Pay attention to non-verbal clues for a better Mardi Gras

Next week, if a woman is walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed?  If a woman sits in a bar, alone during a crowded Thursday night Happy Hour, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed?  If a woman walks through a college football stadium parking lot, alone, late on a Saturday morning, past a series of tailgaters, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed?

Maybe she should.

But of course it doesn’t mean she wants that kind of attention or that it’s okay.  Reading visual clues for addressing a woman at any time, in any circumstance, with any kind of interaction is the responsibility of men.  Men must figure out where the boundary is and respect it.  Although the boundary is flexible and may be bigger and wider depending on the situation, there is nevertheless a boundary over which men shouldn’t cross.

Men must step up to their responsibility and not fall victim to the “well-what-do-you-expect, she-was-asking-for-it” syndrome.  Men will be surprised at how much more successful their interactions with women are when they are in touch with non-verbal clues from women on the street so they can avoid being harassers.

[Editor’s Note: Here are tips about how to talk to women without being a harasser. Be sure to check out a video about this topic on The Consensual Project blog and an article in The Guardian]

– Alan Kearl

This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.

One Response to Pay attention to non-verbal clues for a better Mardi Gras

  1. Erik K. says:

    Non verbal cues are what I call the Visual Fence.

    Assume a woman is walking down the street and she doesn’t want strangers to interact with her. She will most likely will be emitting body language designed to communicate this fact.

    If a man disregards her Visual Fence and tries to get to attention, she will need to escalate and engage her Verbal Fence in the form of an assertive statement such as “Not interested!” to get him to go away.

    If that statement fails, she may have to resort to the Physical Fence in the form of physical actions and movements to get away.

    This strategy is called the Progressive Fence which is the cornerstone of Progressive Boundary Setting.

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