Image Text: How is romanticizing stalking against feminism?
Gifs via (timelordsandladies)
You always know the people with the classiest of URLs are going to ask the classiest of questions.
Romanticizing stalking is against feminism because feminism aims to create a world where women can walk freely without the fear of being harassed by men and where their right to say “no” is respected.
Let me tell y’all a story. So last summer I was down in the center of the city to meet up with a high school friend of mine who was working there for the summer. He called me and told me his work was going to keep him late, so it might be an hour until we could meet. Not having anything else to do, I bought a book at the local bookstore and went and sat in the small park near where we were going to meet. It’s fairly popular and always packed with locals and tourists, so I ended up having to share a bench with someone. This man and I had no interactions together, except for one moment when a dog ran up between us and jumped up on our bench, and we just laughed and sent the dog back to its owner.
After thirty minutes I got hungry, so I left to go get a snack. I was taking a pretty weird route because I couldn’t decide what to eat, but eventually I chose a burger place and ordered some fries. A few moments later, the guy from the park bench follows me in.
I try to reason with myself that maybe he just happened to chose the same restaurant as me, but a moment later he sits down at a table right across from me where he can look me in the face, and he proceeds to stare at me the entire time I’m eating my french fries. I keep my eyes firmly focused on my book, but I can still see him out of the corner of my eye and he never looks away. As calmly as I can, I text my friend to come get me and leave the restaurant. In hindsight that wasn’t the smartest thing to do, since I was no longer surrounded by crowds and now on my own out in the street, but I just wanted him to stop staring at me.
He gets up a second after I do and follows me out into the street. Now that I’m isolated and alone he asks me what I’m doing that evening. I’ve never met him before and never spoken a word to him. I tell him I’m meeting a friend and make it clear I’m not interested. He keeps pushing for a few minutes before he finally realizes that I have my phone out, ready to call for help, and dejectedly says, “I just didn’t want you to spend tonight alone.”
He walks off, and I watch him to make sure he goes all the way back to the park and doesn’t try to wait and follow me again. My friend comes, and when I tell him about this experience he volunteers to walk me to my bus stop after dinner, where we watch and wait and make sure that guy isn’t still following me.
That man thought I was pretty. He thought we shared “a moment” when we laughed at the antics of a dog. And then he thought the next logical step in the flirting process was to follow me, stare me down, and then pressure me to spend the night with him. It wasn’t romantic, it was creepy and terrifying. For a week I watched my back constantly. For a month I didn’t go back to that area, in case he might still be there. And my case was a mild case of stalking.
In a way, it resembles the stalking narratives of Moffat’s episodes. It’s stalking-lite. Look, he tells us, it’s not dangerous. These men don’t mean to harm you. Why can’t you just give them the benefit of the doubt and view it as a flirtation?
But I think these are the most insidious narratives of them all. For one, it minimizes how truly violated and afraid stalking makes women feel. It ignores the fact that stalking usually escalates and becomes very dangerous. It teaches women that they shouldn’t “overreact” when a man does something like this by portraying it as romantic. But even worse, it teaches men that this is an acceptable method of flirtation. And it teaches men that when a woman says “NO,” that actually she’s just being coy and playing hard to get, which means he should simply escalate his behavior until she says yes.
Romanticizing this type of behavior teaches men that they can make public spaces threatening to women, and it teaches them that a woman’s consent is meaningless and that “NO” is simply an obstacle to be overcome with escalating behavior. Therefore, it is contrary to the goals of feminism, and contrary to any standards of decent human behavior.
Just raising my hand as another stalking victim. It was in college, and it was some guy I met at an anime convention. I gave him my e-mail address (the university one that I never used) just to get rid of him. Instead, he found my student profile, got hold of my phone number and called me at least 5 times per day, and finally he showed up in the computer lab on campus looking for me. It’s the one and only time I ever hid under a desk in public.
It’s not romantic or sweet. It’s terrifying to know that this person doesn’t give a shit that you’re not interested, they will not give up until you give in. And it makes me sick that so many (male, of course) writers think this should be viewed positively.
Reblogging for the commentary above, and to add my own stalking experience:
When I was in my first or second year of uni, I went out for drinks in the city with a group of friends. As my then-boyfriend was elsewhere that night, I headed home by myself. It was about eleven o’clock or so on a weeknight and I was feeling pretty good, so I did something I’d never done before - I stopped for a final drink, on my own, at an unfamiliar pub.
Within about three seconds of having ordered my drink, I realised it wasn’t going to be much fun by myself, so I decided to drink my order quickly and leave. But about five seconds after that, a random guy in the bar walked over, sat down next to me, and started talking.
Now, as you can probably tell by this point in the narrative, I’m not someone who’s afraid of being out on my own at night. I’m a confident, talkative person, and I’m not easily intimidated by strangers. So even though I didn’t really want to talk to this guy, I wasn’t frightened. He was happy and boisterous, bordering on loud; he told me he had a girlfriend, I told him I had a boyfriend, and so I continued the conversation, all while drinking quickly, because hey, I was going to leave in a minute, so why not?
