This is not a rant. This is not a statement. This is a rambling opinion that may or may not eventually make a coherent point. So, warnings aside, read at your own peril.
Before I go any further, I’m just going to summarise really quickly what I want to say here, so there are no misunderstandings. I’m going to say that I feel that there is a difference between street “admiration” (sometimes a nice chap) and street harassment (always an asshole). I’m also going to say that I personally am (or at least was) totally cool with admiration and totally uncool with harassment.
So. Before I started a very turbulent affair with the social justice kingdom of Tumblr, I used to fucking LOVE it when I noticed a guy checking me out. In the gym, on the street, from a car, in my car, whatever. I felt sexy, special, powerful. I mean, once a guy was checking me out so hard he literally fell down steps. The thing is, all bullshit aside, I’m attractive. I know this firstly because I’m insanely lucky and privileged that parts of me look a way that is deemed “hot” by society, but also because I work damn hard at it. I exercise between 3 and 7 times per week; I eat clean; I expend hilarious amounts of energy preventing the illicit love affair between my eyebrows from ever happening, and I spend hilarious amounts of money turning my hairy manly parts into the dainty smooth lady parts society expects. I fucking deserve to be hot after all that shit, man. So when I would see a guy checking me out, I’d be like “You’re god damn right you’re checking me out, I worked HARD for this mmm hmm.”
Now. Before I go on, let me just say here that what I am talking about is NOT, in my view, street harassment. I felt insanely confident when I knew a guy was looking at me because, hi, I’m a babe and he noticed. Winner! However, as soon as one of those guys decided to approach, speak to, make kissy noises at or beep his horn at me, I was instantly creeped the fuck out. This seems to be the part that lots of people, men and women alike, seem to have an issue with. People say “omg but women LOVE to be cat called in the street! They get their confidence from it! I’m helping!” You know what, maybe you’re right in some cases. But for the most part, there is a HUGE difference between checking a stranger out because they are good looking, and approaching that stranger to tell them about it.
You see, I enjoyed being temporarily objectified (admittedly due to an entire lifetime of subtle brainwashing, but still) until the guy suddenly stopped treating me like an object and made it weird. Guys, you need to decide. You can’t have both, I’m sorry. If I’m an object to you, then fucking leave it that way. Don’t stare at my various segmented attractive parts like a hungry lion stares at the juiciest parts of an antelope and then simultaneously attempt to treat me like a whole person. It doesn’t work.
This is how I would tell the creeps from the normal dudes: who was dumb/crazy enough to try and traverse the vast canyon between objectifying and personifying in the same 30 seconds?
Analogy time: anybody can look at and appreciate something of beauty, say, a flower. A nice, kind, upstanding human would look at it and go “wow!” Maybe even tell their friends, or think about it afterwards for a little bit. That is the reasonable reaction to have when an object is pleasing to look at. Now, a slightly less well-adjusted human would perhaps attempt to talk to the flower, maybe even get slightly annoyed that the flower didn’t want to respond (um, it’s an object dude, what were you expecting?). Only a total asshole psychopath would respond to seeing an object of beauty by attempting to remove it from its surroundings and take it home with them. When I’m walking down the street being objectified, the least y’all can do is treat me like an object PROPERLY. Jeez.
This is where the whole “cat calling is super confidence boosting” argument never really managed to convince me. There is absolutely a difference between catching a glimpse of a guy looking at you, or seeing him mouth “HOLY SHIT” to a friend when you walk by, and the same guy running over to you and screaming “HOLY SHIT YOU ARE FIT” in your face. Or even sometimes “ HOLY SHIT YOU ARE FIT WHAT’S YOUR NUMBER NO OK YOU’RE A SLUT ANYWAY SLUT”. In the first scenario, the line between object and person has not been crossed, and unfortunately it’s the normal way (and yeah, it totally sucks) so everyone knows how to behave. The object is admired, and the admirer shuts their fucking mouth. As soon as that role is changed in both of the other scenarios, the unspoken rules about objectification have been broken and panic ensues. I’ve been raised by the media and society to be an object, and I’m pretty damn good at it, but I sure as hell haven’t been raised to deal with random people’s crap all up in my grill as I’m walking down the street, so you can back the fuck up sir.
I quite like being looked at, but that doesn’t mean I want to talk to strangers. Nobody likes talking to strangers. No, seriously, NOBODY DOES. Actually no, I’ll tell you who does like talking to strangers: weird people. Creepy, weird people. So that should tell you all you need to know about trying to talk to random women (or ANYONE) on the street.
So, in conclusion, if you don’t want to be a creepy, stalkery weirdo, then look as much as you like, but shut your damn mouth and GOD HELP YOU if you touch. God help you.
It’s very important to note here that I hope that my opinion will be respected as the opinion of a real bona fide female who has experienced multiple genres of harassment and abuse, street and otherwise. However, despite that, it should also not be used to conclude that ALL women must be totally cool with staring as long as there is no touchy.
People all have varying boundaries for what they consider to be totally creepy. Some women might actually like getting their asses grabbed, who knows, and some women might literally want to punch anyone who looks their way for more than a millisecond over the appropriate amount of time. Guess what? People are different, and that’s just something we all need to get over reeeeal quick. K? Cool.