Social Question

ImNotHere's avatar

Is it normal to feel insecure BECAUSE of male attention?

Asked by ImNotHere (441 points ) May 23rd, 2011

This is going to sound a little silly, but lately male attention has been bothering me. I just moved back to Manhattan for an internship but have had to adjust to the male attention I’ve been getting. My last job in the city was a cater-waitressing gig, so the full tux usually kept the subway creepers somewhat at bay. ;)

But now, I have the opportunity to actually dress the way I want to dress for work, as long as it looks professional. I’m tall but still like to wear heels because they look feminine and chic. I also enjoy the clean, classic lines of pencil skirts and tailored dresses. I guess these styles may draw some attention to my figure, but I usually don’t show much skin and they fit well.

I don’t mind turning the occasional head but I was wondering if any other women out there are ever bothered by male attention. I know they often mean to be complimentary but sometimes it makes me feel self-conscious and like I’m dressing like a slut or something… :/

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30 Answers

Neizvestnaya's avatar

A pencil skirt of wool, wool/blend with no high slits is one thing, a skintight pencil skirt of shiny or stretch fabric is better for off work. Heels are the same thing- 4” black kidskin pumps go better to work than a heel with spike heel and rhinestones. I can’t think of of work clothes being “cute” though. Guess it depends on what kind of job you go to.

ImNotHere's avatar

@Neizvestnaya The only heels I’ve been wearing have been black kidskin pumps with a round toe. The skirt I wore is tan and hits below the knee, I wore this with a modest top in a bright color. My coworkers seem to respect me so I don’t have problems in that regard. I just feel weird when males on the street say things to me.

chyna's avatar

What kind of things are they saying?

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@BringsTheNight: Aside from magazines, how often do you see a female dressed/groomed nicely in public? I’m sure women are looking too, maybe just a bit more low key.

ImNotHere's avatar

@Chyna They say the usual things “Hey gorgeous”, “Nice legs”, wolf whistles etc. I mean it’s all complimentary, I guess, but it makes me too self aware at times. Maybe it’s because I’m so tall so I stand out more… Sometimes I wish I could just walk around and not be appraised by others like I’m a horse on an auction block or something. Some of my friends complain about the same thing and I was just looking for some general feedback on this experience.

ImNotHere's avatar

@Neizvestnaya if women are looking they at least don’t make comments. I admire attractive women when I see them, not in a lascivious way but I do notice beauty when I see it. If men want to admire women, perhaps it would work in their favor if they took a page from our book and learned the art of subtlety. ;)

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

Learn to ignore it.;)
They have bad manners

snowberry's avatar

AAaack! I HATE Hate Hate wolf whistles and those nasty comments! It makes me feel like a slut too. Guys like that are creepy! Yee-ach!

ninjacolin's avatar

Whether guys have good manners about it or not, the attention is still going to be there. Cloaked attention is still attention. Hell, I’m only posting in this thread because it has something to do with some hot girl on the web. (giggity giggity!) I’m bugging you but still.. the attraction is normal. What’s not normal is your experience with dressing “the way you want”.. Keep it up and you’ll get used to it just like you get used to anything.

I recently got a new (old really) haircut that I haven’t had in some time.. I’ve been noticing a change in looks that I get from women and I couldn’t figure out why until today when a super cutie of an acquaintance pointed it out to me in as rude a way as possible: “You’re going bald!” I’m not. It’s just a buzz cut. But it gave me the answer I was looking for as to why I’m getting different attention than I was used to for the past few months.

So, again no worries. It’s normal. It’s just your experience that’s a little new. :)

ninjacolin's avatar

And guys.. there’s nothing wrong with sluts.

YARNLADY's avatar

It depends on what kind. I remember when I was a young woman, walking past a construction site and having all the men whistle and make crude remarks used to make me feel very uncomfortable. I don’t think insecure is the right word, but it scared me.

ninjacolin's avatar

Actually.. I wanna look at this a little deeper:

@BringsTheNight said: “Sometimes I wish I could just walk around and not be appraised by others like I’m a horse on an auction block or something”

You can’t. No one does. Everyone is always been judged either as irrelevant or relevant all the time. No one will ever escape this. You won’t be the first.

