Archives

Good Guys: An Appreciation

Good Guys: An Appreciation

The other night I was hanging out with a (male) friend and some of his (male) friends, one of whom I’ve met before but don’t know that well. Let’s call him “Terry”. I was telling them this story of my adventures on the subway a couple weeks past, which was entertaining to all because I’m an excellent storyteller. I attributed my intense reaction to the subway dude calling me a “fat bitch” to the fact that I hadn’t had any previous contact with him. I usually only get called a name like that when I do something like chide men who harass women on the street.

One of the guys asked me if I really did that, and I said: Hell yes. I usually turn to the harassing/catcalling guy, shake my finger, and say NO, like I’m talking to a dog or a very tiny child. If I have a newspaper in my hand, I wave it threateningly like I’m about to smack someone’s nose and possibly rub that nose in some poo.

As you can imagine, this does not always go over well.

Anyway, as I was talking about this, Terry asked me what exactly was wrong with telling women on the street he thinks they’re beautiful or are wearing nice clothes. Oh people. SMH But it just got worse, because when I said that women do not dress nicely so that they can be objectified by men, Terry protested that that’s exactly what they did. That if they dressed like that, they were doing so for everybody, not for themselves.

……

During the course of one of the most aggravating conversations I’ve had in a while (including the one with the guy on the subway) Terry proceeded to hit just about every square on the male privilege bingo card and then invented a few more just to prove what a raging sexist dickwad he is. People, the rage I felt was so palpable that I was on point of throwing a drink in his face just to give him something different to talk about so I wouldn’t have to punch him in the mouth. My friend stopped me, though. Literally held me back.

It was a night.

As I said in that other post, I know that men like this exist in the world, but it’s really rare for me to have to deal with one in the flesh. This is because I’m apparently a very lucky girl in that the men in my circle of friends and acquaintances tend to be good guys. There might be some cluelessness here and there, a misstep, a misunderstanding. But I don’t spend time around guys who make me see red and want to throw a drink.

And because this is the norm for me, I forget that this is a luxury in my life, and I should probably cheer about it more often. Yes, I know that the behaviors and attitude I’m talking about should be the norm for all guys and that to celebrate people doing what they should be doing to begin with is problematic, but I don’t think an appreciation every once and a while is too out of line, right?

So, to the guys in my life: thanks for being awesome, decent men and good friends. I’m sure other women and men in your life appreciate it, too. Even if they don’t always say so.

24 comments to Good Guys: An Appreciation

  • Veronica S.

    “That if they dressed like that, they were doing so for everybody, not for themselves.”

    What an asshole. Yeah, when I dress up, it couldn’t possibly be because I’m going somewhere nice, or I’m going to see people I care about. Nope, it’s for the benefit of random assholes on the street. Why does this jerk think the world revolves around him?

  • Rys

    Thank you for this post …. I’m one of those evolving, well-intentioned but sometimes still clueless men whose women friends seem to appreciate, yet rarely say it in so many words. So nice to hear. And by the way, I totally dig your assertiveness, your clarity and your obvious good taste in friends. Cheers.

  • I just wish the bar for “Awesomeness” was set rather higher than it seems to be.

  • Bloody freakin’ hell. WHAT IS WITH THIS WEEK? The only benefit is that the spike in my blood pressure has kept my usually ice-cold extremities toasty warm.

    I’m glad you have people in your life to balance out the jerks. I wish you more of the good.

  • Farah Mendlesohn

    Good on you.

    My mother once responded to a male colleague’s comment about the outline of her breasts through her shirt, by taking a step back, looking down and saying words to the efect of “do you always wear such tight pants? Of course, they do show off your balls.”

  • john macadam

    A gentleman shouldn’t comment upon a lady’s appearance he says in the street at all. However given that so many items of women’s clothing are uncomfortable, can cause medical damage ( I’m speaking of shoes with regard to that) and aren’t at all practical, I can’t see why they are worn other than to get attention. Whilst men do wear clothes for similar reason they don’t do so as much which is why you see women dressed up for a night out and a man having put on a shirt and trousers.

