About a month ago (maybe… it’s been a while), I was walking down the street, a list of errands running through my head consisting of everything I needed to get done in the next two hours. Behind me, some guy started exclaiming about my height.
This is not unusual. I’m a woman, and I’m over six feet tall by a significant margin. For a lot of people, those two categories are mutually exclusive, so seeing me – or someone like me – is slightly weird. Or world-expanding. Depending on how you want to look at it.
I’m used to adults forgetting to use their Inside Voices when it comes to me and The Tall.
That doesn’t mean I always welcome this behaviour.
So, yeah. When it came to this particular person? I did what women tend to do when random dudes start hollering at them in the street. I ignored him, kept walking, didn’t slow down, and so-on. You know the drill. And, after a few meters and a few exclamations about “Woah, you’re so tall,” he backed off, saying “Okay. I get it. I’m not hitting on you.”
I’m not hitting on you.
Yeah. That’s the trick right there.
Because, while the wretched reality that is Rape Culture positions me as a sexual gate-keeper and holds me responsible for crimes perpetrated against me, and positions him as the kind of “Stranger Danger” that “responsible women” watch out for… Despite that, I wasn’t ignoring him because I thought he might be hitting on me.
I knew he wasn’t hitting on me[1].
What bothered me – and what bothers me in general – about random guys (or whoever, since it’s not just guys who do this to me) hollering inane comments about my body at me isn’t just that they’re making inane comments about my body. Within earshot. With the intention of being heard.
(Although seriously. Really?)
What bothers me is the expectation of a response. The expectation that I treat inane comments about my body as some kind of a conversational opener. It’s the assumption that the person doing the hollering is entitled to my attention, time, and energy (and frequently gratitude) just because, ZOMG, they’ve never seen a human like me before. It’s the probably-not-even-conscious belief, held by the hollerer, that their inane comment about my body trumps one hundred percent of everything else that I might be thinking about, or focusing on, at the time.
When little kids do this? That’s fine. A four-year-old has barely differentiated between “self” and “other”, and is pretty new to the finer points of social interaction or Inside Voices. When little kids remark, loudly, to their parents that “Wow, that lady is so tall“… I’m just as likely to smile and wave and play the non-threatening giant as I am to ignore the whole thing.
But when an adult does it?
For. Fuck’s. Sake.
Adults are supposed to know better than that.
Just because you’ve never seen a human like me before, doesn’t mean that the rules of Polite Human Interaction stop applying.
This rant has been brought to you by rude strangers on Somerset. YAY!
Ms S.
[1] Although given how street harrassment works, it did cross my mind that there was (ballpark) a 60/40 chance that he’d start hitting on me if I was friendly rather than hostile.