Hungover Feminist Report – Low(er) tech edition

Due to some technical difficulties (namely my lack of internet access at home), there’s no video this week. However, I do have a little story, and a follow-up question for everyone.
Last night I went out with some friends to celebrate an engagement. Good times. At bar number two, randomly, some guy (I’ll call him White Linen Pants, or WLP for short) came over and hugged and kissed by friend on the head. Awkward! Later, we were dancing, and he came back again. And again. And again. Awkward the first time. Vaguely funny the second time. Irritating the third time. Seriously pissing me off by the fourth time. And this shit happens all the time. Nothing rare about it. This is not behavior I see women engaging in.
Sure, drunk people tend to be more friendly with strangers, which is fine. Maybe we’ll talk to a group of people, but I’ve never seen a woman repeatedly return, touching, and physically pushing her way into a group like that. Here’s what bugs me about it. At least two of the times WLP came to visit, none of us even talked to him. I certainly didn’t say, “Hey, come over here, WLP. Put your arm around me, too.” Don’t even get me started on the woman he held on his shoulder and asked us to give “birthday spankings” to.
Before starting to write this, I took a little survey of some of the women I was with, and asked them, after the numerous visits, why didn’t anyone tell him to go away. I got a few different answers. Some said because WLP wasn’t really near them, or dancing with or hugging them individually, he wasn’t bothering them. Another said she thought he was funny. And another said it never even occurred to her to ask him to go away. That got me thinking. Because I did think about asking him to go away. But I didn’t. Not because I wasn’t adamant about him leaving, but because I was worried about how it would seem. I didn’t want to be the angry, mean girl. I didn’t want to “spoil the fun.” Except this guy’s presence was spoiling some of the fun for me.
Instead of just having a great time with my friends, every time he came over, he was the center of attention, and I was annoyed. Along with the hangover, this left me thinking, especially about my very cool, feminist friend who didn’t consider the option of asking this guy to go somewhere else.
I swear this isn’t a plug, but one thing that has been sticking with me from Jessica’s book is how important it is to analyze the things we do from a feminist perspective. Not to follow any sort of rules, but to really think about the reasons behind behavior. So that’s what I’m doing.
Now, you help. What do you all think? Why didn’t anyone say something (at least among those of us who wanted WLP to fuck off)? Was it the booze that made me want to put being “nice” to someone else above my own good time? And if, as someone just suggested to me, you think I’m “overreacting,” why do you think so?

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63 Comments

  1. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    “Ginmar, how was I to convince my friend that his actions were innapropriate if they often got him laid?”
    Gee… how are we supposed to convince rapists there actions are wrong if they don’t get caught? Gee… maybe because it’s just right to treat other people with respect, and to respect their boundaries (and to find out what their boundaries are BEFORE you cross them)?

  2. Raging Moderate
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    Gee… how are we supposed to convince rapists there actions are wrong if they don’t get caught?

    Apples and oranges, I think. That comparison only works if you believe that men are encouraged to rape because some of their victims enjoy it.

    Gee… maybe because it’s just right to treat other people with respect, and to respect their boundaries (and to find out what their boundaries are BEFORE you cross them)??

    That’s more or less what I told him. But that message was overshadowed by the fact that it often worked, and a woman would go home with him.
    Again, how do you convince someone that their actions are inappropriate when many of the targets of those actions don’t find them inappropriate, and in fact reward him for them?

  3. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    discussion, reasoning, explaining, and if all else fails, social pressure. You can always choose not to hang out with jerks, you know?

  4. rose_hasty
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid I haven’t had a chance to read all the comments so I hope I’m not repeating an earlier sentiment. I always tell men who make myself or my friends feel uncomfortable to fuck off. I tend to start with a bit of a joke, if they react badly I’ll have it out with them in a short manner. My mum always said that if you stood strong on things some people would love you and some (maybe many) would hate you. At some point I felt there was more virtue in saying the things I thought were right and good. In being able to enjoy that aspect of virtue (when I do the right thing – I am not a saint) I don’t feel uncomfortable and my friends have come to love that aspect of me.
    I do however, understand wrestling with whether to step in when a friend is in an awkward scenario for fear of undermining them.

