Sunday, June 11, 2006

Curious to know what other people think...

Had a great show tonight (Crack Comedy Club in Kingston with Dave Ward, Paul Kerensa and Tony Cowards) and was all full of good cheer on the way home when some bloke walks up to me in the street and without saying anything deliberately obstructs my way. He does this with his arms out so I can't walk round him, and starts chuckling at me: heh, heh, heh... then gesturing at my tits and chuckling some more. In proper middle-class fashion I slapped him round the face with a copy of the Observer and told him to "F*** Off, C***". Twenty yards later another guy deliberately blocks my path and says "Not so fast gorgeous where do you think you're going?" so I swore at him too. Further down the road a car pulls up to the side of the road, stops next to me, beeps the horn at me, winds the window down and a guy says "Want a lift darling?" while his three male friends laugh loudly and three cars further along another car beeps, opens the window and two guys shout "Oi slag, you want some?". And by then to be honest my good mood had given up the ghost and I was felt more like crying.

Now don't bother telling me that these guys just fancy me and want to let me know, or that they mean it as a compliment because they don't. If you think that's how compliments are paid then you shouldn't be reading this, it's past your bed-time, you also certainly shouldn't be allowed to drive a car. Don't tell me they're just drunk, the first two might be, but the second two are legally in charge of a motor vehicle. Now I don't think it matters what I'm wearing, I think that sort of thing shouldn't happen, but for the record I'm in a high-necked dress AND a pair of jeans, so unless the sight of a pair of naked arms is too much for you, you really ought to be able to control yourself.

I just don't know any women who behave like this. And - surprise surprise - men don't act like this when I'm out with my boyfriend either. It's horrid, it's misogynist and it really proves that there are a lot of men out there who really hate women. It also makes me wonder if there are any decent online burqa stores?

What am I supposed to do when this stuff happens? Any suggestions?


juanma501 said...

i don't know if it's so much that they hate women as it is that they have a HUGE inferiority complex because they haven't been able to find or inspire somebody to love them.
this may sound corny,but being a guy i've had inside acces to some of this guys minds and i've seen that most of them are just so fucking lonely.....

usually that kind of behavior comes from males that don't have a clue how to talk to a woman so go for the physical when you were a kid and your friends push you in the direction of the girl you fancy...god i hated that!

anyway i don't have a solution,but i think that real education (the one your parents give you,that is now out of style) in real equality, bluring the lines between gender behavior and changing this dog eat dog culture that is growing so fast(coming from the corporate world and trickling down).could be a start.

but the future though,is grim for those who don't change their paradigm in wich women are second to men.the more women get to positions of power, the harder it's gonna be for the neanderthals....

as to what to do in that situation,i'd go with taking advantage of your superior mind (i still believe that that kind of people are usually dumb or drunk) and also confront them as an equal( they usually expect fear ,shyness or a sign of "weakness") but that ,again, could be dangerous......

MottledEgg said...

Sad to say, but does it matter why they do it? They've no right either way. Why can't they reclaim testes from people who have proven they can't handle them? It's standard practice in America to take weapons away from nitwits that can't handle them. Actually, I've encountered some bad behavior in America, but not like you've described. Is there a cultural element?

johnny phenothiazine said...

I'll tell you why I think they do it. They're dorks and losers and they know they ain't gonna get any lady action anyway, so why not spit in the soup and ruin it for everybody else? They hand out enough of their crap to every woman in sight and the hope is you women will be disinclined to talk to any guy.

staghounds said...

They are slugs and beasts, and it does not matter why. There is no excuse.

They do it because they enjoy making you fearful. It's fun for them like making an audience laugh is fun for you. They would do it if you were in a chador, or if you were 78 years old, or if you were a man in a wheelchair.

Nothing personal, it's no more about you than a lion eating a zebra is about the zebra.

staghounds said...

And practical answers, which are what you wanted. Since I deal with this sort of thing professionally, I have some ideas.

1. Try not to put yourself in a dangerous place if you can reasonably avoid it. Dangerous places include alone, away from witnesses, and in places where you don't understand the culture. They are also places where crime occurs. Places where people use drugs and alcoholare dangerous, are places where a known dangerous man is. Like your husband who beats you, if that applies

2. Train and arm yourself so that you can protect yourself if necessary. You would be amazed at how well predators can spot and avoid a woman who has the tools, skills, and most importantly the outlook to refuse to be a victim.

Oops, you live in Britain. Still, go to a good self defence training, and carry at least something noisy like an air horn.

3. Trust your instincts. NO MATTER WHAT, if you feel like doing something, going somewhere, or being around a particular person is dangerous, DON'T DO IT. REALLY, forget about embarassment, manners, cab fare, or whatever. I can't tell you how many rape victims have told me something like "I had a bad feeling but I went ahead..."

4. OVERREACT. If danger begins, make a big fuss. Perverts rely on silence, incremental intimidation, and proportionality of your response. If he blocks you way, shout out loudly, "GET OUT OF MY WAY". This will attract attention and create witnesses, something he doesn't want. It also makes it clear to him and to you that you will not put up with this.

5. If he touches you, scream. Scream "FIRE" or "RAPE", not just some amorphous help request. Physically, fight like a maddened tiger. If he can get you away, you're going to a rape and/or murder scene- yours.

6. Practice. Get some friends and do this stuff. It's a true axiom that in crisis you will act in accorsance with your training, so train to survive.

&. Report. ESPECIALLY if there is an actual crime against you. The purpose of sex criminals is to degrade you. When you report it, you reclaim your dignity and self control.

Second, you will not spend the rest of your life feeling guilty, wondering if he went on to attack others.

Even if there is no crime, still report it. Many police officers ARE proactive and if they know women are targeted at a spot, they may show up there. And for all you know, he raped somebody there last week and they are looking for him to get some d.n.a.

