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Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ongoing Comments From "Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative"

I'm putting this entry here strictly as a dedicated "over flow lot" for comments to the Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative post.  At over five hundred comments, and without collapsing threads in Blogger, just getting to the most recent replies takes three or four minutes of scrolling down and clicking "Read More."  Not something I want to do several times in a row.

I encourage further comments to come here instead, especially if you are hoping to get a reply from me or other readers.  If you reply to the original post at this point, it's going to be very buried.

39 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. I just wanted to add to the chorus of "Thank You!" Before I learned to drive (at 38), I rode the bus everywhere and it seemed as if creepy guys were everywhere. They never pick up on social cues, even when you flat-out tell them to leave you alone. "You don't have to be like that, I was just asking a question/being friendly/giving you a compliment/etc." They ask your name, where you work, where you live and they always expect a full and accurate answer and get hostile if you don't want to talk to them.

    Sad that there are people like that. Except for the schedules (and creeps), I actually *liked* being able to ride the bus, plus it's environmentally friendly. Now I'll take a cab before I *ever* ride the bus again. Due to a car repair I had to take the bus for 2 days and the creepers came out immediately. I should note that I'm not "conventionally attractive" and am obese, but that didn't stop the creepers from bothering me.

    Sometimes I hate being female, and that's just sad. So again, "Thank You!" for standing up for what's right. :D

    [edited for correct "there"]

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    1. Michelle, I totally get where you are coming from. Taking the bus is not typically a peaceful experience. Men who want to approach women take that opportunity to do so. You should never hate being female. We have power too and being a woman is a great thing (we also have prettier parts!). Most men who verbally accost women are all talk. Annoying talk, for sure, but still just talk. Find ways to tune them out or move to another seat if you take public trans in the future. If they follow you to another seat, then there should be warning bells and a confrontation may be necessary. It's hard to be direct, I know. Even saying something like "I'm leaving this seat because of you" startles some me into staying put.

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    2. We have power too and being a woman is a great thing (we also have prettier parts!).

      As a lifelong admirer of pretty boys I object to this statement! I know sounds like it's heading into off-topic territory, but I think there's actually something related. Insomuch as men regard women as pretty objects to be admired or exploited or objectified, I think there's some lack of empathy going on; they can't relate to the concept of being admired for their looks. I think that if we stop spreading the meme the men are inherently ugly and focus more on admiring them in respectful ways they'll develop more of a sense of empathy. Men deserve to be admired for their beauty - so many of them are way more gorgeous than they know.

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    3. It's unfortunate that we don't just live in a world where you have to avoid busses, but that we live in a world where it's so difficult to get people to see that the fact that you have avoid busses is a really big problem.

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  3. I appreciate and admire what you did. Having been that woman many a time, you make me feel better about humanity.

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  4. There's one point that you missed here. The beginnings of this type of behavior are more evident today than ever. The "bullying" nature of our society that begins and is nurtured in our schools.

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    1. Can you speak more to this? I'm not sure I see this as a given, and I'm curious why you think the two are more than incidentally related.

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    2. I think I understand where Oaksong is coming from. The epidemic of bullying as presented in schools often involves a victim that is unsupported by the larger framework of both peers and adults. As such, the victim is forced into a role of being scared and weak, particularly in response to a verbal onslaught. It seems that unless a victim passively stands and is physically beaten, authority figures and peers are apt not to step in.

      In our adult society, I can see this train behavior being the extension of these bullies who have grown up. Although they have grown up, become interested in women and sexuality, etc. they still seem to rely on the helpless victim trope, where their superior physical presence and often greater patriarchal support are used to intimidate and bully the women (calling it a 'compliment').

      By the same token, those guys who were the subject of bullying and may be physically weaker may choose to be bystanders rather than actively thwarting these attempts out of fear, much like nearby women.

      Bottom line: if respect for other human beings (in whatever form) does not start young, it only has a propensity to get worse as people grow up. The difference is, adults can use excuses much more readily (being nice, compliments, etc) as a way of justifying the same juvenile disrespectful and bullying behavior.

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  5. Ah! I wish I'd seen this earlier. I commented on the other story. I'm not familiar with Blogger and didn't realize how buried it would be. Ah well, no worries! Thanks for writing and thanks for the fun perspective.

    I think that calling guys out and also calling your fellow humans to band with you and stop harassment is awesome. Anyone of any gender can be harassed and anyone of any gender and stop that harassment!

