Why “Hey baby!” is a big deal

niceass2.JPG
D.C.’s alt-weekly, the City Paper has a package of stories this week on street harassment. One, a catcall diary a woman kept for a year. Two, a very poorly-written essay by that same woman about how now she’s a racist because of all the harassment she gets from Latino men. And three, a piece by some dude who was apparently totally unaware that your average woman experiences street harassment on a daily basis. It also has a companion video, in which exactly two people (a male harasser and a female harass-ee) are interviewed. Taken as a package, it’s a real trainwreck. [Warning, massive post to follow.]
What I found most remarkable about the catcall diary is that she is careful to record what she’s wearing when she’s harassed on the street. While it’s true that short skirts can sometimes bring a different type of harassment, I find that I get unwelcome attention even if I’m wearing dirty jeans and a bulky winter coat. But I suppose it’s nice for those who don’t regularly experience street harassment (i.e. men) to read and take note that a short skirt and low-cut top do not necessarily correlate with catcalls. (In fact, it seemed like the subtext of the diary was: Hey guys, this is what it’s like to walk outside as a woman.) The male writer seems shocked by this. In his piece, he writes,

I am leaving the Chinatown Metro station when I see a blond woman standing well over 6 feet in platform heels. Her tight black dress hangs inches below her ass and drops deep in the front, exposing a good portion of breasts that are surprisingly large for her rail-thin body. Catcall bait for sure. I step in behind her as she walks.

Isn’t his tone disgusting? It’s as if he wants to find a slobbering harasser to channel what he wishes he could shout at this woman. And he’s then astonished when no one — not homeless men, not construction workers, not dudes in power suits, not young men at the bus stop — calls out to her.


The male-perspective piece began like this,

It’s early evening in Adams Morgan, and I’m tracking a nice ass in a pair of bluejeans as it glides down the Columbia Road sidewalk. I’m matching its pace, keeping my distance, 15 steps or so behind, so I can watch, so no one notices I’m watching.

Ew. Set aside for a moment Intrepid Reporter Joe’s totally disgusting, sexist language. Turns out that nice, disembodied ass actually belongs to the woman who penned the other two pieces, Kimberly Klinger. He’s following her to observe just how much shit women take for daring to walk down the street alone. And then he has some man-to-man chats with catcallers. The patronizing attitude of the guys he interviews is quite telling. A sampling:

“It depends on what she looks like,� adds Daniel Smallwood, a 16-year-old in a red polo shirt and a visor turned backward. “If she’s a slut, you have to treat her like a slut. If she’s not, I say, ‘How you doing young lady?’ Everybody says ‘baby’ or ‘shorty.’ I say ‘young lady.’�

And:

“Yeah, I always do it,� says Contreras [a proud street harasser]. He is happy to explain the process. “What I do is I ask how is their day. I ask to help with their bags. I give a nice compliment to her. I say, ‘You are beautiful. Can I get to know you?’� [...]
I ask him about Klinger, the fastball he just whiffed. He’s excited to talk about that, too. “It’s tough in D.C.,� he says. “Especially with white girls. They are stuck up, man. Bitches.�
Contreras thinks it is bad form for women like Klinger to walk by without acknowledging a compliment, to just ignore you like you aren’t even there. It pisses him off. “At least wink at me or wave back,� he says. “Giggle or something. Don’t walk past like you didn’t hear me.� He says it’s different in Texas. He says white women there are crazy about Hispanic guys and yes, they do respond to catcalls.

(Back to the race thing in a second.) Intrepid Reporter Joe’s next question is not, “Have you considered that most women, regardless of their race, do not enjoy being hit on as they walk from point A to point B?” Instead, he asks, rhetorically,

So why the hell do you take Columbia Road home and why live in Mount Pleasant, anyway, if you can’t tolerate a few catcalls?

Maybe because it’s the fastest route to my apartment, you asshole!? Intrepid Reporter Joe is not quite at the point yet where his reptilian brain can handle the idea that maybe it’s men’s responsibility to keep their traps shut; that they don’t have a right to yell at every passing woman about her body.
Then he writes, “Klinger knows the argument about how catcalling is part of Hispanic culture and how she shouldn’t impose her values on others.” I’m sorry, but men of all cultures harass women. And women of all colors are on the receiving end of harassment. In her essay, Klinger writes,

White men don’t do this to me with the same frequency, so when I pass a group of them on the street, I don’t clench my jaw, tense up, and walk faster. But when I pass Latino men, I assume the worst. Black men, too, sometimes, since after Latino men, they harass me the most. Hell, if you’re at all brown, I’m gonna get worried. So I have this conflict every damn day.

