful. Second, I didn’t approach the subject of feminism, which I’m actually rather into, as a mystical magical art the only women can possibly be privy to. That must have stung as well, sorry. Well, not sorry, because it’s actually an extremely broad and well disseminated umbrella of philosophies which have been around for over a century giving academics like myself every right to study and analyze and comment on it. So thanks but no thanks for trying to claim it all for yourself. And here’s another shocker for the ages: my motivations are actually to help because I have a three year old girl and I will be super pissed if she has to deal with all the same bullshit my generation is hashing out. So it’s a damn good thing I have thicker skin than most of the guys I’ve watched you deal with on here, because the most you’ll ever get out of them now is some quick public lip-service and then they’ll turn right back around and trash you back to the stone age with their buddies. And how do you think those buddies will behave in the privacy of a voting booth? That what you want? Cause you’re on the right track if it is.

        • says

          J’ecris comme je parle, selon l’avis que ma mere m’a donne il ya longtemps. De temps en temps, j’ecris en francais, par ce que c’est comme ca que je parle. C’est-ce qui arrive quand on parle francais. If you think I’m doing it to impress you or anyone else with my intelligence, that’s a reflection of your insecurity.

          • says

            Well if you are truly bilingual, blame the pseudo-intellectuals like those mentioned in the Orwell essay who ruined that for you. *grins at the delicious irony of previous statement in the context of this thread* …Call me crazy but I’m pretty sure schoolyard asides like “it’s cute how he thinks…” pretty much reek of defense mechanism themselves, there, Sally.

            (guess I have to say this real quick since I made the joke — I don’t disagree with the past trauma concept as a reason to leave people alone/not make sexual comments/compliments; I have, however, argued that other angles might be better suited to persuade various groups of men.)

          • says

            Look, and this is for you and Caitie, I probably could have been less preachy when I first stumbled in here from facebook. But the first thing I noticed after reading the article was Sally and Caitie completely jumping down some guys’ throats for not understanding Miri’s position quite yet. And the basic thing about me is I don’t like a bully, no matter how good that bully’s intentions are. So I typed up the rant about relating problems directly to people (in this case men) in the hope that next time someone could patiently help these guys to understand why this shit is important to them. I’m glad to see that’s what’s happening on Miri’s more recent guest post, so thanks for that. (No, that’s not me trying to take credit either).

          • CaitieCat says

            Except, as usual, you’ve missed the point.

            You’re not the first goober who’s come along and been condescending to us. Nor were the first posters. \

            Sally and I have both been doing this for a good while now. We’ve encountered LOTS of guys who just want to have a nice intellectual wank session over something that is very personal, and very important, to us. So, your jumping in to defend them from bullies? You didn’t know the whole story. Which has been our point all along: don’t come along and make haughty pronouncements about how we should do our activism. There are plenty of nice, friendly feminists out there to make cuddle-talk with you. We older, battle-scarred campaigners? We haven’t got TIME for your bullshit anymore, because we’ve seen it a thousand times before.

            Think I’m exaggerating? I’ve been a feminist activist since high school in the early EIGHTIES, thirty years ago. I’ve been doing it online since 1992, when I got started on the BBSes, before moving to the Internet a couple of years later.

            That’s thirty years of experience talking to you. In thirty years, think I’ve not encountered 34 blustering fools who wanted to tell me how Life Really Is For Women each year? Cause that’s a thousand right there. A THOUSAND times.

            So you really want people to hear you? Do some fucking self-education first, don’t come in here demanding we’re the ones who have to educate you, and don’t ever, ever, EVER tell someone what their life is like, nor how to be angry. All you will ever do if you fail to keep this simple concept in mind is to piss people off, and get yourself castigated in serious, flesh-stripping style by the old veterans who have DONE THIS A THOUSAND TIMES OR MORE.

            Okay? Okay. So when you’re looking for bullies? Don’t look at the powerless. Look at the men on this thread who insisted, after lengthy conversation, that their right to satisfy their Bonercuriosity is far more important than the right of literally tens of millions of women (remember, there are more than 3 billion of us?) to walk the streets without being harrassed.

