So here’s a fun story. And a true one. This morning I was walking into work, which I generally do with headphones in, this morning listening to an audio-book of “Game Change,” which is about the 2008 elections (lots of fun, btw), so I was particularly engrossed, and as I’m about to turn into the building, these two dudes point behind me, like I’ve dropped something. So I look behind me, nothing there. I turn back to them and they’re insistently pointing. I take out my earbud and ask what they’re talking about. One of them says they lost their heart right there (where they’re pointing). At which point I roll my eyes and purse my lips, continue walking and feel like an idiot. Has New York taught me nothing??! Haha.
But, really, I’ve had a couple incidents recently of guys really dumbly hitting on me, this being one of them, and the other with a woman I’m doing economic surveys with. We were in Queens last weekend, and this group of guys was taking advantage of our openness to communication because of the survey. And so we talked a bit about why men in Latino countries (particularly, though really this could apply anywhere, in any culture) when they know it won’t get them anything tangible (specifically, they won’t get laid because they call me “Mami” or mention how sexy I am on the street). And I mentioned to her that I thought it was actually way more about intimidation and control. And I realized that’s so true. (I agree with myself!!) but really. True and upsetting. There’s no real advantage to cat-calling, except for the very real boost of feeling momentarily more powerful than the woman you’ve just (hopefully?) intimidated. And this is when I realize that (I know I’m about to walk off a feminist cliff, but bare with me) this is a component of rape culture. Because, as anyone who knows anything about rape knows, rape is about power and control, not sex. Sounding familiar??
I am super disturbed by this, and also frustrated about how to react. If I ignore these dumb people, I feel like maybe that helps a little. If I have any real kind of reaction, that seems to just reinforce the behavior, even if the reaction is rude or mean. Part of me wants to intimidate THEM, but really that, too, isn’t helpful, because the whole thing comes from a place of feeling powerless (I think) themselves, so I actually don’t want to do anything to exacerbate that feeling.
Maybe there’s nothing I can do. Maybe I should talk to them like normal human beings, so that they can see that I, too, am a normal human being. That I can have a conversation and am not merely an object in their game to halt their own insecurity. Anyway. Ranty, yes. But something that’s been on my mind.