@BringsTheNight said: ” If men want to admire women, perhaps it would work in their favor if they took a page from our book and learned the art of subtlety.”

do you see the sexism in your comment? I’m sure it wasn’t intentional but it was still real: You just accused ALL men of doing this when that is clearly not true. I would challenge you to count exactly how many guys actually say the usual things “Hey gorgeous”, “Nice legs”, wolf whistles etc. compared against a count of all those who say nothing at all. (BTW, don’t actually get so neurotic about this that you actually start counting please. I mean, you would prove my point but there’s more important things to do in life)

The ones that do these things are doing so because it is in their individual sense of humor to do so. It’s a matter of some people’s individual social style to make outstanding comments to match outstanding fashion and/or beauty. Emphasis on “people” because some women do it to men too.

This all fits under the category of: Don’t sweat the small stuff.

wundayatta's avatar

This is one of the things that, back in the seventies, feminists were trying to raise women’s consciousness about. However, with the death of feminism that is perceived to be relevant to many people in this country, complaints like yours are rare. Women, I think, figure it’s just the price you pay for equality.

There is this anti-woman attitude that many women hold that says if you don’t like the attention, then don’t wear nice clothes. Blame the victim, in other words.

So, with those things going on, I have to say it is pretty normal to feel insecure because of random male attention that is based not on you, but on your look. It feels unsafe, I’m sure.

I’m a little confused by your use of “insecure.” I was thinking you meant insecure in terms of your sense of self, but maybe you meant insecure in term of your physical safety? If that’s the case, then I’d say you are wise to feel insecure. There are a lot of clueless men out there who find a beautiful woman to be a challenge and they subconsciously want to knock her down a peg, so they can feel ok about themselves. So if they give themselves permission to make comments, then it gives them a bit more power.

The truth is that you have a lot more power than they do. You are attractive and desirable and they are pigs. They may be physically stronger and more intimidating, but think of their attentions as a kind of acknowledgement that you are someone to be reckoned with.

They might bother you in packs, but usually, during the day time, I don’t think they are confident enough to bother you. So, as someone else said, you can tune them out, or, if you want, come up with some put downs to cut these guys down, too. But two wrongs don’t make a right, and I wouldn’t use the latter strategy. I’d just ignore them, and take each comment as an acknowledgement that men think you are pretty hot.

Poser's avatar

It happens, to a much lesser extent, to men too. I find women to be much bolder about it though. Por exemplo: After a friend’s wedding a while back, we all went out to a local bar. Most everyone else brought clothes to change into, but I was still wearing my wedding attire (suit, tie, etc). I stood out, because most people don’t dress up that nicely to go out where I’m from. A woman actually pinched my ass. Then, when I turned around, she didn’t even say anything to me. Just looked at me.

I can’t imagine any man I know doing that to a woman (though, in fairness, I can’t imagine most women I know doing that either).

augustlan's avatar

I used to have a love/hate relationship with that kind of attention. On the one hand, it was kind of an ego boost, but on the other… ugh. I was just a young teenager when the catcalls started. Oh, hello boobs. :/ I didn’t even dress provocatively. I mean it was the 80s, and all my friends were in miniskirts, while I was always in jeans or regular old shorts. It did make me self-conscious, and I kind of always felt like people were staring at me. Over time, though, I realized that not everyone is like this and that most people are far more interested in themselves than they are in me. Eventually, I learned how to ‘take it in stride’. And then, I got old. :p

tedd's avatar

In a big city like New York, that you’re getting cat calls by creeps doesn’t shock me. I wouldn’t take it to mean you’re slutty looking, I doubt that’s the case. Guys will cat call beautiful women as well. So don’t let it get to you like that.

But hey, the “gorgeous” comment, that ones pretty respectful right?

snowberry's avatar

I would shudder at being called “Hey gorgeous” by someone I don’t know. Although I am not bad looking, I prefer to first being acknowledged for my personality, character or brains, which obviously is not the first thing you would notice about me.

tedd's avatar

@snowberry True I suppose, but in passing you really don’t get to know character and personality. But at least the person is respectfully commenting you on your beauty rather than something like “Nice legs” or the like.

I have a few times in my life said things similar to “Hello gorgeous” to girls I didn’t know. I guess the difference being I tried to carry a conversation and get to know the person after that initial comment (or I started the conversation with something else all together).

