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Oct 03 2013

A Further Word on Thunderf00t

I thought a little bit more about Thunderf00t’s rape Video and realised something.

The fun thing is we don’t tell women not to take precautions. We specifically tell them to take precautions and to be worried. We are making apps that let a set of trusted friends know your position on Google Maps and alerts them to your emergency. We are talking about night buses. I even know of projects to cut down on date rape by detection glasses (if a common date rape drug like GBH or Rohypnol is added to a drink the glass changes colour).

We are not suggesting to women to go out and be care free. We have never done that. We aren’t stupid. No matter how much I think my girlfriend or daughter should be able to go out and get utterly smashed should they wish to (hypothetical daughter, real girlfriend) I would not ever recommend that they did on their own without a trusted friend who won’t leave them alone. Why? Because I know we don’t live in a world where women out on the lash are as safe as men.

What we are pointing out that these precautions SHOULD be unnecessary. I don’t want women in India to have separate seating on buses. I loathe it when I have to travel on a packed train dangling on a running board while women get nice seats. But I know why they do get those. Because for what I want we would have to create a truly equal culture where women are not getting groped, harassed and raped. The people at fault for these things aren’t women but the men who are groping, harassing and raping.

Thunderfoot simply thinks when we tell “boys” not to rape we are removing all education about safety and common sense from girls. We can teach them to take precautions, what we cannot do is expect these set of frankly ludicrous precautions to be fail proof or expect women to be perfect in their utilisation. We cannot fault a woman for getting drunk in a strange place. Sometimes it happens. Compliance to these rules would ensure women live behind a sort of Burkha and would only work in an ideal world.

And it boils down to this.

You were on your own? How can you stop rape like that! Who would help you?

You were with another woman? What can a woman do to stop a strong man?

You were with another man? Slut.

It’s a no win scenario (in India at least, the western attitudes are changing after all).

We can do so much better than what we have done so far.

And I repeat. Just because we teach men responsibility and consent doesn’t mean women are going to be roaming around carefree. They still have to worry.

17 comments

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  1. 1
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    The thing is:
    All those pieces of advice actually don’t “safe” us from the most common forms of rape, those commited by friends, boyfriends, partners and husbands.
    I know more than one woman who was attacked and/or raped by the actual person they trusted with their safety.
    There is only one reason I’m not a victim of intimate partner rape: My husband isn’t a rapist.
    Heavens know he could have done and he could have made me believe it was right.
    And abusive partners don’t have a big fat warning sign on their foreheads, so we are basically expected to read minds.

  2. 2
    A Hermit

    All those pieces of advice actually don’t “safe” us from the most common forms of rape, those commited by friends, boyfriends, partners and husbands.
    I know more than one woman who was attacked and/or raped by the actual person they trusted with their safety.

    Exactly. For example, this comment at Mike Booth’s blog (MASSIVE TRIGGER WARNING!)

    http://somegreybloke.blogspot.ca/2013/10/thunderf00t-thinks-men-are-dumb-beasts.html?showComment=1380840128193#c6012841961942433053

    If you haven’t read Mike’s 9 part takedown of T-foot’s braindead video it’s well worth reading.

  3. 3
    smrnda

    Yeah, most of the ‘don’t get raped’ advice is actually only useful against varying degrees of strangers.

    The other thing is, we already *DO* a shitload of things to be safe, and most of the advice we’re getting isn’t anything new since there’s not much knew to be said (aside from the new technologies.) A problem there is you get men who argue that women need to *take responsibility* not to get raped, but who also fault women for being cautious and suspicious around men, which is a particularly infuriating position.

  4. 4
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yeah, and apart from all the tips “working”, the last time I got me some sexual assault was while being fat, wearing a wintercoat and holding the door for my kids. So much for dressing and attracting guys and body language.
    It can’t be that some asshole simply saw an opportunity where he could get away with it, because, after all, where’s the harm (for him)

  5. 5
    Ani J. Sharmin

    What we are pointing out that these precautions SHOULD be unnecessary.

    ^This!
    We tell people not to steal, but we also tell people to lock their doors, etc. People don’t argue that telling people not to steal means you are advocating that people be totally carefree and unconcerned about danger. It’s really just that with certain things, like rape, people want to find a way for it to be the victim’s fault.