    If we dressed purely for function wouldn’t all our clothes be mainly decided first by comfort and then colour?

    Everyone buys clothes to make themselves look better and more attractive, clearly you are not trying to attract yourself, so it has to be for others. I also know women comment upon each others clothes a lot more and are more critical than men ( in my experience), but that doesn’t seem a reason to wear uncomfortable clothes and shoes.

    • 1. You’re assuming all women wear uncomfortable, damaging clothing items. They do not.

      2. It’s an unfortunate truth that many wear uncomfortable clothing items because it’s part of looking professional.

      3. None of your points negate my own: that it’s not okay to harass women on the street, even if that harassment takes the form of a compliment, no matter how they are dressed. It doesn’t matter if they dress that way because they want to look good, attract a mate, or because their job or society dictates that they should. The fact remains that no matter what, harassment should not occur.

      • Stanley

        He’s right, you’re right.

        Can you imagine a world where men are not approaching women? Every man approaches women they way he can. If women don’t like it, say so and move on.

        We men do make mistakes. And, you know what!?! (this is controversial): “it’s only harassment when the receiver don’t like what is said, or who said what”. You can take any sentence,conversation, or form of approach that would be an harassment to you for example. All these sentences, or approaches have started great relationships between men and women before. And you know that.

        Men and women meet everywhere. “You are hot!” and “I want to make love to you.” are very bad sentences to approach women. However, healthy relationships start with them everywhere, everyday. So, it’s better to just say what you don’t like and move on.

    • Kelli

      John, think about internalized sexism and how it shows itself in the way a people communicate (Music, clothes, posts).

      People dress the way they want by mood, occasion, and means. A person dresses to please self, show their place in said society, and to not draw unwanted scrutiny. If a person chooses to dress differently they may draw unwanted attention depending upon the crowd they have to pass through; not that it is warranted but by dropping a standard (tight fitting shirt, lack of underwear, purple mohawk) a person will draw attention. How they deal with the attention is their choice, but how you or others approach them requires thought. If you are thinking people dress differently for commentary perhaps you should think of how adolescents and teens dress for exploration of self and where they fit in society. If you’re dealing with people who are impractical and appear uncomfortable in your standards why not engage them in a discussion and see what you learn. After hearing their opinion you may need to adjust your own opinions. For the record I think ties and cufflinks are impractical and uncomfortable if not worn properly (size and fit).

  • Leigh-Andrea Fernandes

    Is everyone who disagrees with you an idiot?
    To say that women dress up only for themselves is ridiculous. We all do it for approval – from society, from other women, and yes, from men. When I wear a blazer over my fitted blouse, it’s to look more professional in the workplace – so that I’m the one being taken seriously, not my breasts. When I dress down when meeting a friend and her boyfriend, I don’t wear a miniskirt and low-cut top, because I am considerate of her and realize that men check out skimpily attired women – and seeing her boyfriend do this, even if he is discreet, would probably not be very nice for my friend. When I go to a party or a bar or on a date, I show cleavage and my legs. Why? To show off some of the most feminine and enticing parts of my body to men I’m trying to attract. Sure, women can say, “But I do it to feel good!” – no problem, but ask yourself, what exactly makes you feel good? How do you decide that today you’re looking “attractive”? Like it or not, society dictates some of the standards you hold yourself to – so yes, your “feeling attractive” is at least somewhat dependent on society, and therefore men. We all seek approval – I don’t see what’s wrong with admitting this.

  • john macadam

    Of course its not okay to harass a woman on a street, that goes without saying. Which is why it wasn’t said.

    I was disagreeing with your comment about clothing. The kind of clothing that makes men comment or stare in my experience is either revealing or formfitting. I’m not sure why a man or a woman would wear such clothes except show off to people. ( There are exceptions to that, ie. shorts on a beach or in hot weather etc)

    • Veronica S.

