Do you need to learn how to be a good guy on a sidewalk?
Let it be known how much I love Jezebel. Every day I go there, poke around, read a bunch of stuff I agree with, some stuff I disagree with, link something or another to my Facebook page…
But this one stopped me in my tracks. Mostly because I’m just not sure what to make of it. It’s called How To Be A Good Guy On The Sidewalk. They introduce it like this:
A number of men have asked us the same question recently: if you’re walking on a dark street near a lady, how can you let her know you’re not a threat? So this week, we offer some tips for dudes who’d like to help women feel more comfortable in public spaces.
I guess my first question would be, are Jezebel’s male readers really the ones who need this guide?
Beyond that, does anyone who voluntarily reads a guide about how to be less obtrusive on a sidewalk actually need a guide for that purpose?
This author (Anna North) is definitely doing something good: she’s being clear about how to make women comfortable. I have guys ask me this same question all the time: guy friends, guys Eli‘s and my sex and dating advice blog, She Said He Said, and guys here at GMP. Good men really do want to know how to ask out a girl without being a complete douchenozzle and making her uncomfortable. And it’s cool that you guys ask. We need your advice sometimes, too, on how to relate to guys (hence the birth of She Said He Said).
Probably the best advice in this article is about how to actually talk more to a woman without her feeling unsafe. I know it’s unfair that you should have to bear the burden of all those a-holes before you who made her feel unsafe, but the fact is, if you care about her comfort, it should matter to you. Just as it should matter to her if she’s making you uncomfortable—and yes, I’ve seen women make men uncomfortable plenty of times.
This is probably the most useful bit of advice offered by their expert, Holly Kearl:
If a man really wants to approach a woman to meet her, he should pick a populated area and preferably not do it when he is with friends but she is alone or when it’s dark. He could start off with a hello and neutral small talk and if she reacts well — smiling and eye contact — then continue on to asking more about herself or asking for her phone number. But making sure it is a setting where she will hopefully feel comfortable is important or else he could make her feel unsafe from the start without meaning to.
But I’d add even more to that, you don’t have to ask for her phone number. Just write down your number and hand it to her. If she’s interested, she’ll call. If she’s not, she won’t and you can just pretend that she must’ve accidentally lost your number…
All joking aside, this isn’t so much about whether people need the advice as it is about the tone set in this article which, to me, presumes that men don’t know how to be “normal” around women. And maybe some of you don’t… And maybe you do need an article like this. I’m really not sure, I don’t have the answers.
So I turn it over to you guys: Does a guide like this help or harm men? Does it harm women by making them feel they are too weak to speak for themselves, to defend themselves?
Are there guys you know who definitely do need a guide for being less creepy? (Personally, I think there are, but much less so than this article would have you believe—but what do you think?)
And what would a guide for how women can be less creepy toward men read like?
Photo by Mykl Roventine