            Because, one more fucking time, this post is very specifically about one thing: walking up to women in public and specifically commenting on our physical appearance.

            It’s not about how to interact with that girl in the bookstore who’s been giving you sidelong glances, or is wearing your favourite band’s t-shirt. It’s about not yelling “HEY NICE TITS” or “HEAVEN’S MISSING AN ANGEL” or all the other bullshit we have to put up with EVERY DAY OF OUR LIVES. If you want to make it something else, there’s a big old Internet out there. Go start a blog and make your fucking post.

            No one, NO ONE, here has to put up with your crap. This is feminist space. You don’t like it, you know where the fucking door is.

          • Padme says

            SO basically you are an old (and yes if you were in HS before I was born that makes you old in my book) jaded woman with a horrible past who can’t deal with men? It is EXACTLY women like you who have turned women in my generation (including me) off of the whole feminist movement. You need to start LISTENING to us, cause our concerns are NOT yours. On this in particular – we LIKE to be approached by guys and told how good we look. At the camp I worked at a couple summers ago we made a game out of it. We would have Friday night and Saturday off and we would go into the closest town – a big tourist trap on a large lake and keep count of how many times each of us was approached. And whoever lost (least number of guys approaching) would have to go get our Sunday morning bagels (for everyone) and pay for the person who had the most approaches. We’re more concerned with how the guys we know and who we may date treat us as they seem to think a relationship means they dont have to respect us any more. I’ve NEVER been harassed on the street but have been by guys I knew and was starting to date. If you older ladies dont want your movement to fade away then you really need to stop fixating on things that were an issue before the younger generation was born and start listening to US, or you will find that you will be turning off more young women then you recruit. And for goodness sake stop being so condescending towards us! After all arent you trying to make the world better for women for the future? Well we are the future so wake up to that Catie!

          • CaitieCat says

            Ah, so you get to speak for every young woman because you happen to like that sort of thing, but I don’t get to speak up for the literally thousands of women I’ve met who don’t? Interesting.

            You do recognize that the OP was written by a women in her 20s? And that many of the commenters who agreed with her are also young women?

            Maybe what I’m doing is being the unapologetically clear-voiced woman with the small privilege of age and experience, which I’m using to help speak up for those young women whose voices are dismissed for all sorts of reasons, including their age – including our OP writer?

            Maybe I’m the crone, and happy to be so, who has four kids and six grandkids, and is fiercely interested in seeing a world in which those of my progeny and theirs who happen to be women (whether they happen to be recognized as such from birth or not) can have all the options, including the one of walking down the street without being assailed with regular, unwanted comments on things over which they have no control? And maybe I don’t, and never will, moderate my tone in calling out this shit for anyone, ever. I will speak truth to power, and all the beatings and verbal abuse I’ve taken over the years will never stop me from doing so. I WILL make people uncomfortable, because I won’t eat shit and smile about it, like we’re supposed to.

            Read the comments of this thread. Read the majority of women, young and old, who have talked of the fear and unhappiness this brings to them. Don’t just dismiss them because your experience happens to be different; consider that there may well be enough of them that your experience is the odd one, and not the majority view.

            Read Miri’s follow-up post to this one. And know that if you choose whether or not to fight for women’s equality based on whether or not I’m nice enough to a guy who’s feeding me the same intellectually-detached wankery over something that means bugger-all to them, then your commitment to women’s equality wasn’t all that it might have been in the first place.

            Every movement has its radicals, its outspoken people, the ones who say things that are unpopular or in a way that doesn’t conform. We make space by pushing the window open in the first place, for the people who come along later with the gentle persuasion; this has been so in every successful social justice movement ever. Without people willing to throw themselves on the gears and levers of the immoral machine, the people at large never see the immorality.

