Yeah, Not So Nice and Complimentary, Is It? #DudesGreetingDudes Hashtag Unmasks Catcalls

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.

Screen shot of a tweet from Elon James White. Tweet says, "You see a dude looking all hard & shit. Roll up on him like "Aye yo, smile, son. Damn." BRING SUNSHINE TO HIS DAY. #dudesgreetingdudes."
Elon James White started the hashtag after getting into a Twitter discussion about street harassment. “I’m surprised women don’t just tweet “go fuck yourself” every hour on the hour. It would be a really reasonable response to this bullshit,” he tweeted. Shannon Miller suggested, “Since there’s such a wealth of these ‘nice men’ who just want conversation, why can’t they just strike up one with each other?” Elon took her suggestion and ran with it, birthing the #DudesGreetingDudes hashtag.

Screenshot of a tweet from Elon James White. Text reads, "Dudes. If you feel society has lost it's decency, let's bring it back. Let's start the #DudesGreetingDudes movement! Say hi to each other!"
There’s absolutely no better way to prove that catcalling and street harassment aren’t about merely saying hello or complimenting people like telling dudes to do it to other dudes.

Image shows profile of a cat looking at something off-camera. Caption says, "Excuse me, but... WTF?"

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:

Screenshot of a tweet by Alyson Miers. Text reads, "If #DudesGreetingDudes elicits homophobic anxiety, then cat-calling behavior is clearly not JUST friendly."
Another tweet by Alyson reads, "If cat-calling were strictly non-sexual, pro-social behavior, then homophobia wouldn't even be a factor in discussion. #DudesGreetingDudes"
And in case that wasn’t exquisitely clear, Elizabeth Plank explains further,

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.

Image shows a perplexed dude in the middle of a group of partiers. Caption says, "It's called a cat call because it's as effective as trying to call a cat and get its attention."

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Yeah, Not So Nice and Complimentary, Is It? #DudesGreetingDudes Hashtag Unmasks Catcalls
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11 thoughts on “Yeah, Not So Nice and Complimentary, Is It? #DudesGreetingDudes Hashtag Unmasks Catcalls

  1. rq
    1

    But they’re just compliments! Why would dudes have trouble complimenting other dudes??? I don’t understand, men complain about getting less attention, then when they finally get it, it freaks them out? What’s wrong?????
    And guys are totally rockin’ at reading women’s body language!
    * Some snark may have been applied in the above sentences.

    I love these takedowns. Thanks for this summary and your take on it, Dana! Awesome as always.

  2. 2

    Warning. I cannot make the spacing between paragraphs work tonight. Sorry about that!

    “…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.”

    YES! Exactly this!

    I’m so beyond tired of having random me telling me I’m a bitch when I don’t stop to talk to them, or having them telling me to smile all the damn time.

    I’ve even had a number of total strangers – mostly male, of couse, but in all fairness some women too – tell me to stop bawling ’cause life can’t be that bad!  Really asshole?  Do you truly think you know that whatever caused me to break down and sob in public is some trivial matter like a broken finger nail?

    When have you ever heard a women walk up to a man, or even shout across the street to another man saying, “Hey, man, put a smile on your face.  It wouldn’t kill ya!”

    Or (again stranger male to another male), “Just look at the expression on your face, you’re an asshole!”

    Or scream at another male to stop crying and snivelling because whatever the problem is, it can’t be that bad.

    Grrrr.  It’s like most of one half of our species hasn’t evolved socially at all!

  3. 4

    And guys are totally rockin’ at reading women’s body language!

    Yes, us women must be doing body language wrong. After all, men totally manage to read other men: When they consider initiating contact with another guy, they try to make eye contact first and check whether the interaction would be un-welcome now. And then talk, like, face to face instead of shouting something at the other man’s ass once he’s walked past.

  4. 5

    Following the buzzfeed link, I came across this additional article about a brave woman who confronts her harassers and films their reactions. My favorite quote: “Women are put on this earth to satisfy a man, so if she feels offended, she shouldn’t have [ever] been born.”

    Yeah. That’s all about just saying hi. And I’m a trick goldfish.

  5. 7

    There have been a handful of times in my life when I’ve complimented a guy in a non LGBT social sphere. It’s usually been while bartending, and it’s almost always been “that’s a cool hat” or “where did you get that awesome shirt”. I’ve never gotten a rude response from any of them, but the context is completely different than street harassment. These are people sitting down enjoying a drink or eating, and they’re patronizing the establishment I work at. Also, I’ve already interacted with them as an employee of the place. I’d be way wary of approaching some dude on the street with the same compliments, but for some reason the rare times I’ve said something to a woman (I don’t recall engaging in street harassment, though I can’t say I’ve NOT done it bc culturally, we men are often oblivious to the shit we do, and I was very oblivious in the past), I felt comfortable doing so. I think that’s why the following resonates:

    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.

  6. 10

    These are people sitting down enjoying a drink or eating, and they’re patronizing the establishment I work at. Also, I’ve already interacted with them as an employee of the place.

    Yes, exactly. I get spontaneous hugs from female bar staff all the time, but that is because, 1. When I first meet them I treat them in a friendly but professional manner, 2. As I see them over time, I try very hard to remember their names and anything they might have volunteered about their lives outside of work, and 3. I NEVER assume they owe me anything, except good professional service.
    And I sure as heck wouldn’t even think to try bugging someone I just happened to be passing in the street.

  7. 11

    Remember when super dudebro Steve Santagati said that every time he walk past somebody that DIDN’T complimented him on his looks, he would call THAT abuse? This would be a great time to stop the abuse and greet the hell out of him.

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