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So this got posted at Shakesville a couple of days ago: On Harassment and Marking of Visible Womanhood

And it's been gnawing at my brain for a couple of days, because it touches on a squirmy, uncomfortable feeling that I often have, and puts words to it.

I can empathize with other women about getting hit on and feeling uncomfortable about it. I totally grok why that is an uncomfortable thing and try to be supportive about it. But it's not something I have ever experienced myself, even if I've seen my friends being subjected to unwanted male attention.

It's hard to describe in a way that doesn't sound completely awful, so if I seem a little incoherent, that would be why. There's a lot of relief I feel from knowing that I'm probably never going to have some icky drunk guy trying to crawl into my pants. But there is also an awful undertone of, and what the hell is wrong with me, anyway, that goes with it. What am I, chopped liver? Even though I know that if I got hit on like that, I'd be contemplating escape routes like a champ.

How messed up is it, that there's an awful little voice in my brain (and apparently the brains of many other women in my situation) where a lack of harassment also feels like a lack of validation?


Now, I also imagine I've been subject to harassment that some other women probably don't have to deal with. Because I'm a fat lady that dares to leave the house and, you know, exercise and stuff. (And gosh, could I write you a rant and a half about that.) But I seriously doubt those "some other women" would feel that creepy twist of almost-envy about that.

I don't know if anyone truly enjoys feeling invisible. Though in those times when some asshole is leaning out of his car and yelling "Run, fatass!" at me, I kind of think being truly invisible would be preferable.


( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
I get that all the time when I run, too. Only I get a variation of that and instead I get "Run, Forest, Run!" which is annoying as fucking hell and usually involves me giving them the finger.

As for the getting hit on, I seriously get it all the time - but I can understand the envy bit of it from your side. I just look really young (like 12-16 young) so the guys that try to hit on me aren't nice, young, hardworking things that I'd hit like the fist of God if I was even interested in doing so (I'm not, they don't really listen). Instead I get older men in their 30-40's with missing big front teeth who are on their last leg going "oooh, fresh meat". And the men remotely my age are guys who have nothing in common with me and just want, well, a young thing.

So yeah, I get the envy, I know where it's coming from - it's very flattering to be the object of men's notice. And as much as I wouldn't miss the attention, i still find it amusing from time to time. But at the same time, believe me when I say it's nothing to want, especially when it leads to being stalked for a year and a half because Douchebag can't understand the word No.
Jul. 31st, 2011 05:02 am (UTC)
Oh goodness, I know the hitting on by anyone isn't a thing to truly envy, and it doesn't really matter who it comes from. Shit yeah. It's just mostly that it's fucked up and ridiculous that when you've got some awful toothless thing drooling at you, there's probably someone thinking, "Oh god I'm so glad that's not me. But what's wrong with me anyway?"

I don't even think that there's necessarily a feeling of flattery. Just mostly the subconscious question of "if I'm not getting harassed does that mean there is something fundamentally wrong with me as a woman?" If that makes sense. Because goodness knows, being subjected to unwanted attention is anything but flattering.
Jul. 31st, 2011 05:08 am (UTC)
To be honest, I don't think of it as something being wrong. To me, it's more like you're not easy prey. Since I look young and naive, I'm an easy target. Just wow me and I'll jump into your arms!

Or offer me candy, whichever works faster. (I've honestly had someone do that.)

That and you probably look like you could kick their ass. Me? I look like I'll be looking around for the nearest adult figure to save me. :|
Jul. 31st, 2011 05:10 am (UTC)
That's an interesting way to think about it. Brrrr, creepy.

Candy, seriously? Oh god. That's horrific.
Jul. 31st, 2011 05:15 am (UTC)
Yeah, I'm basing this off of what I notice about the guys who hit on me (one guy literally didn't pay attention to me at all until I started to shiver - showing vulnerability - and after that he was talking like crazy and being completely controlling). So I really doubt it's anything to worry about.

And LOL, yes. The guy literally pulled his van to the side of the road to offer me a ride to school because he thought I missed the bus to the elementary school.
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Jul. 31st, 2011 12:22 pm (UTC)
Really excellent article! Thank for linking to it.

Being a fat lady myself, I truly get this. I've even had icky guys hit on me and use the rationale that, "Hey, you should be grateful that I want you because no one else does." Yes, when I was younger a couple of times I heard variants of that. What kind of cretin uses that kind of argument?

But most of the time I'm on your side of it, especially now that I'm an OLD, fat lady.

