Be My Boyfriend: Ben Schwartz, Who Stood Up To A Catcaller, Was Stabbed Nine Times, And Is Calling For An End To Street Harassment
Dear Ben Schwartz,
I am so, so sorry for the injuries you incurred to your face, neck, and back after a catcaller stabbed you when you approached him to ask him to stop harassing your girlfriend. That is monstrous. It just goes to show that catcalling really isn’t “just a compliment” or a man “just being friendly”: It’s a form of aggression that is expressed verbally and physically both toward women who catcallers feel entitled to and men who get in the way of that entitlement.
When I wrote about Elliott Rodger and the Isla Vista Massacre, I noted how misogyny makes men hate other men if those other men relate to women in a way that the misogynist doesn’t deem acceptable, or in a way that the misogynist feels interferes with his right to those women. That’s why most of Rodger’s victims were men. What happened to you is a micro version of that very same aggression, and again, I’m so sorry.
Thank you for speaking up. Thank you for speaking up not just to the catcaller, but also speaking up in your interview with SF Gate about how wrong it is to blame victims of any kind for the violence that is perpetrated against them, how similar catcalling and street harassment are to bullying, and how catcalling deserves the same popular attention as the issue of bullying.
It’s saddening that you aren’t alone: A woman in Detroit was killed for not responding to a street harasser, and a woman in New York had her throat slashed for not agreeing to go on a date with a street harasser. A man in Philadelphia was attacked and knocked unconscious for standing up to a man who was harassing women. Just a few days ago, a woman in Seattle was attacked with a beer bottle and had her life threatened because she asked a man to stop harassing her. All of this just happened in this year alone.
Because the men who catcall women value women and the things we think and feel so little, it has been largely ineffective for women to tell them to stop, to tell them that it’s hurtful and frightening, to tell them that there’s never a good reason to do it, to tell them that we’re more than our bodies. We need men who value women as equals to speak up, too. I know it’s easier to be one of the guys and to benefit from the social protection that’s accorded to men who defend men’s entitlement to do and say as they please and not women’s entitlement to be safe in public. I know that standing up for women, and for feminist ideas in particular, exposes men to social sanctioning and, in some cases — as in your case — physical violence. I appreciate so much that you stood up to the catcaller, the reasons why you stood up to the catcaller, and that you didn’t back down even after you were attacked.
Obviously you have a girlfriend and I have a boyfriend, so saying “be my boyfriend!” isn’t exactly accurate. It’s more like “be all of our feminist ideology boyfriend!” You are exactly the kind of ally we need.
Love and respect,
Rebecca Vipond Brink
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