How Men Can Fight Sexual Harassment

Harassment

The better you understand how sexual harassment functions, the easier it is to work against it.

One of the facts of life that I’ve come to know in my 50 years of learning is that, in general, members of privileged groups are oblivious to 1) their unearned privilege and 2) moments of oppression—or the possibility of it that lingers in the air—that people who are not members of privileged groups experience often, without warning.

I’ll pause here because I can already see some of you rolling your eyes. You’re about to click the ‘back’ button to read something else or shut down your laptop, altogether. Or maybe you’re about to write me off as a left-wing nutbar.

Don’t. Hear me out, instead.

♦◊♦

Let me provide an anecdote to try to make my point about how social privilege works. Earlier today, I was walking in my Vancouver neighbourhood. Coming directly towards me was a woman. Visual cues indicated that we were about to turn onto the same sidewalk, she to her right and me to my left. Rather than rushing ahead of her, I slowed so that she could pass ahead of me. The result was that, for about 15 feet, I was following behind her.

For that brief amount of time, I wondered if she instantly felt self-conscious, fearing that I might have been checking her out from behind and assessing her sexually on physical attributes. I wondered if, in other places and at other times, she has been the target of unwelcome sexual leering and comments from boys and men throughout her life. I wondered about sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and even sexual assault at the hands of boys and men. Boys and men have been targets of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, too, but the difference is that girls and women are generally more vulnerable in public space than are boys and men.

As one example of male privilege, I can generally roam around in public completely free of the fear that I’ll be sexually ogled. Many women do not have that privilege. How they look and what they’re wearing have nothing to do with it because ogling is about men’s behaviour. Let me say that again: men’s behaviour. To believe otherwise is to support rape culture, which is the belief that women deserve what they get because they were in the wrong place, doing the wrong things, and wearing the wrong clothing. It is not just some men who believe such—let me put it politely—hogwash. Some women support it, too, such as socially ultraconservative women, religious zealots, and the like.

I am not saying that girls and women are passive victims, powerless to the unwelcomed leering and advances of men. To be a victim is to take on an identity of deference. Instead of victim as a noun, I prefer to describe targets of oppression with the verb form of victim, which is victimize. There is a key difference between being a victim and being victimized. The pervasive threat that lingers in the public air is that any girl or woman can be victimized in public space, at any time.

One of the defining characteristics of belonging to a privileged group is that most members are oblivious to how other people, by simple virtue of their not belonging to a privileged group, can be victimized through verbal or physical harassment or assault. Many men, for instance, do not understand how sexism and misogyny play out in small, discrete moments in the lives of girls and women, everyday. It doesn’t happen to most men, so we just don’t see it.

A complex problem is that if members of privileged groups don’t see the undeserved oppression of others, then chances are that they will remain ignorant of their own unearned social privilege. Unless you’re a member of a targeted group, it takes constant effort to see the oppression of others. It’s hard work. Let me provide three examples, setting aside so many others such as religious, cultural, able-bodied, and class privilege. Most men don’t see how they benefit from male privilege, despite how it plays out in their lives, everyday. Straight people have to work very hard at seeing their straight privilege. They can flaunt their sexuality, i.e. publicly announce their marriages and perform Public Displays of Affection without fear of getting bashed, while not having a clue that other people cannot. Take this unabashed celebration of hetero love, for instance. Notice that there isn’t a single gay or lesbian couple in any of the photos? That’s the usual state of affairs but many straight people wouldn’t notice. Similarly, White folks struggle to see White privilege; most don’t see it and many emotionally react against the very idea.

The difficulty in merely seeing the oppression of others is why educating for social justice is such a difficult enterprise. We who teach it spend too much time demonstrating that oppression exists in the first place. You might not be directly affected by it, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t adversely shape the lives of people who are not you.

I’m not saying that men are bad people for having privilege, if “bad people” even means anything. Instead, I’m talking about social conditioning of prejudicial ideas that become normalized.

