Call me old-fashioned, but I want a man who will protect me like I’m the reputation of a guy he’s never met
— Kate Willett (@katewillett) November 11, 2017
One of the frustrating aspects of all this predatory men bullshit is how ardent and vigorous randos will defend a man they don’t know. It’s not just with the famous predators, either. It’s in real life, too. Many women have had the experience of trying to explain why they’ve uncomfortable around a man they know for maybe inchoate reasons, and the man they’re explaining it to gives a hundred reasons why the guy is acting the way he is. The reasons may make sense on the surface, but there’s a ‘yeah, but’ feeling inside the woman as she’s listening that she can’t squelch no matter how hard she tries.
I realized a long time ago that the reason some guys are quick to defend questionable behavior is because they can put themselves more easily in the shoes of the man than they can the shoes of the woman. It doesn’t matter if the woman is wearing pumps, flats, or heels, they’re still shoes the man has never worn. Even sneakers, as they’re smaller and tighter and–OK, I’ve taken this metaphor as far as I possible can. They hear about a man catcalling a woman on the street, and they think, “Hey, I’ve talked to a woman on the street before. I’m not a bad guy. Maybe that random guy isn’t a bad guy, either.”
There was a post at Ask A Manager by a woman who was pretty sure a coworker was hitting on her, but wasn’t sure how she should turn him down since he never actually issued an invitation. He didn’t work in the same division (if I remember correctly), but he was above her in rank. They were out of town at a conference, and they had gone out for drinks with coworkers once and another time with friends of her (it was her hometown, I think). The letter writer (LW) includes texts in which the coworker pushes to do things in private and she gives him ‘soft’ nos in various of ways. Reading the texts, it’s clear to me he’s hitting on her, and she’s politely declining.
Predictably, some people picked apart what the LW texted and did (going out to drinks with the coworker and her friends) without concentrating on how he escalated his requests despite her soft nos, even to the point of suggesting she change her flight to a later time so she could watch a game with him! She said no, she was going to stick to her plans, but it shouldn’t have had to come that far. There was far too much focus on what she should and shouldn’t have done, but thankfully, there were people also pushing back on it. They said it was a shame that women couldn’t be friendly to men without being taken as flirtatious.