Several years ago I worked at a manufacturing plant for a large company. One of the goal areas for the year was to raise awareness of racial diversity and to improve the workplace for people of color. Although I was raised with a strong sense of the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and I thought this was a great way to live one’s life, I was startled to learn a new paradigm, “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them”.
I draw a lot of inspiration from this lesson when I think about males interacting with females. As a male, I get it that men (at least a lot of men) may take it as a compliment and like it if a woman on the street said something to them like, “Hey baby, looking good today”. But men, the point is that it isn’t about us. It is about the woman/women we are in public with and what she/they want(s).
What do women want from men? Of course I can’t speak for all situations and all women (or men). But from my personal experiences and those that I read about, there are some near universal truths:
- Women don’t want personalized, focused interaction with men they don’t know in most daily public settings. Unfortunately men bring with them the collective baggage of all the creepy men past and present who have ever been rude, offensive or worse. So regardless of our intentions, we must realize that the female we are going to potentially interact with don’t know if we are one of the good guys or not.
- That said, men need to be smart enough to match the interaction with the situation. That is, certain interactions with women we don’t know depending on the situation are ok for the street, in line at a store, when at a sporting event, a party, etc.
- Men need to make sure to help mentor other men and younger males. Face it, men are pretty clueless about interactions with women and need help! We don’t have to be crusaders (or maybe we do) but persistent, quiet example can/will go a long way to making a difference.
- Although I personally find opportunities are rare, men need to help women when they see they are being harassed. Simple things like diverting the attention of the harasser (ask them a question) to actually confronting the harasser, will stop the situation.
It is sad to realize on the one hand, the incredible innovations of the past decade and contrast that with some of the incredibly hard incidents of harassment we read about on this blog. Men, let’s make a difference today.
– Alan Kearl
This is the first post in a new weekly series written by male allies who have volunteered to share their experiences with and view points on street harassment. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period, and the voices of male allies contribute to these goals. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.