jump to navigation

Sorry, I don’t get the joke. November 16, 2006

Posted by Winter in rape, sexual harrassment.

I have been meaning to pick up on Winters post about street harassment for a couple of days. I’m going to make this quick as I think that this thread needs more thinking about really, so here are my initial thoughts.

Reading about Winter’s experience in the cafe last week coincided with an experience of my own, and made me recall a third which I think can all be draw together in some kind of moderately coherent group.
The first experience I want to talk about was a couple of months ago when we were having new patio doors fitted (I know, so middle class). The guy who spent nearly four hours at my house fitting these doors wasn’t particularly friendly. After I had offered him a cup of tea, I was going to go upstairs to work in my study so I said, mistakenly, “I’ll be upstairs if you need anything” to which he replied “Oh, that’s an offer” or something similar. Now, I know it was meant to be a joke, but it did make me carry around a large screwdriver until he was gone. Second thing I want to mention is that while on my way out on Saturday night this week (actually within 10 minutes of my house) some guy behind me called out something like “baby, baby, you’ve got a nice ass.” I have no idea who this person was, and in the grand scheme of things, it was quite polite, I guess. But it still made me grip my keys a little tighter in my hand and walk a lot quicker and a lot more upright. Now obvioulsy neither of these experiences is nearly half as bad as that experienced by the waitress in Winter’s post, but I do think they are in the same vein.

I’m pretty sure if you asked any of these men why they do what they do, they’ll probably come out with some kind of response like “It’s only a joke love, no harm done”. Well, at the risk of seeming like a dried out old feminist who hates men and has no sense of humour, I don’t get it. I don’t really understand why men actually do thins kind of thing at all, and in a way I think that’s a big part of the problem. When I see guys doing this kind of thing they always remind me of baboons (I suspect that is rather insulting to baboons, but that’s what I see). I mean frankly it’s embarrassing to mankind that men behave like this in public, seriously I’ve no issue with what they do in their own homes but, well I think their mothers would be embarrassed. But, despite the cringe-worthiness of said behavior, there is a much more sinister side. There is harm done. Harm to people like winter and myself who frankly did not realize that the size of our breasts and curvature of our asses were open for public debate, and who find this kind of behavior threatening.

In a way, I think that the animalistic nature of it is part of the problem. It’s so unpredictable, I don’t get it. Is it a joke? Is it a threat? Is it some strange primitive bonding ceromony that some boys are taken aside at school and told about while the rest of us are forced to participate in without prior consent. Is this guy going to follow me home and do me some damage? Is my life in danger? There are so many possibilities that could stem from the simple miming and “massive tits love” that really it’s quite confusing. So on that basis I think that there is Harm Done. Women are kept in a constant state of anxiety by his kind of low level harassment, and our more sensitive men in a constant state of bemusment. While I want to say Guys, cut it out, Your embarrassing yourselves (Whispered). What I would advocate is some kind of public awareness campaign about street harassment that says firmly, it’s really not funny.