In terms of journalistic integrity, I rank Jezebel up there with The Daily Mail and Fox News, yet they raised an interesting discussion around the subject of the word “creep.”
Apparently the Men’s Rights section on Reddit (did you even know there was such a thing? I didn’t!) hosted a conversation about how a guy was labeled “creepy” after waiting for his girlfriend outside a mall changing room.
One Redditor wrote:
Creep shaming is probably one of the most insidious and anti-equality things you can do. The ability to label men as "creepy" is just one privilege that women enjoy, and a constant source of fear of ostracizing that all men must fear in our society.
A bunch of feminist bloggers, and then Hugo Schwyzer of Jezebel leapt on this comment to vilify the (anonymous) author and loudly defend the right to accuse men of being “creeps.”
“Though the word may be occasionally used unfairly,” Schweyzer explains in his article, “‘creepy’ serves a vital function. No other word is as effective as describing when a man has crossed a woman's boundary; no other word forces a man to reflect on how his behavior makes other people feel. A guy can disprove accusations of being weak by displaying strength (often in foolish ways.) But a guy can only disprove the charge of creepiness by fundamentally altering his behavior to be more genuinely respectful of women.”
Now, I’m not sure the guy standing outside the changing room deserved to be labeled a “creep” – but I do agree with the backlash against the “anti-creep shaming campaign,” as it’s apparently been called on Reddit.
I think “creep” is actually a perfectly acceptable term to describe a guy, as long as he’s genuinely deserving of it.
More than that, I think the reason so many men are getting their knickers in a twist about “creep shaming” is because they themselves might deserve to be called “creeps.”
Being called a creep hurts. As Schweyzer succinctly puts it: “Creep is the only insult that instantly centers women's perceptions. Trying to disprove "creepy" involves trying to talk a woman out of an instinctual response to a potential threat. Most men recognize (or eventually learn) that the harder they try to deny their creepiness, the creepier they appear.”
And that’s true. Other labels and names can be brushed off, but “creep” resonates on a much deeper level; perhaps something to do with that offensive (but nevertheless extremely accurate) quote by Margaret Atwood: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”
But while “creep” is a humiliation-filled label, I don’t believe “creep shaming,” as it’s described by Reddit, actually exists yet – but perhaps it should.
I was inspired by “pet shaming” (where you take pictures of naughty pets next to signs listing their crimes) and wonder if “creep shaming” could be equally successful on the ‘net.
Just imagine it – a tumblr or blog in which acts of creepdom were broadcast to the Internet, using screenshots of creepy emails, Twitter posts and Facebook messages guys have written to girls.
What would be the purpose of naming-and-shaming the “creeps”? Perhaps as a means of educating the rest of us men about where the “creep” line is drawn, and how never to step over it.
That’s an extremely useful thing to learn. Most men step into the creep zone at some point in their adult lives, and we have a vested interest in being guided as swiftly out of it as we can be.
I can only remember one occasion in which I crossed into the creep zone, but I did, and perhaps unknowingly did so other times, as well. When I was 18, guided by too much alcohol and too little experience with women, I failed to comprehend that a girl wasn’t interested in me long after I should have, and from there, my seduction technique had gone from “cute” to “makes everybody feel uncomfortable.”
But I was one of the lucky ones, and the girl in question later explained where I went wrong, and helped positively shape my relationships with women forever after. Other men need that too.
“Creep” is an offensive, humiliating, cringe-inducing label to put on a man, but if the shoe fits, the onus is on us “creepy” men to change our behavior; not for women to quit using the term because we find it “offensive.”
But before I condone or encourage “creep shaming” entirely, there’s one thing that bothers me.
Hugo Schwyzer’s original creep-shaming article was also followed by a troublesome comment which actually ends up supporting the “anti-creep shaming campaign”:
A man who can't recognize when a woman is out of his league is a creep because he lacks an understanding of a basic social structure.
So while I’m totally sold on the idea of “creep shaming”, it’s only appropriate for a guy who makes a woman feel uncomfortable by inappropriate physical contact, overly suggestive comments, invading her personal space or simply just not leaving her alone when she indicates (even just through body language and demeanor) that she’s not interested.
That’s a BIG difference from a girl labeling a guy a “creep” because she’s conceited enough to believe she’s “out of his league” and he shouldn’t dare presume to talk to her. In that case, it’s the girl being creepy (or crazy), and the only appropriate response would be something equally “creepy” – and something that generally works with girls that superficial.
From my days as a PUA (Google it), I learned that the strategy with superficial women is to ‘neg’ them (make a backhanded compliment, intended to make a woman feel insecure), then ignore them, so a woman feels compelled to pursue you. And they almost always do.
It’s strategic, manipulative and ultimately, perhaps the “creepiest” kind of behavior of all. But unlike in all these other examples, PUAs aren’t generally “creep shamed” for their behavior for the most insidious reason of all: Because it worked.