fuck you sexual harasser

I can remember being in high school, riding around in a car with my buddies, passing a couple of girls on the street, and the guys leaning out the windows, laughing and shouting. I don’t recall what they shouted. Probably something like “Hey baby, looking good.” I remember thinking it was a stupid thing to do — not because I thought it was harassing or threatening, but simply because it didn’t seem to me like an effective way to pick up girls.

I never gave much thought to cat-calling as a young man. It was just something some guys did. I did four years in the military and heard male troops catcall women, and didn’t think much about it. I did four years in college and heard undergrads catcall women, and didn’t think much about it. Then I became a counselor in the psychiatric/security unit of a prison for women. The inmates taught me a LOT about what life was like for women — or at least what life was like for women who ended up in prison. Every few weeks I’d be assigned weekend duty. That sometimes included taking low-risk inmates on local excursions — a movie, maybe. Maybe a trip to a nearby park. Maybe a visit to a local diner so they could get to eat something other than prison food. It wasn’t unusual for me to drive a prison van with six to eight women convicts into town, herd them into the local theater, buy them all popcorn, and watch a movie with them.

And it wasn’t unusual for local young men, seeing us all walk down the street, to shout out the windows of their pickups at the women. When that happened, I noticed a lot of the women would tense up. And I paid attention, though not entirely for the right reasons. I paid attention in part because I’d been trained to notice body language. But I was also very aware that when any group of inmates start to tense up, you’d best pay attention.

A big chunk of my job was to try to understand and help these women, so on various occasions I’d talk to some of them about their reaction to the cat-calling. I remember one of them saying something like “When I hear that, I get ready to run. They gonna have to catch me, if they want to rape me.” That’s when I first started to get it. I still tended to put that anxiety down to druggie paranoia and living in bad neighborhoods — but I got the first real inkling of what it was like for those women to move through the world.

Years later I was living with a woman — a feminist criminologist. She opened my eyes in a lot of ways. One of the many things I learned was that an intellectual understanding of feminism doesn’t give you any meaningful insight into how women have to live. There was a night when she asked me to go with her to fetch something from a local market. I was busy doing something and didn’t really want to interrupt it. I figured she just wanted me along for company. But she explained there wasn’t any safe place for her to park at the market — which made no sense to me, since there was plenty of parking spaces nearby. What she meant, though, was 1) a lot of navy men often went to that market for beer and 2) there wasn’t a street light she could park beneath. She needed to park under a street light, she said, to be sure nobody was hiding in or near the car.

And I began to understand a bit more. I could run to the market to buy a clove of garlic without a second thought. For her, a run to the market required strategies to stay safe. And it wasn’t just a run to the market at night — it was going to the gym in the morning, it was getting off work in the evening, it was going to the mall, it was taking the dog for a walk. Taking the damned dog for a damned walk, and just by doing that she knew there was a decent chance she’d get harassed. Just walking down a street with a dog.

To me, this was a revelation. To her, it was so glaringly obvious that it hardly needed to be mentioned. And this was a woman who taught feminist thinking.

And you know what? I still don’t get it. Not really. I mean, I get it when I think about it. But as a guy, I rarely have to think about it. Which is why I’m both ashamed and grateful when a woman reminds me. And that’s what happened this morning. A friend of mine, Lori Andrews, posted this on Facebook:

I just got cat called with “mommy”. Of course I was far enough away that I couldn’t identify which construction worker did it. But here is what I wanted to say to him.

I have hated you my entire life. You drove beside me when I was a child and terrified me. You followed me and tried to touch me when I was a young woman. You have yelled at me from cars, broken my reverie in quiet walks, assaulted me verbally on my bike. You still talk about me and call out to me just out of view but always in earshot. Always when just I alone can hear it and no passers by are aware. Every day of my life I have endured your endless taunts and frightening threats. I’m 48 years old.

Fuck you sexual harasser. Fuck you.

It’s difficult for me to imagine the ridiculous lengths women have to go through every day just to avoid being harassed or harmed. Most of my life I’ve been in careers that required me to try to understand what life is like for other people. I like to think I’m pretty good at it. But every time I come across an experience like Lori’s, I’m reminded that I still don’t really get it. Despite having the lesson repeated to me countless times by so many women, it still doesn’t entirely register in my brain that women deal with this shit every day.

