Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

…conform to gender stereotypes, that is. I linked to this truly terrible article about a very interesting study in the WFR this week, and it deserves some further exploration. Article headline:

Don’t want to be harassed? Stop acting like a man

Shudder. Because it’s your responsibility to keep men from harassing you! Offensive headline aside, the study itself is pretty fascinating. With a much better title (“The Sexual Harassment of Uppity Women”).
In my own experience, the level of harassment is way higher if I’m wearing a skirt or dress. But that’s street harassment, and the study, by Jennifer L. Berdahl at the University of Toronto (who has done a lot of great research on harassment), is about workplace harassment. And in that situation, Berdahl found, if you’re defying traditional gender stereotypes, you’re more likely to be sexually harassed. She writes,

The original prototype of sexual harassment was a male boss sexually coercing a female subordinate. Sexual harassers were assumed to be motivated by sexual desire for their targets. If sexual harassment is motivated by sexual desire, then the most frequent targets of sexual harassment should be individuals who meet gender ideals. Gender ideals involve both physical and personality characteristics. Personality characteristics desired in men include assertiveness, independence, and dominance; those desired in women include modesty, deference, and warmth. If women are sexually harassed more than men, and if individuals who meet gender ideals are harassed more than those who do not, then women with feminine personalities should be sexually harassed the most.
I suggest that just the opposite is true. The most common form of sexual harassment is gender harassment, a form of hostile environment harassment that appears to be motivated by hostility toward individuals who violate gender ideals rather than by desire for those who meet them.

Makes sense. Think about the shit that tradeswomen and female firefighters have to endure in their male-dominated workplaces. And I’d venture a guess that a good amount of the harassment heaped upon LGBTQ individuals is not a result of who they’re sexually attracted to, but is because their gender expression is nonconforming.
Berdahl notes that this all comes down to men who get very upset when their masculine identity is challenged.

Recent experiments provide compelling evidence that this is the case. Using a computer paradigm, Maass and colleagues had men receive an electronic communication from a purported interaction partner. Half of the men received a message from a woman who said she was studying economics, intended to become a bank manager, thought women were as capable as men, and participated in a union that defended women’s rights. The other half of the men received a message from a woman who said she was studying education, intended to become an elementary school teacher to allow time for family and children, and chose not to become a lawyer because the job is more appropriate for men and she is afraid to compete with men. Men had the option of sending a variety of images to their interaction partner in reply and were more likely to send offensive pornography to the woman who expressed nontraditional beliefs and career ambitions than to the woman who expressed traditional ones.
The rationale provided by Maass et al. (2003) for why men gender harass nontraditional women is that men are motivated to derogate women when they experience a threat to their male identity. Women threaten male identity when they blur distinctions between men and women and thereby challenge the legitimacy of these distinctions and the status they confer men.

Just goes to show that you can’t win. If you like wearing skirts and heels and makeup, you’re asking for it. But if you’re an assertive woman who literally and figuratively wears the pants, you’re asking for it, too. As Berdahl said, “These results highlight the double bind faced by women who are dismissed and disrespected if feminine but scorned and disliked if masculine, limiting their ascent up the organisational ladder.”

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43 Comments

  1. Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I think that it’s important that this kind of harassment is happening in the workplace. I’m not sure that it’s just about being a threat to male identity- I think thata part of it is probably tied into the economics. When women conform to highly gendered roles, they’re less likely to be taken seriously in the workplace, and more likely to be passed over for promotion and advancement, and, thus, less likely to be seen as an economic threat to any particular man. A woman who is “acting like a man” seems like she’ll be more likely to be seen as a threat because she’ll be competition for advancement. Which, of course, ties into: “These results highlight the double bind faced by women who are dismissed and disrespected if feminine but scorned and disliked if masculine, limiting their ascent up the organisational ladder.”
    I’m going to have to read more about the experiment, though… that sounds crazy, doesn’t it? I’m not really clear on exactly what was happening there. Who would think “I know, I’m gonna send some violent porn!” These things blow my mind.

  2. gina
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    So, what is it I’m supposed to do, again, to help men not send me pornography? Poor boys. Life is so hard when women send mixed messages by, you know, wearing clothes.

  3. happy_bunny
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    I’d interpreted the headline to be sarcastic. It is jarring, but then you read the accompanying article and it doesn’t seem to advocate that women should act more “feminine” to avoid harassment, its only stating the facts.
    The sexist headline might get some sexists to read the study and put some actual thought into the matter.

