Monday, October 16, 2017

When Men Behave Badly

Quick background: I live in a mobile home park. (No, not like that--a really nice one with plenty of green space, two swimming pools, a fitness room, a library and a dog park.) A mobile home park is like a small town--a really tiny small town. Fewer than a thousand people live here. If I sneeze in the morning, my neighbor a half mile away will call in the evening and ask if I've been sick. You get the idea.

So this happened:

Last week my neighbor--Man A--allowed me to park my truck in front of his home for a day while my street was being repaved. That evening, he called to tell me his buddy--Man B--had stopped by to tell him this:

'You must be feeling pretty good--ha ha ha--since you spent the morning getting laid--ha ha ha--I saw Kay's truck in front of your house all day.'

Man A found this humorous and laughed as he shared it with me--until I told him "That's not funny" in a tone so flinty you could've started a fire with it. We went on to have a brief discussion on why it's not appropriate for a man who has never met me to talk about me as if I'm a whore.

See, we all know that this is--What did the President call it?--"Guy talk" or "Locker room talk." Giving it a testosterone-spiced name does not give it credence or respectability, and it does not excuse it.

In cases like this, women face the same universal dilemma that they always do when dealing with sexual inappropriateness or harassment: If we speak out against the source, we suddenly become "a bitch" or "psycho" or "the psycho bitch from hell."

But hey, I don't care what Man B thinks of me. He's already demonstrated that he's not a nice man. I've got nothing to lose in confronting him, right?

So I waited.

And tonight, I saw him sitting in his golf cart with his cute little Pomeranian in his lap, talking to another neighbor. So I parked my truck across the street and strolled over. The conversation went like this:

Me: Hi. We've never been formally introduced. I'm [Man A's] friend, Kay Murphy.

Man B: Oh, yeah, I know who you are. I see your truck around....

Me: Mm hmm. I just wanted to let you know that I'm a pretty nice person--

Man B: Oh, yeah, [Man A] says you're a real nice lady--

Me: So I don't really appreciate being talked about as if I'm a whore.

At this point, for a moment or two, the conversation got very loud. Man B used a technique that people sometimes use when they don't want to hear or accept or take responsibility for something you're confronting them with: THEY BEGIN TO TALK VERY LOUDLY. Which is what he did, raising the volume each time I tried to speak until I quite firmly but calmly said, "Please let me finish talking." And with a wave of the hand, he shut up.

Which gave me the opportunity, in a few sentences, to explain that, while he may have been joking with his pal, he had no right to speak about me in such a disrespectful way, especially since he'd never even met me. And that, yes, I realize he might think of it as "guy talk," in the same way our President does, but that doesn't make it any more appropriate.

And that is the point at which he finally said, "Geez, [Man A] and me was just talkin' but now I feel bad about what I said." I took that as an apology--or as close to one as I would get. I stepped forward, reached out my hand to shake his, thanked him, and told him that now when I see him I can wave and say hello "as if we're friends" (which we are certainly not and never ever will be, but still--we live in this tiny community...).

If you're a woman, you're probably cringing and nodding as you read this, because you've had similar experiences. If you're a man--and you haven't had a wife or a mom or a sister describe similar experiences and how men can make us feel like we're pox-ridden alley whores for their own amusement--let me just say that you need to stop and think about the impact of what you're mouthing off about.

As for me, I drove away feeling proud of myself, and definitely stronger as a woman.


  1. I was at a new job, being introduced around. One guy - just after a brief introduction - asked me "Do you fool around?" Mind you, there were other people present. I pointed to my ring finger, said "I'm married." He responded with, "Okay. But do you fool around?" Now I have to make a choice. Do I slap his face - hard (escalate) and ask him who the HELL he thinks he is, or just laugh it off as a big joke and walk away (de-escalate). I picked option B. I sometimes wonder how life might have been different if I had picked option A. He was, basically, asking me if I was a slut or not. In the open. No "guy talk" behind closed doors. Of course, that was years and years ago, but I recall the incident like it was yesterday. Not all guys are like this. But the ones who are ruin it for everyone. The more women begin to open up and share how these incidents make us feel, the better off we all will be.

    1. Several times when I was teaching high school I had men approach me--because my husband and I had divorced in my first year teaching--to let me know they were 'always available' in case I had 'needs that needed to be met.' These were married men. I worked with them for years. I always chose to shrug myself out of the situation, to make light of it, then distance myself from them. But I've always wondered what would have happened then if I'd said, 'Sure. Let me just make a quick call to your wife and make sure it's okay with her. She's a nice person; I met her at last month's potluck. I'm sure she wouldn't mind.' I have no doubt these guys went on to sleep with other colleagues, and the thought disturbs me still, after all these years.

  2. Avoidance would have been easier. It takes years of training to confront conflict and to engage in an uncomfortable discussion. These things are best handled face to face so you can nip it in the bud. Thanks for posting how to react to unexpected situations. The world needs more of these kind of examples.

    1. Thanks, Judy. You're right; avoidance would have been easier--in the short run. The truth is, both men's amusement at Man B's disrespect just kept eating at me. A week went by between the time it happened and the time I confronted him. His inappropriate treatment of a woman he'd never even met still lingered. I knew if I didn't speak to him, that anger would simmer for a long, long time, and that would be unhealthy for me. So, I did it for my sake, not in the hope of changing his behavior (but I hope he'll think twice before doing it again).

