Ah, August, when the colours of the street bloom in the afternoon sun, and in the swelter of Kensington market, you can hear the drums of the buskers and the ice rattling in the tall glasses of caf? patrons. On the street, girls and women stride in loose clothing, having shed the remaining vestiges of cool weather. For many a man, the sight of a woman in flower dress is something that they cannot resist. They have to look. Demanding that they don’t is like telling a woman not to peek into the display window of a discount shoe store.
In this often unavoidable predicament, men have different lines of action. Not wanting to get caught looking, some men dawn dark sunglasses. Some have learned the method of turning their heads in the direction which the woman is walking and therefore allowing the temporary object of desire to enter freely into his line of vision. And other men, usually in the company of their buddies, take to becoming obnoxious.
Where a man’s eyes wonder is often the centre of a lot of debate in the community newspapers. One rather angry reporter, obviously not to keen on men looking at her, portrayed herself in her article as a street goddess, and men in society nothing more than packs of Pavlovian dogs, slobbering at her feet.
Is checking someone out really this bad? When does looking cross the line and become ogling?
A comedian once said that “there is a fine line between eye-contact and the stare of a psychopath.” Once when sitting in a park, me and my girlfriend watched a man stare, nonstop, at two young women playing frisbee, for about half an hour. Most men know the difference between an ogle and a look. I think it has something to do with the intent of the stare. Some men look because they like women, and others look because they don’t. As for the latter, these are the men who yell from car windows, flick their tongues when at a red light, and make kissing sounds in the shadows of bus shelters.
In the past, something happened to them. Some event jarred their minds like a record player and they lost the ability to make the connection between the mothers and sisters who love them, and wives and girlfriends and women they hate. They are stuck in a savage boyhood, unable to move forward. These are the men who will lovingly kiss their mothers goodbye, and within the same hour violate a women on a public bus with a hurtful comment or salacious sneer. When these men look at women, it is for the sole purpose of them making a feel uncomfortable and frightened. My advice to these men:
1. Grow up.
2. Go home and beg your mothers for forgiveness for having been two-faced liars and putting the members of her gender through so much abuse and scorn.
3. Contact all you ex-girlfriends and ex-wives and apologize for all the hostility and neglect that you’ve heaped upon them.
4. Go to your usual place of ogling with an armload of roses give one rose to each woman who passes by. Do this every day for a year.
Then, there is the other side of the coin: the yin for the Misogynist’s yang. As much as there are men out there who will go to no end to make women feel like nothing more than an object, there are women out there who do their best to be objects themselves. You can see it in the lineup of summer wear worn by 16-20 year old North American girls that, as Bill Maher said, is leaving prostitutes wondering what they’re going to wear. Strangely enough, while women are wearing less and less – the crotches of the newest bathing suits becoming more and more like ribbons – men are wearing more and more – the cuffs of their bathing trunks now hovering well below the knees. I am not sure why this is happening, possibly because women, young women, are becoming more bold and confident with their bodies, and men are becoming more insecure. How many men out there, have been told, at one time or another, that men’s private parts are ugly, and their bodies plain? How many men out there are embarrassed by their hairy chests, and back? While North American men have developed tastes for the young-looking supermodel look, North American women have also developed tastes for younger looking men: Brad Pitt, Ryan Philippe, lean and hairless as 14 year-old-boys.
Now, as much as the above described how Misogynists curse and mumble about the “stuck up” women who do their best to ignore their charming advances, certain women will complain about the looks and comments they receive on the street. Now before some of you start rattling out angry responses, please allow me to clarify myself. In this society, no one has the right to make someone else feel uncomfortable, period. There has always been the pervert in the park and the dirty old man in the subway, and it is my deepest hope that time will take care of them, but if I decided one morning to wear a shirt with the message “just do me,” should I be surprised and shocked that I receive comments about the shirt? No. I am not wearing this shirt for its comfort, or the way it makes my feel (pretty, attractive etc). I am wearing it to get a reaction. Now, I can really only speculate but, if I were a woman, and one day decided wear a lacy tube top clinging to my body by my erect nipples, and a pair of sixth grade pants tight enough to give me a frontal wedgy, I:
1) wouldn’t be wearing this outfit for comfort.
2) wouldn’t hope that only the people I choose, are going to give me looks and comments.
3) wouldn’t rely on the decency of the strangers I don’t choose, to avert their eyes and mind their own business.
Society has limits to public decency, which are always being tested and pushed. Now if you want to ride those limits, good. It’s a free country and you should be allowed to wear what you want. The rest of us need people like you to force the change in people’s attitudes. However, there are reactions – looks, leers, and comments – that I would have to expect if I were to do this.
Between these two extremes, we have the huddled masses. If this middle ground bears a common characteristic to these extremes, it is the frustration caused by the rift between how we want society to behave, and the way it does. Young men who want every attractive woman they look at to find them attractive in turn, and young women who, while for the most part want to be able to walk down the street without being gawked at, feel that spine of jealously when their friends get more attention then they do.
There is nothing wrong with checking someone out, but long gone are the days of Dean Martin’s “Watching All the Girls Go By.” And while we are all demanding more from each other and society, we can make summertime appreciation of one another other more tolerable by compromising. For the guys: if you see a pretty girl who you are not going to approach, dawn your shades and treat her like the sun. If you are planning on approaching her, instead of making a lewd comment, gather some courage and walk up to her and say: “Hi, my name is Joe, I was wondering if you would like to go for some coffee.” (Hey I never said I was Don Juan). And for the girls, while I realize that you have to put up with a lot of schmucks, all men see better than they think, so even the nice guys will occasionally rubberneck. This is not a perfect world, and many of these nice fellows you probably won’t find attractive. I just ask you not view them all as Pavlovian dogs. Besides, wouldn’t it stroke your ego if you could once, just once, be the cause of a minor traffic accident?