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Dear Men Who Approach Women for Affection,

Through your eyes, coming up to a woman in a public space can be considered a romantic gesture. You making an advance should be shown with appreciation that you even bothered to look her way at all. Calling out how hot she looks from across the street should bring flattery and instantly make her want to sleep with you.

Unfortunately, these ideals are not universally shared.

The women just trying to exist outside of their home – and even sometimes within it when social media is involved – are having to fake smiles, force politeness and heed caution just to get through the interaction alive and unscathed. Some fail to realize that fear is laced in any interaction women may have with a stranger. Especially as the results of a conversation all depend on guessing that stranger’s temperament.

The intention of flattery may be what powers men to catcall women, but that attempt falls flat when reality sets in. Women are just trying to go about their day unbothered, only to be harassed with yelling about sexual exploits or what some think to be compliments. 

Interruption and discomfort are all that a catcall is, considering no woman is actually flattered. Would you immediately stop in your tracks the moment you hear a wolf whistle and some derogatory comment about how your ass looks in a skirt, and suddenly be willing to just give yourself over to this strange man with no other questions asked? Is there some expectation catcallers have for women to do this? What do they want to come out of these intruding comments?

Expectations do tend to come from these interactions, whether it be catcalling or a full-on approach. Women just walking the street, or having the sheer audacity to go out in public to a club or bar, can be approached by a man at his will and forced to interact with them. Women are expected to appease the whims of these men or face the consequences. The consequences of rejecting a man’s advance can come in various forms, as much as turnaround insults to the woman, persistence in continuing the approach or even violence.

There are many cases where women are put into these trapped situations with the only escape being feigning politeness. Unfortunately, women are expected to put on this smile and play nice, no matter how offputting a man’s advance might be. If we deny them our time and energy, we are seen as coldhearted or a bitch. Likely, these insults are what follow the rejection of a man.

That fear can follow a woman like a dark figure in the night walking alone. A large part of being a woman is carrying the weight of caution anytime you are alone, any time you’re out in the dark, anytime you see a man who can’t stop eyeballing you. It is put upon us that we have to be careful, that we have to live this way while men don’t have to worry about the same things. Their only job is to not act as a threat, but this job is neglected because society treats it as a preference, not a mandatory stipulation. 

Women simply existing in spaces such as concerts or bars are not always an invitation for men to pursue them. Sure, while some romantic encounters can happen, or that is sometimes the intention, it is not the man’s duty to determine that for the woman. Or to continue on flirting and invading her space after she gives the “no, thanks.”

This constant contemplation of politeness comes with more than just approaching male strangers, though. Oftentimes, men will befriend women with ulterior motives.

There are layers to being friends with men as women are expected to be pleasant in their presence and there is sometimes a hidden agenda that a man is only ever friends with a woman to get closer to her; to gain her trust.

If those ulterior motives are revealed, and men try to make what was previously perceived as a friendship into something more and the woman rejects that idea all hell could break loose. Suddenly she is the one villainized for not giving the man a chance, for not considering his needs, for brushing him aside. It is always the man’s wants that are considered, and it looks bad for a woman to put someone in the friend zone because society will ask “what did he do to deserve it?”

In all aspects of life, men have control of the relationship, the narrative even how a woman is supposed to feel while enjoying her own company. They do not realize their approach holds a woman hostage. They don’t have to realize it, because the situation at hand never affects them. It slips their mind that the women they are coming to have feelings and thoughts for themself.

To this, I say to men to consider their actions and words. Men must think about the women they see in public, if she wants to be approached, if he is able to muster the ability to walk away when she seems uncomfortable. Men must be the ones to realize their actions have consequences, that women do not owe them that smile they desire. They do not have to encroach on a woman by herself because she seems vulnerable and approachable.

Men should let women live, so that the women in question don’t have to normalize their time being spent worrying about whether or not they offended a man enough to cause harm to themselves. There is always the worry about what the man will do next and that needs to be eliminated.

Simply gauge if a woman is not feeling out your intentions, or if she is in discomfort. The best way to prevent men from making women fear or feel uncomfortable is to nip the bud at the source. Men, please be more observant of your own behaviors.

Sincerely,

The Women Just Trying to Exist

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