            Do yourself a favour, and save a few electrons with not needing to respond. In matters of my tone, you will not ever convince me, because I don’t share the values you do. Never said you had to. But nor will my lack of sharing them with you stop me from speaking out, clearly and unapologetically and yes, angrily when it’s deserved, for the things I believe in. And if that small a thing makes you decide you want to work against equality for women, then I think that says a lot more about you than me.

          • Padme says

            The big difference between you and Miri is that she is respectful of differing opinions and experiences. I never said I spoke for all young women but I CAN speak to the experiences of the large number that I have been working with every summer for the past few years and have gotten close too and we – this group of women and I – all feel marginalized more by the older feminists then we do by men. It was even insinuated on here – not by Miri – that I am somehow less than a woman for enjoying this kind of attention. And that is not a “small thing” as you put it. It is the tone that has been put across that if I or my friends don’t agree with you that we are somehow less worthy of being women that turns us off from helping them movement – we aren’t working against it – unless you consider accepting compliments working against it – but we aren’t convinced that it is relevant in its current form any more. Being angry at everyone all the time doesn’t help your cause neither does swearing (as in the post that I initially commented on) particularly when directed at the people you are supposedly trying to help, and when treating them like they are somehow not fully female in their life’s experience. Maybe its just the area that I have always lived in that I’ve never seen this as an issue, maybe my friends and I just aren’t attractive and that’s why we’ve never had a problem with it (my girlfriend would dispute that last one though), who knows. But ALL women’s experiences need to be treated as valid for your movement to be a success. Something Miri has hit on and done well – even suggesting or agreeing with compromises for men to talk to women in public while not getting hostile and accepting rejection if it comes and at the same time not making her or other women who feel the same as she does uncomfortable. Bashing others and being mad at the world does nothing to solve anyone’s problems. Thoughtful discussion as Miri has engaged in, does.

          • says

            It’s pretty sad how ungratefull some coward woman are. I find it irritating as you, but we have to move on and don’t waste time in idiots. I’m an activist because I have the responsability of contributing to society and build a better world, If I were a man, I would do it too.

          • says

            No Caitie, see, I’m fairly certain I caught onto the article’s points rather quick, as they describe a considerate code of behavior that I’ve been practicing for quite a while anyway. And I’m really not the type of person that takes all that long to assimilate new information either. You would have noticed that if you’d read some of my other comments, wherein other posters here and I were able to conduct respectful dialogue. The fact that you are seasoned and tired, while appreciable, hardly gives you the right to run around verbally abusing people the way you are (especially completely different people who personally had nothing to do with the things that have annoyed you over the years), and it’s a pretty shitty way to ruin the good work of others who are, as you put it, “nice feminists.” Those “nice feminists,” who, I guess, still have the energy to be “nice” are spending plenty of that energy gaining the trust and empathy of the general public and they don’t deserve to have their efforts trash-canned by someone who is too tired to give a damn about anyone else. So, yeah, you wanna mark your territory and say ‘if you don’t like it, you can gyyyiiiiiitttt aoooouuuuut!’ ? Maybe first consider the young blood who are still working at having a movement (instead of just being angry by themselves which accomplishes absolutely nothing for ANY cause, whether that’s air conditioners for globally warmed polar bears or whatever). Strictly speaking, if it is “feminist space,” I’m pretty sure that makes it up to ALL the feminists in here to decide what the rules are, not the least of whom is Miri, whose damn blog this is in the first place, and with whom I’ve been able have a rather worthwhile (at least from my end) discussion on the main topic here, and yes some tangents from it too. Since you’re such an internet guru, look at any other board or blog anywhere and you’ll notice it’s perfectly normal for one topic to branch into several others. That’s not hijacking, it’s normal conversation. And sidebar: there are around 3 billion men too, and when someone titles an article “Why *YOU* shouldnt tell that random girl on the street that she’s hot,” they are going to assume you’re talking to them. More of my crazy talk, I know. So since men are basically invited in by the fact that this topic is TALKING DIRECTLY TO THEM, I’m pretty sure none of them should have to put up with your “crap” just for dropping in either. You’re anything but powerless. You obviously know how to use words in a very forceful manner, and if you gave two damns about people anymore, it might help to consider putting those talents to a more productive use. Finally, please stop pretending that you are the only one who has been abused and/or harassed. I am somewhere bi-ish on the queer spectrum between gay and straight, and I’ve dealt with plenty of abuse and harassment for that. I’ve also been through Marine recruit training, where anyone who hasn’t been there can’t possibly fathom the level and frequency of offensive language, indignity, and abusive things you’re forced to do 24/7 for three months. But see I don’t constantly hit people over the head with those facts because to assume ‘nobuddy knoes the trubbles I seen’ is something called the ‘personal myth’ in psychology, which is most often associated with teenagers.

