Tips for Men to Help Make Biking, Walking, and Transit Less Crummy for Women

Guys, don't cut in front of a woman waiting at a light because you assume you're faster -- that's "man-shoaling." Photo: John Greenfield
Guys, don't cut in front of a woman waiting at a light because you assume you're faster -- that's "man-shoaling." Photo: John Greenfield

To simplify the text, unless otherwise noted, I’m using the words “women” and “men” to also include gender-nonconforming people who may be perceived as female or male by others. A version of this article also ran in the Chicago Reader.

In the midst of the #MeToo movement and the wake of the Kavanaugh confirmation, many well-meaning guys have been analyzing past decisions. Some of us have been wondering if there were times when we could have better supported the women in our lives or done more to put an end to the harmful behavior of other men.

Since my field is transportation, I recently asked female friends, colleagues, and anti-harassment activists if it would be useful to share tips from women for guys, covering how to avoid being a jerk, and be a better ally, while sharing public space on foot, on transit, and on bicycles. The goal would be to make the sidewalks, streets, bikeways, buses, and trains safer, more comfortable, and less annoying places. The answer was a resounding “yes,” with dozen of women and gender-nonconforming folks taking part in the conversation via a Facebook discussion and interviews.

Anita Mechler, a librarian, summed up the golden for men who want to avoid causing hassles for women trying to get where they need to go. “Try to be mindful of how you take up space, physically, verbally, and mentally.”

A common thread was that there are a host of issues that men generally don’t have to worry about — from catcalling to sexual assault — that are nearly universal, sometimes near-daily, concerns for women moving through the city. Design professional Marie Walz called these challenges “a woman’s experience in patriarchal world,” one that may be invisible to guys, but surely isn’t to the women in their lives.

Take walking home at night, for example. While all Chicagoans have concerns about crime, some told me it’s understandable for women to be wary of any man they encounter on a darkened street, and guys should do what they can to avoid exacerbating those fears. “You can hurt us,” pointed out architecture and design writer Anjulie Rao. “Easily, quickly. We know this. So don’t be surprised when we move away from you, or walk on the other side of the street… It’s never unreasonable.”

Other women suggested that men try to avoid walking less than half a block away from a solo female at night if they’re traveling at the same speed. If it’s necessary to pass her, they said, the guy should leave as much space as possible between them, perhaps saying a quiet “excuse me” as they go, or maybe even cross to the other side of the street themselves.

If you’re a man bothering to read this article, you probably wouldn’t think of making unsolicited sexual comments towards, or otherwise intentionally hassling, a woman walking, or on a CTA bus or ‘L’ car. But do you intervene when you see it happen?

“I would kill to see a man shut another man down for catcalling,” said Hope Nathan, who works in the film industry. “If it’s one of your friends, for the love of Mike, check him.”

SlutWalk Chicago, part of an international movement “working to challenge mindsets and stereotypes of victim-blaming and slut-shaming,” provided a statement with advice on what to do if you witness harassment, including getting the woman and yourself to a safe place if there seems to be a risk of violence. On the other hand, they said, “Be aware of how you approach her as well. This doesn’t need to be dramatic so you don’t need to make scene either — it’s an embarrassing moment.”

Similarly, law student Ezra Lintner, who identifies as genderqueer, said it’s important to follow the lead of the woman who is being catcalled. “I’ve made the mistake of being confrontational when the women I was with just wanted to keep walking… It’s the masculine person’s job to support her decision. A simple ‘Ugh, should we deal with this or keep walking?’ is enough.”

Marketing professional Rebecca Resman had an interesting suggestion for what to do if you see a stranger on the street being verbally harassed. “Start talking to her, or maybe even pretend you know her, so that your convo can override the other person’s.”

Resman biking with one of her children in Mary Bartelme Park a few years ago. Photo via Resman
Resman biking with one of her children in Mary Bartelme Park a few years ago. Photo via Resman

When it comes to riding transit, women has a wealth of tips to avoid being “that guy” on the train. The scourge of “man-spreading” is well-documented – men sitting with legs akimbo, encroaching on the personal space of other riders. It’s especially problematic on the newer 5000 series cars, prevalent on the Red Line, that mostly feature tight, aisle-facing bench seating.

