Hello, men. Let’s talk about women crossing the street to avoid you, and why you shouldn’t take it personally.
Today, I want to speak to men. And we need to talk about women crossing the street to avoid you.
<Logo vid. Sublogo: Armchair philosophy>
It happens. Often. You’ll be casually wandering down the street, and a woman will be walking toward you.
<Pictures: Me walking down a block, a woman walking down a block.>
She’ll see you, and immediately cross the street to avoid you. Often this is accompanied by eye contact, or what you might interpret as a judging look.
<Pictures: Woman’s eyes, woman crossing the street, woman giving nervous look.>
Now, if you’re anything like I’ve been in the past, the following emotions will cross your mind: Confusion, then hurt, then anger.
That anger will lead to thoughts, which, again, in many cases, leads to the following internalization:
“What the hell?! I’m not a bad guy? What the crap was that all about?!”
<Photos: Confused-looking Joe.>
Here’s what that was about, and I have good news and bad news.
The good news is, this probably isn’t about you.
Nothing that just happened had anything to do with who you are as a person. At all.
The bad news is, if you felt and thought those things, you’re doing it all wrong.
The interaction you’re having, with the stranger who is a woman, isn’t about you. It’s about her. It’s about what she feels.
I recently had exactly this experience, and my response was this Facebook post:
A woman just very obviously crossed the street to avoid walking past me. In my younger days, I’d be offended by the woman. Now I just get angry at other men for making her live in a world where she has to do that.
That’s right. It’s our fault. It might not be your fault, and it might not be my fault, but as a group, it’s our fault.
We, as men. Are you responsible for everything every other man does? No. But you —we— do have to deal with the consequences, and assign blame properly.
Incidentally, a ton of my female friends chimed in on this status and blamed the situation on my jorts.
<Screencaps and narration of all of the jorts comments.>
*Stare at camera intently* – I love you all, but I’m NOT getting rid of the jorts.
<Comedic pause with conflicted and half-defeated face.>
I love my jorts.
They’re comfortable. And the pockets work.
ANYWAY, fellow men, as I said in that post, this is not women’s problem. This is our problem.
I’ve always considered myself an ally to women. But what I consider myself doesn’t make me good at anything. Even championing progressive views, I still screw up a lot, and pre-2009, I screwed this one up BAAAAAAD.
When a woman judged me before knowing anything about me, I compared her to racists. I considered her sexist. I was furious that I could be judged for something I had nothing to do with, and was so quick to feel persecuted.
And much like white people who claim “OH MY GOD, SLAVERY ENDED SO LONG AGO, AND I HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. JUST GET OVER IT,” there are huge problems with this way of thinking.
In this case, like most of those cases, I made it about me.
It’s not about me. It’s hopefully not about you.
It’s about other people.
And other people saw me as threatening. And while that felt insulting, those people were working from social data that I didn’t understand, and priorities I couldn’t fathom. And they just wanted to be safe.
In 2009, I read a very interesting article by Phaedra Starling called Schroedinger’s Rapist.
<Title card: Exactly the thing you just said, obviously, timed with your delivery.>
In 1925, Physicist Erwin Schroedinger once put forth a thought exercise to demonstrate a principle in physics known as the superposition.
My personal demonstration of the superposition is the USB cable. You try to put it in. It doesn’t fit. First position. You turn it over, it doesn’t fit. Second position. You turn it again, and know it will work this time, and does. Superposition.
The waveform collapses so I can get to my freakin’ files!
Anyway, for those who don’t already know, this thought exercise was known as Schroedinger’s cat, and posited that until an outcome is observed, a binary option’s state was in quantum flux.
His example was, to simplify, a cat in a box that had possibly been poisoned. Until it was observed, it was both alive and dead. Only when it was observed did it become either.
And so, sadly, fellow men, to every woman who sees us, we are all Schroedinger’s rapist.
The women we interact with in public have no idea if we’re the dead cat, or the alive cat, and they absolutely do not need to made to open the box to find out.
That woman who crossed the street to avoid me? She just wanted a box-free existence. Her day was complicated enough without needed to assess whether or not I’m a danger to her. Better to just avoid the whole damn thing.
The worst part of this is that when women do cross the street, they’re often criticized for being rude. And when they don’t cross the street, and something bad does happen, they’re often met with criticism. “Why didn’t you cross the street,” the nincompoops jumping through hoops to blame the victim will say.
But this isn’t about a woman’s choices. It’s about men’s behavior.
And it’s not our fault, personally. We, personally, did not do that, hopefully. I’m making assumptions about my tiny audience, but for the sduration of this video, let’s assume we’re all awesome and would never make a woman feel uncomfortable.
We did not, personally, make that a thing. But blaming women, as my younger self did, for being scared of a world where men are dangerous is not something we get to blame on women.
We need to blame, and police, our fellow men.
A woman walking down the street who crosses to avoid me isn’t worried about me, specifically. She is worried because, AS IS TOO TERRIBLY COMMON, men who are interested in her will not take no for an answer. They will blame her for rejecting them.
So the next time somebody crosses to avoid you, and you start to feel hurt, or angered, or sad, don’t. Be bigger than that. Be stronger. It isn’t about you.
<Music fade up>
But, sadly, it might be about your jorts.
For Sofa Justice Warriors, I’m Joe. Thank you everybody, good night.