          • says

            For some reason I think this thing refreshed slightly out of order, so the above was in response to the comment right after mine, and not the ones following it.

            At any rate, can I just say about “the same intellectually-detached wankery over something that means bugger-all to them,” that it means hell-of-a-lot-more than bugger-all to me for the reasons I have been trying to say so much I feel like my face is turning blue: I have a daughter, so that’s my progeny that I want to secure a future for. And I am part of the LGBTQ community, which unless I am very mistaken, the broader feminist movement makes it one of its goals to help get out from under our own rock of abuse and harassment (queer bashing is no joke or picnic either, trust me). And I think one of the biggest reasons we’ve clashed so much on here is I don’t apologize for who I am either, and I even dare to veer madly off topic in situations where I think something really important to me has been touched on, even vaguely.

            If this stuff wasn’t crazy-important to me, trust me, there is no way I’d be spending this much time reading and writing blog comments. :)

          • says

            Let me just ask, Padme: how the fuck do you KNOW that anger and swearing “don’t help”? Do you have evidence for that? Or are you just going off your gut? Furthermore, do you have evidence that anger and swearing actually HURT the cause? If not, then why the fuck are you wasting your energy trying to tell other people how to feel?

            As for you, Brett, nice job backing away from the Cliff of Total Douchebaggery. We’ll see if you can make it all the way.

          • Padme says

            Actually I do. I work with young women (Pre-teens and young teens) through a well-known organization (my contract forbids me from mentioning it by name on this kind of forum as they don’t want to be associated with any one cause as we want our girls – and young women – to pick their own causes). I have taught leadership skills (last year I became an administrator so less but more concentrated small group time with the girls and more time with helping the staff (older teens and up), and a major component that they needed to “qualify” for advancement is advocacy and public service. Every year the girls in the program need to pick a cause that they are close to and try to come up with a plan to make a difference in that field. We sit down with the girls in the first couple of days of the session and present all the different types of issues they can look into for their project. We do this right after going through what it means to be a leader and take an interest in the world around them. Because we are an all girls organization feminist issues are always mentioned in this brainstorming session, as we want them to pick something they truly believe in and can get behind not just something the will go through the motions of to “pass” into the next level of the program. We don’t allow discussion or comment until we have everything we can think of written down, but then we discuss each one with the girls so that they have all the information they need to make an informed choice. And EVERY YEAR across groups from FIVE STATES as soon as the word “feminism” is mentioned the VAST MAJORITY of these girls get excitable and even argumentative saying that “Feminists are old, angry women.” ” WE don’t think those are REAL issues.” “Nobody thinks like that any more.” “Those women just yell and scream at us about trying to please our boyfriends.” etc. They are totally turned off to the whole idea because all they see is anger and yelling and hatred of men. These girls ARE our future. They are completely turned off by the anger and they see it as partially directed at them because they want to flirt and dress sexy (a whole other issue when we are talking about our 12 and 13 year olds but its still what they want). They talk about how they want boys to like them and they want to date and make their boyfriends happy. They want to be noticed and complimented and seen as adults or almost adults. They complain that the feminists that they know are angry and treat them like children who know nothing. They are generally surprised that at least one of the adults in the room considers herself a feminist because none of us fit their view of it. But the rest of us (and generally the majority of us) were all turned off to being active in the movement at the same age and the same way they have been. But it seems to get worse every year, as they are going into their rebellious stage and a frightening number of them have admitted (and a growing percentage each year) that they try to show their boyfriends that they are not feminists (so rebel against the ideas of the movement) by becoming more and more subservient to their boyfriends. An idea that worries even those of us who DON’T consider ourselves feminists. I have worked with HUNDREDS of young women over the past 7 years in this program, and the percentage of girls already that turned off by the anger has increased EVERY YEAR. MY first year maybe 8-10% ended up picking a feminist issue as their cause and argued for the ideals from the start, the last three years NONE of the girls ended up going with those issues and only 1-2% half-heartedly argued that there might be value to the issues in the initial post-brainstorming discussion (which btw the adults only listen to and stop personal attacks or if needed get the girls discussion back to the issues on the board and off their boyfriends/hair/clothes/etc). Contrast this to the gay rights movement, which at least in this region, does not respond with anger but promotes the love aspect of their movement. The majority of our girls self-identify as straight – particularly the youngest ones (a larger percentage of the 15 year olds do but that doesnt surprise me as they are still all learning about themselves) and yet I would say about 70 – 80% of each group – on average – has chosen an issue in the gay rights movement as their project (I’m averaging my percentages there, one year all of them did, one year only half did and the rest went with animal rights or conservation, etc). On top of that EVERY year ALL of them have talked about how important that movement is and why, even if they felt powerless to help. And one of the big reasons they put forward as to why they are so empathetic to the cause (they have to fill out a survey on what they did and what they learned and why they chose it at the end of the program each year) is the fact that the people are so NICE and friendly and make them feel welcomed, even if they aren’t “in the group”. They feel they can be allies and not be questioned that they don’t really understand because they aren’t part of it. Now they are all women – and yet they feel like they aren’t welcomed by the feminist movement, like they are seen as outsiders to be angry at simply because of their age and differing desires; and this turns them off completely.