      But what makes you think she’s showing off to you? She could be wearing form-fitting or revealing clothing to show off to or attract the compliments of her boyfriend or girlfriend. She could be wearing it to attract the attention of someone she’s going to see on whom she has a crush. She could be wearing such clothing because she’s going to a party and in our sexist culture, dress-up clothing for women is generally form-fitting or revealing. All of these things are far more likely than the idea that she is wearing such clothing in the breathless hope that random men on the street whom she has never met and has no interest in will notice her and say something.

      Upshot: she may be dressing to attract attention, but what makes you think it’s your attention she wants?

    • What Veronica said. Basically the assumption that any woman wears clothes, revealing or not, to attract the attention of everybody, is ludicrous and wrongheaded. You may not know why anyone would wear such clothes if not to attract attention, but you are not everyone. And you taking a self-centered view of the issue isn’t helping.

  • brownstocking

    I don’t want to get bogged down in details and personal anecdotes, but it’s been my experience that men who catcall do so no matter what their target is wearing. There is a mentality at work that isn’t necessarily about the target’s wrapping, it’s the overall package.

  • John Macadam

    I don’t really know any men who catcall, it seems a bit of unreconstructed male thing to do, straight from a 1980s building site with fat blokes with their behinds on display.

    • kaizoku

      I challenge you to read the comments at http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/2008/05/hands_up_if_you (may be triggering) and amend your ignorance. That post is two years old and still getting comments. It’s particularly disturbing how many women have been experiencing harassment since they were pubescent girls.

    • mpe

      Sure you do. But since it’s not you they’re harassing, you’re unlikely to notice or care.

    • Sarah Buck

      Just yesterday I was cat called at several times and stared at by some lecherous builders. It seriously happens all the time and most of the time it doesn’t matter what you are wearing just that you a young, attractive looking girl.

  • Rys

    Right on, Veronica !! Men who make asses of themselves by whistling and making lewd comments at passing women are an embarrassment to the species. Pepper spray is in order.

  • John

    I read some of the comments and the original guardian comment and it wasn’t very impressive or insightful

    Now the below statement was much interested, challenging and eye opening.

    http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/03/08/what-if-the-world-were-different-for-a-day/

  • lkeke35

    When I was 12 years old I once had a grown man walking behind me on the street, comment to another man that was walking with him that I had a nice ass. He said this loud enough for me to hear it. It was summer and I was dressed like a 12 year old girl in a t-shirt and regular shorts. There is no way he could have mistaken me for an adult, even if he thought I was older. I was apalled that this man was walking around staring at my a** and that he felt the need to comment loudly about it to anyone listening and I’m apalled now just thinking about it.

    What I”m trying to say, in my roundabout manner, is that I agree that you’re right to say it has nothing to do with age or manner of dress. There’s a mentality for some guys that believes that anything you do, must be done for their benefit. That when you are in public your time and space is theirs. Comments on what you are wearing, or why you are not smiling or why are you so dressed up is not appropriate, anywhere.

    This was something I kept trying to teach my younger sisters. That there are plenty of men who don’t believe in leaving women alone to their own thoughts in a public place. That it starts as soon as it looks like you may have hit puberty that some men feel the need to comment loudly about your body.

  • I have to admit, the story as you’ve told it doesn’t really sound a ringing endorsment of your male friends (to me).

    Firstly your friend is friends with this guy. Which means that he’s probably had other chances to notice his creepiness/sexism and decided that it wasn’t really an impediment to their relationship. Secondly, (at least how you are recounting it), your friend mostly interacted with this situation in order to stop you from committing violence. Instead of say, backing you up verbally or himself taking on his friend’s terrible points. I mean I get that it can be hard in the moment, but I still wonder about why he’s friends with such a jackass.