  6. 6
    kacyray

    Avicenna,

    Hi. I cannot watch Thunderf00t’s video (yet), so I can’t comment on that, but I would like to take some time to comment on your blog post here.

    The fun thing is we don’t tell women not to take precautions. We specifically tell them to take precautions and to be worried.

    Let me start by acknowledging the ambiguity inherent in the word “we”… I can’t be sure who “we is”, but I’m assuming that you’re speaking of the “Royal We” – the A+/FTB/Skepchik contingent, including, but not limited to, Zvan, Benson, Carrier, Myers, et al.

    (If I’m wrong on this, then everything I’m about to say doesn’t apply… and I have no idea who “we” is.)

    This is the same “Royal We” who were very supportive of a young lady named Sarah Jones who had a momentary tiff with Al Stefanelli a few months back when some mentally unstable guy on Stefanelli’s Facebook page began making death threats toward Ms. Jones. (Al quickly took appropriate action by deleting the guy and apologizing to Ms. Jones).

    Zvan specifically included Ms. Jones in the “Royal We” with her post entitled ”How Many Do We Lose”

    So if this is the “we” you area speaking of… I’d like to direct you to something that you might find surprising.

    Avicenna said:

    We specifically tell them to take precautions and to be worried.

    But Sarah Jones said:

    When you suggest that women take any sort of action to avoid rape, you shift the blame where it properly should be (ie, on the rapist) and transfer some of it to women. You’re implying that she is at least partially responsible for becoming the victim of a crime.

    Avicenna said:

    We are not suggesting to women to go out and be care free. We have never done that. We aren’t stupid.

    But Sarah Jones said:

    Women do not have any sort of responsibility to avoid rape. Rapists have a responsibility to avoid rape. Any other dynamic, ye who despise ‘buzzwords,’ is a manifestation of rape culture. That’s reality.

    The gadfly known as oolon, who is up there with SallyStrange in terms of FTB commentariate notoriety, gave Ms. Jones’ post his full agreement!

    Another great post… Absolutely agree, the traditional skeptics hate that its moving beyond bigfoot skepticism and into other areas like feminism / social justice. Hope you can keep up the awesome.

    Staphanie Zvan was aware of Sarah Jones’ post, as it was explicitly mentioned in some dialogue she pasted into a subsequent post. Not only was Jones’ post mentioned, but the very topic we’re discussing here was described, so it’s difficult to imaging that Zvan was unaware of what Ms. Jones was endorsing. Zvan’s silence is a tacit endorsement of these ideas.

    Steersman: Those different perspectives on “victim-blaming” are indeed a puzzle, like two completely different langauges or “incommensurable” concepts. You might “enjoy” reading several of the comments over on Sarah Jones’ site which question my analogous argument that people do have some responsibility to lock their homes and that that argument does not constitute “victim blaming”.

    So what we have here is clear evidence that members of the Royal We absolutely do endorse the idea that women have no responsibility whatsoever to look out for their own well-being, as well as evidence that other members of the Royal We and their fan base are allied to this doctrine.

    Now… at this point I’d like to commend you for your position – I think you’re spot-on with the position you’re taking – judiciousness, prudence, and the acceptance of responsibility along with activism aimed at increasing awareness of the injustice of violence and assault aimed at women is the right approach. It is a wise parent who teaches their boys not to rape and their girls to locks their doors at night.

    But I think you’re a bit misinformed if you think that the complete and total abdication of personal responsibility is not being endorsed by many feminists, including many that would be subsumed in the FBT/Skepchik faction. Sarah Jones is only one example.

    So now I have a question… what is your position on the idea that Ms. Jones expressed in the blog post I linked to? What are your thoughts on statements such as “Women do not have any sort of responsibility to avoid rape.”? Are you prepared to repudiate that idea – and idea that was endorsed by at least one of the most fervent FTB gadfly’s, tactily endorsed by at least one of the FTB elite, and cheered on by dozens and dozens of commenters at Jones’ blog?

    Because according to Sarah Jones, this post of yours – and you yourself – are a manifestation of rape culture.

  7. 7
    kacyray

    Your banner looks much better since you’ve lightened it up, by the way. Props.