Wow. So is this just honest, or totally racist, or both? I can say that, while I’ve most definitely been harassed by men of all ages and races, I feel like I receive more harassment from men of color on the street, and more harassment from white men in bars. Is it racist of me to speak to my experience, that street harassment directed toward me is more likely to come from men of color? I don’t think it is. (But I do think there’s a discussion to be had here.) But I do think it’s racist to make general statements that Latino and black men are harassers and white men are not. I like the statement from this site:

Different people may find themselves harassed more by different people, depending on where they live and specifics of their community. Sometimes some groups of people are outside and in the streets more often then other groups. Think before generalizing.

The folks at Hollaback are sensitive to the race issue, and have an antiracism statement on their site. The one time I submitted a cellphone photo of some guys who had harassed me on the street, they informed me that there might be a wait to see my incident appear on their blog, as they make a conscious effort to publish photos of street harassers of all races. And they explicitly ask that submissions not mention race unless it is somehow relevant to the incident of harassment.
A DC street harassment blogger writes,

I came home Saturday feeling hurt, frustrated and just plain angry at the mess I deal with on the streets. I went to the neighborhood I used to live in, Petworth, to check out Domku and Flip It (the former is a sleek restaurant and the latter a sweet bakery…check them out). I had my path blocked by these men, was followed, had men stopping in the middle of the road trying to talk to me, beeping their horns so loudly that I jumped, had men coming too daggone close on the sidewalk, and calling me names such as “shorty,” “baby,” and other stupid nonsense. The thing that bothers me the most about Saturday’s ordeal with the men on the streets is that all of my harassers were black. It upsets me, makes no sense, and had me getting on the Internet to try to find answers. Why do so many Black men do this mess to me, a Black female, on the streets?

Klinger’s piece doesn’t even begin to do this issue justice. The intersection of race and harassment is a big and complicated issue — not exactly manageable subject matter for just three paragraphs in a flip essay. Which is also why I’m not a huge fan of Jezebel’s take on these three City Paper pieces:

Which is to say, it’s what, at most five seconds of discomfort for a lifetime of funny stories? We have fucked dudes to achieve the same result!

Ok, I’ll bite and play humorless feminist on this one. I, for one, don’t particularly like it when a strange man on the street grabs my elbow and says, “There’s a nice pussy.” (True story. Shudder.) While I do sort of keep a mental catalog of, shall we say, most original cat-calls I’ve received (“I’d climb that tree!”), their cumulative effect is much greater than five seconds of discomfort a day. It’s a reality of life that affects how I dress, where I walk, how safe I feel. Which is to say it’s usually not very hilarious.

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466 Comments

  1. prairielily
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    Derek, I go to one of the best universities in Canada. The students here are known to be pretty wealthy. This city is one of the most privileged areas in the country. And rest assured that there is PLENTY of street harassment going on downtown on the weekends.
    Thanks for calling him on it, roymacIII. It made my eyes widen when I saw it.
    I have a story I’d like to add. A guy who was a friend of my boyfriend at the time complimented my shirt one day. He said, “Nice shirt, prairielily.” He said it because it was a hot day, I was wearing a tank top, and because I have large breasts, I had some cleavage going on. (Don’t say I overreacted. He made it clear what he meant with his tone and by looking down my shirt.)
    In my experience, guys never compliment the outfit. They compliment how you look in it. So a compliment on your shirt or dress or skirt is actually a compliment on your breasts or ass or legs.
    I was already having a hard time that day, and I didn’t wear that shirt again for a very long time. I’m sure he doesn’t even remember saying it. It just pisses me off so much that just because I have large breasts, guys think that entitles them to talk about my body like it’s public property.

  2. faithlesswondergirl
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:14 am | Permalink

    roymacIII, thank you for quoting Derek’s various claims in that post. Every time I read one of his comments where he switched his stories (about what he’s said on the street and with what intentions) I was thinking “but he just said earlier…” I didn’t bother compiling all of his inconsistencies since I quoted him in an earlier post to point out his weird, shifting point of view, without much success. Originally I thought he was sincere albeit pretty self-centered poster, but now I’ve come to believe he’s the most accomplished troll I’ve ever seen.
    Anyway, for those interested, the DC city paper publishes a new issue tomorrow and they feature most of the paper content on their website (which may not get updated until friday or later, I’m not sure), so if anyone is curious you can try to check out the letters to the editor to see if anyone wrote it about this article. I’m guessing it generated A LOT of letters.

