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?
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?