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The current furor over street harassment is hard to miss. Everything from Internet message boards to Facebook pages are littered with gender driven discussions on an issue that has become a hot-button topic the world over. There are countless voices in the mix, but sadly, many of the loudest male opinions serve to dismiss any serious consideration of street harassment’s impact on female autonomy. The result is that many women and girls continue to feel threatened when walking or participating in public places.

This discomfort is often internalized and so passively condoned, empowering the aggressors in not only continuing their harassment but justifying their behavior. Some of these rationalizations are more common than others and are often called upon to derail any conversations highlighting the issue. For that reason, I have created a comprehensive list for ladies with responses to these typical arguments posed by men who believe street harassment is a “crazy” feminist idea that really does not need to be addressed.

MANSPLANATION #1: “Women are getting all riled up about men saying ‘hi’ or calling them ‘beautiful’ in public — in other words, nothing.

Men have a warped view of what street harassment is or simply feign ignorance to avoid confronting a problem that implicates males in behavior that society is now attempting to define as wrong. Street harassment is not simply paying a “compliment” to a woman while in public. It is an invasion of a woman’s physical and emotional space, with demands that she give attention to an individual who is sexually objectifying her. It is, for example, openly staring at a woman’s body as she passes while saying things like “damn baby,” “god bless,” “you sexy,” “when you gonna let me hit that?,” “you got a man?,”  coupled with statements like “Fuck you!”, “bitch,” “you’re ugly anyways” and “don’t be stuck up” when a woman does not respond because she is not interested.

MANSPLANATION #2: “Women want men to pursue them.”

Though it is now 2014 and both men and women pursue one another (I openly and shamelessly pursued my boyfriend, as have many of the women I know), it cannot be denied that society still perpetuates the expectation that men should initiate interactions with women. However, that same society has basic social rules that have established when it is or is not appropriate to attempt to engage a stranger. For example, one of the most telling signs of mutual interest, in any social interaction, is eye contact. Anyone desperately avoiding your eye contact — like most of the women who endure street harassment — is obviously not interested in or open to your attention.

And guess what fellas: All women do not actually want to be pursued by men! There are women who simply don’t like men. There are women in relationships with the dude of their dreams. There are women who simply are not interested in conversation. And get this, there are women who simply are not interested in you — the dude chillin’ on a street corner sexually objectifying every woman who passes.

MANSPLANATION #3: “Women wear certain sexy clothes, so of course men can’t help but stare.”

I, like many women, have been street harassed while walking my dog in a muu-muu at 6 a.m.. I have also been harassed in business-casual work attire, over-sized shirts and basketball shorts, jeans with a T-shirt, mini skirts and short dresses with high-heel shoes. Regardless of a woman’s dress code, she is never safe from being sexualized and objectified by men in the streets.

And though all human beings are attracted to things and people that are visually pleasing or stimulating, we also taught from an early age not to stare. A sideways glance or appreciative look is not what is in question here. Blatant and even disrespectful ogling — which happens to never be socially acceptable under any circumstance — is.

MANSPLANATION #4: “If women didn’t get all of that attention, they wouldn’t have so much confidence.”

Believe it or not, many women are bold, hard-working, intelligent, multifaceted human beings with different talents and interests, who have loving families, teachers, employers and mentors to validate their sense of self-worth. Self-confidence is built by those individuals who are a part of our everyday lives, helping us to understand all of our positive attributes, while working on and minimizing our flaws — not by random people in the street objectifying your person.

MANSPLANATION #5: “I wish I got a bunch of women checking me out everyday.”

What about men checking you out? Men who make this argument have already lumped all women together as heterosexual in order to justify approaching and catcalling women indiscriminately, regardless of what their sexual orientation might be. So these men should be open to both warranted and unwarranted sexual advances — including those not only from straight women but also from gay men. Fellas, would you enjoy both men and women making public statements about your body or the things they would like to do with it?

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  • Drexler

    We cannot deny a universal truth that women crave attention from men. And if the women complaining about this type of behavior were approached by someone they are physically attraced to, whether they be gay or straight, male or female, their response to this so called “cat calling” would be completely different. Women need to be honest with themselves and look in the mirror. If the construction worker looks like Boris Kodjoe you would enjoy the attention. But because he doesn’t and looks more like Dan from the RoseAnn show you complain about it. Ladies get real.

