Dr. Katie Reed ’07 was a double major in sociology and Spanish and an active member of the Honors community while an undergraduate at Texas A&M. She was an officer with the Honors Invitational Peer (HIP) Leader organization and the Summer Honors Invitational Program (SHIP) program that they helped to put on each year to attract high-achieving students to Texas A&M. She was also a member of the Cornerstone Liberal Arts Honors program. After graduation, Reed earned a PhD in educational theory and policy from Penn State. Currently, she is a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Statistics at Texas A&M.
Among the several traits that we work to develop in Honors students are a capacity to think critically about events going on around them and the courage to become civically engaged. This article is Dr. Reed’s response to Glenn Harlan Reynolds’ “Catcalling a two-way street” published by USA Today on November 3, 2014. It is a wonderful example of an Honors Former Student demonstrating traits such as passion, commitment, and willingness to take a risk for the purpose of the greater good.
Reynolds’ Catcalling Response Disingenuous, Cheap
By Dr. Katie Reed –
In his opinion column discussing the video of street harassment, Reynolds defends the mens’ behavior by arguing that white feminists should not impose their values on catcallers and that women should, essentially, buck up and shut up.
He begins by making a disingenuous multiculturalist argument that Black and Latino men just have a different way of interacting with women. White feminist women label it harassment, but for the Black and Latino men, it’s “just saying hello.” My suspicion is that Reynolds would not accept that standard of reasoning in any other setting, and to my knowledge there is no precedent for defending oneself from sexual harassment claims by saying “that’s just my way; I’m Black.” Suggesting these are cultural differences also has the demeaning implication that Black and Latina women are ok with being harassed because “it’s just the way” of Black and Latino men. Oh shucks, well I guess “(Black and Latino) Boys will be (Black and Latino) boys!”
His multiculturalist argument is disingenuous because Reynolds does not normally take a line of reasoning that goes, “diversity should be respected, including diversity in standards of moral or ethical behavior; therefore, I cannot apply my ideas of morality to situations where people of other racial/ethnic/socioeconomic backgrounds are involved.” Taken to the extreme, this line of thinking leads us to “men in India have different ideas of what constitutes ‘appropriate intersexual behavior’, so who am I to say they shouldn’t gang rape women?” It’s nonsense to imply that there is so much gray area in what constitutes respectful behavior that this is a po-tay-to/po-tah-to issue.
Reynolds also asks all the wrong questions. Questions such as “Are women so delicate?” exacerbate the issue by putting the burden back on women to deal with men’s bad behavior. They distract from the real question: Why is it ok for men to behave this way?
Reynolds implies that women are trying to have it both ways by asking to be able to participate freely and fully in the public and professional spheres, and then whining when men talk to us in those spheres. The problem is that the first condition has not been met–women are not free to participate as equals in the public sphere because we’re still reduced to sexual objects that exist for the pleasure and at the discretion of men.
[Yes, yes, I know women and men are different in important ways. But our ability to give birth, love of chocolate, and inclination to talk about our feelings have no bearing on whether we should be able to walk down the street without being bothered.]
I reject the argument that the men in the video are “just saying hello” and have neutral intentions, and again, I think Reynolds is insincere to say so. They were not asking the woman in the video for the time or asking her thoughts on the midterm elections. Their comments were sexual in nature and come from men’s thinking that women owe men their attention and should feel excited to receive men’s attention any time it is given.
By bringing up Emmett Till, Mr. Reynolds is guilty of the same rhetorical ploys he accuses the video makers of: scoring cheap points. No reasonable person is calling for the lynching of any men in the video or of men who catcall. To imply that women’s asking not to be harassed while walking down the street is comparable to Emmett Till’s murder is absurd and disrespectful.
It’s true that these men are within their rights to speak in public, but I tend to think people should not exercise the right to be a jerk so often. I am not in favor of making street harassment illegal. I’m in favor of teaching boys that it is not acceptable to ask strangers who are women to perform on command (“smile more!”). I’m in favor of teaching boys what an appropriate compliment is and how and when to deliver it. After all, this will save me the trouble of learning to take a compliment.
An abridged version of Reed’s response was published by USA Today at http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2014/11/09/catcalling-women-harassment-your-say/18775217/.
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