Miri Mogilevski helps us to understand why a friendly-seeming, "Have a nice day!" hides patriarchal bias when a man speaks up to an unknown woman on the street.
After that NYC catcalling video went viral online, some men (not all men!) were upset, not because they were trying to defend their right to shout “nice tits” at a random woman, but because even non-sexual comments were being defined as harassment. For instance, Michael Che, co-host of Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update, wrote on Facebook, “I want to apologize to all the women I’ve harassed with statements like ‘hi’ or ‘have a nice day.’”
... street harassment—yes, including the “nice,” non-explicitly sexual kind—is ultimately about asserting male dominance over women, forcing them to give men their time and attention. It wouldn’t make sense for a man to infringe on another man’s mental and physical space in that way.
But I think there’s also a little more going on here, and it has to do with the ways in which men are socialized to view women not only as sexual objects, but as their sole outlet for companionship, support, and affirmation. They’re socialized to view women as caretakers and entertainers, too.
Researchers have noted before that men’s friendships with other men—especially straight, white men’s friendships with other men—tend to lack the sort of intimacy and openness that we generally associate with close friendships.
... I’m not entirely sure that men like Michael Che are being entirely honest—or self-aware—when they claim that these comments are meant just as random acts of kindness. Because if they were, then, like Elon James White astutely pointed out, they’d be doing that stuff for other men, too.
A lot of times when I’ve been harassed in public by men I don’t know, there was nothing directly sexual or romantic about it. Often they did not even compliment my appearance. They just started trying to talk to me.
Of course, in some cases this could’ve merely been a lead-up to a more sexualized sort of attention, but not always. They seemed to expect me to entertain them with conversation. They seemed to want attention, not necessarily sexual gratification or social dominance.
... men ... know that most men, just like themselves, were socialized to ignore this type of thing.
Women, on the other hand, are often socialized to tend to men, entertain them, and grant all of their requests for time and attention.
Men who approach women in this way may or may not be consciously aware of that gendered difference.
A more cynical (but still probably accurate) explanation is that men know quite well that women are taught to indulge them, and so they choose women as the targets of their attempts to make conversation with strangers.
There’s also the rarely-spoken fact that many men are almost as afraid, if not as afraid, of other men as women are. If a man pesters a woman on the street, she is very unlikely to respond with physical violence. Other men are more likely to.
In this way, toxic masculinity—which perpetuates the idea that men should respond to irritation, anger, or offence with physical violence—hurts men, too. But the solution is to work to dismantle toxic masculinity, not to pester those who are less likely to respond with physical violence.
The expectation that women indulge random men’s desire for socialization and affirmation may be slightly less gross than the expectation that women indulge random men’s desire to spew sexual profanity at them, but it stems from the same basic premise—namely, that women must be willing to fulfill men’s desires at all times, whether it’s in the bedroom, in the workplace, in the subway, or on the street. [emphasis mine]
a frame from the video 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman
Not mentioned here: the agression you get when you don't react to those ´friendy´ greetings. One time a man ran after me to ask why I said nothing. Why I was unfriendly. He told me he was a nice man and wanted a nice answer. I said while walking on that I was doing my chores and had no time for every stranger who wanted a chat. He shouted after me that I was unfair - and ugly. Ha!
One time a guy grabbed me while I was out jogging on a trail. He said something like "let's go off into those bushes, keep quiet and it'll be OK".
I started struggling and screaming. After awhile he let me go. I guess he wasn't up for a battle.
I ran away as fast as I could.
He yelled after me, "I could have had you if I'd wanted you".
Fucking male entitlement.
Ugh! I have no words.
Maybe there's also something to that definition of homophobia as projection, as those men's fear of being treated the way they'd like to treat women.
Even the milder aggression of "Why aren't you being friendly?", thrown into stark relief by the double standard -- men not expecting random socializing from other men -- demonstrates a sense of entitlement that has no place in a civilized, supposedly egalitarian society.
I found it eye-opening to read about this! I'll try to keep in mind, if I'm about to say something that seems innocent to a random woman, "would I have said it to another man?"