Walking with Mrs. Wigglebottom

The other day we were yet again talking about the difference, broadly speaking, between the position straight men are in when they first meet a woman and the position women are in when they first meet a man. Most women, when we first meet a man, start a running tab of “Things he does or doesn’t do that might indicate whether he’s going to fuck me up and/or kill me.” Most women I know talk about how difficult it is, when that’s what’s going on in the back of your mind, to be at ease around a guy you’ve just met and not come off just a hair stand-off-ish.

My straight guy friends, needless to say, don’t meet new women and start thinking “What are the chances this woman will fuck me up and/or kill me?”

Anyway, one of the things that I love about my dog is that I feel like she changes the equation. I notice this a lot when we’re out walking in the morning, because it’s imperative for me to check the faces of the people in the passing cars to make sure that they see me and are going to get over.

And I would say that 80% of the men that pass us either make little acknowledgment of us or they wave because they see us every day. And of the 20% who seem to register “Oh, that’s a woman,” half of them smile nicely or look a little sheepish and that’s it. But on our walks, there’s always at least one jackass who slows way down, as if to sum up the situation.

Yesterday, there was a Jeep full and they all slowed down and stared and then, after the passed, they all war-whooped. Now, clearly, this isn’t about how hot I look at 6:30 in the morning. It’s about them needing to feel a little rush at being a jackass. Fine. But then I have to judge the chances of that escalating into something that’s going to go unpleasantly for me.

And the thing is, with these types of guys, if you seem too “please don’t fuck with me,” that encourages them and if you seem too “don’t even try to fuck with me” that encourages them–I should stop this sentence now just to point out that there is no right way for a woman to navigate these situations. You never know what’s going to come across as daring them more than dissuading. I don’t need guidance in how to better judge fuckers; those fuckers need to behave.–you need to strike the right note of “it’s not worth the effort to fuck with me.”

I believe it’s very hard for a woman alone to carry herself in such a way that strikes that note. But a woman with a pit bull?

We strike that note, I think.

I was thinking about that this morning, as Mrs. Wigglebottom and I were headed out, because I needed to clear the rattle the guys in the Jeep had put in me.

And today, for the first time in ages, we saw someone else on our walk–a woman, jogging, carrying a large, narrow, wooden club.

And I smiled when I saw her, because I recognized that club for what it was, a signal that it’s not worth it to fuck with her.

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37 thoughts on “Walking with Mrs. Wigglebottom

  1. I’d still come at you for the fun of it, call me one of those jackass types, but at 21, seems that’s all the ladies are buying.

    Jackass it is, till further notice!

  2. I was struck with a low-grade epiphany on reading your morning screed:

    A woman who feels better walking with her pit bull, or jogging with a club, probably understands a lot more than she thinks she does about why some people want to carry guns everywhere.

    Because a visible weapon, of any kind, changes the calculus for everybody. It changes the calculus for everyone with whom you interact; clearly, from your writing, it even changes your own internal calculus of the situation. The simple fact that everyone knows you have a gun, or a knife, or a club, or a big dog with you changes how they react to you, and how you, in turn, react to everyone else.

    You can call it a sad state of affairs. You can say, as Heinlein did, “An armed society is a polite society.” But there’s no question that an overt potential for the use of deadly force changes interpersonal dynamics.

    Please note that none of these observations apply to concealed weapons. My guess is that you feel a lot better walking with your dog precisely because everybody else can SEE your dog. I hadn’t thought about it in quite these terms before, but maybe this is why some people are pushing for open carry laws, instead of concealed carry.

    What do you think?

  3. Mark, I totally see your point–I hadn’t really thought of it that way previously. But I think there’s a large situational difference between a woman walking along a rural road and a woman (or man) hanging out at O’Charley’s.

  4. But dancedivam, by the way I’m reading it B goes through this same line of thinking whether she’s on a rural road or at O’Charley’s.

    Mark’s point has been something I’ve thought for a long time. Concealed carry laws aren’t really a deterrent to crime. They’re punishment. Few criminals are going to hold off robbing someone because they MIGHT have a weapon.

