My response was: "I guess that I wouldn't consider a single expression of admiration street harrassment. If it was loud, obnoxious, or repeated, then yes, but saying "Hey Babe", once, in a reasonably polite tone, wouldn't offend me, nor would I personally consider it harrassment. Conversely, I have walked by a couple of attractive dykes as I walked into a coffee shop and said, "Hey ladies!", and they smiled back at me. Was that street harrassment? All I meant was to let them both know they were attractive."
The reply was that the reason it's not OK for guys to express admiration, even within the parameters I listed, is basically because the guy is A: male, B: bigger and stronger and C: a construction worker, and that this sort of thing is the most common form of sexual violence.
Frankly, this point of view is more offensive than any guy of any size or occupation saying "Hey Babe!" once in a non-threatening way. Here's why I feel this way:
- My personal sense of power as a woman is not compromised by my gender or my size. To say that I am weaker and therefore need to be handled in a way that is different than if I were bigger or male goes against my idea of feminism and equality. Yes, I am smaller. Yes, I am physically less strong. I am also faster, can be mean under the wrong circumstances, more intelligent than most foes, have had self defense classes, and am not about to live and feel like a victim simply because I am smaller than average and happen to have a vagina rather than a penis.
- If we as women are going to claim that we are equal, deserve equal pay, equal rights, etc, then don't we need to assert our equality by believing and acting as if we are equal? Equality starts right here, in my court, with my identity, actions and expectations. While we're at it, I'm going to really piss people off and say that I have no use for the phenomenon in which women do less work and still demand equal pay. That's not equality and it isn't feminism; it's asking for special treatment based on gender.
- Let me be clear: I am not OK with sexual advances made in an intimidating or threatening manner...but that's not what we're talking about here. I do not consider a whistle or a "Hey Babe" to be intimidating, threatening advances. If my boss did this, then yes, because his position as my boss places him in a power differential. It's not because he's male or because he's bigger, it's because he's my boss and has the power to threaten my job security if I don't comply.
- Stepping in even more politically incorrect shit: let's be honest, we sometimes dress in such a way as to attract attention. Dressing in a sexy manner and then bristling and labeling male interest as sexual violence is stupid and contradictory. Of course it is not OK for a man to grab, grope, harrass (show interest *after* it has been made clear that the woman is NOT interested) etc a woman because of how she is dressed, even if she is walking down the street nude. If a guy expresses admiration and is rebuffed, then it should end there. She's not interested, you got to see a hot chick, leave her alone now, period. I'm dressed in a slightly provacative manner today: spandex bicycle shorts under a short, snug little dress whose hem barely covers the shorts. I felt sexy, wanted to act sexy, so I dressed the part. I got ogled (silently) at the store an hour ago and that was fine. Guess what? I never, ever get ogled or commented on when I wear my work clothes (Carhartt's and T shirt). When I'm working, I'm there to work (pruning berry bushes and landscaping), so I dress for work, not sex appeal. If I am dressing so as to be on display, then I am inviting attention, and I am aware of this fact. If I don't want attention, then I don't dress for it.
- I have been raped and molested and sexually harrassed and taken advantage of. I have experienced real sexual violence often enough to have serious trauma issues from it. It really offends me to hear something like a wolf whistle classed with rape. Doing so waters down the definition of sexual violence and sexual harrassment and detracts from our credibility. It's sort of like the little sister who screams "Johnny hurt me!!!!" and bursts into tears, just because he made a face at her, and sometimes after she made a face at him first. Her parents start ignoring her because she whines over the slightest thing. They are less likely to listen when Johnny does hit her, because she's always squawking. I don't appreciate having the violence that has been done to me minimized by other people because some women draw no distinction between a non-threatening verbal expression of interest and having their ass grabbed.
tire topic makes me very glad that I was not born male. :-(