  3. La Fille Torpille
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:16 am | Permalink

    Intention really doesn’t mean spit as far as compliments go.
    Case in point: a coworker of my father’s once recalled a story in which he complimented a cashier, saying something to the effect of, “You look like you could be worth a hundred dollars.” She was offended (righteously, I think) and though I don’t know what she did about it, he ended the story with, “You just can’t compliment a woman these days.”
    Another reason I don’t generally like to be complimented by strangers is because I have no idea if the compliment is genuine or if this guy is just tossing out “you’re beautiful”s to every girl he sees on the off-chance one will respond and he’ll get laid. It’s awful that I assume people are disingenuous but experience is a bitter teacher.
    Catcalling reeks of desperation to me. If your dating strategy relies on numbers (“eventually one will respond”) instead of pursuing a person you’re actually interested in, how is it any surprise that no girl (or guy, I guess) responds? Wouldn’t it be a better idea to try to make someone you honestly like feel special? For that reason I feel offended when guys try to get a date with me on the street: I know they’re just desperate, and who wants to feel like the not-so-picky guy is the only one in her “league”? If I were a guy I’d want to advertise pickiness, not desperation.
    Yeah. On these grounds I don’t compliment strangers unless it’s on their clothing–”I like your purse; where’d you get it?” and only if I genuinely mean it.

  4. Posted June 28, 2007 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    faithlesswondergirl – Yup, I’ve changed my position a little bit here. After reading some of the women’s stories, thinking about things, and considering people’s arguments. Isn’t that a good thing? I thought it showed I was being open-minded.
    Re: what I’ve said on the street. I’ve started talking to people in public, on occasion. I certainly have vivid memories of using a compliment to great effect one time — on her laugh. But the only time I ever recall starting off a conversation with a compliment in a non-social setting with the intent of picking someone up was at a gym, and I recount that story here. Okay? Have I clarified things enough for everyone?
    I would say that the terms “street harassment” and “catcalls” are somewhat different. Street harassment could include many many different things, and not every woman is going to feel harassed by a catcall. It’s my impression that the guys sitting around at bodegas and tossing off the “hey mamis, you look good today” and the “can I pay your bills?” are generally Latino. A number of other women here have sort of said the same thing. Perhaps I am wrong, though; I know there’s a danger in relying on anecdotal information. I’m certainly not saying that Latinos are more likely to harass women than other men; as one women here wrote, “White men probably don’t have to harass us on the street, they can screw women in so many other ways.”
    Given that I’ve been, in general, the most sympathetic to the catcallers, the idea that I have some kind of racial or class animus against them seems a little funny to me…

  5. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I still feel a desire to express my gratitude for brightening my day by simply existing.

    This made me cringe. Maybe you didn’t mean it in a condescending way, but to me, this attitude smacks of entitlement and self-absorption.
    Women do not exist for your viewing pleasure. And if I knew a stranger was smiling at me or saying hi to me because my appearance brightened his day, I’d be sickened. I’m just really sick of guys believing we women exist on this planet in order to titilate them.

  6. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Given that I’ve been, in general, the most sympathetic to the catcallers, the idea that I have some kind of racial or class animus against them seems a little funny to me…

    Did you NOT just say:
    I feel like the catcallers are mostly poor Latinos, not Vassar-educated upper-middle class guys. It’s a cultural thing, I think.
    STOP backpeddaling! Oooooh you went to Vassar and your parents are/were well-off. Big deal. Rich guys are just as sexist as poor guys. Did you miss the video re: Penn State?
    I’ve been harassed by men of every color under the sun. Yeah, Latino guys do it a lot, but as someone else pointed out – rich white men can oppress women in other ways. They don’t always need to bother with street harassment.
    When I lived in Australia, a car full of white guys yelled out to my friends and me that we looked like we could use their big cocks. Nice.

  7. Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Sarah – No, I was on big-time financial aid. Thanks for assuming, though.
    I’ve been harassed by men of every color under the sun. Yeah, Latino guys do it a lot, but as someone else pointed out – rich white men can oppress women in other ways. They don’t always need to bother with street harassment.
    Sarah: Didn’t I just effing point that out in the post you just quoted?
    I’m certainly not saying that Latinos are more likely to harass women than other men; as one women here wrote, “White men probably don’t have to harass us on the street, they can screw women in so many other ways.”
    I mean. Seriously. This is getting to be a bit exasperating. Please READ what I have to say before commenting on it?

