I wasn’t going to talk about the #HowToTalkToAWomanWhoIsWearingHeadphones debacle. I figured the Internet had done a pretty good job ridiculing the idea that men should try to approach women who are wearing headphones, which is a pretty good signal not to talk to them. After all, women repeatedly confirmed that they don’t like this, so surely no one is out there still insisting that a man trying to approach a woman who doesn’t want to be talked to is good behavior, right?
Wrong. There are men out there, men I know, who are still trying to defend the article.
A friend shared the article on Facebook with a comment disparaging the idea of interrupting strangers wearing headphones just because you want to talk to them. Another fellow contested, but wait! What if I’m horny and she’s horny and this is a beautiful situation where a man approaching a woman means good times for everyone?
I don’t know how often this person is in a situation where they want to have casual sex with a stranger, nor is it my business. I do wonder how often he thinks the best stranger to try and meet with for this opportunity is the woman who is wearing headphones. Lots of women enjoy sex and enjoy casual sex. However, if the woman were also looking for casual sex, wouldn’t she also not be wearing her headphones so she could speak with someone?
This seems an awful lot like a man co-opting women’s sexual liberation so that he can have the right to bother women in case they want sex.
Some more people insist that no, this is skeezy.
I said, hey, you know, women are approached all the time by men. It’s not like we usually need to look for situations for men to approach us, in fact, a huge reason women wear headphones in public is so men don’t approach them. I said a (possibly unfair?) statement: “Men are skeezy opportunists who think they have the right to talk to women.” Why did I say that? Because that’s the vibe I get from all the men insisting that it’s ok to talk to women even when they don’t want it, even when they’re uncomfortable, even when they take measures to avoid it.
I was reminded that in the United States of America, anyone has the right to talk to anyone.
Yes, you do have the right. I wasn’t suggesting that we should literally take away men’s freedom to speak with women, although sometimes I privately think about that. Of course everyone has the right to speak with whomever they wish.
Women do not have the same protected right to not be harassed. That’s where the power imbalance comes from. Women are often hurt, harassed, threatened, stalked, stabbed, raped, killed, etc. when they try to turn men down. That’s why we take measures to avoid having men approach us in the first place.
So of course you have the right to speak with someone, even if they don’t want you to. In theory, women also have this right, and they also have the right to turn down unwanted conversation. In practice, it is often infringed, and usually by men.
With all the women out here saying please do not talk to me while I have my headphones on, why are you out here reminding us that you have the right? Like, yes, you have the right to be an asshole. Good for you. Instead, please don’t do that and be a kind, respectful human being.
Can we please talk about the phrase, “…there is not a large enough group of women in the world to change it [my opinion] without showing to me that approaching someone to talk to them is a violent act in itself.” This man is literally saying he does not care how many women say this is an uncomfortable uncool thing. He says it doesn’t matter how many women tell him that this isn’t ok because even so he has the right to make these women uncomfortable. And he does! But that doesn’t mean his behavior isn’t awful. That’s when I stopped commenting on this post, because he said right there that he did not feel the need to listen to women about an experience that women go through.
A little recap on the thread, if you want it in full (I think I have all the screenshots in order):
Women alone in a public place are often uncomfortable. There is good advice warning women to not go places alone, however, what does that say about our men when we can’t let women out alone? Women are constantly looking for a way to stay safe and still live our lives.
The only time I’m not approached by, hollered at, or otherwise uncomfortably engaged with men when I go out in public is when I either a) encounter no men or b) am with another man. I don’t mean smiling, saying hello, holding doors open for me, or other polite things. I have no problem interacting with people. I do have a problem keeping men from engaging me in lengthy, unwanted conversations or pouring their inappropriate affections onto me. That’s why I, and a lot of women, try to keep strange men from approaching us in the first place. Either men can believe me on this, or they can dismiss me. The only way they can know what it’s like to be a woman approached by men is by listening to women talk about it.
Now to get a little personal: I look healthy, but I’m not. It was one thing when men would pay unwanted attention to me when I was fairly able-bodied which, mind you, consisted of my underage teen years. Now that I’m sick to the point of disabled, I can’t run. If a man starts bothering me, I can’t always get up and walk or run away from him, because I’m disabled. I’m terrified of being stuck in an unsafe situation like that, so I try to heed it off before it starts. Hence, headphones.
How else can I keep men from approaching me? I am crowd-sourcing this. Men, women, please let me know if there is an “appropriate” way to keep men from approaching me.
Absolutely, men have the right to try to talk to women wearing headphones. I’m asking men to please, please not do that.