16 thoughts on “Nonparallel experiences

  1. This is well done, and of course one shouldn’t expect a single cartoon to do too much, but I wonder if the right message really gets across. A lot of the things said to the woman aren’t just “you look nice”–and so I wonder if men who are inclined to say things like the man on the bed might take the lesson to be that they should stick to comments like the ones in panels 1,4,6, and maybe 9. But of course that’s not the right lesson; comments don’t have to be rude to be harassing.

    I suppose I should just take your “nuff said” to heart, and appreciate this as expressing the double frustration of people who can’t see hurtful behaviour as hurtful, rather than as an attempt to reach those people. And, of course, scenarios like the one described over at thesocietypages are bound to be invisible to men who don’t act like that, so it’s also valuable to get across how common those scenarios are.

  2. Roger,
    Which comments did you mean by panels 1, 4, 6, and 9? By my count (and I’m sure I’m getting this wrong, given what you say), that would be:
    1. Damn, Beautiful
    4. Smile, You’re so pretty
    6. Damn, Sexy, You’ve got a fat ass.
    and
    9. I’d fuck the shit out of that (!!!)

  3. Ouch. This post is WAY too close to my week in transition back to homelessness. I’ll spare all of y’all my vicious maneater comebacks this time. I have a screaming everything ache from moving my own furniture by myself.

    Guess what my so-called moving “help” has been trying to demand as payment for their muscle?

  4. I remember the feeling, Xena. And yes, I posted this because I think it’s way too close to the experiences of a lot of us.

    What maddens me about comments like that of the man on the bed, and the defensiveness of those who say “so now I can’t compliment a woman?”, is that all these examples are an assertion of a man’s right to us, to demand our attention, to startle us, to intimidate us. I can’t count the number of times I ignored a shouted ‘compliment’ only to have the follow-up shouts be done in anger. It takes a certain breathtaking privilege to think that someone should hear one’s ‘compliment,’ or rather, not to bother thinking at all about whether or not a woman wants to hear the ‘compliment.’

    A commenter on thesocietypages directs our attention to a response: the Holla Back blog, at http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/

  5. Hi What?,

    Thanks for your charity (that’s what I take it to be), but those are exactly the comments I mean. Let me say first that I now think I expressed myself poorly in my previous comment. I meant to make a couple of separate points, but I ran them together. Let me try to make them again, more briefly and more separately:

    1. I worry that for the kind of man who would say what the man in the last panel would say, the lesson of this comic would be that the comments of panels 1,4,6, and maybe even 9 are the kinds one should lean towards.

    2. Even non-rude comments can be harassing.

    I did not mean to imply (but I think I pretty clearly did) that the comments in 1,4, and 6 are non-rude; 9 very very clearly is worse than rude. In my defence, it took me a long time to write my first comment; I found something about the comic very unsettling, and it was hard to put words to it. I now think that what I found unsettling was just that the sort of behaviour depicted in the comic is common – but that’s pretty charitable to myself; it might, rather, be that I worry I might have at some point agreed with the man on the bed. (I don’t!!! as a response to a complaint about street harassment, relatively polite or otherwise!)

    But anyway, my worry in 1. was that a man who would say something like what the man in the last panel says might think that the comments in 1,4,6, and maybe even 9 amount to “you look nice,” albeit in less polite language. Such a man might take the message of this comic to be that, well, *of course* comments like the rest are over the line – but that doesn’t affect the propriety of saying things like what are said in 1,4,6, and maybe even 9. I *do not* mean that the comments in 1,4, and 6 are in any way acceptable, and even more obviously the comment in 9 is not.

    To restate a point I think I made in my first comment, I think I’m probably mistaken to offer any criticism of this comic as an attempt to convince men like the one in the last panel to think otherwise than they do; it seems more valuable as an affirmation of a certain sort of experience (which I haven’t had, of course) – not just of experiencing street harassment, but of having street harassment dismissed as something one should be glad to experience.

