I really hope that eventually, complete bullshit articles like this one, "Can We Stop Calling Guys 'Creepy'?" will not rear their ugly faces on the internet. It was written for Thought Catalog by two women who write together under the name Johanna de Silentio. In it, they say that all us women need to stop being so darn liberal with pointing the “creepy” finger at men, lest we accidentally mistake someone's stellar intentions, get carried away with and disenfranchise ourselves, or, god forbid, hurt some poor guy's feelings. Boo hoo. I expect unenlightened men to pull this kind of garbage, but when it’s written by women, it hits a little bit closer to the feminist cockles of my heart.
After my initial reaction of complete anger at the preposterously obvious misogyny embedded in this article and this author’s way of thinking about women, I really just feel bad for her — and, in turn, all of us.
The first thing that I feel compelled to tackle is the author’s claim that “Girls who call guys ‘creepy’ are girls who solicit attention they have no intention of returning so that they can complain about it and feel better about themselves.” WOAH. What a loaded sentence, everyone! If any of you have ever mistaken soliciting attention as a woman’s private (or otherwise) intention for calling out a creepy guy on his creepy shit, that’s your fault. Even if we all put on our creative caps for a second and pretend that’s true, making the assumption that A.) they were doing it for attention, B.) they intended to complain about it, and C.) they’re all just big ol’ teases, really smacks of the old “They were asking for it!” mentality that perpetuates rape culture, absolving rapists of any blame by implicitly saying that any woman who acts in a way that our patriarchal, woman-hating society deems “slutty” got what she deserved.
Where she really just missed the mark completely is how she writes as though it’s the privilege of certain women in certain situations to call men creepy, and if you don’t fit the bill, you’re lying or being dramatic. She takes great care to make a distinction between feeling creeped out and a man having done a creepy thing. I don’t see a difference. If a woman feels creeped out by something a man did, I’m going to go ahead and believe her that it was creepy. Telling someone that they don’t have the right to their feelings is another way of playing oppression Olympics, which is something I am not interested in.
Ultimately, a person’s experience of their reality is reality. If shit happens that sends up red flags, it should be considered dangerous, and we should be able to speak to our feelings of danger without being made to worry if they’re serious enough. Most activists I know believe that there is room for everyone in our community — survivors of rape and sexual assault as well as survivors of the little, everyday assaults, that, as women, we are told is part of our experience.
Whether you’re calling a drive-by catcaller creepy or calling a possible sexual assailant creepy, they’re both still creepy. One doesn’t invalidate the other, and implying that you’re not allowed to call a guy out on his bullshit until you’re being sexually assaulted invalidates the experiences of women and the many ways that we’re made to feel hated and disrespected daily, constantly.
I feel sad that the author feels she has to defend why she wouldn’t want to sleep next to the guy who repeatedly fondled her without her consent or why she would describe that event as “rapey.” It seems really self-explanatory to me. Because it was pretty rapey. At the very least, it was sexual assaulty. It’s a heavy accusation, but not a disrespectful thing to imply about a guy who feels powerful and entitled enough to ignore her requests to stop touching her, or about his friends, who all let it happen. She needn’t have felt safe anywhere in that house. It all sounds pretty rapey to me.
I really hope that we all get to a point where we don’t feel compelled to police the feelings of others, especially within communities that are marginalized (I’m looking at all of you, women). Although highly problematic, I’m much less concerned with challenging the validity of anyone’s claim that a man is creepy, and much more interested in combating our tendency as women – as feminists – to feel threatened by other people’s feelings. We need to find a community that, instead of seeing people’s claims of creepiness as false, immediately responds with support, love, and solidarity. If we can get there, then perhaps we won't have to deal with women like Johanna de Silentio slut-shaming and silencing the feelings of people in her own community.