            So I DO have evidence that the anger directed towards everyone that doesnt feel the way you do, does hurt the movement. I have hundreds of girls worth of evidence. And the girls from my first years are now the adults directly running the program, hands on with the girls day in and day out. And their feelings on the matter haven’t changed with age so why should the next groups? or the next? They wont. Reach out to the girls with love, friendship and openness like the other movements do and you will gain their support and alliance, keep being angry at them and more and more will try to break with even the name. These girls are our future, they are the ones that need to be reached and they are the ones that are being scared away.

          • Daniel Frederico says

            Dare I interject… I think that all of you are both right in your own rights.

            Fortunately, everybody is a differently functioning human being, it’s what makes us special :) And if anyone of us has an idea, I believe we have the right to keep that idea/ideology. So let me just get to my… attempted

            Brett, SallyStrange and CaitieCat have every right to say what they think. Nothing you say and argue will change what they think. Not meaning to say they are hard-head, but they have had their experiences in life, and therefore, they reserve the right to respond agressively to certain responses. I don’t know them either, but it’s not hard to believe another human being may have a completely different life than you and I are habituated to. So at least for me, if a person does decide to get angry, sad, happy, they reserve the right to.

            However, in my opinion, anger is best avoided! SallyStrange, at least I think I understood when you said that people should mind their own businesses too, but fortunately, Brett is a different human being too. I’m pretty sure with all that he says, he’s just trying to reach out to you and be able to find a common ground between what you two are discussing. I’m sure he means well, and I think you know that, Sally. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe getting angry does turn the tide in certain situations, but I believe certain arguments (especially these online ones) don’t deserve getting angry at. If you feel that a person isn’t just worth your time, to tell all your points of view to have them not have a paradigm shift, I think it’s best just leaving the person alone. They should not be worth your time and effort (No offense Brett) :)

            (And forgive me if I don’t go into specifics. You guys have argued a lot!)

