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Jan 16 2012

Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist

This morning I made a reference to the fact that men are often assumed to be potential rapists as an example of how sexism negatively affects men as well as women. The argument, commonly referred to as “Schroedinger’s Rapist”, goes something like this: because you can’t know for sure if the stranger approaching you in a dark alley or other unsafe place is a rapist or not, it is generally a good idea to be on your guard. Men can enhance their interactions with women by being aware of this mindset, and adjusting their own behaviour accordingly.

I have often heard from people making an anti-feminist argument that Schroedinger’s Rapist is profoundly sexist and unfair. After all, most men do not rape – why should every man be treated like a rapist? Isn’t that discrimination? How can you claim to be opposed to sexism, yet promote a fundamentally sexually prejudicial idea? The next step is often to draw parallels to racism – is it fair to treat all black people as potential criminals simply because, statistically speaking, there are more black criminals than white ones? Isn’t that racist?

As much as I hate it when white people use anti-black racism as a cudgel with which to beat other people, I can understand the conundrum as it is expressed. The problem with it (and the reason why it’s so bothersome to hear white people talk about anti-black racism) is that it fails to address the question in a meaningful way. To demonstrate what I mean, I’d like to share a couple of personal anecdotes from my own life. I’ve never shared these stories with anyone before, and I’m not sure why because there’s nothing particularly embarrassing about them, and they’re extremely useful in this context.

When I was in high school, I was the de facto manager of my string quartet. We were gaining a bit of a reputation – we were pretty good, and young people are a novelty – and had picked up a lot of gigs playing weddings. One particular evening, I was supposed to meet the bride-to-be at her church. I had been hanging out at my friend’s house, and was walking from his place to the church. Unhappily, I realized that I was running a bit late – very unprofessional – so I decided to pick up my pace. It was cool outside, so I had my hoodie up.

I was trucking along at a fairly decent pace when I noticed an older woman ahead of me on the street. At first I didn’t pay any attention to her, so intent was I on making my appointment. However, as I drew closer, she became more visibly agitated, constantly looking over her shoulder and speeding up. There was no way she was going to walk faster than me, though – I was way taller than she. When I was about 50m away, she suddenly broke to the right and crossed the road – over 6 lanes of high-speed traffic. I thought it was an unusual move, considering we were nowhere near a crosswalk.

Then it finally occurred to me (when I noticed she had crossed back over once I was safely past her) – she didn’t see someone in a hurry to get to church – she saw a young black kid motoring toward her with no safe haven in sight. She took the risk of running out into the road rather than assume that I wasn’t trying to assault her. I remember that quite clearly, because it was the first time that I realized that I was a frightening sight to strangers.

Years later I was working for a friend of mine who was doing his PhD thesis on perceived access to park facilities. I, along with my friend Suzie (not her real name), had to canvas the neighbourhood, going door to door and asking people to fill out surveys about their level/type of outdoor activity. After a few streets, I noticed that Suzie’s refusal rate was much lower than mine. Waterloo (where we were) is not exactly a cosmopolitan hub of multiculturalism, and the area we were in was populated by mostly older white people.

Thinking back to my traffic-dodging friend, I asked Suzie to go back to some houses that I’d had trouble with – people closing the door in my face or saying ‘no’ before I finished my sales pitch. Much as I suspected, blonde and 5’5″ Suzie was able to obtain consent from a number of people who had said no to me. This wasn’t about how I was dressed – we were both wearing identical t-shirts and jeans – this was about a huge black dude showing up at your door unexpectedly and asking questions. I learned to knock and then take several steps back from the door so as not to startle people.

One more story. Because I prefer to be able to knock off early from work, I start my day at around 7:45. This means I have to leave the house pretty early in the morning. There are often young women walking around my neighbourhood with their dogs and in their pyjamas. It’s often pretty dark at 7 am, especially in the winter. Despite my size, I am a particularly light stepper, and because my winter coat is black, I am not terribly visible. After scaring the bejezus out of my neighbours by coming up behind them completely unexpected, I have learned to start shuffling my feet when walking behind someone – giving them an auditory clue that I am there and approaching.

Now there are two ways I could react to these encounters. I could rail against people for being racist and sexist and size-ist (if that’s a thing) – I’m so gentle and warm and loving! How dare they act as though I’m not? That’s one way – and it’s the stupid way. The other way is to recognize that while I strongly dislike the fact that people see me as dangerous because of how I look, it is up to me to decide what to do with that information. If I don’t care about spooking my neighbours, I don’t have to shuffle my feet – let them deal with their fright. But if I do care, then I have to find some way of mitigating that fear so we can coexist harmoniously.

Bringing this example home, men in the freethought movement have a decision to make. They (we) can rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behaviour, or we can recognize that if we want to be accommodating to women we have to make some adjustments to how we behave. It comes back to the central question: do we want women to be more comfortable? If not, then we should say so explicitly – “we don’t care about your comfort, toots! Nut up or shut up!” On the other hand, if we do care, then we can’t simply maintain the status quo of behaviour and berate women for being afraid of rape. That doesn’t solve any problems.

The other point I want to make here, which goes back to my objection to anti-black racism being used as a rhetorical device by those who will never face it, is that black people engage in tons of behaviours to make white people feel safer. We do this all the damn time. We make accommodations in speech, behaviour, dress, mannerism, conversation topic – a wide diversity of adjustments that we make in the presence of our white friends. We want them to feel comfortable around us, and we accept the inherent racism of the need for such changes. The fact that you rail against its manifest unfairness is indicative of the fact that you have no idea we’re doing it – which means, in turn, that we’re doing it well. Until I am convinced that you actually understand anti-black racism (which would take quite a bit of doing), I don’t appreciate being deputized into your anti-feminist screed in this way.

Anyway, this is obviously simply my opinion and personal experience. I personally don’t have a problem with the argument, and I have done my best to illustrate why I think that Schroedinger’s Rapist, while unfortunate, is not unfair. If you disagree, I hope you will explain why in the comments.

TL/DR: I’ve frequently heard people object to the Schroedinger’s Rapist argument as sexist, with anti-black racism used as a counter-example. I reject this comparison because it neglects two important factors: 1) that the issue under discussion is about whether or not we want women to feel more comfortable; and 2) that black people often make similar behavioural adjustments to accommodate the racism of their white friends. I share some personal stories to illustrate this.

Update: Comrade Physioprof has made this excellent observation: “It is not “sexist” for women to view all men as potential rapists, because (other than in prison) men possess the privilege of being subject to a vanishingly small likelihood of being raped by either men or women, while women are subject to a substantial likelihood of being raped by men. In contrast, it is “racist” for white people to view all black people as potential criminals, because (as far as I can discern from available crime statistics) white people are the ones who possess the privilege of being less likely to be crime victims than black people, and they are more likely to be victims of crimes committed by white people than by black people.”

Update 2: Greg Laden offers another perspective on this issue.

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408 comments

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  1. 1
    Greg Laden

    My little skinny always-happy-and-harmless-looking female bff who is very dark brown is always making accommodations to not scare the white people. What a burden it must be to be enormous and scary looking like you! But I would also note that most of the African American guys I know in the US have piles of stories like yours but where a certain proportion of them end up with getting rousted by the cops, cuffed now and then, or just plain brought in and charged with something. In America, we KNOW our big scary black guys are all criminals, why bother with due process?

    As you may know, I wrote a post about crossing the street ( http://goo.gl/dzwk3 ) as part of the ElevatorGate discussion, and took a lot of crap from the self appointed deliverers of crap for that, and here and there the connection you made here was discussed and used to bludgeon me. I’ve actually got a (very skeletal) draft of a post that would look something like the post you’ve written but nowhere near as effective and relevant. Thank you for saving me from having to finish that project and doing such a great job. Very articulate even!!! :)

  2. 2
    VeritasKnight

    Fantastic post. We can either be outraged or deal with it. Makes a certain amount of sense, doesn’t it?

  3. 3
    ms x

    Hmm I admit when I noticed in the comments of your earlier post that you were going to discuss this, I was ready to be all pissed and sulky at yet another supposed ally engaging in harmful rhetoric (not your fault, this has not been a good week for my “allies”) and the same “but but that argument is meeean!” But this is a good post. I’ve not heard anyone try to argue that Schrodinger’s Rapist is anti-black but I’m not really surprised, in an attempt to be as “intersectional” as possible people really do run in all ham fisted and end up actually being more offensive.

    tl;dr thanks for this post, I’m a new commenter!

  4. 4
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    I didn’t know. I live in a very cosmopolitan area and have always felt that race wasn’t as big a deal here. But I’ve seen what you describe and didn’t recognize it.

    This is very hard to process. I don’t think I should comment until I do. Except to say that I’m sorry.

  5. 5
    Crommunist

    While I appreciate the sentiment behind the apology, there’s really no need to apologize in general for being white in a white supremacist system. Recognizing the strands of the web are the first step of getting yourself unstuck. I’m glad my writing has provoked you into thinking seriously about this issue.

  6. 6
    iknklast

    Great post. I have to say, in my experience, I have had so many really good experiences with people of other races, and very few bad ones, and for that reason, my perception of other races is very good. Those who have gotten all their information from vicarious sources, or who have had (real or perceived) bad experiences with other races will often perceive other races as “bad” or “scary”. So what you’re doing, in principle, is building a world where people become attuned to accept other races in a more positive way. In an ideal world, this wouldn’t need to be done.

    On the same note, I have had a VERY mixed experience with males as a whole, especially southern white males. I have been harrassed, cat called, groped, leered at, talked down to, and just generally dismissed as a “girl” (in spite of the fact that I have a Ph.D. in the hard sciences, and am far from being a girl). To the extent that I was glad when I got middle aged and gained weight. Until I found that now, I am “old” and “fat” and therefore have no relevance to the world in the view of the average sexist. I went from being eye-candy to being invisible and irrelevant.

    For these reasons, including some reasons of violent encounters, I do tend to approach men, especially white men, with an attitude of distrust, so they have to prove themselves. The cost is too high for me to do otherwise. Minority races, on the other hand, have given me little or no reason to distrust them, and my attitude is positive until there is reason to be otherwise.

    That’s just the way of the world. It’s all right for a man to say “Well, I don’t treat women that way”, but at some point, he has to understand that he has to pay in some way for all the other men who do. He has to prove himself. Just like I have to prove myself as a non-ditz and a person who doesn’t want constant compliments and pink fuzzy things because I tend to get lumped in with all the women who choose to act like the female sterotype. In an ideal world, it wouldn’t be this way. This is not an ideal world.

    Thanks for this article.

  7. 7
    carolw

    Thanks for this post. I know what you’re talking about. When I was in training to be a TA (teaching assistant) in Grad School, one of our classes was about dealing with racism and sexism. The instructor was a big bald black man. The first thing he asked when he came in the classroom was, “Honest show of hands, if you saw me coming up a dark alley toward you, who would be scared?” I had to self-consciously raise my hand, along with a lot of others. Of course, once we got to know him we realized he was the biggest teddy bear ever. But as a woman I constantly walk that knife edge between paranoia and benefit of the doubt, and I’ve fallen on the wrong side of it many times.

  8. 8
    Anthony K

    Thanks for this.

    The other thing the anti-feminists need to learn is that many of us males already do this with regards to women, and the cause of freedom has not yet been surrendered to the Stalinistes, or whoever’s supposed to take over if we don’t immediately ask a woman to bed whenever a heartbeat pumps blood into our dicks.

    I know I live in a liberal bubble within a liberal bubble, but nearly every self-aware male I know will modify how he walks or interacts with or near women, particularly in locations and at times when they’re likely to feel vulnerable. (For instance, if I happen to be walking alone behind a woman who’s also walking alone, especially at night or in a relatively low-traffic area, I’ll make extra noise, modify my footsteps, or cross the street so as to minimise those behaviours which might be construed as stalking or threatening. And I’m not the only one. Even my brash, 6’4″ self-professed asshole of a friend who never misses an opportunity to bash ‘political correctness’ does this.)

  9. 9
    carolw

    Clarification: Walking that line applies to men of all races, not just black. I don’t think I made that clear. FSM knows the white ones have been the worst to me.

  10. 10
    maureen.brian

    Excellent post!

  11. 11
    Pteryxx

    I use a laundromat in the poorer section of town, where most of the customers are black. They’re extremely polite and solicitous towards me if I ask to borrow a cart or some such, and they make sure the children keep their distance. I thought this was mostly class-based, or that I’m a stranger or look too queer, but since I look white it’s just as likely I’m the scary Schroedinger’s Racist.

    Thank you for this post.

  12. 12
    Anthony K

    I have learned to start shuffling my feet when walking behind someone – giving them an auditory clue that I am there and approaching.