  8. 8
    Chaos Engineer

    So now I have a question… what is your position on the idea that Ms. Jones expressed in the blog post I linked to? What are your thoughts on statements such as “Women do not have any sort of responsibility to avoid rape.”?

    The problem here is that “responsibility” has a bunch of different meanings depending on the context. When we talk about “responsibility for a crime” we usually mean moral responsibility. It would seem foolish to say, “Well, I got burglarized, but I’d forgotten to lock the door so that makes me 5% responsible for the crime. That means that the burglar gets to keep 5% of the stuff he stole.”

    On the other hand, it makes sense to say “It’s prudent to lock your door when you leave home.” And “responsible” can be used as a synonym for “prudent” in some contexts.

    But it also makes sense to say, “If there have been a rash of burglaries in your neighborhood, then it’s socially responsible to help find a way to catch the burglar. It’s socially irresponsible if you just buy better locks in hopes that the burglar will decide to look for an easier target.”

    With so many words having so many different definitions, it’s easy to have semantic debates that drag on for as long as we want. But those debates can’t change the facts of the matter, which is that society-as-a-whole has a socially irresponsible attitude towards rape – it places too many burdens on victims (and potential victims), and not enough burdens on the actual criminals. Don’t you agree?

  9. 9
    kacyray

    The problem here is that “responsibility” has a bunch of different meanings depending on the context.

    Agreed 100%! Absolutely, unquestionably, and right on target.

    But in stating this, you’re acknowledging something that, in my experience, the Royal We does not typically acknowledge. Typically, if one even hints at the idea that *all people* have a degree of responsibility for their own personal safety and well-being, and that *all people* are responsible to make good decisions and exercise good judgment where their personal choices are made (locking your doors at night is an apt metaphor), you are immediately flamed as a rape apologist and a product of rape culture (ala Sarah Jones).

    When we talk about “responsibility for a crime” we usually mean moral responsibility.

    Of course! And when we talk about “responsibility for our own decisions” we do NOT mean responsibility for a crime, agreed?

    It would seem foolish to say, “Well, I got burglarized, but I’d forgotten to lock the door so that makes me 5% responsible for the crime. That means that the burglar gets to keep 5% of the stuff he stole.”

    Yes, that would be foolish. No one is responsibility for any part of any crime committed against them. Anyone who suggests otherwise is blaming the victim.

    On the other hand, it makes sense to say “It’s prudent to lock your door when you leave home.” And “responsible” can be used as a synonym for “prudent” in some contexts.

    You are speaking my thoughts exactly. “Judicious”, “prudent”, “responsible”… all mean the same thing in this context.

    But it also makes sense to say, “If there have been a rash of burglaries in your neighborhood, then it’s socially responsible to help find a way to catch the burglar. It’s socially irresponsible if you just buy better locks in hopes that the burglar will decide to look for an easier target.”

    Eh… we hire law enforcement officials to catch burglars. I’d say it socially responsible to provide those officials with complete information and cooperation. No one is responsible to put on a cape and go out and catch burglars. And there’s nothing wrong with fortifying your residence.

    Now, if you are in a position to catch a burglar without accepting undue risk to your own health and well-being and that of your family… I’d say that’s heroic. But it’s not a civilian’s responsibility to do that.

    With so many words having so many different definitions, it’s easy to have semantic debates that drag on for as long as we want. But those debates can’t change the facts of the matter, which is that society-as-a-whole has a socially irresponsible attitude towards rape – it places too many burdens on victims (and potential victims), and not enough burdens on the actual criminals. Don’t you agree?

    You might as well ask me about the attitude of men-as-a-whole or women-as-a-whole. There is no single attitude that describes society-as-a-whole. Heck, you couldn’t even find a single attitude that describes FTB-as-a-whole. Nor could you find one that describes feminists-as-a-whole. I’m not evading the question – I just don’t think that society-as-a-whole is of a single mind on the issue, so the question is impossible to answer.

    I can only speak for my own experiences, and they have been consistent. The moment you even hint at the idea that people have a responsibility to look out for their own well being and safety, you are labeled a victim-blamer and banned amidst a flurry of flames.

    If you doubt this, I invite you to try it in some of the other comments sections. Give it shot over at Greta’s blog. Or maybe PZ’s. Just go in there and say “Hey guys, while I fully recognize that no victim is to blame – in any way whatsoever – for their victimization… it’s still incumbent upon us all to exercise good judgment and personal responsibility, right?”

