No other sentence can elicit in me an immediate drop in humour quicker than a demand to smile made by a random stranger- usually male. Give you a smile? Why? Do I know you? Have you entertained me in some way? No, you’ve just gawked at me, stood in my way and demanded I grin at you like a trained chimp. Gee, let me see how I feel about that. Why can’t I turn my frown upside down!?
The right to wander about the land unsmiling and minding one’s own business ought not to be such a major issue, and yet and yet and yet.
This past Summer the good weather (!) has allowed people to spend large chunks of their time outdoors enjoying outdoor pursuits. I am a runner, and I cycle quite a bit. To do so I wear running gear or clothing appropriate for such a sweat inducing activity. Sometimes I will expose – hold on to your smelling salts– arms and other times –OMG– legs, two of ’em in fact.
For some reason, this entirely non sexual exposure of limbs attracts the attention of random men who are so special and interesting their every comment must be uttered aloud, pondered upon and found to be amusing and ‘just a compliment’. Except when it isn’t a compliment, and even then one must remember one ought to have a ‘sense of humour’ and laugh it off.
These random outbursts can come in a dazzling myriad of styles.
The wolf whistle – easily ignored expression of appreciation.
‘Nice arse/ nice jugs!’ Oh the hilarity.
”I would so hit that-‘ opined within hearing distance but after runner has gone by enough so that they probably won’t stop and give you a bollocking for being a bad mannered wally. Usually uttered by gormless looking youth with acne who wouldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a banjo.
‘You can run me down any time!’ Buddy if you know how close you are to what I am currently thinking…
And on and on and on. Now I can ignore the quips and I run mostly with head phones which deters all but the most determined of muppet, and while annoying, the public comment is mostly water off this duck’s back. I would prefer if men kept their yaps shut, but I realise the world is not made up rainbows and sparkly butterflies.
There runs the risk however that catcalls can escalate. One friend of mine running in the Phoenix Park one Saturday morning was barked at (no really) by a car of youths, and then because she resolutely ignored the mutts was hit twice with water balloons. Had she laughed in a good-natured way at their initial woofing, perhaps charmed them with a little wave, they might very well have held their cannon fire, but in proving she was an uppity humourless bitch she deserved a soaking.
Think I’m wrong?
A discussion of this recently on a different forum brought out the apologists in droves.
‘Women should be glad they’re still hawt enough to attract attention.’
‘Get over it, it’s harmless fun. Feminazis RUIN everything.’
‘It will get to the point men will be afraid to say ANYTHING to a member of the opposite sex.’
‘Women do it too!’
‘I like compliments! You need to get over it.’
‘What if the guy was good-looking, bet you wouldn’t mind then.’
And so on.
And perhaps I am the weirdo who rather likes going about their day not having to act on demand and smile real purdy when told to, perhaps I think actual respectful behaviour is NOT bellowing like a lost calf out the window of a moving vehicle.
Or perhaps I should not have to defend my reaction, since my reaction is a response to an action I did not invite in the first place.
And while I am on the subject of reactions, there is an increasing interwebular group who pick up their misogynist pom-poms wherever a woman complains about ‘harmless’ male behaviour. Instead of stepping out of their shoes and into ours, they snap and snarl anonymously, like keyboard ninjas, draggin’ out the canards, humourless and persecuted. They will attempt to close you down when you vocally hold your hand up and say ‘you know what, this bugs me and I wish you would just stop doing it.’ It seems that when you express displeasure about certain behaviours you are riding into battle on a high horse and need to be yanked down as quickly as possible, the girth sliced quickly and cleanly.
To this I say step up. Play the ball, not the player. I am not a humourless man-hatin’ nazi of any stripe. I expect to be treated with the dignity I afford everyone else as I go about my day.
Ladies, the floor is open, if there is something you would like to say on this subject I am all ears.