    Failed to quote this. Yes, this is what I do. (Normally I walk as quietly as possible, a behaviour I learned from growing up in a household with an abuser and being extremely sensitive to arousing the anger of the beast.)

  13. 13
    scotlyn

    Thanks. Lovely post. I especially appreciate the careful use of the term ‘anti black racism.’ People don’t always get their minds clear on what the problem IS. Careful language helps.

  14. 14
    dogeared, spotted and foxed

    You’re right. Apology is the wrong place to start.

    So, thanks for making me think.

  15. 15
    John Moeller

    Heh. I was wondering when this was going to come up. It’s not too hard to come up with a right answer (CPP’s, appended to the post, for example, was also my conclusion) once you just think about it a little from everyone’s perspective.

    I appreciate that you wrote this. Even though with a little thought I figured it out for myself, that’s only because I pay attention to blogs and news that address racism and sexism. This was an excellent piece and I’m glad for it.

  16. 16
    Ace of Sevens

    I used to work for Alliant Energy, which supplies power to half of Iowa and Wisconsin and southern Minnesota. One day, a cop called in from some tiny Iowa town saying they’d gotten reports of a big black guy walking through yards and looking at houses. They’d determined he was a meter reader. He had a badge, but apparently, people were to busy noticing he was a big black guy to see it. My first instinct was to tell him to tell his constituents that even in small-town Iowa, there are bound to be a few black people and sometimes they walk around and do stuff and you have to just deal with it and not run to the cops. Instead, I talked to my boss, who talked to the local supervisor, who had an Alliant Energy vest that was large enough to fit him custom-made. I never really felt right about this solution, but I guess he has to live with these people.

  17. 17
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    @ Crommunist, that was a great post! Thanks for sharing your perspective on this thorny topic. What you describe about black people making accommodations in dress, speech, behaviour, etc. is also something I’ve seen around me, although I’m afraid most white people don’t realise it.

    I’ll share an anecdote: a few years ago, I had just published a book, and a young journalist sent me an email asking for a video interview. I was extremely happy of course. We arranged over email for a time and place to meet. When I asked how I would recognise him, he answered that he was wearing a green hoodie and added: “Oh, and by the way, I should warn you that I’m from Tunisia. So when you see a young Arab guy in a green hoodie and wearing glasses, that’s me!”

    The unspoken part being of course, “and don’t be afraid, I’m not a mugger”. (Young North African men in tracksuits or jeans are more or less the local “usual suspects” here in France when speaking about crime and insecurity.)

    That incident really brought home to me how pervasive racism was, even in the educated circles of a cosmopolitan city like Paris, and how it could make day-to-day life difficult and frustrating for the people who fell into its stereotypes.

  18. 18
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    P.S. Just saw that Daniel Fincke, at Cammels With Hammers, has added his thoughts on the topic. I like his conclusion that from the perspective of ethnic minorities, the logical collateral to “Schrödinger’s Mugger” is “Schrödinger’s Racist”:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/01/16/schrodingers-rapist-and-schrodingers-racist/

  19. 19
    janicot

    My version of that is kind of from the opposite point of view.

    I am a Caucasian male who grew up on the Navaho reservation. I’m fairly sure that I’m not too bigoted (how’s that for a flag phrase right up front) but I know that indians who live on the reservation away from town have very different backgrounds from me. I think they expect different values from me about as much as I expect value differences from them. Which isn’t to say that either of us is more right than the other.

    Depending on the situation for an initial meeting, there can be a bit of tension and fear both directions. As a former owner of a fear-aggression challenged dog. I am very familiar with the potential problems that can arise.

    I guess I am basically trying to support your excellent post. The simple truth is that every different person in every different situation will bring a different point of view — with rightly varying comfort and confidence levels. Points of view must be taken into account to allow progress.

  20. 20
    jolo5309

    I have (once I reached adulthood) always assumed that I am Schrödinger’s Rapist to women. I never think about Schrödinger’s Racist, but I guess I could quite likely be that too.

    Thanks for this, it has given me a lot to think about.

  21. 21
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Thank you, it’s a great post.
    Yes, during the bazillion iterations of EG, the “it’s like being afraid of black people” was one of the things that drove me nuts.
    It dishonestly twists 2 important factors:
    -privileged vs. underprivileged group. If you want to make a comparison, you need to equate women with POC, not women with white bigots.

    -Data. While white people generally have little reason to fear POC any more than other white people, women do have reasons to be more wary of men than they have to be of women.

  22. 22
    KarenX

    Also, there’s all that crap attached to just even being believed when women report being raped, and being blamed, or having the rape explained to them, or the whole nonsense about those “gray areas” in consent that means sometimes they aren’t technically actually raped after all. I’ve seen newspaper reports about rapes that use the phrase “allegedly raped” whereas in most other cases–it seems to me–the use of the word “alleged” is reserved for the person accused of committing a crime.

    If I go to a police station and say that I’ve been mugged by a black person at the ATM, they’ll start with acting like they believe me. They may not treat an ATM mugging as a crime worthy of their top attention, or they may employ racism while tracking down suspected muggers, but they’ll start with the presumption that it happened.

  23. 23
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    I’d like to point a few things out.
    First of all, you making the choice to accommodate people, is not the same as people demanding they be accommodated.

    You have found that it is worth it to you, for whatever reasons to accommodate this fear (whether rational or not). Thats great, but that is in no way the same as people speaking up and demanding this accommodation.

    Second, It might make your life better, it might make the lives of people around you easier, but that doesn’t make it right.
    It does reinforce negative stereotypes, and thats a kind of accommodation there is good reason not to support.

    Third, it promotes the idea of victim status. It does nothing to reduce the actual risk of violent assault, rape, muggings, etc. It only serves to promote the idea that fear is the proper response.

    And fourth.
    Some of us might not want to build friendships based on accommodations. I can not think of anything that would hurt me more than to learn that my friends, my co-workers, etc have been secretly rearranging their habits, and making sacrifices lest I live in fear of them.
    This is just personal preference, but it is extremely important to me that those I love not feel as though they have had to sacrifice for me. Thats not friendship to me, its heartbreaking.

  24. 24
    karynwittmeyer

    Thank you for such an great post.

    I am a 5’2, 120lb white girl that grew up in an all white upper middle class suburb of Kansas City. I don’t think I met a black, Mexican, Asian, or anyone else darker than myself until I got into college. My parents were very open and liberal, and never instilled any fear or racism in me, but I apparently picked up plenty of it from the media. I now live in downtown Seattle, which is one of the least segregated cities I’ve been in. There are a lot of homeless and/or black people around me (and white men and women in business suits, but bah..they aren’t scary). I jog 1.5 miles to work at 5am every morning, and I have to constantly fight the emotional urge to run away every time I see a black and/or homeless person. I cross the paths of at least 20 or 30 a day. I intentionally do not alter my path or attempt to avoid them because I imagine that is incredibly offensive behavior, and my natural instincts are way off base. After months of this and never getting raped or mugged, my instincts are finally starting to line up better with reality.

    All of the recent in-group drama has really made me painfully aware of how sexist and racist many of my own thoughts are, and how much I need to face my fears and prejudices head on so I can retrain some of those thought to be less offensive. Sexism gets discussed a lot in these parts, but I think racism gets far less attention than it deserves. We all like to think we’re better than that, but don’t bother realizing that we aren’t. I sometimes wonder why we spend so much time complaining about how there are so few women in our movement, but the lack of non-white people is a far more disturbing trend. I appreciate hearing the anecdotes of what you have to go through, because I would never be forced to confront my own idiot thoughts if I don’t ever get to hear yours. It is sad that you have to modify your behavior for such stupid reasons, but then we all modify our behavior somehow to live harmoniously with the people around us.

  25. 25
    Crommunist

    1 – I haven’t seen anyone demand this kind of accommodation from men. Maybe you can point me to some examples of this, but I’ve always seen it offered as an explanation – “men, this is a thing that many women contend with. It would be helpful if you governed yourself accordingly.” I don’t see from where anyone gets the authority to make demands about anyone else’s behaviour (and no, I don’t see “don’t do that” as anything other than a request).

    2 – Failing to make the accommodation makes any kind of communication impossible. If women are so freaked out by the behaviour of male skeptics (and many say they are) that they stay away, then there can be no dialogue. Again – if we simply decide that we don’t care to involve those kinds of women, then by all means be explicit about that. Jumping up and down on the principle that because it’s not illegal to be creepy and make others feel unsafe, therefore nobody should have to do it, will solve exactly zero problems.

    3 – It also does nothing to make delicious strawberry jam. That is not a failing of the argument – it is not designed to reduce assault rates (or create spreadable fruit preserves). It is designed to moderate fear by demonstrating sensitivity to the mental states of others, which it does quite well. If I recognize that others are afraid of my unthinking default behaviour (even if it is, in my mind, totally benign), I can reduce their fear and work with them to change the ideas upon which their fears are based.

    4 – then prepare to have your heart broken, because every single person does this to some degree. It is called tact. I don’t pick my nose or scratch my balls in front of my co-workers (while I may be happy to do so in the privacy of my own home – enjoy that mental picture :P ). I do this because I recognize that, while legal, it is impolite and will reflect badly on me. Is that fair? Maybe they’re all nosepickers and ball-scratchers too – shocking hypocrisy, that! However, we adjust our behaviour to accommodate each other as a matter of course. Now we are just haggling over the degree.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read and critique the content of the post (this time).

  26. 26
    Cipher

    And what exactly is the problem with people speaking up and saying that they’re uncomfortable with certain behaviors, Mallorie? Is it that you personally don’t feel uncomfortable with them, so you don’t think anyone else has the right to? Or is it just that we should have to put up with discomfort and anxiety?

    And while decent men accommodating reality is not necessarily going to reduce the number of rapes, it is going to reduce the number of moments women have to spend looking over their shoulders, feeling their hearts speed up, wondering what is in their bag that they could use as a weapon, just in case. Don’t underestimate the worth of that.

    I almost hurt some jogger once, because… well, he wasn’t “shuffling his feet” enough? He ran up behind me (there was a highway nearby, so it was very loud), and all I heard was the last few heavy footsteps immediately behind me and the ragged breathing that means someone is running, and since the last time I was assaulted in the street that was exactly what I heard, my whole body reacted and I very nearly hit him in the jaw with my heavy metal lunchbox. There wasn’t any thought going on there – it was mostly reflex, and I barely stopped myself. I got home and was sick and shook for the rest of the night.

    And finally, as a multiple rape and abuse survivor on the autism spectrum with PTSD and profound social anxiety, I guess all my friendships must be heartbreaking for poor Mallorie. And not real friendship. So, that’s not dehumanizing at all or anything.

    TL;DR Mallorie, I think you ought to know by now that not all women are like you. The rest of us have rights and needs too. Get over it.

  27. 27
    Liam

    This sounds like a horrible way to live.

    Rather than fighting prejudice and fear, you are simply accomodating prejudicial fear.

    Its basically “im a black man” > “people’s prejudices against black people is X”, > “therefore I should be extra accommodating to show that i will not do X”

    One day i hope you are not judged by the colour of your skin, but by the content of your character.

    instead we have the idea “racism exists, so i should change my behaviour to accomodate that racism”

  28. 28
    Crommunist

    This sounds like a horrible way to live.

    Yeah, it’s no picnic, I’ll give you that.

    Rather than fighting prejudice and fear, you are simply accomodating prejudicial fear.

    LOLwut? Here’s some homework for you – go and read PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ELSE I’VE WRITTEN ON THE TOPIC OF RACE. If you think I’m not fighting prejudice and fear, then you just aren’t paying attention.

    instead we have the idea “racism exists, so i should change my behaviour to accomodate that racism”

    And you’ve once again left off the most important part of the argument: “…if I want to reduce other people’s anxieties to the point where I can coexist with them.” Once that’s done, there are a lot of things that can be done to fight the fear. Staunchly refusing to recognize that I scare people because of their inaccurate preconceptions of me as an individual is not a useful alternative.

    I swear, you zero-sum folks baffle me.

  29. 29
    Richard Carrier

    Great post, Ian! I’ve provided my own perspective, telling some of my own personal experiences, which mostly supports your point (or perhaps slightly qualifies it, I don’t know): Sexism, Racism, and the Golden Rule.

  30. 30
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    1 – I haven’t seen anyone demand this kind of accommodation from men. Maybe you can point me to some examples of this, but I’ve always seen it offered as an explanation – “men, this is a thing that many women contend with. It would be helpful if you governed yourself accordingly.” I don’t see from where anyone gets the authority to make demands about anyone else’s behaviour (and no, I don’t see “don’t do that” as anything other than a request).

