The men of Melbourne have much to answer for. I have traveled the world; Vietnam, South Africa, Chile, France and Mauritius just to name a few, but there is not a city that I have been in where the men are more aggressive and treat women with the venom that they do right here in my home town.
I ride a bicycle, and on the scale of human possibility I’m in the ‘not bad’ zone. There’s much to be said for the appeal of any young woman on a bicycle, so when I ride past you are almost guaranteed to at least enjoy the view, it certainly wouldn’t be unpleasant.
Although that is certainly not the impression one gets from Melbourne’s men.
In Chile I didn’t have a bicycle, but whenever I went for my evening jog, the young men in the street made it very clear that, number one they were looking and number two they liked looking.
One even went so far as to call out to me, as he paddled furiously back to shore in his wooden dingy, “wait for me”. His friends waiting on the bank laughed, not at me, but at his fruitless attempt to make it to shore before I disappeared round a bend in the river.
Not for one moment did I feel threatened, insulted or maligned. Indeed, it felt flattering to have him acknowledge the simple fact that he found me attractive. His loud flirtation even made me laugh.
In South Africa I had a similar delightful encounter: in a shop in down-town Cape Town I was served by an amazingly tall and very handsome West African. I felt a little faint at the sight of him, but I was sure that such a beautiful man wouldn’t find a tiny white girl even vaguely attractive, and so I settled for a just engaging him in a conversation about the crime rate. To my utter surprise, mid sentence, he said “I too would steal bread if I had a girl like you”.
His bold statement and complete lack of embarrassment at revealing his thoughts not only made me laugh, but caused me to fumble for my purse, pay for the items and make a quick exit. It was only after the hot flush subsided that it occurred to me how delightful his remark had been.
Again no threat behind it, no malice and no sleazy innuendo. It was simply an open invitation, which I was free to accept and which I now wish I’d done, damit, or decline.
Put me on a bicycle in Melbourne however, and you get a very different story: men of 20 and 30 something call out to me to ‘ride in the gutter bitch’, or some other profanity; men in their 30s and 40s either completely ignore me, or give me a sly wink out their window which feels the same as if they’d said ‘hey slut show us your tits’, and the men of 50 plus just hoot their horns for me to get out of their way.
What is it that makes the blatant flirtation of Chilean and South African men so friendly and inviting, but their Australian counter parts so violent and distressing?
One thing that makes a big difference is the open the honest acknowledgement of simply what’s so: men and women like each other and like to express it.
It says a lot that in Melbourne where the wolf whistle is illegal, I feel more violated by cat calls, than I do in Chile where it’s a national past time.
It seems that our culture of putting the lid on the natural desire of men to openly express their desire for women causes them to have violent and uncontrolled outburst when they can no longer hold it in at the sight of a girl on a bicycle.
But it goes deeper than that. It is said that we form who we are in adulthood when we are still a child. The Jesuits said it best ‘give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’.
So what happens to Melbourne men before seven that has them feel so much hate and contempt for the very sex that gave them life? And what makes them want to repel the very thing that they most desire?
The answer could of course be found in some great psychological text, but all the psychological theories on the topic probably all boil down to something Charlie Chaplin once said “only the unloved hate”.
So then, is it time we women loved our men a little more?