  4. Ann
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    I guess I may have read it as a sarcastic if it had appeared in a clearly feminist or lefty publication. But this was a wire story picked up by regular ol’ local newspapers, which usually don’t employ sarcasm in their headlines.

  5. Posted May 21, 2007 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    OK, let’s try pants with heels, hair in a bun but with fun reading glasses, stealthily harboring ambitions but self-deprecating. We may have a harassment-free combo winner!

  6. Ann
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    ah, but isn’t that a little too “naughty secretary” to escape harassment?

  7. Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    The only way to win is to keep on pointing out, as a society, that this shit is unacceptable in a workplace, and to expose these assholes to enough negative consequences for their actions that they fucking stop. That’s the only thing that victims can do to ‘win.’ Because the poor little fuckbars feel threatened, and will continue to be until their assholeishness loses them their job.

  8. DT
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    So…. you’re saying that I should go to work naked? That might work.
    But gosh, I really have a footwear problem. I mean, I want to wear steel toe rubber waders when working on the deck of a ship, but I really don’t want to challenge anyone’s masculinity. I guess workplace safety isn’t that important when compared to the male ego.

  9. EverythingisImage
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    K, so sorta random question. when you’re out for a walk and some nasty pricks start cat calling or making noises at you, what DO you DO? It is getting very hard for me to just ‘walk on by.’ I get sooo fucking frustrated and I really just wanna give the pervs a piece of my mind, but is it even worth it?

  10. Ann
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:53 pm | Permalink
  11. Posted May 21, 2007 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Ann: Why must you destroy all of my workplace schemes? (puts away box of cute reading glasses and self deprecation-a-day calendar)

  12. cycles
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    K, so sorta random question. when you’re out for a walk and some nasty pricks start cat calling or making
    If they’re in a car, sternly admonish them to “watch the road” or, if they’re on foot, “watch your step.”
    Or just say “No” loudly and authoritatively, as you would to a dog who had just pooped on your bedspread.
    Or just keep ignoring them. Their M.O. is to get a rise out of you. I find that if I engage myself in picking my nose vigorously, my attention is captured in the task so that it doesn’t look like I’m trying to ignore them.

  13. Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Trulio. As someone who usually manages to hit both panic buttons (feminine in appearance – even when I do tone it way down to a beige sack-cloth-and-ashes routine – but (rarely) pre-emptively self-abnegating, assertive, and action-oriented vs. process-based, this all sounds damn familiar to me. Look forward to reading the whole study, thanks for the link.

  14. annajcook
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    So…. you’re saying that I should go to work naked?
    I gotta try that one ;o). A naked uppity woman has got to be, like, more confusing to the power of ten than a “plainclothes” one!
    The most common form of sexual harassment is gender harassment, a form of hostile environment harassment that appears to be motivated by hostility toward individuals who violate gender ideals rather than by desire for those who meet them.
    Awesome point (and depressing at the same time). It strikes me that this is very similar to the analysis of rape as a form of control, rather than sex. Whereas conventional wisdom imagines sexual harassment, like sexual violence, is motivated by desire or frustration, this study is arguing that harassment, like violence, is a power issue.
    I’ve been thinking recently about how much cultural energy is expended trying to keep us all “in line” as performers of gender. Why the hell is it so important? What is so fundamentally frightening about gender non-conformity?

  15. Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    cycles is so right, nose-picking works very well. Drooling is good, too.

  16. mirm
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    If I’m out running and get road-harrassed, I just blow some snot out of a nostril (in their general direction if possible) and keep running. It usually stops said a**hats.

  17. tonireads@gmail.com
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    The fundamental flaw in this article is in labeling assertiveness, independence and ambition as traits suitable only for men. They are human traits, we all possess the capacity to be these things.
    Its other flaw is that it’s bullshit.
    Women who display what many regard as traditional male traits – such as assertiveness, independence and ambition

  18. happy_bunny
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    EverythingisImage
    Cycles had some good advice. A couple other things I do: If the guy gives me a “how YOU doin’?” I kind of look around like, “who? me?” and give him a shrug and a “fine,” as if to say, “why the hell do you ask passing strangers how they are?”
    If they’re being really outwardly letcherous and disgusting, a simple “your mother” can throw a nice wrench into the porno movie playing in their heads.
    And if they tell me to smile, I’ll flash them my biggest, dopiest, least attractive buck-toothed grin, then roll my eyes at thier stupidity.