            I think, it would save everybody a lot of energy (and e-mail space, this blog gets plenty of comments!) if when we understand (and I know you guys do) that each and everyone of us has our minds set to certain ideas and thoughts, and we share these thoughts with hundreds, thousands, and maybe even millions of individuals. This is not due to coincidence, but because these individuals were all collectively affected by an alien pressure (Not extra-terrestrial… you know what I mean xD). When one is arguing about a topic, no matter how nice you are about trying to lay down the foundations of what you’re talking about, it’s best to… Dare I say, not be personal about the topic given at hand.

            (equips burn shield) You know, I think to reach out to other people to understand, not accept, but understand and reciprocate an idea is by first knowing that the idea of the other person will not change. At all. No matter how good of a debater you are. Once that is establihed, I don’t know, maybe at least both sides can respect how the other individual thinks if they do not mean any harm. At least, in this case, we have “met” through this wonderful and curious blog, and one way or the other, we have initiated our own social interaction in public. Only that in this public, we just see words, and not physical appearances.

            And again, this is a blog. It’s one person’s thoughts being shared with millions. No one holds the right to tell the person that they are wrong about how they think. Never. That’s why people discuss in an intellectual way :)

            Now then, can we get along, and watch “The Great Gatsby” together? :D

          • says

            Hello Frederico.

            Indeed, this discussion would never end, because it’s too complex and it’s too hard not to get angry for many of us.

            I have read too many comments that ofenses human dignity from both men and women.

            Last night I read some feminist theory, I like reading it because it helps me see beyond chauvinism. Also, I don’t consider myself a feminist because there are too many incoherences (I can’t tolerate Elaine Showalter demeaning great Virginia Woolf, or Kate Millet demeaning Betty Friedan. It’s a circus). I’m an activist of rebellion against patriarchy, but before that I am poet, and before that, I am dolphin (it’s a long story).

            Life has hit me hard when it comes to men, yet I know there are women that have experienced worst than me. In spite of bad experiencies, I think we must learn from mistakes, avoid feeling sorry for ourselves, and avoid creating conflicts between us -men and women.

            I know no one in this group will change their point of view, and I won’t try to convince anybody that I am right. But I’d like to share my thoughts and try to understand others.

            At this point, I will only say that I am a pretty solitary person who enjoys solitude and art, among other things. My birthday is coming soon, and all I want to do is have pizza and watch The Great Gatsby (thanks for reminding me life has good things).

            I know I am not the average person who can manage to adapt to the world. I’m quite strange and eccentric. I have to deal with it and the fact that I am a woman. Sometimes it’s so hard, I wish I was a man, so that I could take a walk on my own with no anger towards strangers that will look at me in a dirty way, or whistle like I was a dog, or yelling me, and so on. Not only that, as a writer I have experience double standards, jelousy from men, women, sabotage, and all kind of moral injuries. I can also watch how other women are humilliated, underpreciated, abused, beaten, … If you are a woman, life will be twice as harder. I see it, I live it, I reject it.

            Anyhow, I wish to you all the best, and I thank this blog for giving me the chance to talk about a topic nobody wants to hear where I live.

            Regards.

  81. Erk says

    Um, yeah. Sorry, but this article vs. every other advice on the matter ever.
    My natural incline would be to not bother people, it seems weird to me, however it is something that I have tried to force myself to do sometimes in the past (these days it would make my girlfriend fly into a major righteous rage so…better not) due to the sheer amount of advice out there that it is the thing to do.
    Nobody is saying women do everything they do just for men, nonetheless compliments are good, they can really make someones day even if they weren’t looking for it.

  82. says

    “Most of them are insecure not because no guy has ever expressed a desire to fuck them, but because of the dangerously unrealistic standards our society sets for women’s appearance and for the behaviors they must perform in order to maintain that appearance.”

    It’s because I’m a middle-class white male that I don’t fully understand. Who is this society and what do they do?

    I’ve written a blog about this, and would like a different perspective.

    http://idiotsyncratic.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/the-campaign-for-real-men.html

  83. B. says

    What’s so wrong about the pastor trying to cheer someone up? Sounded like he was just being nice, and it doesn’t sound like he was trying to harass or flirt with the cashier at all.

