As you're all aware, there's an increasing awareness of the current cultural norm of Street Harassment. To the Classy Women reading this blog, I'm sorry that it exists and it's so prevalent. In the face of constant unwanted attention, you Ladies are holding it down, keeping your chins up, and being ridiculously awesome. Laud and honor all around.
Men, we need to get real and set a better example. Stick around. We're about to learn something together.
Gentlemen (and considerate Ladies who've stuck around), I know that we all have a desire to compliment/extort/praise beauty when we see it. So let's take a look at what this increasing awareness of and displeasure at Street Harassment is about.
Let's address this in a point (P), counter-point (CP) format. Then we'll wrap up with how to avoid harassing people on the street.
P1) The conversation about Street Harassment is NOT telling you that appreciating beauty is bad.
CP1) It IS telling you that comments that objectify others (specifically women) as ONLY objects of physical beauty or a pleasant place to stick one's penis is BAD.
P2) The conversation is NOT saying that you cannot compliment women
CP2) The conversation IS saying that shouting at women you don't already know can be uncomfortable and threatening.
P3) The conversation is NOT saying that all men are evil, rape-minded beasts.
CP3) It IS saying that the words we use and when we use them matter.
There's more to that conversation, obviously, but these are the 3 points that I see/hear talked about most often in defense of Catcalling/Street Harassment.
With those points in mind, let's look at how we can talk to – and even compliment – women whom we don't yet know.
Put yourself in the scene, you're walking down the street, on the way to pick up a coffee from your favorite local stimulant-pusher, and you see someone you want to compliment. BEFORE approaching this person, run through this checklist:
0) What is the purpose of your compliment?
Is the compliment aimed at getting the person to pay attention to you OR, is the compliment aimed at reminding the other person of the objective awesomeness?
If it's the first case, then don't say anything. If it's the second, then continue down the checklist.
1) Are the words in your head genuinely complimentary?
A compliment is defined by Merriam-Webster as:
1. a : an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; especially : an admiring remark b : formal and respectful recognition : honor
If your words are respectful and praise the esteem of the intended recipient, then continue on.
2) Can these words be viewed as a command or a way of telling someone to be different to suit your own preconceptions?
Keep in mind that saying something as seemingly innocuous as, "You'd be prettier if you smiled" IS harassment, because it's telling that person (usually a woman) that a) they are not pretty when not smiling and b) they have to behave/posture themselves in a way that suits you.
Commands are not compliments. If your boss said, "You'd look better in a suit coat", you wouldn't respond, "Thank You."
3) Does your intended compliment sexualize or objectify the person?
This may seem hard to break down in the moment, so maybe ask a more direct version, does your intended compliment convey the message, "I want to put my dick into you"? If it does, then that's harassment and NOT a compliment.
So there are 3 steps (plus 1 proto-step) on how to avoid being a Street Harasser. If you'd prefer a more regimented method to avoid being a Street Harasser, StopStreetHarassment.org has this great info-graphic:
Cheers and Thanks for Reading.