    And watch what happens.

    If you’re really brave – try suggesting that *any victim* might have done *anything* that was injudicious or irresponsible *at any point* that led up to their victimization. (Note: Don’t try it if you value you ability to comment further).

    And watch what happens.

    So what I’m saying here is… while Avicenna’s post here is commendable (and frankly a breath of fresh air), it does not represent the general view of the Royal We. I’d say it runs contrary to everything I’ve heard coming from FTB so far.

  10. 10
    SallyStrange

    But those debates can’t change the facts of the matter, which is that society-as-a-whole has a socially irresponsible attitude towards rape – it places too many burdens on victims (and potential victims), and not enough burdens on the actual criminals. Don’t you agree?

    Apparently not, since Kacyray cannot answer “yes” to this simple question.

    That’s why you get labeled a victim-blamer, Kacyray.

    “I’m not evading the question…”

    Yes, you are doing exactly that, and your pronouncement of not doing it no more erases your question-evading than Phil Mason’s announcement that he’s not victim-blaming erases that he did do exactly that, blame rape victims for getting raped.

  11. 11
    kacyray

    Sally,

    As I’ve said, there is no single attitude that describes society as a whole.

    If you think there is, then you are lumping everyone into the same pot – and that’s means everyone. Even you and me.

    Now please, let the adults talk.

  12. 12
    SallyStrange

    I see that you’ve chosen to hang your question evasion on the fiction that when people say, “Society has attitude X,” they mean that X is the only extant attitude in society, rather than the truth, which is that they mean attitude X is prevalent or dominant.

    And yes, we are all being lumped into that statement. Being part of a society that treats rape victims unfairly doesn’t automatically mean that I personally treat rape victims unfairly. It does mean that if I think rape victims should be treated fairly, I have some responsibility to attemppt to change society.

  13. 13
    SallyStrange

    But that is probably just because I’m too childish to understand Kacyray’s deep thoughts. Please, Sir Grown-Up, continue.

  14. 14
    SallyStrange

    Being part of a society that treats rape victims unfairly doesn’t automatically mean that I personally treat rape victims unfairly.

    I wanted to point out that, while the relationship between being a member of a society that victim-blames doesn’t automatically mean that I will personally treat rape victims unfairly, it does severely raise the likelihood that I will. In fact, I have treated a rape victim unfairly, or rather, a sexual assault victim unfairly–myself. I thought I did something wrong by waking up with two guys on top of me, penetrating me digitally, even though I’d given my express lack of desire for sex with either of them earlier that evening. I should have know that they would laugh off my simple declaration that although I’d love a place to stay, I didn’t want to have sex. Right? Of course they were lying. Of course. It was my fault. Maybe I should have smiled less when I said it. Was I giggling? Then of course they thought I meant the opposite of what I was saying. People always think women behave that way. I failed by not taking that into account. It was my fault.

    I don’t remember learning those victim-blaming tropes, but I knew them, and so did my boyfriend at the time; this fact led to far more pain and trauma for me than the assault itself.

    So yeah. Although it is theoretically possible to grow up in this society, and most others in the world today, without learning to blame victims of rape for their assault, at least a little bit, in practice that rarely happens. And it’s that practical reality that lends the urgency to the project of changing the culture.

  15. 15
    moach .

    The fun thing is we don’t tell women not to take precautions. We specifically tell them to take precautions and to be worried. We are making apps that let a set of trusted friends know your position on Google Maps and alerts them to your emergency. We are talking about night buses. I even know of projects to cut down on date rape by detection glasses (if a common date rape drug like GBH or Rohypnol is added to a drink the glass changes colour).

    Kacyray @ 6, your entire premise is shot. There’s no way anyone (without a hidden agenda) could take the above Royal We to mean “A+/FTB/Skepchik contingent, including, but not limited to, Zvan, Benson, Carrier, Myers, et al.” This is clearly the Royal We of western society. Or is Greta Christina working on a new smart phone app I have yet to hear about? When did Ophelia Benson stop writing long enough to invent chemical detection glassware?