I’m not talking, necessarily, about overt racism, homophobia, and sexism. I’m not saying that men are bad people for having privilege, if “bad people” even means anything. Instead, I’m talking about social conditioning of prejudicial ideas that become normalized. The culture of misogyny, for instance, is mirrored in pop culture media, including toys for girls to instil passiveness, overt sexuality at younger and younger ages, and a princess identity that teaches her to defer to the prince who will supposedly sweep her off of her feet. I’m not against girls’ and women’s sexuality. I’m against the message so common in media and consumer goods that sexuality is all they’re worth and all they have to offer. That message is everywhere, all around us.

Fortunately, there are many men who recognize their social privilege as men. They also see how girls and women are potential targets of sexual harassment, abuse, and assault, and how our media-driven, contemporary, modern society endorses girls’ and women’s inferiorization, hyper sexualisation, and degradation. Those are big words but they describe something real in the everyday lives of girls and women that most boys and men do not experience or even have to think about. That’s male privilege, right there.

Back to the woman who I encountered while going for a walk. It likely would not have been apparent to her that I’m gay (Well, it might have been apparent. Who am I kidding?) and not interested in her that way. But, in that very moment, my sexuality was beside the point. What mattered to me was that I take some responsibility for the possibility that she might feel uncomfortable with me, a male stranger, walking behind her. And so, I took it upon myself to turn the next corner instead of following her across the road, which I could have easily done. It was a tiny moment of awareness turned into action, despite how insignificant it seemed. It is these seemingly little daily moments that build a life based on responsibility and change.

Photo—the_toe_stubber/Flickr

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About Gerald Walton

Gerald is a scholar, author, and activist in Ontario and British Columbia, Canada. He teaches about gender, sexuality, and masculinity and gives presentations to teachers, students in schools, administrators, and other audiences. For further information, go to geraldwalton.ca

Comments

  1. Gerald I am sorry but I don’t buy it. You have no idea what that woman was thinking in your anecdote, Do you realize that you as a man were actually much more likely to be a victim of a crime from a stranger than she was. You did nothing wrong and this putting the collective guilt on men has got to stop and it should stop now.

    Someone else on this website some time ago said something that I think applies here.

    “To a hammer everything looks like a nail”.

    You said those with privilege don’t see it but the reverse is also true , those that believe they don’t have it see it in everyone else all the time.

    • Mostly_123 says:

      Raft, I have to say I agree with you here.

      It’s a moral imperative to obey the law- it’s not a moral imperative to fall over one’s self to randomly reassure any or every stranger (male or female) that you are going to obey the law.

      It’s important to understand an accept that any individual cannot (and cannot reasonably be expected to be obligated to) reassure everyone, everywhere, all the time: Whether or not they even have the inclination to (let alone the ability to) they do not have the responsibility to. Ambivalence in place of active, positive, unqualified, hegemonic, arbitrary reassurance is not harassment- it’s ambivalence.  

      When everyone and everything is seen as threatening, predatory, or otherwise capable of some sort of random malevolence it’s no longer a question of manners or privilege. We have laws and custom to protect against coercion (as well we should);  but the metric of those laws is not: ‘Whatever I, individually & arbitrarily declare today as coercive, threatening, discomforting or otherwise unsightly is, by de facto, such- and therefore, unlawful.’    

      When someone projects fear (their fear) onto anther person (particularly because of their race, gender, nationality, or otherwise) then, ironically, the control lies with the person who is PROJECTING their fear, not the person who is having another’s fears projected UPON them.  

