Sady Doyle on the connection between mansplaining and street harassment

So Sady Doyle writes for the choir – people who are already fairly self-aware and well-educated feminists – and I don’t generally recommend reading her writing unless you’re well beyond Feminism 101. But her last post included a great explanation of the how mansplaining and street harassment are two facets of the same behavior:

The point of listening to women and feminists is to listen to women and feminists. Because if you listen to them, you might start to understand certain basic points, such as: Women do not automatically have to accept you as an expert, particularly not when the subject under discussion (sexism!) is something you’ve never experienced first-hand. Women do not have to make you “comfortable” and “welcome” in every single conversation. Women do not automatically have to grant you a space in their discussions, on their blogs, or in their lives. Women do not have to permit you to enter their political movements, their self-created spaces, their personal space, their bodies, or anything else that belongs to them; you, as a man, are not entitled to women’s attention, praise, affection, respect, or company, just because you want it. And when a woman says “no,” you respect that this particular woman said “no,” and you stop. You don’t make excuses, you don’t explain why you should be able to get what you want, you don’t throw a tantrum, you don’t call that woman names: You just stop what you are doing. Because she said “no.”

Here’s where we appeal to that “lived experience” thing. Because: Have you ever had a guy come up to you — on the street, in a bar, whatever — and just straight-up say, “hey, I wanna talk to you?” Happens all the time, right? Happens to women, all the time. But have you ever just straight-up said, “no?” Not “no, I have a boyfriend,” or “no, I’m busy,” or “no, I have to race to save the city from the Joker’s diabolical machinations, for I am the Batman,” or any other excuse: Just the word “no,” by itself?

Yeah. So you know what happens next, after you say “no.” The guy always keeps talking. He tries wheedling, or begging, sometimes. But if you say “no” firmly enough, or often enough that he gets the point, the dude just starts yelling. He tells you that you’re not that hot. He tells you what a bitch you are. (“You bitch, I have a Rolls Royce,” was my favorite of these.) Sometimes he follows you down the street, yelling at you; sometimes, he follows you in his car. These dudes are always so fucking certain that they’re entitled to your time and attention that they will harass you until you give it, or at least until you’re scared and sorry for not giving it. You do not have the right not to interact, as far as these guys are concerned.

So many women wrote, “Wow, thank you for articulating it that way,” that I wanted to share it with a wider audience (all 3 of you).

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4 Responses to Sady Doyle on the connection between mansplaining and street harassment

  1. and apparently only two of us three are women…

  2. Make that one?

    Good post though. It’s insane to me how often this kind of thing happens. I was talking recently with some people who follow the skeptic community pretty heavily and from what I’ve heard, they struggle with many of the same issues that the open source community does.

  3. Collin says:

    maybe just one of the three..

  4. I used to wear a wedding ring when I worked in retail. Made it so much easier to rebuff annoying guys. Of course, when I did meet someone I was interested in, it didn’t work out so well… :-)

    I once had a man scream that I was racist, so that the entire store would hear, along with nearby shops, just because I told him I did not want to date him. So glad I’m not in retail anymore!

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