This American Life podcast. It’s about a woman named Eleanor who tries to persuade men not to catcall or accost women in the streets. She ends up having a long, open, and honest conversation with one guy – Zack.
As you listen, note this: Zack thinks he’s flattering women by singling them out among their friends. Listen carefully to what he’s saying about his own desires. Human beings long to be wanted, known, chosen. I am not sure why this man expresses that normal human desire in unhealthy ways but…
It got me thinking, “What if a woman came up to him and did to him what he does to women?” What would be different? What would be the same? The objectification is the same, but the sense of vulnerability is not.
Zach, and I suspect many other men as well, are unaware that we feel vulnerable. Over Christmas break I found myself working out at a gym with only one other person – a guy – a very big guy. As I laid on the floor doing crunches I became extremely aware of my small frame. I felt every short inch of my 5’2″ body, and it crossed my mind that this guy could harm me in seconds. I’m not a fearful person nor do I consider myself a wimp; however, there’s a reality to being female. I count on men being good.
Zach doesn’t get that. I’m not sure most men do. Or can. But maybe it’s time we helped them. Podcasts like this help. Zach was surprised to learn that women don’t like men catcalling at them. “They chuckle,” he responded. Eleanor explained it wasn’t a chuckle of approval but rather a means of getting out of an uncomfortable situation safely. How many of us have chuckled at sexual statements or inappropriate touches in hopes of “getting out of an uncomfortable situation?” How many men have misread that chuckle?
I love Zach’s willingness to engage Eleanor in this conversation. It seems he truly never wanted to offend women or make us feel unsafe. He was shocked and sincere. What would happen if we had more Eleanor and Zach conversations in the home and workplace?
I would love to hear your thoughts. As we share, let’s not degrade men. Rather, let’s discuss what’s informative and how we can help others rethink what they have been doing.