      To cry ‘privilege’ (or, more accurately, a discrepancy of privilege) is a powerful rhetorical tool: For it immediately insinuates that the accused is immune from any introspection, objectivity, and is in some way blatantly, blindly & selfishly deluded by their overwhelming good fortune. And, of course, in a rhetorically self-sustaining paradox, to deny any such accusation is to confirm the very accusation itself: That’s the power & privilege of crying ‘check your privilege': It conflates ‘privilege’ with luxury (but not responsibility); belligerent (not benevolent) and UNdeserved power without constructive purpose or responsibility, and therefore evil (or, at least, errant). It’s no less a privilege then to expect the obligation of an open-ended commitment to approbation, accommodation, or reassurance: ‘Take responsibility for the way you & your actions may be subjectively perceived by me- because, well, as an overtly & uniformly privileged class, you therefore owe it to me.’ That’s not persuasive stance from which to illicit empathy or altruism.  

      On a side note, I would also point out that the article is prefaced on male-ableism: I doubt a male paraplegic or quadriplegic, a blind person, a deaf person, or one over 85 years old using a walker would be seen as presenting a similarly threatening profile- Identity politics aside, there are many times when gender is an irrelevant metric: BUT if I believe that I am being oppressed and coerced because of my gender (and only because of my gender) and the ONLY metric for objectively determining that is that I myself believe it (whether or not it is objectively true, or objectively false, in any given situation) then, of course, it’s bound to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • What I don’t understand is why it’s such a big deal to be considerate when it’s not costing anything?

      Now, I’m a big fella. True, if I’m walking behind a lone woman on a darkish street, I don’t know if that’s scary for her or not. But either way, it’s not cost to be to cross the street just in case. So why not just do it?

      This is not about “collective guilt” or anything or the sort. Nobody is blaming me or calling me a rapist. In fact, it’s not about me at all. It’s all about the people who unfortunately are scared when they walk the streets, and taking small, no-cost steps to make it a little less scary.

      • Should black men stay further behind because people have irrational fears about them? That’s the point here, why should men have to change their life to suit other peoples fears? Why can’t those in fear learn to deal with it better instead of expecting men change life to make them feel allll warm n special n safe whilst treating the man like a damn lecherous person. Why isn’t it up to the person afraid to stay away from others? If they cannot handle walking the streets then why the hell is it up to EVERYONE ELSE to make them feel safe by acting like they’re a criminal instead of that person either learning to deal with it or staying away? I get nervous too and I think it’s pathetic for me to expect others to change their life, their walking just so I feel safer…

        • As a woman, I find this comment very offensive. I encounter sexual harassment from men on the street daily. I have been leered at, called out, had someone smack their lips as I pass by, been approached, propositioned, even had someone run up behind me while walking alone at night and try to touch me. I didn’t expect that person to get in my space, but they did. It scares me that these men feel entitled to use their masculinity as a way to intimidate and harass me. I don’t know how far someone is going to go. I am scared of what might happen to me. I am scared of being raped. And I am scared enough to be wary of any man or group of men I pass.

          Your comment attempts to invalidate and undermine my fears. I ask you to put yourself in my shoes: are my fears unreasonable? While I don’t think that every man I pass is trying to harass me, I have no idea which ones will and which ones won’t. And although it should absolutely not be my responsibility, I would like to avoid sexual harassment and rape. This makes can sometimes make walking on the street a challenge. I sometimes cross the street multiple times to avoid potential leering eyes and degrading comments. I should not have to feel uncomfortable walking down the street, but I do. I think it’s extremely insensitive that you suggest that I should have to take my fear and “deal with it better.” What do you expect me to do? How should I instead handle walking the streets?

          • @Margaret,
            Well I forgot to add emphasis that I meant this for case of expecting men to cross the street. Hence my focus on the staying away part. It bothers me that there are some who expect men to walk further away from a woman than others, to cross the street to make her feel safe, to change directions and stay well away from her, that is what I was referring to.

            For people who call our, harass, etc I think they should face punishment from the law.

            I’m not saying to NOT cross the street, but don’t expect men to cross them to avoid being near you incase you feel fear. I fully expect men to behave decently though, as you do too, and the law should enforce that. But I will not cross the street because I am near a woman and she MAY be scared, I don’t expect people to do that for me either even though I am probably nervous. The simple act of walking in proximity (not following n stalking) is not bad.

