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What can a woman say to a man when she notices him visually violating her??

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I got the following question posted as a comment to another thread which can be found here. This is the question:

what can a woman say to a man when she notices him visually violating her??

thanks

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

This is my answer, slightly modified from the one I posted over at that original post, but I strongly encourage women reading this to respond.

I've looked up some stuff, and found this self-serving male supremacist anecdote; for me, this is a really good example of what NOT to do. To see that, go to the website girlsaskguys.com. What the men say there makes me want to puke.

Now, on with my answer which I pray is more appropriate than theirs:

Blogger Julian Real said...

THAT is a GREAT question.

First, I'm sorry you are having to contend with that level of violation from men, and I'm not at all surprised that any woman has to, given the gross ways men treat women all the damn time while thinking they aren't doing anything harmful or wrong, oh, and also while getting SUPPORT and ENCOURAGEMENT from other men to do so!

Second, please visit this website for more support: http://hollabacknyc.blogspot.com/. My strongest suggestion would be to contact them and ask for support and advice.

It's such an important question that I'm going to make it into a separate post, but will also offer some answers below.

I'm going with a scenario where you don't know the man at all. I support you handling any situation like this with a clear assessment of you own sense of relative safety. So, for example, if a man is objectifying you and you wish to confront him, do you have a route out/away? Is he blocking your route of escape? He may get hostile. Challenging men's fucked up entitlements often angers men. I would hope he'd just be embarrassed and feel appropriately ashamed. And my support to anyone who challenges men around our violating practices toward women.

Again, I'd visit any of the holla back city websites and seek counsel there.

As you may know all too well, men's practices of ("only") visually violating women fall along quite a spectrum, from being whistled at on a street, to be gawked at, to being stared at and propositioned, to being followed, to being "up-skirted" by a man with a small digital camera or cell phone camera, to being photographed in other ways, without the woman knowing it, to being in a hotel room and being spied on and/or videotaped.

So one question is: "What's the context? Where is this happening?" Because depending on where you are, there might be various resources available to you beyond personally confronting him. (And when I say "confront" I include "simply speaking to him and asking him to stop".

I am also wondering if we're talking about an asshole in a bar kind of situation--where he's likely to have male support for being a prick, a workplace situation (which has its own protocol on what to do), a school context (which also hopefully has its own protocol), or a public space like on a street or in a park or public beach.

I've seen men on beaches with giant telephoto lenses on their cameras, pointed at women lying down resting quite a distance away. I want to kick the camera out of their hands and break it. And if their hand gets broken too, oops!

I stopped going to the beach because I didn't want to deal with the objectification issues, and the likely lawsuits that could follow me doing just that.

Regardless of what you say, if the man is a major jerk, you're likely to get responses like "It's a free world. If you don't want to be looked at, why are you here?" To which I'd say, "It's not a free world for women who wish to be in it without being visually violated by men like you."

I have just come up with a list of possible things to say to a man, and would really like to hear back from you about which feel most doable, which seem like they might work, or, if you try some of them (or anything else) out, to let me know what happened.

I'm concerned about your safety and well-being. Obviously in the situation you're describing, your safety and well-being are already being compromised. But it's not clear how compromised or empowered you are in the abstract.

For example, when I've been objectified by men I feel like my sense of wholeness is being assaulted, and that I am being turned into a thing, which can be scary or creepy or terrifying, depending on what's going on, and how I'm feeling that day. It can be a very triggering experience for me as a sexual assault survivor. (I'm reflecting now on whether I have ever called a man out who was objectifying me... No, but, I have told strangers who ask to touch me not to do so.)

Some people I've spoken with advise against letting a man know you are frightened or uneasy. Some rapist men sadistically "enjoy" knowing they are making a woman uncomfortable or afraid. Obviously this "masking of emotion" is easier said than done. I'm not terribly adept at having a stern or solid demeanor in the face of being visually violated.

And no matter what response you get, know that HIS BEHAVIOR is the issue AND the problem, not you confronting or challenging him to stop it.

So, here's a short list, and I welcome women especially who are reading this to offer their suggestions, or to share stories of successfully getting men to stop violating a woman visually.

"I need to let you know I am not at all comfortable with you staring at me. Please stop it."

or...

"Are you aware you are staring at me? Please stop doing so."

"Excuse me. I didn't come to this place to be visually inspected."

"Sorry to interrupt your objectification session, using my body, but STOP LOOKING AT ME!"

Some non-verbal options:

Just hold up your middle finger.

Turn around, and look back at him in disgust.

Take out your cell phone and, whether or not it has a camera, pretend to, or do, take his photograph, again and again if need be. Send the pic to the appropriate holla back website.

If you're with a female friend, ask her to stare at him angrily with you. Stare him down, with arms crossed in front of you.

Yell at him so everyone around can hear: STOP STARING AT ME, YOU CREEP! (I'd only do this if I were with a friend or three.)

Tell him loudly or sternly, "Keep your fucking eyes to yourself!"

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