The blog The Intersection of Madness and Reality has a piece entitled "Street Meet: Black Women, Black Men, & Everyday Sexual Harassment" in which I found a couple of interesting points. Let me state outright that I don't take the matter of sexual harassment lightly and personally have a "no cat call" policy. So this is not a defense of those who engage in such behavior so I don't want to hear it.
I have a few problems with the piece so I'll start off with those. First:
“Good Morn’en”, says the toothless alcoholic who lives on the curb as I make my way to the bus during my morning commute.
This particular point came out as the first example of harassment. It bothered me most of all because despite the man being drunk (an issue I will address later) exactly how is "Good morning", slurred or not, harassment? It's not. fortunately (or not) we live in a society where people can and do greet each other in public. In many places in the south it is impolite to not greet someone on the street regardless of whether you actually know the person. Up north (and generally in urban settings) this form of politeness is not generally practiced and people have an attitude that if you don't know me, don't speak. This is purely personal and I cannot in good conscience label someone who says good morning (in whatever way he or she is motivated to do so) as harassment. I recall some 9 months ago writing that there were actually women out there who thought the mere speaking to them uninvited was harassment. Some blogger who saw that comment made a sarcastic remark about how I made it up. Well here's exhibit A.
Lastly, with respect to the described situation why is an alcoholic being used as an example of "Black men"? That would be like me saying that since a prostitute is a ho, and she's female, then all females are ho's. Silly isn't it?
continuing with the 'don't even speak" issue we have exhibit B:
Next time you have the urge to break your neck to speak to a woman in the street ask yourself would you put the same effort into greeting a male? If not, chances are your attempt at displaying ‘manners’ is a thinly veiled opportunity to show a strange women that you noticed she had a vagina rather than a gesture of common courtesy. Let’s call it what it is.
Of course a straight male is NOT going to "break his neck" to show 'interest" in another male. Of course he noticed you have a vagina (or should have one) and probably breasts as well. Welcome to the wonderful world of heterosexual sexual display.
Unlike some of our mammalian friends who have breeding cycles that come once a year or few months, humans are always "on the hunt". No amount of bitching (ahhhh, you like that?) is going to change that. And asking men to NOT approach women on the street or in a club or whatever is like asking a bee not to mess around with a Stamen. Not happening.
But of course there's more. Exhibit C:
I don’t owe you shit, not a response, not a smile, not eye contact and definitely not a chance to gain access into my personal life. I’m a person and I deserve to be treated like a human. That’s your prerogative if you insist on playing the role of untamed animal but you will not claim me as your piece of meat.
Well technically that's true. She doesn't owe anyone a response to anything. Of course taken to it's logical extreme this would be called anti-social behavior. However; anyone with half a brain knows that most of us would not be here if our father's had not attempted to "gain access" to our mother's personal life. And as indicated earlier, really anyone has the right to initiate a conversation with anyone else. It is form that ought to be discussed.
And lastly Exhibit D:
I don’t give a fuck if your ignorant ass grandmother, momma or favorite auntie told you it was ‘polite’ to speak to a woman; you’re words aren’t wanted or appreciated.
The above serves two points. First it re-iterates the flat out wrong notion that a man cannot initiate a conversation with a woman for the purposes of "getting to know her". The second point leads to the second part of this commentary. You'll note that the author has noted the alleged "women" in the man's life who allegedly informed him that he can "politely" speak to a woman. You'll notice the complete lack of male references. The latter point is in my opinion very important.
The next set of examples of harassment are more on point but are marred by, well you'll see:
“Hey Pretty Lady”, says the dirty day laborer as he rubs his dick, “You got a hus-ban?”
“Dam, you got a fat ass, Ma!” says the under age drug dealer as I escort my 11 year old daughter from martial arts class.
"“Fuck you then! What? You think you’re better than me?!” says the random Nigger on the corner in some urban hood that could be in any urban town anywhere in America."
What was that?
I was enjoying the piece until I ran across that. Why was "Nigger" necessary? Here I was thinking that we (black men and women) were trying to get away from the name calling. I can put down a large wager that had I written a piece about various women who had done me wrong or acted trifling and decided to write "Bitches' this and that, I'd have people writing me off as some misogynist. I base that on the responses I've had on Twitter after referring to two females as bitches when they had it coming.
But alas for the rest of this piece it's Nigger this and "random nigger" that. Really? Is the writer white? No, actually she states:
I’m ‘light skinned’
I'll let Kola Boof deal with that 'cause really I have to question the motives of a so called "black" woman who rants about "random niggers".
Seriously though I don't know where Tracy grew up or with whom she associates with but making a point about black males using "nigger" is bad form. It is even worse form because honestly harassment from males is not just a black thing. Just ask the women in various countries that have special buses and trains for them. So this racialization of harassment doesn't sit well with me.
