Why Women Smile at Men Who Sexually Harass Us
Hanna Brooks Olsen

A friend posted this on Fb, and another friend asked whether there is something about the author of this piece that “attracts” men. She felt guilty asking, because she knows, absolutely understands, that this male behavior is not the author’s fault. Here is what I responded, and I hope it deepens readers’ understanding of what Hanna Brooks Olsen is saying here:

I do not know anything about the author’s looks or persona. But I know that, while not a great beauty, I am petite (5') Mary Ann type. “Mary Anns” are girl-next-door type woman (as compared to Ginger’s Hollywood beauty) as caricatured in the 60s show, Gilligan’s Island. You probably know that, but since you are [early thirties], I just point out that my generation (your mom’s age) is adept at identifying whether a woman is “a Mary Ann or a Ginger.” Mary Anns are apparently imminently more approachable — less intimidating than great beauties — to men who feel an urge to approach, and in the course of my life, I have been approached more times than I can tell you. When I was in college, short men would run up to me and lift me off the ground without bothering to ask my name first, loudly “claiming” me as theirs because of my stature. Although you might think this kind of thing is an alcohol induced by-product of college, as I aged, I found myself stalked (three times, grown-up men, one ex-military, one a lawyer, one my wall-paper guy while I was big-bellied PREGNANT), followed out of a meeting when I left for the bathroom and shoved up against a wall by an older male colleague who held me pinned there with his belly, screamed at by a strange man in a delicatessen that I was a spoiled bitch, a cunt, and more delightful names because I refused his request that I sit with him to eat — in full view of other customers who did nothing. I cancelled my order, fled the restaurant, and drove home a crazy zigzag way for fear that he might have jumped in his car to follow me. I’ve been solicited by married men, touched by men who walked by me, and so forth. Here is the thing: men who do this are demonstrating that they have not developed socially appropriate boundary respect. And as such, you cannot assume or trust that they have ANY boundaries — sexual, violence, indecency, personal space, whatever. And there is a fair chance that anyone who is motivated to disregard social convention has some “baggage” that compels them to do so. Past bad experiences with women. Mommy hatred. Personal insecurities. Whatever. Who knows, except, it’s scary. And so… as this woman suggests, the safest course is not to risk pissing them off, but to be as submissive (that’s the real word she’s looking for) and vanilla wafer unoffensive as possible, while figuring out who/what you’re dealing with and how to best extricate yourself.

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