    I think we must define demand differently. The original article that coined the term Schroedinger’s Rapist made very clear that getting maced was a likely alternative to behaving according to these rules.
    That to me sounds like a demand.
    If we are just using the word differently, thats fine I can accept that, I hope you can as well.

    2 – Failing to make the accommodation makes any kind of communication impossible. If women are so freaked out by the behaviour of male skeptics (and many say they are) that they stay away, then there can be no dialogue. Again – if we simply decide that we don’t care to involve those kinds of women, then by all means be explicit about that. Jumping up and down on the principle that because it’s not illegal to be creepy and make others feel unsafe, therefore nobody should have to do it, will solve exactly zero problems.

    I find this very hard to believe, these are people who manage to function in society, there is not a total communication breakdown as soon as only a guy and a girl are alone together.
    There might be a small handful of people who are just that freaked out, and in that case, yes that is not someone I am interested in involving at least in my own life.
    It is clear to me that their personal prejudices are so radical that I am wholly incapable of reaching them. It is also clear that their personal prejudices are so dominate in their lives that I dont feel there is anything to connect on.
    We share a gender at that point, and that is literally it. I hope that was close enough to being explicit about it.

    3 – It also does nothing to make delicious strawberry jam. That is not a failing of the argument – it is not designed to reduce assault rates (or create spreadable fruit preserves). It is designed to moderate fear by demonstrating sensitivity to the mental states of others, which it does quite well. If I recognize that others are afraid of my unthinking default behaviour (even if it is, in my mind, totally benign), I can reduce their fear and work with them to change the ideas upon which their fears are based.

    Unfortunate that, jam producing things are always awesome.
    Its not a failing of the argument, but it is if we hope to actually make things better a failing of the behaviour.
    If we are just talking about being kind and decent thats fine, but this goes beyond that, It furthers the notion that fear is the correct response. It propagates that fear, by promoting the continuation of it, and not addressing the victim mentality.
    It also costs us candor and our chance at real equality.

    4 – then prepare to have your heart broken, because every single person does this to some degree. It is called tact. I don’t pick my nose or scratch my balls in front of my co-workers (while I may be happy to do so in the privacy of my own home – enjoy that mental picture :P ). I do this because I recognize that, while legal, it is impolite and will reflect badly on me. Is that fair? Maybe they’re all nosepickers and ball-scratchers too – shocking hypocrisy, that! However, we adjust our behaviour to accommodate each other as a matter of course. Now we are just haggling over the degree.

    No.
    One is accepting that people in general might not want to see your boogers.
    The other is accepting that people see you based on an arbitrary fact as an object of fear, and respond accordingly.
    I do not see my friends as objects of fear, to think they believe I do is hearbreaking and no I can not accept that. That is not friendship to me and I would rather be alone.
    Again S.R. does not just ask that we be generally polite, it asks that all men accept that most or all women see them as things to be feared.

    As a side note I would like to add, there are plenty of women, minorities, etc, who do not want this kind of accommodation, and do not want to be a part of a group that singles them out as such, then behaves in this way.
    Again, I would rather be a hermit than be with someone who thinks I would fear them alone in a hall. And yes you will lose those of us who want this brand of equal treatment if you start accommodating the S.R concepts.
    That is worth discussion as well.

    I appreciate you taking the time to read and critique the content of the post (this time).

    Not sure what you mean by this time did I miss something?

  31. 31
    Liam


    LOLwut? Here’s some homework for you – go and read PRETTY MUCH EVERYTHING ELSE I’VE WRITTEN ON THE TOPIC OF RACE. If you think I’m not fighting prejudice and fear, then you just aren’t paying attention.

    I will admit, i haven’t read your other posts, you may well be doing much to fight racism, but i don’t think this particular behaviour is one of them.


    And you’ve once again left off the most important part of the argument: “…if I want to reduce other people’s anxieties to the point where I can coexist with them.” Once that’s done, there are a lot of things that can be done to fight the fear. Staunchly refusing to recognize that I scare people because of their inaccurate preconceptions of me as an individual is not a useful alternative.

    I see that, and it is certainly pragmatic in some instances, especially for people you plan on continued interaction with, but for strangers it may even be counter productive, if you do not overtake someone on the footpath and not mug them, they will not have these preconceived notions challenged.

    I’d like to hope that old woman who walked out into traffic rather felt a bit stupid and a bit racist after she saw you run right past. I’d like to think that she thought to herself “i risked my life in traffic because a running black guy was using the same footpath as me, and it was for nothing” maybe next time she won’t make such hasty conclusions about someone due to the colour of their skin.

  32. 32
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    Is it that you personally don’t feel uncomfortable with them, so you don’t think anyone else has the right to? Or is it just that we should have to put up with discomfort and anxiety?

    And while decent men accommodating reality is not necessarily going to reduce the number of rapes, it is going to reduce the number of moments women have to spend looking over their shoulders, feeling their hearts speed up, wondering what is in their bag that they could use as a weapon, just in case

    My issue is that people are attempting to solve a problem that years of therapy should solving.

    The reality of your fear is sad. I am not deny that it exists, I am denying that it is a rational response that all men should have to accommodate, and that it is only asking for equality to ask for such accommodation.

    If you really live this way, with this level of fear, there are lots of places you can go for help, insurance usually covers the therapy it takes to move past trauma.

    Not to sound cruel but if you live this way, no its not anyone’s job to tiptoe, its something they can opt to do, but you need to understand that radical, extreme, life long fear is no way to live, and rather than asking for pampering, you should see a doctor.

    I know my view is not the only one out there, I’ve been very clear about that.
    But there seem to be two schools of thought.
    we have to grow as individuals and not impose our own hangups on others, we have to learn to assert our own preferences, and move past blanket fear

    and

    Its right that we live in perpetual fear, and the best way to address that is to accept this state of perpetual fear, and have others accommodate it

    Do not act as though agreeing with the former is some horrible vicious thing, for me at least it is an actual fix, rather than throwing newspaper over the poo.

  33. 33
    Crommunist

    If we are just using the word differently, thats fine I can accept that

    Yes, we are using the same word differently. I am using it correctly. You are using it a differently.

    There might be a small handful of people who are just that freaked out

    And what if it wasn’t just “a small handful”, but a sizeable plurality? What about a slim majority? At what point does it become worthwhile to listen?

    It propagates that fear, by promoting the continuation of it, and not addressing the victim mentality.

    I don’t understand what you mean by “victim mentality”. Do you mean the mentality of people who have been assaulted? Do you mean the mentality of people against whom assault is likely? Do you mean the idea that all women are fragile creatures that must be handled with oven mitts? Because two of those memes are real – one of them is a straw man.

    I do not see my friends as objects of fear, to think they believe I do is hearbreaking and no I can not accept that.

    Well then I suppose you’re lucky you’re not a 6’4″ black man. Not all of us have the option of being not frightening, despite the fact that we’re gentle and cuddly and above-average in the sack. Like I said, we are having a dispute over magnitude, not kind. I think it’s UNFAIR that you’re grossed out by my boogers. I DEMAND that you feel comfortable as I mine for nose-gold! I demand that you feel comfortable that I have my hand down my pants and a look of relief on my face. Failing to accommodate my lack of tact is just propping up a victim mentality – you should go see a therapist if my poor hygiene makes you uncomfortable!

    I find it bizarre that you think it’s reasonable to ask women to “get over” fear of physical assault because it’s not fair to men, but threaten to run for the hills if someone can’t read your mind and know that you want to get propositioned in elevators by strangers late at night. You’re really comfortable with that being the status quo assumption for everyone? That’s the universal maxim by which you think we should act?

    The “this time” swipe was a crack at the fact that the last time you commented here, you clearly hadn’t read anything I’d written – you just jumped in with a pro forma response that didn’t address any of my criticisms. At least this time you’ve read. You disagree (and are wrong), but at least you read it.

  34. 34
    Crommunist

    Not everything I do is a racism-fighting behaviour. I try my best not to engage in racist activities myself, but I’ve also learned to pick my battles. Failing to “foot shuffle” doesn’t strike a blow against racism either – it just scares people. I wish it didn’t – I wish I could walk down my own street late at night and not have old white ladies look at me terrified. I don’t necessarily WANT to smile at them and say “good evening”, but I do so because the fear is worse than the accommodation.

  35. 35
    Cipher

    Yeah, right, Mallorie. And until my years of therapy are complete, what, I shouldn’t go out in public? I should have to pretend that I’m not afraid? Other people should just not care? Why is my realistic and reasonable response to what has happened to me worth less than your preference that other people not think you’re afraid of them? I’m not imposing my “hangups” – Mallorie, did you seriously just refer to being a rape survivor as a “hangup”? – on other people. I’m telling them that right now, this is where I am, and if they want me around, they’re going to have to deal with that. I’m going to keep telling them that, because I want to be able to go out in public. I want to be part of the skeptical community. I have talents that could be of use. If they refuse to accommodate the basic facts of my existence? I have every right to consider them an asshole who lacks empathy, and I will damn well call them that. And I have every right to stay away from any movement made up of such assholes.

  36. 36
    Cipher

    P.S. I am asserting my own preferences. My preference is that men should understand and take into consideration that I have no reason to trust them until they demonstrate that they can be trusted. And I have good reason to believe I’m not alone in that preference. And I don’t appreciate you shitting all over people like me, whose fears are not arbitrary or irrational, by telling other people to ignore them just because you don’t share them.

  37. 37
    camarye

    Crommunist-
    I do EXACTLY THE SAME THING! As a PoC, I started shuffling my feet and making noise so as to not startle people late at night when I started learning about gender violence and racism. For some reason, it never dawned on me that other men did it too, or that other people engaged in similar behaviors because of race. I’d thought about the racial element before, but didn’t realize that black people expend so much effort to accommodate whites. It doesn’t surprise me in the slightest, but I hadn’t thought of that before (I have somewhat light-brown skin and grew up entirely around white people… I’m still coming to terms with being multiracial since I didn’t understand what that meant for so many years)

    I do want to add something about the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist, though. Firstly, women grow up with the societal message that they NEED to be on guard at all times. They are taught that they must be cautious and careful when alone. It’s rather silly for men to complain that women are successfully receiving and interpreting societal messages.

    In addition, we need to understand that those societal messages are inherently patriarchal, especially since they are intertwined with victim-blaming. Telling women that basically they need to be careful when EXISTING means that if they aren’t careful and something happens, they deserved it. This isn’t specific to North American communities either, by the way. In some Latin American communities, for example, women are judged as “bad” or slutty women simply for being alone in public. The implication is that women who go outside by themselves are asking to be raped and surely wouldn’t mind it. Obviously, patterns of thought such as these are tied up in all sorts of sexist shit.

    So I don’t buy the argument that women are discriminating against men in the slightest. I understand where it comes from, but I also think it’s a fat load of crap. In our gender-oppressive system, we order women to safeguard their “purity” and shame any women who fail to do so. How in the hell can we in good conscience punish women for understanding that? These are strategies that women adopt to survive. I’m not saying it’s a good thing that is a part of our perfectly healthy society, but as men we have no place to criticize women for trying to get by.

  38. 38
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    What a damned fine post. I’m not completely ignorant about everything you addressed, but it is wonderful to see this actually stated and described. In particular, as to how this relates to the central point of the post. It is really a double-duty bit of writing, like a box of education with an added education “prize” inside. (Crommunist Crunch brain cereal?)

    Crossing the street and shuffling feet – I get it. I do it. I didn’t ever think about other people doing it before, so I feel a bit validated and less weird. I fully support this action and recommend it to other men.

    A side note regarding black people doing things to make white folks feel more comfortable: I met an absolutely gigantic black man at a short-term job I once had, who went out of his way to make me feel comfortable in a sea of white people I didn’t know. None of the white guys did. Not a single one. And he didn’t even resort to the standard sports-talk to connect with me.

  39. 39
    Carlie

    Yet another post that succinctly describes a difficult concept so clearly no one can miss it (except maybe Mallorie). I’m developing a serious brain-crush on the Crommunist here. :)

  40. 40
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    BTW, foot-shuffling is a sensible thing to do for anybody, because you simply might startle that other person although they might not fear anything once they see you.
    Because it’s a little thing you can do that costs you nothing but makes your fellow human beings’ life a bit better.

  41. 41
    Crommunist

    For the record, my brain isn’t seeing anybody exclusively at the moment (but isn’t looking for anything serious; just some casual intellectual intercourse).

    Also, to be fair to Mallorie I don’t think that she doesn’t understand my point; I think that she doesn’t agree with it.

  42. 42
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    Yeah, right, Mallorie. And until my years of therapy are complete, what, I shouldn’t go out in public? I should have to pretend that I’m not afraid? Other people should just not care?

