Topic: Decline of the West
Living in Indiana, you miss out on a lot. For example, until reading this article by Christine Sisto for National Review Online, I was unfamiliar with the urban phenomenon known as cat-calling: the verbal harassment of women on city streets. It can take various forms: wolf whistles, offensive remarks concerning legs, breasts, buttocks, hair etc., loudly intrusive calls along the lines of “Good morning, baby!” or outright obscenities. Sometimes a man will follow a woman for several minutes, trying to initiate a conversation that is obviously unwanted. To see how ugly this can be, watch the video embedded in Ms. Sisto’s article. It’s the highlight reel from a ten-hour walking tour of New York City streets by a young woman named Shoshana Roberts. (Her boyfriend, walking several yards in front of her, covertly shot the video.)
Ms. Roberts, whom I would judge to be moderately attractive, wore no makeup. She was dressed in a black crew-necked t-shirt and black jeans. She appeared neither excessively sexy nor unduly frumpy. Her odyssey can therefore be judged to have elicited from the men she encountered on the street a fairly typical range of behaviors. And let me tell you: it’s not a pretty picture. I commend Shoshana Roberts for the grit she displayed despite being very obviously frightened by some of the men who approached and harassed her.
Now I know what you’re thinking: boys will be boys. It’s only natural for men to notice and check out an attractive woman, after all. It's reflexive in us, as the military salute is reflexive in a soldier. True enough—but is the consciousness of a woman’s attractiveness a legitimate excuse to verbally harass her? I think not, gentlemen. I think not…
Ah, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? The men who harassed Ms. Roberts were clearly not gentlemen. As Christine Sisto notes in her article:
It’s impossible not to notice that most of the men who shouted at Roberts seem, generally, to be of relatively low socioeconomic status. That’s judging by their speech, choice of clothing, and the fact that they don’t seem to be rushing off to work and have nothing better to do than shout at random women on the street. Most men who have harassed me on the street have been similar in appearance to Roberts’s harassers. It is very rare, if ever, that a man in a suit on his way to work has shouted obscenities at me.
Of course for conservatives a great temptation is there: Blame it on feminism! For after all, is it not true that feminists mock and revile the concept of gentlemanly behavior, insisting that such behavior subtly degrades women? Sure. It’s fair to say, I think, that feminist orthodoxy and the hypocrisies attendant on it have contributed toward the coarsening of American society. But to view even a couple of minutes of Ms. Roberts’ ordeal is to doubt the validity of such comfortable judgments. You ask yourself: What the hell has happened? When did it become acceptable for men to openly harass women on the streets? And how is it that Ms. Roberts’ testimony produced so many online condemnations of her, even including rape threats?
Well, but what did we expect? Cat-calling is a pathology of the underclass and the growth of the American underclass is one of those problems that people exert themselves to overlook. Progressives suppose that with enough SNAP cards, the problem can be made to disappear. Too many conservatives, on the other hand, play the morality card, supposing that the members of the underclass are self-condemned to their shiftless, pointless existences. Meanwhile, the cardinal virtues of baby-boomer postmodernism— nonjudgmental tolerance and sensitivity—prevent us from calling out bad behavior.
As an Amerian who’s old enough to remember when things were different, I deplore this. As a father of two daughters, I deplore it all the more.