  8. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Right. You changed your position again. And? You think you can cancel out what you JUST SAID by posting something contradictory? All that makes you is inconsistent.
    YOU’RE the one you mentioned the fact that you’re a *Vassar grad*. What did you mean by that, if not to point out that you’re the opposite of a poor Latino?

  9. Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Sigh. Are you being deliberately stupid? Have you ever heard of middle-class?

  10. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    No, you’re making me stupid.
    FINE – MIDDLE CLASS men are no less sexist than lower class men. You might want to stop digging.

  11. Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:45 am | Permalink

    Well, I certainly want to get out of this argument. I disagree with none of your last several posts, Sarah. In fact I agree with all of them. But, once again, you’re not talking to me, you’re talking down to some Neanderthal guy
    you assume me to be. I don’t think I’ve ever faced more suspicion about my motives or intent than on this board.
    Let me just reiterate what I’m saying, just to be sure you can understand:
    One:
    I don’t think that rich guys or middle-class guys are any more or less sexist than poor guys. I never said anything like that, so I think it’s pretty condescending for you to point that out.
    Two: Lots of people who go to private school aren’t rich. I certainly do not come from a rich family. It is foolish of you to assume that because I said I go to private school, I am rich or wanted you to assume I am rich.
    Three: I do think that street catcalls are generally made by men of a certain class and race. (Perhaps I’m wrong; I haven’t been catcalled by men myself, but I’ve seen it and that seems to be the experience of several women here as well).
    However, that does not mean I think that I think guys of this class or race are any more likely to harass women. As I said earlier,
    I’m certainly not saying that Latinos are more likely to harass women than other men; as one women here wrote, “White men probably don’t have to harass us on the street, they can screw women in so many other ways.”

  12. Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Correction: That should read “attended a private college”, not “go to private school.”

  13. Vervain
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Welcome to the Energizer Bunny of Feministing threads!
    It’ll be here all week. Enjoy the spiel. ;)

  14. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    SCHMEEL, SCHMAZEL, HASENFEFFER INCORPORATED!

  15. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Derek,
    Who’s pulling the race card? You make an assumption that says, in effect, the guys who are cat calling are Latino’s, since educated white men wouldn’t do that. “Pulling the race care” is entirely appropriate when the statement was clearly racist. Whether “it’s your experience” or not!

  16. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    You make an assumption that says, in effect, the guys who are cat calling are Latino’s, since educated white men wouldn’t do that.
    I hardly think that’s a fair summary of my position Al. I am saying that many of the guys who catcall women on the street are Latino, since educated white men have other ways to harass women.
    Do you think that any discussion of race and class differences is racist? Because that is what you seem to be saying here.

  17. Posted June 28, 2007 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    I hardly think that’s a fair summary of my position Al. I am saying that many of the guys who catcall women on the street are Latino, since educated white men have other ways to harass women.
    I’m sorry, DR, but that’s total bullshit. That’s a tremendously accurate summary of what you said. What you said was: do you really think that any guy who posts on feministing.com engages in catcalling? I mean, okay, I guess you have no idea who I am … but I feel like the catcallers are mostly poor Latinos, not Vassar-educated upper-middle class guys. It’s a cultural thing, I think.
    You didn’t say that educated white folks don’t engage in it because they’ve got other methods- you equated to being “a cultural thing.” I’m not about to apologize to you for calling you on racist, classist bullshit. You pulled “the race card” out when you made the accusation that catcalling was a cultural thing, and attributed it to a certain race, while claiming that educated white folks don’t.
    Do you think that any discussion of race and class differences is racist? Because that is what you seem to be saying here.
    No, what we seem to be saying is that throwing out a “sexual harassment on the street is something that poor, undeducated Latino men do- not well-educated white folks” is classist and racist. Because it is.
    Given that I’ve been, in general, the most sympathetic to the catcallers, the idea that I have some kind of racial or class animus against them seems a little funny to me…
    Why?
    Being a racist doesn’t mean that you hate or want to actively harm the target of your bigotry. An old man who pinches a waitress’ ass because he thinks she’s cute and wants to compliment her is absolutely every bit as sexist as the guy who thinks that women shouldn’t be allowed to hold a job and who thinks that all women are stupid.