            It’s fine for you to feel that fear, it’s your feeling, just don’t use it to try guilt men into changing their lives and stop doing basic non-threatening, normal behaviours such as walking the street. Does that make more sense? Would you like for your entire gender to be expected to stay away from the other gender because some of your gender does bad things? I don’t mean telling us to stop harassing (which is fine, people need to stop harassing) but I mean expecting us to hang well away, never get near, cross the road to make her feel more comfy. It is gender profiling, it is judging an entire group for the minority, and I can understand the fears as I’ve had them for women too due to previous abuse but never could I expect women to just stay away and change their life. If we’re both walking to the shops, she shouldn’t have to cross the street to stay away, nor should I. IF she harasses me, then she needs to change her behaviour just like men doing the same.

            • Thanks for your response. I am not disagreeing with you- I don’t recommend gender profiling either and I don’t expect men to cross the street for my benefit. I just wanted to point out that the words you used were offensive and the attitude you have toward valid fears was very dismissive.

            • Sorry it came across that way, I was probably a bit cranky and forgot to clarify. I live with an anxiety disorder and have super duper annoying fears, can’t even work at the moment over them so I understand fear quite well. I come from the sense that fears can be so crippling that I think it’s good to overcome them where possible, but my comment was meant to only be directed at the fears implying men should stay away. I didn’t mean to dismiss them for when men are inside your personal space, not backing off, leering, being lecherous etc which I think is disgusting behaviour and I’d be afraid of that too.

              My fears come from being physically n mentally abused n bullied, I was hit by teachers n other students, was groped by other students on my “manboobies” (which is apparently sexual assault?). I flinch when I am touched in certain places, like my groin, chest, ass, lower back, basically erogenous zones. When I am in close proximity with people I try to move away as I get on edge, get nervous, even near women who are literally half my size or a third (I am 6’6/300lbs). Last time I was hit was about 7 years ago in a club, I had some punch me in the stomach and I froze up. Elevators are hella weird, and I usually stay to the sides of a room, I cannot stand being in the front row, I usually pick the back row as I don’t like people behind me ever.

              On the other hand I also know my size is intimidating, I was told after highschool that sometimes I’d make people nervous cuz I am just so tall n large set, funnily enough I was also very scared then too and probably as nervous as they were if not more. I learned to make sure I didn’t stand too close to people, made sure I didn’t block exits (one of the S.R articles taught me that, didn’t realize that being near a door can make people nervous), if I am walking behind someone, I move to a 45 degree or “another lane” and I back off to indicate I have zero interest in them. I tuck my arm behind myself whenever I walk past sometime and say scuse me to let them know I’m walking past, I usually avoid walking near people if I can. I even avoid looking at people too, feels awful strange when I see a woman looking at me for instance and I notice…I usually look away straight away so I don’t make her uncomfy and myself.

              I am always hypervigilant and keep an eye on my surroundings, I try to keep an eye on others too to make sure no one messes with them. I’ve been told I am a good judge of character and I guess that is because I am so damn alert and perceptive to body language, I can pickup on slight vocal undertones that sound very familiar to abusive people I know. Certain body language also triggers me too, and facial expressions, how people talk n act with each other, all that stuff is running a million miles n hour in my brain being decoded to know if I am safe, if my friends are safe, people around me, etc. I’ve picked up on the precursors to a fight before just by noticing the 2 guys behaviour.

              That’s the fears I live with everyday, although I am trying to learn to ignore it somewhat to calm down and actually have a life. I still find it very hard to talk to women I don’t know, especially know that I’ve read S.R n know how scared many women are. It’s quite difficult to know that being my size, being male is enough to scare people and I wish they could see that I am just as afraid so they realize I am no threat, funnily enough women I do talk to seem a hell of a lot more confident than I do and it’s always female friends who have touched me first, hugged first, touches on the arm which are normal n ok but I never do first because I don’t know if it’s ok to do so, I never ever want to make someone feel uncomfy so I just don’t get physical in most cases. I can usually spot discomfort well, but I’d have to take the chance in touching their arm during talking (as they do to me) and then judge their reaction, I don’t want to make them uncomfy so it’s not a chance I wanna take. So I have so many fears of being hurt, and also fears of them being afraid of me, whilst also knowing that the lack of touch is probably harming my friendships as people probably think I am damn weird since so many people just naturally touch each other.

