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The Blatherings Of A Blitherer

Men and Women in Public Spaces


There’s a lot of guys who do this thing, in public, that is really aggressive and potentially threatening and invasive and all around douchey, and I’m pretty sure they’re not aware that’s how their actions are perceived, because if they were aware of that they’d stop doing it. Maybe. There’s a lot of aggressive, entitled, douchey guys out there, though.

Anyway, this is the thing:

When you are a dude in public, especially if you are with other dudes in a group, and you happen upon a lady who is minding her own business reading a book or eating an ice cream cone or working or whatever, and you want to know her name, give her yours first. Don’t just demand her name. Especially don’t follow up with questions about where she lives.

Because that? Is threatening. That’s now two pieces of private information you’ve tried to get out of her, and could easily lead to stalking.

And there is a LOT of pressure on women to play nice and answer the question. Because, you know, he’s just being friendly. They’re just questions. What possible harm could it do?

But it’s one of those things that makes women feel unsafe, especially because if she doesn’t answer these (very personal, private, could endanger her life and security) questions, she doesn’t know if the guy asking them will start screaming at her and calling her an uppity bitch.

Maybe you are thinking to yourself “huh, how could simply knowing a woman’s name and neighborhood make her unsafe?” Here is the thing. It’s really easy to watch women, especially in a big city. It’s easy to narrow down where a person lives, what public transit routes they take, including what block they live on, what apartment they live in. It’s easy to get access to women. It’s especially easy when you know that woman’s name. “Oh, hey, I’m here to see [woman’s name] and I think her buzzer is broken? could you let me up?”

I mean, think of how normalized-as-romantic this incredibly scary behavior is, how often it’s portrayed in romantic comedies.

So, you know, your harmless questions can actually be very alarming. Especially when the flow of information is only going one way.

So be mindful of that. If you MUST intrude upon a woman’s personal space (like, maybe she’s the most attractive woman in the known universe, or she has a tattoo with an obscure quote on it you recognize, or she’s reading your absolute favorite book series about soul-bonded dragons, and you know in your heart of hearts that you are soul mates), open with your own name first. Get the flow of information going both ways. Make it a conversation and not just an interrogation. And be mindful also of the fact that women don’t owe you anything. They don’t owe you a smile, or a conversation, or answers to your questions. If they don’t want to engage with you, that doesn’t make them bitches or whores or nasty people out to get you. It makes them human beings who don’t have the time, interest, energy, or whatever to expend upon you. And that’s their right, to not interact with some stranger who is making unreasonable demands on them.

Sometimes when a woman is being interrogated by a stranger (who, when male, usually is taller, stronger, louder, and heavier than her, all of which put her at a physical disadvantage), she might try to turn attention away from herself and ask questions of the stranger.

This does not mean the woman is trying to bone you, is giving you permission to “have sex with” (rape) her, is flirting “aggressively” with you, or is, in fact, interested in you/your dick. It also doesn’t mean you can then suavely segue into demanding to know what female celebrities she wants to have sex with, nor does it mean you can loudly call her a prude when she doesn’t answer you right away. I mean, you know, maybe she’s flirting with you and wants to get all up in your business. Sometimes people connect in the most unlikely ways! But it is not probable. More than likely she is trying to get you to talk about yourself (most peoples’ favorite topic of conversation) so she no longer feels like you are stalking her. She’s trying to redirect the conversation in such a way that she no longer has to actively take part in it. She’s reduced to this strategy because most women are not permitted by strange men they meet in public to opt out of conversations the men initiate.

Think about that for a minute.

If you are male, are you routinely dragged into personal conversations by other people? Do they ask you personal questions over and over again, getting louder and more persistent? Do they insult you if you refuse to talk to them or avoid answering the question? If you are reading a book or listening to music via headphones, do people assume that you owe them attention, that they can monopolize your time, that if you don’t fawn over them you are somehow at fault?

Because that’s pretty standard for women who go out in public.

If you feel the need to apologize several times for you/your group and your “obnoxious” behavior then consider changing your behavior. I mean, if you are acting obnoxiously and then apologize for it and then keep acting that way it pretty much cements that fact that you’re an epic jackass with no regard for the feelings of others, and no care at all for how you’re impinging on their social/physical space.

One Comment to

“Men and Women in Public Spaces”

  1. On July 16th, 2010 at 8:04 am brigidkeely.com/wordpress » Public Conversation: You’re Doing it Right Says:

    […] I wrote, a little while ago, a post about men and women in public spaces. […]