Men shouldn’t require the law to make them better people

It shouldn’t take a woman going to the police to make us better men. It shouldn’t have to be a matter of legality to have us undo creepy behaviour. Relying on the law to govern our morals doesn’t make us moral beings, it makes us slaves to legality. We shouldn’t require a threat of jail or fine to reflect on our behaviour as men. As moral entities we can engage with others, rethink our actions, consider their impact on those perhaps more vulnerable, more targeted, less privileged than us.

A failure to do so probably won’t result in jail time – and that, apparently, is sufficient reason for so many men to never rethink their actions, their beliefs, their words. That must change if we want to make a better world, but it has to start with us men realising we will fuck up and, maybe, we don’t know everything.

Consider the men in a recent case. A woman decided she wouldn’t tolerate strange men street harassing her, every day, while getting to work. After trying various responses, Poppy Smart took the matter to the police.

She told the BBC:

“Every day I’d walk past and they’d wolf whistle. They’d even come out of the building site to wolf whistle as I’d continue down the road.

“One of the guys got up in my face and all he said was ‘morning love’, but it was in a very aggressive way and the other one sneered.

“They blocked the pavement and I had to walk around them.”

She discusses her own attempts to try, literally and figuratively, get around harassment.

“I started wearing sunglasses so I didn’t have to look at them. I started putting headphones on so I didn’t have to hear them.”

“Eventually it got to the day where I had enough.”

Poppy called the police and reported it.

So what do the men who did this have to say? Well

A builder questioned by police for wolf-whistling at a young woman has hit back – claiming he was paying her a “compliment”.

Ian Merrett, 28, said wolf-whistling was “part and parcel” of working on a building site and even bragged about using cat-calls to seduce a string of other women.

Oh, well, I guess that’s OK then: this man – who, like me, is a 28 year old straight dude – says it’s a compliment to yell lecherous things at woman; to physically block a woman half his size, while she’s made it clear she’s not interested. I’d like to see where, in his work contract, it says “you will wolf-whistle at strange women” since it’s “part and parcel” of working on a building site.

But, you see, he’s had success seducing women! Because there’s no other, non-creepy, way to meet women!

He said:

“I’ve seen the news coverage and it’s not right. I’m a builder and my mates are builders. We are all hard working people and our reputation has been damaged.”

Your hard work doesn’t negate that you are a creep, it just means you’re capable of multitasking.

Or maybe not.

If you really are hard at work, why are you wolf-whistling at strange women? If I was your employer, I’d be concerned I’d hired people who weren’t doing what I was paying them for.

Your “reputation” matters less than women’s safety here: You can go somewhere else, but women have to try commute knowing, daily, there are men who feel entitled to harass them under the guise of compliments. Grow up, apologise, be better men.

“Wolf-whistling is part and parcel of working on a site, it’s complimenting a girl.”

Again, I’d like to see your work contract stating this. All you’re really saying is “boys will be boys”, that’s “just how it is”. The problem isn’t that we don’t know that: The problem is precisely this mindset. The problem is that harassment currently is part of working in a public area and targeting strangers. We’re saying change that: It’s creepy, gross and bad. We know it exists, we know why: We’re saying stop, please.

And just because you intend it to be compliments doesn’t mean that’s how they’ll be interpreted. Intention isn’t magic. Women are literally telling us all the time they do not like this; it doesn’t matter what you think you’re giving when recipients keep saying “Stop”.

“I didn’t even see her face, and I wouldn’t recognise her if I fell over her in the street, so I don’t know how that could possibly be sexual harassment.”

I keep forgetting that because you don’t see someone’s face, it’s impossible to make that person feel uncomfortable, unsafe, harassed and targeted.

“It’s not worth getting into trouble over some silly little girl. I don’t know why she complained, she must be thinking things above her station.”

She’s a woman. So it’s not worth you getting into trouble, but it is worth her sense of security? And you still don’t know why she complained? If you don’t know why a person would take something to the police, maybe… try figure out why they did? Maybe consider the impact your actions have on others?

It’s not like it could’ve been an easy decision for Smart to go the police, knowing people would hate and harass her further (which is, of course, happening).

If “above her station” means the ability to walk down the street not harassed then I guess she was. But that’s not “above” her station, it is her station as a person; that’s a privilege many of us, as straight cis dudes have and it shouldn’t be only us. When people ask for this same privilege of non-harassment , and we berate them for thinking they’re “better” than they are, that only highlights how toxic our culture is.

Men who defend harassment as “boys will be boys” have a very low opinion of men; men who state this aren’t affirming they can’t change how things are, but that they don’t want to. We created this toxic culture, we can be part of changing it. But it won’t happen while men double-down and refuse to listen to women and claim street harassment is compliments. Men: We can do better and we must do better.