    You should probably talk to a doctor about how you should conduct yourself until you are better prepared to deal with the world. I don’t have the answer, I am not your doctor, so I don’t know.
    If you nearly assaulted someone because they were jogging, its fair to ask if maybe your fear makes you dangerous, and yes, maybe you should be aware of that and conduct yourself accordingly.

    Why is my realistic and reasonable response to what has happened to me worth less than your preference that other people not think you’re afraid of them? I’m not imposing my “hangups” – Mallorie, did you seriously just refer to being a rape survivor as a “hangup”? – on other people. I’m telling them that right now, this is where I am, and if they want me around, they’re going to have to deal with that. I’m going to keep telling them that, because I want to be able to go out in public. I want to be part of the skeptical community. I have talents that could be of use. If they refuse to accommodate the basic facts of my existence? I have every right to consider them an asshole who lacks empathy, and I will damn well call them that. And I have every right to stay away from any movement made up of such assholes.

    I have yet to see any evidence that it is a reasonable or realistic response. If you are living with this heightened level of fear all the time it is probably neither. This is why obtaining medical help is a good idea, so you dont have to live this way.

    I am referring to damn near smashing a jogger’s face in because of trauma in your past as, and expecting no one to jog near you a hang-up.

    Heightened, extreme, sickness inducing fear is not normal, and even you should not accept this as a basic fact of your existence. If people find it worthwhile to coddle you, in order to have your company or talents thats fine. But…wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to live with such fear, and everyone around you didn’t have to weigh your trauma based reactions against your positive attributes?
    Of course you don’t have to be around people you don’t like, but they don’t have to accommodate your radical views either.

  43. 43
    Crommunist

    But don’t you see? I shouldn’t HAVE to do it. It’s other people’s fault that they are startled by me – 99.9% of the time someone appears from behind you unexpectedly, there is no threat. It’s everyone else’s duty to learn to re-train their startle response.

  44. 44
    Crommunist

    wouldn’t it be better if you didn’t have to live with such fear, and everyone around you didn’t have to weigh your trauma based reactions against your positive attributes?

    Yes. How does refusing to be accommodating move us closer to that better world?

    Also, fear of assault isn’t a “radical” view by any definition of the word. Your standard is also unreasonable. Dogs, even friendly ones, have to be on leashes. It’s not for the protection of the dogs – it’s because some people are (justifiably) afraid of dogs. Your right to have a dog stops where it interferes with my ability to feel safe in my community.

    But again, this isn’t about legal rights. This is about whether or not we want more women to be involved, and whether we are willing to make the necessary adjustments to accomplish that. You are very clearly not willing to do that. I sincerely hope that yours is not the majority view, because it is unreasonable and places the burden of responsibility on those who have the problem, not those causing it.

  45. 45
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    On a person by person basis, its fine if you want to accommodate it. Thats your choice. It does however validate the idea that this kind of fear is normal and or healthy, which I do not believe to be the case.

  46. 46
    Carlie

    Mallorie, why do you want so badly for people to startle others? It’s not like it’s a big deal to make clear signals of intent. Heck, I’m a fat middle-aged short white woman and I make obvious noises when I’m coming up behind someone at night. It seems you find that being polite and empathizing with other people is a moral failing.

  47. 47
    Liam

    I agree that it is best to not startle other people, it seems a lot of people do walk around with no sense of awareness of their surroundings. But being startled is generally being surprised. It’s an automatic reaction, i would very much be just as likely to be started by a cat jumping out of nowhere and a large person black or white being behind me.

    So does Crommunist foot shuffle because sudden appearances of other living creatures tend to set of automatic responses in us, or does he foot shuffle because he is a large black man, and people tend to think they are going to be mugged by large black men?

  48. 48
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Wow, Mallorie, just wow, I think you reached a new all time low for common human decency and empathy.
    Can you be a bit more dismissive and patronizing?
    It’s disgusting that you call CC’s request not to be re-traumatized by people who could avoid doing so easily without much cost to themselves a request that people have to coddle her.
    And it’s sick to suggest that a victim has to pay more and more and more so that all those of us who, by good fortune and nothing else, have not been victimized don’t have to spend 5 seconds of our time thinking about it and make slight, absoultely trivial adjustments to our behaviour

  49. 49
    Cipher

    Yes, I think it would be much better if I did not have to live with fear. Maybe you ought to tell that to the two men who raped me on multiple separate occasions, the two men who physically, sexually, and psychologically abused me for years on end, and the two other men who assaulted me in the street. Instead you choose to respond that my reacting to multiple, pervasive traumas with fear that I will be hurt again is unreasonable, abnormal, and unrealistic. My hope is that people can jog near me with a little more consideration – by signaling their presence (“shuffling their feet”) or crossing the street. Similarly, my hope is that I can go out in public without fear because of men’s consideration – not deliberately following me into enclosed spaces alone (and keeping their distance when we have to be in enclosed spaces alone), touching me without my consent, or sexually pursuing me when we don’t know each other. These are small requests and the fact that you act as though they’re a huge imposition is just pathetic.

  50. 50
    Carlie

    Good point. I get the feeling she’s one of those “I don’t see race” types.

  51. 51
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    hehe, I am totally for only stealth walking.
    I kid.

    I have no issues with equal treatment and general politeness. Such as making sure you don’t frighten someone when walking, regardless of race, age, gender, size, etc.

    I have an issue with the concept that because of arbitrary conditions of birth, we are morally obligated to behave differently. This doesn’t strike me as equality, and it does seem somewhat bigoted.

  52. 52
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    Nearly smashing an innocent joggers face in is not normal and its not ok, I am sorry, I am not going to say it is.

    Its dangerous, and yes at that point I cant say much other than “please see a doctor, you are clearly a danger to innocent people”.

  53. 53
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Well, of course I can’t reply for the crommunist, but I’d say there’s Shuffling # 1 and Shuffling #2
    Shuffling #1 = don’t startle people
    Shuffling #2 = don’t look like you were sneaking up on them from behind.
    Conveniently, this can be combined into Shuffling (TM) with no added cost.

  54. 54
    KarenX

    @Mallorie:

    I have an issue with the concept that because of arbitrary conditions of birth, we are morally obligated to behave differently. This doesn’t strike me as equality, and it does seem somewhat bigoted.

    I have the same issue with people who change their behavior based on arbitrary conditions of birth, which is why I expect men to treat women like they treat other men–as intellectual contributors worth listening to and worthy of full respect instead of like potential sexual conquests whose reasonable needs can be ignored because of don’t wanna. It’s very bigoted when they do that, and it is not equality at all.

    Women aren’t asking for special treatment. They are being singled out for special treatment, and when it is pointed out they are being told that they should just expect this inequal, special treatment. It’s the exact opposite of what you are saying happens.

  55. 55
    Ophelia Benson

    Well…I do that too, and I’m not even a man. It’s just natural, or sensible, or something like that. If you’re walking behind someone, and there aren’t other people around, it’s just natural to have the thought that you might startle or alarm (unless the someone is ten feet tall).

  56. 56
    julian

    Regarding number 4

    I can’t believe that’s a point of contention.

    I am sure most co workers/people I know or am on friendly terms with don’t need to hear in detail any of my sexual fantasies regarding braces, pigtails and glasses. In fact, they probably don’t need to know about them at all. It may make things awkward for a bit considering a couple of them like to wear pigtails and need glasses.

    Shocking, I know, but that’s the way things are sometimes.

  57. 57
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    This is a really interesting post. And it does make sense that people from oppressed/beat on-type groups in general are going to be somewhat nervous around those who are not in those groups. I know I feel a lot less comfy around, say, straight cis dudes who I don’t know really well. I can, in as much as one can understand by analogy, why people who aren’t white might have the same “any time now, something unpleasant will happen” feeling.

    However, instead of getting angry that PWD, POC, poor people, fat people,etc. for having that sense of defensive unease, I think it’s a way better plan to do whatever is in my power to make the world such that that sense of unease isn’t necessary.

  58. 58
    Liam

    or crossing the street.

    This is an imposition, sorry. You have no more right to a sidewalk than anyone else. To have to cross the road whenever i am approaching a female on the sidewalk sounds horrible. Perhaps if you had a large sign on your back explaining that you live in fear, i might decide to be considerate and not interact with you. You don’t however, there is no way to identify you over anyone else. So what you want is all men everywhere to cross the street rather than walk past a female. You want an accomodation to your personal fears to be imposed on everybody. Just as i am responsible for my own safety, so are you. If you feel that walking past a male on the street is a high risk situation, it should be your responsibility to avoid that situation and cross the street.

    Not following into a dark alley and such are reasonable requests probably for anyone, as that is probably a high risk situation for anyone involved. But we all have a right to inhabit public places equally.

  59. 59
    Charles

    6’4″ 300 lb white dude here. My first real awareness of rape was in college. I went to a sort of Christian college, was Christian, and was walking around campus at night thinking and singing praise songs to myself. I noticed a woman in front of me kind of nervous and had to realize that she didn’t know me, couldn’t get inside of my head, and that we were alone on a dark wooded path at night. Her reaction was entirely reasonable and justified, even though I am a big teddy bear. That makes me sad and mad, but not at her.

    I went on to join our rape awareness group on campus and I learned that a heartbreaking number of my friends had been raped.

    The thing that amazed me as I learned more is that the people who I heard talk about her reaction as sexist were often the same people that blamed women for being dumb enough to walk alone at night or to wear short skirts. They were the people that I became mad at. Well, them and the actual rapists.

  60. 60
    Luna_the_cat

    Mallorie, you continuously amaze me with your lack of empathy and human understanding, and ability to miss the point.

  61. 61
    Caru

    By defending this behaviour, failing to recognise systemic sexism, demonising a rape survivor, and validating those who share your views, you are a danger to innocent people.

  62. 62
    Weedless Monkey

    Thanks Crommunist, a very good post.

    While I’m white in a overwhelmingly white environment (Finland), I’m large and often unkempt. That’s easily enough for someone to be afraid if it’s late at night. I don’t want anyone to be afraid, so it’s no skin off my back if I change to the other side of the street, shuffle my feet or take a few minute stop to roll a cigarette.

  63. 63
    carlie

    Mallorie, it is a statistical fact that close to 20% of women get raped by men. It is a statistical fact that black men are singled out for bad treatment by police. It is the intersection of those arbitrary conditions of birth with the society we live in that lead to a moral obligation to recognize that.

  64. 64
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    No, nearly attacking someone, admitting that you just as easily could have assaulted a random person as not is not ok.
    When someone is suffering from PTSD and nearly strangles someone, we dont say “oh its ok he has PTSD”, we attempt to correct that behaviour.
    We accept that yes, there is a cause for the behaviour, and that is fine. I an not rejecting the cause, I am saying the response is not acceptable.
    If it had been a kid running by, who had almost been face smashed by a metal box, would that change your view?
    It just as easily could have been.

    Help in this case is not telling a person its ok to nearly smash someone’s face, its not ok, help is therapy (etc) with the goal of removing unnecessary fear, improving quality of life, and making sure that people don’t get smashed in the face for using the sidewalk.

    Your personal trauma does not give you the right to attack innocent people. That mode of thinking is seriously flawed.

  65. 65
    Luna_the_cat

    Actually, let me expand that a little:

    Being traumatised after a series of traumas is normal. This is a normal human reaction. Frankly, shame on you for being such an asshole about it; I understand that ‘no experience is real until an individual has experienced it’, but you seem to fail worse than most to be able to grasp how people tick. OH HOW TERRIBLE YOU’RE BAD/DANGEROUS FOR HAVING REACTIONS has got to be one of the stupidest responses I have ever seen to someone explaining why and how they react as they do.

    Having natural reflex reactions after being traumatised is also, sadly, not unique to just one individual, or even a small few. It’s part of many people’s experience, much as we’d like it not to be.

    Furthermore, we are taught as a society that it is a woman’s responsibility to be careful; that it is often (too often) considered a woman’s fault if something actually happens;

    And we learn as individuals that even if only 1 person out of the 3,000 or so that we meet happens to be a dangerous or abusive asshole, that is going to leave stronger memories and stronger reactions than the other 2,999 people and our encounters with them.

    And so obviously, nobody can force or demand that anyone else alter their behavior in light of this — but we can certainly say, if you act in certain ways, you will get certain responses; if you do not want to invoke those responses, then do not act in those ways.

    That, too, is normal. And it is not always an “imposition.” It’s the way people deal with each other.