  18. Voila
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    Derek,
    Just making the assumption that one group is more prone to harassing than another is disgusting. Other women have noted that THEY received catcalls from certain groups, so they become more tense around those groups, but the groups aren’t the same for all women or all areas. If it’s Latino men in DC, it’s black men in Barbados and here in the midwest, it’s definitely white men. I personally have received less threatening, maybe even complimentary catcalls from black men and none whatsoever from latinos or other races. I’m a white woman, so maybe that has something to do with it, or maybe all the truly threatening or degrading harassment I received was due to the fact that white men have a much greater sense of entitlement than other men. Since you haven’t been the target of harassment, maybe YOU should stop making assumptions about what is and is not acceptable and from whom.
    As for your posts and position, you keep making statements and when people call you on it, you try to change the meaning of your words. Try this, stop posting or make sure your words are clear about your intent. Unless you stop posting garbage, people are going to keep attacking you and your arguments because your arguments are very disgusting and offensive and completely off the mark. I don’t care who it is, if anyone but my husband compliments my appearance, it pisses me the fuck off. Why? Because there’s so much more important stuff about me that people could compliment, even people that know me, and yet they find none of it worth complimenting. My worth as a human being is not based on my appearance, and yet that is all most other people see. Others might like a compliment, but I don’t, and you don’t get to decide what I should and shouldn’t like.

  19. Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    Just making the assumption that one group is more prone to harassing than another is disgusting.
    Viola,
    Not only have I never said this, not only have I never implied it, I’ve specifically denied it. Several times.
    due to the fact that white men have a much greater sense of entitlement than other men
    Eh! Now, who’s the racist? RACIST, I say!
    roymacIII – Condescend much? I’ve read what you have to say, and if you want to have that opinion of me that is fine. I don’t really have much response other than to say than I very clearly used the word “mostly; I certainly never claimed that every catcaller is Latino. But I still think that there is a cultural component to this as well. Spondee, noname and ladydisaster all used the same exact phrase I did — “cultural thing.” And petra had an
    interesting post
    where she offered some evidence:

    There really is a cultural element to some of this.
    There’s a thing called a “piropo” common in the Hispanic world, a flirtatious comment, especially one directed towards a woman on the street. Google the word and you’ll find huge compilations of them; some are clever, others merely crass, and all of them fall under the rubric of the street harassment being discussed here.
    There’s a great analysis of the genre here: Suárez-Orozco, Marcelo M. and Dundes, Alan. “The Piropo and the Dual Image of Women in the Spanish-Speaking World.â€? Journal of Latin American Lore 10.1 (1984): 111-133. [snipped]

  20. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    more prone = “mostly”
    Whatever.
    The whole piropo thing is gross. This is not directed at you, Derek.
    As someone else said, men harass women in all cultures. Some even have a special name for it. It’s still harassment.

  21. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    Derek, while a couple of posters might have said they believed there was more of a tendency for “poor, Latino” guys to catcall than for wealthy, priviliged guys to catcall, you are the only one who implied that wealthy, white guys /didn’t/ catcall when you tried to use your status as reason we should have assumed you’ve never catcalled:
    “do you really think that any guy who posts on feministing.com engages in catcalling? I mean, okay, I guess you have no idea who I am … but I feel like the catcallers are mostly poor Latinos, not Vassar-educated upper-middle class guys. It’s a cultural thing, I think.”
    And for the record, yes, upper-middle class = rich.

  22. Ninapendamaishi
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I, for the record, have previously stated I believe it’s most common for working class guys of every race to catcall. Another poster hypothesized on the relationship of race and catcalling (i.e. minority men harass white women and minority women to feel powerful). However, I never said I haven’t been catcalled by wealthy white guys. Neither did the other poster.
    Are you forgetting that this stuff happens /a lot/ for most of us?

  23. Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

    Sarah, it is kind-of my impression (and I very well could be wrong) that piropos are just part of the Latin American culture and women there don’t feel harassed by them. I found this interesting article in Salon about piropos in Argentina here.

  24. Posted June 28, 2007 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    I’ve read what you have to say, and if you want to have that opinion of me that is fine. I don’t really have much response other than to say than I very clearly used the word “mostly; I certainly never claimed that every catcaller is Latino.
    Oh, right. So, when someone says that most people of racial group X are lazy, I shouldn’t be offended, because, after all, he prefaced it with most, not all.
    Please.
    You absolutely suggested that, because you weren’t poor and Latino, we should assume that you don’t catcall.
    Have you already forgotten this? I guess you have no idea who I am … but I feel like the catcallers are mostly poor Latinos, not Vassar-educated upper-middle class guys.
    The implication is obvious: I’m not a poor Latino, I’m a Vassar-educated upper-middle class guy, so you should assume I don’t catcall.
    The only opinion I can possibly have of you is based on the things you keep saying. If my opinion of you doesn’t seem particularly high right now, that’s a reflection of you and the things you’re saying, not me.

