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The Difference Between Niceness and Street Harassment
Y’know when you’re walking down the street and some stranger takes it upon themselves to tell/yell at you about how attractive you and at least one of your body parts are? Here we are, perfect strangers, and since I don’t know that person’s name or address, it somehow grants them the license to comment on my appearance. If I’m lucky, then they won’t figure out my name or address, especially by following me there.
(By the way, I almost forgot that I had a big ass. Thanks for reminding me, random stranger in a car.)
Henry Rollins talks about how when he and Ian MacKay were younger, they used to drive around and scream compliments at pedestrians. They’d scream stuff like “LOOKIN’ GOOD!” or “HAVE A NICE DAY!” at pedestrians. They called it “positive harassment.” While it was done for laughs and most people were caught off guard by it, they at least knew it was harassment and parodied it as such. Once again, MacKay and Rollins do it right. They understood why it’s harassment to scream shit at strangers who have the misfortune of walking on the street at the same time some moron who’s attracted to them is driving. Why can't people be more like Rollins and MacKay?
I am so tired of people manipulating the social contract to justify their selfish actions towards other people in the name of niceness. Meanwhile, back in reality, true niceness in the form of compliments towards strangers usually doesn't have an agenda aside from bettering someone's life. No one owes anything to anyone because compliments are a fun, fast, and FREE way to brighten a day. In the name of true niceness, that's why I get so angry when people try to make out hounding someone for their number and attention as an act of niceness rather than harassment. As a nice person who gives unsolicited compliments on a frequent basis, it pisses me off that people are trying to re-frame street harassment as a matter of cold-heartedness and OMG can't we talk to women at all without being labeled harassers?
When my guyfriends ask me how they can talk to women on the streets without harassing them, I always say the same thing: "Don't worry about it. You would feel too awkward to even think about trying to pull that crap off."
But then again, they have good intentions. They're not trying to cloak their sexual agenda under a veil of niceness. Nice people don't want to follow you around or impose upon you. We won't hound you or bother you at all with any vulgar nonsense that you didn't explicitly ask for.
Guess what I care about more than some random person’s opinion about my appearance and the conversation that they want to have about it (or eventually go into that direction)? I care about reading the poetry book in my hand. I care about the deathrock blaring through my headphone speakers. (If we have any reason to be talking at all, then you’ll care about that more as well.) I care more about enjoying the scenic bus ride into the East end of Long Island. But I do not care about having a conversation with someone who gives me very little reason to want anything to do with them. Calling me “miss” doesn’t make it nice.
As you know, street harassment is getting a lot of media attention and that’s awesome. Verbal street harassment is like a giant elephant jumping out of someone’s mouth: people don’t/pretend not to notice how freakin’ awkward and creepy that is. (See what I did there?) Yes, most women I know have had to deal with a bunch of cat-calling, wolf-whistling, car-honking, “friendly” people. Because there is nothing friendlier than following someone around while demanding their number, time, and attention.
So apparently, it’s alright to infringe upon your right to go about their life in peace.
Some guy posted a video of himself walking through the streets and having his looks remarked upon, followed, yelled at, etc. He was badgered for his number, but the girls always stopped, probably because they realized how inept and unsexy that behavior is. I would be totally cool with his video if the underlying message was something other than, “Calm down, guys! Street harassment happens to guys too so it’s not a problem! Nope!”
The other videos I’ve seen of men getting catcalled by women were alright, but they’ve always neglected one major thing: the women weren’t screaming things about the men’s bodies, but rather their bank accounts and how they looked so “monogamous” or employed.
Am I the only one who understands how creepy that logic is? I don’t want my guyfriends to know what it feels like to get followed around the city for their number or have someone openly comment on how big their junk is.
The premise of the street harassment dynamic is that a stranger feels entitled to your time, energy, and attention. That it’s acceptable for someone whom you don’t know to just walk up to you and engage them in an interaction with a stranger that they clearly aren’t enjoying. Some strangers are friends waiting to happen, but who the hell wants to make friends with someone whom at the very least talks AT you instead of WITH you? It’s hella weird when anyone tries to impose a conversation upon someone whom just isn’t jiving with it because social skills and boundaries.
Apparently, people are actually debating whether or not this is wrong and whether or not it exists. It happens often enough to the point where most people have at least witnessed someone being on the receiving end of it. So street harassment is not the stuff of mythology.
“But I’m not danger! I’m nice! She should be glad to receive a compliment from me! Stuck-up bitch won’t talk to me!”
Imposing a conversation upon someone? How nice. Stranger danger much? There are ways to talk to strangers without being an asshole. Really. I do it all of the time. I receive non-rude compliments all of the time. And that is why I have zero tolerance for these screwballs who pretend that those of us who have a problem with the unsolicited ongoings here are just fickle ice queens.