    In parting: if I know that I’m going to be dealing with a room full of inconsiderate assholes who demand that the people around them accommodate their assholish behaviors (no matter what the cost) rather than alter those behaviors (even in trivial ways with very small cost), then I will quite happily avoid those situations. Now, extrapolate: if you are talking about widening membership of a group and attracting more people, then this kind of “but I will change nothing about us, you must show up anyway and just adapt your reactions while we do whatever pleases us!” demand is going to run up hard against this natural, logical decision that a lot of people make, and it won’t work.

    I hope that someday you begin to understand this.

  66. 66
    carlie

    To have to cross the road whenever i am approaching a female on the sidewalk sounds horrible.

    Not every time, but when it’s dark, or when you’re the only two there? Not even across the road, but to give a wide berth? No, of course you don’t have to. It just makes you a jerk to deliberately know that you might be scaring someone and do it anyway because you won’t move your lazy butt a few feet to the side.

  67. 67
    Marnie

    When I get stuck in this conversation, there are a few examples I give that MRAs never find convincing but I still think they apply. One example is as follows:

    Imagine you are in line at the ATM. Your turn comes along and the person waiting behind you gets up really close to you while you are preparing to input your PIN number. They are close enough that they could easily see you typing.

    You could have run into them at the grocery store, another day and had a polite conversation while waiting in line and never thought a thing of it. You normally wouldn’t care their gender or race or how they are dressed. You know that the vast majority of people are not out to rob you. You are not making a racist or sexist or classist assumption about the other person.

    When you shield your hand to enter your pin, or when you politely ask the person to please step back a bit and give you room, you are doing so to avoid vulnerability in a situation that is well known to be risky especially when another person is giving unclear signals. Yes, that means you are treating that person as a possible thief, but it’s not linked to some sort of assumption about how they were born and the person they are. It’s more akin to wearing a helmet or buckling your seatbelt. It’s a precaution taken to avoid a known risk in a known risky situation. Everyone, of every gender, of every race, treats some people with a level of distrust in certain situations. Every time they go in ready for a fight when haggling with a used car salesman, they are doing the same thing. It’s not discrimination.

  68. 68
    julian

    At least she’s honest. You can see the callous disregard for others out in plan view.

    @CC

    Not that you need to hear this from me but, you clearly did nothing wrong. It was a flight or fight reaction even those of us who don’t suffer from PTSD have.

    A few weeks ago some idiot accidently pointed his rifle at me while we were coming off the range. I came closer to injuring that guy than you did in your scenario and, unlike you, I knew I was in no danger (There was no magazine in, the weapon was on safe and we’d all been cleared after leaving the firing line.) Yet for whatever reason my reaction is viewed as more legitimate than yours.

  69. 69
    Luna_the_cat

    @Mallorie:

    You are dishonestly characterising her response again. DON’T DO THAT.

    She is NOT saying “it’s ok to smash someone in the face”; she is NOT saying that she has no need to try to get over her fears and traumas.

    She IS saying that, like it or not, those fears and traumas EXIST, and therefore so do those reflexes, at least for now;

    And that if people actually want her participation in a group, they will act in awareness of the fact that certain behaviors will invoke certain reactions.

    You seem to absolutely steadfastly refuse to accept that people can alter behavior in very small ways to help out others, with some very big effects at times, and that if they want to be welcoming, they should actually do so rather than just say “well, if you’re uncomfortable, screw you” and then expect folk to want to hang around anyway.

  70. 70
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Marjorie, at this point, you should also recognise that you’ve put yourself in an untenable position, and remember the First Rule of Holes: stop digging. Please.

    Because you’re assuming to know an awful lot about CC’s personal life and feelings, here. You’re also presuming to tell her what she should or shouldn’t do based on that assumption, offering as advice a few standard tropes of pop psychology and self-help books. “Go see a doctor”, really? Do you think the women who are talking about fears and flash-backs of assault never thought about this before you pointed it out?

    Please stop for a moment and try to think outside of your own perspective. Of course it’s difficult, but one can learn by listening to people who have different life experiences and by reading their testimonies. Then maybe you’ll understand that no amount of PTSD therapy will make “Schrödinger’s Rapist” irrelevant to women. Psychotherapy doesn’t erase memories, it just makes it possible to live with bad memories. To, as you put it, be functional in society.

    It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t raise consciousness about violence against women, or discourage men who want to rethink the way they interact with women. In fact, pieces like “Schrödinger’s Rapist”, and Crommunist’s post above, are important because they remind us that rape and its prevention are not only the concern of women, it’s something men should make it their business to think about too.

  71. 71
    robertbaden

    Crommunist, what is your take on people of color having to deal with being suspected of being shoplifters? My mom, who was mexican-american, bitched about that all the time. There certainly isn’t any personal threat there to justify it.

  72. 72
    DaveH

    This made me think of a more extreme (and in hindsight, funny) anecdote, which was really my own dumb fault, but differs from the matter at hand only quantitatively, not qualitatively.

    At one point during my undergrad, I was returning from helping with some field work with a friend of mine (I volunteered as an excuse to get out of the lab). I am walking through the halls of the university, carrying gear and samples back to the lab, and I just remembered getting funny looks from everyone. Oh, right, I looked like some sort of crazy bushman at 6’5″, 240 lbs, habitually sporting a full unkempt beard (I hate shaving), dressed in dirty clothes (a very rainy, muddy, crappy field day it had been), … … and with a machete on one side of the belt, a hatchet on the other, and a big folding knife clipped the front pocket (forestry field work, all had been used extensively). I was simply taking the shortest route to the lab from the truck, and making the fewest trips possible, and refraining from removing all my gear until I wasn’t handling dirty, wet sample bags.

    It behooves us to make some reasonable accommodations to legitimate concerns. A big dude (apparently) armed to the teeth wandering through the halls of a university should take a few steps, like removing the readily apparent possible weapons and putting them in a bag, to accommodate his fellow members of the university community’s reasonable apprehension at his state. Likewise, women (unfortunately) have good reason to be wary of a strange man who seems like he is trying to sneak up on them on a dark path.

    It should be our goal to live in a society where women don’t have to fear strangers at night, and I do not have to make small accommodations for that fact (shuffling feet, etc.). We, however, do not live in such a society, and until we do, I will shuffle feet, and take the time and hassle to remove tools before putting a raincoat back on.

    Cheers.

  73. 73
    julian

    Oh, quit pretending to give a fuck, Nasrallah. We already know you don’t. CC’s gotten help and is doing better no thanks to people like you.

    fyi, She didn’t choke or almost kill anyone. She had a very normal and very measured response to a perceived threat. Notice the lack of dead or crippled bodies? It’s no different than someone coming up behind you and you turning to face them with your fists clenched. No one’s hurt and you aren’t at fault for taking a defensive posture.

  74. 74
    Crommunist

    It pisses me off, but short of confronting every store owner about it, I don’t really know what steps can be taken. I either disregard their suspicious looks or, if I am in a charitable mood, smile and make sure my hands are clear of my pockets. Most of the time I just shop.

  75. 75
    crowepps

    Liam — you are telling somebody that he is not being Black correctly. Isn’t that kind of presumptuous?

  76. 76
    Walton

    I’ll add my voice to others in saying that this was an excellent post.

    For a long time, as a white guy, I was largely oblivious to this issue (thanks, of course, to unconscious privilege), but over the last couple of years I’ve become much more aware of the way our perceptions and assumptions are shaped by internalized racism and sexism. (That said, I still screw up sometimes.) Keep speaking out; it really does help to educate people like me about these issues.

  77. 77
    Liam

    Not every time, but when it’s dark, or when you’re the only two there? Not even across the road, but to give a wide berth? No, of course you don’t have to. It just makes you a jerk to deliberately know that you might be scaring someone and do it anyway because you won’t move your lazy butt a few feet to the side.

    There is nothing deliberate about it. I am simply sharing a sidewalk with another human being. I have no intentions on hurting anybody, if incorrectly feels that i am a threat, it should be their responsibly to move to where they feel safe.

    Male on male violence is also a risk (90% chance im going to be violently assaulted at some point in my life), and people also get assaulted during the day, i might be worth just avoiding walking near anyone at any time.

  78. 78
    julian

    I can’t speak for The Crommunist but for me the difference is targeting. A shop owner/security guard will watch a black man shopping over a white man shopping believing the white man to be no threat and the black man to be more of a threat than he is.

    Now the shop owner/security guard is of course right in making sure no one is shoplifting. They have no reason to assume all their patrons will be scrupulous so they should be careful. In a sense, everyone shopping is Schrodinger’s Shoplifter.

    Xe is right to be suspicious of all customers but xe isn’t. Xe is specifically targeting black men because xe views black men as intrinsically more dangerous or more prone to theft than white men. White men, to xe, are more reliable by virtue of being white.

    Back in Schrodinger’s Rapist we have a woman afraid of rape and sexual assault. Unless she’s going to be the 2% of sexual assault and rape survivors to have been attacked by women, her attacker is going to be a man. There’s really no way around that. Sexual violence against women is a distinctly male problem.

    Now if she’s signalling out specific groups (let’s say poor men or men with foreign accents) that’s another story. That’s the shop owner following around only the Mexican kid and leaving the white kid alone.

    Or at least that’s my jumble of thoughts.

  79. 79
    carlie

    There is nothing deliberate about it.

    There is now that you’ve been told that a significant number of people have that reaction.

  80. 80
    Weedless Monkey

    Liam, it’s just a matter of common courtesy. Slow down your pace for a while, give them some room to breathe. Your need to get home isn’t so urgent you should cause the person in front of you anxiety.

  81. 81
    KarenX

    If your suggestion for a person managing anxiety is for them to take responsibility for avoiding situations that cause it, that’s your suggestion. But don’t also criticize people who then avoid being around groups that cause anxiety. Generally speaking–and I’m not saying you do this, but lots of people do–if a woman crosses the street to avoid you, don’t call her a bitch (either to her face or later to your friends). If members of a minority group skip out on skeptical events, don’t say they can’t handle skepticism or come up with these pretend science explanations for how they mostly just don’t like it. Just say openly, well, we expect people to modify their behavior to please us and they shouldn’t expect us to modify our behavior to please them.

  82. 82
    julian

    What are the statistics for fights (and the 90% claim)? From what I understand the number is in part inflated by including things like bar fights, gang on gang violence and the like. Which are legitimate concerns of course, but a fight you entered into or could have walked away from is very different from being attacked.

  83. 83
    Sean Baxter

    I’m a bit of an outdoors guy and so try to plan as many outdoor activities as possible. A couple of years ago I suggested to a girl I had met that we go on a date to a local park. A few days went by and I didn’t hear from her. When I asked her about it she said she didn’t feel comfortable going off into the woods with a stranger. I picked a different location and went on the date.

    What I learned that day and have seen many time since is that woman are very aware of their safety. If they aren’t aware about their safety they should be. 75 percent of rape happens on dates and one out of four women are sexually assaulted before the age of 24. I now go out of my way to plan dates that make my company feel safe and comfortable. Think about it though, do you really want to be with a woman who is careless with her safety? Wouldn’t this worry you? I appreciate women who take measures to assure they are taking minimal risks. Rather than being insulted I see this as grate opportunity to show women that I am thoughtful and considerate.

  84. 84
    Beauzeaux

    “For the record, my brain isn’t seeing anybody exclusively at the moment (but isn’t looking for anything serious; just some casual intellectual intercourse).”

    Now that REALLY is friends with benefits.

  85. 85
    strange gods before me ॐ

    Liam, your notion that being overtaken on the footpath while not being mugged will cause someone to question their prejudices? That’s purely fanciful from a psychological standpoint—start with negativity bias and confirmation bias—and your preference to discuss fantasy is not particularly helpful here.

  86. 86
    Jason Thibeault

    And this is the woman that so many people told me I was mistreating by telling her to stop mapping her values onto every single other woman in the conversation. Unbelievable. Mallorie’s position is completely untenable, and she insists that anyone that has any sort of fear of victimization should get over it because otherwise those of us accomodating their fears are somehow double-victimizing them. What a total lack of empathy for these people.

  87. 87
    Pteryxx

    Re shoplifting, mindfulness over unconscious bias might work here. Security guards and clerks have training; it’d be trivial to put in the manual “Workers often focus too much on people of color and not enough on white people. Make a mental note to watch the white folks also.” Just mentioning it at all should help change the behavior.

  88. 88
    Greg Laden

    I would add to the response to 4 that certain “accommodations” (like those in the OP) are generally not relevant among friends or acquaintances. For that matter, they are not relevant in all settings. The point is, stepping on egg shells is not something you do after you’ve made a few omelets. If you know what I mean.

  89. 89
    Greg Laden

    Mallorie, I think I just figured out that you think that the thing we call “fear” is an irrational emotion.

    It isn’t. It can be, and people who have lots of irrational fear may have a problem that can be helped. But fear is not by default irrational.

