Thursday, January 3, 2013

A low down dirty shame

OK so I need to talk about this comic, which I found through the @EverydaySexism twitter account. Have a look, we'll continue below.

So, this roused great emotions within me, not because the behaviour depicted in the comic is horrible, awful, heinous behaviour. I mean, it IS, but that fact isn't what gets me going.

What gets me going is that apparently this actually happens.

Seriously - it doesn't just happen in comics. I know women, and I hear women tell stories, and situations like the one in the comic happen. In real life.

Isn't that insane? I mean, I know that stuff like this happens, but most of the time I don't think about it, and whenever I do think about it, I feel like I've just found out that Die Hard is based on a true story.

Because that...that is just not the way human beings behave. Is it? Obviously it is. Obviously there are a bunch of actual, human, grown adult male people who go around shouting obscenities at women they don't even know.

And I can't fathom that. My mind's gears loudly grind when it tries to process this thought.

Because here's the thing: I'm not a very good guy. On any objective scale, I am a weak-willed, cowardly, thoughtless, selfish, greedy, lazy, uninteresting, socially inept man. This I know. This, I think, is not a secret.

But there is one thing I can say in my favour: it has never occurred to me to shout "show us your tits" at a woman in public. It has never occurred to me to call a woman I don't know a slut because she doesn't enjoy the experience of being sexually harassed. It has never occurred to me to make sexual advances to a stranger at all, let alone one who is simply passing by exhibiting no signs of wishing to be subjected to loud, braying comments upon her physical appearance. Whatever such signs may look like: I don't really know.

And when I say it has never occurred to me, I don't mean that I look at women in the street and make a considered decision not to yell at them. I mean the thought that this might actually be a course of action open to me has never even entered my head. I've never had to make this decision, because I have never, in my entire life, found myself in a situation where I've thought, hmm, maybe I could shout "Nice boobs!" at that lady.

Never. Not once has this happened. Never have I had to weigh the advisability of acting like the men in that comic, because never has my mind even entertained the possibility that I could. Thinking about whether I should harass women on the street is basically in the same category, for me, as thinking about whether I should travel across the Pacific standing upright on the wing of a 737: it's just not an option. The reason I've never had to make a decision about shouting "Show us your tits" is the same reason I've never had to make a decision about eating a live rhinoceros.

And that's why I don't get it: how can these men actually be behaving this way? How can human minds actually not only contain the outright ludicrous concept of publicly bellowing sexually aggressive inanities at someone you've never met, but go on to decide that acting on the thought would be a good expenditure of time and breath?

How? How can this happen in real life?

And yet it does happen in real life, and it's a disgrace. A disgrace for many reasons, but most of all, for this: these men make me look good.

As mentioned before, I'm not much of a man. I am, essentially, lame. But compared to these guys - who seem to be quite numerous - I appear to be some kind of patron saint of sensitive modern masculinity. They are making me look fantastic in contrast to themselves. It therefore becomes possible for me to give myself big ups, to portray myself as a really sensationally nice guy, simply by behaving at a sort of base level of civilised human decency. I'm not really being nice, I'm just being barely ordinary and maintaining a fairly unexceptional belief that the people around me are human beings irrespective of what kind of fleshy lumps their body might be sporting. But when I see other men behaving in the manner detailed above, I feel like I'm actually a pretty nice guy.

The fact is, these guys are giving me a good name. And that is just plain wrong.


sarah toa said...

It reminds me of the groaning about a nanny state when men on building sites were banned from the mass wolf whistle. A lot of them saw their behaviour as a compliment to the women they were crowing at.
But as a woman walking, alone, past a bunch of men doing that, it can be really intimidating. It's gang behaviour and there is a real undertone of hostility about it, which makes you feel very glad about being in public and not an alley at night.
That in itself is a rather confusing situation when you are supposedly being told you are hot!

Most women and girls will have encountered the abuse that the comic portrays, Ben. When it occurs, we have to remind ourselves that the abuse is borne of the offender's powerlessness in the presence of Woman.
That thought doesn't change a culture - but it can stop my head being fucked with.

Anonymous said...

See this is where the NRA have it right.

"If you keep running from the schoolyard bully, he keeps on chasing you. But the moment you turn around and stop and you punch him really hard in a sensitive spot, he'll think twice about coming back again."

If all women had concealed handguns.... pull a glock on the slime who tries this BS. They'd shit their pants and not try it again.

A little lifelong fearful trauma does wonders to modify slimy behaviour. Some people don't respond to talking, asking or even pleading and begging.

Anonymous said...

"The abuse is borne of the offenders powerlessness in the presence of women"? OMG I cannot stop laughing, what planet you living on where women have any power?

Anonymous said...

Hey Ben
Thanks for your article. It's really cool and there certainly are a lot of jerks about.
But don't think I didn't notice what you did there; took the chance to take a huge swipe at yourself, and that's not cool or even true. I'm watching you.
At worst, you would be CAPABLE of displaying some of those negative traits you mention, as are we all. On balance, however, you seem to display mostly positive attributes. Not least the ability to have empathy for how others are feeling, as you have shown here.


Unknown said...

This is the local parallel of the Eve-teasing that is getting some attention in India at the moment. I wish it shocked me, but it doesn't. Not that I see it much, but that's probably primarily because I live a rather hermitised (hermetic?) lifestyle these days. People, alas, are just such horrible creatures generally. I think because we tend to surround ourselves by people similar to ourselves, we find it easy to think that people are generally nice enough sorts, because we have managed to surround ourselves with nice enough sorts. But the species that gives us Internet Trolls is alive and unwell and endemic to society.

Stephen said...

For fucks sake mate don't ever go to Mardi Gras or your head will explode.
We still have a long way to go as a sub-set of a species.

Mephitis said...

Love this. :)

John G Thomas said...

Thanks Ben. Shouting abuse at passing women has never entered my head either. Makes me feel really good about myself. Bit of worry, when I think about that.