You know, a few months ago this dude friend of mine showed up to hang out with me all dejected. Over a couple of drinks he explained his long face — earlier that night, he’d been walking down the street behind this really cute girl, and when she looked back at him over her shoulder, he thought it was in interest and smiled at her. Now, this guy is tall and skinny, can most commonly be found in glasses and t-shirts scrawled across with math jokes, is kind to animals, considers himself a feminist. What he doesn’t consider himself is threatening, so he was surprised, confused, and even hurt by what happened next: the girl in front of him responding to his called greeting of, “Nice skirt,” by taking off down the darkened street in a dead run.
“Yeah,” I said, “she probably thought you were going to rape her.”
“But that’s not fair,” he said. “I’m a good person; I’d never rape anyone! How could she think that? She doesn’t even know me.”
Out here in the wilds of the internet, I often find myself making arguments about shit like feminism and rape culture unilaterally. For one thing, there’s so much (like, so much) out there arguing unilaterally against this shit that I feel it’s necessary; for another thing, ‘round these parts there’s a lot of people jumping to hostility when it’s painfully clear they don’t have a handle on all the facts. But I’m more lenient with the people in my real life, especially dudes like the one mentioned above. I’m willing to extend to them a patience that I wouldn’t with strangers on the internet, because they matter to me, and it matters to me that they understand. So when my friend sat there that night, whining over his beer and responding to my attempted explanations with, “But I’d love it if a girl smiled at me on the street, or even catcalled at me! Fuck, even if a dude did it, I’d be flattered,” I decided to spend some time thinking about how to clear things up for him. It took awhile, but I finally came up with a metaphor to get the job done:
Consider the bank.