    Startling aside. That depends.

  90. 90
    Hank Fox

    Sweet piece. Very well written, very effective, very moving. And VERY thought-provoking. Thank you!

  91. 91
    Brian Lynchehaun

    Actually, on a Utilitarian analysis that does make it right.

    Given that there are no harms being done, it’s certainly not wrong, and if it improves anyone’s life (given the lack of harm), then it is the ethical thing to do.

  92. 92
    A. Noyd

    They (we) can rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behaviour, or we can recognize that if we want to be accommodating to women we have to make some adjustments to how we behave.

    In the wake of Elevatorgate, I read comments by several guys who take it upon themselves to cross the street when they realize they’re bearing down on a lone woman late at night and/or in some out of the way place. It made me realize that, even though I’m an average-sized white woman, I tend to walk with a fast, aggressive and heavy step. This means that I, too, can be intimidating when it’s dark and there aren’t many people about. So now I’m more careful about accommodating people by crossing the street or easing up my pace. (Oh, I’ve noticed that dads out solo with the kiddies after dark tend to be jumpy as fuck. Must be that victim mentality we impose on them, right?)

    Also, I’m kind of socially awkward and this means there are things that I do (looking away conspicuously if someone looks at me, moving over so I’m not touching the person sharing my bus seat, etc.) that could be taken as confirmation that I’m Schrodinger’s Racist. A given individual can’t possibly know that I’m not reacting to them any differently than I would the next person. So when I’m interacting with someone who’s visibly not white, the least I can do is try not to default into behavior that comes off as me being scared or disgusted.

  93. 93
    Pen

    With regard to accomodationism, it’s doesn’t seem actually bad to show some awareness of the fact that we’re in mixed company, racial or sexual. And it does cut both ways, though maybe not with an equal level of demands. For example it sometimes happens that men participate in female dominated situations like children’s playgroups. I can honestly say that topics are frequently discussed in situations like that which should be abandoned when a man turns up if they are to feel comfortable and welcome. Equally, I have heard a couple of times that black people often don’t like the ubiquitous ‘where are you from?’ question, nor do they want to hear about the latest family row on some topic related to race – so I don’t do those things, and I don’t even bother to do a statistical survey to find out how true they are. There are other things to talk about, end of story.

    Generally speaking, I’m also appreciative of the fact that men or black people make alterations to their behaviour for mixed company, or rather, I assume they do and would surely notice if they didn’t.

    For what it’s worth I also think we should try to offer people the widest possible margin of tolerance. As Crom’s stories point out, it often really isn’t obvious what may make other people feel uncomfortable. But when told, people should try to avoid acting defensively.

  94. 94
    Weedless Monkey

    Pen, this

    Generally speaking, I’m also appreciative of the fact that men or black people make alterations to their behaviour for mixed company, or rather, I assume they do and would surely notice if they didn’t.

    is quite thick. Care to explain?

  95. 95
    Weedless Monkey

    Sorry, got surprised by a troll.

  96. 96
    BaisBlackfingers

    Size-ism is totally a thing. I’m about as white as they come, and I still notice some people start to walk differently when they see me on the street. I also have had more than a few bruises as a result of moving too quietly/close to people.

    I don’t usually cross streets as it is impractical where I live, but I do leave the sidewalk to walk on the curb (along the main street where I walk to work there is a grass hill about 10 ft. wide and 4 high between the sidewalk and the road). Also, being kind of outdoorsy, I adopted the anti-bear strategy of whistling loudly instead of shuffling.

    I learned to knock and then take several steps back from the door so as not to startle people.

    I noticed this behavior (and the fact that white people generally don’t do it) when I first moved into the city and had always wondered/worried about it. Mystery solved. Something of a paradigm shift to realize that it might be to avoid making me feel threatened. Thanks for that.

  97. 97
    pahapillon

    Great post, Ian, thanks! I really need to come to one of the Skeptics in the Pub events soon so I can meet you in person :)

    Like Ophelia (and lots of other women I’m sure) I do the feet-shuffling-thing too. I’m a tall woman and usually wear heavy boots and gender-neutral clothes, so it’s hard to tell that I’m a nice harmless girl when it’s dark or when I’m walking behind somebody.

    Mallorie seems to think this makes me bigoted, and I think Mallorie is a very privileged, a very lucky, and a very ignorant woman.

  98. 98
    The Vicar

    This is a wonderful post, and the comments section has been fascinating too. I need to start reading your blog! (Here via Camels With Hammers.)

    I’m an above-the-mean (probably not enough to be called “big”, really) guy, and I whistle when I’m out walking around for approximately the same reason you shuffle your feet. (I tried foot-shuffling for a while, and decided it was just damaging my shoes and slowing me down.)

  99. 99
    The Ys

    Reformatted to read a bit easier:

    I love the smell of entitlement.

    I have an issue with the concept that because of arbitrary conditions of birth, we are morally obligated to behave differently. This doesn’t strike me as equality, and it does seem somewhat bigoted.

    This is the most hilarious thing Mallorie’s said so far.

    Simplified argument: some men treat women differently because women are women and thus they’re inferior to men and/or are sex objects. Some of us find this objectionable, and we want to be treated as human beings first, women second. This would be the true meaning of equality.

    Mallorie’s argument: It’s not OK to tell men that they must ignore arbitrary conditions of birth (like the fact that women are…women), but it’s totes OK to tell women they must ignore arbitrary conditions of birth and treat everyone the same. Sexism FTW!

  100. 100
    SallyStrange

    Thanks for doing this post, sincerely. I got so tired of seeing that dumb analogy. In fact, if you consider

    -likelihood that you’ll be targeted for violence based solely on your identity (womanness or blackness)
    -likelihood that the police will not believe you or not give a flying fuck if you report being attacked
    -likelihood that if the police do believe you and you get your attacker into court, he’ll get away with it anyway

    then a woman’s situation vis-a-vis a strange man is more akin to that of a black person meeting a strange white man in Jim Crow era America, preferably somewhere south of the Mason-Dixon. They don’t know if that white man is a KKK member, but the probability is definitely non-zero, and if it happens that he is, it’s not unreasonable to think he might attack you, and you can be sure that the authorities won’t take you seriously if he does.

  101. 101
    hananpark

    “we have to grow as individuals and not impose our own hangups on others, we have to learn to assert our own preferences, and move past blanket fear”

    Mallorie, you seem to be way too much into your own ideas that you’re making some assumptions that are not true.

    1. People naturally categorize things for their own safety.
    2. Not all fear is unnecessary. i.e. it’s there for a reason.
    3. Women, just like men, categorize certain conditions like being alone with male strangers as dangerous because of physical differences, not because of some culture.

    If you think categorizing is all about inequality, please, read about how human mind works.

  102. 102
    Crommunist

    You should definitely come to SitP! Come to the Kits one though – I don’t venture downtown much anymore.

  103. 103
    Liam

    There is now that you’ve been told that a significant number of people have that reaction.

    Well I’m not sure that is true, a few people on this blog have said that people have that reaction. I did in fact go for a walk to get some food tonight, its cold here so i wore a hooded jacket. I did pass two women on my walk, one was at a bus stop and using her smartphone, another was walking while using her smartphone. In both instances, they looked up at me walking passed, then went straight back to their smartphones unperturbed. I remain unconvinced.

    Furthermore, if i did perceive a threat while walking in the dark, I would take the initiative to avoid it, if i did need to walk wide past a sketchy person, i would. It would be silly to expect all non-sketchy people to go out of their way to avoid me because a person with ill intent is certainly not going to extend that courtesy, and by the time you realise this, it is going to be too late.

  104. 104
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Irene has debunked that shit over at Daniel’s blog already:
    Those statistics break down if you look at specific contexts:
    Two men getting in a barfight, two victims of violent assault.
    Gang fight, fan fighting after a football match, lots of victims of violent assault.

    Yet when you talk about things like domestic violence, sexual harrasment, rape, the victims are predominantly female.

    Would you put the bloke who got himself a black eye in a bar fight into the same category as the woman who was raped?

  105. 105
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Here are two thought experiments for people who have difficulties grasping the magnitude of the problem:

    Next time you’re in a large, mixed group (preferrably one you don’t have to interact with again because this can screw your ideas up), count all the women, always count to six. Every six is your rape-victim. Count the men. Count to 15. 15 is your rapist. Fact is, the victims and the rapist just look like everybody else, you’d never have guessed (well, and this is why you shouldn’t do that in a group you interact with, because the chances that you ended up putting the right number in the right person are quite small).
    But it shows you that wherever you are, whatever the group is, there are the victims, and they are there to witness your behaviour, and there’s the asshole bastard probably looking for a next victim.
    And you can’t fucking tell.

    The second one is Schrödinger’s STD:
    The chances of being in contact with somebody who’s HIV positive* are much smaller than the chances of being with a rapist (see above).
    Yet we all agree that using protection is important. You (unless you’re a complete idiot) don’t get upset at the fact that your partner, especially in casual sex takes out a condom. You don’t expect your partner to be upset if you take out a condom. On the other hand, arguing against a condom puts either party firmly into the “creepy” category.
    Why? Because even though the actual risk of contracting HIV in that night is very, very small, it’s rational to err on the side of safety, because the consequences of erring on the wrong side are far too big.

    *please not, only one of them is a criminal.

  106. 106
    Liam

    What are the statistics for fights (and the 90% claim)? From what I understand the number is in part inflated by including things like bar fights, gang on gang violence and the like. Which are legitimate concerns of course, but a fight you entered into or could have walked away from is very different from being attacked.

    The statistics are from the Department of Justice, http://tinyurl.com/7udd3d5.

    The bar fights and gang violence was an assumption made by another member, i can’t find anything to confirm or disprove the assumption, so i will give them the benefit of the doubt.

    In reference to gang violence, wiki puts gang population at about 800 000, out of 300 000 000 that means that less than 0.3% of people in US are in a gang, and since violence is usually inter-gang, its not going to affect much of the population beyond that 0.3% in gangs.

    The statistics are an amalgamation of Rape, Robbery and Assault. They do not count rape against men, as many jurisdictions do not count rape against men as rape (or rape conducted by women for that matter). Bar fights are a fair statistic because from other studies it seems the majority of victims in bar fights did not provoke the situation, are usually smaller and drunker than their attackers, so the victim status remains, nor is it fair to say that these can simply be ‘walked away from’.

    http://www.popcenter.org/problems/assaultsinbars/

  107. 107
    SallyStrange

    It’s weird how The Ys’ post keeps getting bumped to the end.

  108. 108
    Enkidum

    I’m totally lost as to how not making someone afraid (without them even being aware you’re doing it, like in all the examples in OP) promotes fear?

    Indeed, I can see all sorts of ways that it makes fear less likely, and permits the blossoming of friendships and so forth that might not have ever had the chnace to begin, otherwise.

  109. 109
    Enkidum

    Crommie, next time you’re crossing the border, or if you get pulled over by a traffic cop or what have you, I think you should take a page from Liam. Don’t compromise with those sons of bitches, TAKE A STAND!

    Otherwise you’re just giving in to systemic racism, man.

  110. 110
    Stephanie Zvan

    Mallorie, you call yourself a skeptic. Please do some research on PTSD before you brandish it as a point of argument.

    To begin with, Cipher’s response was controlled, not governed by fear. She was not so overwhelmed by the anxiety of PTSD that she hit anyone. It made her, briefly, hypervigilant, but it did not control her actions. She stopped, which is what we ask of any citizen.

    Secondly, her anxiety was rational. It wasn’t accurate in this case, but it was entirely reasonable given her circumstances. Remember that her circumstances are those in which she has been raped repeatedly. Thinking it may happen again is actually backed up by research.

    Finally, treatment for PTSD is not the panacea that would be required for your argument that no accommodations should ever be made. Therapy can help. It is not a cure. There isn’t a cure for many, many people. Beyond that, you’re advocating against providing the kind of social support that leads to the best outcomes of treatment, as well as creating a nonsupportive atmosphere directly yourself in your comments here.

    Cipher, however, is doing exactly what she should–talking about the traumatic events and her responses to them. So if you want her to get better, kindly stop getting in her way.

  111. 111
    Stephanie Zvan

    Liam, I remain unconvinced that you have the senstivity to tell when you have perturbed someone. Beyond that, women are told that projecting a confident demeanor is something that may protect them from assault. You have no way to know whether such a reaction is honest or intended to hide fear.

  112. 112
    Verbose Stoic

    At which point, they could fear that you’re now trying to follow them, or waiting for an opportune moment.