  25. Voila
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Actually Derek, I pointed out that IN MY FLIPPIN EXPERIENCE, I’ve had no harassment from some groups, including latinos, polite and/or non-threatening ones mostly from black men and rude, threatening and degrading comments and harassment from WHITE MEN. I also pointed out that I’m a WHITE WOMAN. Criticizing other white folks for bad behavior is hardly racism, and you shouldn’t throw around words you don’t understand. Especially after YOU made the baseless assumption off of selective interpretation of other people’s experiences that Latinos perpetrate most harassment. That may be true in DC, but it is certainly not true here in Cleveland. The entire point that you seem to be missing is that harassment is wrong no matter the package or the sentiment and that YOU DON”T get to decide what’s ok or what other people have or haven’t experienced. Just stop digging your hole deeper. You are clearly capable of writing clear statements, so either make sure you are getting your intended point across, quit writing offensive statements then denying them or just stop posting at all and pay attention to what other people are saying.

  26. Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    If my opinion of you doesn’t seem particularly high right now, that’s a reflection of you and the things you’re saying, not me.
    Don’t worry about it Rory, your opinion of me can’t be any worse than my opinion of you!
    Voila — No, that’s not what you wrote. You wrote that “white men have a much greater sense of entitlement than other men.” What, do you think that being a white women means you can’t be racist? That you can make this kind of sweeping generalization about white men in general because you are also white? If you want to say that you have had more bad experiences with white men in general, then that is fine. (well, it’s not fine, it’s unfortunate, no one should be harassed).
    But gosh, if you’re going to nit-pick what I write, then I’m going to nitpick what you write. And I am curious what evidence you have that white men have a greater sense of entitlement than other men. I mean, seriously: what do you have to support this statement?

  27. Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

    p.s. If anyone here has been catcalled by a guy who went to vassar, please let me know and I will issue a huge public apology for my choice of words.

  28. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    I generally don’t make a point of asking my harassers’ educational backgrounds.

  29. Vervain
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Okay, who ordered the torches and pitchforks?
    Settle down, people. Derek could have chosen his words more carefully, but he’s not the first person on this thread to speculate about why white-collar guys appear to catcall less, or why Latino men might catcall more. It didn’t cause this kind of shitstorm when anyone else said it, so why now?
    Even if Derek was ignorantly harboring some racist attitudes, he ought to be amply aware that they’re racist by now, since several people have kindly pointed it out to him. Either way, I doubt he’ll comment so carelessly on the subject again.
    So do we really need a dozen back-and-forth comments that amount to “That’s not what I meant!” and “Yes it was!”?
    He’s already said he didn’t intend what his comment implied. Considering only he knows exactly what he was thinking when he commented, I don’t see how any of us can know or prove otherwise. So can we move on? Or shall we just continue to call him a liar?
    Would it help if he apologized?

  30. Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

    Point taken. But the reason why I mentioned Vassar is that it’s this very feminist, pro-women school. I don’t think many people could get by there without being respectful to women (which, believe it or not, I try to be). I wasn’t trying to make any point about my parents having money (which they don’t have).
    But yes, if you want to be pedantic: yes anyone could be a sexual harasser. For all I know the guy across the hall from me sophomore year is now an axe murderer.

  31. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    For all I know the guy across the hall from me sophomore year is now an axe murderer.

    Exactly.
    You know how people always say, “He was such a normal, kind family man!” after people shoot their wives and five children? Chances are, a whole bunch of women at your school have been raped by fellow students while attending. So the guy sitting next to you in bio could have been a rapist. Ever watch Dateline: To Catch a Predator? Sexual abusers don’t have a certain *look*. They’re your neighbors, co-workers, cousins, brothers, grandfathers and friends. They’re your priest and your accountant. Unsettling, eh?

  32. Villy
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Oh, the mythical bitchy women who yell at men when they hold doors open. I’ve been accused of being such a woman by people on the web who knew nothing more about me than that I’m a feminist.
    It seems that you are confused about the difference between “manners” and “chivalry.”
    I have never, in my life, gotten angry because a man glances at me or holds a door open for me. I have never seen anything like that happen and I don’t know of any women who react that in that way. I hold doors open for people all the time. People do it for me. I appreciate it because it’s POLITE to do for people of both sexes. I like people who are polite. What I don’t like is guys who make a big show out of being “chivalrous” towards women (usually just conventionally attractive ones, too) and expect a reward or something. But even when they hold doors open for me, I say “thanks” and walk through.