    I’ve thought all along that carrying a concealed weapon ought to be against the law. If you’re going to carry, you need to do it where people can see. That way you know who you’re dealing with.

    Of course that haves the problem of any interaction between strangers where one has a gun and the other doesn’t is going to have a heavy undertone of intimidation.

  5. W., yeah, it’s always a line of thinking, but, obviously, the calculation is different if I’m at a bar just chatting with people or out walking my dog. If I’m at a bar, I expect people who think I look interesting to talk to to come and talk to me. I’m still judging how dangerous he might be, but his approaching me and wanting to talk to me isn’t a red flag.

    If it’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m walking my dog, yeah, a man’s thinking that I need to interact with him does send up a red flag.

    Mark, I think you’re right. I just think that there’s a world of difference between some men’s experience of “I need to carry a gun because of what might happen to me” and a woman’s experience of “I need to carry a gun because of what might happen to me.” Those “might”s look the same but they are a world of different.

    This was actually a part of a conversation I was having the other day–how do these guys I know keep ending up with these women who are obviously drama-magnets, when it seems to me like it should be completely obvious that they are drama-magnets?

    And I’m starting to suspect that the truth is that most men are so unaware of what everyday life with men is like for women (because most men aren’t jackasses) that they don’t experience women who don’t appear to be sizing them up in terms of the risk they might present as unreasonable risk-takers but as refreshingly direct, when, really, the former is true.

    I don’t know. It’s just something I’ve been thinking about.

  6. B., I can’t truly have any idea about how you process the world (even though I was raised a boy in a house full of women and have been married for most of my life). I do know that men and women will never, and perhaps can never, see the world the same.

    Having said that, and at the risk of being offensive, I truly feel sorry for anyone who never stops cataloging every stranger around her based on her assessment of the level of threat the stranger presents. Men don’t do this; at least, I don’t do this. It must be a terrible way to have to live.

    I suppose this confirms your theory that “most men are so unaware of what everyday life with men is like for women.” Speaking only for myself, I cannot conceive of what it must be like to be fearful, on some level, of something (men) that most women are drawn to, on some level.

  7. B, I’ve had that same conversation about drama-magnets with a couple of friends recently. Whereas it’s completely clear to me when women are, it wasn’t so clear to him.

    W, I see your point. Right after I typed that, I thought, “OK, not at O’Charley’s, but what about in Centennial Park? What about in Moss Wright Park? Or some rural, mostly-empty-except-for-the-dude-in-the-van park that she blogged about earlier for Pith?” If I were carrying, to what extent can I expect the situation to be escalated if I encountered someone who was also carrying? Would it make me feel safer carrying a weapon than it would a Taser or bear spray?

    Recently a police officer investigating some vandalism at one of my properties told me I needed to carry bear spray everywhere I go. Our conversation was probably the closest thing I can approximate to illustrate a guy understanding the “because of what might happen to me” mindset.

    Interesting questions to consider.

  8. Eh, you get used to it. I mean, it does suck, but that’s why loudmouth women sit around saying “Hey, this is what’s happening to us and this is why we need your help getting these assholes to stop this.” We can’t afford to not be cautious, but we’d certainly like to live in a world where we could be less so.

    And, just to reiterate what @dancedivam is agreeing with me about–this does hurt men, too. Y’all just usually see it it terms of “man, she turned out to be nutty” or “why is that particular woman so stand-off-ish?” instead of understanding the systemic reasons.

  9. Mark, I think you’re right. I just think that there’s a world of difference between some men’s experience of “I need to carry a gun because of what might happen to me” and a woman’s experience of “I need to carry a gun because of what might happen to me.”

    That. Yes.

    And – although I am a staunch defender of the 2nd Amendment – I have an issue with people, guns and alcohol mixing. I’ve been in enough bars and seen enough people with chips on their shoulders to know that a gun should not be introduced into that situation.

    The illustration of the woman carrying the club as she jogs was gasp inducing. Obviously, some situation has happened in which this has become necessary. And that really pisses me off. Just like what you’re saying about we as women having to size up the situation with new men in our life – as to whether they’re safe or will harm us. I imagine that I’d have so much time to use on useful shit if I didn’t have to spend so much of it determining if I’ll be raped/murdered walking to my car.