Here’s proof of that: earlier today I mentioned to a woman friend that I was thinking about writing a blog post about cat-calling because another friend had posted about an incident on Facebook. I said something like “More women should talk about this crap, so men will be reminded of just how hateful and pernicious it is.” My friend said “Why should it be a woman’s responsibility to remind men not to be assholes?”

There’s no good way for me to end this post. There’s nothing I can say that won’t come across as self-serving, or patronizing, or stupid in some way. But this has been on my mind all morning and it’s important that this stuff gets discussed.

I want to thank Lori for allowing me to quote her Facebook post and use her name. And I want to thank all the women who responded to her Facebook post, and as long as I’m at it, I should thank all the women who’ve been patient with me over the years. It’s not your responsibility to remind men not to be assholes — but thank you for doing it anyway.

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14 thoughts on “fuck you sexual harasser

  1. You touched on a point here. There are a few of us out here who realized years ago that catcalling is demeaning to our female counterparts, and do our best to avoid behaving in that manner. In today’s world I guess it’s called being “politically correct”. The end result is that I speak to women in the same manner as I do anyone else, and that is with politeness and respect for who and what they are.

    But there’s also another side to this coin, too. And that is the women who deliberately make formal efforts to make something out of something that isn’t. I know that sounds confusing, but let me tell you a little story about something that happened to me when I first relocated to Houston, Texas.

    One afternoon I was walking in downtown Houston with the intention of exploring the city’s tunnel system. As I approached Shell One Plaza, a large business skyscraper I knew to have access to the tunel system, I noted of woman also approaching the door from my rear. Per my training from my parents, I held the door open for her to enter the building. A few steps outside the door, she suddenly stopped and said, “What’s the matter, asshole; think a woman too stupid to know how to open a door?” It took me a few seconds to overcome the surprise, and before I could apologize for trying to be a gentleman, she continued with, “I can just see you stripping me in your mind. You aren’t anything but a f*cking pervert. I’m calling the police on you, asshole. What do you think about that?”

    I knew where this was leading and went inside through the door and very politely slammed the damned thing right in her face; and, went my merry way. BITCH!

    So no matter how hard some people try to be politically correct, or behave in a respective manner, there will always be those who will do their damnedest to make them into the fools they think they are without even batting an eye.

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    • women who deliberately make formal efforts to make something out of something that isn’t

      Well, sure. Women can be assholes too.

      But consider this: you’ve had one bad experience (or maybe a few) bad experiences in which a woman felt she could treat you negatively simply because you’re a guy. Most women have almost daily bad experiences because men feel they can treat them negatively simply because they’re women. If that experience upsets you (and yes, it should), imagine how it would feel to have that happen all the time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I think much of this has to do with the way men have been raised. Yes, I’m going to blame it on the parents because parents should have overseen this behavior long ago. They didn’t. And in fact, many parents only perpetuated it much in the same way some ethnic group perpetuate hatred for other human being today.

        So how do you change a human characteristic that has been pounded into their heads for decades, if not centuries, and is something even their parents may have perpetuated? I think our legal system could do more, but recall too how long it took for women to be able to face their accusers not only in court, but while being interogated by law enforcement? The general consensus until recently is that “she asked for it” …

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  2. I don’t even think about going certain places alone anymore. It’s a freedom I don’t have. And my daughter doesn’t yet know, at 18, why. She will learn. We all do. They will make her afraid, and it will be a way she is imprisoned.

    But she is lucky. She can have an education and a job, and her husband won’t be her owner. And she won’t go to jail if she is assaulted.

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    • There is, I think, a growing number of women who are teaching their daughters (and sons, for that matter) not to allow other folks to treat them like shit. And not to treat other folks like shit.

      One of the things I find encouraging are the number of popular entertainment media (live television show, movies, graphic novels) featuring women who determine how to live their own lives. Think about Uhuru on Star Trek and all the girls she inspired just by being on the bridge of the Enterprise — and basically all she did was answer the phones. And then think about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who’d answer a phone if it rang, but also kicked ass and saved people.

