Friday, November 7, 2014

What's Making Me Happy: November 7

I had surgery last week, a pretty minor outpatient procedure to remove a bunch of varicose veins from my left leg. My surgeon said he could date them precisely to my last pregnancy: thanks, son! Surgery doesn't make people happy very often, but this surgery went smoothly, was relatively painless, and has had a remarkably quick recovery. Best of all, it's only 10 days later and I can already see (in spite of major bruising) that the veins are gone. The surface of my skin is smooth. The achiness aspect is not gone yet, because my leg still hurts a bit from the surgery itself. In another week or two, I assume the pain will be gone. Yay! I only wish I had done this long ago.

That's the private sphere WMMH. From the public sphere, I've another silver-lining thing; a story that doesn't sound good initially, but from which I squeezed a drop of optimism.

By now you all have probably seen the Hollaback video documenting one woman's experience with catcalling in New York City. It went viral, with many many women attesting to how common her experience was. Some men jumped in to express shock and dismay at the constant and scary nature of the harassment, and other men patiently explained to the clueless why it's a problem. But upsettingly, even more men were invested in downplaying or even defending the harassment. With the defensiveness came anger: within moments of joining different conversations on friends' walls, I was called nasty names by creepy guys. Not Strangers On The Internet (we know how they are), but friends of friends.

At some point, assuming I can find the energy, I plan to write a longer piece on my own history with street harassment and assault, and my evolving attitude toward "harmless" catcalling. For now, though, because this is a WMMH, I'm bringing the good news. Which is this: harassment of women is becoming increasingly unacceptable. Defending the behavior also looks pathetic and out of touch, and clever people are pushing back in creative ways. This guy found a way to instantly show all defensive dudes why catcalling is not about a person being friendly to another person. The message is important (and dead funny) but the messenger is also important: He will be taken seriously in a way other messengers may not. If you have a Twitter account, I'd recommend following him and his #dudesgreetingdudes hashtag.

In a related story, read about this movement among young men to end sexual assault, and this story about a community who stood up and said a loud "no" to a man who preaches to other men that the way to pick up women is to abuse and assault them.

People are standing up. Women are increasingly rejecting the status quo, and critically, more men are standing beside them as allies. This makes me happy.

Happy weekend everyone! May you walk down every street in peace.


  1. Surgery on veins always sounds more than minor to me. I'm glad they have it down to an outpatient kind of thing, and glad you feel well.

    I had not seen the Hollaback vid; it's shocking. Elon James White's response is SO perfect: if it's just a friendly gender-neutral greeting why don't men greet other men that way? There does seem to be an ethnic tilt towards non-whites doing the "greetings." Is it partially a cultural thing? Does misogynistic rap music add to the issue?

    1. My surgeon, grocking to my non-squeamishness, even showed me my own veins, before they were chucked. Kewl. (They look like vermicelli. Very tiny.)

      As to the video, you zeroed in on the most contentious bit. The white dudes are underrepresented. Why this is has been hotly debated ... if I do get around to a think piece I will try to represent the views on this. One thing I have not heard is how hip-hop might play in: that is an intriguing angle. My own experience, before I aged out of this, is that the harassers were from highly patriarchal cultures. I was especially harassed in Europe, and the men doing it were white. But the closer to the Mediterranean, the more street harassment seemed acceptable and even mandatory. That's *street* harassment: Ass-grabbing and inappropriate conduct in bars & dance clubs was a whole 'nuther story.

      Hmm. I feel like sociologists ought to step in here, the more I think about it. It's thorny.

  2. Glad your surgery went well. I watched that video and boy I'll bet that girl was sick to death of all those 'compliments' by the end of that day.

    1. Yes. In interviews she said she was more than tired of it, she was actively frightened a few times. It seemed that by not making eye contact or responding (ground rules of the experiment) she became even more of a target. The men responded very angrily, in some cases, to being ignored. But of course, if you engage that can also escalate the situation. When I was physically attacked, it was in response the first time to acknowledging the greeting by nodding back, and the second time to telling the guy to stop talking to me. You just never know when any interaction will turn violent.


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