    • ShezSooUnusual

      I can only speak for myself in saying that disrespectful behavior (and cat-calling qualifies as disrespect, whether some of you gentlemen are willing to admit it or not) automatically makes a man less attractive to me. I don’t care what he looks like, the moment I see cracks and frays in his personality, the stock value of his “prettiness” takes a nosedive.

      I am a reasonable person, so I will acknowledge that in some cases you have a point. Some women are not as turned off by misogyny when it’s coming from someone who creates moisture in their No-No Zone.

      Those women, at least in my experience, aren’t the type that a quality man of substance should be interested in pursing anyway. Grown women with the good sense God gave a billygoat don’t respond to car horns, whistles and my personal favorite: “Psst…”

      I take exception to the remark that “women crave attention from men.” I know that this will come as quite a blow to the male ego, but everything in life is not about a man.

      There are some women who crave nothing more from men aside from respect and understanding. These are usually the women who have the wherewithal to know that not all “attention” is good attention.

      Then there are those ladies like me — who “crave” nothing from you at all. All I’m trying to do is expand my mind, build an empire and make it to my Pilates class without being told every 1/2 a block how nice my booty looks in my workout pants.

      If you want to meet/greet a lady, why is it so hard to just smile and say, “Hello. How are you?”

      Great conversations start that way.

    • Drexler

      Did you not read my entire post? Street harassment goes far beyond the behavior of men towards women. The LGBT community experiences the same particular set of issues. I know this because I have lesbian coworkers who have been victims of said harassment at the hands of women. That you want to make this a gender specific issue tells me you’re not really concerned about the topic at hand as a whole, but more so, concerned about how the topic applies to you as an individual. And I stand firm with my original statement that women desire attention from men. Each time you step outside the house with your hair done, make up and a nice fitted dress, it’s for a man. It certaintly isn’t for another woman. Unless, of course, you bat for another team. Which is ok, btw. But, the facts remain the true and will so until women behave in a different way. Today is Thursday and right now as I post this there are women prepping to hit the bars and clubs after work in search of a man. Why else dedicate so much time to look a certain way if you don’t want attention from men. That’s like walking down the street of a bad neighborhood with hundred dollar bills wrapped around your neck and insisting you don’t want any trouble from the locals.

    • ShezSooUnusual

      Sure, I read your entire post. I made my reply to your comments gender-specific because that’s what this editorial is about: Male reactions to female complaints of street harassment.

      I’m sure street harassment is prevalent in the LGBTQ community — but that’s not what we’re talking about today.

      “Each time you step outside the house with your hair done, make up and a nice fitted dress, it’s for a man.”

      Did it ever occur to you that perhaps women do these things for themselves? You don’t have a vagina, so I don’t expect you to understand this concept, but embracing your femininity is a very empowering act for a woman.

      I wear midriff tops and bodycon dresses when the weather permits — not as a device to attract a man, but as a reward to myself for working my butt off in the gym. I worked for this figure and the prizes are good health and being able to wear whatever I want with comfort.

      I don’t give a Flying Fig Newton if a man says “Boo” to me or not.

      What if a woman is taking a break from dating or like me and simply not interested in contending with anymore male foolery? We should just walk around with our hair unkempt, our bodies out of shape and our clothes tattered, huh?

      Got’cha.

      Some men seriously have a difficult time understanding that some women do not want or need their penises or their attention. Doing our hair and nails signifies nothing to the contrary.

      I don’t believe in arguing with people on message boards — especially people who have no interest in being enlightened — so I’ll leave you with your opinions. But before I do, I’ll leave you with this final thought:

      Quality women take care of themselves for themselves. Their world does not around the male member.

    • Noirluv45

      Let the church say, AAAAMEN!

    • ShezSooUnusual

      It seems everyday there is some new unenlightened, unconscious soul who requires a collective sermon from the ladies of Clutch. If this keeps up, a lot of us are going to end up with carpal tunnel.

    • Noirluv45

      *sigh* Yes indeed. It’s a never ending battle, isn’t it?

