Tonight, this tweet from Sunny made my timeline explode. The article it links to is about TubeCrush, a new craze that’s apparently taken London by storm. It bears similarity to the ‘Fitfinder’ website (now defunct) which took over university campuses (campi?) last summer, although Fitfinder was different in some ways.
The conversation turned to why, as a society, we accept and even encourage the objectification of men in this way, while the objectification of women is regarded far more suspiciously. From my perspective, the answer’s simple: women objectifying men is relatively harmless because men hold the power in terms of sex and more generally in terms of whatever comes between flirting and sexual harassment.
If a woman takes a picture of a man on a train and he sees her, one or both will be embarassed but very few men would feel threatened by such behaviour.
If, however, a man takes a picture of a woman on a train and she sees him, immediately she has to think about the possible dangers of the situation. Is this guy a creep? Is he a potential rapist? Is he going to follow up the action with some verbal or physical harassment?
The odds are that this guy isn’t a rapist, but if you’re in a room with 100 glasses of water, 1 of which is poisoned, the odds don’t really hold much comfort. The risk that the worst-case will happen is still scary, however slim the possibility.
I don’t want to expand too much on this – I’m sure there’s reams of wonderful feminist critique you can read if you want to. This article covers a lot of the issues (h/t Soph). What I do want to do is provide some examples of behaviour I’ve either seen or been told about which makes women act in the way they do (ie they are suspicious of men’s motives and intentions).
“I liked him but I wouldn’t let him walk me home because I didn’t want him to know where I lived.” < she met a guy on a night out, but still had to call me to walk her home because he might have been a stalker/worse. Girls have to think about this sort of thing all the time, which must be a serious burden.
I was walking someone home after a night out when two men walking in the opposite direction started “complementing” her. “Come home with us, love – we’ve got huge cocks, this guy you’re with (ie me) is a dickhead,” was probably the line of choice. One of them said he wanted to “eat ice-cream off her tits” as well. Even though I was right there and we were walking arm-in-arm, these two guys thought it was perfectly reasonable to objectify her in the most vulgar and violent terms and act like they were doing her a favour in the process. I can’t even work out what would have happened if she had been on her own.
Someone I know was walking back from lectures when a boy rode up next to her on a bike and just watched her walking for about 2 or 3 minutes. When she looked at him, he said something that made her realise that he would follow her back to the house if she didn’t do something. She had to dive into a pub and call her boyfriend to meet her there. For quite a few weeks she wouldn’t make the 5 minute walk from university to the house alone.
It was the height of revision season, and the university libraries were predictably full. She was sat down, making notes or whatever, when a man came and asked if he could sit next to her. This is pretty standard during exam season, and she said yes. About half an hour later she realised that he kept staring at her and felt really uncomfortable. When she started packing her things to leave, he said something along the lines of, “Don’t leave babe, I want to get you know you. And your ass.” I believe in this case she took a taxi home, she was that shaken up.
Add to this the countless times I’ve seen guys told to to piss off on dancefloors and at bars refuse to get the fuck away (which I can’t even be bothered to list individually) and you get the picture I’ve seen: Some Men Are Twats. Not all men, but some. Quite possibly most.
It affects how women behave, and it affects how decent men behave as well. Sometimes I think about something I want to say/do, and then think, Actually, that could be misconstrued. If we’re inclined to give the y-chromosomed the benefit of the doubt and say twattish men are in the minority, which probably isn’t the case, this minority are ruining stuff for everyone else by forcing women to treat all men as though they are as disrespectful, forceful, violent, insensitive and dangerous as the worst of us are. I, for one, don’t blame them.