Walz brought up a related “don’t” for men on those type of rail cars. When straphanging, “please turn facing the front or the back of the train, so that people don’t have to have your package right in front of their faces.”

Other transit-oriented requests for men included removing backpacks while standing so they don’t wind up in people’s faces, avoiding blocking doors, and not leaning against support poles, so that others can use them as hand grips. Women also asked that guys volunteer to help moms with strollers and elderly women getting on and off buses and trains, and be sure to offer their seats to pregnant ladies. “I kept a log of how many times I was offered seats during my first pregnancy, and it was seriously six times,” Resman noted.

And Walz advised guys that “If a woman has headphones on, she doesn’t want to talk to anyone unless the train is literally on fire.”

Assistant horticulturalist Yaritza Guillen told me that bike commuting has turned out to be a good solution to avoiding the hassles and indignities she regularly faces while walking or riding the CTA. “I don’t have to deal with strange men in my space or creepily talking to me about nonsense.

But while cyclists tend to be politically progressive, that doesn’t mean that bikeways are sexism-free spaces. There’s the phenomenon of “bike mansplaining,” in which male cyclists assume women are ignorant about bike setup or repair, and offer unsolicited, sometimes insulting, advice or assistance. Yasmeen Schuller, owner of the local social networking site The Chainlink, noted that “not all women like being considered a damsel in distress” when they have a mechanical issue. She suggested that men who encounter a female on the street with a bike problem ask if they have everything they need to fix it, rather than assuming that they need help.

Danielle McKinney, a technical trainer at a hospital, recalled attending a seminar on biking to work where the presenter asked the audience members if they knew how to fix a flat. “I raised my hand. He said, ‘You — you know how to change a bike tire?’”

Bikesplaining even happens to female professional “wrenches” like Mary Randall, who’s also a serious racer. She also reports that during “literally every solo road ride” she goes on in the Chicago area, random men will attempt to “draft” her (ride close behind to cut wind resistance) without saying anything. “So you have this hulking stranger riding two inches behind you, and you have no idea who they are or if they can ride well enough to be that close to you safely.”

How does she deal with that deeply creepy situation? “I just pull over and stop for a few minutes and let them go,” Randall said. “Sometimes I say something like, “If you can’t introduce yourself, get off my f—ing wheel. Sometimes I just blow snot rockets with reckless abandon.”

A number of women spoke out against “man-shoaling,” a topic that requires a bit of explanation. The cycling term “shoaling,” invented by widely-read blogger Bike Snob NYC, refers to the faux-pas of a cyclist cutting to the front of a line of cyclists waiting at a stoplight. Man-shoaling, which may have first been coined by Chainlink members, refers to a guy cutting in front of a woman at a light, under the assumption that he’s going to pass her anyway when the light turns green. “Man shoaling is obnoxious and insulting,” Resman said. “Tip for men: don’t f—ing do that.”

A few men, all of them current or former bike messengers, chimed in on the Facebook discussion to argue that if a man knows that he’s faster than everybody else waiting at a light, based on his skill and steed, it’s unfair to ask him to wait in line. In response, I drew the following Venn diagram to illustrate why this seems to be a non-issue.

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Image: John Greenfield

Despite all these suggested rules, women also said that men don’t need to walk on eggshells when interacting with them in public space. For example I mentioned on Facebook a tip for men that noted bike frame builder and cycling philosopher Grant Petersen included in his book Just Ride: a Radically Practical Guide to Riding Your Bike: “Don’t chit-chat with solo women you meet [while biking] — give them their space.”

But some women argued that it’s actually fine for men to strike up a conversation with females they meet in lanes and paths, rather the key is keeping things brief and being mindful of nonverbal cues that the woman isn’t interesting in continuing the conversation. “I met some of my best guy friends and dates because they were chatting me up on bikes,” said artist Aurora Danai.

So, guys, you don’t have to be paranoid that you’re going to inadvertently oppress women as you move around Chicago. But, as Mary Randall said, just remember to “consider how much space you’re taking up, and how that might be affecting the people around you.”

