Yes. You Are Being Creepy.

creepy man

The other day I stumbled upon two references to Creepy Guy Syndrome in the span of 10 minutes of social media surfing and both caused me to let out a sigh of exasperation. It seems the poor, persecuted fellows who are being called creepy for, in their opinion, no good reason, have taken to the internet to mope about it once more.

I am not the first person to discuss and dissect the use of the word creepy. It’s been done here and here pretty effectively, a creepy guy situation was bad-assedly handled by this dude on BART last summer, and this awesome video addresses Creepy Guy’s doppelgänger, Nice Guy. Unfortunately, Creepy Guy Syndrome persists in part because so many creepy guys think they’re not being creepy when they really totally are.

The first was this YouTube Video called “Girls Are Assholes: At a Bar”

While the video is clearly being extreme to elicit laughs, it misses the mark by creating an alternate version of the reality of this scenario. Cut to the part where the less attractive guy offers to buy the young woman a drink, then graciously accepts her refusal and leaves her alone. If this were actually what went down in scenarios like this, then the video would be hilarious. However, this version of the situation is from the perspective of the Creepy Guy, who has conveniently glossed over his creepy actions when replaying the situation in his mind.

Creepy actions can be, but are not limited to, the following: invading a woman’s personal space, being overly persistent with that drink offer, repeatedly refusing the accept “no thanks” as an answer, calling her names, making inappropriate comments about her body. A common defense creepy guys use is that they are socially awkward or that these actions are subjective, but that’s just another leap in their mental gymnastics so they don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable feeling that is involved in self-awareness.

This is a phenomenon I like to call Common Denominator Blindness.

Let’s look at a comparable example of Common Denominator Blindness. Chances are you have an acquaintance or two who always seem to have some Major Drama in their lives. These people always seem to be encountering other people who lie them, get them into a fight at a bar, leave them stranded without a ride home at 3am, made a move on a friend’s significant other, etc. And this person with Major Drama is always whining and complaining that they hate drama! They can’t believe they have a friend who has so much drama! Why does drama follow them around?!

The acquaintance is suffering from Common Denominator Blindness. The acquaintance IS The Drama, but instead of doing a little self-reflection and discovering the difficult truth that he/she is the common denominator in The Drama, this person externalizes the issue so as not to take any responsibility for their shitty actions.

A guy who does creepy things is a poster child for Common Denominator Blindness.

They see the accumulation of times they’ve been called creepy, and instead of asking themselves what they might have said or done to make another human being uncomfortable, they externalize and generalize that women at large are the problem. Then they see that same woman talking to someone else, and instead of just thinking, “Being rejected is uncomfortable. Ugh,” they instead think, “Wow. She’s so shallow that she doesn’t want to talk to me (the nice, less attractive guy), but she’ll talk to that other guy (the hot rapist).” As if that makes any logical sense whatsoever.

That’s why this video is so problematic.

It asserts that women don’t know what’s good for them, but the strange guy at the bar knows better. It also suggests that women are at fault if they are assaulted because they chose a hot guy over a nice guy. But nice guys don’t assume women are stupid. They don’t think their desire to have a conversation with a woman trumps her right to feel comfortable; they know if someone were making them uncomfortable that it would suck, so they’d rather not put another person through that. Basically, they know how to be decent fucking human beings, and they know they don’t deserve a cookie (or a conversation, or a fuck) just for acting right. Seriously, watch this video to learn what a nice guy is and is not.

Despite what “Girls Are Assholes: At a Bar” suggests, most women are quite good at identifying actions that make their internal alarm bells ring out a possibly unsafe person warning. Considering that Creepy Guy patronizingly believes that the stupidity of women is what causes them to get raped, you’d think he’d applaud her erring on the side of caution, even if that meant he didn’t get to talk to her. Unfortunately, that’s not the case since it doesn’t involve Creepy Guy benefiting in any way. This type of guy assumes he is owed her attention and time and that if he doesn’t get it, it’s because women are shallow and stupid, not because he did something inappropriate or she just plain wasn’t interested.

And yet this idea that men are rampantly being unfairly labeled as creepy persists. That’s where the second post that made me roll my eyes came in. #7 of this Thought Catalogue post about modern dating stopped me from devoting another second of my time to the rest of the post.

It’s definitely important to point out that most guys are decent and not creepy. And those guys are likely not getting called creepy, though I will concede that it happens on occasion. The laws of probability insist it must be true. The difference is that on the rare occasion a decent guy gets called creepy he doesn’t lose his shit, decide that all women are stupid, and take to the internet to defend himself. He knows that one of two things has happened: that woman was not interested for any number of reasons out of his control OR he made a faux pas that caused her to feel uncomfortable. Even if it was the latter, a regular, decent guy knows that everyone messes up and no one is perfect at respecting boundaries. Maybe he apologizes or maybe he just lets the situation alone and keeps it moving. The world does not stop turning. He does not lose anything. Being called creepy does not redefine his identify and automatically turn him into a creeper.