    That’s part of the problem with this: there is nothing that the man can do in those situations to actually remove the threat. Even crossing the street doesn’t actually make her all that much safer, and any altering of normal behaviour looks suspicious. That’s why it’s an issue to say “You should do X in general because doing Y makes some individuals uncomfortable”; it’s almost impossible to form a rule that won’t make anyone uncomfortable in those cases.

  113. 113
    Pat Silver

    Thank you. It may be paranoia, but we women are generally smaller, weaker and more vulnerable than most men, and all too well aware that if the large man rapidly approaching has unpleasant intent that we are at a large disadvantage. We know perfectly well that most men are not rapists or violent, but our vulnerability leads us to act with caution.

  114. 114
    beethovenfangirl

    Thank you, this was a very interesting post -it’s making me think.

  115. 115
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Well said (written) Crommunist – & thankyou.

    Given the choice you go out of your way to make other people’s lives that tiny bit better, less fearful and pleasanter than they would otherwise be. That is consideration and it is much appreciated. I try to do the same sorts of things myself. (Anglo-saxon Aussie male FWIW.)

  116. 116
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Consideration is an important ethical concept I think. If everyone tried to be that little bit less selfish and more considerate of others then the world would be a better place.

  117. 117
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Yeah, I noticed that too – what’s the deal there?

  118. 118
    Marnie

    @Liam

    Furthermore, if i did perceive a threat while walking in the dark, I would take the initiative to avoid it, if i did need to walk wide past a sketchy person, i would. It would be silly to expect all non-sketchy people to go out of their way to avoid me because a person with ill intent is certainly not going to extend that courtesy, and by the time you realise this, it is going to be too late.

    This is actually exactly what people here are saying. You have no idea if that “sketchy” person (your word for how you describe someone whose behavior and intentions are unsure to you) has any ill intentions or not. The more risky the situation, the more you are likely on your guard. You don’t expect him or her to accomodate you, but if that person does choose to cross the street, you probably feel less on your guard. This is not to say you hate whatever type of person that person is or that you are a helpless waif. It is saying that in your risk assessment of the situation, the risk is now significantly lower.

    When a woman sees someone plowing towards her down the street, especially when she is isolated and physically at a disadvantage, she doesn’t know if it’s a person is in a rush to get from point A to B or a person taking advantage of an opportunity. She sees their behavior as “sketchy.” She doesn’t expect him or her to cross the street, but she is on her guard. If that person crosses the street, slows down, or gives her a wider berth, she assess the situation as less risky and feels some measure of relief.

    What you have said in your post is that you do empathize with the situation you just don’t realize how common this behavior is in life. The fact that you can identify someone as “sketchy” or a situation as somehow risky, means that you do the same thing for different reasons.

  119. 119
    123

    As much as I hate it when white people use anti-black racism as a cudgel with which to beat other people, I can understand the conundrum as it is expressed. The problem with it (and the reason why it’s so bothersome to hear white people talk about anti-black racism)

    This is just silly. If the last century has taught us anything, it is that racism is not merely a threat to the group on the receiving end. I won’t say anything asinine like “it’s just as much a threat”, but it is indeed a threat. Bother to look at some of the threats various neo-nazis deal out to “race traitors”.

    Even if it were the case that that racism only caused a problem for the victim group – what, members of the victimizer group should just shut up?

    The argument that one should adjust one’s behaviour seems reasonable. It’s wrong to ask others not to have caution for themselves. However, the attempt to dodge the corollary is not. If we’re going to treat people as statistical averages – that because almost all rapists are men, it’s reasonable for women to feel concern, the corollary can’t be dodged. If statistically more American blacks (and this seems just an American thing; I’d be more happy wandering the Tanzanian night than the American one) commit crimes than whites, then the same indulgence should be granted. The argument put forward by Phsioprof doesn’t hold, because it’s a matter of what can and cannot be identified.

  120. 120
    Timid Atheist

    “I do want to add something about the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist, though. Firstly, women grow up with the societal message that they NEED to be on guard at all times. They are taught that they must be cautious and careful when alone. It’s rather silly for men to complain that women are successfully receiving and interpreting societal messages.”

    This.

    Women are told it’s they’re fault when anything bad happens to them and they are shown it even more often. Is it any surprise then, that women would react with fear when meeting a person late at night or in a strange environment? It’s a damned if you do/damned if you don’t kind of situation because if we react fearfully and there’s something to fear, yet we’re still harmed it’s -still- our fault for not being smarter/faster/stronger. And then if there is nothing to fear, well we just over reacted and upset someone by making it obvious we thought they were up to no good.

    About three years ago I lived in an apartment in a mostly black neighborhood. I had a man come to my window and break it while trying to open it. This was right after a hurricane, so the city was in less that optimal condition anyway and we had roofers and contractors all over the city. At first I just assumed it was another contractor. That is until I heard the glass break. I called the cops, freaked for a day then went back to my same old routine.

    About two months later, in the late evening, someone smashed in my living room window. I called the cops and was informed that because I had never made friends with my neighbors I was seen as an outsider and that was likely the reason for the vandalism. I took my computer out to my car (I’m a geek, I can’t live without it for even a night!) and on my way back to my apartment to get one last thing I almost ran into a young black man on the side walk. I’d been distracted and tense already from the broken window, so… I screamed. And scared the hell out of the guy. I felt so bad, I apologized over and over, explaining that someone had just broken my window. And he asked me if I was okay, even as he was hurrying the hell away from me. I said yes, apologized again and then got the hell out of there.

    Crommunist,

    Thank you for making me realize that I’m the cause of others doing things to accommodate for me and for helping others realize that until we change how we treat one another in this society, there will still be a need for such things if we’re going to communicate effectively and without fear.

  121. 121
    Pteryxx

    Aww, but some of us (hi!) like following linkbacks to check out other folks’ blogs. Anyway, it’s an automated feature that individual FTB bloggers can choose to enable.

  122. 122
    ischemgeek

    To all men who do moderate their behaviors: Thanks. Don’t think I don’t notice. :)

    As another note, to those who don’t get why behavior modification is reasonable: I moderate my behavior at work around coworkers. I’m not big or imposing (5’4″ and 120lbs), and I’m female, but I have a black belt in two martial arts styles and a lot of training in three others. My coworkers know this (one of them came to a martial arts demo I took part in and now I’m scary). They sometimes joke nervously about how I could beat them up.

    The fact is, I could. I know I could without much effort, even with a size disadvantage (I’m the smallest at my work in weight and the third-smallest in height). So I go out of my way to stay out of striking range and not make sudden movements. I moderate my behavior in response to the fact that people find it intimidating to be around someone who knows literally thousands of ways to hurt you.

  123. 123
    Marnie

    They sometimes joke nervously about how I could beat them up.
    The fact is, I could. I know I could without much effort, even with a size disadvantage

    This brings up an interesting question.

    If MRA types are going to argue that a woman who feels ill at ease when alone at night near a strange man who physically outweighs him, is sexist for presuming all men could be potential rapists, maybe they are being sexist every time they don’t feel any risk at all around small, unassuming women. I mean, if risk analysis is sexist then anyone who doesn’t treat every situation at every time as “safe” must be making some judgement of the other person or people.

  124. 124
    BaisBlackfingers

    The numbers I usually hear are 4 and 12. Maybe that’s for sexual assault in general? Just out of curiosity, what sources to people think are reliable primaries for this number?

    Regarding Schrodinger’s STD: that’s an awesome analogy. I’ll have to remember that.

  125. 125
    ischemgeek

    Regarding #3: would you walk down a dark alley in a bad neighbourhood while wearing expensive clothes if that was the fastest way from point A to point B?

    My point here is that sometimes caution and refusing to put yourself in a dangerous situation is an appropriate response. With regard to rape and sexual assault, I stopped riding the school bus in high school, choosing instead to walk 7km to and from school, because when I rode the bus, I would be sexually harrassed and assaulted (groped hard enough to bruise) by a boy the high school and police refused to do anything about (boys will be boys, bad household, you need to stop over-reacting, etc). I didn’t want to be assaulted, so I chose to avoid the situation. Are you saying my fear of being assaulted going into a situation where I knew that assault was extremely likely was an inapropriate response? That’s an extreme example, but the cases where women avoid situation X are usually because they’ve had a bad experience in situation X.

    Regarding #4: I fail to see how doing such things is any different from, say, working from home when my asthma is acting up and so I hack and choke like I have the worst chest cold in the world. Fact is, if I go into work during an asthma flare, sure I might feel better, but now all my coworkers are distracted because 1, they’re worried I’m contagious and will get them sick, 2, they’re worried that I’ll get worse and have to go to the ER, 3, they’re worried that if I have to go to the ER, I’ll be a stoic idiot and not tell anyone until I’m blue in the lips and fingers (I’ve done it before back when my asthma was a lot worse than it is now). There’s nothing wrong with them having that response to me coming in. I’m the one with the problem for forcing the distraction and stress on them.

  126. 126
    Enkidum

    If statistically more American blacks (and this seems just an American thing; I’d be more happy wandering the Tanzanian night than the American one) commit crimes than whites,

    Which isn’t the case, so your point is?

  127. 127
    Anri

    I used to spend a lot of time on my bicycle on public paths (I commuted on the bike, as well as rode for pleasure). Often, people were walking or jogging on the paths as well, and I would overtake them.

    Every time I did so, I had the choice of ripping past them at close range, high speed, probably unnoticed until I actually passed (as many of the pedestrians had headphones on). I decided, at my own expense, to install a bell on my bike to warn people I was approaching. No one demanded that I did so, I simply decided that, regardless of the actual likelihood of me crashing into them (very low), pedestrians prefer not to be startled by bicycles.

    Do we honestly have people arguing that I would have improved jogger/biker relations by not warning people I was passing them?

  128. 128
    julian

    If we’re going to treat people as statistical averages – that because almost all rapists are men, it’s reasonable for women to feel concern, the corollary can’t be dodged.

    Ok, when blacks commit 98% of all violent crime against whites in the U.S. I’ll stop calling my mom racist for getting worried whenever she gets a new black neighbor.

  129. 129
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    I can see why she and Penn Jillette are BFFs…

  130. 130
    Lagerbaer

    There’s yet another double standard at work:

    If a woman ignores the “Schrödinger’s Rapist” rationale and DOES get raped, she will be swamped with people telling her that SHE is to blame because she didn’t avoid this potentially dangerous situation: “Well of course she got raped! She walked back from a party ALONE!!”

    When having to choose between coming off as sexist to a bunch of people who don’t understand the issue or getting raped and blamed for it too, what a surprise that women choose the former over the latter.

  131. 131
    Fleegman

    I love it when an article makes me think about something from a different perspective, and you did just that.

    Thanks for such an excellent post.

  132. 132
    Thomathy, Such A 'Mo

    Mallorie Nasrallah,

    I have an issue with the concept that because of arbitrary conditions of birth, we are morally obligated to behave differently. This doesn’t strike me as equality, and it does seem somewhat bigoted.

    The Ys, it’s not just hilarious, it’s ridiculous. When I first read it, I imagined for a moment that Mallorie Nasrallah here was a rock.

    Mallorie Nasrallah, because of these arbitrary conditions of birth, people feel morally obligated to behave differently toward me. I was born gay and some people were born into bigoted families and raised as bigots. I behave a certain way around bigots, or around people that I don’t know aren’t bigots for my own safety. That’s not my fault, Mallorie Nasrallah, it’s the fault of bigots.

    You are, for whatever reason, confused as to what the acceptable responses of marginalised and victimised people to the fact that we presently live in a bigoted society are and you seem to think that such a thing exists as ‘reverse’ bigotry, though you have managed not to use that exact term yet.

    Well, it doesn’t exist. The fact that I, as a gay man, must adjust my behaviour or simply not go to certain places in order to protect myself, is not a failing of me. The fact that I must regard strangers as potentially homophobic (perhaps physically or verbally violent) and conduct myself in a certain way so as to minimize the chance of my being targeted is the fault of those homophobes, not of some irrational fear and not at all even of fear. I am not afraid of people generally, nor do I harbour fear of just any stranger, rather I am strongly averse to being beaten up or killed or verbally assaulted or otherwise targeted by bigots for whatever manner of abuse they might direct at me. It is any manner of negative adjective and yes, sometimes, it is even scary to be so targeted. But it is not fear that I act from, not wholly and not always, but self-preservation. I don’t think you recognise the difference.

    If you don’t want me and people like me to ask people to accommodate us given the fact that we live in a bigoted society and that we can’t know who is isn’t a bigot (or a rapist, racist, sexist, etc.), then you should rather be spending your time trying to amend this society that we live in. I am trying to do that and I’ll look for allies and I’ll know who they are because they’ll be the people creating (or trying to create) safe and welcoming places for me and for people like me. They’ll be the people who are cognizant of the fact that bigoted people exist and that they aren’t always obvious. They’ll be the people who adjust their behaviours just as I adjust mine, so that in time we can all act naturally, as the decent human beings we all are.