  10. Also, Mark, my mother (who was certainly a badass when she was alive) used to tell me that she made a point of making eye contact with strangers as she passed them on the street. She said, “If they’re going to try to do something, I want them to have looked me in the eye first.” I guess she thought it might give prospective attackers pause.

    I do this all the time. Yes, men may not have to have such an acute awareness of their surroundings. But I’ve found some blessings therein. In my work neighborhood, nearly everyone speaks to each other in passing. People know my face and therefore are (I hope) more likely to jump in if they saw anything bad happening to me.

    On the other hand, she taught me not to be fearful. I don’t have the same weirdo-magnet some women (and men!) have, and that helps.

  11. That’s one thing I feel like the dog has helped me with, too, @dancedivam. I used to feel like I was a complete weirdo-magnet, that I just gave off this vibe of “You can totally bother me” but I find that walking with the dog gave me a kind of confident presentation that I carry with me even when she’s not.

    Still, I think I will always own a dog that reads as “scary” to people.

  12. “I think there’s a large situational difference between a woman walking along a rural road and a woman (or man) hanging out at O’Charley’s.”

    Dancedivam, that’s a really interesting point. Fears may be rational and they may be irrational. But to the person who is in fear, male or female, they are real. On a cellular, biological, flight-or-flight level, fear is real. If the fear is strong enough, it can overwhelm rational thinking, judgment, pride, and the strongest interpersonal bonds. I’m sure of this because, while I am not a woman, I have lost count of the number of times I have been afraid.

    Military psychiatry used to have a diagnosis it called “psychosis situational.” Put simply, it was a diagnosis which described a person who was scared out of his mind by the environment in which fate, or duty, had placed him. There were two accepted treatments for psychosis situational: one was to convince the patient that he had evaluated the situation incorrectly; in short, that he was in no real danger. However, if the therapist discovered that the patient had evaluated the danger correctly, the only possible treatment was to remove the patient from the situation.

    How on earth do you approach such a malady when the “situation” of which the patient is terrified is life itself?

  13. But that’s not what we’re talking about, Mark. No one is talking about being afraid of “life itself.” (Unless you’re trying to change the subject.) We’re talking about the necessity of being aware that men who wish us harm don’t have a certain look or bright arrows pointing at them, so we have to figure out other signals, if we can.

    That’s why your analogy troubles me. It suggests that women who are cautious are somehow just not seeing things how they really are.

    I’d suggest that’s not the case.

    But the answer is the same–we do need to remove the patient from the situation and we do this by changing the situation–by changing the behavior of assholes.

  14. Anecdote: when I was 13 or so, we lived in a “nice” (read: mostly white, upper middle class, newish ) suburb in Colorado Springs. I used to take the dog out for super long walks in the summer, during the early mornings before it got hot. The dog, for the record, was a 50 odd lb. German Shepard cross. Big animal. Anyway. One early summer morning, a young (20s?) guy followed me and my dog for several blocks, circled around, came back, lather rinse repeat, and on the fourth pass, slowed waaaay down, pulled over next to me, and exposed himself before speeding off. I took up carrying a big wooden stick when I walked the dog, and the creep never reappeared.

    The takeaway for me, though, was exactly what B describes above: you encounter a strange man, and you have to think “what are the chances this dude will fuck me up and/or kill me?” no matter how he might look and prepare accordingly.

  15. I’m quite sure that this isn’t what Mark means to do, but to me it seems that he’s taking the lived experience of men as normative for humans, and categorizing women’s lived experience as non-normative since it’s different. But we don’t distinguish easily between non-normative and abnormal, so to Mark, women’s ordinary living is a bit neurotic. And he’s sorry about that. But he can’t quite think of it as a rational response to real situations that ought to be changed; he thinks of it as a condition to be treated.

  16. B., I can’t have any idea whether women are seeing things how they really are, and I didn’t mean to imply that they don’t. But now that my cross-examination conditioned reflex has been triggered:

    *How many times, out of all the times women pick up on a creepy vibe from some man, does the man actually attempt to harm the woman in any way?

