I just read this article on Jezebel and left a comment I want to share more broadly.
As a married guy in his 40s with a teen daughter and two pre-teen sons, I see both sides of this issue pretty clearly. The bottom line here is to use your empathy. I’m a techie and far from the most socially skilled person, so this takes a little effort for me, but I’ve learned that in approaching others, both men and women, you have to first observe their current “stance” and think about whether you would be open to approach in that stance. If they’re reading a book, talking on the phone, obviously have headphones in, or have their arms crossed or otherwise appear “guarded”, they are not looking for engagement. Just seeing their stance and relating it to why you would assume that stance usually tells you all you need to know.
Men are pretty easy to read, but you have to use a little extra effort, just a little, with females, because they are socialized to smile and otherwise appear open and friendly when approached. I see this with my wife and daughter and also with women in public. As much as it feels good to think that a smiling woman “likes” you, she’s probably just being socially correct. If you wouldn’t be interrupting her by approaching and she “seems” open, just say Hi. If she says anything more welcoming than just Hi back to you, then you can try to have a conversation.
As someone who met his wife at work by correcting her grammar and informing her she should probably know that rule in her job, I think I’m a lot denser than most socially. This stuff should be taught in public schools since it really makes life much easier to navigate, for everyone. Life is confusing for men nowadays in that they have to think about what they’re doing since it’s not all a boy’s club anymore, and women have a hard enough time meeting all the ridiculous and often conflicting demands placed on them without having to fend off unwanted advances.