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  3. JCBP, I’m sorry you had that experience. I love it when a guy holds a door open for me! I am guessing that the woman you dealt with has been horribly sexually traumatized and that her gut-wrenching fear turned to a false bravado of anger when she encountered you. It wasn’t you, personally, that she responded to. It’s just that you were a man. You represented whoever made her do things she didn’t want to do and made her feel worthless and dirty and used. That’s who she was yelling at, being angry at. You were just a person with a penis being kind. It worked too. You left. Ahead of her where she could keep her eye on you. For whatever reason, there are men who use their testosterone, their penis, and so, to us, their maleness, as a weapon. What do invading armies do to show power? Kill the men and rape the women. Why did the swimmer kid at Stanford rape that unconscious woman? Why did the kid’s Dad not get that what his son did was rape? Why did the judge only give the kid 6 months??? Why is sexual violence happening to 23% of women in college? Our narrative (globally) has been framed in a male way but it’s been shifting some, and maybe that’s why there seem to be so many anti-independent women sentiments going on – springing forth from governing official men’s mouths. Like if it’s legitimate rape a woman can’t get pregnant. Or that women need to keep an aspirin between their knees. Why is it the women that they are taking about? Why is it a woman who has to be careful how she dresses? Why is it a woman has to wear a burka? Because men can’t seem to handle their own testosterone? Granted, I don’t have a penis. I have no idea what it’s like to have one and have it be as important to a man as it is. But that woman who you held the door open for? I recognize that behavior. I recognize that anger at being afraid. I recognize that inability to say to you “Thanks, that’s nice of you, but I have been severely traumatized by sexual assaults and have PTSD reactions when a man wants to get behind me, and while I’m pretty sure you’re just being nice, you have a penis and you’re probably stronger than I am. So thanks, but you go on ahead.” So please don’t take it personally. OK? Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I recognize that behavior. I recognize that anger at being afraid.

      I am constantly surprised by the strength of the patience of women. I think it would be incredibly hard NOT to be angry all the time.

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  4. Not to diminish anyone else’s experience (and yes, I have harrowing tales of my own that would chill you), but consider this…

    I’m a middle-aged, heavy, average-looking woman. Every day, I strap my small-ish breasts into an uncomfortable harness that I wear beneath my everyday clothes. The elastic cuts into my chest, and I am constantly aware of its presence. By the end of the work day, I’m ready to kill, I’m that uncomfortable.

    Do I wear it because it’s pretty? No, mice are plain and utilitarian. Do I wear it for support? No, at my size, I don’t really need it. Is it in any way required or necessary? No.

    Then, why, you may ask, do I bother to wear a bra? Because nipples are evidently very powerful things. They cause men in cars to veer off the road and crash. They cause men to hurt their necks snapping their heads around when they realize that there is a pair of unharnessed nipples under my shirt. Men are unable to control their mouths when they see them, and shout, bark, whine, and/or whistle. Women scowl disapprovingly that I dare to let them exist under my clothes without being bound, tight and smooth. They signal to the world that I am a slut, a whore, up for any sexual activity right here, right now. Two points of flesh (that, if I may point out, nearly EVERYONE has) that have caused me to spend years in mental and physical discomfort.

    I’m fucking sick of it. THEY ARE JUST GODDAMNED NIPPLES. WHAT IS THE BIG FUCKING DEAL?

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    • And that reminds me of another thing — high heels. It was only a month or so ago when there was an article about a woman who was required by a corporate dress code to wear 2-4 inch heels to work. What kind of bullshit is that?

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  5. You know, folks, I read this stuff not only in venues like this, but in other places, too. And being who and what I am, please allow me to say that not all men are assholes any more than are all women. Our history and heritage shows us that women were always looked more upon to maintain a home environment, and not one conceived the idea they could do more much before World War II when women manned many of the manufacturing lines that kept our military supplied.

    Things have changed over time, and there remains much to be done. However, and as much as I hate to admit this, there will always be some bubble-headed moron who thinks himself some sort of “cute” by berating or belittling women. When you encounter him, please feel free and have my permission to squarely plant one of those job-required, pointy-toed high heels squarely into his manlihood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Part of the problem — and I think this is particularly true of men — is that we’re not always aware when we’re being assholes. Here’s an example: I went with a buddy of mine to buy his wife a birthday present. He’s a nice guy, loves his wife, is generally thoughtful and considerate. But his first choice for a gift was a vacuum cleaner. When I explained that while his wife may want and need a new vacuum, she might not want a ‘gift’ that 1) reinforced the notion that it was her job to clean the house and 2) was all about chores. His second choice for a gift was lingerie — which he rejected when it was pointed out that lingerie for her was really a gift for him.

      Again, this is a really nice guy who is supportive of women’s rights. He recognized that he was making asshole decisions when it was pointed out to him, but he wasn’t aware of it at the time. That was several years ago, and he’s gotten a LOT better at gift-giving — but it was a process.

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