    Good for you. Obviously that means that no woman has ever been the “mythological bitchy woman”.
    I’ll admit that they are in the minority. That doesn’t mean they aren’t out there.
    Hell, last week I was at the mall and held the door for a woman who was coming in as I was leaving. She got very defensive and snotty, exclaiming “Excuse me, I can hold the damn door myself!” and snatching the door out of my hand.
    I kind of gave her a dirty look and went on my way.
    Do I think most women are like that? No.
    I do think that there are enough of them to make an impression.

  33. petra
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    Vervain -
    Thank you!
    I’ve been mistaken for the mythical bitchy woman. Once, while wresting a very heavy suitcase off a baggage return belt a man leapt in to help me and grabbed the bag. I said: “thank you but please don’t — I’ve got it just balanced– ” (I honestly was afraid of hurting my back if he threw me off.) He got very offended and stomped off muttering something. I remember thinking: “Darn. He’s going to remember that as an encounter with the mythical bitchy feminist.”

  34. Posted June 28, 2007 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Verain: thank you! Yeah, I probably could have chosen my words more carefully. It was clear to me what I was saying (and the going to a pro-women’s college part was sorta key), but apparently it wasn’t to other people.

  35. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Then why couldn’t you just admit that, clarify your position, and move on instead of persisting and denying that you’ve been inconsistent?
    Ahhhh

  36. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    Yeah – the only time I’ve ever wanted to tell a man off for “helping” me is when they practically run you over in order to get to the door before you so they can then open it for you and congratulate themselves.
    :rolls eyes:
    Or they’ll be like, “Aaaafter you, little lady.” I can’t stand that. Whomever gets to the door first should hold it open for the person(s) behind them. But don’t rush to the door just because you have a penis and I don’t, and you want me to fall all over myself praising you. And don’t look me up and down while you do it. I have a feeling it’s guys like the ones I’m describing that get negative responses.

  37. Posted June 28, 2007 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Sarah, but how many times did I write this:
    I’m certainly not saying that Latinos are more likely to harass women than other men; as one women here wrote, “White men probably don’t have to harass us on the street, they can screw women in so many other ways.”
    I think I wrote that like five times! Wasn’t that sufficient to clarify my position?
    Ninapendamaishi, you wrote earlier,
    However, I never said I haven’t been catcalled by wealthy white guys. Neither did the other poster.
    Can I ask: have you? Like, on the street? Does anyone have stories to tell of getting catcalled by white collar guys? (Someone might have posted that earlier, but I forget).
    Just to make it absolutely clear: my sense would be that assholes are assholes and I have no reason to believe there are any more or less of them by race or class. Also (just to be 100% crystal clear on what I mean here) please reread the second paragraph of this post in italics.

  38. Posted June 28, 2007 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Also, Sarah, for the record I’m not admitting I’ve been inconsistent. What I wrote apparently has multiple interpretations, one of them nefarious, so I should have chosen my words more carefully though. But I also made it clear what I meant in this post to Al:

    I am saying that many of the guys who catcall women on the street are Latino, since educated white men have other ways to harass women.

    Apparently Roy is just someone who likes to race-bait … but whatever.

  39. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh please Derek. You can quote yourself all you want. And I can quote the things you’ve said that contradict that and/or just plain make you look bad.

  40. Antahkarana
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

    “Can I ask: have you? Like, on the street? Does anyone have stories to tell of getting catcalled by white collar guys? (Someone might have posted that earlier, but I forget).”
    *sigh* I’m starting to think this post doesn’t count something as possible unless they get at least one anecdote so here it is:
    I’m at a medical conference (white collar enough?) in D.C. (the part of D.C. that has the most white people) *with my parents* when I was about 17 years old (nerdy me liked to tag along). A lot of these doctors are rich white men. It’s the dinner portion and while no one’s turned into a drunken frat boy, some people are a little buzzed off wine. I’m going to get a salad (in a non-sexy, regular salad craving manner) and I hear “Mmm, bet you’re as tasty as curry.” I look up into the face of a late 30-something, white surgeon (he had an ID tag on and everything). He wasn’t talking to food, unfortunately, he was looking directly at me and smirking.
    I’m anticipating a “Only if they’re drunk” counter argument, but let me say this–alcohol is no fucking excuse for any kind of inappropriate behavior. I’m in a conference. A closed freaking conference. Or do you think this would be counted as harassment only if it was on the street? I certainly don’t and I encourage you to think twice before trying to convince me I wanted to hear that, it was harmless complimentary banter, everyone says dumb things when they’re tipsy, and oh it doesn’t count because he didn’t holler at me from across the street.
    Whatever the case is, yeah, assholes know no race, gender, or class.

