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July 02, 2010

Comments

Olivia Renee'

I know how you feel on that. That happens to me all the time but I try not to think of it. I could only imagine how they would react if it was a family member of theirs.
These men out here (espically those in Chicago) need a SERIOUS reality check.

Shanna

I agree. Catcalls and honking are disgusting. I ran cross country in highschool, and the amount of honking we would get was obnoxious. When I was in college there was a luxury apartment building going up next to it. Every day the construction workers would catcall and yell after any and every female. The university intervened with their supervisors over the summer when the high school (and underage) students where in. It would have been nice if they were able to do something sooner though. I was so freaking glad when construction ended. One of my friends was near tears one day because of it. Screw that, no person has the right to make another that upset, let alone in a sexually charge way. Not all men are like this, but far too many think that they have the right to and that it's ok. It's not.

http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/

It's not "modest" but I think you'd find the concept at least to be interesting, if not somewhat liberating.

Canadianundercover.wordpress.com

I used to get this a lot more when I lived in a bigger city and was a size 2. I'm now a 6 and cover my hair all the time. I remembering angry and complaining to one of my guy friends. "Isn't it flattering?" he asked. Needless to say, I got even angrier. I'm not sure why they think it's flattering, but some of them do.

dominik

I'm a guy. I'd never catcall or honk at a pretty girl -- it just isn't my style, it feels too brutish. There are more dignified means of showing an appreciation for a woman's beauty (such as, for example, a smile).

At the same time, I have to wonder whether Ms. Lizzie might be projecting a bit; viewed objectively, the men's actions (honking a horn and "woo") don't necessarily imply anything about Ms. Lizzie as a "piece of meat." It is possible that they are simply expressing their admiration for her beauty and aren't trying to demean her in any way. I don't follow how it is "insulting to [her] dignity as a human being," though, not being a woman and never having been cat-called or honked at (except by angry drivers in Boston >.>) I might be missing some vital piece of information that makes that connection.

A few weeks ago I was walking down Newbury St. and saw a few Italian guys walk past a beautiful woman. They immediately started talking to her and telling her how beautiful they found her. She seemed a bit taken back, but managed to gracefully extricate herself while thanking them. The first thought that crossed my mind was "Wow, I wish I had that confidence." The second thought was "Wow, that must have been really awkward for her."

Say a guy finds a woman attractive and just wants to express his admiration -- how should he do it (obv. Ms. Lizzie would say "not with a cat call or honking a horn"), or should he not do it at all?

Melissa May

Dominik,

I can only speak for myself, but in general I'd say he not do it at all. If the woman is a complete stranger, then why is it necessary for him to express his admiration for her beauty? Does he think she's just dying to know that *he* thinks she's beautiful? This falls under the "just because you think it, doesn't mean you have to express it" heading.

Shanna

Dominik,

He probably shouldn't. There are times and situations, where it's okay and not creepy. But in general it's always going to come up creepy. I've had some comments made to me that were very polite and flattering. But it comes down to the context of the comment and setting. Like Melissa said, just because you think it, doesn't mean you need to say it.

brilliantvapor

Dominik,

Tricky question. Sometimes it's appropriate to tell a woman that you think she's beautiful, sometimes (as Shanna and Melissa May pointed out) it's simply something that you think and don't say. I'm not sure how to help you beyond that, but maybe my answer to other part of your question can give a little guidance.

Why is whistling or honking demeaning/objectifying? It has something to do with what level people are interacting with you on. When men whistle or honk at a women, they are usually interacting with her purely on the basis of her sexual desirability. While that is a part of a woman's person, there are usually other parts that are interacted with more appropriately in public - her intellect, personality, social skills, business concerns, etc. To interact with someone on the basis of their sexual desirability alone is sort of like interacting with a billboard; they become an image or object in our mind, not a person. Does that make sense?

dominik

That makes sense.

JP2's distinction between "being bodies" and "having bodies," comes to mind, as well as the excellent, though scholarly book, by Robert P. George on Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics.

I doubt the construction workers cat-calling are thinking of the philosophy, but their actions demonstrate a buying into the "ghost in a machine" philosophy, as opposed to the more proper appreciation of the beauty of a fellow creature in a manner befitting the dignity of the recipient, which, as other commenters have pointed out, is situationally dependent in its appropriateness.

They may not mean ill, those cat-callers, but it may be a case of knowing no better. Modern culture doesn't do much to advance the cause of modesty, let alone dignity. See any supermarket magazine rack for a tragic display of this point.

As a guy, I can see how putting up with honking and cat-calling everyday can quickly get frustratingly annoying (as well as demeaning), but I'm not sure what solutions are available, short of transformation of the culture itself (a long and slow process, based within families, which themselves are a rapidly disappearing cultural force).

In the interests of constructive solutions, here's a hypothetical:

Say I'm walking down the street with a friend. He whistles at a passing beauty, causing her to blush. What can or should I say to him to? How do I advance the cause of modesty from the male perspective?

Shanna

Well, both feminists and modesty advocates (sometimes one in the same) are working to change the culture so that cat calling becomes a less common phenomenon. If your friend has a sister, objectify her. Be crude, be mean. And then ask why his sister deserves to be treated any better then a woman he doesn't know.
Also, since your friend is straight, Ask how he'd feel if a large, 40 years + bear whistled at him. How would he feel if this bear told him how handsome/sexy/cute/etc he was. Chances are, he would feel uncomfortable with the attention. Remind him that to strange women on the street, he's the equivalent of the creep who tries to flash himself in public.

