There’s a cartoon from Robot Hugs that did the rounds recently, about how sexual harassment of women is a real thing, and explaining why it may go unnoticed and how society implicitly condones it. It’s a straightforward and reasonable consideration of the issue, with advice on prevention that no decent human being should find problematic or objectionable. I shared the cartoon on Facebook, as I had seen many of my friends (50+) do with only supportive outcomes. But my experience was different (identities obscured to protect the guilty):
Nicely summarised in this tweet from Bailey, but scarier:
Let’s look at the comments with a bit of context (Haha, probably the word people criticising sexual harassment least want to hear – “context” is a great tool for telling people that they just don’t understand or are being killjoys. Yaaaaaaawn. At least I’m not going to talk about banter. Yeeeesh.)
Anyway, I’m in red. All other commenters are male, and before you ask, no, I’m not critical of all of them. Here goes:
Comment 1 (blue): On the face of it, this looks like a noble sentiment. But it’s falling into the trap of saying that because everyone is capable of being unpleasant to everyone else, that we should ignore cries of sexism because we’ve solved that problem. Which detracts from the very real issue the comic is talking about. Dismissing the problem doesn’t make it go away.
Comment 2 (green): Well, women can be unpleasant to both women and men. It’s unfortunate that some people feel that they have to comment on strangers appearances in public, but this isn’t about “presenting the other side”. The fact remains that street harassment is experienced by women far more frequently than men. And that’s just the cases that are reported.
Comment 3 (red) is me, and I may have overstepped the line a little here. I do believe that Mr Green was harassed, but perhaps I shouldn’t have asked (at least on a Facebook thread) about details. This might have implied that I didn’t believe him, and I’m sorry for that.
Comment 4 (pink) is really easy to dismiss as stupidity and/or wilful ignorance, but just take a look at the comments to any article or post on feminism on the internet, and these attitudes are everywhere. Why is that? Is it a lack of education / experience, or a desire for things to remain as they are? Personally I feel much of it is a misunderstanding of what feminism actually is (i.e. political, economic, and social equality for women and men), rather than a hatred of men. Some of it will be fear of change. This attitude is unacceptable but shouldn’t just be dismissed. Ignoring the disaffected leads to all sorts of problems, and completely fails to address the issue.
Comment 5 (blue): Words fail me at this point.
Comment 6 (orange): A lone voice of sanity. Robot Hugs is indeed excellent, and you should read more of it.