    *Out of all the times women have been scared or uncomfortable in the presence of strange men, how many times have men’s actions (not women’s perceptions) subsequently justified that fear?

    *How often does a drunken shout from a passing vehicle turn into an assault?

    *How is it that the mere presence of a drunken lout in a bar is inherently more offensive to women than it is to men?

    I’m not trying to denigrate your fear, or anyone else’s fear. As I said earlier, fear is real, and it has real effects on the people who experience it. But on a selfish personal level, I seem to want to say “Why should I (as a man) have to carry around the burden of women’s generalized fear of men when I’ve done nothing to provoke it or to justify it?” Maybe that’s what you were referring to when you noted that this phenomenon hurts men, too.

    I understand that it only takes one psycho to hurt you. I’m the last guy who would suggest that women not be careful. That does not necessarily require that I accept that all such fears are objectively warranted by the facts and circumstances of each situation in which a woman experiences fear.

    This conversation began with you pointing out how much more comfortable you were with a big dog at your side – I presume, on days where nothing happens as well as on days when you get creeped out. If that’s what it takes to make you feel more comfortable, I applaud you for finding your own answer. I was merely struck by the similarity between what I understood to be your feeling, and what I understand to be the feelings of those who wish to tote a pistol everywhere with them – even though I can’t completely understand their fears, either.

  17. nm – sorry if I expressed myself badly. I did not say, and do not mean, that women are abnormal. What I said, and what I meant, was that it is a sorrowful thing to me that half the population would live in fear of the other half.

    Most men aren’t rapists. I’m not one myself. Neither are my sons. It makes me sad to think that any woman would fear any of us on sight. Doesn’t that make you a little sad, too?

  18. Mark -

    Here’s an illustration. I have a grocery store in my neighborhood. I’ve been going there for years. I’m on a first name basis with the folks that work there. Not long ago, perhaps in the last year, a new guy was hired. Nice genial fellow, but something wasn’t right. For example, the first time he was at the register ringing up my groceries he observed the items I was purchasing and surmised from the ingredients what I was making for dinner – and then proceeded to say “oh, what time is dinner? I’ll be over then to eat” – now, some people would think this was jovial banter… but something about the way he said it and other non-verbal clues gave me this “ick” feeling. This was his first encounter with me – a stranger – yet he felt the need to be what I refer to as “too familiar” – he’s made several other remarks since then – to the point of me avoiding him altogether. I’ve discussed this with two of my neighbors – both women in their 40s – and they have had similar kinds of creepy encounters with this guy.

    Cut to a months back – I was conversing with someone in a social setting – turned out the person I was talking to lives in the neighborhood. Something came up about the local grocery. I mentioned “the creepy dude” and she said “oh, his name is ______ , I’ve dealt with him in my job” — turns out her job dealt with jail. As it turns out, dude had been incarcerated. For what, I’m not sure. But my internal “creepy dude juju” let me know to stay away. I was right.

    It’s not about walking around in fear of everything. But it is about being aware. And I think most women know that there are people out there lurking – waiting for any opportunity to strike. I lock my door at night – as most people do. Not because I have irrational fear – but because I am a realist.

  19. Ha, Mark. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t laugh, but it doesn’t really make me sad. Pissed? Yeah. But not really sad.

    Plus, hell, women alive today are probably the first generations of women who could say outloud “Fuck this fucked up shit!” and have it publicly acknowledged by others that yep, it’s some shit and its fucked up.

    That change, alone, is pretty awesome.

  20. And to add to what I said, when I was stalked, back in the early 90s, the people at my school believed him when he said he was my boyfriend (even though he was not) and the police told me they would not get involved with domestic issues, even though he didn’t live with me nor was he my boyfriend.

    In the 20 years since then, society’s ideas about stalking have changed so dramatically that, when I tell people younger than me about that, they literally cannot comprehend that there ever was a time, recently, when that would be the case.

    But part of the shift has been that the broader society has said “Hey, wait, that behavior is not normal. Not all men do that. We need to stop sheltering assholes from the consequences of their asshole behavior by making that behavior something their victims alone have to negotiate.”

