What are we asking for men to do when they hear another man say something inappropriate?
Say “hey, whoah, that’s not cool,” IN THE MOMENT.
Don’t come up to women afterwards and say “man, that was weird, wasn’t it?” or “I’m so sorry he said that, I could tell it made you uncomfortable,” or “wow, that guy was SUCH a dick to you!” None of those are useful things to hear. It’s nice to have our feelings validated, but validating our emotions isn’t going to stop a creepy guy from being creepy in the future. The only thing that will stop that guy is if other *men* speak out and say “that comment was really not okay,” as soon as the dude says something weird.
If you notice a stranger man making a stranger woman uncomfortable, you should also speak up. If you get it wrong, and it was two people who know each other and the woman wasn’t uncomfortable, she’ll feel glad and supported that there are people out there watching out for woman. She’ll say “wow, this is actually my brother/boyfriend/pal, just messing around, but thank you!”
Women can’t get away with that action. Women deescalate when someone is being creepy to another women. “oh my god – I haven’t seen you in forever!” I’ll exclaim to a perfect stranger, and if she was uncomfortable, she’ll play along and leave with me. That gets her out of a dangerous or uncomfortable situation (which is the primary goal), but doesn’t teach that man that his behavior wasn’t okay. If I confront a man, I put myself in danger, so I save that option until a last resort. Men, you are in less danger in these situations. Aggressive men don’t feel entitled to your body or your attention, and are more likely to respect you. Even if the situation is just awkward and not dangerous, you should still say something.
You’re going to have to embrace the social awkwardness of stepping into a conversation that isn’t directed at you. You’re going to have to become “that dude,” “that social justice warrior guy,” “that nosy asshole.” You need to make it clear that you will not tolerate other men saying creepy, inappropriate things in your presence. And sure, maybe they’ll just say them when you’re not around. But your friends who want your social approval will realize their behavior is unacceptable.
And if we get enough good men on board with this, then other men will have no safe places to say gross things. They’ll learn that their behavior won’t be tolerated anywhere. And they’ll stop.
So you need to act fast. You need to accept that you might occasionally misread the room, and jump into a conversation where nothing was wrong. You need to let other men know that they can’t get away with saying creepy things around you.
Validating our feelings is rad. Taking action is radder.