  19. steve d
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    “Men had the option of sending a variety of images to their interaction partner in reply and were more likely to send offensive pornography to the woman who expressed nontraditional beliefs and career ambitions than to the woman who expressed traditional ones.”
    Where the hell did that come from? And even if you were the kind of jerk who might be tempted to do that, wouldn’t you be less likely to do so if you knew you were part of an experiment? I don’t know. I’m going to have to run this past my interaction partner.

  20. steve d
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    “Men had the option of sending a variety of images to their interaction partner in reply and were more likely to send offensive pornography to the woman who expressed nontraditional beliefs and career ambitions than to the woman who expressed traditional ones.”
    Where the hell did that come from? And even if you were the kind of jerk who might be tempted to do that, wouldn’t you be less likely to do so if you knew you were part of an experiment? I don’t know. I’m going to have to run this past my interaction partner.

  21. Ann
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

    amy analog,
    I don’t think the study’s author was subscribing to the point of view that assertiveness, independence and ambition are “male” traits. She said they are “what many regard as male traits.” Though feminism has done a lot to change that, I think I’d agree with her that those traits are still *traditionally* considered male.

  22. oenophile
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    Anna,
    A lot of men see their “place” in society as defined by being male. If men could give birth, you would see some very insecure women who would throw a fit, because their best (or only) contribution and worth from child-bearing.
    Likewise, a lot of men, sadly, think that they are only worthwhile as “men” who earn the money, run the world, are rational, etc. It’s really sad, but it’s true.
    I know a LOT of conservative people, and the only ones who are remotely disapproving of me (atheist, feminist, high-powered career path) are deeply insecure.
    I just don’t see it as my problem to deal with someone else’s insecurity. Get a grip on life, really! :)

  23. Barbara P
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    I put this on another thread, but it’s also relevant here:
    I always thought that the women more likely to be sexaully harrassed were shy and/or did conform to gender stereotypes, at least in the sense of being non-confrontational. I also thought that was true for people who were bullied/harrassed in a non-sexual way.
    I’ve only known personally of one serious case of bullying that didn’t happen to be sexually-charged, and the victims were not all women. Instead, it seemed very much based on who was inclined to take shit and to what extent. The most put-upon victim did happen to be a woman, because she really needed the job, it was a fairly low-paid receptionist position. Plus, as far as I know (since I had left the company before she even arrived), she wasn’t exactly the type to stand up for herself.
    When I was at that company, the same perpetrator had once tried crap with me, but my initial reaction was very clearly “take-no-shit”, and he never tried again.
    I honestly figured that this would be true for sexual harassment as well. So while I wouldn’t assume this study is totally false, it does surprise me somewhat.
    Probably sexual harrassment manifests differently in different contexts, and that there is no particular way a woman could act to avoid it in all situations.

  24. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    Maybe it also depends on what sort of community you’re spending your time in. This article is the story of my life until I was about 14 and started acting “girlier” for a couple of years (and then I moved).

  25. ponies and rainbows
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    I know, Ninapendamaishi. I have large breasts for my size, and I used to always wear giant, sporty T-shirts to cover them up, paired with bigger pants because that just looked more normal with gigantic shirts. I also often wore baseball hats because I didn’t want to be bothered with doing my hair, which generally never behaves. I eventually ended up completely altering my dress style to be more “girly” because I got so, so much crap and harassment for it.
    Oh, and one of my favorite comebacks to street harassment (a response which I think I got from a feminist message board) is, “Confucius say man with big mouth have small dick.” Except I usually just say, “yeah, and men with big mouths have small dicks!” I also HATE the assbrains who tell me to smile — the next time one does that I’m going to SCREAM at him that my grandma just died. I seriously am ready to begin guerilla warfare on those fucks this summer. I pay goddamn taxes to keep up the sidewalks, too, and hell, since I get paid less as a woman, a greater portion of my money goes to pay those taxes. I deserve to enjoy public space just like them. With summer coming up, I feel like an entire post could be dedicated to just the topic of street harassment.
    Oh, also, it’s my policy to almost never let a comment go by without acting angry and threatening, which I’ve been told I’m really good at although I’m pretty average sized. Screaming back at them might also work because I live in Minnesota, where people are in general more polite and street harassers really don’t expect a response, so some of them probably seriously believe I’m going to go after them with a flamethrower. :D