    Not that people don’t still stalk people now, but I have been stalked, I have had the police laugh it off, and, if I were stalked now, I’d have no qualms about going to the police. I would totally expect a completely different response (though, ha, I might be naive about that).

    That’s one of the benefits of working for social change.

    A lot of men get away with asshole behavior because the whole society is providing cover for them by insinuating that any man could accidentally get caught up in false accusations of this kind of terrible behavior, so we must protect all men from the accusations of women. Once all the good men wise up and say “Hey, I’m not an asshole. Why should I arrange my life and my beliefs to make life easier for assholes” about a bunch of behavior, life becomes easier for women (and men).

  21. Beth: an anecdote from the other side of our divide on this subject–

    I was once employed as a lowly gofer by the First Amendment Center. Part of my job was to ferry celebrities around town. I was assigned one day to drive the famous feminist author Andrea Dworkin to the airport to catch a flight out of town.

    With me seated silently upfront behind the wheel and Ms. Dworkin in back, chatting with one of my female co-workers, I heard this snippet from our celebrity guest: “I can’t wait to get out of here. The men here are so aggressive.”

    I don’t know whether she simply overlooked my presence (as many people do with gofers), or whether she intended to lump me in with all the other “aggressive” men in Tennessee, but it stung, nonetheless, because her comment was justified neither by anything I had done (which was driving her to catch her plane) or said (not a word). There didn’t seem to be any appropriate response, so I just drove on in silence. Dworkin got to the airport on time.

    I ask you, was Andrea Dworkin’s unqualified statement fair, given the context? She didn’t know me, had never spoken to me, and had no idea whether I was a rapist, a sexist pig, or even particularly aggressive. I was just a man, sitting less than three feet away from her, as she talked to another woman. I understand that she was likely marked by her previous life experiences, but why was it okay for her to dump that kind of stuff on me?

    I concede that this is an argument that I cannot win, with you, with nm, or with B. Indeed, it’s an argument I shouldn’t even be having – the gulf between us is too deep, and too wide. And that, with apologies to B., is a sad thing to me, too.

  22. Mark, come on! Andrea Dworkin?!

    I don’t know whether to bless her heart or your heart first.

    Where to even start?

    Okay, I’ll just say this, bless your heart, did you miss the whole beginning part of this conversation where I was lamenting that men do not seem to have developed their skills of telling which women love to bring the drama?

    Should all Mormons be judged on Glenn Beck? Have to answer for Glenn Beck?

    Of course not. There’s more to Glenn Beck than “fucked up Mormon.”

    Same here. Asking me to answer for or explain Andrea Dworkin is… well.. frankly, beyond my pay scale.

    But I am tickled that you could really drop that provocatuer’s name in conversation because you’d really met her.

    That’s awesome.

  23. Mark, there’s a difference, for most women in this culture, between living in fear (which you say we do, and are to be pitied for) and living in awareness (which IMO is what most of us actually do, and which isn’t pitiful or pitiable). I don’t fear the men I meet, but I am aware of them. I am aware of them as potentially untrustworthy until I can judge them to be otherwise. As a woman who has lived in this culture for decades, I like to think that I’m pretty effective at judging men. But until I have the time to observe them, I’m not going to trust them. If men want trust to be the default, they’re going to have to get active in weeding out and isolating those men who are a danger to women. Because, after all, look at the first comment on this thread. That’s all around us, all the time.

    As for Dworkin, while she was rude, she wasn’t wrong. By your own admission, you hadn’t done anything to indicate to her that you were trustworthy.

  24. Mark – to lump all people in together in wrong and inaccurate.

    It’s not a matter of winning an argument. Not at all. A man wrote a very wonderful book on this topic: “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker. I’m of the opinion that every woman AND man should read it. It opened my eyes about our built in sense of danger – and to not ignore it.

    Fear is there for a reason — like when the hair on the back of my neck stands up when creepy dude at the grocery store says something off kilter.

    And Ms. Dworkin should never go to Greece – where men are REALLY aggressive.

  25. My last word, then I promise I’ll shut up and go sue somebody: I am flabbergasted by the notion that the burden of proof is on me to demonstrate that I’m trustworthy before any woman can be truly comfortable around me. You and I see the world very differently.

