In a car

Mike Booth recommended this on Twitter, so I will pay it forward.

Minneapolis. A woman with her arms full of paperwork waiting for the lightrail. A man in an SUV.

So, that’s where we were. Me, minding my own business. You, apparently observing my ass. At that point you had options. You could have driven past me and said nothing. You could have turned up your radio and waved, ensconcing us in some beats and camaraderie. You could have shouted out, “Happy Friday! Yeehaw!” Any of those options would have been great. I probably would have waved, smiled, and started my weekend on the same high note as you.

Instead, you chose the most pathetic option available to you: You leaned out of your window and made some ridiculous series of leering comments about whether I was wearing a thong, right as the light changed and you peeled off, pleased with yourself and saved from any consequences.

If you’d stuck around, I would have happily shouted a few things of my own at you: that it’s people like you that make women avoid walking alone or taking transit even in broad daylight in their own cities; that no matter what screwed up metric you use it’s not a “compliment” to have someone interrogate me about my underwear; that thanks to you I would spend the entire train ride home feeling scrutinized and gross because you didn’t have the willpower or maturity to keep your mouth shut; that your wife and daughters or at the very least your mother deserve better than a cowardly man who shouts at women from the safety of his car.


Who the fuck does that? What kind of person shouts crap from a car at a stranger standing on the street? What kind of pathetic, chickenshit, bullying, power-imbalance-abusing creep uses the fact that he’s in a car to enable him to hassle a random stranger who is not in a car? What is wrong with people?


  1. Kevin Kirkpatrick says

    I wonder if some harassment is best understood as the intersection of privilege and sadism:

    Participants with high levels of sadism who chose to kill bugs reported taking significantly greater pleasure in the task than those who chose another task, and their pleasure seemed to correlate with the number of bugs they killed, suggesting that sadistic behavior may hold some sort of reward value for those participants.
    And a second study revealed that, of the participants who rated high on one of the “dark” personality traits, only sadists chose to intensify blasts of white noise directed at an innocent opponent when they realized the opponent wouldn’t fight back. They were also the only ones willing to expend additional time and energy to be able to blast the innocent opponent with the noise.

    Buckels and colleagues are continuing to investigate everyday sadism, including its role in online trolling behavior.
    “Trolling culture is unique in that it explicitly celebrates sadistic pleasure, or ‘lulz,'” says Buckels. “It is, perhaps, not surprising then that sadists gravitate toward those activities.”

    In short: privilege = power to ruin the days of others; sadism = drive to ruin the days of others.

    Not that it’s a comprehensive explanation, but perhaps it at least explains the downright bizarre energy some assholes put into their day-to-day harassment.

  2. says

    Let me make this abundantly clear, to you and to the other men reading this: when you comment on a woman’s appearance, you are not doing it for her. You are doing it for you. It’s not some great way to make a woman feel sexy and appreciated. It’s not flattery, even if you mean for it to be. The only thing it is is a great way for you to create a shitty power dynamic, by which you have announced yourself as the arbiter of her value, and you’ve deemed her fuckable, and she is supposed to be happy or impressed by that.

    If only other men hearing this kind of shit thought and said “what a creep”, instead of leering and discussing the woman’s body, and what they’d like to do to her.
    For me that’s the worst thing about this: it’s not just a few creeps, it’s mainstream. Most men think it’s OK, you know, boys will be boys, wink, wink.

  3. says

    I saw that today, too. It came via @EverydaySexism — which is a great account to follow, btw. Great in the sense that there are 10-20 similar stories tweeted through it every single day, so it’s possible to get a feeling for how prevalent these stories are. But then, also depressing, for exactly the same reason.

  4. Claire Ramsey says

    This is so depressing. It is behavior that makes women angry, makes some men angry, makes some women feel awful about themselves and fearful of men’s unpredictable bad behavior. This kind of shit scared the crap out of me when I was in about 6th grade and I am not sure I have ever gotten over it.

    My mother’s response to my fear? “Just ignore those boys.” She never said I’d have to do it for the rest of my life.

  5. left0ver1under says

    I have to wonder: Was she unable see the license plate and thus couldn’t publish it, or did she see it and choose not to? Myself, I would publicly shame the driver with the plate if I couldn’t get the name, but not everyone would.

    Kevin Kirkpatrick (#1) –

    You’ll find many articles and news items reporting that some/many serial killers mutilated animals when they were children. I don’t see why getting pleasure from mutilating insects would be any different.

  6. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    I have to wonder: Was she unable see the license plate and thus couldn’t publish it, or did she see it and choose not to? Myself, I would publicly shame the driver with the plate if I couldn’t get the name, but not everyone would.

    Because these are not the things that go through one’s head in the wake of some strange dude interrogating you about your underwear? It’s trivially easy to say “I would have done XYZ” when you’re not the one this happened to. That and can you imagine the shit that would be thrown her way if she’d published the license plate number?