 

  • ChicagoCyclist

    ‘Shoaling’ is more complicated than this article indicates. Shoaling is really the lack of being observant, aware of others, (i.e. “smart”) and conscious of the safety of everyone out on the street. The key is to extend — once you have sufficient information (which may take a block or two to obtain) — the courtesy of letting folks who want to ride / are riding faster be the first in line and the first to take off from a signalized intersection / red light. Every mid-block passing situation in urban mixed-traffic conditions is potentially dangerous. Those kind of passing situations should (generally) be minimized. If someone passes you mid-block at a clip, then don’t ever pull up in front of them at a signal. If you pull up beside them, say something like “You take off before me. You’re going faster.” Often, based on bike type, clothing, cargo, etc. you can make an educated guess about a person’s relative riding speed and position yourself accordingly. Sometimes you will be wrong — it’s just an educated guess, after all. No harm. Just don’t make the same mistake twice or thrice. Sometimes, you simply are not or can’t confident enough to make the call, so the best thing to do is just wait a bit and see. After a block or two, you’ll know. Be wise, constantly scan and assess the situation, pay attention, think of everyone out there riding — we all need to work together to stay safe — be thoughtful, courteous, kind. Communicate. Have fun!

  • BlueFairlane

    My feeling is that if you’re really that much faster than somebody, you’re going to find a place to pass them, so just line up at the light in the order you get there. I can usually pass whoever I’m going to pass before I finish crossing the intersection. If there are too many other bicyclists on the road for me to do that, then I probably shouldn’t be riding that fast anyway.

  • Joe R.

    That’s all good advice. One thing to add also is some people may be shoaling because it’s possible to pass the red light, and they intend to do so. I have no issue with people who prefer to ride in a 100% law-abiding manner, even waiting at empty intersections for 2 minutes in the dead of winter. Just don’t expect me to do the same. When you stop, stay as far to the right as practical so as to allow anyone who wants to pass the red light to do so.

    Often, based on bike type, clothing, cargo, etc. you can make an educated guess about a person’s relative riding speed and position yourself accordingly.

    I’ll say that I’ve been consistently underestimated for most of my cycling career. I ride in regular street clothes. And none of my bikes are carbon racing machines. One is a 1984 red Raleigh with the 1984 US Olympic Team logo. The other is an Airborne titanium. Both fast road bikes but nothing you would think a fast cyclist couldn’t beat. When I need to stop for red lights, I’ve occasionally had the guys with the spandex and all the gear get in front, on the theory they would leave me behind. That theory usually went south the second the light went green. I out accelerate them, pass them by the end of the intersection, then see them a half block behind a few blocks later. Doesn’t happen much now that I’m nearly 56, but I still generally at least hold my own with these people.

  • Joe R.

    On the bike problems, I ask any stopped cyclist, regardless of sex, if they could use a little help. It’s just common courtesy.

    But some women argued that it’s actually fine for men to strike up a conversation with females they meet in lanes and paths, rather the key is keeping things brief and being mindful of nonverbal cues that the woman isn’t interesting in continuing the conversation.

    Why not the reverse? A lot of the guys who might make great partners are the very kind who are reluctant or unable to strike up conversations with strangers. Same goes on public transit. I really wish people were more amenable to talking to strangers on trains or buses.

  • Tooscrapps

    You are presuming the cyclist you are going to pass positions themselves in manner where it is safe. For me, Dearborn (Kinzie-Chicago) is a prime example:
    – It is an unprotected bike lane that gets pretty good traffic after 4:30, with different speed cyclists in varying lane positions.
    – There are a lack of dedicated left-turn lanes for motorists at 3 intersections (left hook alert!)
    – It has a heavy stream of motorists speeding and jostling for lights and turning positions.
    – It is flanked by parking and loading zones on the left for many of the blocks.

    I’d rather be the safe jerk and jump the queue at Kinzie or some other light than dealing with the hazards above while trying to pass someone.

  • rohmen

    I generally ask everyone I see having bike problems if they need help as well, regardless of gender, and agree it is common courtesy for many and nothing more. That said, I did have an incident where a woman on an organized ride clearly took it the wrong way, and thought I was being patronizing. That incident has led me to do the whole “do you have everything you need” question instead—mostly as a concession to the fact that while the question “do you need help” probably shouldn’t be such a loaded issue, mansplaining is so bad in cycling that it does come off that way to some regardless of intent.

  • BlueFairlane

    I really wish people were more amenable to talking to strangers on trains or buses.