              I wolverine the keys between my fingers when I am alone, even in the daytime if people are around. Of the men I know, I think most are similarly worried at night and so are the women. It’s tough to know who to trust especially when on the street where we can only get a glimpse of who they are, many of us seem to walk around in fear which is sad really. More needs to be done to get the criminals n abusive people to change for sure! I am yet to see any street harassment, only times I’ve seen inter-gender violence or harassment is when women have hit their bf’s/husbands and basic yelling between couples and once a car load of guys driving past whilstling to a model I was photographing, she seemed to take it as a compliment n laughed and I apologized for their behaviour whilst feeling annoyed….wasn’t much I could do since they were gone within 2 seconds as they were driving. From what I can understand a lot of harassment happens from groups who all partake in it, or individuals who act when there aren’t too many other people around, where others can’t step in and stop it? I think many men especially feel helpless to stop the harassment when they just don’t see it happening, and if they hang out with people who aren’t harassing others then it’s hard to know who to tell.

  2. *rolls eyes*

  3. I feel that way oftentimes, as well. I’m a tall, broad man with a kinda scowly face and I can tell I sometimes make women nervous in parking garages or elevators. It is sad that this is the case, I’m really a guy to keep to himself; I don’t hit on strange women let alone attack them in the night.

    What I probably might have done in your situation is to get in front of the woman rather than behind. You can’t be watching her and she can see what you’re doing. Plus, on more than one occasion I have had a woman walk a little ways behind me down the street so that they do not appear to be alone. It makes me feel kinda nice but I never really know how fast I should be walking.

  4. Gerald,

    “To believe otherwise is to support rape culture, which is the belief that women deserve what they get because they were in the wrong place, doing the wrong things, and wearing the wrong clothing.”

    Nonsense!!!!! I do not believe their is such a thing as rape culture. Most women who are raped know the man who raped them. The other women are subject to violence, often when they are sleeping…..

    But, on to the bigger picture. I really do not like the definition of sexual harassment: unwelcomed sexual overtures…..So, does that mean if the overture is welcomed it is not harassment?

    I would agree with you that most men are oblivious to how women have to change their behavior in the presence of men. I see this everyday. It really bothers me.

    But, equally appalling is this idea that the presence of a strange man equates to danger. That is just folly. The overwhelming majority of us men are not looking to pounce on a woman to inflect rape, mayhem, and/or violence upon them. Where does this notion even come from Gerald?

    I simply cannot understand how a woman can be welcoming to a “hot” guy in a particular setting whom they do not know (i.e., strange man), yet feel threatened by other strange men. Or women who engage in online dating with unknown (strange) men.

    Before most women meet a man, he is a stranger! It seems we have gone overboard and lost common sense about things today.

  5. Great article. As a small woman who walks alone in the dark to the metro after work I promise this is a real thing women worry about. Is it unfair? Absolutely but we (women) are constantly warned of how we need to protect ourselves at all times. Once, while walking on a deserted street in the dark a guy stepped out of an alley behind me. We were the only ones on the street. I am not going to lie I got nervous (probably visible through my body language and increased speed of walking). Then he shouted from about 20 feet back. “Excuse me miss I was just walking to the metro. I would be happy to walk in front if that will make you more comfortable.” I stopped and thought about it and said, “yeah …sorry if you don’t mind.” He smiled said ” no problem!” And walked by me (and didn’t get super close as he did). We walked the rest of the way to the metro. When we got there he smiled again and wished me a good night. I have had lots of other experiences that were very unpleasant. Names called, obscenities yelled, “brushing” aggressively while passing by on empty streets. This was a really nice thing he didn’t have to do (he shouldn’t be suspect because of his sex and size)but he was very classy about the whole thing. It was a kind gesture and I haven’t forgotten him or his kindness three years later. Its not men’s responsibility to worry they are threatening every woman they encounter but a little acknowledgement of what could be “threatening” circumstances does not go unnoticed by a women just trying to get to the metro.

