I’ve been asked that question by two journalists, a few onlookers and some TV production people.
I was prompted to write this post after two girls that I’m seeing (both I’ve been with for over a year) happened to be harassed just before I met up with them.
In both cases the problem was the same – the guy generally hollered at them, made them feel self-conscious, small and – ultimately – an object.
Street harassment is a problem. Don’t let people who say that it’s “just compliments” tell you otherwise. This is a combination of denial and a lack of empathy. But from a culture systematically brainwashed into abandoning our empathy, this is little wonder. But this is a post for another time, so let’s get on.
I’m sure you all remember the video of walking 10 hours as a woman in NYC.
There have been attempts to “debunk” this from totally misunderstood views. From claims that the racist view discredits the message, to the selection of neighbourhoods she was walking in, to the clothes she was wearing. For example, this response video from the point of view of a man:
I’ll let the top comment of this video explain why this is not the same thing:
“This is ridiculous. I’m a guy, and you know damn well it’s not the same thing. Men aren’t a statistic for rape. This guy wouldn’t feel threatened that girl is following him, a woman would feel threatened if a guy was. You know that those girls aren’t going to pin you down, women don’t know that when a guy catcalls her. You’re honestly trying to make light of an major issue that women face.”
This is quite true.
There was another attempt by some kind of pop MRA anti-feminist youtuber to debunk the video
His lack of empathy and misunderstanding is apparent from the start: “there’s this terrible new trend I just heard about – it’s called ‘greeting people’.”
The irony that his youtube account is called “red-pill philosophy” – when he’s blissfully sucking on the blue pill of objectification, separation, binary reasoning, false dichotomies and a sheer clouding of his empathy – is not lost on me.
A choice quote is:
If it was Brad Pitt saying “Hi, have a nice day miss”, you can be guaran-damn-teed it would go from street harassment to street “oh my gawd, I’m such a lucky girl!”
In this sentence he reduces the issue to looks. In reality, if Brad Pitt followed this girl down the street for 5 minutes, guess what, she would be just as intimidated as if this random Hispanic guy did. But the red-pill-philosophy guy doesn’t get it – he’s not an attractive woman. But neither am I. But I can empathise. Imagine getting stopped by charity muggers (who mean well, ultimately) constantly, but these charity muggers do not necessarily mean well or – at least – you can’t tell. Inasmuch as I know girls who have to go through this EVERY DAY, I have a sense of what street harassment is. The guy who made this video is either in perpetual denial, or he has chosen his ideology and will do anything to support it: “what, so if a guy politely says “hi” to a girl, he’s a harasser?” I’m sure he must know that the girl in question knows that the guy saying “hi” doesn’t just want to say “hi” and be polite, and the guy himself knows that he doesn’t just want to say “hi” and be polite. In simple terms, the red-pill-philosophy guy seems to believe that words in terms of sexual communication can be taken at face value. But we know better. Words are the least important part of this communication. The fact is that “no” can mean “yes”, “yes” can mean “no”, “no” can mean “maybe”, and “maybe” can mean “definitely yes”.
So sometimes – as in the case of these men, “hi” can mean “I want to fuck you” and “good morning” means “you have to show me attention because I’m planning to try and penetrate you.”
Now I’m all for perseverance, as are women. A few years ago when I was just getting into this I learned this lesson. It was Feb 14th and I was determined to have a date for valentines day (now who’s buying into society’s bullshit?!). I passed a gorgeous Italian in Carnaby Street and went back to do my thing. She was highly vocal in her objection, telling me in no uncertain terms where I should go. But I was determined. Without dropping my chirpy demeanour a single iota (remember frames, people), I went back and tried again. It look four goes, and over the course of those she gradually softened as she got to connect with me. She went from disdain, to exasperation, to humour, to respect, to attraction. I guess the harshness of her initial rebuttal is something she’s had to learn from years of men objectifying her. I ended up seeing her for some 5 months – we went on picnics together, exhibitions, dinners… and all because I persevered. I asked her why she went from so angry to connected with me in that short space of time and she said:
“I had been bugged all day by street creeps, but you just kept going – nothing I did changed your mood, and in the end I was taken with your mood.”
So why wasn’t this “you just kept going” harassment? And now we get to the meat of the post.
It’s all about intention.
The intention that you enter any interaction will dictate everything – your perception, your behaviour, your feelings and thoughts and hers too! But what leads to intention? Now we move on to objectification.
All over the place it is pointed out that women are objectified. Well, truth be told we are all objectified – especially in this culture where appearance is more important than connection (on the surface level). But yes – women are indeed objectified. You can’t blame any one source for this, but the general suppression of our natural empathy from the moment we’re born in order to carve us into civilised false-dichotomy obedient sheep has something to do with it (there’s a whole book for me to write about that). But let’s say for the sake of argument that the media plays a part (in reality it’s more complicated than that). Those men who accept the bullshit of the media also accept the objectifying of women
I was walking along with a girl in Shepherd’s Bush late at night and we were approached by 3 guys who hollered: “god damn!! How do you get a girl like that, man?” I saw that they weren’t any real threat, and the question was genuine enough, so I answered it as best I could. “Well I’ll tell you – the real trick is that I didn’t “get” her, because she’s not a thing. Ellie, here, is a human, just like you and me. I know this place [gesturing all around us] wants us to think she’s a thing to be had, but if you see her just like you see your friend, you’ll get there.” And – with that – we walked off.
There are people who deny the problem of objectifying women – saying that it’s just attraction, but the major difference between objectifying and attraction – between harassment and connection can be summarised thus:
You’re one being sexually attracted to another being (2 subjects)
You’re a man who wants to get this girl (1 subject, 1 object)
It is the first of these that I work towards with my students. It is also the default – it is how we would be together if we weren’t so fucked up by our cultural brainwashing. As you move away from seeing all people as beings with labels “hot girl”, “black guy”, “homeless”, “barmaid”, “shop assistant”, and move towards seeing the beings behind the labels you end up with “being [who is attractive to me sexually]”, “being [who has darker skin than me]”, “being [without anywhere to live]”, “being [who gets me beer]”, “being [who helps me find clothes]”, you begin to find the humanity in every one you meet, and connections will take place. This is the stuff of humans, this is what we do best, this is how we evolved. We did not evolve a subject/object dichotomy which is so extreme in today’s culture that the isolation people feel is at an all-time high.
If harassment comes from objectification, what do I do? Well, if it must have a label, perhaps “subjectification” or just good old fashioned “connection”.
So to go back to the question: “isn’t what you do just harassment?” I say this: harassment is a problem – I’ve no doubt of that – but what I teach is connection. Connection is kryptonite to harassment. What I do is to harassment what paracetomol is to a headache.
It’s the cure.
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