    I am a social introvert who experiences a great deal of anxiety talking to random people in public. I really don’t want to strike up a conversation with strangers on trains or buses, because I generally find it unpleasant more often than not. Fortunately for me, I’m a middle-aged guy with resting son-of-a-bitch face well past the point where anybody would want to date me, so people generally leave me alone. I can’t imagine the hell an introverted 20-something woman must have to endure.

    I really wish extroverted people would be more understanding of those of us whose social energy plays out differently.

  • Joe R.

    I’m an introvert as well, which is exactly why I wish more people might have struck up conversations with me back when I used to ride the subways. If they’re not my type I could always just be polite for the duration of the ride, then say goodbye. Since getting out of school, my opportunities to meet people of either sex have been quite limited. I never had the big circle of friends which many people draw upon for dating or other reasons. It frankly amazes me when I see people dating someone else a few weeks after a breakup. I just wonder how the heck they do it.

    I can’t imagine the hell an introverted 20-something woman must have to endure.

    The problem is thanks to the taboo on talking to strangers the only attention anyone of either sex is likely to get on a train or bus will be from some wacko. I can easily see how that’s not welcome as I’ve been on the receiving end as well. It’s a pity more “normal” people don’t strike up conversations. That might even keep the wackos at bay when they see someone’s attention is already focused on another person.

  • AnoNYC

    Not every “strange” man is trying to harm or kill women.

    I mean seriously.

    The chances of being assaulted or killed on the street by someone random is so miniscule (More than half of female homicide victims were killed in connection to intimate partner violence for example).

    Women need to be more confident about interactions with men they don’t know.

    And “man-spreading” is a problem for everyone in any location where space is limited. There’s just some assholes who take up more than their share of space, and women do it too (though not as frequently because they are usually smaller). And it won’t change because instead of telling them “hey can I get some space” in a polite way, people take pictures to post on the internet and bicker about as though it makes any difference.

    The issue with men asking women if they need help is so petty. Pure insecurity.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Yes, by “bike type, clothing, cargo, etc.,” I didn’t necessarily mean simply “spandex/roadie vs. work-clothes/hybrid city bike.” The calculation that one must make is really much more subtle than this. It is about closely (but quickly) observing everything about a fellow cyclist and their ride and their manner/behavior or technique, and then making a (grantedly imperfect) judgement call about their probable riding speed and, more broadly, their “raison d’aller a velo” or why/how they are out here on a bicycle. It is really more of an art, then, than a science. My advice for judging other cyclists (and their speed) is to err, when you feel uncertain, on the side of caution.

    The only ‘competition’ that there should be out on the urban streets among cyclists is the competition to be as safe as possible and to act/ride in a manner that keeps everyone else as safe as possible too! Strictly obeying the laws (which were conceived of and developed for automobiles), unfortunately — given the nature of crashes and crash risks on our streets and especially at intersections — is NOT always the best way to keep yourself and everyone else safe. Staying super alert, communicating with other roadway users by voice and by gestures, being super conscious of other cyclists (and also of peds and automobiles), being courteous and attentive at all times, and basically ‘riding defensively’ (which means riding ‘on guard’ or cautiously), is the best way to be safe. In certain situations and places, hauling ass is simply dangerous, and definitely not smart. But for a cyclist who was just passed at a clip by another cyclist and who then at a signal pulls up ahead of that cyclist (i.e. the one who just passed them) is also creating danger and risk for everyone and not smart. If you are riding (relatively) slowly always stay at the back when there is ‘queue’.

  • qatzelok

    This entire article takes the position that it is men who are cutting off, passing, and otherwise bothering female cyclists. As a daily transportation cyclist, I can tell you that women in giant SUVs often show incredible, murderous disrespect for other users of the road who are less powerful and violent than they are in their SUV. Give women power and the potential for violence (an SUV) and a great percentage of them will abuse this power to dominate and threaten others. Happens every minute of every day.

    The violence-bred-by-inequality has very little to do with gender, and this article – like so many others – rides the wave of contemporary media memes straight into the brick wall of gender stereotypes and lack of empathy that it accuses “males” of being guilty of.

