On Hitting On That Cute Girl At The Coffee Shop

posted in: CASS Updates | 3

I love this cartoon! Friendly chats with strangers make for great communities, and we at CASS uphold community involvement as a powerful tool to connect individuals and improve our home lives and neighborhoods.

At the same time, it is crucial to be aware of how engagement with another — however intentionally friendly — might be unwanted, particularly when it runs the line of being perceived as sexually-motivated. Ultimately, men and women alike should be allowed to freely read a book (TW), listen to music, go for a run, and grocery shop without the threat of sexual harassment — even if that means someone else might feel shot down when trying to approach them.

What do you think?

3 Responses

  1. Jodi Jacobson

    I personally think this is a bit overboard. By this measure, I would not be able, as a woman, to approach another woman sitting across from me at Starbucks to say, “hey, I love your bag, where did you get it?”

    Once while in fact working at Starbucks myself, i lifted my head from my computer and made brief eye contact with a guy who was sitting across from me. About 10 minutes later, he approached me to say he’d noticed I was sometimes working there at the same times he did, and we chatted about what we both did, and other issues.. completely friendly. I didn’t mind taking a couple minutes out, and he was not harassing me.

    Someone saying hello to or smiling at someone or seeking to make conversation is not harassing someone else if they are a) polite and doesn’t use offensive, sexists, suggestive language and, b) take the cue of the other person on whether or not that person is receptive to engaging on… whatever.

    I don’t think the answer to real harassment issues is to wall ourselves off. And I don’t think your depiction above of “please bother me strangers” is effective. Life is just not that black and white. We all need to better learn how to read social cues and understand yes means yes and no means no, no matter how small the interaction. But forbidding people from interacting is a sad world altogether and reminds me a bit of fundamentalist religious segregation of the sexes.


  2. renee

    Jodi, I agree — a healthy community needs interaction. While I can’t speak for the cartoonist (from the byline, her name is Melanie Gillman), I think the issue is that some of her message got lost here, or at least that you and I read this cartoon differently. While there might be some people who do not want to be greeted at all in public, I feel like the language and gender dynamic of the cartoon attempts to speak specifically to public sexual harassment, not stranger interaction at large. It seems as if Gillman is trying to depict a scenario is which a man “bothers” a “cute girl.” For example, there’s a “dude” and a “cute girl” — not just ANY girl, mind you, so her cuteness must be relevant, or at least is made relevant. I feel like the cartoonist here is trying to speak to scenarios in which a womans’ looks are a “dudes,” or man’s, motivation not just to approach her, but to “bother” her. And given the gender dynamic and the depiction of sexual harassment, “bother,” at least to me, connotes repeated attempts to engage with a woman one finds “cute” despite social cues of her disinterest.

    Essentially, I read the cartoon as if it were titled “Should you harass that cute girl at the coffee shop?” This isn’t a stretch because “bother” is an incredibly common euphemism for harassment. Many women would NOT use the word “harassment” – which often has a strong legal connotation – to define the times when men they did not know didn’t take or respect their cues of discomfort. Most women would in fact instead use the word “bother,” or “bugged,” or say that the man “wouldn’t leave me alone.” Taken within a framework of sexual harassment (one in which a “dude or jerk” repeatedly “bothering” an attractive woman at a coffee shop), the cartoon doesn’t send the untrue message that community interaction at large is “rude” or “bothersome” – just that sexual harassment is. But maybe I’m giving the cartoonist too much credit!

  3. Laurel

    I love this cartoon! Thank you for posting.

    I see a woman approaching another woman to say she has a nice handbag in a totally different context than an unknown man approaching a woman who is very obviously just in the coffee shop to read or work. We live in a society of overwhelming male sexual violence against women; that is why women will feel fear when harassed by a strange man. When men get sexual attention from an unknown woman, they do not typically feel fear.

    Men need to keep this context in mind when striking up a conversation with a stranger.