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    1. As a sidenote, I realize that "fellow humans" is a weird way of phrasing it, but we're all just people here. :p

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  6. While I appreciate your perspective and your actions and you seem like a guy who is trying to get it right, I would like you to ask to think about how the use of the word"douche" to mean something/one gross and disgusting feeds into the narrative that women's bodies are dirty and yucky. It doesn't sound like a concept you would want to participate in perpetuating.

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    1. Yeah, I know the reply I gave to another comment that brought this same thing up got pretty buried in that thread. I'll cut and paste it here.

      Actually, I've probably given that word more thought than you might expect including an afternoon of linguistic study and trolling the Google of the term looking for what people I respect think about it. A lot of feminists I know use it to describe guys who are jerky in a particular way--especially variants like bag, nozzle, canoe ,and my personal favorite--aircraft carrier. Plus I love John Stewart, and he uses it a lot, so it gets in my head.

      I know there's a rift about whether it's a sexist pejorative, and I know my choice won't please everyone, but it's not an uninformed decision.

      In a way it's the perfect word. Here is a totally unnecessary thing that is actually toxic even though it thinks it's really useful. And any woman who knows better isn't going to allow it anywhere near their bits. (And this last paragraph actually comes almost verbatim from a Feministe article:

      http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/11/16/in-defense-of-douchebag/

      Definitely cheerleaders on both sides.

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    2. George Takai wrote "In fact, 'the douche' is an invention, by men, that tells women they need to wash out their vaginas to be truly clean - in other words a totally unnecessary and demeaning contraption. Logically, calling someone this would be no slight against women at all. "

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    3. A douchebag is a tool of the patriarchy. Nothing wrong with calling a misogynistic tool a douche.

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    4. It's also transphobic, as douching is medically necessary for trans women who've transitioned. It's like using gay as an insult. Not cool.

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  7. As a reasonably attractive woman, this scenario is not unfamiliar to me. I have been groped, chatted up, you name it on public transportation or just walking around. It's disgusting and I often call men on it. One dude I called on it, however, told me it was okay, he would still go down on me. WTF? I let him have it for that, to which her responded, "I'm just trying to have fun here." Apparently by being disrespectful to women. So thank you for getting out there and retaliating against these idiots. I don't care what you call them (douche, etc.), just thanks for seeing the other side.

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  8. A thing I haven't seen mentioned is, this sucks for most guys too. I mean, the vast majority of us would never do what the douchecanoe (where did you find that word?) did. But because of the sad but ever-present minority who insist on being jerks, most women go around being afraid of all of us regular old sweethearts who just want to be friendly but are often too intimidated to try because we know almost every time they'll shoo us off because they're worried we're going to be another damned douchecanoe.

    If it weren't for them, the rest of us might actually find ourselves having much happier interactions with many of the women we dare to approach with simple respect.

    Being anonymous here makes it easy to be honest and say that while I totally respect what you did, I think you were seriously lucky, and I don't think I'd have it in me to do that myself. I'd frankly be too scared of being killed or seriously injured. I'm sad that many of the commenters have said they think a woman's boyfriend is obligated to intervene if a guy harasses her and think women should break up with a guy who fails to do so. They're too scared to provoke an aggressive stranger themselves and want their partner to do it for them just because he's male. There's good reason for being scared and men shouldn't be expected to ignore that.

    As an often pretty reserved guy who's been bullied and doesn't know from fighting and wants no part of violence, my primary goal in such a situation, assuming the jerk is a stranger, would be to avoid pissing off the jerk. At best, I might have the minimal balls necessary to try respectfully reasoning with him like "you know, she clearly doesn't want to talk to you, and pestering her like that is just going to make her scared of you, so really I think the kind thing to do would be to just let her be." But intruding on his space like you did would just feel too reckless and uncontainable to me.

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    1. To my general knowledge, if a woman wants to be approached and gives that body language, she won't object to the regular old sweetheart :)

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    2. There are times and places when even well-intentioned sweethearts may be shooed away, but if you see the outpouring of comments that have happened on this story, you can see why that is. Not being able to read someone's body language that they're receptive or want to be left alone is socially inept and a bit unfortunate, but usually not treated with contempt. Not getting the hint when the person is looking around for escape routes and telling you they'd like to read their book is not a signal most people can misinterpret. However, it doesn't matter if you're the nicest, most well intentioned, totally-not-creepy guy in the world....some days a person just wants to read their book.

