Etiquette for Dummies – 13/8/13

I can’t speak for everyone on this, but if there is one thing that drives me crazy in almost every situation, whether I’m working a reception, waiting tables, or simply walking down the street, it’s hearing any variant on the words “smile pet,” from a total stranger or colleague. It makes my blood boil!!

Yet another such comment today got me thinking about all of the similar things that happen so often, and why they are so very annoying for us girls! So boys- here are my top ten tips for dealing with members of our oh-so-mysterious gender:1. Stop telling us to “Smile!”

The very thing that sparked the idea for this piece. It’s hard to pin down exactly why it’s so bothersome- I guess the issue is that this person, whoever they are, well, what right do they have to expect a smile from me? As nice as it is to smile as you pass someone, I did not “owe” the council workers I passed on the street on my way to a conference in Glasgow a smile. I do not owe the men I pass on campus, or the men standing in my way at the supermarket a smile. I do not owe them anything at all- I don’t know them!!

It may seem pedantic and silly to be so annoyed by this, but it winds me up so much- particularly because I have a chronic case of Bitchy Resting Face. Like many others, whenever I am away with the fairies- which is more often than not- I look grumpy. I am not grumpy. I may be thinking about puppies and kittens and lollipops- but I will still look like I’m contemplating murder. It’s just my face! I can’t help it! When you tell a woman to “smile!” regardless of how much you know about her or about how she is feeling, guys, you are presupposing that you have some sort of authority over her. And that stings.

2. Avoid the creep factor

Example: “All the Better for seeing you, Pet”- or any variation on this phrase. When you come in to my reception and I ask how you are, I am being polite. I am making conversation. I am not asking you to make me feel uncomfortable. In the nicest possible way, if you visit my work, I have to greet you. I am the receptionist. I am paid to talk to you, to make you feel welcome. I am not paid to “make your day better” by being present, young and female, and I am most certainly not paid enough to deal with your unwelcome advances. At best, it’s rude. At worst, it’s uncomfortable, and kind of creepy.

3. Wolf Whistling- Just. Don’t.

It’s been said by many before me, and will be repeated by many after- wolf whistling is not cool. It always makes me wonder what response men expect. Do they think I will jump into their arms screaming “take me now?” (as a side note- I won’t). When I came into a temp job for my first day and was greeted by a group of whistling boys from the workshop, I did not feel welcome- even as a relatively confident young woman, I was intimidated by it. It’s not flattering, it’s not cute.It’s disrespectful, and it makes women like me feel uncomfortable and intimidated- particularly if you are part of a group of men at the time.

4. Keep the Pet Names for your nearest and dearest

Why is it that men are so fond of calling women pet names? Love, honey, pet- and my personal favourite, babe. It makes my skin crawl. The right to call me those sort of names is reserved for my parents, and my partner. Is that so much to ask? Calling a woman you hardly know a pet name is not only overly familiar and inappropriate, in many cases it is also extremely demeaning. As a young woman, it makes me feel inferior to you. That may not be your intention- most of the time I’m sure you are just being friendly- but that’s how it comes across. It’s a respect thing. So please, please- just learn my name.

5. Shouting “Compliments” on the street is not attractive OR flattering

For the basic principle, see wolf whistling. For a typical example, the stereotypical White Van Man. But whether you are in your car, working on a public site, or just walking down the street, the same rules apply. There is another word for this kind of behaviour- street harassment. It’s intimidating, it’s not complimentary, and makes my day worse, not better.

6. Why are you Staring?

Whether it’s the awkward stare as you pass by, the pointed glance, or that full body survey that you guys have become so good at, staring is just weird. For example. I am aware that I possess two legs. They are longer than the average, which is great- it means I have an above average stride, so I guess I can cover more ground than most. Do you know what happens when you leer at them? Nothing. They’re still just legs, for walking. I’m not going to wrap them round your neck just because you like them. So do yourself a favour and keep the staring to a minimum- it makes us feel self-conscious, and it makes you look like a moron.
7. Inappropriate Comments- keep them to yourself!
You know exactly what I mean. That oh-so-risqué comment that’s not quite over the line, but close enough all the same? Just don’t say it! Stop for a moment, and consider this- why are you saying it? Do you genuinely want to complement me, or is it because you are bored, and want to see a reaction? If so, find something else to do- or someone else to bother. I don’t have the patience for it, and even those women who wouldn’t call you out on it generally aren’t impressed. It makes you look corny, not to mention ever so slightly creepy. Especially if I’m half your age. Just give it a rest- please?
8. Space Invaders
I’m sure that if a guy you didn’t know that well insisted on standing overly close to you, you wouldn’t appreciate it. Surprise- neither do we! It’s not like we need a line drawn as to where you can stand- just try to be aware of when you are making someone uncomfortable. Tip: if they are edging away from you, doing their best to ignore you, grimacing, or eying you suspiciously, that means they are uncomfortable.
Being a personal space invader does not automatically make you a predator. But in our culture (see the Schroedinger’s Rapist analogy), refusal to recognise and consent to a woman’s need for personal space means that we define you as a threat. I’m sure that in reality you’re not- so act like it.
9. Personal Questions
“A pretty young thing like you must have a boyfriend, no?”- No. Because I’m a man-hating, misogyny -busting maniac. When you ask this sort of question, you are making two assumptions; a) I like men, and b) I want a boyfriend . This one annoys me as much when it comes from family members as strangers. It makes the assumption that having a man is the be all and end all of a young girl’s life. I’m much prouder of my academic and career-related achievements, or about the charity and volunteer work I have done, or my progress in the political field. Ask us about those! We are humans, just like you; complete, whole functioning humans. Besides, however I feel about my personal life, I don’t need reminded about it by a complete stranger, and frankly- it’s none of your business.
10. Unwanted Conversations
A typical example: when a woman takes a book with her on public transport, it generally means she wants to read it. Complicated, I know. If she is reading avidly, it generally means she wants to be left alone. We’ve all seen this guy- the poor girl is just sitting there, minding her own business, and he won’t stop talking to her. He is too loud, speaks over her whenever she tries to respond, and stands too close (see 8). This guy comes in all ages, shapes and sizes. No rebuttal will get rid of him, and if one does get him, he will resort to shaming her with loud comments about “only being nice.” He is not being nice. He is fulfilling his needs at the expense of someone else’s. He looks desperate, and at times bordering on lecherous. Cut it out.

