Anti-Flirt Club

Meg Barrett, News Editor

In the early 1920s, Alice Reighly created a club in order to protect young women who received unwelcome attention from men in automobiles and on street corners. The Anti-Flirt Club was active in Washington D.C. The club launched an “Anti-Flirt” week, the first, and last, being held on March 4, 1923.
The Anti-Flirt Club had a set of rules which were meant to be sound and serious advice. The rules were:
1) Don’t flirt: those who flirt in haste [often] repent in leisure.
2) Don’t accept rides from flirting motorists—their intentions aren’t to save you a walk.
3) Don’t use your eyes for ogling—they were made for worthier purposes.
4) Don’t go out with men you don’t know—they may be married, and you may be in for a hair-pulling match.
5) Don’t wink—a flutter of one eye may cause a tear in the other.
6) Don’t smile at flirtatious strangers—save them for people you know.
7) Don’t annex all the men you can get—by flirting with many, you may lose out on “the one.”
8) Don’t fall for the slick, dandified cake eater—the unpolished gold of a real man is worth more than the gloss of a lounge lizard (don’t fall for the glorified rich man, for the unsophisticated, kind man is worth more than the fancy jerk).
9) Don’t let elderly men with an eye [for] flirtation pat you on the shoulder and take a fatherly interest in you. Those are usually the kind who want to forget they are fathers.
10) Don’t ignore the man you are sure of while you flirt with another. When you return to the first one you may find him gone.
On February 28, a Washington Post article was published with the title “10 Girls Start War on Auto Invitation.” It pointed out the problem: “‘Too many motorists are taking advantage of the precedent established during the war by offering to take young lady pedestrians in their cars,’ Miss Helen Brown, 639 Longfellow Street, declared yesterday.” Brown was the secretary of the emerging Anti-Flirt Club, and warned that the sort of men who attempt to pick up women that way “don’t all tender their invitations to save the girls a walk,” and while there were “other varieties of flirts,” motorists were the absolute worst.
In the late 1800s something very similar happened. Surprisingly, the movement gained traction, and police officers were arresting offending boys and men. Despite the several politicians that tried to pass legislation controlling and managing flirting in the late 1800s, nobody was successful. However, the anti-flirt movement of the early 20th century successfully raised awareness of, and disgust with, the “ungentlemanly heathens” who hollered after ladies.
If the anti-flirt movement had really caught on, then things might be different today. Evidently, these clubs weren’t directed towards exterminating what we now call flirtation, but sought to discipline the men who make it so incredibly unpleasant for women and extremely difficult for girls to walk down the street without being catcalled. It’s interesting to think about an alternate present where street harassment is taken seriously.