  7. shari says

    i used to bus a lot in mpls – no money for a car. It was stressfull – i’m short and I was pretty scrawny. Nothing anyone shouted from a car made me feel pretty or happy. Made me feel creeped out and scared. Now, someone at the grocery store saying ‘have a nice day sweetheart’ = no problem. Guys walking by saying ‘like your smile, cutie with the glasses’ (rare enough to note) also no problem, as their body language was friendly, they were about their business, i was about mine, we both went on our way. If they had stopped to block my way, I would have gone into evasive mode, as I was outnumbered.

    Someone following me in a car making comments about my body levels up the creepy. Immediately envisioning how to escape out of a trunk. Worrying if my bus route was on their regular lunch or work route – was I going to have to hear someone’s plans for my body every damn day? And you have ZERO agency – you can’t tell them ‘knock it off – you are creeping me out’. You have no ability to give them a chance to do better. I did not dress in tight clothes. I did not wear much makeup – i was afraid to draw attention to myself because I was alone, and no ‘choice’ of mine was gonna change that. And you want to know the kicker? at that point, i’d only dealt with MILD sexual harassment in my life. I’ve NEVER had to file a police report. I’d never had to consider it. But walking alone to get to college and work, thanks to those jerks, I had to think about it almost Every Day.

    The guys license plate doesn’t matter. It happens all the damn time. Lots and lots of license plates. Could be any guy.

  8. Onamission5 says

    When women (and girls– the street harassment started for me when I was @ 12) are going about our business in public, we’re not necessarily on high alert ready to scribble down license plates and give report-ready descriptions. We’re waiting for the train, thinking about the project we’re working on that evening, hoping the bus isn’t late so we won’t have to pay overages at childcare, wondering if the chicken in the fridge has another day left in it or if we’re going to have to go to the store after all, sorting out which bills will get paid when we get paid and which will have to wait, hoping the dog didn’t piddle in the house while we were gone, planning our weekends, processing all the other myriad things which have already happened that day, thinking about the test at school tomorrow, hoping the office or school bully will leave us be the next day. We’re tired. We’re hungry. We’re sad or happy or worried or nostalgic. You know. Stuff in our brains besides I Must Always Be Ready To Memorize A License Plate In Case Some Gross Fucker Catcalls Me From A Moving Vehicle. Why, it’s almost like we’re people who expect to be able to move through public space without interruption or obstruction just like everyone else.

    When I have moved through public space on high alert, which repeat harassment incidents will do to a person, I get told that I am a cold bitch who could use a good [form of rape of their choice] and I should smile more because that would make me prettier. Not to mention that maintaining that level of constant external focus is fucking exhausting. So there’s no winning at this for those of us on the receiving end of abuse. The answer is not “Victims write down license plates.” The answer is “Perpetrators stop harassing women and girls for going out in public.” The answer is not “Have a witty retort or a camera phone at the ready.” The answer is “If she looks like she’s having a bad day, she probably is, so leave her alone.” and “If she looks like she’s having a good day, let her enjoy her moment and don’t take that away from her by shouting obscenities.”

  9. says

    I tweeted about this the other day just after it happened.

    I was in my favorite burrito shop, two new employees in training.
    Guy in line in front of me, already acting a bit affected, looks at one of the young women being taught and asks her age.
    She’s 16.

    He goes on to tell her “Your face, that style, I could really market you.”
    “I could market you in a sex chat line, get 25ks hit just on your face alone. Talk sexy, you could do some videos, I could REALLY market you.”

    Keeps on with this stuff as if he’s paying her a huge compliment while she tries to ignore it.
    I didn’t say anything because that might make it worse, make him get angry and come back when no customers are there, whatever, so we all kind of hold our breath and wait for him to leave.

    I made a supportive/apologetic remark but I don’t know if she heard me, she was too busy looking like she was going to throw up.

    What kind of person thinks “you look like a product I could sell!” is some sort of compliment?

  10. Seven of Mine, formerly piegasm says

    Also in the “how is that a compliment?!” vein:

    The other day on my G+, Jeri Ryan, the actress who played Seven of Nine on Star Trek: Voyager, posted a video of a band which wrote a song about Seven. She clearly took it as flattering but I was repulsed.

    The song starts by announcing that the original series and The Next Generation are the only real Star Treks but that he watched Voyager for one reason: Seven of Nine. Then the chorus is something about boldly going where no man has gone before and getting Seven out of her catsuit. So it’s basically “Your actual work and that of your costars was completely inconsequential but hey I fantasized about fucking you when I was 12. Aren’t you flattered?” *hurk*

    Everyone in the comments just thought it was totally adorbs. I debated commenting to say “this is actually gross and here’s why” but I didn’t want to rain on Jeri’s parade. Still contemplating seeing if she has an email for fans and sending her something about why I was grossed out by it and asking what she thinks.

  11. yahweh says

    @Jafafa Hots

    I can well imaging myself in the same situation. It’s difficult to intervene and if you don’t, you feel obliged to rationalise about it afterwards (not suggesting you’re doing this btw).

    Men, of course, are raised to think they should intervene like John Wayne. Women are often far better at it (think barmaid defusing an argument in a pub) – at least partly because the’re less likely to get thumped.

    But safe intervention is possible if you can keep the tone calm or at least let the other guy loose it instead of you.

    It’s a pity no-one does courses on it.

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