linked to this article on Jezebel:When the Nice Guy Down the Street Makes You Uncomfortable
, which is a pretty good explanation of the phenomenon when guys can be friendly, nice as hell, and technically do nothing wrong, and nevertheless provoke sentiments in a woman of being subtly harrassed.
I knew exactly what she meant. But when I tried to explain the situation to a male friend, he looked at me blankly. "Does he insult her?" No. "Is he inappropriate?" Not exactly. "He's just being friendly? What's the problem." The 'problem' of course, is that as women we're vulnerable in ways guys can't appreciate.
In some ways I tend to think of my brain as male-like*, and what I mean by that is that I think I think how my male friends think and I can relate in this way: we need rules. We need to have suitable and appropriate behaviours pre-programmed into our repertoire and we need to have a logical system in place to know what behaviours are appropriate and what aren't. It's possible me and my friends are a little weird that way, but social engagement doesn't come instinctively to me, and I don't think it comes instinctively to the people in my social circle.
And yet, I get it too: that weird feeling of being threatened and having my space invaded by a guy who clearly thinks he's doing nothing wrong. And I, the woman,can't quite put my finger on why he's made me uncomfortable.
Which poses a dilemma: how can you avoid being That Guy? If it can be avoided at all.
Note, this completely precludes Nice Guy syndrome, which when I use it, is a self-fulfilling oxymoron, and describes those guys who think that pretending
to be a woman's friend is a guaranteed passage into her knickers, and then becomes resentful of the woman herself when it doesn't work. See this XKCD comic
, Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog
, and the godawful "Ladder Theory
" website. I have no time for this guy, usually because he's a misogynist arsehole, and I won't be his friend.
Part of it might be that if you turn it on too strong, you run the risk of coming across like you want to be
my Nice Guy friend, and because I think the Nice Guy is an arsehole who wants in my pants, you could come across like that. Part of it might be, of course, that women are trained by society to understand that men just don't
want to be our friends. Billy Crystal was very adamant on this point: we're not equals, and we can't co-exist peacefully together and every man ever
wants to do all sorts of disgusting things to our naked body.**
I mean, the more women are told that men don't want to be our friends, the more we're going to act with suspicion when men act friendly. And when a man acts friendly towards me and I can't figure out any other motivation, it's going to be to get in my pants, and I'm going to be creeped out.
This is a problem on both sides of the interaction, I'm sure. I can tell you right now that much as I wish it weren't true, there is no
golden set of rules you can guarantee will make a woman (or indeed a person) you're interacting with not
get the creepy vibe, and yet it is entirely possible to build up a friendly rapport that becomes friendship. And yet I have discovered that if I make the effort in my direction, by talking to people I interact with on a daily basis but rarely before have actually met
, I feel better about myself, and the creep factor deteriorates. But some men still trigger it.
Incidentally, this isn't restricted to face to face interactions. Some people can creep me out over IM (not you guys, obviously
) because they're somehow giving the virtual impression of being in my personal space. And some roleplaying
threads are like that: there's a vibe that comes across through the fictional interaction that gets into the OOC space and hits creep. And usually (not always) the player is male. and usually (not always) the player has no idea
that the other player is feeling that way.
I can't explain it. When a guy creeps me out and I try to explain how, I can't find the words. But it's there
, the knowledge that at any moment the whole thing's going to get uncomfortable. And the additional lack of understanding that will make it all our fault when it does so.
* I don't know if it's true, or that this is just how I've learned male brains work and women's don't, and therefore I've bought into the idea that I'm a statistical anomaly with no more right to be recognised as a human female as those freaks who read American comics - oh wait, right.
** Except the gays. But they have enough problems.