This is one of the most hilarious consciousness-raising exercises I’ve seen in a while. One of the reasons I love Twitter is because it’s the perfect medium for this sort of thing. Sometimes, like with the #iftheygunnedmedown hashtag, it’s heartbreaking and intense. Other times, like with #DudesGreetingDudes, it’s pointed and satirical.
Like Amanda Marcotte said, if it was all intended just to be “nice,” men would stop once they realized the majority of women don’t think what they’re doing is nice at all.
The point was made extremely clear: Men aren’t “just” saying hi. They are being extremely selective at who they say hi to and it’s based primarily on who they think owes them attention. If, in fact, we actually lived in a culture where everyone was chattering at strangers all day, it would be miserable, especially in pedestrian-heavy cities like New York. Only women have to put up with this bullshit. That is why it is sexist, even if you take the weird sexual bullshit out of the equation.
And again, if you were just saying hi, the fact that your targets don’t like it would cause you to reconsider your behavior. If you’re trying to be nice to people, the first rule is to do things they like instead of constantly badger them with behaviors they have indicated they don’t like.
You can see that these so-called compliments aren’t complimentary at all by the fact that straight white dudes, seeing them aimed at their own precious selves, suddenly feel like it’s all homophobic. Nope. Alyson Miers explains:
To be clear, this is not about men hitting on men, a subject with deeply-ingrained stigmas of its own. The #DudesGreetingDudes hashtag was designed to highlight why exactly its disingenuous for apologists to argue that a catcall is somehow a normal form of discourse between two strangers, and not a specific form of harassment designed to bolster a gendered power hierarchy.
And dude, that discomfort you’re feeling? Not a patch on what women feel every day as they try to navigate public spaces. So think about it. If you’re this uncomfortable thinking of some random dude coming up to you and complimenting you on how those jeans really show off your ass and thighs, hey, do you work out, bro? – don’t you think, maybe-possibly, a lot of women may be feeling just as uncomfortable? Think maybe that means you shouldn’t invade their space, demand their attention, even if all you want to do is tell them they look nice?
Feeling squirmy because some random stranger dude joked about demanding you have a burger with him because you look American? Think of how a woman of color feels when you approach her on the street and suggest you go out for Chinese because lol she’s Chinese.
That’s the point of this hashtag, straight white men. Maybe you really do think those are nice jeans, maybe you really would just like to talk to an interesting-looking person about their culture or your shared interests or whatever, but if you wouldn’t want some guy on the street to ask you to compliment your clothing or ask you to do stuff with them, now you know how the vast majority of women feel. Congratulations! Put your new insight to good use.
And if you’re wondering why, if there’s nothing sexual about it, you may still feel uncomfortable being a dude talking to a dude, check out what Miri Mogilevsky has to say about it. A lot of it’s to do with how different genders are socialized in this culture. But there’s some other, fundamental stuff going on:
Men who approach women in this way may or may not be consciously aware of that gendered difference. It may be simple social learning—throughout the course of their lives, women have tended to pay attention to them in this way and other men haven’t, so they’ve learned to approach women and not men. 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.
So here’s another golden opportunity to put yourself in women’s headspaces. Think back to a time when you said something offhand to some big dude, and he gave you a look that made you suddenly worry you were about to get the snot beaten out of you. Remember that fear? Remember that uncertainty? Yep. Women feel that around men all the time.
Does this mean you’ll never ever be able to strike up a conversation with a female stranger? Nope! There are social settings where doing so is totally appropriate. Say we’re standing in line together waiting to see a show or meet an author, and I look your way and smile. You can say something like, “This is exciting, huh?” And if I say, “Yeah, it is!” we might even get to talking enthusiastically about our shared interest. Wow, right? (If I give you a death-glare, though, go talk to someone else and assess what about you may have set off the ZOMG CREEP alarm.)
Maybe you can ponder other appropriate settings. But start with three simple rules:
- When in doubt, STFU
- Don’t bother women who are walking or taking public transit, especially not when they’re studiously ignoring you.
- If a woman tells you to fuck off, then off you should fuck. Graciously. (Hell, if you’re All That Plus The Potato Chips, fucking off when told to do so might just change her opinion of you, dude.)
And I think the #DudesGreetingDudes hashtag has taught us the Golden Rule of Male/Female Stranger Interaction: if you wouldn’t do it to a strange dude, definitely don’t do it to a strange woman.