“Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.” ― Joseph Conrad
Interaction is a necessity of the human race. It is part of our imperative that, as we drift through the grand expanse of days that shall comprise the possibilities of our lives, we must be social creatures. Isolation kills us in degrees; it starves us out and leaves us, at the least, something distinctly less than what we could potentially be.
Vague much? Perhaps. I have that tendency when I begin to wax philosophical, but I assure you this somewhat ominous introduction has a purpose, and that purpose is to stand up on a soap box and have a little chat about conversing and, through it, a little rumination on morality. Specifically, today I’m reaching out to my fellow males (or the more colloquial: “Bros”).
Humanity is an entity of many masks. We adjust our interactions to the situations at hand, but there is one common behavior in particular that disgusts me. This is for the women of the world; it is addressed to the men.
Let me set the scene: a pretty young woman sashays down the street. The sun catches in her hair, the light becomes her step, and even though she’s decked all to town in a business suit ready to start her day, a sound pulls her hair up. It’s sharp, it’s high, it pierces the ears and sunders something more than ear drums. She catches a glimpse of the man leaning out the window, his grin already fading Cheshire-like into the air.
Scratch that. Perhaps that was a little much. That’s what Hollywood would portray, but in reality it’s a little different.
Let’s try again: A woman walks down the street. It’s not even one of the better days—she’s late for a meeting, or work. She’s thrown on what she could, she’s already cursing up a sailor’s stretch of language any of us familiar with stress should know well. She’s got a dripping coffee cup plastered in one hand and a jacket half-on as the rain does crazy things to her half-done hair. She rounds a corner, and there, a group of men loitering outside a coffee shop catch sight of her. As she swings past them, one of them calls out, apropos nothing: “I like the way you shake, sweet baby doll!”
I think you can see where I’m going with this.
At least, my faith is still strong enough in humanity that I hope so.
Long ago, I came to realize that in regards to this particular event in society, there is a distinct divide in reactions. A lot of men, good, honest, otherwise intelligent men, see absolutely no problem with the scenes I just laid before you. The women from these portrayals, however, rarely feel so numb to them. Disgust, at the least. Anger. And yes, more than a little used.
I write today to tell my fellow men: there’s a reason for that reaction, and I’m going to try, very delicately, to explain why. Which, when you come down to it, is really simple: it’s wrong. She’s not dressed to impress you. She’s not there to make your day. She’s trying to live her life, get somewhere, and it should be common human decency that we not try to trip up that trajectory by pulling their attention off of themselves and onto us.
How would you react if someone you have never seen before walked up, planted themselves in your path, ran their hands through your hair, and began to shout, “You know the way I like it, hun”? At the least, I think we can agree, it’s inconvenient. More likely, we’re going to find it downright creepy, borderline molestation, and mostly, having an extreme desire to get as far away as possible.
Which is my way of saying, more importantly: KNOCK IT OFF.
Because when you make with the whistling, it’s taking all of the above and driving it home in verbal form. You don’t have to touch someone to be abusive.
I have long known I am an oddity in the world of men. I don’t have the same reactions you might see characterized, even glorified on the T.V. The majority of my friends have always been women—perhaps that gives me a unique perspective, perhaps I’m just talking out of my bum—and that has given me a lot of time to sit, and think, and apply that oh-so-human gift of insight into the equation.
We’re All Animals, Stupid
Recently, a dear friend of mine commented that she herself couldn’t understand why she was accepting of such talk in the bedroom, with a boyfriend, but not out on the street, as delivered above. Hormones aside, I can understand the confusion; sometimes the language of the bedroom can get downright bewildering to any objective observer listening in without context. (Cue the Barry White) But context is everything.
As I began this article with: we all wear masks. But perhaps more importantly, or accurately, we are all animals. Men, women, we are all humans, all evolved from centuries of creatures pushing through the acne years and into a productive sort of society. We are the world’s caretakers, but as different as we are from many of the animals around us, we still share certain characteristics.