  3. Kay,
    I know it is foolish of me to respond to this; it's only going to anger you and maybe many others. Such is not my intent, but I think your post was not well thought and should be criticized. Now there may be much more to the story than you have chosen to reveal, but I can only go on what you wrote.
    First, this doesn't seem to be about you at all. You have no knowledge of what Man B actually said, do you? You weren't there and the comment wasn't addressed to you. Man A may have been perfectly and completely accurate in reporting the conversation, or not. You've characterized his words as calling you a whore, but those are your words, not his. What I see in the words you reported is a friend ribbing his friend about "getting lucky."
    Second, you say nothing about Man A's motivation in relaying his friends words. Is he crushing on you, maybe hoping you will encourage him? Was he trying to offend you?
    Third, why to you find it offensive that a male (or female, for that matter) might find you sexually attractive? Not that you need to accept any offer, especially if the one making the offer is married. But you seem unusually sensitive to even an expression of interest.

    1. "It's only going to anger you...." Huh. Beginning a conversation with someone with whom you disagree by stating the foregone conclusion that doing so is "foolish" because the other person is going to become angry is not a very productive way to begin open communication, is it, Bob? Haven't you assumed quite a bit here? And--hold on a moment--Do you think an angry response to you isn't justified, since you're defending men who are disrespecting women? Yes, "many others" may be angered by your comment. And they are right to be so.
      To enable your understanding of the situation:
      Man A had no reason to lie; he told me because he thought I would find it amusing.
      Man B admitted to having said it; I did not post our entire conversation here.
      Men can tease each other about "getting lucky" all they want, but when they make me the subject of their conversation--with the assumption that if I'm at his house I must be having sex with him--is disrespectful of me. I'm so sorry you can't see that point, Bob. Because that is exactly why I wrote this post. For men like you. Because you fail to see this type of behavior as damaging to women. You're an intelligent man. Talk to some women who have been sexually harassed or objectified. They're easy to find right now. Look for the hashtag MeToo.

    2. Really Bob? Are you serious? When have men ever equated the phrase getting lucky to mean actual luck? You know full well what Man B meant so don't postulate he meant otherwise. What you should have remarked on Bob is the fact that Man B shouldn't have said the comments to begin with.

  4. Mr. Devere,

    I don't know you, and don't want you to take this personally. However, I would like to highlight three points of irony in your comment which I believe highlight Kay's purpose in sharing this story. They are the casual indicators of the wider societal responses that enable much worse behavior.
    #1: "Now there may be much more to the story than you have chosen to reveal, but I can only go on what you wrote." - The expression of skepticism in response to a friend's experience.
    #2: "What I see in the words you reported is a friend ribbing his friend about "getting lucky." - Dismiss the incident as "misunderstood" or as "good-natured humor."
    #3: "Third, why to[sic] you find it offensive that a male (or female, for that matter) might find you sexually attractive?" - Delegitimize one's right to his or her emotional response and control over one's identity within his or her community. You may not have intended to do any of this and Kay's reaction may differ from mine, but this is how I would interpret your words had they been said to me.

  5. Kay, et al.,
    I’m not going to kidnap your blog, so this will be my only response. I’ll touch on three areas: prejudice; politics; and sex. Although I count myself in the tribe of the ‘height challenged,’ (OK, I let myself get old and fat, but at least I’m still short) I consider Randy Newman’s “Short People” to provide the definitive skewering of prejudice and bigotry. Perfect and perfectly brilliant. So, let’s say that Man B uses racist language to express a racist opinion to Man A. Man A has basically two options, assuming he doesn’t share that point of view: confront or acquiesce. Neither is going to change B’s mind, but confrontation at least puts A on the cosmic record for the right cause. Of course, if B is A’s boss for instance, that could be satisfying but unwise. Let’s say A chooses acquiescence, for whatever reason, but later relates B’s comment to you. Why? Maybe to see where you stand on the issue, or maybe to get a second chance to put himself on the cosmic record. In either case, B’s comment is the basic problem, maybe exacerbated by A’s lack of confrontation. So, do you seek out B and give him a piece of your mind?
    I’m still having problems accepting and dealing with the fact that America chose Trump to lead us into our future. I was disappointed when we gave George W. a second term, but I’m ashamed for us all now. And yet, many of us were delighted with that outcome, and a large, if decreasing, number of us still are, despite all that he has said and done. But there is little point in arguing about it. Given a set of facts, the Huffington Post headlines “Trump cuts taxes for the rich,” while Fox News headlines “Trump gives middle class some tax relief.” We can sign petitions, attend protests, speak out, but realize that people on both sides have their minds made up and won’t change them. My own course is not to argue but to agree to disagree.
    And lastly, on to sex. We are predominantly but not exclusively heterosexual. And yes, from the onset of puberty if not earlier, males are stimulated and aroused by the female form. I can’t generalize about women, but I’ve read that they are less aroused by visual stimulation than are men. In any case, women seem to understand this male weakness and sometime use it to their advantage. Does that mean that men objectify women? I would argue that it does not. It’s simply nature. And I would further argue that the proof is in who we marry. Who do we want to spend the rest of our lives with? Who do we want to be the mother of our children? Of course sexual attraction plays a part in the equation, but I again argue that bra size and shortness of skirt are less important than finding the woman who makes us laugh and loves us despite our faults.

    1. Bob, the answer to the question you've posed in the last sentence of your first paragraph is: Yes, if he called me a racial slur. Nothing else you've said here has anything to do with my post or your initial response to it.

  6. way to take the story out of the woman’s hands and center it around the man Bob 🙄 also edit your own writing before you critique someone else’s, maybe after your first sentence should have called it a day