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But Some Woman Called Me a Creep Once! Wah!

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, September 7, 2012 16:35 EDT
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My thread below on harassment, as usually happens with these things, has been hijacked by the WHAT ABOUT THE MENZ idiots, issuing their usual complaint when women talk about harassment: But some women are really mean when they shoot you down when you come on to them!  This derailing tactic is the #1 favorite to hijack discussions about harassment, and it’s a bit confusing why.

After all, let’s entertain for a moment this complaint about the legions of bitches roaming the earth, waiting for men to be nice to them so they can yell at them. Let’s say it’s true that this happens.

So what? What does that have to do with harassment?

Nothing is what. Even if there are all these women roaming around, eagerly looking for chances to call men “creeps” for no reason whatsoever, that has nothing to do with the acceptability of harassment. That in no way negates a woman’s right not to be bothered by someone she doesn’t want to talk to. It in no way justifies cat-calling. It literally has nothing to do with the subject of harassment, nor does it have anything to do with harassment policies, which are about making sure a woman has recourse if a man won’t leave her alone. Even if every woman out there is a big ball of meanie who tells guys to “fuck off” the second they say “hi”, that doesn’t mean that a policy preventing those guys from persisting is wrong.

So the only other explanation that I can think of for why “but some women are so mean when they reject you!” to be the first thing that these guys go to when the topic of harassment is this: They are men who like harassing women, and when the subject comes up, they want to defend their behavior by spinning it as not-harassment. They are also looking for a way to blame the victim, by situating the cause for the harassment in her inability to reject him to his exacting standards, instead of blaming the harasser for not taking no for an answer the first three times you said it. “Officer, I had to harass her, because she didn’t spin three times and ask permission from the gods before she told me to leave her alone!”

This comes across loud and clear in the comment thread below. The whiny guys have a very specific script they claim they would like women to follow when rejecting them. First of all, you are to stop doing what you’re doing and give him your full attention. Then you are to hear the entire pitch for why you should give him a chance to get with you. Attempts to speed up the process by signaling before the pitch is complete that the answer is going to be no will be considered “rude” and permission to harass you. “Preemptively” rejecting a man is an absolute no-no, apparently.

You do not need to take a pre-emptive approach with every guy out there simply for fear of a few douchebags. I’d wager most would happily go on their way to the next woman that catches their interest.

Also, rejecting a man politely by using body language will not be accepted as a no, as it was explained that the only acceptable no is to stop what you’re doing and explain to a man not just that you’re not interested, but also you are required to give an explanation. Failure do these things is “rude” and any subsequent harassment is the fault of the victim thereby.

But women, these guys argue, are failing them by not following this exacting script when rejecting advances. Women are yelling at them, with little to no provocation. Women are calling them “creepy”, even though, they claim, they backed off as soon as the woman said no.

I’m afraid that I’m skeptical. I think these guys are getting yelled at by women because they don’t accept a polite no. I believe they are told no politely many times by women, but they persist, until women, in an act of self-preservation, tell them to fuck off. I believe that women call them creepy because they are creepy. Here is why I think this:

I have been female my whole life. (I know! Crazy.) I’ve had lots of female friends. I’ve been hit on a lot and seen them hit on a lot. I tend to be a person who gets out and about a lot. I like parties and clubs and other well-populated public places. I also live in a dense city and use public transportation a lot, which is a surprisingly cruise-y environment. I have seen thousands upon thousands of men hitting on women, far more than I can ever count. And I have never, ever seen a man make an initial advance on a woman who then turned around and lost her shit on him, or called him creepy when he acted in a perfectly respectful way. I’ve never done it. I’ve never seen a friend do it. I’ve never seen a stranger do it. I get out a lot, so if this was common behavior, you’d think I’d have seen it once.

In contrast, I see men harass women multiple times a week. Often, I’m the target.

Here is how nearly every man approaching a woman has looked in all the years and thousands of examples I’ve seen:

Man makes overture to woman. If she’s interested, she responds warmly. But if she isn’t, she tries to reject him as politely as possible. Usually, the first no is non-verbal. She smilles and looks away, trying to say, “Hey, it’s cool, but I’m not interested. No need to waste your time continuing to hit on me.” If she says something, it will be short and non-committal.

Most men actually take this first no and walk away. They were raised in the same culture as women and so understand non-verbal cues perfectly well. They also understand that if she doesn’t find them attractive, compelling her to hear their pitch will not change her mind, but instead make her feel like he’s a creepy bore. They know that a woman’s initial, polite, non-verbal rejection isn’t personal. She’s just not feeling it, and that’s her right. Why would he persist, unless he’s a creep?