    BTW, B., one advantage of a youth misspent in TV news is that I got to meet a lot of interesting folks, from Andrea Dworkin, to James Earl Ray, to Ray Blanton, to Chuck Yeager, to Anita Bryant, to Alan Shepherd. I shook hands with Jimmy Carter and Ellsworth Bunker, and interviewed all the shooters in the 1979 Greensboro NC incident in which a gang of Klansmen and Nazis killed five Communist Worker’s party members on camera…and were acquitted of murder charges.

    Quick war story: I covered Ray’s escape from Brushy Mountain in ’77, and his subsequent trial at the prison for his escape. My courtroom artist (no cameras back then) was Anna Sandhu, who I kept noticing talk to Ray during recesses. She spent every day on the drive back to Knoxville trying to convince me that Ray was innocent of the King murder, and she subsequently married the guy. How James Earl Ray convinced this woman he was a good marital prospect, I will never understand.

  26. You mean she shouldn’t have been so trusting?

    Mark, you are being a very good sport here and I don’t mean anything I’ve written here as a personal attack. But, if I may say so, expecting to be taken at face value is an attitude that only those with privilege can maintain. I mention this to point out that even people who are totally well intentioned can be blind to the burdens they don’t have to live with themselves.

  27. Yes, but Mark, here’s the thing–every woman has to deal with this stuff. I know of NO women who haven’t been catcalled (and not fun “Oh, hey cutie” stuff but really scary stuff) or groped or stalked or attacked or raped. None. Not a single one.

    So, I get what you’re saying. I really do. And I, too, think that it’s unfair. But it is in no way as unfair as the fact that I have had men I didn’t even know try to put their fingers in my vagina when I’m just standing there, or try to scare the shit out of me while I’m walking the dog, or men I do know stalk me or try to rape me or whatever. Who can keep track of all the nonsense?

    If you have to be a little flabbergasted in order for the world to change so that I don’t have to play “keep the asshole out of my vagina,” so be it. Your mild discomfort is very hard for me to give a shit about, compared to my major troubles (which are minor compared to what other women go through) navigating the world without harassment.

    I know you, so I know you have a good heart. So, I’m just asking you to think about this.

    Would you really privilege your own desire to believe everyone who meets you thinks the best of you over the desire of the women you love to feel like we are doing the best we can to keep from being hurt?

    If you aren’t one of the guys who is doing something wrong, then your whole responsibility is just to do what you can to signal to women that you aren’t a danger and to not provide cover to men who are dangerous.

    Beyond that, when you hear women talking about our problems, just know that it’s not about you. Don’t make it our responsibility to assure you we know you’re a good guy.

    It’s hard enough to go through this stuff without folks coming along asking us to assure them that they’re okay.

    Please don’t ask us to lie to you so that you can continue to feel good about the world. That’s not fair to either party.

  28. Yes, many of us haven’t been assaulted, and still operate in fear of assault. But the consequences to us if we were to misjudge a man as a non-threat and then find out we’re wrong are so severe, that I think it’s utterly reasonable for women to be cautious.

    I think it’s comparable to the ends large organizations go to to make sure their buildings are fire safe. Is my office going to suddenly burst into flame? Extremely unlikely. But if it DID, and if there weren’t good escape routes, and extinguishers, and a reliable alarm system, the consequences would be extreme. So my organization puts in a lot of effort to minimize an admittedly small risk, in order to avoid those extreme consequences.

  29. I think that for many guys, denial that this shit happens is easier on them mentally than trying to accept how fucked up it is that every single woman learns at some point in her life that she is a walking target for assault and harassment. Mostly by men. I can see how that would be hard to deal with, that a fairly large percentage of one’s gender is like that, although, you know, my sympathy is limited.

    Because it’s true, and I don’t want to spend much of my time anymore trying to convince dudes who are all freaked out about it and want to grill me on the particulars so they can latch on to something that shows I was probably just overreacting. Because if they can think that us ladies are just overreacting, they won’t feel so guilty/sad/uncomfortable. And that’s what’s really important.