  16. 16
    Chaos Engineer

    I can only speak for my own experiences, and they have been consistent. The moment you even hint at the idea that people have a responsibility to look out for their own well being and safety, you are labeled a victim-blamer and banned amidst a flurry of flames.

    I think you’re missing the larger context. If people are arguing about the most effective way to be socially responsible (as defined above), and you barge in and start talking about prudence, then you’re arguing against social responsibility.

    Look at the burglary example I gave up above: Maybe there’s a big neighborhood meeting about the rash of burglaries, and people are brainstorming solutions: Should we set up a neighborhood watch? Or call the mayor and ask for more police patrols? What if we put some extra regulations on pawn shops? What about security cameras? Do we think these are career criminals, or bored teenagers with nothing better to do?

    If somebody chimes in with, “Why don’t you just lock your doors when you go out?” then this will be seen as unhelpful, since people are already locking their doors when they go out.

    If somebody chimes in with, “Why don’t you stop leaving your homes empty for hours at a time? That way you can call 911 if someone tries to break in!” Then this will also be seen as unhelpful. Why should regular folks have to change their lifestyles over this? The burglars are the ones who should be changing their lifestyles!

    And if somebody chimes in with, “Why don’t you get rid of all your jewelry and electronics? When you own lots of jewelry and electronics, you’re practically inviting the burglars in!” Then not only will that be seen as unhelpful, but it will leave him open to accusations of being a “burglar apologist”.

    Anyway, I’d urge you to go back and see what people were saying when they got flamed. I bet you’ll find that they were saying things that were unhelpful in terms of solving social problems.

  17. 17
    Oob

    Thank you, this is something I’ve been thinking for a while now.

    The standard argument against these misogynists is putting the blame exactly where it belongs, because the core is the blame shifting mentality. However, I’ve wanted to make the same additional argument.

    NONE OF YOUR ADVICE IS NEWS THUNDERFOOT! (Though some of it is factually inaccurate.) All women already know to be careful at night, to be careful who they talk to, to be careful who they drink with. Feminists in all circles are CONSTANTLY sending warnings to each other about certain situations in order to, yes, avoid risk. IT ISN’T NEWS!

    This may come as a shock because of just how strongly we respond when you throw this “advice” at us after someone gets raped. Well, here’s the key. You gave the advice AFTER someone got raped, TO the victim. Exactly what is the point of this? Is it to “protect them next time”? Is it to “empower” them by saying they can be “in control”? Well, neither is very good, and both miss the point. AFTER someone gets raped or otherwise attacked, the focus should be on THAT attack. You can’t prevent the past, it just happened. You CAN try to help them through it and remind them that it wasn’t their fault, no matter what happened beforehand. Ultimately, the choice to rape lies in the hands of the rapist.

    So no, we aren’t naive, we KNOW that wandering around at night is dangerous. What we are saying is that this advice, ALREADY heeded by most women, SHOULDN’T simply be the norm.

    The fact is, a lot of people ALSO blame victims of mugging, yes, I’ll say it, our prime example often falls on deaf ears because lots of people really HAVE extended victim blaming to victims of robbery, murder, and so on. I’ve seen it all, though not as prevalent as blaming rape victims perhaps. Someone killed in a gang war? They should have been inside or shouldn’t have been in such a well known dangerous area of town. Someone’s house is robbed? Yes, some people will literally blame them for having such lavish stuff on display, or at least for leaving their door unlocked. Someone mugged? Don’t you know not to walk these streets at night? Don’t you know to leave your wallet at home and only care a small amount of cash? Even online, a service can be hacked, passwords and identities stolen, and first thing you’ll see are the wave of people saying “I told you so, your password was just ripe for the taking so you’ve got no one to blame but yourself”. It IS a problem far more widespread than just rape, which takes the sting out of our counter argument a bit, but my tactic is to say that such victim blaming in ALL areas where it occurs should be countered. We’re all aware of the advice, but when a human being is making the decision to hurt someone else, THAT is where you focus your efforts to stop things. I’ll read the latest article on how to set up a more secure password or passphrase, and I’ll take that advice, but when you say I had it coming should my password be guessed, perhaps because of one service I never updated my password on, that’s when you’ve crossed the line. Rape is far more severe a thing so saying someone “made a mistake” for being in that situation crosses a far worse line. That is all.

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