  5. Posted May 12, 2007 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

    I remember in college, there would be a group of “nice guys” having a beer. I creep would come in and act like a jerk. He would be obnoxious and go up to a table of women. To our surprise, one of the women would go home with him eventually. He would later tell of his conquest in the locker room. Us “nice guys” were always incredulous.
    I say tell the ass-holes to fuck off. They act like ass-holes because it works all too often. If more women steped up to the plate, and told them where to go, there would be fewer guys acting like ass-holes.

  6. stellaelizabeth
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    i cannot count the number of times i have gone home from a bar and had a conversation with myself that mirrors this sentiment. like, i felt uncomfortable and i did not say so.
    just the other night (and this is a little different, i recognize) a man sat at a table with my friend and i and our friendly conversation turned to one where he was questioning why i lived where i lived and worked where i worked. he then left to ‘see if he could bum a cigarette off somebody’ (class act) and when he came back he said, mind if i sit back down with you guys? and my friend pretty much nodded and i Pulled Back The Chair for Him. so not only did i not speak up, i gave him permission to continue putting me in a place i did not want to be. additionally it was a little awk because my friend (for whatever reason) sorta dug his vibe. i did leave shortly thereafter, but not so much cuz i wanted to go home but because of HIM.
    and felt so mixed up about: was i worried i would hurt his feelings? do i just not know how to speak up about my own? ugh.

  7. stellaelizabeth
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    oh and also:
    regarding the conversation that ragingmoderate is ‘blaming the victim’ here and so on, i just don’t really see the logic in saying that a person who is friends with a space-invader (you know what i mean) who ends up going home with someone to stop being friends with that person. or that he/she can even REALLY call the guy out. a dude who has effed up social skills could be told one million times that he has effed up social skills, but if bumping up on an unsuspecting woman yields success with that woman, he’s never going to see that as asshole behavior.
    and i guess i say that as a person who is friends with people who don’t always behave in manners that i totally support. like my friend in my above comment who was sweet on a guy i thought was a turd. but she’s still my friend.
    what should happen is: all interactions are consented to by all parties and no one is assuming power or dominance or claiming those things from another person. when that doesn’t happen, we should be able to speak up or give a subtle cue or whatever to redistribute the power, and then everyone goes home having had a good time.
    that, however, is not so much how it goes, for the most part.

  8. togolosh
    Posted May 12, 2007 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m male and have little to no experience of the bar scene, so take this for what it’s worth.
    I worked for a while at a museum where the floor staff would occasionally encounter situations that were very awkward (if not outright dangerous) and we absolutely *had* to be able to handle them without causing a big fuss. The solution was to extensively role-play through various scenarios so that we had at least a minimal base of experience to draw on. I wonder if something similar might work here. Details of implementation are fuzzy, but perhaps an afternoon of Skeevy Guy 101 might be well worth the time. All that’s really needed are some profeminist men willing to spend a Saturday afternoon playing sketchy characters while the women try out various approaches to getting rid of them. I suspect that it would actually end up being a lot of fun, and it might be quite illuminating as well.
    I’d be willing to serve as Gropy McFeelyHands or drunken Nice Guy(tm), though I draw the line at white linen pants.

  9. WonderBunny
    Posted May 13, 2007 at 1:25 am | Permalink

    I have experienced unwelcome boundry crossing before and would like to understand my own reactions better.
    Here’s the story: A young guy came up to me in public. He was about 15/16; a good 8 years younger than me. He was very softly spoken and together with his age that made him seem unthreatening. He started a conversation and part way through asked if he could hug me. Although I felt extremely uncomfortable I said yes. It was a bizare response. He then hugged me and lingered even though I was obiously trying to disengage. I continued to talk to him and he immediately asked if he could kiss me. Thankfully I was able to say no. I kept talking to him politely with a smile on my face even though inside I was screaming “OMG! Run away from the pervert!” He then hugged me again and again lingered long past the point that I was trying to disengage. I politely finished the conversation, said goodbye and left. At no point did I let him know I felt violated.
    My questions are these; why on earth did I let him do any of these things? When he did them, why didn’t I let him have a gigantic piece of my mind?
    I am not a shy person, I’m usually assertive, why was this situation different?
    This whole thing really bugs me.