I could rant on for quite some time, but I won't.
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:21 am (UTC)
Wow, I've never gotten the "you should be grateful" thing, and I'm so glad for it. But I've heard it... it's a horrible situation all around.

I just wish I could find that awful little voice in my brain that whines about being invisible and spork it to death.
Jul. 31st, 2011 02:23 pm (UTC)
I think I've been on both sides of this. I had a few years where I was skinny and got a lot of attention, including one time, on Pearl Street, a man actually grabbed my wrist as I was walking by, to tell me I was "fucking gorgeous." Since then, I've faded into invisibility, or as one person on my flist calls it, "matronly obscurity." And before I was skinny and hot, I was chubby and had lots of acne. And that was when I experienced the WORST sexual harassment: the ironic kind. I got all kinds of disgusting, sarcastic comments about how sexy I was. I got groped and followed around. It was horrible.

This also made me think of an episode of Coupling. It has the same scene, but from two different points of view. It's called, "Remember This." There's a scene from Patrick's point of view where he's talking to people at a party by the appetizers, and someone comments that women are invisible to him if they're not attractive. It comes totally out of the blue and really makes very little sense. Then it shows it from Sally's point of view, and there's another, rather ordinary looking woman in the scene, asking him to pass something to her, getting ignored, etc.
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:23 am (UTC)
I remember that episode. I thought it was very pointed and nicely done.

It really feels like we can't win, sometimes. The harassment is horrible. The begin ignored is much less horrible, but still not fun since it removes acknowledgement that we exist as human beings. Blargh. Then again, getting harassed by creepy dudes isn't exactly validation we're human beings... just that we're noticeable as like pieces of meat. >.<
Jul. 31st, 2011 07:54 pm (UTC)
I have a friend who also lives in Japan. We used to live together in a large city, and now we both live in much smaller cities in relatively rural areas (or I did, before I moved to Sendai). We are both just 5 feet tall, have long brown hair, and I'm a bit skinnier than her. I have gotten a total of three creepy men - one invite into a car, one proposition for "fun times" for money, and one exposed genital, all when I was 20. And she has gotten too many "let's go for a drive" invites to count, numerous offers to be 'friends', and most creepy - this guy who repeatedly grabbed her breast on the street in the middle of the day near her apartment, prompting her to move. Every time I hear another report of a creepy man from her, I simultaneously wonder what it is about how she presents herself that attracts them, and what I'm doing that keeps them away (because I'd like to keep doing it.,).

It's not quite envy, but I do find myself comparing how strangers treat us, and I bet if I had less self-confidence I'd be worrying about why I don't encounter more creeps. I also notice that I used to get hit on a lot, both in America and Japan, when I was 20-21, but it stopped after that. And I have to wonder if it's related to how most people overestimate my age by at least 4 years. (Plus, I guess recently I've been noticeably pregnant, and now carrying an infant, and that's just not harass-worthy.)
Aug. 1st, 2011 05:27 am (UTC)
I imagine now you're getting the "matronly obscurity" that idemandjustice mentioned in her comment above.

I think it's a good point that there's definitely a self-confidence factor. I've got a lot of self-confidence in certain areas, but when it comes to my own appearance, I'm in the awful fat lady space where I just spend all my time feeling like I'm taking up too much room and should apologize for it or something. >.>

I also feel like having never experienced that sort of harassment, there's also a certain experience gap. Where I can try to empathize and imagine myself in the shoes of someone that's getting harassed, but I feel like I also don't get it because I've never personally experienced it too...
Aug. 2nd, 2011 05:11 pm (UTC)
back in highschool/college, i hung out with 2 other girls. we were the charlies angels, "the nice one, the pretty one, the smart one." you can guess who i was. while i don't like being hit on, i also really don't like being told how hot my friends are, and if i can give you their phone number, either. nor how awsum it is that i'm just like a guy, and even look like one too, half the time!

on the other hand, i handle being hit on (on the rare occasion that i do) rather poorly, and usually with violence.
Aug. 2nd, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
Haha, I already knew it was you even though you weren't logged in. You have a very distinctive style. ;)

I've been in the "hey your friend is so hot" position. Gosh, it's wonderful. :P It's right up there with, "Why can't hot girls be smart and fun like you." XD
Aug. 3rd, 2011 06:27 pm (UTC)
yah, i've had a few of those, too. a friend of mine and roger's frequently tells me i'm so much like a guy, that he forgets that i'm a girl. roger usually gives him a funny look.
Aug. 2nd, 2011 05:12 pm (UTC)
dammit, that was me, btw. hadn't realised LJ had logged me out =P
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )

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