Why women can't - and shouldn't - stop feeling creeped out by staring men
With Toronto getting an early taste of summer, Miriam Verburg wrestles with an irresistible urge to find the men who ogle her disgusting.
This is a satirical response to this piece of high-class journalism from the award-winning writer Ian Brown. A triumph of link-bait sir, I can only hope my humble response does your original work justice.
Before we discuss why it is women can't and shouldn't stop stop being creeped out by men who are twice their age ogling them in the street, I'd like to explain about the guy in the car named after a horse.
It was a somewhat nice day out, which is to say it wasn’t raining, and there wasn’t snow on the ground. I was standing on the corner talking to an acquaintance on the way back to the office. As we wrapped up our chat I heard a terrible engine make a huge noise. We both flinched, and immediately looked to see from which direction our doom approached.
Surprise, no doom. Just a guy, in an expensive car, revving his engine and looking at us with expectation, surely we knew what a revved engine meant. Surely.
He was probably 58, but was clearly trying to look 48. The aviators said 40, the huge american sports car said income pro-rated to career experience. For the record, I am 34. He had brown hair, I think, and was wearing clothes. His collar was neatly tucked. He had his ‘expensive watch arm’ resting on the open window edge of his vehicle.
My first sight of him felt like a sharp blow to the solar plexus. His body held no interest, nor did his car, yet his decision to rev the engine puzzled me. Had I been too focused on my friend, should I have been paying more attention to his car? Cars are expensive, maybe it’s not enough that only its owner cared to buy the thing. No matter, the light changed, he zoomed into the east, and was gone. We owed each other nothing.
The inevitable backwash of guilt arrived, as all women know it does. I have a father his age. I know he gets cranky if I am not suitably impressed with the size of the stewing tomatos he grows on a stake in his backyard. I am already the child of an older man who is deeply sensitive about his importance and accomplishments, yet I spent several minutes gazing deep into this other, older man’s car. I could hear the charges: castrating bitch, cold, uppity, feminist. Even communist?
But it was such a beautiful day. And so I decided to spend the rest of it cruising the city, investigating the famous male gaze, to find out just how annoyed, bothered, irritated and quite simply put-upon we ladies ought to feel. These days, with men acting like somebody took their last pudding pop almost every waking minute of the day, we're happy to feel anything.
Details that catch my attention: pleated jeans, sports jerseys, pointy italian shoes, facial hair, no facial hair, facial hair cut into shapes, bald spots (various shapes), a neck tattoo (to my surprise). A short man with skinny legs, pants flapping in the breeze - and, mysteriously, not blown about like a leaf. A slim blond in enormous sneakers carrying a coffee as if it were the sword of Lothian, what is so neat about that coffee fella? An expensively dressed and tanned man climbs out of a taxi, so shiny I panic and pretend to check my watch. Slim men, thick men; signs of health, hints of color blindness or simple confusion. Coloured baseball hats. A rollerblader in white short shorts does nothing for me: His look is the sexual equivalent of shopping at Wal-Mart.
But each man makes you think, parse his appeal. The well-dressed brunette in his 20s is wearing a denim jacket, but it has pockets and is obviously too small in the shoulders. Would he force me to listen to country music before engaging in coitus?
I ask a man sitting in an outdoor café what he is looking at when he looks at girls. His name is Luigi - a 65-year-old ‘student of life’ who has lost patio privileges in almost 80% of the west-end’s cafes because the waitresses are tired of wearing their trays like a shield. "I am a man. Why would G-d give me eyes in my head if not for to stare at the pretty behinds? Also if they are not looking you can give a little pinch sometimes.” The grey hairs on Luigi's chest spring to attention. Beside me, I hear a frustrated exhalation. Our waitress pulls at the end of her ponytail and shakes her head.
Every man I speak to says the same thing, without exception. So why does creep-hating have such a terrible reputation? Maybe because it's an act of rebellion.
X meets me for lunch at Fresh, a downtown vegetarian restaurant frequented by yoga teachers and marketing interns. A college graduate with an on again off again relationship to a barista at Starbucks, she’s never had children - the opposite of a porn star. But she, too, spends hours getting creeped out by dudes. She claims she once almost caused a small car accident, while wearing a pair of cowboy boots and cut-off shorts. We've been discussing the man in the big car.
"I don't get this complaint that you have to be okay with being suckered into ratifying their pathetic self-perception. It is creepy to be stared at, ergo men who stare are creeps." X says.
I'm having a hard time concentrating: There’s a man wearing a sweater vest talking on his blackberry and staring down X’s shirt like he’s lost the instructions to his smartphone. Cleavage seems to be the prix fixe. He catches me looking at him, and then catches me looking angrily away, my store of hope fading the way a car battery dies. But a little bit of anger is good: you can't take your personal space for granted.
"It's because they could be your father," I finally manage to say.
"Yeah," X replies. "But my dad manages to respect women, as does my uncle, my manager, my cousin, my other manager at my other job, and that guy at the Subway, who sometimes gives me extra pickles because he’s rad."
She pauses. "I read that 46 is the moment that men begin to finally realize they’re over the hump, so they use ogling as a way to prove they’ve still got life in them. I've got an uncle who's 46 - believe me I sympathize. But the idea that caring about a respectful man as he approaches a difficult transition means I have to accept douche-nozzles who treat me like meat and then say I should be flattered? I find that a creepy argument. Men might not credit that a woman can tell the difference between an older man who doesn’t care about the people they share their space with, and one who does, but I can."
X believes older men need attractive younger women because young women act as a talisman to ward off death, obviously.
"That's seems unfair to those less afraid of their mortality," I point out.
"And it bites men a lot harder than it bites women, because for some reason, women seem to think the way to fight death is by getting botoxed and filling themselves with poisonous self-hatred, instead of trying to make young men responsible for their triumph over the inevitable tragedy of aging. I'm conscious of it being unfair. But there's nothing I can do about it."
"We could stop caring."
"Would that help anything?"
"That's not an answer. Could you stop caring?"
"I’d stop caring as soon as it stopped feeling like such shit."
The trick is to care and keep your anger and sad emotion to yourself.
I will quote Mr. Brown’s last line:
“Longing makes us sad, but at least it proves we're still alive. Which is why men like spring so much, for the short time it lasts.”
I know Mr. Brown, I know. But don't expect me to take it as a compliment.
Project leader with a focus on youth, communications technology, well-being and health. Excellence in creative direction, content production, game development, strategic planning, writing, client service, and collaboration. Background in web development and interactive media.
Interests in storytelling, user research, neuroscience, design psychology, developmental psychology and game culture.
- animals (10)
- Art (2)
- books (15)
- Conferences (7)
- Design (6)
- Drupal (4)
- environmentalism (8)
- ethics (19)
- feminist-politics (22)
- funny (84)
- Gender (19)
- Girlgeeks (22)
- media_studies (13)
- Money (3)
- Music (52)
- Personal (263)
- politics (59)
- psychology (20)
- Queer (8)
- Quotes (2)
- Rants (20)
- Sexuality (19)
- Shameless: For girls who get it (12)
- spirituality (12)
- Technology (43)
- Thesis (8)
- travel (8)
- TV is sometimes better then my life (4)
- Web (37)
- words (8)
- work (27)
- writing (8)
- youth_media (15)