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MugaSofer comments on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance - Less Wrong

58 [deleted] 25 November 2012 11:33PM

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Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2012 01:34:43AM *  5 points [-]

I think it's pretty clear that some fraction of people enjoy upsetting other people, though it would surprise me if most of them wildly underestimate how much damage they do.

ETA: That should have been "That wouldn't surprise me. (Can a small amount of noise destroy a message? Yes, if it's leaving out a negation.)

Is there any information about what proportion of men catcall?

How do we want to define catcalling? I haven't run into any of the worst stuff that I know of. (My hearing is not spectacularly good, so I may have failed to make out the words in some cases.) However, I've had a lot of guys just say "How are you doing?", which is a pain in the ass even though they weren't remotely threatening. It took me a while to figure out a good strategy, such just ignoring them was hard on me-- it's an effort to break social rules.

Saying "Fine. And you?" works well enough. They smile and answer briefly. However, my feeling is "Keep moving. This isn't a conversation I want to be in."

It took me longer to figure out what I didn't like about it-- "how are you doing?" is a mildly intrusive greeting which assumes at least a minor connection.

ETA: I run into more and worse harassment for being a middle-aged woman riding a bike with sidebaskets. And when I say more and worse, I mean one instance when I was shoved and one or two more when I was frightened by people demanding a ride in my baskets.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 01:43:48AM 4 points [-]

Oh, I know there are people who would probably deliberately catcall just to annoy - I just assumed it was related to the idea that men enjoy humiliating and denigrating women just ... because we're men. It's surprisingly common once you start noticing it, and almost never challenged, so I make a point of speaking up about these things whenever possible. "Men's Rights" may attract misogynists, but that doesn't mean we should ignore stereotypes of men (not saying you're saying we should - it's just a common assumption and a pet peeve of mine.)

As for the catcalling thing ... I think everyone gets random people saying, basically, "hi". It can be weird when you don't know them, but I think it's distinct from catcalling - which seems to vary geographically, judging by other comments here.

Comment author: [deleted] 27 November 2012 03:02:17AM *  2 points [-]

When people I don't recognize greet me, I assume that either they mistook me for somebody else, or I met them but I don't remember them. (The fact that I'm not very good at recognizing faces of people I haven't spent a nontrivial amount of time with does not help.) I usually just greet them back and walk on, or ask "have I met you before?" if I'm not in a hurry and they look interesting.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 03:09:27AM 3 points [-]

I get it all the time, and have all my life. I always put it down to people I don't know but who recognize me; I'm fairly recognizable and tend to end up doing high-profile things (speeches etc.)

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 November 2012 01:55:20AM 1 point [-]

There's an element of "claiming ownership" in cat calling and in "how are you doing" and "smile baby" too. It means "I have the right to your time, I have the right to your attention, I have the right to have you be pretty for me by smiling" Replying politely only confirms that, they think they have you trapped in a conversation now. And witness how this "right" is backed by indignation "bitch, think you're all that" and gendered tear-down-confidence insults "slut" and "fat ugly cow" as soon as the man is refused. Which is why women learn counter strategies that don't throw back his claim in his face (as he rightly deserves).

Comment author: [deleted] 27 November 2012 02:46:45AM 5 points [-]

"I have the right to your time,

I've heard that argument (in a thread on a feminist blog about a particular xkcd issue), but it triggers my "not the true rejection" warning light. If Alice was asked for directions by another woman, I wouldn't anticipate Alice to resent that.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2012 12:51:42PM 3 points [-]

Asking for directions is a different case, because most people may be assumed to need directions from strangers at some time, so there's a degree of long term reciprocity.

I think street harassment is in a different category because it's an attention grab while not being part of a benevolent social net or giving anything back.

Comment author: evand 27 November 2012 02:37:16PM 3 points [-]

I think it's a different case, but not completely. When a stranger asks me for directions, I feel imposed upon and uncomfortable. In large part this is because I've learned that the frequency of the person using it as a pretext for panhandling is high. Which has a certain similarity to why the greetings make you uncomfortable, I think: both are used as pretexts to start a conversation we'd rather not be involved in.

Clearly there's some context dependency here: if the person is standing on a sidewalk, I feel far more uncomfortable than if they just rolled down their car window in a parking lot. I also recall a time a man on a bike asked me for directions, appeared genuinely thankful, made sure he'd got them right, and then asked me for money. When I refused, he was annoyed (though more polite than is common) and then left in the direction I had indicated.

Anyway, seeing as offering random greetings to strangers along the lines of "how are you doing" is something I (hetero male, in case you hadn't inferred that) do occasionally, I'm trying to ponder what contexts I do it in. I think I'm generally shy and awkward enough that I basically do it a context something like I made eye contact, and then some external cause means the other person isn't just leaving, and now I'm feeling awkward and like I should say something. I'm assuming this basically isn't the sort of context you're talking about? Actually, on further reflection, I suspect I do it in the situation described in the main article of when holding the door for someone, which is not something I had ever really thought of as potentially offensive before. (For the record, I don't follow it up with sexual remarks and slurs.)

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 November 2012 02:44:48PM 1 point [-]

When a stranger asks me for directions, I feel imposed upon and uncomfortable. In large part this is because I've learned that the frequency of the person using it as a pretext for panhandling is high.

Really? I've been asked directions a lot of times, and this hasn't happened to me even once.

I haven't had this happen at all in New York City, the place I've spent the most time where I would expect panhandlers, but it might be different elsewhere given that Manhattan is practically impossible to get lost in.

Being asked for directions makes me uncomfortable, but only because I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I know, and hate feeling unhelpful.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 02:02:42AM 3 points [-]

There's an element of "claiming ownership" in cat calling

Source please.

and in "how are you doing" and "smile baby" too.

So ... male passersby are "claiming ownership" of me? Great, now I'll be even more uncomfortable. (I'm male & het, if that wasn't clear.)