  26. oenophile
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    I also HATE the assbrains who tell me to smile — the next time one does that I’m going to SCREAM at him that my grandma just died
    I hate being told to smile. It’s not my job to look like Shirley Temple so that every greying man can feel that everything is okay in the world.
    Some jerk told me to “smile” when I was flying to the Bahamas. I had literally not slept in two days, having done a red-eye flight (can’t sleep on planes) and saying up late the night before. I told him that I was tired and he gave me the “poor baby” line. I really wanted to defenestrate him, but that would a) be a federal crime and b) put everyone else on the plane at risk. :)

  27. Posted May 21, 2007 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness Ponies and Rainbows, you totally hit the nail on the head when you said:
    “I also HATE the assbrains who tell me to smile — the next time one does that I’m going to SCREAM at him…”
    Seriously why the heck do people believe that they have the right to tell you how to look, feel, behave, etc? It is disgusting and irritating.
    More, I wanted to add that I too wore baggy Dickies and t-shirts over my tall, lanky body as a teenager; and then slowly learned that it is ok for me to be girlie when I want, and masculine (?) at other times. Still, because I live in Miami — where showing skin is in — I feel like I am back in my teen years because I get so much pressure to look feminine (i.e. short shorts and skirts, cleavage-bearing tops, heels, etc)…

  28. Mina
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    “Still, because I live in Miami — where showing skin is in — I feel like I am back in my teen years because I get so much pressure to look feminine (i.e. short shorts and skirts, cleavage-bearing tops, heels, etc)…”
    Pressured not only directly but indirectly, I bet. I feel less pressured to show skin this time of year in Massachusetts, but part of that is the way global warming hasn’t hit up here as hard (yet).

  29. AlaraJRogers
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    My suggestion for “smile!” orders:
    Stare at them with a thousand-yard stare that doesn’t *quite* focus on them and say in a hollow voice, “Why?”
    Whatever the response is (“you look nice when you smile”, “it can’t be that bad”), whatever: respond hollowly with “Oh” and return to what you’re doing, ignoring them completely.
    Don’t be hostile; just act like you’re a veteran of a thousand psychic wars and you’re not quite grasping that they’re even real. People leave you alone then.

  30. EverythingisImage
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

    ugh. i just hate street harassment, and i figure this is a place where i can rant, so i will. i hate how a beautiful afternoon can be ruined for me when I walk around the city where I go to school and am heckled and harassed not one, not two, but three solid times. especially the guys that hang out of windows of their cars. what do they think they are accomplishing by yelling and making calls at me?! THEN, when I come back home to the suburbs, i find that i STILL can’t escape the nonsense. I find it crazy that I don’t feel comfortable simply going for walks by myself anymore. The other day I was walking down a quiet suburban street (midday and with a friend) when we were approaching these landscaping guys on their lunch break or something. I refused to make eye contact but knew that they were gonna do something. of course, right as we were passing them the started making calls and “kissy noises” ugh. nausia. and my whole body just got tense and so grrrrrrr frustrated. I’m on the verge of seriously opening up a can a whop ass the next time this happens. I just can’t take it and it makes me so angry, I just wanna feel comfortable walking around my neighborhood…too much to ask? I think not. so what it really comes down to is that I think I really just need to think of innovative strategies at approaching this type of situation. I’ll keep thinking, but thanks for some of the suggestions ppl!

  31. Genny
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    bonnie I’m at UM, and I’ll admit there is some more pressure here to show skin. However, I’ve noticed that the charming men of the city are equal oppurtunity harassers and it doesn’t matter if I’m in baggy pants and a too-long, covers everything tank top or a mini skirt and heels. Maybe it’s my size, but I’ve just accepted that if I’m walking in a public area, no matter how I’m dressed, people will be yelling things at me in a variety of languages.
    I’ve been lucky enough to work in a fairly selective work enviroment while in college so I haven’t come in for much harassment there. However, I don’t anticipate that lasting, especially since I plan to live in the south after graduation. All I can hope is that an icy glare and the Ms.Manners reccommended “why would you say/do something like that?” serve me well.