  41. Posted June 28, 2007 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

    Antahkarana, that sounds like v. inappropriate behavior to me, but I would define a catcall as something said on the street, generally to someone as they walk by.
    So no, I don’t think it counts as a catcall, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s okay or anything.
    You kinda support what me and other people have said, that white-collar guys don’t catcall b/c they can screw women in other ways.
    And y’know, I’m actually trying to be sensitive here and listen to women’s experiences.

  42. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Oh. my. god. Stop moving the goalposts, Derek! I’m about to be done with this thread. As it’s turned into a “women trying to educate Derek” thred.

  43. Posted June 28, 2007 at 5:31 pm | Permalink

    Moving the goalposts Sarah? Come on! The definition of catcall is pretty clear, IMHO, and it certainly doesn’t include things said at bars, restaurants or medical conferences.
    The reason why I asked whether here whether women have been catcalled by white collar guys isn’t because I think they harass women less — I’ve been very clear I don’t think that. I just don’t think that white collar guys catcall women very often. (But I admit I could be wrong, as I don’t get catcalled much at all). Given all the shit I took on this issue, I think this is a very fair request.

  44. Posted June 28, 2007 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    And y’know, I’m actually trying to be sensitive here and listen to women’s experiences.
    and
    Given all the shit I took on this issue, I think this is a very fair request.
    It’s a fair question, but part of being sensitive and listening to women’s experiences is, you know… listening to them when they answer your question. You asked women to describe situations in which they’ve been catcalled and one does, and what was the first thing you did?
    You basically said “Well, that sucks, but that’s not a catcall.”
    Now, maybe that’s not what you think of as a catcall, but, then, you’ve admitted that you don’t get catcalled very much. What makes your definition of catcall more valid than the women who are experiencing it?

  45. Posted June 28, 2007 at 6:06 pm | Permalink

    What makes your definition of catcall more valid than the women who are experiencing it?
    That is a fair enough question Roy. But I would say it is not just my definition, but the definition that is fairly well accepted and used in the English language. From University Chic:

    There are many techniques used in the common “cat-call,� For those unfamiliar with this term, a cat-call is street pestering, a type of verbal sexual harassment that occurs when a male makes various sexually explicit comments and/or noises towards a female. Given, this can also occur the opposite way, but I’ve seldom heard of such a case.

  46. Bryan
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    This thread is breaching dissertation status now, so I thought I might be able to help our “just-catching-up” readers with a quick summary:
    Sexual Embarrassment is wrong.
    Catcalls are sexual harassment.
    Many benign compliments are taken as harassment.
    Benign words taken as harassment can cause pain.
    Apples.
    Oranges.
    But Apples!
    No, Oranges!
    Po-tay-to.
    Po-tah-to.
    Lets call the whole thing off?

  47. Posted June 28, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Permalink


    Many benign compliments are taken as harassment.
    Benign words taken as harassment can cause pain.


    To which I would add: many ostensibly benign “compliments” are neither benign nor complimentary.

  48. SarahMC
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    I take back my comment about moving goalposts. While he may have moved goalposts in the past, this time he did specifically ask for an anecdote featuring a white man catcalling.
    The medical conference anecdote is disgusting and creepy as hell. But it’s not a catcall. It IS sexual harassment though.
    I think I gave an example of being catcalled by a car full of white guys in Australia. Additionally, I used to walk to and from work when I lived in downtown Baltimore. I was verbally accosted by white guys (and black guys and Hispanic guys…) in their cars at least once a week. I got a lot of honks, too. Sigh.

  49. noname
    Posted June 28, 2007 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

    “Catcall
    Noun
    1. A cry expressing disapproval.”

    - Webster’s Online Dictionary
    http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definition/Catcall

  50. Posted June 28, 2007 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

    Wait. I did NOT ask for an anecdote about a white guy catcalling. I said, “white-collar guy.” That WOULD be a little weirdly racist of me, if I had asked about white guys. I imagine there are white frat boys, teenagers, construction workers etc. who catcall.

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