    • “Its not men’s responsibility to worry they are threatening every woman they encounter but a little acknowledgement of what could be “threatening” circumstances does not go unnoticed by a women just trying to get to the metro.”

      Indeed. At the mall for instance when I see a woman look at me and I look back I quickly look away because I don’t want to make her uncomfy. I’ve probably missed opportunities for dates because I didn’t want to make someone feel uncomfy asking them out. Some people are easily spooked, and I think there are a lot of guys who do not want to spook a woman so they actually give up on trying to date because they NEVER want someone feeling uncomfy.

      Hell I am 6’6, large, and it’s very annoying as my size alone is intimidating (even though I am usually far more nervous than most people due to an anxiety disorder). I take steps to look “lesser” and smaller but at times I just can’t avoid it. Elevators are a place where everyone seems to feel on edge, looking at some random thing on the wall and avoiding eye to eye contact….to me that is one extremely bad society, so afraid and nervous and I bet many people feel less at ease because we’ve lost that sense of community. When we’re raised to fear strangers so much, it must have a very bad impact on some of our lives I think. Most people are good, so why aren’t we all saying hello/good morning more often?

    • Its not men’s responsibility to worry they are threatening every woman they encounter but a little acknowledgement of what could be “threatening” circumstances does not go unnoticed by a women just trying to get to the metro.
      I am sorry about the circumstances that you go live with please let me say thanks for acknowledging this bit here.

      It may not seem like much but with the way these conversations go men actually are being held responsible for making sure they don’t appear to be threatening to women in any way. I’ve seen see suggestion that a guy cross to the other side of street, wait for the next elevator, announce his presence, etc….

      Supposedly its an act of kindness that costs nothing when in reality its a request to change for the sake of women as a way to “prove” that you are not one of the bad men.

      Thing is as a large black man I’ve been the suspect pretty much my entire life. Its just that over time I’ve noticed that I’m supposed to believe that being afraid of me because I’m large is irrational and sizist, being afraid of me because I’m black is irrational and racist but being afraid of me because I’m male is perfectly valid and I must do whatever it takes to prove to women that I am not a threat.

  6. John Anderson says:

    I understand class privilege, white privilege, and hetero privilege at least in the traditional senses of the term. Rich people don’t need to worry about their next meal so they’re free to expend their energies on other things. White people don’t need to worry about being pulled over by the police for driving while white. Same sex marriage isn’t even legal in every state and yeah, there is no social stigma to being hetero. Male privilege is a little more difficult to grasp. You say it’s because I have it. Well maybe, but then again maybe because it doesn’t actually exist or the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction.

    I’ll give you an example. We have two people. Person A makes 10K / year. Person B makes 13K a year. We would say that person B is privileged over person A, but because person A makes less than 11K / year, they are entitled to 5K worth of government assistance not available to person B. So person A actually has 2K more resources than person B.

    At what point does deferring to the other gender because of privilege actually result in the other gender being privileged? When does it become counter productive to continuously feed the stereotype of men being inherently violent? This is what you’re saying after all. We must challenge men to alter their behavior so that we don’t need to challenge women to alter their beliefs. How many able bodied women are challenged to cross a street so that they’re not walking behind a disabled or elderly man or a child? It’s not an issue of someone being vulnerable. It’s an issue of someone being male.

  7. Hank Vandenburgh says:

    I’d like it if we were a little more casual about the lifeworld. Men are not going to stop looking at women with desire. Women are not going to stop looking at men the same way. I think the privilege business and rape culture are instructive, but a little too fraught for normal life. No-one is going to give up privilege (besides Mother Theresa.) I doubt that there is a general rape culture. I do think an anonymous society is scary because your friends and neighbors are frequently not out on the street looking after you.

