Sexual intimidation or abuse is not okay and should never be tolerated. It may seem like it, but I am in no way defending this behavior.
This being said, as a privileged male, I have a word or two to say for us, privileged males.
It’s such a cliché, isn’t it: A burly worker in a fluorescent vest and under a yellow helmet, tossing some comment at a passing girl or woman who may or may not show any amount of skin in the way she is dressed. His colleagues chuckle and offer a contribution, and they all go back to work. Behavior as old as humanity itself, it seems.
It makes you wonder why. Objectively, but even more, subjectively, as the woman being harassed for the third time today, sick to death of the humiliation, the struggle for her presence to mean something beyond her appearance.
If you ask the workers, you will be given faulty reasoning: She would miss it if they would stop, they mean nothing by it, she secretly likes it, everyone does it. They put the blame on her or others, they even have terms for the purpose. Anything to falsely prove that their actions have no actual consequence.
As a worker in a fluorescent vest, scolded that he forgot his helmet again, I too have shouted and whistled at women. I don’t anymore, because it came to my attention what a destructive act it is, but I still tend to.
When I’m working especially, but basically at any given time, I have the strong urge to harass women on the street, on the work floor or in private situations. Strangers and friends alike, I don’t care. As an ass man I luckily don’t get caught staring much, but trust me when I say that I have probably ogled you impudently, and kept from commenting on what I see- at least to you. And trust me again, I am honestly, truly sorry but I will likely do it again.
So why, then? I know plenty of women who size up men too, like a butcher sizes up meat, but they don’t feel the need to call out or let their urges be known.
But I do.
This will seem hypocrite, but I, and we misogynists, have feelings too. Strong feelings, in fact, that almost force us to act by them. Like an adrenalin rush, like a fight-or-flight reaction, the spike is sudden and violent, and according behavior must follow.
It is especially notable at work, where I am pushing cases, lifting and tipping them into trucks with teams of 5 or 6, pulling ropes, and kicking shit into place. Testosterone flows freely and makes me feel awesome, like a manly man doing manly things.
And then a girl walks by, a fragile, small, cute little thing, completely oblivious of my manliness, or my muscles, or the supercool shit I just did. So I shout, so they would notice me. So they would learn about my existence, about my life, and how manly it is. I want her to turn her head and see me, and confirm my presence. I need her to reward me for my hard labor, confirm that I did a good job.
It’s a matter of acknowledgement. Of wanting to be understood in our simple ways. When we shout, we scream.
And I call and compliment her like an ape would. And the things that I say are an extent of the hormones freed by my activities.
Even now that I’ve stopped addressing them directly, I will elbow my colleague and say, “She’ll regret putting on that skirt when I’m done with her.” And we chuckle and continue working, leaving the dream behind us that we are entitled to say or do such things. Leaving it- for now. Until the next sighting of someone who would love for this bullshit to end.
It’s amazing, and important to know for an outsider, how strong these feelings really are. I like to compare it to spotting a koala bear on the street: Your response would be strong and immediate but somehow, there are rules in place that forbid you to stare, or talk to or about this koala. You cannot approach it or mention it to your friends. And for the love of god, don’t you dare touch it.
A stupid metaphor? Yes very.
But it adds up. The urge towards casual sexism is immensely strong and often, when you’re with friends or colleagues, catches you off guard. Getting over it takes a lot of practice and a deep conviction that it is necessary to do so. One that is easily forgotten because for us, we privileged, strong, manly men, it doesn’t make a lick of difference.
Or perhaps it does- I’m pretty sure that men who effectively stop objectifying women get laid less frequently. I imagine you can understand just how strong this aforementioned conviction must be.
But things are changing. Slowly, and over the course of many generations. Progress might seem frustratingly slow for us, but considered within the history of mankind, a revolution is taking place, where we turn away from our primal heritage and transcend into a new understanding, a new way, a new foundation for the human race to explore our future.
Eventually, they will be left behind, and the world will be a better place without them. Without us, the privileged.