When did we become enemies?

This text was originally published on Stop Street Harassment. Click here to see it

The discussion over street harassment – and violence against women in general – has grown to a level of insanity on the Internet. I have been watching several debates online ending in a series of mutual insults from men to women and vice-versa. On one side is the argument that men are only trying to give a compliment to a stranger. On the other side, women say that this behavior is invasive and annoying, to say the least.

Of course we can find women and men on both sides, but essentially, this has turned into a battle of the sexes in a very aggressive way. Whenever there is an argument against street harassment, a man shows up to show how offended he is by being accused of harassment just by saying a girl is pretty. Or even trying to prove he knows better and women should listen to him. On the other hand, women – mostly feminist activists – simply can’t deal with men anymore and the minute a man decides to talk he receives aggressive answers (not that they aren’t justifiable, this simply happens).

What I don’t understand is: if women are saying this behavior is bad, why is it so hard for men to acknowledge that and simply stop? Why do men counter-argue it by saying it wasn’t their intention to be mean?

Intention vs effect

I’m sure a strange man would not have the intention to hurt a strange woman on the street, but this is the problem right here: no matter what the intention is, the effect of it is unwanted by women. For that reason, and for that reason only, they should stop.

It’s like getting a meat dish for a vegetarian everyday because you think that dish is good, even though the vegetarian doesn’t like it. Just stop!

Instead of stopping, men become aggressive and Internet debates are filled with hate and we can see men and women growing apart. This movement is hurting both sides and not having much of an effect on those who actually practice violence.

So, what should be done?

First of all, if you are a man, think about your actions towards women in general and notice if, maybe, you tend to invade their personal space uninvited. It is important that you pay attention to it and respect a woman just as you would respect another man. Change that and you will be ok.

Now, if you are a man and you don’t catcall and you do respect everyone’s personal spaces, I guess there is no reason for you to be offended by it, is it? So don’t get offended if you’re not the target.

Now, if you’re a woman, know this: it’s hard not to get offended by hurtful responses online, but keep the debate to an upper level, otherwise aggressiveness will just take over.

It is important to understand that a message of respect is being passed here and if we act aggressively, the only message that goes through is more violence.

When we elevate the debate, there is a chance to get the message across and create collaboration. Let’s try not to look at every man as an enemy, so then we can get along and respect each other.

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