  • ChicagoCyclist

    Yes, this is generally right… when you haven’t had the opportunity to assess the situation / fellow cyclists. If you have, then that changes the equation a bit — with safety for all roadway users and courtesy toward everyone dominating all else (including even the law). Being spaced out or oblivious — and then riding in a manner that such a state of mind entails — is more dangerous than moving to a safe position at the front of queue at a signal where cars can see you (and therefore become aware of other cyclists too) and where cyclists can get the ‘head start’ and proceed more safely through the intersection (where “conflict points” are much more numerous). Tooscrapps example of Dearborn in the near north side (some folks call it the “armpit of Chicago” :)) is a good example of a stretch where passing is dangerous.

  • rohmen

    What does the fact that women can be equally bad drivers behind the wheel of a SUV have to do with the issue of how men could be less patriarchal towards women when they encounter them when walking, biking, or using transit?

    Men can make an effort to be sensitive to the type of concerns expressed by women in this article (which is solely about what they sometimes encounter while using alternative forms of transportation outside of a car) without that concern being interpreted as some sort of tacit approval of crappy women drivers.

  • rohmen

    “Women need to be more confident about interactions with men they don’t know.” Why? Why does a women, or for that matter anyone, “need to be more confident.” If someone wants to be left alone, they’re entitled to be left alone. Not all women are bugged by guys that try to make legitimate small talk, but like some men, some are going to be bugged and not engage.

    What I can guarantee you is that almost every women is going to be bugged and freaked out by someone acting creepy (as would almost any man). Telling women to just be “more confident about interactions” ignores that the interactions they’re really complaining about are the creepy ones. If you don’r see that, I’m sorry to say you either simply don’t care and think women should just “suck it up” and not complain about it, or you’re sympathetic to the guy acting creepy and think women owe congeniality to society.

  • AnoNYC

    I stated that women need to become more confident among men because it was mentioned in the article that some women are even afraid of a man walking in close proximity or past them. It’s ridiculous.

    As for being left alone, it’s just not going to happen when you are constantly around people. You can have two frames of thought: let it personally bother you or just take it in as irrelevant normal interaction. It’s unrealistic to think that will ever change.

    And a women’s definition of creepy is different then most men. It seems that some women define creepy as any male they do not know, which is silly.

  • rohmen

    “And a women’s definition of creepy is different then most men.”

    I agree, but not in the way you intend it. There is clearly a large swath of men that have no idea they’re being creepy to women, and that’s the persistent issue. You want women to be less afraid of men being creepy to them, start looking at the men around you and get them to be less creepy. If you think you’re not seeing men acting creepy, I’m sorry to tell you that you’re either not getting out of the house much, or you’re one of the people confused about what’s creepy and what’s legitimate small talk.

    It really is that simple.

    “As for being left alone, it’s just not going to happen when you are constantly around people.” Again, why? As a man, I’ve told people I just want to be left alone, and people then left me alone. Yet, when a woman does it, she runs a decent chance that she’ll be called a b*tch, etc., or asked what her problem is. If you’ve never seen that happen to a woman, again you’re either not getting out much, or you think it’s an appropriate response to act offended when a woman doesn’t want to engage with you. It’s not appropriate.

  • AnoNYC

    Yes, there are men that make others uncomfortable. But even then, their social awkwardness is usually harmless. The tiny percentage that are actually a threat are so miniscule that it’s unreasonable to be in constant fear.

    Having women in a constant state of fear is a form of control. Many women feel the need to have a man around and are not free to do what they please, even though the threat risk is usually close to zero.

    This exaggeration is especially true for women who live and primarily interact in neighborhoods that are not impoverished/minority, like I believe where most of the respondents in this article were interviewed. The likelihood of victimization is even lower.

    And as for telling people to leave you alone, yes just do it. All people are insulted for stupid things from time to time. It’s not appropriate, but to think that will change is wishful thinking. It’s also not the end of the world. People need to have more confidence and understand that it’s not an issue with themselves. Especially being called a bitch, that’s so petty and probably indicates the person who said it took offense. So let them dwell in disappointment and sadness and keep it moving.

  • rohmen

    “The tiny percentage that are actually a threat are so miniscule that it’s unreasonable to be in constant fear.” I’m not even going to touch this, as even a cursory look at statistics on assaults would explain why women feel the need to at a minimum interact with men with a heightened since that things can go south. That doesn’t mean they all walk around in fear, and none of the women quoted above strike me as women that limit how they move around this City when not with a man. I lock my door and have a house alarm. That doesn’t mean I live in constant fear of being robbed.