So then, finally, I finish my drink and get up to leave. I try to say farewell to the guy; he doesn’t take the hint. He says he’ll walk with me, and stands up, too.
It’s at this point I realise two things: one, that the guy is fucking massive. I mean, I’m 5’9, and this guy is about a head taller than me. He’s built like a keg - heavy muscle liberally overlaid with fat - with big arms and a thick neck, and I also suspect he’s older, too, somewhere in his mid-twenties against my late teens. And even though he’s smiling and cheerful, a little shiver goes through me as I realise that, if something bad happens, there is zero chance of me being able to physically overpower him.
Which brings me to point two: that I cannot shake this guy. He will not go. He’s enjoying our conversation, and he wants to go where I’m going. I’ve already tried to say goodbye twice - the word ‘goodbye' has actually left my mouth - and he's still around. Whether because he's a bit drunk, a bit oblivious or actively ignoring my wishes, then, it's clear that the usual social cues aren't going to get me anywhere. But the guy is genuinely happy, too, and right now, that happiness is the only thing in my favour. If I push back against him - if I tell him, firmly, to leave me alone - then there’s a chance he’ll stop being happy; and if he stops being happy, it seems, then things could go very badly for me indeed.
So I leave the pub. The guy comes with me. I’d originally planned to get a cab the rest of the way home, but I decide to scrap that idea, because it’s very clear that if I so much as say the word ‘cab’, the guy will ask to come along for the ride, and I really don’t want to be trapped in a car with him. So instead, I start walking back to my college room, which is about twenty minutes away on foot.
And the guy walks with me.
For twenty minutes, he walks with me.
And the entire time, he’s talking. Most of what he says is benign, friendly conversation; but he’s also steadily propositioning me, tossing in remarks about how pretty I am, and how much fun he’s having with me, how nice it would be to have another drink. And I smile and I laugh, and I keep my responses cheerful and non-committal, and we keep right on walking. Right the way back to the campus, until we’re both outside of the building where I live.
And then he asks to come in. Still happy; still smiling. He says we could have a good time.
So I laugh again. I put some cheerful regret in my voice. I remind him he has a girlfriend. I remind him, as he’s mentioned it offhand, that she’s waiting at home for him. I remind him I have a boyfriend, too. I make it sound like it’s all just a joke between friends, like bringing him up to my room is something I really have no problem with, but you know how things are, it’s out of my hands, what a funny old universe - and for a miracle, he shakes his head and laughs in turn.
And then he lets me go.
He doesn’t leave first. He stays where he is. He watches me walk up to the door, unlock it, and head inside. Only then does he turn and walk back the way we came - I have no idea if he even knows where he is - and only then do I start shaking.
I think, That could have been a lot, lot worse.
I think, Thank God I kept him happy.
I think, If I hadn’t kept him happy, what would’ve happened next?
And in that moment, I realise that the only reason I was able to walk away unscathed is because I’d showed no fear. If I’d expressed my discomfort at the guy’s presence - if I’d tried to run, if I’d yelled or insulted him or done anything to make him upset - then from everything in his body language (intimidating), manner (assertive) and personality (reactive), I have no doubt that he’d have responded aggressively, which would’ve involved verbal abuse as the absolute best-case scenario. The only reason he let me go was because I humoured him, and because he was in the right mood to me humoured. He already had a girlfriend at home; pursuing me was an impromptu decision. That night was a near fucking miss for catastrophe, in other words, and I have never forgotten it.
STALKING. IS. NOT. COOL.
I had a man follow me around the subway in NYC on a Saturday morning. I have no idea what he wanted; he never said anything to me, he was just THERE. I walked up the platform, he appeared behind me. I did it again, he did it again. I got on a train, he got in the same car and sat across from me. It scared me so much I eventually got on the wrong train - the express to 125th, I think it was - and suddenly I’m stuck in this train car with him for 10 minutes. Thankfully I saw a policeman when I got off the train, and I was so terrified I went sobbing to him for help.
There wasn’t a whole lot he could do - of course the man said he wasn’t following me, blatant lies, I’d seen him change direction as soon as I started talking to the cop - but he stopped him from following me by not letting him get on the same train as me.
I spent a week going nowhere except my internships, and years being scared of anyone who reminded me of that guy (there’s a term for that, I forget what it is). I worked at a little shop the next summer and had a minor freakout because I was alone in the shop with a man who resembled the man who followed me. I had serious issues the next semester in college, because one of my teachers had a boyfriend who hung around all the time, who looked like that.
It doesn’t sound like that big a deal, does it? It probably took less than two hours, over a decade ago now. But it’s only the past couple years that I can talk - or even type - about it without having an adrenaline response, feeling cold and shaking involuntarily.