GENDER AND SEXUALITY: This is not okay.

It frustrates me that I need to do this.  Really, it does.  But, as is painfully common throughout history, my hand has been forced by some remarkable bastard.

Okay, guys.  This is not okay.  The whole post is worth reading, but most specifically, I am referring to the transcript.  In this, the age of feminism, I sometimes here people denying that sexism and sexual objectification are still a thing.  Many men, and even some women, seem to be under the impression that sexism is entirely “in the past,” from a time when women couldn’t vote or hold property (the same way racism totally doesn’t exist anymore, because I can’t own a black person).  Well, that’s not the case.  Let’s take a look at all the wrongness going on in this young woman’s encounter with this magnificent specimen of a miscreant.

Assumed familiarity

The troublesome centerpiece of this episode opens his interaction with our protagonist by walking up while muttering to himself that she is a beautiful redhead, and then proceeds to tell her that her hair is gorgeous.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with complimenting people, in my opinion.  That said, there is a right way to go about it.  Maybe one might want to open with “excuse me,” or that old favorite, “hello.”  After you have greeted the person you wish to compliment, then you may tactfully make your remark.  Ideally, this encounter would have gone “Hello.  Sorry to bother you, I just wanted to say that I think your hair looks very nice,” at which time this man should have smiled and walked away.

That’s not went down, though.  Instead, this living, breathing MadTV character foregoes greetings and pleasantries entirely and dives straight into familiar conversation.  Immediately after his eloquent opening, he invites this total stranger whom he has met on an El platform late at night out on a date.  Then he gives her his number, unprovoked and despite her visible disinterest, and later asks after the sexual preferences of this young woman.

Not taking “no” for an answer

You will notice that our protagonist does not show any interest in conversing with the man who is accosting her.  She only acknowledges him after he has directly addressed her, and even then with a one word reply, delivered without enthusiasm.  While the words “I do not want to speak with you, please go away” were not uttered (at this point), the feelings of our protagonist were crystal clear:  She was uninterested.  Since she didn’t (and doesn’t) owe this stranger even that amount of attention, this should have been his cue to go away.  But instead of leaving, he just presses ahead, at which point the protagonist outright says “no, thank you,” both to the spontaneous date proposal and the exchange of phone numbers.

You know how people say “oh, harassment isn’t real!  If women don’t want to talk to people, they should say something!”  This is why that’s bullshit.  Here is a woman who, from the onset, he had no reason to expect attention from, whom he continued to pester even after she repeatedly told him that no, she was not interested.  That is not “flirting,” or “meeting new people.”  That is harassment.


When the protagonist of our story straight up confronts the strange man talking at her on the platform about his rather off-putting attempt to pick her up, he outright denies that that was his intention.  Never mind that he walked up to her, told her he thought her hair was gorgeous, offered to take her out to a bar or restaurant, and tried to GIVE HER HIS NUMBER.  So, to summarize, he said to this woman that it was ridiculous of her to suggest he was trying to pick her up, despite it being obvious that he was, in fact, trying to pick her up.  Proceeding off from there,  he attributes this impression to overexposure to feminism, claiming that she needs to “get all that out of [her] mind.”

After scoffing at the idea that he was trying to pick a young woman up, and then calling the very idea of such a thing preposterous, this rude fellow has the nerve to “mansplain” that he, in fact, is the one who is the oppressed party in this scenario.  Once he has established that it is he, and not the protagonist, who is suffering, he asks if she is a lesbian, since that is apparently the only explanation for her disinterest in speaking with him.

This all goes beyond dismissive.  This is downright patronizing and offensive.  Throughout the entire exchange, this man tries to tell the narrator that the reality she is experiencing is, in fact, just a trick of the mind, and that she should just let him dictate what is and is not real.  What this is is a form of gaslighting, and it is not okay.

There’s plenty of other things wrong going on here, mind you.  The men on the train itself, the old man she encountered, and the handsy police officers, for instance.  Also, there is the matter of the irksome fellow in question simultaneously denying having victimized the narrator and insisting that he, in fact, is the real victim in the scenario.  However, the things I mentioned above are the three main offenses, in my opinion.  When someone is denying that sexism and/or patriarchy exist, just think back to this incident, and the myriad of similar incidents that happen every day.

4 Responses to “GENDER AND SEXUALITY: This is not okay.”

    • November 29, 2012 at 10:27 pm

      Thank you! While not a direct parallel, I hope this will serve to illustrate to people what constitutes harassment and overstepping boundaries, so that people don’t equate anti-harassment stances with a ban on all cross-gender interaction.

  1. December 2, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Good piece.
    A question: where does “gaslighting” come from.

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