And man is never more animalistic than when one is at the mercy of a crowd. Sometimes that manifests in wanting to simply be “part” of the crowd—to go with the flow, if you will—but other times, and just as problematically, it emerges in that animal desire to stand out, to get attention, to establish the alpha nature of one’s oh-so-desirous self. Survival of the species is where the urge originates from—but what makes us human is our ability to reason. We know there’s a time and place for everything. You don’t gun a man down in the street. Nor do you strip down and go for a swim in the public swimming pool down the street. People tend to frown on that.
Why? Because it’s improper. It’s crude. It’s downright wrong.
Be proud of who you are, but good lord, you need to have restraint. If everyone ran around doing precisely what they felt like doing all the time, rather than what they knew was right, this world would have a lot more problems than it already does. Impulse vs. Logic. We created laws for a reason—to enforce our own moral structure, and to guarantee the survival and advancement of the self, and through it, society.
On the street, calling out the virtues of a woman’s “sweet ass” is not a virtue. It isn’t done because someone is standing there cherishing a person. Particularly when crowds are afoot, or a group of friends stand at the shouter’s back, this sense of “calling one out” is a simple objectification of assets. It is strutting by another name—showing off, getting noticed.
The problem is: everyone feels attraction. Lust. It happens, it’s a natural part of the human experience, but you know what else? Common decency, commonsense, and in general, basic morality bid you keep it to yourself. I don’t break into a coke machine every time I get a hankering for some caffeine, and you shouldn’t be derogatorily crying out at the sight of some booty just because it crosses your eye.
Why? Because when you holler like that you are not praising the person. You have hurled yourself at a situation knowing full well that if you really were interested, if you thought she really might be interested, and you really wanted to pursue this with some genuine sense of care, you could simply walk up without any of the presumption or pomp, and engage in honest conversation, and try to act like a human with them. You are lending lust a voice and embodying desire in a primal appraisal of a figure.
In the bedroom, or at home, what have you, the whole dynamic of the situation has changed. It is literally just you and them.
It is, above all else, personal. Presumably because these two have liked one another enough, and behaved civilly enough as to reach this point—to find trust and enjoyment enough in one another to share this most personal space together, and to desire one another’s company away from the hustle and bustle of the crowd.
When you can look into another person’s eyes and there is no one else around, and you tell them how beautiful they are, you tell them what about them is sexy or otherwise desirable, you are commenting on THEM. It is not a figure, there—not some non-entity with all the goody-parts to launch a thousand ships (Classical Greek reference for the win!). It is a person, and you have met them on a personal level, and what is being praised is not a piece of human flesh, but a piece of a PERSON; recognition is being paid to that person specifically.
In essence, you are embracing a person and their beauty, and doing your best to show how you cherish it. More importantly: how you cherishes her. The person on the street is hollering out a primal appraisal of a figure, of a feeling; the person in the bedroom is establishing a human desire for an individual.
I’ll be here all week
You may not think it’s much of a difference, but the fact is, there’s a reason the old idiom exists: “There’s a time and place for everything.” How we act and when we do so speaks volumes about our respect not only for those around us, but for the community we live in; it lends insight into the nature of our own characters and affects how the world should and does interact with us in turn.
Remember, you are a person in a society of persons. The woman you just hollered at is a person too, just like you. And I guarantee, what you just did was something a dozen other people had the thought of doing—but the difference between them and you is they had the decency not to act on it. They felt an emotion; their humanity pushed it down.
At the end of the day, I sincerely doubt there’s a woman alive that ever did say, “Gee, I’ve got to get me some of that hot piece of whistler.”
Talk. Interact. Communication is the act of two people coming from common ground.
And if you need a little more to think on, I’m closing with a quote from the great George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” All this whistling, hooting, and carrying on isn’t communication. It’s little more than noise, cluttering up our beautiful air.
- Subjectify Me: 5 Ways to Tell if an Image is Objectifying. (elephantjournal.com)
- How To Spot Objectification In Five Easy Steps (refinery29.com)
- Study: The Objectification of Women Is a Real, Measurable Phenomenon (rileyallison.wordpress.com)
- Having A Vagina Is Way Too Expensive (thoughtcatalog.com)
- The Lost Art of Kindness (thealiciacook.wordpress.com)