This roundup of Facebook status-update crimes just popped up where else. It's pretty funny, and gets at some of the issues here, but in a far more clever way than the post I'd halfheartedly half-written in response. Basically the gist is, do not confuse Facebook for your mother. (Item 3, but really all of them.) If something goes well in your life, do you really think everyone you met briefly in a class six years ago is happy for you?
But there are other interesting observations, such as that past a certain threshold, complaints about getting hit on stop reading as feminist activism and start reading as bragging about one's own gorgeousness. The example provided:
On my walk home from work, I was whistled at twice, honked at twice, and one car almost caused an accident slowing down to stare at me. Sometimes I really hate men.This item caused all kinds of controversy in the comments. Complaining about harassment isn't bragging!, some insist, adding that only a man would possibly think this. Catcalls aren't compliments!
So. I'm quite sure I'm not a man, but I immediately knew exactly what that item was referring to. True, victims of sexual violence are not necessarily any which way physically. No, being stalked isn't even remotely like being scouted by a (legitimate) modeling agency. And as I've said here so many times before, street harassment is typically less about looks than perceived vulnerability, thus explaining why you might have been much better-looking at 23 than 13, but getting far more street attention from men at the younger age.
But are we really going to claim that women who are admired every time they leave the house, asked out every time they go to a coffee shop, proposed marriage to every time they take the bus, that such women are not being praised for their looks? That being certifiably stunning isn't at all a form of advantage? That women never, ever brag about this sort of non-threatening attention, but knowing that it's socially unacceptable to announce that one is hot, include a quasi-feminist disclaimer?
And are status updates a useful vehicle for protesting honest-to-goodness male sketchiness? If we take into account that status updates (by men and women alike) are about constructing an image, the terms change. The instances women experience of feeling genuinely threatened don't make for catchy, upbeat witticisms suitable for a general audience. So we may hear about oh-so-creepy dudes on the subway who want to know what you're reading, but not about the ex who follows you around town. The men whose idea of street attention is 'Hey good-looking,' and not the ones who try to physically trip women as they pass, or who expose themselves, etc. The very nature of the genre lends itself to exactly the kinds of attention that are more on the 'flattering' end of the spectrum.
It gets complicated, though, because the sort of attention that is a compliment - and we know this, in part, because women past a certain age so often complain about no longer receiving it - can also be perceived of as menacing. Even something as seemingly non-aggressive as being told you're beautiful can, depending the context, be wildly inappropriate. So it might seem the safest bet to say, fine, yes, we suspect on some level that some 'complaints' are bragging, but we'll never really know which count as such, so we should give the complainers themselves the benefit of the doubt.
Which would be fine - and which is, practically speaking, the only way to go - if it were not for the following: These conversations can define the essential female experience - or young-and-female experience - as being hit on all the time, thereby excluding whichever women are not from female solidarity. The feminist sphere can at times end up mimicking exactly that which it's trying to combat, acting as if the only women who matter are the ones who are young, pretty, and appealing in a general sense to men.