    Also, I’m not so sure why your focused on violence alone, outside of trying to use a concern over violence as a strawman to suggest any sort of focus on the idea that men should try to watch how they act around women exacerbates some sort of claimed “fear culture.”

    The vast majority of this article suggests tips men can try to use to come of as less harassing and patronizing to the women they encounter on the street. If some idiot tells a women she should smile more, or calls her a bitch for not talking to him, a women may be afraid of how that man will react if she tells him how she really feels about such a BS comment; and that boils down to a safety concern. But, women are also just frustrated and annoyed about having to deal with that type of constant patronizing conduct, period (and regardless if they feel they;re in subjective danger). You telling women to just not treat those type of condescending interactions as a big deal, and just “keep it moving,” is just another BS layer of patronizing and condescending prater.

  • AnoNYC

    Perhaps I am desensitized because I grew up in a community with substantial violence, and I developed survival mechanisms that don’t allow me to dwell on nonsensical interactions like name calling. Imagine if I put myself down every time someone said something bad about me, I would be a wreck.

    To think that the mentioned habits will disappear is just not realistic (and some of them are extraordinarily ridiculous, like turning sideways on the subway). Most men who will read this sort of article will dismiss it, as men are socialized to “man up.”

  • BlueFairlane

    If they’re not my type I could always just be polite for the duration of the ride …

    So why should I, who might have stuff on my mind or prefer to just enjoy the scenery out the window or read my book or whatever, have to be polite for the duration of the ride? There’s almost always something I’d rather do with my ride than listen to you prattle on over things I don’t care anything about. I get that you’re lonely and would like somebody to talk to, but I don’t want any part of it, and I’d rather you respect my right to keep to myself.

    Here’s the thing. If you talk to me on a train, I’m not going to think you’re protecting me from that creepy guy. I’m going to assume you are that creepy guy. You might not be that creepy guy, but I’ve got no way of knowing that, and I’ve met enough of that creepy guy to have lost interest finding out whether you’re him or not. Meanwhile, there’s a 100% chance I’m going to think you’re annoying, and there’s a 0% chance I’m going to want to be your friend. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s say I’m a woman, and I’ve spent my life having to deal with an endless series of annoying randos who think there’s a chance in hell I’m going to want to date them. Seriously, they deal with this crap all the time. Pretty much every woman gets hit on enough to just assume any idiot who talks to them is out for sex, and by the time you get to them with your polite conversation, they’re pretty much sick of it. You should really respect people’s boundaries enough to leave them in peace.

    In short, don’t talk to strangers on the train.

  • Justin

    As an upper class white man, I have never once seen a peer catcall someone. This phenomenon literally does not exist in my community. It is very frowned-upon in my community to harass strangers on the street. The PoC and working class communities really need to be better allies of women, it seems.

  • AnoNYC

    You don’t have to have the conversation, but why would you let yourself get anxiety over it? It’s a serious question because I don’t understand the mindset?

    I’m often busy reading on mass transportation, but I am always personally willing to exchange a few words if someone approaches me. I’ll just politely tell them I need to read or do whatever if the exchange looks as though it will be ongoing. It’s not a big deal to me at all.

    I actually enjoy most small exchanges with people, unless they are asking for something like money which can be annoying but again not a big deal. I’ll forget it a minute later.

  • Joe R.

    Same here, although my childhood neighborhood (Woodside) probably wasn’t in the same league as yours. Still, I had my share of bullying, getting my bike stolen (and getting it back), etc. Totally agree any adult shouldn’t be phased by name calling. For example, I’ve been called the f word for homosexual so many times while riding it stopped bothering me, not that it ever did. If someone wants to make a judgement about my sexuality (and I’m as hetero as they come, BTW) based on my choice of transportation, they’re the ones with the problem, not me. if someone wants to call a woman who avoids small talk with them a bitch, again they’re the ones with the problem, not the woman.

    And yeah, some of the things discussed here, like turning sideways in the subway, are just ridiculous. Sure, I’ll avoid standing in such a way that my “package” is 2 inches from someone’s face, but I often can’t do much better than that in a crowded subway train. And your counterpoint about the breasts was hilarious. Yeah, I’ve had breasts in my face, on my hands when I’m straphanging, etc. Couldn’t care less. It’s part of riding on a crowded subway train.

