Sense of humour failures all round with the news that 43% of women have experienced street harassment in the last year, courtesy of a YouGov poll. The report in the Guardian attracted the usual comments (many now redacted) which ran along the lines of “OMG A FLIRTING BAN!!”
If your flirting is being mistaken for street harassment, you’re doing it wrong. Making monkey noises at women, grabbing them, following them, commenting on their bottoms / breasts / legs etc, whistling at them or inviting immediate sexual contact is not flirting. It’s harassment. Flirting is where you speak to someone with their consent and, perhaps, try a compliment once you feel you’ve established sufficient rapport.
It’s surprising (well, okay, not that surprising) how the reaction to women saying they dislike street harassment is so overblown. Anything that suggests that male behaviour should be modified, particularly displays of heterosexual masculinity, is immediately exaggerated and decried as the Horrid Fun Police come to take your toys away.
Here are some lovely Mail headlines along the same lines:
Don’t call passengers ‘babe’ bus drivers are told as firm fears legal action by offended women: Bus company bans drivers from calling or ‘babe’
Dreadful, right? The Horrid Fun Police Feminists! Or not: the article related to one woman asking politely if the bus driver would not call her babe because she doesn’t like it. No fears of legal action, no ban.
Death of the office joke: Britain enacts PC equality law which means ANYONE can sue for ANYTHING that offends them
I’d arrange an office joke wake, but what this actually related to was a law which said that staff can’t get out of sexual or racial harassment cases by saying they were talking to someone else. So if A wants to insult B but doesn’t dare do it to her face, A can’t do it by calling it across the office at C instead. This seems… eminently reasonable.
There are more but I lost the will to search through Mail Fail.
Harassment isn’t a joke. Anti-harassment laws, regulations or even just concerted efforts are not the Feminazi Fun Police stopping you from joking. And the overblown headlines suggesting BANS and DEATHS – well, I thought it was we who were meant to be hysterical?
It’s easy to swallow the message that it’s normal behaviour and only joyless funsucking femifiends would have a problem with it – but it’s not. In public it makes us feel unsafe, and at work it reinforces gender power that should have gone out of fashion in the 1960s.
And anybody who wants to cling to their ‘right’ to make other people feel unsafe and powerless? They’re not heroically defending the status quo from a horde of humourless harridans. They’re being asshats with an ill-placed victim complex.