  30. I was telling Mary and Samantha on Saturday how I had been talking to my mom a while ago, I think at Thanksgiving, and I mentioned casually how dude had tried to rape me and so wasn’t some situation funny/infuriating.

    I honestly thought she knew. I mean, we never talked about it, but I just assumed she knew.

    Well, it turns out that she didn’t. And she was shocked, but we moved on. And then later, she was really upset about it and all about how she didn’t know and how sorry she was.

    And, at first, I was like, fine. But she kept going on and I started to feel like she really needed me to make this okay with her.

    And I was trying to tell Mary and Samantha about it but I couldn’t even say that part of it without crying. My mom is not an asshole. She’s one of the most caring people I know. But it hurt me deeply that she learned about this horrible thing that happened to me and that she needed me to comfort her.

    And I think that’s a part of this conversation, too. It’s not just the feeling that guys would rather deny that this stuff is that bad or that we’re overreacting.

    It’s also this idea that the person to whom some terrible thing has happened should comfort the person who’s learning about it, make it seem not that bad or not that upsetting.

    I mean, for me, I didn’t find the guys in the Jeep that bad or upsetting. They just psyched me out a little. But I got back on the street, you know?

    I don’t know. These conversations always suck. And yet, i feel like good comes of them, so…

    I don’t know.

  31. B, you just awakened a very old memory in me.

    When I was 4 or so I remember standing in the front yard – probably doing something 4 year olds do, like staring at a dandilion and being fascinated that it could be blown and elements of it scatter. Anyway, I remember my mom screaming for me, my brother and I to get in the house immediately.

    Afterward, my dad rushed home, there was adult talk that I didn’t understand, my mom shaken and my dad furious.

    As it turned out, my mom had been tending to a plant and a young-ish guy materialized – at 2 pm or there about in broad daylight – walked up to my mother in her own yard and exposed himself.

    I guess that was my first clash with this type of thing. As I got older, the incident would come up b/c my parents had a court order against the guy – or something. Legal action occurred. But from that point on I understood that as women there was a really evil sexual element at work. And it didn’t matter if you were in the safety of your own yard in broad daylight. Shit could happen.

    Wow, I haven’t thought about that in years. It makes me furious to this day.

  32. My earliest brush with random attacks by strange men came before I can even remember. I was about 6 months old and one nice summer day (this is all told to me by my mother), my mother pushed me in my stroller up to the orchard next to our house. She put my stroller in the driveway of the orchard and she went into the grove to pick up windfall peaches. When she looked up from her basket, a guy had me in his arms and was walking toward his car. She screamed and ran after him. He dropped me and grabbed her instead. He started to drag her into his car, all the while she was screaming and fighting and begging (because no one would have known where to find me, as I had rolled off the driveway and into a drainage ditch). She convinced him that if he accidentally killed a baby, he’d be executed in the electric chair. He began to lose his nerve and let her go. She was so freaked out that she would have totally forgotten to get his license plate number except that he told her not to turn in his plate number to the cops. Of course she did.

    This really isn’t all about you or guys like you, Mark. Your mild discomfiture is a small but necessary sacrifice that I offer up to the gods of systemic sexism.

  33. Oh, man.

    I’ve just seen this very same conversation so. many. times, online and in person. It usually features a well-meaning man who just cannot understand why women are SO UNFAIR to him just because some men are awful.

    And I posit that it’s not actually such a well-meaning approach, as it’s fueled by a deep seam of systematic privilege. I think almost all women get that men don’t have to walk around with the awareness; very, very few men get that women do. Yeah, the odds of actually being assaulted by the drive-by catcaller are low, but they are NOT til. The stakes are too high for us to be able to discount aggressive signaling behavior.

    The divide hurts everyone, of course. But when it hurts men, it offends them — it hurts their feelings. When it hurts women, it hurts their bodies — it can literally kill them.

    I am going to work for change for everyone’s sake, but I am not going to spend my time feeling bad for decent men who got caught in the crossfire here. The really decent ones will understand; the others are just playing “nice.”

  34. til = nil. And discounting women’s very real concerns because not everybody who gets hooted at gets raped just comes across as patronizing, rather than understanding.

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