    • vintage3000

      When you shave, get a haircut, wear nice clothing and fresh smelling cologne (assuming you do these things), who/what are you doing all that for?

    • Noirluv45

      Drexler, you have a one-size-fits-all mentality. You assume you know the minds and hearts of women, but we are here to tell you that you don’t. Yes, there are some women who desire the attention of men because we know men are visual creatures, but so what. That doesn’t mean it gives a man a license to disrespect her. However, that’s not the point here.

      Read the thread with an open mind. While SOME women want attention, they DO NOT want to be disrespected. Like others have said, some of us are in relationships, and some of us get nice and pretty for OURSELVES, not men. I don’t care what a man looks like, I, and others, want to be able to walk down the street in peace. If a man finds us attractive, a nice, “Ma’am, you look very nice today” is sufficient. We say, “Thank you,” and keep it moving.

      Drexler, it’s important not to deflect away from the actual concerns of people when they tell you what’s up. White folks do the same thing. They make racism about THEM, telling us (Blacks) that we are “overreacting” and if we straightened up and flew right, we wouldn’t be in the situation we are in.

      No one wants to be disregarded.

    • Kema

      You know what? I’m one of the women that sometimes crave attention from men. However, I haven’t developed a craving for disrespect yet. So no. Even if Lance Gross is the one cat calling I am not going to be flattered. As a matter of fact… that man I would have found attractive now looks like scum to me.

    • Cumberbatchfan

      You sound like a rapist trying to rationalize their crimes against their victims. “No officer I didn’t gang rape her! She’s a whore and she wanted it! You know how those whores are…”

    • Drexler

      Black women cannot be raped.

  • ShezSooUnusual

    I can only speak for myself in saying that disrespectful behavior (and cat-calling qualifies as disrespect, whether some of you gentlemen are willing to admit it or not) automatically makes a man less attractive to me. I don’t care what he looks like, the moment I see cracks and frays in his personality, the stock value of his “prettiness” takes a nosedive.

    I am a reasonable person, so I will acknowledge that in some cases you have a point. Some women are not as turned off by misogyny when it’s coming from someone who creates moisture in their No-No Zone.

    Those women, at least in my experience, aren’t the type that a quality man of substance should be interested in pursing anyway. Grown women with the good sense God gave a billygoat don’t respond to car horns, whistles and my personal favorite: “Psst…”

    I take exception to the remark that “women crave attention from men.” I know that this will come as quite a blow to the male ego, but everything in life is not about a man.

    There are some women who crave nothing more from men aside from respect and understanding. These are usually the women who have the wherewithal to know that not all “attention” is good attention.

    Then there are those ladies like me — who “crave” nothing from you at all. All I’m trying to do is expand my mind, build an empire and make it to my Pilates class without being told every 1/2 a block how nice my booty looks in my workout pants.

    If you want to meet/greet a lady, why is it so hard to just smile and say, “Hello. How are you?”

    Great conversations start that way.

  • Michelle

    I swear, explaining street harassment to certain men can be just as aggravating as explaining the definition (and the benefits) of white privilege to white people. You either end up thinking that they are feigning ignorance or they truly are dense. Then there’s the mansplaining that goes on. I have now taken on the task of “policesplaining” to those same individuals who love to mansplain about street harrassment, but love to discuss their hatred for “Stop and Frisk”.

    “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be walking down that sidewalk at two o’ clock in the morning?”

    “Stop wearing hoodies. You look suspicious.”

    “You see, you wouldn’t be complaining about that cop if she looked like Dollicia Bryant.”

    • ShezSooUnusual

      “I have now taken on the task of “policesplaining” to those same individuals who love to mansplain about street harrassment, but love to discuss their hatred for ‘Stop and Frisk.'”

      Good idea, Michelle! The double standards some men have would be laughable if they weren’t so sad. The men who want us to stand up and march for them when cops harass them and/or choke them within an inch of their lives are often the same men who won’t let a woman cross the street in peace.

      Don’t cry about being harassed when you’re a perpetrator yourself.

    • Kema

      I recently had a conversation with a man who could clearly see why Sterling got in trouble but didn’t (or wouldn’t) see ‘the big deal’ with Stephen A. Smh!