  • AnoNYC

    Stereotypical catcalling is practiced by a minority of men, but much of it is not really explicit (e.g. hollered or vulgar). People imagine the stereotypical image of construction workers at lunch, whistling and hollarding at the passing women. It’s not always like that. Could be a guy making a sexual comment at a passing female.

    And it sometimes happens among white, upper income men too. Especially when alcohol is involved.

    It’s also not always frowned upon by women. Some do indeed enjoy the compliments (and women can be pressured to hide the fact that they like it, slut-shaming). That’s why it hasn’t died out.

  • Joe R.

    Nobody here is justifying the boorish types of conduct you mention, but by the same token think what constantly being treated like a potential rapist does to men. These same women will be the ones whining they can’t get dates, can’t find a decent man, etc. Sure, because guys don’t like to be on the defensive from the first minute. How would women like it every guy they met assumed they were a bitch, whore, gold digger, etc.?

    The problem boils down to the mixed signals. So if I hold the door for someone (which I do for both sexes, BTW), a woman might be offended, or they might thank me, and I don’t know which. If I try to be more “sensitive”, I might not attract much interest because women will assume I’m a homosexual. Really, there’s no winning.

    AnoNYC is just suggesting people start acting more natural with each other. If sometimes things are said or done which you might find offensive, just brush it off and chalk it up to our differences. Everyone has weird things they find offensive that others don’t. This isn’t to say we should tolerate genuine violence or harassment. But any rational person knows the difference.

  • Joe R.

    Read up on this and look at statistics. I was surprised at how high a number of women actually not only don’t dislike catcalling, but welcome it. That’s why it persists. The odds are still against the guy doing it, but a lot of guys will consider a 1 in 5 return worthwhile (that’s about what the statistics say).

  • AnoNYC

    When I was growing up, if a guy said something personally offensive to you it would often result in violence (especially a stranger). The older you got, the more extreme the violence. At my age now, 30s, if I got into a verbal altercation with another male around my age in my community it could realistically result in a homicide and most definitely physical violence. Most men here do not talk crap unless they are ready to risk serious violence.

    You need to press on about stupid comments in order to survive.

    A lot of women do not grasp the realistic extreme threat of violence that many men must contend with, so their complaints about creeps and other mentioned issues are often totally disregarded. Men on the other hand are taught to man up and deal with it, to push on and not let it bother them. So you don’t let it bother you.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve never tried to initiate conversation on a train (I’m an introvert, remember). I have been on the receiving end a number of times. If I really couldn’t talk, say because I was studying for a test, I might just chat 30 seconds, then say excuse me, but I have a really important test today. Every single time the person just wished me good luck, and stopped trying to talk to me. If I had nothing to do, I might or might not continue the conservation. If I didn’t feel like it, my body language was usually enough to get the person to leave me alone.

  • Joe R.

    And the females who grow up in these neighborhoods typically learn exactly the same thing. You can tell the difference between them and someone who grew up in a sheltered environment easily. The latter will be traumatized if someone flashes their penis on the train, probably go the police, etc. The former will laugh, maybe make a comment like “that’s all?, and go about their business.

  • Justin

    What’s your point? That white men should catcall *more* for the benefit of the self-esteem of a minority of women who enjoy it vs. a greater number that are deeply threatened by it? I don’t really care either way, I think probably most the women I am interested in would be in the cohort that is less impressed by being propositioned in the middle of the street in front of an audience.

  • AnoNYC

    Agreed.

  • AnoNYC

    No, that’s not my point at all.

    My point is that yes, catcalling exists among all. Upper income white men are not “too good for it”/exceptions. I know of plenty upper income white professionals that are sleazy as hell (catcalling is tame in comparison to what these guys do), it sounds as though you live in a bubble or choose to ignore the reality.

    And in an age of slut-shaming, a women’s interpretation, at least publicly, about these things is often compromised by the opinion of others. And so what if a woman likes compliments, even if they are really deemed inappropriate by society.

  • AnoNYC
  • Joe R.

