The Invisible Woman

A good while ago I read this post about the nature of harrassment and patriarchy, and since then have been sitting on the following post. I’m reluctant to make this post, really, because I think it will just be shouted down because I don’t “really understand”.

So, first off, I agree with everything that is said in the above article, I can see it, but I cannot think of a way to stop it. That we should feel less than we are, and less than other people, because we’re not the ones being chased/harrassed is really fucked up and, I think, a really tough habit to break. Jealousy is in our natures, but it’s picking up what makes us jealous in this case that is saddening.

Now comes the bit where I say silly things.

As a 22 year old, heterosexual, probably quite normal looking, dressing, sounding etc woman, this post assumes that I have been harrassed. Whereas I consider myself to be one of the aforementioned invisible women. I can count on one finger the number of times I have been propositioned by a stranger – and then I have to say that I did not find it creepy. This is probably entirely due to the fact that I was in Waterloo Station at about four o’clock in the afternoon, it was broad daylight, I was surrounded by people and I was saying no with a smile. It didn’t feel oppressive. What’s more, I left with my wallet, phone and clothing intact. So was that harrassment? I think not. It was unsolicited, he was determined, but at no point was I pressured into anything I didn’t want to do. I felt concerned, I’ll admit, but ultimately comfortable.

Which has then led me to consider why this is. See, I still have the view that it’s kind of courageous to go up to a stranger and compliment them – but then I do mean compliment. I once saw a guy approach a totally random woman eating lunch with her family, tell her she had a beautiful smile and ask if he could buy her a drink one evening. They exchanged numbers. Was that harrassment? Well, it could have been – but she thought it was flattering and he was happy to take no for an answer.

Perhaps it’s that which makes the difference. If you, the potential harrasser, are satisfied with ‘no’ as the ultimate response, and give the potential harrassee a choice – you’re doing ok? If you see the object of your propositioning as fair game, or that they should feel like you do, or that they should feel obliged to appease you, you’re doing it wrong? The more I think about this, the more a minefield it becomes!

However, back to the point. I’m still, therefore, an invisible woman. No-one has ‘harrassed’ me in the way that this article suggests – or at least I’ve never felt harrassed. And on the basis of the above article, I should have been. Am I just lucky? Unlucky? Should all women be treated like me – unapproached but happy? Why am I treated like this – am I unappealing, repulsive, intimidating, or just not as attractive as the others? I’m not sure I care about that, but I’m still not sure how this article should make me feel. Obviously, I agree that it’s crap to feel pressured as a result of not being sexually propositioned, but to assume that everyone in my position has been and then knowing that I have not…what then? This by no means undermines my claims to feminism, or equality, or not treating other people like crap because you feel they should stand for it… but it is a little confusing.

So I’m going to make this post without publicity but with comments on, in the hope that someone who can still be bothered to read will pick some salient points from my ramblings and help me to work out what the point of this is?

3 thoughts on “The Invisible Woman

  1. As someone from the other side of the situation, I also find it pretty confusing. I don’t think anyone should be harassed. Everyone should be happy too. I’m not sure about being unapproached though. I can see some sense to the idea that someone wandering about doing their thing, shouldn’t have to put up with random people constantly interrupting their life. But on the other hand, surely people have to meet new people some how and if it happens to be whilst shopping at their local Tescos, that doesn’t make it bad and wrong?

    The thing is though, is that we men have been given the impression that approaching women, even with the most benign of intentions, is harassment. I think this is mostly a self-fulling thing though. The vocal minority of guys that approach women, do so in a harassing kind of manner. And only a vocal minority of women who complain about such behaviour. Hence everyone believes that men approach women only for bad reasons and you get the thing you’re post references about woman who aren’t harassed as being un-women.

    So I think that you shouldn’t (be made to) feel like you’re not a whole woman for not being harassed. I think what the world needs is a switch so that the bad kind of approaching is stamped out and the good kind is allowed to flourish again. Cos I imagine you’d get a some of the latter if it were allowed.

    • “surely people have to meet new people some how and if it happens to be whilst shopping at their local Tescos, that doesn’t make it bad and wrong?”
      That’s pretty much exactly how I feel – I just find it hard to find a place to draw the line between ‘potential harasser’ and ‘potential friend’. Not in real life, that is, but considering this theory. In real life I think/hope I’m actually quite nice if you talk to me, the fact that I rarely get spoken to is by the by.

      I think it’s a real shame that it’s those who shout loudest who end up setting the precedents here, because as you say there are minorities on either side and they’re making victims/harassers out of us. I can see that as a society we shy away from or are openly hostile towards strangers talking to us – but they very rarely want to actually harass us, they just want to talk as much as we do. If we were taught patience and politeness instead of wariness and suspicion I think that good kind of talking to strangers to flourish again.

      (Also, can I say thanks for bothering to read this?! And making some sense of it…)

  2. Pingback: Does ‘No’ need a new entry in the Oxford English Dictionary? « Post-grad Panopticon

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