Sunday, June 23, 2013

Feminism on street corners

I was bicycling home from the Hollywood Fringe Festival the other day and I stopped at a red light. There were a guy and a gal pedestrian waiting at the crosswalk. They appeared to be together. The light turned green and as I was taking off, the man looked at me and said "See you, baby."

A torrent of profanity-laced thoughts shouted through my lead, the gist being: Why the fuck are you talking to me? Am I your fucking baby? And if that woman with you is someone you whisper "baby" to in the middle of the night, then why the fuck are you looking at/talking to me? And just, why? Who do you think you are and who do you think I am?

I wanted to shout those things in his face. I would probably never actually do that. But what if I did? I imagine the response would be something like what happened to Jinan Younis


  1. looking forward to the dialogue!

  2. A couple days ago I had a conversation with Franzi(roberts girlfriend) and Rita(sebastians roommate). Franzi was bugged by the fact, that people (i think only men) on the street occasional say to her that she should "smile". She had talked about that before but I could not imagine that this happens regularly, so I asked Rita whether things alike this happen to her too, and the answer was surprisingly (for me) yes.
    I guess my point is: I'm always surprised by the things other men are doing. I think i should reconsider my picture of humankind ;)
    Sadly I don't think that talking to them in the moment they're doing this shit will do anything. It's like what you described: They will just turn aggressive. Nomatter how intelligent your words are chosen. But I think making more men aware of the fact that this is actually stuff that happens regularly can help too. So carry on and be strong!

  3. Not as pithy as my original attempt, but this was the gist:

    No one is great at calling people out right out of the gate. It takes practice, like any other communication skill. I've started to do this a lot - not with feminist issues, but with racist comments and attitudes - and no one really takes being called out on a racist statement well.

    The best you can do is call them out on it, and then calmly, politely and logically state your case about why you're saying what you're saying. And even that takes practice; it's easy to get angry, frustrated and reactionary to an inevitably defensive attitude. It also helps to come across as nonjudgmental; most people mean well. Most people's statements are simply out of ignorance of how they sound to other people. The real thing I'm attacking is language and how that language leads to a culture - not the person themselves. Unless, you know, they're blatantly racist. But in that case, we're probably not friends.

    Point is - even if it's uncomfortable, even if you feel like you're doing it "wrong" - say something, because it's unlikely too many others will. Even if you don't necessarily get someone to get to see your point of view by the end of the conversation, at least you'll both have gone through the exercise of having it.

  4. Thank you for your comments, Sebastian and Kashena! I plan to respond more thoroughly in my next blog post, Feminism on Street Corners Part 2, coming up within a week, I promise. Love you both.