Today I am addressing an article titled: Woman Thanks Man For Slut Shaming Her And It Makes Total Sense.
First of all, the woman was not thanking the man for slut-shaming her. He noticed other men in the area behaving in a predatory way, noticed she was completely unaware, and chose to go out of his way to warn her about the potential danger she was in. Good move, bro. You a good guy. That’s what he was being thanked for. The other thing he did, however, was blame their behavior on her yoga pants.
She chose to ignore the slut-shaming aspect, thank him for the warning, and leave the area – a perfectly reasonable and sensible reaction by all accounts. What is not reasonable or sensible is the way this article tells the story. The man did two distinct deeds that day, one of them good and one of them sexist. The article twists the narrative to make it look like the two deeds were one and the same, encouraging readers to think that it’s sometimes a good thing to be sexist. It’s not.
This is why we need to strive for more nuance in journalism. You can be a good person (as this guy probably is) and still be sexist. The two are not mutually exclusive, and we need to stop treating them like they are if we ever want to deal with systemic sexism.
The world isn’t split into good people and death eaters.
Of course, you won’t get nuance from Chicks on the Right because they don’t want to be part of the solution to systemic sexism. They want to deny it’s existence altogether, presumably because the people who run this publication directly benefit from sexism and would lose support and power if sexism were successfully dismantled. This article wasn’t singing praises to the man’s good deed, it was using the story to push a narrative that reinforces one of the most damaging aspects of patriarchy. Here’s what the article was really communicating:
Don’t be in public spaces. They don’t belong to you. If you have to be in a public space, make yourself as invisible as possible, or else. You know what? Maybe just stop existing. That’s probably the most sensible way to deal with this problem. And if something does happen to you, it’s definitely all your fault.
What’s so damaging about this is how pervasive it is – it seeps into every single aspect of every single woman’s life, and no woman is free, equal, or even safe while it continues to dominate discourses about public safety and personal responsibility. I really hate having to be paranoid and afraid all the time, just because I was born with female anatomy. Why do I have to look out for my own behavior and for every man on the street? Why can’t men take some responsibility for themselves? Why is it always, always, my job? There’s a certain irony in claiming that you can’t change others’ behavior, only your own, in relation to a story that aims to reinforce the idea that women are responsible for the way men behave.
The guy deserved thanks for looking out for her safety (if someone warned me about predatory behavior I hadn’t noticed, I’d be thankful), and I can understand just thanking him and continuing with your day without addressing the sexism (it doesn’t seem like a worthy hill to die on, and he was trying to help). However, there’s no need to assume that she was at fault for being unsafe and it’s a bit saddening that she’s internalized that narrative and the guilt that comes with it.
Criminals cause crimes, not victims. Her clothing had nothing to do with their pervy behavior. I’ve been sexually harassed and catcalled in all manner of attire, from tight dresses, to t-shirt and jeans, to full winter gear in all its bulky and form-hiding glory, to fucking pyjamas.
I’ve been catcalled while dressed like this. Really. For real.
If men such as the pervs in this story think there’s a vagina hiding under the clothes, they will harass or catcall. It was nothing to do with her yoga pants. She would have received the same attention if she had been wearing sweat pants and a hoodie. By suggesting her yoga pants were the reason for the men’s behavior, this article perpetrates dangerous misinformation about what sexual violence is, and why it happens. It’s got nothing to do with sexual desire, and everything to do with power and control. Her yoga pants were not the problem.
I understand that this is the world we live in, but I refuse to accept it. Because if we accept it and bow to it, then it’s never going to change. We CAN change others’ behavior, by making it known that their bad behavior is unacceptable and expecting better of them. Jumping down that guy’s throat would not have made things better, and I won’t criticize how she reacted. I probably would have done the same. However, writing off the pervy behavior as logical and expected, and internalizing guilt about being dressed the wrong way (or, you know, existing), is actively reinforcing an unacceptable status quo. We are capable of greater things, and I’d personally like to be part of the movement to achieve them.