Common Decency Is Not Always Common Sense, But It Should Be

Common decency

A few weeks ago, The Guardian ran an article written by Laura Bates, creator of the Everyday Sexism project, which catalogs examples of sexism experienced by women who submit personal stories to the site. I’m a huge fan of what Laura’s doing at Everyday Sexism—I think it brings about awareness of a huge worldwide issue in a way that hits people close to the heart through women’s personal stories.

However, Laura’s piece in “The Guardian” was titled “Five Reasons Why Men Shouldn’t Shout At Women On The Street.” Her reasons were all perfectly sensible, and I agree with all of them.

What I don’t agree with is the fact that the article had to be written at all.

Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, whatever, I believe that not shouting obscene, vulgar and offensive remarks is common decency. Common decency should be common sense—it should not require an article in one of the world’s most widely read newspapers.

Laura’s article also targeted the male sex specifically, which left me with a bit of a split opinion. On the one hand, some men treat women absolutely horribly. That’s fact. There are many sexist, perverted men in this world that think they can catcall women on the street and “hey baby” them all day long. That’s inarguable.

But I think I would be remiss if I didn’t state that the overarching generalization that men are always the ones yelling at women on the street is, in itself, sexist. Some women catcall. Men catcall other men. Women catcall other women.

I originally wanted to write this article about why men don’t need to be provided reasons to stop catcalling women on the street. But really, the core of this issue lies in the fact that people in general don’t need to be provided reasons to treat others with common decency—we should just do it.

Do it for whatever reason you want. If you’re a Christian and you feel the “Do unto others” rule will get you into heaven, go for it. If you believe that treating people like crap has karmic repercussions, then start being decent. If you selfishly feel that being nice to people just makes you feel good (which most people do), then do it to make yourself feel good. Do it unselfishly to make another person feel good. Do it because you want the boy or girl you like to think you’re a good person and it’ll make them want to date you. Do it because you feel guilty for being mean to your mom last week.

Your motives don’t really matter, as long as you do it.

I know as much as anyone does about why we were put on this Earth and what the heck I’m supposed to be doing here. But I do know that this place would be pretty alright if everyone just stopped objectifying people, stopped insulting people, stopped yelling at people on the street because they didn’t stop at a stop sign or because they’re attractive or because they think you should “smile more” or because they want sexual favors or for any reason at all besides maybe yelling at someone “Hey, I hope you have a really, awesome, stellar day today and that life gives you all the happy things you deserve.”

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View Comments (2)
  • Katey, you might find Kristof’s article on empathy interesting. I agree with you that the lack of common decency is not strictly a problem of men against women. I have found that the most devastating acts are often committed by women against women…older women forgetting in political debates why issues such as birth control are important for younger women….younger women ignoring how their actions demean older women (even though they, too, may find themselves “older” at some point. Women can be vicious to those who could have been their allies in a world that too often ignores the value of women.

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