But let me get to the meat of her discussion because aside from the points above she does bring up a serious issue. The author talks about having things thrown at her and the like. Anyone who reads this and much of the other accounts of harassment will see a pattern emerge. What kind of men have the time to hang around en-masse drinking in public places where they throw bottles at women?
Who are these men who are hanging around on the street with nothing better to do with their time but comment too passing women?
What kind of men make sexual remarks (or advances) to girls?
No doubt they resemble the boys who live downstairs from me who don't work, aren't studying or have little to no responsibilities with which to spend their time and energy.
What many women fail to understand is that men with proper manners and etiquette do not simply show up fully formed out of nowhere. There is no hormonal queue for "treat women like this". There is no biological process that teaches a male the roles of manhood. It irks me to no end to hear and read women talk about men as if manhood grew on trees and the "men" they encounter simply decided to avoid eating that particular fruit.
As the recent allegations again Eddie Long shows, manhood generally does not flow from mothers. I know this is an unpopular sentiment but take it from a man who was raised by a single mother. While I certainly learned things from her, MUCH of my concepts of manhood came from observations and conversations with elder men whom I was impressed with. I would wager that many of the males that the author of the piece encountered not only did not have respectable fathers in their homes (if any father at all) but that male figures who made an impression on them exhibited the same behaviors.
And do understand that for the vast majority of these males, having a woman berate them over their behavior is ineffective. Why? Males, particularly those raised in female headed households have taken female berating for their entire lives. Their ascension to adulthood is marked partially by the ability to ignore the negative "outbursts" of women.
I was recently watching a video by Amos Wilson who was discussing the Samburu. When the males are going into manhood they are required to state publicly to their mothers that they will no longer be served by her, live in her house, etc. His separation from his mother is symbolic of his manhood. He is no longer a taker but has entered the role of provider and protector. Generally speaking boys are socialized into manhood by their fathers and/or community of accepted males. I say accepted because in these societies males who have not gone through rites of passage are not considered men, regardless to age. But what happens when fathers are absent from the home? What happens to a community is which manhood is conferred by age and not accomplishment? What happens when the media which is accessible by impressionable young men push musicians with "pretty boy swag" or "gangsterism" as THE markers of manliness? What happens when young men see the "honorable" men who are garbage collectors, bus drivers and other non-white collar, non "glam" jobs, who "window shop" are spoken of negatively by his female peers? When the females that he is most attracted to seem to fall over themselves for the "rough" guys?
For a large portion of these boys they take those media images and the fellas on the corner as examples of real manhood. And those are the "men" who throw bottles, bitch call, grab their dicks at passing women. Not a few of these boys have witnessed their mothers talk very negatively about their fathers and/or the men in her life. So we are to think that somehow these experiences have not shaped a large proportion of boys?
So what we have are groups of boys (mentally) who have never been taught the proper ways of dealing with women. A boy who has proper male role models and mentors will be taught how to read a woman (or any other person for that matter) to discern when she's giving off the "don't bother me" signs and when she's giving signs that it is OK to approach. He would be taught what to and not to say as a cold start to a woman. He will be taught what to do to let her know that he means her no harm and that a "no" will not lead to actual harassment. He would be taught what behavior is unacceptable to be directed at him by women and how to deal with such behavior. Women/mothers generally do not teach these things to their sons. In fact a son is more likely to ask his mother about how women think and what he can do to get their approval. Understand that sons by and large are socialized by their mothers to seek out female approval. When they enter pre-adulthood and their brains get a taste of testosterone and the biological imperative to attract a mate kicks in, Such socialization leads to double trouble. Those untutored in manhood, will grow into adult males still seeking female approval and will act out when such approval is not met because such approval is part and parcel of how we values himself. Men who have been tutored in the ways of manhood do not have female approval at the heart of their self-esteem. There is a twisted version of this that goes into woman hating as compensation. Here the male seeks to dominate females as a means of dealing with his issues of inadequacy. That is not we are discussing here. If I were to meet a female on the street who I said good morning to without response I move along. I am not threatened by such rejection (or rudeness). I do not need to call her names or throw anything at her, because I do not have a visceral reaction to her lack of acknowledgement. My self-esteem is not bound up in the acknowledgement or approval of random females. My value is not in my dick so I don't need to grab it (or has been the case, display it) in order to get approval.
Generally then we must come to understand that men with "class" do not just "show up". There is no magic button that gets turned on once puberty hits. Manhood is socialized. When you see a man that habitually acts in a disrespectful manner towards women it is a sign of failed socialization. Calling these men names does not address the problem. Asserting bullshit harassment claims for public speaking is also not helpful. Unless we as a community take on the issue of the proper raising of black boys and the proper understanding and valuation of manhood these situations will continue unabated.