Some would argue that the current prevalence of the term creepy has risen because a few bad apples are spoiling the bunch, and to a certain extent I agree with this. Women are on guard for creepers because they are often masquerading as nice guys and it’s just better to be safe than sorry. But it’s also true that people with an axe to grind are often the ones squawking the loudest. The thing is, if you are getting called creepy enough to be pissed off about it and turning red in the face over it on social media, you are not being falsely accused of being creepy, you actually ARE being creepy and are suffering from Common Denominator Blindness.

Fortunately, there is a cure for Common Denominator Blindness, though it can be rather uncomfortable if you’re new to it: self-awareness.

It doesn’t cost anything, it makes you happier in the long run, and you’ll finally be functional member of society. Everybody wins! Godspeed.

Spring Is Here! Flowers! Fresh Air! Aaaand Street Harassment!

Spring is an awesome time of year (vitamin D, open toed shoes, margaritas at outdoor cafes!), but with it comes an uptick in street harassment that already has me grinding my teeth. It’s been a while since something has ticked me off enough to weigh in on it. I have been suffering from sexism fatigue for the better part of the past decade; there are so many sexist tropes that are widely viewed as acceptable: rape apologism, victim blaming, insane beauty standards, the pay gap, etc.. When I read some dumb shit Bill O’Reilly says about the downside of women holding office or get called 20 different versions of “sweetheart” by the barista in Financier at Grand Central in a 3 minute conversation my eyes start to glaze over and I often just lie back and think about England.

I can barely muster up the energy to flip the bird to the men who make sucking and kissing noises at me while I’m out for a run. That, and I don’t feel like dealing with the aftermath of flipping them off (“Bitch. Dyke. I’ll rape you. Fucking skank. I was just being nice, fucking bitch.”) Or dealing with the equally exhausting conversation later when I vent to the wrong person. “What were you wearing? Maybe you shouldn’t have given him the finger? That didn’t really happen.”

It happened. It happens all the time and it happens all over the world. Yes all of those things have been said to me. I’m sorry to report that this happens so frequently that any feelings of incredulity you may possess do not erase its prevalence. Also, what does my outfit have to do with the fact that a grown ass man has so little self control or respect for himself that he can’t keep his pervy thoughts inside his own damn head so that I can go about my workout without looking over my shoulder? His desire to comment on my body does not my trump my right to walk through the world without my shoulders up around my ears. It’s so laughable to think of the situation in reverse that recently several parodies of women harassing men on the street have been floating around the internet. They are equal parts cringe-worthy and absurd. Mostly the men are just puzzled because they’re not used to being talked to like that.

For women, street harassment is a part of daily life. The funny/not funny thing is at this point street harassment is almost like white noise to me. As is the cultural attitude surrounding it that puts the onus on women to not be harassed, as if possessing a vagina magically makes us capable of  keeping another human being from doing the dumb shit they’re intent on doing. (Seriously, if this is true, please point me in the direction of the on-switch. I’d like to get a move on world peace.) This attitude insists that women are responsible for street harassment if they are attractive, if they wear a certain type of clothing, do not extricate themselves from a situation immediately, don’t reply to the harassment “correctly”, or that it’s not really a problem at all.

I’m all for personal safety and for safety precautions, but that’s been the prevailing dialogue of this age-old issue from the start and it obviously doesn’t solve the problem or get to the root of it. And the root of it is the “boys will be boys” attitude towards the men who don’t have any respect for women’s boundaries. And I call bullshit on that because most men manage to get through life without saying “nice ass” to a jogger when they pass her in their car. Most men have enough common sense and curtesy to know that not every thought in your head should pop out of your mouth, and that it’s not cool to say things that make other people feel uncomfortable or unsafe.

This is why Hollaback has become a global force for or change. And Hollaback is the tits, by the way. They do such good work in combatting street harassment and have so many resources. Back in their early days, I submitted a post on behalf of a friend, and was quoted in AMNY about it as well. It’s since been archived, which just goes to show that this issue isn’t going anywhere and there’s plenty more progress to be made. If you’re already feeling the cat-calling fatigue, or you’re just interested in learning more about street harassment, get on over to Hollaback and check them out. Or add your experiences to the comments below if you just feel like venting.

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on Creepy Guy Syndrome.

Note: If you’re about to talk any of that MRA noise, your comment will be deleted. Ain’t nobody got time for that.