And when you do report things, tell the exact truth. If you can't remember something, say so, but don't lie or shade things. I can convict rapists, but it is very very difficult if the defence lawyer can prove my victim lied, even about an immaterial tiny detail.

Cruella said...

Wow, great response, thanks all. I think there IS a cultural element to it. The so-called "Lad Culture" phenomenon is a largely Bristich thing. You don't get magazines like Nuts and Loaded on the shelves in other parts of the world quite like you do in the UK. Also looking at the populatiry of "Lad"-type presenters and shows: Chris Evans, Chris Moyles, Johnny Vaughn, Clarkson. It's not like no-one else has this, but I think Britain has a particularly re-inforced culture of it.

As for the suggestions to avoid it. Appreciated, but a couple of points:

1) If I stopped going to certain areas or places because of these idiots I'd really feel like I'd lost the battle. We can't tell victims not to go out, we need to tell villains not to go out.

2) If I went to the police they would laugh at me. I wish that wasn't true but they would. Nothing we can do love. The statistics show that the police don't believe you, don't do anything and try to talk you out of following the case up when you've been raped. I hardly think they're going to leap into action over a bit of small-scale harrassment.

staghounds said...

I have to say I disagree. Some police officers are lazy and incompetent. But, first, they all aren't.

Second, even by lazy ones, you are unlikely to get that treatment. Unfortunately many sex crimes are reported by victims who have put themselves repeatedly in danger, and the police know that they are unlikely to cooperate in the prosecution of the case.

"I went to some bar and I got drunk and went home with some guy and I think he had sex with me while I was asleep".

You would not be like that.

Finally, it's their job. The laziest bureaucrat fears getting in trouble. Let's say you go to report being accosted by Mr. Sidewalk (pavement, in Britain) blocker. You report it, and the police officer says "Nothing we can do."

"Very well. First, let me get your name and write it down. Let me make sure I understand this. I was threatened with harm by a stranger who was lying in wait for lone women in a dark street in the middle of the night. He assaulted me by placing me in fear. For all we know, he has dragged other women off the street, or he might do it tonight. And you are telling me that you won't even generate a report?"

Assuming he still says no, which is unlikely, ask to see his boss.

You are right, morally, about avoiding places. But life is as it is, and going to a dangerous place does increase risk. In fact, it's the riskiest thing to do. You balance your risks however you like once you know what they are, though, not from a position of ignorance. Sure, you CAN go to a heavily Islamic neighbourhood dressed from Victoria's Secret, but that doesn't make it a good idea.

Mickle said...

If you have a camera handy, follow the example of HollaBackNYC and take their picture. At the very least it's unexpected and tends to catch them off guard.

Judging by the stories on HollaBackNYC it also diminishes the anonomity they hide behind. Part of why they feel comfortable doing this is because they are anonymous; like members of mobs they can't be easily held accountable for their own actions. They are, in a sense, engaging in "mob mentality." Taking their picture reminds them that they are an individual and can be held accountable for their actions - even if they aren't really all that scared that they will be held accountable for what they did to you specifically.

Alecto Erinyes said...

They do it to prove they have the power to do it - to establish their ownership of public space, to prove to you and themselves that even if they are useless losers in every other aspect of their life, they still have the power to make you afraid and miserable.

I'm sorry, I have no useful suggestions on how to avoid this kind of behaviour or how to make these f*cktards stop. I find have a rehearsed abusive response and completely going the bastards makes me feel better - but I thrive on confrontation.

Alison said...

Wait till you get older. It used to happen to me all the time too. Now, I'm 41, and it hasn't happened in years. There are compensations in all things.

belledame222 said...

I think what you did sounds right.

I dunno either, longterm. call Hothead Paisan, maybe? sigh.

I guess a combo of basic safety awareness, assertiveness training, and...mebbe some self-defense? damn, i want to get back into martial arts now, for a number of reasons.

I like what hollaback's doing, too. although i do think that it's important to suss out the just annoying/creepy (most situations) from the truly threatening; with the latter, whipping out a camera might not be the best idea.

Lhasaluck said...

Staghounds has some great idea's especially be ready to protect yourself and overreact. I'm guilty of curtailing my activities to avoid this stuff but it still happens.

Allison, I'm inclined to call you lucky, I've got more than a decade on you and it still happens.

Mickle, I love the picture taking idea but was shocked by how many violent reactions were reported. That scares me.

Personally I favor "OVERREACT" when I can't stay hidden in my home.

Kirsten said...

I tend to either ignore it, or put on authoritave voice and tell them off.

It does depend on the circumstances- if you're in a crowded place you can make a huge fuss and go for the public humiliation route, but if you're walking home alone at night you just have to do whatever keeps you safest. My best friend wrote a brilliant piece here about how she's learnt to deal with it.

Avoiding 'dangerous places' does not keep you safe from street harrasment. It can happen anywhere, at any time of day.

"Sure, you CAN go to a heavily Islamic neighbourhood dressed from Victoria's Secret, but that doesn't make it a good idea." Racist, much?

Anonymous said...

Cruella, I live in New York City and get this occasionally too. But a friend of mine used to get it all the time--until she started jujitsu. She only used it once on a guy who groped her (boy was he surprised!) but the boost in her self-confidence made a world of difference. The catcalls virtually disappeared. My advice is that learning to protect yourself is good, but it's better to walk like you own the fucking sidewalk, because you do. These guys are looking for easy victims to humilate and intimidate. By all means, hollaback if you're in a public place and can turn the humilation tables on them. I find "pencil dick" a particularly effective epithet. And curtail your activites? Fuck that shit. I'd never leave my house. Just be smart, and be bold. Go get 'em.