Remember: Nice guys can do bad things and sex workers are people

So this happened in my city of Cape Town, in South Africa.

Another day, another brutish man decides to show the world how brave and strong he is by beating up a harmless woman. Well done, big strong man.

A shocked and traumatised Cynthia Joni, 44, of Khayelitsha, said she was on her way to work in Kenilworth on October 2 when an unknown man leapt from his car and slapped her repeatedly, then threw her to the ground, without any explanation.

He was traced after people in the neighbourhood responded to her screams, and took down his registration number.

What could spurn such rage and hatred? Trying to tease out why men beat up women is complicated and horrible. But we can operate on what this individual, Tim Osrin, said.

Later, Osrin… who is a committed member of the neighbourhood’s ‘security committee’ and lives close to where the incident took place in upper Kenilworth, claimed he had assaulted Joni because he had mistaken her for a prostitute.

Apparently, sex workers can be smacked around because, hey, they’re sex workers. And sex workers magically create crime – because no big business, cops, etc. ever commit crimes, either, right? I wonder if Osrin will smack Wal-Mart and other retailers around who mistreat and underpay their staff? Maybe he smacked cops who are corrupt and allow for bad things to happen? [Read more…]

One small thing normal folks do when talking about people they’re attracted to

#1: Not making bloody lists detailing what constitutes “attractive”.

I have a guest blogpost responding to an awful article detailing what makes women attractive – or rather what constitutes “attractive girls”. I genuinely get to use “not all men” properly a few times.

UPDATE #2 Men cry foul cos evil feminism makes hitting on women more difficult

Would probably helped if I linked to the piece: Here.

That’s a piece I wrote, as a response to a Guardian post which – to say the least – I didn’t like. The piece claims campaigns like Everyday Sexism make hitting on women harder, because it makes all them “females” think confident flirtation is same as harassment.

Er, yeah. No.

I also commented directly on the piece itself, in the comment section, which got one… strange response.

Some readers can’t locate my comment Guardian site. I’ll reprint it here:

Since I’ve been following Everyday Sexism for a while, I find the author’s characterisation of the project different to mine. I’d be interested to see where exactly the claims come from that indicate all men do this – considering the campaign has been encouraging and welcoming men’s voices, too, who speak out and discourage this behaviour.

I’d also be interested where exactly the claim is made that mild flirtation is equated with street harassment. It seems to me if you can’t distinguish between the two then maybe that’s a serious problem and you should rethink what you mean by flirting – not what the woman you’re flirting with is “doing wrong”.

Of course, your intention could very well be one that truly is harmless and is non-threatening – but misinterpreted. And this I understand, to a small degree.

But considering, as you know, the environment in which women live and what some face everyday, that’s just… well… TOO BAD. Yes, it sucks that it’s harder to intitiate conversation and flirtation without being perceived as “yet another creep”. Yes, it sucks that women have been so constantly bombarded with such idiocy they change their behaviour, time of day for jogging or walking or doing basically anything (, – because victim-blaming also is this pernicious, see?

It’s easy for us men to claim “but we’re nice guys and never do that” – but again, I assume most people can distinguish between the two behaviours.

There will exist genuine mistakes and misinterpretation – as there is in everything we do. Except here it’s compounded by the environment that so many women live in, everyday. The name of the project says it all.

In a world screaming for their attention, namecalling them when women refuse to give it, we shouldn’t be wagging our fingers when our kinder voices go unnoticed. We should be empathetic, target the environment and other men doing this – and also respect women enough to, you know, be able to tell the difference between harassment and harmless flirtation. I don’t see Everyday Sexism as ushering in the downfall of sexual freedom – I see it as protecting it, particularly women’s, so that we can all live in a better world.

(Weirdly, Dawkins linked to this comment – even though his quotation indicates his support of the very article I was criticising in that comment.)

PS: Ophelia also has some important insight, as always.

The rage against the cosplay girls (& fake nerd girls)

Whenever I Googled any aspect to do with “fake geek girls” or other aspects of regular nerdrage, this blogpost kept popping up. It’s titled “Why Cosplay Girls Annoy The Shit Out Of Me”.

I thought I’d write a response, since the comments seem to mostly agree with it and I’ve not seen one critically examine it’s strange claims. Sorry that it’s a little old.

I am anticipating a sudden drop in my number of online friends and an immediate rise in hatemail. Why? Because today I am calling out cosplay girls.

Not guys.

I am a science fiction fan, and I mean that in the “I know who Theodore Sturgeon, Robert Sheckley, Fredirik Pohl and a whole bunch of other people you have no idea are because you think watching 6 seasons of Lost made you a hardcore Sci-Fi fan”

Oh please! He think this proves his credentials?! [Read more…]