Some men, I’m afraid, persist. At this point, a woman tries to double down on her non-verbal signaling of non-interest. This often means tensing the shoulders, looking pointedly away, or even walking away. They often smile, in hopes that the man realizes that it’s not personal, but they just don’t want to be hit on, but they look down. If they are engaged in an activity, such as reading a book, they often start to do it more intensely.

If this doesn’t work, usually—I’d say 99 times out of 100—the woman sends the third non-verbal rejection of pretending that he’s not even speaking to her.

I’m going to take a break to note that usually someone will pop in and make excuses for these men. “They don’t know how to read social signals!” they will claim. This is utter horseshit. Especially by the third non-verbal no, the woman is usually broadcasting “no” so loudly with her body language that the people around her are becoming visibly uncomfortable. Often her friends or even strangers will intervene. I will add that any man who reads social cues well enough to see himself in a post about harassment and show up in comments to rationalize his behavior is socially aware enough to know that he’s been told “no” non-verbally many times. In addition, if these men were really this bad at reading social cues, they would treat other men this way, and they don’t.

The reason that women send non-verbal rejections, by the way, is not because they’re rude, but the opposite. They are trying to be polite.

Long story short:  in conversation, “no” is disfavored, and people try to say no in ways that soften the rejection, often avoiding the word at all.  People issue rejections in softened language, and people hear rejections in softened language, and the notion that anything but a clear “no” can’t be understood is just nonsense.

Directly saying no is perceived, especially from women, as overly harsh. So women try to reject men in a way that allows men to save face. If you respond non-verbally by not addressing his come-on, he has an opportunity to back off without being rejected more overtly. Non-verbal rejections are, according to research, universally understood to be polite.

By the time a woman has to be verbal with a man she’s rejecting, in other words, she’s already in a bad situation. He’s already decided that her previous, non-verbal rejections don’t count. So he’s already throwing up red flags. The chance that he’s going to let you out of this conversation nicely is super low, no matter how “politely” you phrase your rejection.

Nonetheless, women are generally socialized to be placating, and even if they don’t wish to be, they are very afraid of male harassment and violence, so once it gets verbal, she’s still likely to try to find ways to let him save face. (Though some women are so afraid of escalation that they never actually get to this point; I’ve seen men talk to a woman who is pointedly ignoring them for like 10 subway stops before.)  Verbal rejections, therefore, usually tend to be white lies instead of direct rejections. From the research:

Example 3

Mark:    We were wondering if you wanted to come over Saturday, f ’r dinner.

(0.4)

Jane:    Well (.) .hh it’d be great but we promised Carol already.

(Potter and Wetherell, 1987: 86)

Example 4

A:    Uh if you’d care to come and visit a little while this

morning I’ll give you a cup of coffee.

B:     hehh Well that’s awfully sweet of you, I don’t think I can

make it this morning. .hh uhm I’m running an ad in the

paper and-and uh I have to stay near the phone.

(Atkinson and Drew, 1979: 58)

I’ve seen women call guys creeps and yell at them to fuck off. I’ve been that woman. But it was after you gave him multiple opportunities to take a polite no, and he ignored them. At this point, he’s signaled that he’s dangerous, and doesn’t take no for an answer. So you’re going to say it rudely, in hopes that he realizes that you are no longer fucking around and you will defend yourself.

So here is what I think is going on with these guys. They hit on women. Women signal “no” in ways that allow them to save face. But they don’t want to let the woman go. They have a very exacting standard of what no they’ll accept. Indeed, many in comments explained what it has to be before they feel you’ve said no to their liking: Looking them in the eye and giving a lengthy but comforting explanation of why you are rejecting them.

It’s very convenient for them that almost no one actually says no this way, isn’t it! It’s very convenient that they one no they accept as polite is the one no that is most uncomfortable for people to deliver. It’s very convenient indeed that they believe that the well-understood methods of signaling rejection non-verbally don’t “count”, and the only thing that does is a direct, forceful, but of course, politely phrased rejection.

In sum: Internet dudes who are all upset that women “creep-shame”. They creep shame you because you’re a creep. And you should be fucking ashamed. Since the women you lurk over are busy hoping that you’ll finally pick up on the fact that they’re trying to put a book or a shoulder or a purse between them and you, I’m happy to spell it out for you: Step the fuck off. The lady is not obligated to hear your pitch. The answer, and you already knew this from the first time she refused to look you in the eye, is no. Continuing to press your point is harassment. Forcing her to spell it out for you makes you an asshole, and you deserve what you get. No wonder you’re so keen on derailing threads where people are talking about ending harassment. It appears to be your fucking hobby.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
 
 
 
 
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