  8. “As one example of male privilege, I can generally roam around in public completely free of the fear that I’ll be sexually ogled”

    Women don’t look and stare at men sexually? You could argue that ugly people have this privilege too.

    “It is these seemingly little daily moments that build a life based on responsibility and change.”

    So your way of combating these issues is to turn the next corner, but what if your destinations are the same? Why should men have to change their life. If she is afraid, she can cross the street. I am a victim of quite severe abuse and for a long time I was nervous around strangers, I chose to walk further away from them because it was my fear. A person who did not purposely drop back or stay away was not a bad person, nor should we expect them to. That women may not have realized or cared that you were there, yet you treated her automatically as a victim, you treat her as different to men and avoid her. What is a woman meant to think when she does notice men avoiding being near her? Guess that it is chivalrous or will she feel they are judging her? If she is black would she assume you are being chivalrous or racist?

    When you do these actions you’re actively reinforcing the idea that men are dangerous, that men SHOULD change their life to suit the sensitivities of women. If I choose not to do the action you take, will you judge me and go on a spiel about privilege?

    Imagine a world where men are now afraid of saying hello to women because some men are bad. What kind of unfriendly world is that? I worry about this shit and actively avoid women at times because I’ve had it hammered into my head that men scare women, that women are these frail fragile beings and the big bad men make them afraid. But really all that is doing is reinforcing the belief of men being bad, it’s helping women to stay afraid of men. I find it difficult to look a woman in the eye BECAUSE I don’t want to make her uncomfy, but really all that does is make me look shifty, the body language displayed can actually make her feel more nervous unless she knows I am shy.

    As a man I actively avoid being arounds kids for fear of pedophilia hysteria, is that a female privilege since they can be far more at ease around kids? What this does is make it far more difficult to find scout leaders for kids, male teachers, etc and we pander to this fear. This hyperfocus on street harassment and rape may actually cause more fear, so people that advocate against abuse must be careful not to make women even more afraid where we start seeing society get a detriment as men are staying away from women. I already know a few guys whom aren’t hitting on women, so there are a few less women in this world that can find a date because they’re potential male dates are nervous. Should we all walk on the street eyes front or at the ground, never making eye contact because it can make someone nervous? Making large circle avoidance as if that person is a predator? Should males have to take the next corner which means walk even further because she MAY be scared of him?

    I’m sorry but there are some things that are just too far. Yeah it’s great to be aware that you presence may make someone nervous but don’t change your life so much because of it. I try my best to bypass this bullshit so I can actually get to my destination without feeling uncomfy and nervous about her feelings, and she needs to also do the same and try to beat her anxiety. The good people of the world do not deserve to have their lives affected because some people are bad, do I have a right to expect women to avoid me because I’ve been punched, slapped, groped by some? I’m afraid of some women too, should all of them stay away because of that?

    Following any person directly behind them is threatening no matter the gender, it is better to change your pace and let them realize you aren’t a threat. If you are behind someone, whilst a happy tune and let them know you’re there and act as happy as you can, do not focus on them and that way they know you’re there and don’t get a surprise. But you shouldn’t go overboard with this because people in public need to learn to deal with someone in proximity walking to their destination, they cannot expect that person to stop and heavily change their walking to appease their insecurity n fears.

    We can combat street harassment in far better ways than make women more afraid than they already are. But promoting this gender profiling is a BAD IDEA. Should people in hoodies stay away from others? What about black people? How about 18-35’s (whom are the majority of violent crime)? People should call out bad behaviour, come to others aid when needed, but we can’t go overboard and cause more harm than good. Society has already fucked up bigtime with protection of children making a generation of children have FAR LESS adult male influence, let’s not go overboard and make it far more difficult for adult males n females to interact either. Women reading this, I guarantee there are guys who are less likely to ask you out because they do not feel comfortable doing it because they’re afraid to make you uncomfy, I am one of them and it’s largely because of bad advice given.