    On top of the work that cashier’s have to do, there will be times when they have to talk to people. Of course that doesn’t mean they should let rude customers step all over them, but God forbid someone actually decides to have a chat with them, not because they’re trying to oppress women and play power-hungry mind games, but because they’re being good-hearted people that want to brighten their day.

    I’m not trying to attack you, I’m just really confused that you would think something like that was a terrible act against humanity. Then again, I wasn’t there so I don’t know the pastor’s story word for word, otherwise I could come to a different conclusion all together. It would be interesting to know what he said that got a rise out of you. Then again, if what I’m reading is all that was said, then I think it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar :)

  84. bapapapa says

    Well, this is embarrassing… this was supposed to be a reply to Comment 6. Ah well, everyone just… carry on with what you’re doing. Anyway, cool blog!

  85. Daniel Frederico says

    Just chippin’ in my two cents…

    I think the topic of the article is interesting and good. Sure, it is weird for certain people to receive compliments from out of nowhere. I’m male, and even I would find it awkward if somebody out of nowhere would compliment me for just existing. Sure, it’s nice, but I just don’t feel like it’s necessary.

    However, I think people are deviating away from the topic. Complimenting people is one thing, approaching them for a conversation is another. Sure you may start a conversation with a compliment, but I think what I would have argued in this article (had I written as well as it is) is that probably people only approach other people if they find them attractive first. I think what the author would appreciate more, is if the compliment had more depth; the person did something to receive a compliment.

    For example, yelling a person has a great physique in the middle of the street might seem random, abbrasive, and a totally empty brained compliment. Even if the compliment is to a more specific body part… However, if see somebody do something simply more than looking pretty, it would be a more justified way to compliment somebody (if you were so inclined too).

    In my opinion, if you do want to compliment somebody, I’m guessing a simple smile (not creepy one) is a nice way to say “Hello” without being hostile to the other individual. I’m pretty sure if the other person would be nice enough to, they would smile back and continue on their way…

    But yeah, I guess one should know the difference between complimenting a person by simply objectifying them on their looks, or complimenting somebody if they’ve actually done something…

    I guess what could’ve have been said is that people should approach people only in a more… deserving situation (dare I say). Like at restaurants when you have to communicate with people who work there. Maybe a compliment is still too abrassive, but if one is able to start a conversation with the waiter/waitress, and if they reciprocate, sure, continue to communicate. Just don’t be staring at their rear end all the time! Or at a gym, or a work station…

    The bottom line is, for the dudes that are getting angry at this article, is that if you want to talk to women, make sure you don’t objectify them first. If you can find something tangible to say rather than, “You’re so good looking,” go ahead.

    • says

      Thanks, Daniel. I think that was really well put, and even though, like I’ve said, this article makes really good points — I think your angle of approaching it from a basic ethics perspective (instead of the speculative pathos of “she’s scared because she’s been through…”) might prove a bit more successful in reaching various backgrounds and groups of men. We all have that basic sense of decency buried somewhere where if someone gives us a consistent parameter with solid rational basis, we are inclined to follow it. My thought is that the same guys who’ll tune “you don’t know how many men have hurt her before” right out, because we really DON’T know how many men have hurt her before, might pay attention if it were put something more like “it’s unacceptable to sexualize a random person while they are minding their own business, because it is a nuisance to that person who had most likely no particular intention of engaging anyone sexually while out for milk and eggs, and it’s a nuisance to the people around who are expecting sexual approaches to be made in the proper forums, not the mini-mart, grocery store, gym, church, etc.” Call me crazy but I think a lot of our fellow guys (at least the ones I meet) will latch onto this way a lot easier. Again, well done.

    • says

      Hello.

      I honestly got hooked by your begining line, which is a clear reference to french poet Arthur Rimbaud’s phrase: “Since I have recovered my two cents worth of reason -it dissappears fast!”.

      Then I kept on reading and I thought that it’s pretty rare a man think what you state.

      I hate being objectifying and I think that If there are women/men who like that, then they should analyse the root of the act and find some self esteem.

