This originally was posted to my Tumblr. I’ve made slight edits for clarity or grammar where neccessary. I’ve decided to start this as my first post on the blog in dedication to International Anti-Street Harassment Week (March 18th-24th, 2012). – ed.
I was talking on Twitter about how I was approached tonight when standing with my friend at a bus-stop downtown by a creepy guy. A male acquaintance asked me how he was being creepy, outside of “unreciprocated flirting”, with genuine curiousity. This is the difference between myself and men – I don’t need to explain how someone is creepy to other women. They just know. They know that when I say creepy, I don’t need to spell out what that means. Saying that I’m creeped out is enough, you know?
So guys, I’m going to do you a solid and lay down some education.
You don’t realize it but situations you put yourself forth in to a woman can come off really creepy and even scary. You don’t realize this because a woman has to always guess a guy’s motivations if she has no idea who he is and he’s just coming out of nowhere to talk to her. We don’t have the luxury of assuming that he’s harmless. What seems nice to you can be rude, creepy, or even terrifying to someone. This is good advice for anyone, but statistically speaking, women have a lot more problems dealing with this kind of behaviour and I’m also a woman so this is speaking from personal experience. Creepiness in guys makes me go from neutral to “should I be running away right now” mode.
Now, I’m sure you know a lot of women who aren’t scared of men. How scared a woman is of a random man talking to her is not your business, ever. If she is scared of every guy, that’s her choice. Get over it.
1.) Pick a good place.
This means in a situation where socializing usually occurs is a safe bet. People go to places to socialize and be around other people and generally are more pleasant and less threatened by your presence. Bars! Mixers! Coffee houses! Parties! Areas of group activities or events like concerts or sporting matches! These are great places to talk to people.
Places that you find people to be solitary, lost in thought or generally quiet on the lower end of “good.” Museums, libraries and such are examples of these.
Places that you are forced to be out of sheer necessity (especially alone) are not ideal, if downright terrible places to approach women randomly. People don’t like you intruding on a place they HAVE to be or NEED to be at because there’s no way to leave or else they have to stop what they need to be doing to avoid you if they feel uncomfortable. Workplaces that are front-facing (interacting with customers or clientele), bus stops, grocery stores, etc. These are bad because not only is a woman usually alone but there’s nothing that predicates a social interaction AT all. Talking to someone or coming up to them and forcing a non-standard interaction with someone working (unlike asking for help or for product information) or breaking them out of a standard errand or routine is not only rude but can be very off-putting or scary. It says you don’t understand social rules very well or their business being there.
Approaching when she’s all alone somewhere, especially somewhere remote (like a parking garage or sidewalk on an empty street) is a really, really bad idea.
2.) Pick a good time.
If a woman is talking with a friend, try to be polite and don’t interrupt her conversation. That’s just good manners, but this goes moreso when she’s in a non-social place (bars and whatnot are hard to NOT interrupt someone talking, or even hear them talking in the first place).
Time of day is also important. Night-time and not in a social place? I know for me my hackles are raised a lot more. Daytime usually has a lot more people around, alert. It feels safer (which is not necessarily true for everyone) but night time preys on a lot more fears than not in most people. Places are more deserted, things are harder to see. Do the math.
3.) Watch her body language…
Don’t be an idiot and assume that just because she’s not telling you to away and splashing her drink into your face that you’re allowed to stick around and talk. Is she smiling genuinely? Is she not making eye contract with you? Body posture, tone and other non-verbal communication is pretty important. She might even give you her name or phone number (sometimes fake, sometimes not) just to get you to leave.
4.) …and what she says!
If she has some excuse to bail, if she asks you to leave, or isn’t really talking to you extensively, just cut your losses and stop talking to her. Especially if she asks you politely to go. Even if she doesn’t ask you politely, leave her alone.
5.) Have a conversation.
Assuming you’re keeping said rules above in mind, know that leading off with asking for her number, intimating that you’d like to do something sexual or flirty or you like how she looks without any provocation is kinda creepy and weird. It says to the woman that you don’t really care about how she might feel about that, that your motivations are probably not innocent, pure or even safe. Presenting your thoughts so bluntly and up-front, in an unvarnished way, is demeaning and even a bit predatory.
DO NOT EVER WHISTLE, CAT-CALL, USE A PET NAME OR SHOUT AT A WOMAN FROM A CAR, STREET CORNER, PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT. THIS IS HARASSMENT. DO NOT USE SLURS IF YOU DON’T GET A POSITIVE RESPONSE.
6.) Don’t touch her or get up in her space.
Everyone has different levels of comfort when it comes to touching and personal space invading. Anything more than a handshake (unless she’s already giving off signals that she’d rather stick her hand in a blender) or a shoulder tap is over the line. Being closer than a foot or so, especially if you’re in violation of one of the rules above is no-no. The closer a guy gets to me, the more I become alert and ready to bolt. A lot of men are more physically imposing and you don’t even realize it – sometimes you are taller, sometimes you look scary or have more body mass than us. Sometimes you just smell really bad.
7.) Being drunk or high makes you forget said points above.
If your good judgement goes out the window when you’re drunk or high, maybe skip approaching people regularly. Especially if you get angry easily.
8.) Enthusiasm is awesome!
A woman who appears genuinely enthusiastic or welcoming that you are talking is easier to spot than guessing (and guessing wrong). It means she appreciates and welcomes your presence.
9.) Rethink how you view a woman in general.
Realize that some of the reasons I had point out said points above are because a woman is not there and does not exist to be asked out, give you her phone number, or need to hear her opinions on how she looks. You are not entitled to these things. You will not die if you don’t get to do these things. Respect a woman’s right (hell,everyone’s right) to privacy, personal space, and mental peace when out and about.
10.) Don’t tell a woman you don’t know to “smile.”
I’m not here to look happy all the time, fuck off.
Now, I know that some of this is hard and some of you are probably angry that it all sounds so complicated and “does this mean I can’t talk to women EVER? GOD!”
If you can logically work out things in a contextual manner and judge situations for yourself, this should be a piece of cake for you. If someone thinks you are creepy, guess what, deal with it. If being even a tiny bit mindful of what you do is really too hard, then yes, don’t talk to women ever. Please. We thank you in advance.