    The initial steps of meeting a woman for instance, meeting someones gaze, you both look at each other for a second or so and it indicates interest right? Well I avoid looking back because I don’t want to make them feel uncomfy, no one taught me the right length of time to look, and I know other guys who feel similar anxiety. We want to interact with women but after having the idea of never making a woman feel uncomfy drummed into our head, it makes us nervous. Walking on the street it is easy to understand that promixity (especially late at night) will cause anxiety, but how about at the bar or whatever. Looking at someone can make them nervous, should men avoid looking? What is the appropriate behaviour here? The difference between making someone feel attractive and nervous could be a few seconds extra looking. You can make someone feel uneasy simply by not meeting their gaze appropriately and looking away quickly, shy people can come across as shifty. Saying hello to a woman can make her feel uncomfy, do we avoid that too? Asking her on a date can make her feel uncomfy, do we always avoid that too?

    • Hi Archy

      Life is short. Why not try to look back the next time a woman look directly at you?
      Why not keep eye contact and see what happens, and smile?

      A tall large man is not scary to all women Archy,some see large men as something protective. Where I live we women often call tall large men ” a bear”. A nice bear. (The bears here eat blueberries and not women.)

  9. Hey Gerald – you know the piece of advice I’d loved you to included in this article?

    When a women is sexually harassing you because she feels entitled to touch your body, you can stop sexual harassment by telling her to stop. Because that’s ok.

  10. I notice that I don’t get harassed while on vacation in Hawaii (maybe because I travel in a big group or maybe because people are more respectful of petite Asian women around here)…..when I am back home in NYC, it seems like some sort of automatic reaction for some guys to make some sort of whistle-y or kiss-y noise with their mouths when they see an attractive female go by (regardless of whether she is married or traveling with her child)….

    • Mostly_123 says:

      Two words: ‘Hawiian Privilge’ ;)

      Sorry. Seriously, though get with it NYC- take the lesson from Hawaii.

    • John Anderson says:

      @ Leia

      It’s probably a cultural thing. There are a lot of Asians in Hawaii. My Asian friends and family tend to be reserved. Making kissy noises tends to draw attention to oneself. I remember reading an article on the urinals in Japan. A tourist was wondering how guys could pee out in the open. Essentially they were told that they had privacy because people were expected not to look.

      http://info.japantimes.co.jp/text/ek20061219wh.html

      “There is a lot of ‘implied privacy’ in Japan,” he noted. “In traditional architecture, doors were paper thin, and of course you could hear right through them. So closing them was little more than a signal to others that they should pretend not to hear.” It’s the same with public toilets, he said. “Because passersby extend privacy by not looking, we feel less need for physical walls.”

      I wonder if that could somehow be extended to stop street harassment. You’re expected to act in a certain way so you do.

      • @John: Yes, I agree with you…it’s a different culture out here…the affluent Japanese tourists flood the expensive stores here in Hawaii and are greeted in Japanese by female staff….I cringe to think what would happen to business here if they were as rudely treated as I am back home in NYC….

        Being female and Asian is valued here…

  11. You’ll get better responses if you talk about the kirarchy, rather than male privilege.

    There are definitely situations where it is better to be a man (being followed on the street is not one of them. 90% of the victims of stranger perpetrated violence are male). There are also situations where it is better to be a woman.

    Male victims of sexual harassment have nowhere to go. A friend of mine had an orientation at a major investment bank, and they talked about the systems to prevent sexual harassment, and how to report it. Then the speaker said that if you are male, it is better to apply for another job. Going down this route has never worked out well for a man. That’s what the male speaker said, from a company that has very good anti sexual harassment policies.

    I think a much better way to write this article would be to list behaviors that are sexual harassment, then call on all people not do do these things, and to prevent others from doing them too. Leave the gender politics out of it, and focus on the crime or behavior and it’s victims.

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