You may see a running theme here- the kind of actions that are unacceptable towards women, whether it’s in public, in the workplace, or beyond, are those which make them feel inferior or intimidated. Now that’s not so hard, is it?

I am Woman, Hear Me…Just, Hear Me – 6/9/14

Women’s rights campaigners are descending from all over the world this week to protest at the lack of female voices at the talks on NATO summit in Newport, South Wales.
Barack Obama arriving in Wales for last week’s talks
The ratio of men to women at the conference is shocking- but according to Samira Hamid from the Afghan Women’s Network, the situation is particularly dire regarding talks about Afghanistan. Not a single woman has been part of talks about the troubled state, which has recently been named the “worst country in the world to be a woman,” (Amnesty International UK, 2014).

Samira Hamid from the Afghan women’s network at the NATO summit opening this week. Pic copyright Amnesty International.

International conflict and development is a hugely complex issue. Every state- for that matter even areas of different states- faces different and diverse issues and requires different and diverse solutions. But one of the few things experts agree on is that gender is an issue everywhere. In most cultures, the matriarch of the family plays a crucial role in forming its values and structure- if we are not listening to her voice, how can we see the full picture?

In Afghanistan, a woman’s life is in danger if she so much as speaks out about women’s rights, Being a teacher, doctor or lawyer can lead to death threats, and often actual violence. Despite the extent of these issues, those discussing the future of Afghanistan do not see fit to include women in the decision making progress. Why is that?

Amnesty International have put together a petition to encourage the British Embassy to
do more for women in Afghanistan

As Ms Hamid points out, with half the population missing, achieving progress is simply impossible. It’s not that there are no women capable of participating in these discussions- they’re simply not being asked. And despite the protest, mainstream media is not listening any more than the government are. There have been reports from the usual suspects- Jezebel,,etc- but the issue has been woefully neglected by the main media broadcasters.

The women of Afghanistan have been silenced by the world this week.

The men of the Middle East may make Western headlines by committing or suffering from acts of violence- but the women in the shadows are affected just as much, and the truth is that people in the West don’t see the extent of that. The women of Afghanistan are being silenced- by extremists, by their culture: and by us. Isn’t it time we heard what they have to say?

The Naked Truth – 4/9/14

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, this week saw the publication of numerous private photos of celebrities. The images, which included pictures of Jennifer Lawrence, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting and Kate Upton, seem to have been taken from Apple software ‘iCloud.’

There are many opinions floating around about this breach of privacy- and one being voiced particularly loudly is that if these celebrities did not take the pictures in the first place, this could never have happened. Victim blaming at its finest.

credit: The Telegraph

The argument as it is being voiced is that it all comes down to free speech, particularly freedom of the press. The person who posted them onto Reddit in the first place was merely informing the public. And where would we be without a free press? It’s an easy line of thought to fall into. But ask yourself this- where are the leaked pictures of naked men?

Other than those pictured in the background of shots of naked women, there are no men in these pictures. Why is that? Are there no compromising pictures of famous men in the world? I find that hard to believe. The truth- the naked truth, if you will- is that there is nothing to be gained from posting private pictures of men.

A woman’s career can be ruined by an intimate picture or film. A man’s will probably only be boosted by it. Women are shamed for being sexual beings, whilst men are praised for it.

And the icing on the cake? Reddit refuse to uncover the identity of the individual who published these images. The identities of their (predominantly male) users are too valuable to be released. The violation of numerous women is not nearly as important as the identity of a misogynist bully who has stolen private information for personal gain. And the rest of the world doesn’t seem to have a massive issue with it.