    Does that make more sense? I readily admit that the things depicted in the comic are not part of my experience, but I don’t in any way want to condone the behaviour depicted in the comic.

  6. I read the comic and think:

    Don’t look at me. Don’t talk to me. I am not here for you to evaluate. Leave me alone.

    Been there. Too often.

  7. Men have no idea what women really experience. I recently told a male friend that in my life I have seen a man expose themself about 10 times, the majority of those times being before I was 12. I think young women are the most exposed because they are on the streets walking as they can’t drive yet.

    Here is some advice to men who may be confused by this. Do not EVER yell a comment at a woman because it is a rude gesture. If you want to tell me how beautiful I am then politely get my attention, say hello to my face and wait for me to respond then you can say something polite and short such as “You have a beautiful smile.”

    I do not understand what goes on in a man’s head that he feels the need to yell sexually offensive things at women on the street. From some research I have read I think it is really about territory and acts as a warning “This is my street, you should not be on it alone or I will hurt you and put you in your place (in the house).” It is about mens unwillingness to share equal privileges with women and has little to do with sexual desire but I do not think the man understands what his real motive is most of the time.

    Maybe as woman we need to yell back “What you said is offensive, do not harass me or any other woman again. I have the right to walk on this street just as anyone else.” Men watching this behavior need to hold other men accountable.

  8. It doesn’t feel like “friendly.” It feels like you’re on constant display. You’re going to work, you’re running an errand, you’re thinking about your money troubles — whatever — and yet you’re amusement for someone leering at you. I don’t doubt that the occasional male has innocent intent, but that is drowned out against all of the leerings.

  9. My take on the cartoon is this: The woman is manifestly NOT conventionally beautiful. Some men think this deserves comment. If all women are, to them, available for perusal and enjoyment, then they are personally offended by any woman who does not suit their standards. Hence, the comments are actually punitive. Most are deliberately sarcastic; sometimes the suggestion is that the woman must be sufficiently ashamed of her failure to please that she should be willing to talk to any man or do anything for him. Other comments suggest that the only fit treatment for such a woman–the only appropriate punishment for her failure to be conventionally attractive–is sexual violence.

    I find this comic horribly realistic. I can only assure younger women that once they are middle-aged or older they may find themselves becoming invisible. It is a great relief. (But not always–one still faces some catcalls on the street, even after 50.)

  10. yeah, it seems hard for my husband/brothers/male friends to understand how violating these experiences are-and I mean to use that strong word. Yes the occasional male actually is just a nice guy who thinks you are pretty in a kind of innocent way-i have experienced that and it is evident what it is from the get go and, even if totally not interested, I still feel for the guy as a human putting himself on the line and I try to let them down easy and think any woman who does end up with that nice guy will be lucky :) However, unfortunately we remember the negative experiences more than the nice ones, especially when they happen more frequently than many men realize or, perhaps, in connection to the use of the term “violating”, many experiences I have had start off as something like described in the comic (mostly things males may tell me is not the biggest deal etc. ) but not only will women tell you that it does really effect you emotionally in a way we should not be ashamed of admitting for fear of being perceived as “not tough enough” but these instances lead to, for example, being dragged down a back alley kicking and screaming, being rubbed up against on public transportation, being followed, BEING CHASED BY A TRUCK after the guys yell something harassing. (this happened repeatedly, while i was roller blading around town, with different men , different cars, they would yell I would keep rolling away but then they would chase me while I was on roller blades and they were in a car-talk about scary!) AND of course it shouldn’t matter, but since men seem very confused about this (which is why I think we may want to revisit this as women) but i was dressed in a loose t-shirt and loose shorts with high socks to accommodate tall roller blades.

  11. I posted a response to this on my own blog. It’s not about complimenting a woman, ever; it’s about policing the public space, which is masculine territory. Women who enter public space need to be reminded that they are there on display to the entitled male eye, because they have no actual ‘right’ to be there at all.

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