    Those numbers honestly stun me. I’ve been on the receiving end of catcalling, more so back when I used to ride my bike more during the daylight hours. Not so much now that traffic has forced me to ride at night. Certainly didn’t bother me, and frankly I was happy women are starting to feel confident enough to catcall a random guy riding a bike on the street. I guess it also helps that my appearance really isn’t all that threatening. I’m not tall (5’9″) by today’s standards, and until I put on some weight I had a typical cyclist’s build.

  • AnoNYC

    I think many feminist today are confused. That or they are not on the same page when it comes to discussing these issues (forming a consensus). I could be wrong on this, but this is the perception I have gotten, even after having taking an undergraduate college level course on feminism.

    As a man, when I get cat called I just laugh about it. I’ve even been groped by women on multiple occasions (I’m talking strangers on the street and at an event), and I didn’t care. I don’t really care if I was sexually exploited for pleasure or objectified. I define who I am, not another person.

  • Scroller

    Yes, it’s quite clear upper class white men prefer soliciting sex by using it as a tool combined with their authority and the occasional substance through which women advance in the work place.

  • Joe R.

    Same here. If someone gets their rocks off on me in a non-harmful way, I couldn’t care less. At best it’s a low-level annoyance, like delivery men riding on sidewalks.

    A big yes on what you mentioned about feminists. Thankfully, I can’t recall any in my circles of friends. I fortunately grew up in the 1960s and 1970s when interactions between people were a lot more natural. That included my father making sex jokes while my mother’s female friends or relatives laughed hysterically and vice versa. Nowadays it seems far too many people find far too many things offensive. It’s really off-putting. I think it’s especially counterproductive at the workplace where people have to be on pins and needles, lest they lose their job over something they said, even if no malice was intended.

  • dexter

    “As an upper class white man, I have never once seen a peer catcall
    someone. This phenomenon literally does not exist in my community.”

    So if I’ve never seen an upper class white man on my bus, does that mean they literally don’t exist?

  • I regret the time I spent reading this article.

  • SayNo2Caging

    Reading this gives me a headache.

  • Scroller

    Has one woman even commented on this thread?

  • Mcass777

    Why do I move to the front of a line at a light? Because I am afraid of sitting at a busy light boxed in with a lot of bikes. Who likes sitting three bikes from a light next to bus or a truck? It happen all the time where a biker starts up and weaves left or right causing those behind to stop and move on the opposite direction. Sorry for my behavior.

  • Mcass777

    I really agree with you. I can ride at a good clip but will never pass a faster rider at a stop. I think it is all about situational awareness. It is brutal on a busy street yet I see people riding like they are on a forest preserve trail, rarely anticipating cross traffic or other riders. I actually yelled stop to a rider who rode thru a red light and almost got hit by a bus! I look at my actions as self preservation first, then respect.

  • Carter O’Brien

    Why do cyclists feel they are entitled to pass slower cyclists at all? This is a fundamentally questionable assumption, and seems to mirror what we would think of as bad motorist habits.

    If the road space and traffic permit it, great. If not, slow down and mellow out, you’ll get a chance soon enough. There’s no right or guarantee to be able to bike at xx mph on city streets just because you can.

  • **

    Thanks for bringing up this subject! I’d also love to see more airtime and support for the input of women on major infrastructure projects the North Lake Shore Drive Project and the Lakefront Trail Separation Project.

    For example, the North Lake Shore Drive Project is proposing a fair number of unnecessary viaducts and bridges in order to facilitate car access. Both viaducts and bridges take pedestrians out of sight street-level sight and complicate getting away from an attacker or receiving help from an emergency vehicle. So far these concerns seem to not to have registered with the planners.

    Similarly, over the objections of quite a few women, the Lakefront Trail Separation Project in some areas created new hazards for children and seniors, displaced pedestrians with disabilities, made questionable choices on lighting, trees, and materials, failed to fix known safety issues, and even routed the 24-hour bike trail behind barriers that are closed at night. These were all resolvable in the initial design phase paid by Ken Griffin’s generous gift in support of improving trail safety, but now must be fixed with taxpayer money—a burden increasingly shared by women.

    It’s not that men cannot themselves be sensitive to these kinds of issues, but that It’d be great to have more men supporting true responsiveness to these kinds of concerns and others that women might bring to the table.

  • bobfairlane

    Your faggotry is appalling. Faggots don’t need allies. They need to get out of White countries.

  • bobfairlane

    It’s not his fault your town is niggernated.

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