I’m sure by now you’ve seen the CNN discussion panel (above) with comedian Amanda Seales and author Steve Santagati (be wary—his books include Bad Boys Finish First and The MANual) in which Santagati tries to mansplain street harassment, and Seales reacts appropriately (and hilariously).
In the video, Santagati seems to be pardoning street harassment, even going so far to say that if women don’t like it, they should “carry a gun” (because guns solve everything!!). When Seales says that she faces street harassment, Santagati even responds by saying “Nice. Nice!” But that’s not the worst of it. Santagati claims that he knows more about street harassment than Seales does, because he’s a guy. And the mansplaining begins:
“I’m more of an expert than you, and I’ll tell you why. ‘Cause I’m a guy, and I know how we think, more than you guys will ever know. I can’t get in a woman’s head … but I’m a guy, and I know why these guys do this. The bottom line is this, ladies: You would not care if all these guys were hot. They would be bolstering your self-esteem, bolstering your ego. There is nothing more that a woman loves to hear than how pretty she is.”
Thank God for Steve Santagati—now I’ve realized that street harassment is really a compliment, and, as he so accurately describes, WOMEN LIVE FOR COMPLIMENTS.
I’ve heard this all before, from the men in my life, even some I’d call friends. Street harassment is a compliment, ladies. They just want us to know that they would, in fact, sleep with us. Who cares if we’re just trying to get to class on time? Some guy on the street wants us to know that we look beautiful today, so it’s our responsibility to thank him—right?
Hell no. I’m going to reiterate what Amanda Seales was trying to explain before Santagati went all “CARRY A GUN” on her: we don’t fucking like catcalls, so stop.
Even last night, as I walked to my What the F E-board meeting (the irony, I know), some guy stopped me on the street to tell me that the color of lipstick I was wearing was really beautiful, “sweetheart.” I didn’t respond. I just ducked my head, and kept walking—and kept looking back to make sure he wasn’t following me.
Catcalling is not a compliment. When we’re walking down the street and we hear “Hey, beautiful!” or “Smile, honey!”, all we’re really hearing are threats. Because if we don’t respond, we’re bitches. Or the catcaller “didn’t mean it anyway.” Or we’re sluts. Because if we don’t acknowledge their unwanted advances, we find ourselves in danger. Because just one month ago, a woman had her throat slashed after rejecting a man’s unwanted “compliments”. Because another woman was shot and killed after turning a man down, in Detroit.
Our fears are warranted. They are more warranted than the “compliments” of catcallers. And men like Steve Santagati telling us to “ignore it” or “tell them to stop” or carry a fucking gun will never understand what it’s like to be afraid to walk to class.
University of Michigan
College of Literature, Science, and the Arts ’16
Creative Writing Fiction