First of all, if you’re actually trying to be nice, don’t just go tell a stranger to smile because they look prettier that way. Instead of telling someone to change their facial expression, tell a visibly upset person that you hope that they have a good day and life gets better. I’ve been on the receiving end of it and never mind it. But if I’m sad enough to be crying in a public space, it’s really annoying to be told to smile and then have an awkward (and usually flirtatious) conversation forced upon me isn’t necessarily what I want to do is converse. It’s hard to talk when my face is scrunching as my reddened cheeks and eyes are still hot from stinging tears. I’m not saying that I have no comforting strangers to thank - I definitely do! - but those strangers were the ones who were most concerned with my well-being. They told me that I looked nice, I thanked them, and then they went away. Sometimes, we became friends and whenever that happened, it was a beautiful thing because that’s not typically how it goes. Those incidents are the exception, not the rule. Most of the people who approach me just to tell me that I’m beautiful aren’t just doing it to be nice; they’re clearly doing it to attain their own goals. How sad.
The silence that follows a response. A distant gaze. A nervous smile, maybe. Feel that? That’s the cold sting of rejection. We get used to it.
Ignoring rejection doesn’t make it disappear. But guess what? Mulling over my lack of desire to talk to you means that someone only has their own comfort in mind and no interest in your wishes, especially when you have no idea who the hell they are or why they’ve taken it upon yourself to awkwardly wedge themselves into your day. There’s no easier way to make oneself look socially and emotionally inept. And let me tell ya, it’s not a sexy look.
Let’s not let rude people “mistake” fun banter with harassment. I’ve had plenty of positive conversations with strangers on subways and buses. Unless we wind up becoming friends on both of our terms, one of us would get off the bus, shoots a smile-wave to the other, and wishes them a nice day or leaves them with some other positive intention. In other words, something that somehow says, “Thanks for the good conversation!” I cannot stand when people try to dress up harassment as politeness. If anything, getting mad at someone for not wanting you to hear a stranger’s (usually explicit) opinions on their appearance implies that you have no respect for their lives at all. What do I care if a stranger doesn’t respond to me complimenting their mohawk? Why put so much stock in a stranger’s rejection for any other reason than to speedball on power-tripping and ego-tripping? That’s what makes a compliment nice: you can give them out and they can save them in their pocket for any day, rain or shine. It’s supposed to be a positive experience. That’s why I’m a huge fan of admiring people when admiration is due. And there are plenty of ways to do that in socially acceptable, non-creepy ways. I would be embarrassed to turn my car around and pace my car alongside Mohawk Guy, a civilian whom only wants to continue down the street as I honk at him and demand that he throw away all the safety dance moves he learned in school by getting in the car with me, a random crackerjack.
Instead of telling you how “dang big those titties” look, why can’t they just tell you that they like your shirt? Maybe remark on the pattern or style and leave it at that? Oh, that’s right. Compliments aren't legitimate unless have sexual undertones.
I live on Long Island. Unlike the less populated places I’ve lived, people do not smile at passersby on the streets. Usually, doing that will get you an uncomfortable stare. Sometimes I'll do it and maybe add a “hello” to boot, but it ends there. This applies doubly in the five boroughs. The same thing happens if I compliment someone on their appearance. No following, no flipping out, no demanding their numbers.
Checking someone out? Staring is considered rude in these parts; a little tact can go a long way. That's all. In other words, I won’t lock my eyes onto any body part except for their eyes, and that’s only if they decide to interact with eyes.
What’s the point of caring about a stranger who doesn’t want to talk to me, regardless of whether or not I find them attractive? That person is a stranger. They owe me nothing, not even the time of day. It’d be nice if they gave me some if I wanted it, but it's not their job to validate my existence. That's the government's job.
If there’s any uncertainty about whether or not someone feels like giving you the time of day, stop talking to them and see if they initiate further discussion. It’s really that simple. What does someone have to lose by continuing a conversation with a stranger whom just isn’t receptive? Dignity and the other person’s respect, that's what. A nervous smile isn’t a sign of approval, moron.
An important aspect of socializing is recognizing what is not being said. There’s a lot of things that are left unsaid, but in this case, neither is approval. I don’t know how anyone can defend one-way encounters that are all either obscene or otherwise imposing. Personally, if someone compliments my appearance, I just say “thank you” and go on. But damn, talking to me about shagging me when all we’ve done together is walk on the street at the same time?
Well, that escalated quickly.
Those who endorse street harassment are just seeing us strangers how they want to see us. They fill in the blanks with their own version of what they wish was happening. They've deluded us into believing that they're owed reciprocation because they find a stranger attractive. It's healthy to treat people how you'd like to be treated... unless your preferential treatment involves screaming sexual things about strangers' bodies or following them when they give you little to no acknowledgement.
So feel free to tell those “nice guys” on the street to please grow some social skills or take them out of hiding. It's not your job to enlighten them, but the beautiful process of watching someone lose their ability to rationalize their inept behavior is simply too entertaining.
#Real #StreetHarassment #NiceGuys #BringingNicenessBack #Compliments #ThatEscalatedQuickly #StrangerDanger
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