This is part one of a three part series on dealing with rejection that was inspired by the #notJustHello debate on Twitter a short while back. I’ve been following the discussions around #notJustHello for the last few weeks and I’m kind of horrified by some of the comments I’ve seen on there. I’m normally not the type to engage in an online argument because I know how ridiculous and unreasonable those can be. But after some of the asinine things I’ve read, I felt the need to comment on it myself and then share my thoughts here. If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, there’s a pretty good history of the trending topic here:
It all started with a guy expressing his belief that feminists take it too far when complaining about guys approaching women on the street. In his mind, he’s just being friendly and trying to start a conversation with an attractive woman. He’s just being friendly. He’s just saying “hello”. And yet most of the girls he tries to talk to are clearly rejecting him outright or ignoring him entirely. He takes offense to this behavior. And the majority of the men who weighed in early on in this conversation agreed with him. They felt that women were being unfair by not giving them a chance, or that they were acting like they were too good to talk to an otherwise decent-looking guy who was just trying to be nice, or that feminists we’re oppressing men by shaming them for talking to women.
But what all of these guys had missed a very important detail: the women in this discussion were talking about a problem that most guys never in their lives have to deal with: street harassment
The problem here is that there is a massive, yet seemingly invisible difference between street harassment and trying to start a friendly, non-threatening conversation. I say invisible because, unfortunately, most men have no idea what that difference is. The issue that #notJustHello is talking about is not that women are stuck up and think they’re too good to talk to guys, or that they think that men shouldn’t even be ALLOWED to say “hello” to a woman on the street. It’s that guys think every women OWES them a chance to flirt with them. And when they aren’t interested, men get mad and lash out. They feel rejected. Their egos are bruised. In their minds they are great guys, catches, and anyone who doesn’t let them prove that fact must be a bitch or a cunt.
The sad truth is that pretty much every woman has experienced some creepy guy who has threatened her, shouted profanities, prevented her from leaving, physically intimidated her, or otherwise made her feel unsafe – just because she did not respond receptively to his socially unintelligent attempt to flirt with her. As one member mentioned “That’d be great, dude, if ‘saying hi’ was just that & her ‘no’ didn’t get her threatened/cussed out.” As a result of this, it’s in most womens best interests for her personal safety to avoid conversations with strangers simply because she knows that “hello” can escalate into something bad very quickly. As another twitter user pointed out “The thing is, some people don’t stop at hello. They don’t stop when someone doesn’t want to engage. And b/c that woman doesn’t know you, she doesn’t know if you know when to give up.”
This is where the #NotJustHello hashtag has come from. Most men are so uncalibrated, so out of touch with what women are thinking and feeling, that they don’t even know how to engage a woman in a polite conversation AND handle her possible rejection gracefully. So for many women, it’s never “just hello”, it’s a potential risk to their safety.
With that in perspective, it seems that men approaching women and saying “hello” isn’t the problem. The problem is that street harassment is such an issue – STILL – in this day and age, that women fell like its far more likely that even if she says she’s not interested, it’s not going to end there in a polite, peaceful way. Even worse, is that it’s not just the fear of responding badly, its the fear that even if she were to engage a man in conversation, he still might turn out to be creepy, violent, follow her, etc.
What bothered so much about reading all these tweets from women who had been harassed by men, is that it became clear to me that it wasn’t about men trying to hold power over a woman or take away her autonomy as an individual, as some women claimed. Nor is it about “militant feminists trying to take our balls away” (as one Twitter user put it) by trying to prevent men from talking to women at all. Its about how:
a) most men have no social calibration at all in these scenarios, and (more importantly)
b) how badly the typical male ego cannot handle rejection.
My next two articles will focus the on these two issues and how a Venusian Artist can fix them.
Update: I just saw this and felt it sums up the strange entitled mindset of some guys quite perfectly: http://cheezburger.com/8257378816