  32. roymacIII
    Posted May 21, 2007 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    There was a big thread about the order to smile over at Pandagon that’s worth checking out. It was back in Feb.
    My general feeling on people who order other people to smile:
    1. If the person is actually upset about something, telling them to smile completely ignores their actual feelings, shows that you don’t give a rat’s ass about what has caused them to be upset, and tells them that you’d rather they hide their real feelings so that you can feel better.
    2. If the person isn’t upset about someting, telling them to smile draws attention to the fact that you don’t think they look happy enough or that they’re not attractive enough the way they are. Drawing attention to the fact that someone doesn’t look happy isn’t going to make the person happy, it’s more likely to make the person more unhappy by virtue of making that person feel scrutinized for not looking happy enough.
    A person who is actually concerned about another person’s unhappiness (signified by lack of a smile) wouldn’t do either of those things. That it’s usually said by men towards women further cements the creep-factor, to me.

  33. happy_bunny
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 12:34 am | Permalink

    roymacIII -
    The thing with random street jerkoffs is they have no way of knowing what’s going on with you or how you feel at that moment.
    I actually had a very close relative die and was out shopping for a consolation gift when some troll told me to smile. I wish I could have seen the disgusted look I gave him because he looked pretty damned cowed by it.
    Hell even if you’re having just a regular ho-hum day, even a better-than-average day, what do these morons expect you to do? Go around everywhere grinning like an idiot?

  34. Fenriswolf
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 4:34 am | Permalink

    “My suggestion for “smile!” orders:
    Stare at them with a thousand-yard stare that doesn’t *quite* focus on them and say in a hollow voice, “Why?”
    Whatever the response is (“you look nice when you smile”, “it can’t be that bad”), whatever: respond hollowly with “Oh” and return to what you’re doing, ignoring them completely.”
    That is fucking fantastic. How to scare the shit out of people. Muah ha ha
    It sounds like street harassment is much worse in the US than NZ though. I’ve got some comments and toots (especially when I was younger and wore a traditional girl’s uniform). But I’ve almost never had anyone actually call stuff out, and I don’t know anyone who’s got it regularly.
    I did have a drunk (as in alcoholic) follow me back from lunch to work once and I seriously wanted to assault him. What made him think he had the right to even TALK TO ME? He left a a goddam flower at the desk and people were joking about it – I told them in no uncertain terms that it’s not funny, it’s harassment, he could be dangerous, and if he did it again I would punch him
    Disgusting old fuckwit. It makes me blood boil even now

  35. Mina
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    “It sounds like street harassment is much worse in the US than NZ though.”
    Now I’m wondering how few women in the U.S. don’t get street harassment. I don’t, probably because I’m “ugly.” The strangers who approach me are the ones selling something or asking for directions. Except this one time in the library when some guy asked me if I was Jewish.

  36. Posted May 22, 2007 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Oh, no, happy_bunny, I agree with you completely. Not only do they not have any way of knowing, they don’t really care. That was what I was really trying to get at. When someone orders you to smile, it’s not because they’re trying to cheer you up, or because they’re concerned about your feelings. It’s because of how they’re feeling. They neither know, nor care, about you or your feelings, it’s about how you’re making them feel.
    Hell even if you’re having just a regular ho-hum day, even a better-than-average day, what do these morons expect you to do? Go around everywhere grinning like an idiot?
    Yes.
    See, even if you’re having a shitty day, you’re there to look pretty for them. That’s why it doesn’t really matter how shitty your day has been- even if you’re having a horrible day, you ought to look pretty for them, and if you don’t, maybe you just need to be reminded.

  37. Fenriswolf
    Posted May 22, 2007 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

    “Now I’m wondering how few women in the U.S. don’t get street harassment. I don’t, probably because I’m “ugly.” The strangers who approach me are the ones selling something or asking for directions. Except this one time in the library when some guy asked me if I was Jewish.”
    Do you really think it’s because you’re “too ugly”? I wouldn’t really think much would stop idiots like that.
    I mean, I’m sure it varies a lot across the States.
    I’m pretty average looking, and dress in very masculine clothing – one of the few times I have had catcalls was walking home from a job interview all prettied up.
    But I have some very attractive friends, and while they get harassed at clubs more they don’t tend to get called out to regularly

  38. shellshock
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    This is really interesting to me, thinking about the differences between harassment at work and harassment on the street.
    I find that the more femme I am, the more shit I get on the street. I *want* to respond, but I was taught in my self-defense classes (and this has proved good advice) to not respond, because responding can lead to escalation. Those shouting boys are not thinking, and riling them up puts you in real physical danger.
    At work, I always think about the amount of shit I get, especially from older men. It’s more subtle than on the street, but definitely present. And it does correspond to how much I act like the big boys, how much I curse and don’t mask my ambition. I had been thinking for a long time why I was always talking about these creepy/awful scenarios at work, while other women I knew just didn’t know what I was talking about. Those other women were doing the “proper” thing, skirts, and quiet, and talking about wedding colors, and fingernails, and eyebrows, and respectfully shutting up when the conversation turned to something women weren’t supposed to talk about, like politics, or sex. I never shut up, and I’ve gotten tons of crap. I thought it was because I was aware of gender and power dynamics, and therefore more ready to identify them and talk about them, but it turns out that I am likely actually experiencing more harassment. Great.