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    3. I posted in the original thread about some boys harassing me in my boyfriend's presence. I never expected him to intervene. I don't think that's a fair expectation, especially given what I knew about his physical capabilities.

      But it is very fair for me to have expected him to at least shut up and stay invisible rather than giving them a hand by hissing at me that I should be polite to them, feel pretty, and emoathize with them because they can't "have" me.

      Men don't have to attempt to rescue me; it's their own choice. But they better'd damn well get out of my way when I deal with my predicament myself.

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  9. Chris, thanks for being a badass bystander!!!I wonder if someone has already told you to check out Hollaback! They are an incredible grass roots organization whose mission is to end street harassment. As well as being a great resource for women/LGBTQ/any folk experiencing harassment, they ALSO have a list of ways witnesses of harassment can act to make harassment socially unacceptable/ help the person experiencing harassment, including telling them that what they are doing is GROSS. Here it is:

    http://www.ihollaback.org/resources/get-involved/

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  10. I've been thinking a lot lately about how to change a number of disturbing behaviors in society. Creeps on the bus. Drivers being jerks to cyclists. All sorts of things like that.

    As much as I believe women (including myself) can and should feel empowered to stand up for ourselves and call out this action when they see it, sometimes the best pressure is pressure from people the perpetrators think are like them. Every time I (as a cyclist) flip off a driver who cut me off, they think - man, cyclists are jerks. If their passenger yells at them, they may think harder about doing it next time. And I think it's the same with street/public transit harassment. Your "bro, back off, you're being a creep", in the mind of the creep, is probably worth a hundred female "fuck offs" in terms of impact.

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    1. Oddly enough, this seems to be a point of great contention because it reeks of "You need us!" overtones, and that bothers some people greatly.

      I just wonder if there's a way (on a societal level) to get past that point.

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  11. This is a repeat comment - but I feel had to make sure you saw this Chris.

    Your story is an amazing story. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for speaking out and helping her. Too few men do this, and stay silent.

    I also want to share Jackson Katz's amazing TED talk on this very issue [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElJxUVJ8blw] - it's a worthwhile 17 mins to watch the video. Your story is an excellent example of his call to action for men to speak out and stand with women (i.e. starting at 16:27 minute mark in the video).

    Again - THANK YOU for your courage!

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    1. I saw it because I get an email each time someone comments, but I'm actually also happy you double posted it here because that link is WONDERFUL and it would be a shame to have it buried some six hundred comments deep.

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  12. I saw this posted by a friend on Facebook, and here's what I wrote:
    Fascinating example of pro-feminist allying, cleverly confronting a guy harassing a woman on public transit. His response was clever, insightful, and as it turned out, seemingly very effective. I wonder though, because he knew that he was pushing what he rightly guessed were the homophobic buttons of the guy, how nonviolent is this approach? Another way of asking this is, I wonder if there's a risk that he was reinforcing homophobia in the guy he confronted, or was he challenging it? I'm glad he spoke up; I'm unsettled by the method.

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    1. I'm glad someone brought this particular criticism over to this page because I answered it on the original page, but I think it's something like 550 comments down. So this is mostly the cut/paste of that (if it feels slightly discordant):

      I want to thank you for bringing this up in a way that I feel like I can respond to without descending into something ugly. I've erased some comments that brought this up in very nasty ways, but I really want to be clear that I deleted them due to how unkind they were. I'm erasing the vitriol, not the issue. The fact is that this is a conversation WORTH having.

      What rang in my head in that moment was a saying that I think was on a meme or something back a few months ago: "Homophobia is the fear that gay men will treat straight men the way some straight men treat women," or something like that, and so I can't say this was innocent of what you've brought up. I didn't set out to "be gay" or "act gay" so much as just give the guy a taste of unwanted attention, and show him what it felt like when someone wasn't getting the hint. The fact that I'm a guy and he was a guy means that spur of the moment choice came with its own package of implications. I tend to listen to a "critical mass" of progressive folks I respect when I'm not sure if I need to be called out, and they seemed pretty happy with my choice, but I never think my actions are above reproach.

      I actually welcome the larger discourse this seems to have created about narratives of homophobia. And in a large part I don't want to do anything but listen to that discussion--partially because it's not my place to tell anyone they aren't offended by my actions, and partially because I don't want to say something I'll regret in a moment of butthurt knee-jerk defense. Some people think my approach was perfectly illustrative of what he was doing to her and was EXACTLY the right thing to do. They have cheered that no other approach would have been quite as effective. Some have brought up the points you did and criticized it. Some have said that I should have asked the woman if she needed help and others have said that would be TOO white knighty. Some think I should just have talked to him; some think that would have probably caused a violent escalation.

