No One Cares About Your Opinion, White Male
A white man complained to me that a compliment he gave to a relatively strange woman didn’t have the reaction he wanted. And it took me a minute to figure out why.
The other day I was at a friend’s house with him, his wife and their roommate. It was a normal Saturday afternoon. We were eating tacos, watching music videos on youtube and having numerous discussions about numerous different subjects.
For some reason or the other, their friend started talking about how Europeans are really closed off when it comes to dating and sex. Part of his ranting was something that kind of bugged me. The twentysomething-year-old white straight male was telling a story about how he made a compliment to one of his “co-workers”(they both drive tuk-tuks for tourism tours) about how pretty she was, and the girl immediately reacted badly to the comment.
The millennial-hipster-type was passionately giving a speech about why is unreasonable for women to be offended when men simply give us compliments. He saw no problem at approaching a woman on the street, for example, to say how pretty she is. Everything with the utmost respect, he added.
That felt weird. And wrong. But because I still think that I’m very uneducated about, well, pretty much everything, I didn’t know how to explain why that was, in fact, unacceptable. Which made me even angrier. Now, not only I was upset that liberal left wing men still prove time and again how blind towards minor sexism actions they are, but I was also upset with myself.
I kept trying to remember every article I read or video I watched or podcast I listened to and nothing good enough came to me. I was angry because I know that I shouldn’t be quiet at these moments and most of all I was frustrated that my brain couldn’t form a compelling, or just good enough, argument to rebut what he was saying.
Thinking about it afterward my absent attitude was mainly a response to my lack of understanding the reason why that behavior was sexist. I knew it was, I just couldn’t put my finger on the exact reason. Which only came to me the day after, obviously.
White straight men think their opinions have to be heard. It is as simple as that. This is what my still learning brain fell to process during that conversation.
For years their opinions were the only ones that matter. Everyone listened to them and followed their orders without any question. A lot of the worthiness of people was given by these men, so they had all the power on each word they said. And even if some of them have been learning to keep at least their hands to themselves, a lot still think they’re entitled to vocalize their opinion at any given time, to whomever.
What I should have said that Saturday afternoon over the sound of banjos and harmonicas was that we, women, don’t want to know what they, men, think. If I’m walking down the street or if I’m at work, having a coffee or just living my life out in the open, I don’t care and don’t want to know if a guy finds me attractive or not. There is a 99% chance that we are not soulmates and there is a time and place for flirting and it’s definitely not when I don’t give you any indication that I’m on board.
It’s about time that men grasp on the idea that even if it seems innocent, and maybe it’s not even bad enough to be considered harassment, that is an alarming low bar to set. They need to learn that in a world where everyone matters just the same, no one cares about what they have to say (unless someone asks for it), especially when it’s just loud and noisy unwanted opinions over women’s lives and bodies.
In retrospect, I think I did ask something in the lines of “why do you need to say something?” to which he replied “why not?” and I didn’t have a well-formed response to it. Because the action seemed to have no physical or psychological consequences, and it didn’t feel the same as catcalling, I couldn’t place where my discomfort was coming from. Which is also a very low bar for we, women, to set for ourselves.
When this man was surprised by the negative reaction of the woman towards the compliment he gave her, he blamed on an imaginative absence of libido on European women and since he was still talking and complaining about it hours after it happened, he refused to just accept her feedback.
If there is something that I’ve learned is that when confronted by a minority because of something you did or said, just shut up and listen. You don’t have to agree, because again, no one cares about your opinion. You just have to accept, respect, don’t bitch about to your friends later and, most importantly, not do it again.
And if you think you’re losing power, you’re not. Because you weren’t supposed to have it in the first place.