      Well, I have pretty much explained my point on the subject in several comments above, so I will just thank you for writing the only reasonable comment in this article.

      And I congrat Miri for having the guts to write the truth.

      Regards.

  86. jennyjfwlucy says

    Very late to the party, but I don’t often get the chance to write and I had a thought/analogy that I wanted to add to this. Compliments on the street are like . . . peanut butter cookies.

    A) Lots of people like peanut butter cookies, like Padme (commenter above.) They enjoy them, hope that people will offer them, and don’t mind that sometimes there can be too many peanut butter cookies in the world. That’s fine.

    B) Other people really don’t like peanut butter cookies, or feel neutral about them.

    C) But for some people, peanut butter cookies are fucking deadly. They will end up in shock and possibly dying if you make them handle a peanut butter cookie.

    GIVEN, then, that you don’t know how person X might react to a peanut butter cookie, why would you try to make a person X take your cookie? Yes, A is still true. But B and C are DEFINITELY also true. If you know that your cookie might hurt, sadden, or frighten, or even kill another person and you still insist on offering that cookie, YOU HAVE A BIG PROBLEM. End.

  87. Grackle says

    For any latecomers who can’t conceive of complimenting a woman without making her uncomfortable, I once had a guy give me a big smile and say, “You have a great hat!” (It’s true, I did.) I can’t speak for all women, certainly, but that compliment didn’t make me uncomfortable at all and was really rather nice. (It was a few years ago but I remember it well because it stands out in a sea of the nasty, skeevy comments I’ve heard.) The big difference (I think) is that he made no move to follow me, and most importantly, complimented me on something other than my body.

  88. says

    It’s just amazing to me how fucking ATTACHED so many guys are to their ability–privilege, rather–to chat up random strangers in the street. Consider for a minute that many of the women who aren’t actually screaming in your face about how much they fucking hate getting random compliments from people they don’t know are not screaming precisely because the last time they tried to demonstrate their displeasure with this sort of thing, the guy in question grew overtly hostile, followed them, made threats or threatening gestures, etc. I mean, that’s the thing a lot of them here simply refuse to acknowledge. They don’t want to believe that their fellow men are such incredibly entitled assholes that they literally don’t get to hear what women think of their cold approaches because the women are being rationally cautious about the possibility that they are yet another possibly violent, intimidating, misogynist asshole.

  89. says

    Great blog, Miri! I agree and respect every point you make… despite (hypocritically, I admit) that I’ve done this myself.

    Though, I’ve never used the term “Hot”… I’ve used “Beautiful”. (It feels like there’d be a slight difference, but there’s probably not.) I’ve always tried to be aware of the very issues you mention, because women’s paranoia on this is totally justified, and also, I’m paranoid my actions would be seen as disrespectful, harassing, part of rape culture, etc. Why did I do it? Honestly… not sure. I am a bit of an idiot, I will not deny. I know it’s not a necessary thing… but hopefully, that’s what makes it nice.

    I wrote about it last year (this isn’t meant to be shameless promotion… it just happens to fit), and the best I can hope for is that this is at least closer to the appropriate manner of complimenting a stranger, should it exist.

    http://hiddenhero.blogspot.com/2012/05/how-to-tell-stranger-theyre-beautiful.html

    Great job again, I’m about to start going through your other posts… as well as work my way through these comments.

  90. Welshie says

    Wow, this is my first time here. I read the article with much interest and accompanying nodding so it’s been with much interest that I’ve read many of the subsequent comments.

    If you really want to help men and women relate better maybe you could be a little less surly in your responses so more people can hear your argument (which is otherwise involving)? How many viewers do you lose with the attitude you give these guys who are willing to read your articles? They might not get it first time or even the second but they’re willing to listen and share. We need more men like that in the world and taking the piss out of them isn’t helping women. Do you write to vent or to educate? For yourself or for others? It’s a public domain yet it feels very stifling in here.

    I write as a woman who has been ‘complimented’, assaulted and most things in between during my 42 years.