Haleth's avatar

I feel exactly the same way about unwanted male attention. Recently I started driving and moved out to the suburbs, so now it doesn’t happen so much anymore. But when I was a teenager I lived in an urban area and walked/took public transit. I got catcalled all the time starting at age 14, even though I pretty much just wore jeans, t-shirts, and sweaters. It happens no matter what a woman is wearing.

Women shouldn’t have to change the way we dress to avoid catcalls or other unwanted male attention. There’s so much focus on women taking preventative action to avoid male behavior, as if the men who do this are just an abstract force of nature like a tornado or an earthquake, and not people who are capable of deciding to act or not to act. There are two people in these interactions, and the woman in a nice dress isn’t the one encroaching on a stranger’s privacy. The men who do this are the ones who need to change their behavior.

(I made a question a while ago that sort of argues the same point, but about rape prevention. It’s here)

There’s a blog post here that puts all of this much better than I can. The author does a beautiful job of expressing exactly why this behavior is so unwelcome.

“I’ve finally realized what my BIG issue is. Ownership. Possession. I don’t feel that by walking out of the house, I have relinquished my right to privacy. I don’t feel that I should be up for audible appraisal or subject to staring. Whatever happen to furtive glances? Stolen looks? Searching some one’s face for an invitation and, finding none, retreating?

I wear dresses everyday. I apply make-up meticulously, endure the torture of hot wax on my eyebrows every 10 days.I want to be beautiful and invest time and money in the cause. It’s not that I don’t wish to be looked at and appreciated for both what nature hath wrought and what I have done with it. It’s that I don’t want to feel like I am not the owner of my temple.

Lust looks are for lovers. There is something I find vile about hearing the word “sexy” in reference to you or one of your body parts from someone I have not invited in. This isn’t post-victimization pathology; I’ve always wanted be respected. I find something so dehumanizing about someone conveying “I want to fuck you” before I have even offered “I am willing to have a conversation with you” or “I don’t find you repugnant.”’

tedd's avatar

@Haleth I don’t think you should have to change your behavior or take any kind of preventative action about it…........ But I think you have to accept reality that some people are just dbags.

Haleth's avatar

I disagree. Douchey behavior will always be with us, but I don’t have to accept it.

Poser's avatar

@Haleth You don’t have to accept it, as in agree that it is okay. But it is really no different than locking your doors. It would be great if I could leave my doors unlocked and return home to find everything as I left it. But thieves are thieves. They look for the easy target. That is why rape prevention focuses on what a woman can do to prevent becoming a target. Because you can never have control over another person’s behavior. The billions of men who have never raped anyone haven’t refrained from doing so because someone persuaded them not to. There will always be bad apples, and we have to learn to deal with it.

The best way to deal with unwanted male attention is head on. Whirl around and, in whatever manner you deem appropriate, let the leer-er know that their behavior is unacceptable. In many cases it may not help, but perhaps you’ll teach someone what boundaries are.

augustlan's avatar

This thread has gotten me to wondering… what do the cat-callers get out of it? Are they seriously hoping for some kind of positive interaction? A date, even? It can’t be doing them any good, can it? I might ask a question about that…

tedd's avatar

@augustlan Pretty much none of the guys I know or knew in college were stupid enough to cat call… unless they were incredibly drunk.

My assumption is those guys that do it without liquid courage involved are just idiots.

augustlan's avatar

@tedd You’re probably right. Let’s see if anyone has a better theory.

Jude's avatar

Smile and keep walking.

I was in NYC with my girlfriend and I had some guy say to me “I want to dip my finger in that milkshake and have a taste”. I just smiled and kept walking (quickly). If I am going for a jog and I get a comment, I just ignore them. My g/f tells me to always bring my shank with me, ha. ;-)

snowberry's avatar

@tedd, A “Hey gorgeous” comment by a total stranger would be much less than complementary, and would not be well received by me -at all. Just my opinion.

linguaphile's avatar

I used to get those, too, and I think the reason they made me uncomfortable was because the catcallers’ intents are too inconsistent and ambiguous and don’t allow for real reactions.

Think about it, if it was a classmate, or someone I knew, who said, “Hey, gorgeous,” or wolf whistled at me, I would know exactly how to react- grin, tease back, say aw shucks, or slap him ten ways to Sunday.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

I guess you can always settle in The Castro, Greenwich Village, City Island, or similar places and the amount of men leering should logically go down, being replaced by women is another story; but you didn’t say that bothered you.

josie's avatar

Depends, I suppose, on what you want regarding male attention.

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