  10. april.rose
    Posted May 13, 2007 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    Unwanted male attention is one of those universal women’s issues. It transcends age, race, culture, education, socioeconomic status, etc. I dare say that while we all struggle with effective ways to deal with it, is it not a little lame for us to feel the need to treat it with such kid gloves simply because it’s unwanted “male” attention? Would we feel similarly challenged if the unwanted attention were coming from another female? Probably not – because we know the territory a little better and perhaps feel less threatened by potential reprisals. Or if the behaviour occurred in another setting, like at work or the grocery store, we’d rise to the occasion differently. Maybe it’s because I’m just too old for WLP’s kind of shit but my response to that kind of situation tends to just cut to the chase, congenially and with lots of eye contact. Particularly if I’m in a BAR, where I already KNOW there are likely gonna be a few drunk and disinhibited people. The (pink?) ‘elephant in the room’ can be graciously -which is not necessarily synonymous with “politely”- and firmly dealt with when someone has the temerity to simply point it out and address it. Regardless of gender, there are only two possible outcomes in that kind of exchange – you win or they win. And if they’re drunk and you’re not, who’s most likely to have the upper hand in determining the course of the exchange? You can offend them or you can recruit them. One’s ability to portray authentic self-confidence is not always wholly contingent upon one’s political stance on gender inequality. Remove the gender-fear angsting and watch what happens. Again, it may just be my fifty one years speaking, but as a lifelong feminist (like since even before it had a name) I don’t feel the need to bounce EVERY exchange with a male off my inner Fem-o-meter. Assholes come in all shapes and sizes and genders. Dealing effectively with them is like anything else we learn – practice makes perfect. (And God bless getting older cuz it somehow expedites weeding out the bullshit sooner rather than later…)
    Just thinkin’ out loud…

  11. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 13, 2007 at 10:32 am | Permalink

    Here’s a question:
    How do you deal with it if the guy crossing boundaries is a friend of your male friend, who’s also present in the room? Is it still okay to tell them to fuck-off, or would you be more careful?

  12. natmusk
    Posted May 13, 2007 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I have no problem calling out friends of my male friends. Often times I feel that they assume I must be sleeping with my guy friend so they treat me differently. After putting them in their place once they usually stop it. My guy friends think it’s funny more often than not.
    Case in point: I went to my now fiances’ boss’ house to play poker with them and some other people. During a hand a guy called me “honey” I promptly corrected him by stating what my name was and that it wasn’t honey. I rudely responded that he was trying to be polite and I told him that he wasn’t and if he wanted to be polite he would address me by my name. AFter the game my fiance’s boss yelled at him that he “let me” confront the guy instead of “protecting me” himself. My fiancee just laughed and told him that 1. I can handle myself better than anyone could ever attempt to. and 2. If he had tried to “protect me” I probably would have told him that I could speak for myself.

  13. Paul G. Brown
    Posted May 14, 2007 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    I’ll add my voice to Andrew’s.
    Pretty early on, I figured out that there were two basic strategies to ‘meeting girls’.
    First, go to a bar, and invade their personal space. Try it often with a lot of differnt women, one after the other. Eventually, one of ‘em will respond. I watched it work time and time again.
    Alternatively, get engaged in a group conversation at a party, and try to break it up into a 2-way chat by saying something like ‘That was interesting, what you were saying about X …’.
    Environments dominated by noise, crowds, etc, the second strategy doesn’t really work. Oh well.
    But the effectiveness of the first strategy always amazed me.
    Best way to handle it? Reciprocal rudeness. Tell him to piss off. I really doubt it will harsh his buzz for very long.

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