This week a blog post titled “I Debated Whether or Not to Share this Story” by a blogger named UnWinona spread through the internet like wildfire. The premise of her post focused on her frustration and outrage with clueless and crude men who hit on her during her daily commute on a Los Angeles train. She concludes her post by stating in bold italicized font: It’s not my fault I’m pretty.
It's not her fault she's pretty. Most recent picture of UnWinona I could find on her blog.
I read this woman’s story and immediately had mixed emotions about it. On one hand, I completely identify with her story. Being approached by men in an aggressive manner while taking public transportation, in the grocery store or simply walking down the street can make every day activities seem like a battlefield. As a woman I can concur that I’ve been obnoxiously hit on and even physically accosted in public places on a pretty regular basis. It’s annoying at best and a consistent invasion of privacy at worst.
On the other hand…
The first thing that jumps out at me about UnWinona’s post is the severity and extreme nature of the situation she describes. She says that one man who harassed her screamed at her and “screamed at his dead mother.” That doesn’t sound like aggressive flirtation or even sexual harassment. That sounds like a mentally disturbed passenger having a minute with his sanity, regardless of her being so impossibly “pretty.” Maybe she was trying to make a joke by suggesting he was yelling at his dead mom, but the rest of her post is so serious I can’t really tell.
Nevertheless, I have empathy for her. Like many women, I’ve also been called a stuck up bitch and a whore for rejecting men. Thankfully aggressive behavior is usually the exception, not the rule. In fact, most of the time when a strange guy strikes up a conversation with me, I’m flattered. Even if I’m not interested in him romantically I can appreciate the effort. Recently (and maybe this comes with age and a general feeling of warmth and curiosity towards my fellow man regardless of gender) I actually like to engage in conversation with random people who approach me.
I wonder if Unwinona dislikes being chatted up by all men, or just the pesky men on the train. If a “hot” guy approached her – one that she finds attractive – would she still be as offended or would she be flattered and happy to chat with a cute one? Keep in mind this is a woman with such a high opinion of her own appeal that she admittedly wears a fake wedding band to ward off all the unwanted male attention she receives.To be honest, I really don’t know what to make of this chick. At the very least her blog post brings up a lot of questions about male attention vs. “unwanted” male attention.
For example, women complain about being approached by creepers at bars. A guy they find unsuitable offers to buy them a drink and they get pissed off and feel like some weirdo just invaded their space. However, five minutes later the same woman might be excited, happy and totally open to receiving validation (and a free cocktail) when a “hotter” or more appropriate suitor approaches her at the same bar, for the same reason, in the exact same manner. Hot guys aren’t creeps but ugly ones are? How do men know if they are going to be deemed a creeper or a suitor? What are the rules? When is it okay to approach a woman and when is it an invasion? This contradictory conduct from women must be confusing and extremely infuriating to men.
I know I’m going to get flamed for this, but maybe UnWinona should talk to some of the men who approach her. Not because she “owes” it to them, but because men are people too. Obviously the men she describes in her post are not the type of dudes you want to befriend, but I bet many of the other males who try to strike up conversation with her on the train are just like the rest of us – lonely, bored, curious or simply trying to make a connection with a person they find attractive or interesting. What’s wrong with that?
About a year ago I made a decision to be more open minded about talking to strangers. When time and circumstances permit, I talk to pretty much anyone who approaches me. Not just men I find attractive or guys who” look like” a man I would date. If someone asks me what I’m reading or what type of tea I’m drinking, I look at it as an opportunity to meet a new human being and learn something. I never feel threatened and most of the time the experience is positive. Occasionally I even make a new friend.
One time I was sitting alone at a coffee shop. I was in a terrible mood. My boyfriend and I just broke up and I was annoyed, cranky and just wanted to stew in my anger and sip my drink in peace. I noticed two guys checking me out through the glass window and I thought to myself: “Please God do not let them come over here and bother me. I just want to be left alone.” A few minutes later, sure enough, they were standing at my table asking if the other two chairs were free. As cranky as I was, for some reason I replied “Yes. They are free. But I just went through a break up and I’m in a really bad mood so sit at your own risk.” The guys laughed, but chose to sit down with me anyway. Within a few minutes the three of us were talking, sharing shitty break up stories and laughing our heads off. A few hours and a gallon of ice tea later I was in a great mood. It’s now more than two years later and one of the guys and I are still friends. He even hooked me up with a job once!
My conversation with these men never materialized into dating or a romantic relationship, but that isn’t the point of just talking to people, is it? As a culture are we so jaded and selfish that we only want to engage in exchanges with people who provide us with an immediate benefit? Why do we see members of the opposite sex simply as a “yes” or a “no” even for basic conversation?
As children we are taught “Never talk to strangers.” That’s because we were KIDS. Young people don’t have the experience or decision making capabilities that allow us older folks to sense danger. Talking to new people seems inappropriate because it’s drilled into our heads since birth that there is “Stranger Danger” everywhere. Is it truly dangerous for an adult to communicate with another adult, even in public places? If so, that is really sad.
Back to her blog post…
I do entirely agree with UnWinona on some things. Women have a right to their personal space. A woman should not feel obligated to talk to a strange man, nor should she be emotionally and/or physically attacked just for trying to ride a train in peace. Sexual harassment and male entitlement is a dark and very serious aspect of gender relations in our society. Being called a bitch simply for rejecting a man’s advances is completely unacceptable and those men she described have serious issues that extend well beyond harassing women on a train. They are kooks.
Speaking of kooks, in a loose reference to the Todd Akin controversy, she uses her blog post to address to the idea of “legitimate rape” but then only uses examples of mentally unstable men acting like legitimate lunatics on a public train to illustrate a rapey scenario. Then she blames all this unwanted attention on the terrible burden of being “pretty.” I’m a little worried Unwinona is misrepresenting the female experience. I worry about type energy she is putting out there, particularly in the name of women. Or more accurately, “pretty” women. All I know from her blog post is that Unwinona is very adamant about two things: Most men on the train are creeps and she is pretty.
Really? Yikes. Being pretty – or even female – sort of becomes irrelevant once dudes start invoking the ghost of their dead mother.
This does NOT mean I am saying she deserves any of what she experienced or that she is “asking for it.” No means no, go away means go away and fuck off means fuck off. Trust me: I’ve lived it. I’ve been harassed. I’ve been scared. I’ve been called names. I’ve been “legitimately” raped. So I get it. Being a woman can mean having to deal with some pretty heavy and frightening experiences with men.
I wasn’t there so I don’t know what she experienced but it did sound awful. She should not feel unsafe or be harassed on a regular basis while using public transportation. I don’t have a lot of experience with the Los Angeles red line so I might have to hop on the metro and check it out. If there’s one thing about her post that isn’t debatable it’s this: That sounds like one crazy train and I’m not afraid to climb aboard and see.