For further reading about talking to strange women in general
http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger’s-rapist-or-a-guy’s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/

brilliantvapor

I say, Shanna, is that a bit harsh? Do all guys need quite that level of shock therapy? Some might, of course, but things like "objectify [his sister]. Be crude, be mean" seem like overkill for a first go. Might it work better first to ask what the guy in question would feel like if somebody whistled at his sister? A simple comment like, "Do you think that women really enjoy that?", with the resultant discussion might be enough for some guys. If it's not, then would be the time to pull out the big guns.

dominik

Erm.

Would it better if men walk with eyes down, staring at the sidewalk, never looking up or noticing any women for fear of making them worry that they want to rape them?

There has a right way, one that accounts for the differences between men and women and yet treats both with dignity and respect as they respond to the complementary calls of expressing, respectively, masculinity and femininity.

What is that right way? Whistling, cat-calling, horn-honking, going "woo," are tactless, to say the least. But smiling? Where do we draw the line, and importantly, how do we transform the culture to make line the default line?

Also, it's not beside the point to mention that while whistling, cat-calling, horn-honking, and going "woo" at women are tactless, they are sometimes effective -- otherwise that class of men wouldn't use them at all. Some women apparently enjoy that sort of behavior and react positively to it. Any cultural transformation will have to take into account this countervailing factor as well -- how do modest women handle the negative influence of immodest women?

alcaras

An interesting blog post that approaches the issue from a slightly different angle:
http://significancecontest.blogspot.com/2010/07/hollys-dating-tips-for-guys-part-10.html

"It’s what little girls grow up hoping for, but those hopes are dashed by the time they’re my age and stand on subway platforms and in coffee shops day after day watching all the sane-looking men stare down at their iPhones. Today, it’s virtually impossible to make friends outside of our institutional playpens let alone meet Prince Charming. And I’d argue we’ve all now developed a mentality that everyone we meet would rather not be disturbed in their bubbles of social invisibility, guarded heavily by our electronic fences in the forms of Kindles and Blackberries."

Amber

I hate that in my neighborhood men will hoot and holler at any woman going by, and sometimes they also throw out some derogatory words whenever they can if they don't like what you're wearing. Once I was wearing an ankle length skirt, a long sleeved blouse, and a big jacket. These young men in a car threw a soda at me and called me every derogatory word for a lesbian. I had to keep a straight face until got home I just wanted to cry right then and there. I just don't get how wearing such clothes equals being a lesbian.

Shanna

I'm sorry Amber, that is horrible, no one deserves to have things thrown at them or be called derogatory terms. I've been called a lesbian for everything from not being interested in a guy to wearing a tie (I rock ties). (I've also had change thrown at me while walking home from school). I wish society would pay more attention to street harassment as a problem, but sadly it takes seems to take a long time for society to care about women's problems.

Amber

Over here in California it seems if you're a woman there are expectations on how you should dress in public. Once I was told by a friend that her mother didn't want me to come visit her at her house as I dressed in a way that made her feel uncomfortable. When I asked how dressing modestly made her mother feel uncomfortable she said that her mother told her that only lesbians wear knee length skirts or longer as only lesbians would not want men to look at their bodies. I have no idea why someone would believe such a thing as I've seen lesbians dressed in provocative outfits.

Shanna

Thats a shame... It's also a shame that your friends mother is so fearful of lesbians (And sheltered, I mean, lesbians dress like straight women, with all the ranges in taste that straight women have). Everywhere has expectations for how women should dress. Not fitting into someone's idea of how a "good" or "hot" female should dress makes some people judge your promiscuity or orientation. It isn't right. At some point we as a society need to say no more to this kind of crap.

Keep dressing so that you feel comfortable with yourself. People who want to judge your orientation (and make it an insult) are close-minded and wrong.

Stef

Women have to take control and not let things like this bother them. Think back to your playground days if you were ever picked on by another kid (girl or boy). They were just trying to get a reaction out of you. Don't give them the satisfaction.

Think of how a man would feel standing around with his friends cat-calling and yelling inappropriate remarks at you and all the while you are completely oblivious to his outburst. He's going to be the one feeling awkward and embarrassed after making such a scene and getting absolutely no response in return. The minute you let them affect your mood and your "dignity as a human being," they win. Having something thrown at you is a completely different story - that, of course, cannot and should not be ignored.

But the rest is all just noise; hit your inner mute button and carry on with your confidence and dignity intact.

Eve

This happens all the time to me and my friends. It makes me so angry but there is really nothing you can do. I have to cross a large street to get home from school and lately this has become even more of a problem. Something that has occurred lately is that you are crossing the street, a car stops to let you cross, and you think oh how nice. The only thing that they want to do is get a good look at your behind so that they can hoot and holler at it. It just makes you feel so dirty and violated.

Amber

BTW the friend's mother who believed that wearing long skirts= lesbian chic thought that because Frida Kahlo (the artist who had lesbian affairs while married to Diego Rivera) wore long skirts.

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