  39. Mina
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

    “Do you really think it’s because you’re ‘too ugly’?”
    It seems most likely, since it seems to be the one visible thing I don’t have in common with any of you who do get street harassed.
    “I’m pretty average looking, and dress in very masculine clothing – one of the few times I have had catcalls was walking home from a job interview all prettied up.”
    See, I’m not even pretty average looking.

  40. AlaraJRogers
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    “Do you really think it’s because you’re ‘too ugly’?”
    It seems most likely, since it seems to be the one visible thing I don’t have in common with any of you who do get street harassed.

    I used to be very attractive before I gained weight, and I have only been street harassed once in my life (it was at a bus stop when I was 14.)
    SO no, it might not be your looks. Maybe something about your attitude. I have what my husband calls my “fuck-off field”, which means few panhandlers bother me, I rarely get bothered (I have had to deal with the “smile” thing occasionally, which is why I recommend acting kind of zoned out and psycho), and honestly, I have had to take more shit for looking really young than I have had for being female.
    My attitude is that other people are imposing on me. If I choose to graciously allow them to impose, that is a favor I grant that they should be grateful for. Otherwise, I ignore them in a way that I think conveys that my internal life is much more important than a conversation with them. (At least that’s what I think I’m doing… I can’t say what they think I’m doing.) The point is that it works; I have never been randomly catcalled, and like I said, dealt with overt street harassment *once*, when a creepy guy pulled up to my bus stop in his car and asked if I wanted to fuck. (I said “No!” in a voice like he had just suggested I eat worms. He drove off.)
    I don’t know, maybe you have the same skill I have. I wish I knew *how* I did it; I’d make millions selling the technique to other women. :-)

  41. legallyblondeez
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    re: street harassment, I think it’s much worse in large cities and in particular neighborhoods, but that’s just my personal experience. I think it has to do with the concentration of people and the anonymity–would anyone catcall someone they’re likely to see at church on Sunday? Maybe, but it’s much easier to say something lewd to the woman who walks by you once in a lifetime, or at least is not likely to have authority over you or the ability to embarass you later.
    I can’t say whether I’m particularly un/attractive, but the amount of street harassment I get has not varied much by what I’m wearing. Maybe a little more if I’m presenting as “sexy”–in a short skirt or with a lot of cleavage.
    Work harassment is almost always about power, so I’d believe that the study rings true for a lot of us–show “masculine” attributes or dress and some men will try to put you in your place pretty quickly.

  42. Mina
    Posted May 23, 2007 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    “SO no, it might not be your looks. Maybe something about your attitude.”
    Maybe.
    “I have what my husband calls my ‘fuck-off field’, which means few panhandlers bother me…”
    Sounds like our fields may be similar and don’t fully match. I do get asked by panhandlers, but they don’t push the point. Also, if someone’s asking everyone to take a flyer/accept a free newspaper/sign a petition they’ll tend to ask me too.

  43. Posted July 4, 2007 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Seems men can be pretty cruddy to men too…in order to make sure they know their place.
    Just throwing a wrench in because I was just talking about hazing with a male friend – re: hazing in the NHL hockey league by senior players to rookies. And hazing as a ritual, is a big problem all over the place – schools, frats, sports.
    Then last night I was reading a book about Maslow called “The Third Force” from 1970. Seems Maslow had spent a year with the Blackfoot of the Albertan prairies in 1938 and was amazed that there was hardly any aggression in the group. In fact, they looked down upon our culture for treating children cruelly with spanking and severe authoritarian leadership style.
    Perhaps a correlation? The dominant or senior punishing and keeping control over the subservient or junior one.
    Maslow thought so. Me too. It’s culture wide. Prepare to be spanked if you step out of line.
    Maslow thought societies and cultures can be changed. Me too. That’s why I choose to step out of line – and while I do, I try to move it over a bit more each time.

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