      I think as a community we SHOULD discuss where the sweet spot is because it's tragic that someone might NOT do something for fear of causing PC offense. If every action is objectionable in some way then we have to consider the implications that it is possible that the overarching dialogue is perpetuating inaction. Hopefully within that crucible we come to some good progressive, socially responsible conclusions.

      But as a white, het, cis, able, male, I can't reasonably participate in a conversation about what is or isn't hurtful to marginalized groups. I can really only listen. So even though a lot of comments seem directed AT me for my part in this, I would honestly encourage people who feel this way to engage in that respectful discourse.

      And maybe we leave that table grumbling at the fact that no approach made everyone happy, but that we can all agree that doing SOMETHING is the right thing to do.

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    2. Wow.

      Just wow.

      Your story was amazing enough, but this is just spectacular.

      I want to give you all the non-ironic cookies.

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  13. Thank you so much for this.

    Once upon a time, I was that looks-like-a-model young woman who could not go ANYWHERE without some guy hitting on her. It was grueling, and I cannot tell you how many times I was called a "bitch" or a "tease" or "frigid" simply because I did not wish to engage with a creepy total stranger at the gas station.

    But it's not just up to men to change things. Now that I am a merely attractive 40-something mother-of-two, I use myself as a "bitch barrier" between the creepy guy and the victim of his affections.

    Once on the London underground I squeezed myself into a half-seat between a drunken lout and the pretty young woman he was bothering. I made a point of sitting forward or back in my seat as he did, to be sure he couldn't speak around me. At first I just played White Zombie at full volume on my iPod, but eventually I relented and allowed him to speak to me. I rather enjoyed subtly belittling him until she left the train.

    Thank you for starting this dialogue. And thank you for taking action. Now I'm off to watch that TED talk!

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  14. My husband came home with a story about watching a bunch of teenagers on a bus catcall at a woman sitting in the front of the bus. He has the advantage of being 6' 10", so when he leaned forward and told the teens "Hey, that's my sister you're talking to" they listened. And when he insisted they go up and apologize to her, they listened then too. I never thought of his behavior as anything other than him stepping in when he saw something he thought was wrong, and a chance to screw with some obnoxious teenagers. That's the kind of guy he is, it's a big part of why I married him. He does have the advantage of size and being male, but I'd rather he be aware of those advantages and use them for good rather than simply ignore a wrong when he sees it.

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  15. Bless you, OP. This actually happened to me /today/ on the train - the man next to me trying quite blatantly to get my attention while I read with my headphones in my ears - and if more people were like you then I wouldn't have to worry about it ever happening again. A quote from this post passed my tumblr and I had to come and just say 'thank you', especially for putting this out there and for giving the guy a taste of his own medicine.

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  16. I love gandersauce. Love it so much. Thank you for being gutsy enough to dish some out.

    Jenny Islander

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  17. It could be because you are a writer.. OR, that you are possibly one of the greatest freaking men I have ever known in my entire life.. And I called it early too!! I am so thankful you checked your others folder and took a chance on adding one more "unknown" admirer!! ((:

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  18. A late entry to the commentfest. Let me preface this by saying I have read your pinned post on FB and your blog on why you outed yourself as a feminist. Your writing is superb and thought provoking and I can certainly see where you are coming from. However, there is another spin on this story, reading the subtext, that may not make you feel so heroic. Do you believe that humans are animals? That we have evolved from apes? If so, do you think that some of our behaviours might be better explained with reference to our biological instincts around sex rather than culture? I do. I am interested in engaging with you in a discussion on this if you wish, but am happy to leave that thought hanging out there as the bait it is intended to be if you do not. Thank you.

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    1. It's interesting that men are defended and become incensed by the exact same claims. Treat a man like a rapist and NOT ALL MEN are like that. But suggest that a man should be able to restrain himself from hitting on someone who is literally begging him to stop and suddenly it's all about biology.

      Our biology certainly influences our behavior, but it does not determine it.

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  19. ROFL!! As a middle-aged woman who is no longer hit on in public (usually), I hope I have an opportunity to do the same thing sometime should the opportunity occur. Although being female, I should probably only try it on a very young person who would be repelled by the thought - Society being what it is.

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