When the #MeToo hashtag kicked off last year, my thoughts were divided. One on hand, some women shared their stories of rape and sexual assault, helped raise awareness of the cause, and directed their followers to useful resources if they experience something similar.
On the other hand though, there were tweets complaining of catcalling and wolf-whistling. There were also posts where women derided men for looking at them, or attempting to engage them in conversation on public transport.
This seems to be a common theme. Since then, I’ve seen other tweets, or blog posts- and I’m not referring to one person in particular, there have been several- where a woman has complained about a man being “creepy”, or “sexually harassing” her, when all he really did was try and talk to her, or tell her he liked her. 28% of 18-24 year olds now believe winking is sexual harassment. Wolf whistling is about to become a hate crime. Labour MP Melanie Orr has called for catcalling to become a misogynistic “hate crime”, and also- get this- following a woman out of a shop to chat to them when it’s unwanted.
I get that catcalling is a divisive issue. Although it should never be a criminal offence, I understand some women don’t like it. But for merely talking to a woman in a shop to be a crime? That’s a step to far.
I get it. Being chatted up can be annoying. It can be awkward, and you can feel a little uncomfortable. Sometimes you’re in a rush, or you’ve just finished work and you’re exhausted and don’t have the energy to talk anyone. And let’s face it, it never seems to be the men you’re actually attracted to. But look at it from the guy’s perspective. All he really did was try and talk to you. It takes balls to approach someone. He could have been single for a really long time and be looking for all the same things as you. And while some men are natural charmers, some are not, and may end up inadvertently making you feel uncomfortable. Fair enough if you’re not interested. But what happened to just saying you have a boyfriend and moving on? Men shouldn’t be cast as the oppressor just for having bad game. Let’s face it, if Brad Pitt stopped you on the street- would that be harassment?
Things are leading to the point where men will be scared to approach women out of fear of being branded a creep or arrested for a hate crime. We complain about online dating and dating apps. We complain about how hard it is to meet people organically. We should be encouraging more men to have the balls to approach us, and work towards a society where it’s as easy to meet someone down the pub as it is on an app. But instead, we’re blasting men when they do. Before the age of the internet, our grandparents probably met in the local shop, or perhaps he approached her on the street. But what used to be normal social interaction is now being branded as harassment.
While sexual assault and sexual harassment are both very real things, and there are some situations where men approach women and do end up crossing the line, this is very different to merely unwanted attention. We need to make sure that we don’t scare men off from approaching women organically, or trivialize sexual harassment by putting it in the same category as bad game.
Do you feel like the #MeToo movement has gone too far? Let me know in the comments but please keep all discussion respectful.
Side Note: If you have been sexually assaulted or harassed, This Morning have a great list of resources.