    I’m telling you, Mallorie Nasrallah, that you appear to be part of the problem. Stop defending the society we live in by insisting that the mere act of defence is the same as offence. Stop blaming victims and stop pathologising victims’ psychology because of the actions of attackers. Stop it and start helping!

  133. 133
    Marcus Ranum

    A valuable and thought-provoking post.

    I once stopped my motorcycle to help a woman who had a flat tire by the side of the road. As I walked up, her reaction was fear until I remembered that I’d left my helmet on. When I pulled it off and unzipped my leather jacket, she was all smiles, because I happened to have the appropriate skin color match to her for the area and didn’t dress like a Bad Biker – more like a college student. That was a surprise, to me, that took a while to sink in. Having to deal with that kind of thing on a systematic basis – ugh. People sure are stupid!

    Especially since we’re more likely to be significantly robbed by a politician or corporate executive in a limousine than by a dark-skinned guy in a hoodie. It’s just not as scary. :|

  134. 134
    raymoscow

    Good article.

    I’ve never harmed a woman and never will. But if the woman doesn’t know me well, she doesn’t know that. I’m just a bigger, potentially aggressive stranger.

    If my behaviour threatens someone else, and I become aware of that, the courteous thing is to modify my behaviour so that the other person is not threatened. It’s really not that hard to understand or do. I don’t think it’s sexist; it’s just common courtesy. And it doesn’t hurt me any to give the other person some space.

    I also don’t willingly behave in a potentially threatening way to men, for much the same reasons.

  135. 135
    ischemgeek

    Furthermore, how is accomodation such a bad and heartbreaking thing? I have ADHD and a coworker of mine has an anxiety disorder. There’s an unspoken agreement at work that he does the tedious stuff for me and I do the dangerous stuff for him. We accomodate each other’s needs. Why?

    1, it’s safer: My ADHD lets me hyperfocus if the task at hand is stimulating (and believe me, danger is very stimulating). So I focus on what I’m doing to the exlusion of everything else going on in the lab, which keeps me from making mistakes. He on the other hand can get so nervous that his goggles fog and his hands shake, both of which make it very hard to do dangerous stuff as safely as possible.

    2, we work better that way: My hyperfocus means I’m a very good experimental chemist. His attention to detail lets him make sure everything is just so even on boring tasks – good for cleaning glassware and analytical techniques.

    Should our boss require that we devide the tasks evenly by type among us? We’d both be less effective and less happy employees if we do so. It’s worse for everyone.

  136. 136
    Alverant

    Did he ask if people would also be afraid if any stranger approached them in a dark alley too? Because just maybe it wasn’t the race of the stranger that mande people afraid, but the fact it was a stranger period that made them afraid.

  137. 137
    leni

    Crommunist, even as a white female who has lived in predominantly white areas her whole life, I feel compelled to tell you that that you are not even remotely scary looking :)

    That said, I’d still feel uncomfortable in a dark alley (seems like that should have a TM after it) with you. But not because you are scary looking or black, because you are male. Honestly, scary looking isn’t really a factor for me because I don’t really expect a scary person to necessarily tip me off to that fact by looking like it. I’d expect a truly scary person to be good at hiding it.

    ***

    I have an anecdote too.

    A black kid (well young man- probably early 20′s.) once came to my door looking for someone who didn’t live here at about 9:00 at night. I live alone in an apartment with a locked entrance and a glass door, and when I went out to see who it was, he made to open the door. I didn’t open it, but instead gave him directions through the glass. I could see the exasperated look on his face and I just knew he was thinking- “Oh nice, she thinks I’m a rapist because I’m black.” But that wasn’t it at all. It was because he was male. I wouldn’t have opened the door for a blind white priest asking for directions.

    Thing is, I still feel bad about it. I don’t feel bad being concerned about my safety, but I feel bad that he thought it was about race. Especially since he was young and clean cut and not at all scary so it’s understandable that he thought it was just me being an idiot, it’s just… I live alone and I don’t feel safe opening my door to lost men at night. That should really be pretty obvious, shouldn’t it?

    That is actually the second time this has happened. Both times it was black men looking for someone named “James” so I assume James either has a standard lie about where he lives or gives terrible directions. If it happens again maybe I’ll just be all “Look, it’s not cause you’re black, I swear!”. That should smooth things right over, I bet!

  138. 138
    Dunc

    So many of these arguments seem to boil down to “Why should I have to pay any heed whatsoever to anybody else’s feelings under any circumstances? I am the centre of the Universe, and everybody else should just get used to it!”

    I can only hope that this sort of response is mainly coming from teenagers…

  139. 139
    carlie

    Exactly. The argument is that is is TOTALLY RIDICULOUSLY IMPOSING ON ME to say that since I have a stereotypically threatening look, I might want to give off more social cues of niceness, but that it’s totally not an imposition at all to tell everyone else to ignore all societal messages and cues and to go get a few thousand dollars’ worth of expert service.

  140. 140
    JillyJ

    That was very eye-opening – thank you… and I’m seriously rethinking the ways in which I bring up racism in discussions about misogyny.

  141. 141
    James

    this is as sick as the original anti-men Schroedinger post.

    So you make “accomodations” to us poor/frightened rednecks…and we’re supposed to be grateful?

    You just admitted to LYING to almost every single white person you meet in order to mitigate their fears. How disgustingly condescending and patronizing.

    It’s people like you that allow actually-racist douchebags think they can get away with the line “i’m not racist, i have black friends.”

    Might as well tell me to start praying around Christians because they fear atheists.

  142. 142
    Crommunist

    I feel compelled to tell you that that you are not even remotely scary looking

    You haven’t seen me try to breakdance. Now THAT’S terrifying.

  143. 143
    Crommunist

    You’re funny. Like ‘a skunk with a peanut butter jar stuck on its head’ funny – amusing to watch from a distance, but I’m really glad I’m nowhere close to you.

  144. 144
    Marnie

    @leni

    If someone knocks on the door and I’m not expecting anyone and I don’t recognize them through the peephole, I don’t answer the door. I don’t care if it’s a 10 year old girl scout in full girl scout regalia, with a cart of free cookies in tow, the prince of whales, or someone from up the block. I’m an equal opportunity misanthrope.

    Image courtesy of Crommunist, because I thought it was a funny typo

  145. 145
    ischemgeek

    I’d have to say so. Size and sex are not necessarily the best descriptors of dangerousness: The scariest person I ever met was a nine-year-old girl that I had the misfortune of living with for a year and a half. Kid was homicidal.

    From what I’ve heard, now that she’s 18, she’s been diagnosed as a psychopath and those who still know her say it’s only a matter of time before she kills someone. She’s built like me, but that doesn’t negate the fact that she’d try to kill you for no reason other than that she just felt like killing someone that day. Scary, scary person.

  146. 146
    carlie

    He’s lying by conveying that he’s not a threat? What?

  147. 147
    Randal

    Really cool post, and sorry to be getting in on it so late. The whole conversation that has sprung up around the “elevator incident” has been nothing short of an awakening for me as a man. I have gone from a “yes, but” guy to someone who is a bit more saddened by reality but a lot more aware. I’ve been following the thread with Mallorie and Crommunist (which has been wonderful, by the way, in terms of thoughtful argument), and the way I sit is, is the dichotomy between what I call the “rainbow and unicorn” world and reality. The “rainbow and unicorn” world is what we aspire to. It’s what we want to see happen around us, and it’s the world we want to live in. It’s the world we need to work to achieve. Unfortunately, while we do this, we have to live in reality. I have to realize that a what I think is a warm smile meant as a simple hello from me to a strange woman in an elevator might be perceived by her as a lecherous grin. It’s the same thing when I’m out riding my bike. In a “rainbow and unicorn” world I would be in no danger at all when a car passes because everybody respects everybody else’s rights and nobody gets distracted. In the real world, I have to look for potential outs, assess the shoulder as an escape route, and prepare for the inch-close buzz or perhaps the bottle thrown at me. Pining for the dream or even working towards making the dream happen doesn’t absolve us from living in the reality with a certain degree of common sense. Unfortunately, the boorish behavior of a significant number of members of my sex has informed the common sense that many women apply. (That, incidentally, is why I feel the parallel between this and racism isn’t a good one… even though a lot of men aren’t rapists, there are a large number who engage in…. well…. unenlightened behavior with respect to women, and I argue that the prevalence here is much much higher than the prevalence of criminal behavior in African-Americans)

  148. 148
    Drew

    I do my best to stay out of this whole thing. I don’t usually attend meetings because the vast majority are particularly inconvenient to me (too far away and I don’t have the money to travel), and the ones that are within a reasonable driving distance from me I usually can’t attend due to timing issues and/or child care issues. However, I read much of what is said, and when I recognize that I might display a behavior that is unacceptable I do my best to change that behavior; also, I find myself dumbfounded by the things that are said at different times by people on both sides.

    But:

    Bringing this example home, men in the freethought movement have a decision to make. They (we) can rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behaviour, or we can recognize that if we want to be accommodating to women we have to make some adjustments to how we behave.

    BULLSHIT!

    We need to recognize that we need to make adjustments to our behavior to be more welcoming to women, we also need to do our best to make those adjustments when we recognize them, or, more importantly, when they’re pointed out to us, and not become immediately defensive on the subject as though we’re being attacked.

    However, we ALSO need to “rail against the hypocrisy of claiming to be anti-sexist whilst engaging in sex-based prejudicial behavior”. That’s where the whole problem seems to stem from. People thinking that someone else’s prejudicial behavior is deserving of derision but mine is perfectly acceptable. A little more self-reflection on both sides of this issue would deflate a large amount of the conflict.

  149. 149
    strange gods before me ॐ

    No, no, that’s not it.

    Deliberately scuffing one’s feet against the ground is LYING!

    It makes him sound clumsier than he really is, you see.

  150. 150
    Crommunist

    Ah, the “false equivalence” train has finally arrived. I wondered when it would get here.

    Saying “both sides are wrong” is almost accurate (minus the whole privilege issue that PP pointed out), but saying that both sides have an equal obligation to change is silly. One side is being disproportionately alienated, and the other is having a temper tantrum because they’re being asked to behave like adults. The “whole problem” doesn’t stem from the fact that women are asking men to be mindful of their behaviour – it stems from the fact that many of those men are acting like they’re being asked to make some kind of major sacrifice.

  151. 151
    julian

    What’s funny is that people who use phrases like ‘actually racist’ generally do so because they’ve been called out on some arguably racist behavior or speech.

  152. 152
    Marnie

    @James,
    I know you are trolling but I guess I’m a sucker for that wild green hair and furry feet.

    So you make “accomodations” to us poor/frightened rednecks…and we’re supposed to be grateful?

    You just admitted to LYING to almost every single white person you meet in order to mitigate their fears. How disgustingly condescending and patronizing.

    So by your thinking, we must presume that you act, dress and speak the same way at a funeral as you do at a football game. You act, dress and speak in the same way with your friends, on a first date, at a job interview and with your grandmother. Because if you ever deviate in the way you act in any way, you must be lying, right? It’s black or white. Either you are 100% you all the time or you are a deceitful condescending liar. Far better to fart and pick your nose and make crass jokes all the time than try to act all fancy pants just because you want to put other people at ease in different situations.

  153. 153
    lofgren

    Well obviously I can’t deny that our society stigmatizes being black, especially being a big black man which has become basically the boogieman in all situations except pornos. But I do have to say that if a young guy in a hoodie were running up behind me I would definitely be wary no matter his skin color. I might not cross the street but I would absolutely keep my eye on him. But then I am a youngish white guy myself. If I was a member of a more vulnerable class I may well choose to cross. It’s not that I think a guy running down the street in a hoodie is automatically up to no good. I just think there is a decent enough possibility that I might as well be on my guard.

    Also I have been startled more than several times by people coming up behind me. Just the other day I was startled so much my dog nearly took a guy’s leg off in my defense, because he came barreling out of the woods without even being on a trail. He was a lanky white guy in jogging clothes, a highly unlikely threat to me, but he was there so suddenly that I definitely jumped and shifted to put my back away from him.

    Anyway, if you’re a quiet walker or a guy running down the street at night in a hoodie, I wouldn’t assume that people’s reactions have anything to do with your race. (Although perhaps my heightened sensitivity to people sneaking up on me or running down the street with their face hidden comes from living in New York City?)

    But again I certainly don’t deny the reams of evidence that black men get this type of reaction more often and more harshly than others.

  154. 154
    Aska

    A friend of me told a story that’s oddly similar to yours, except with reversed roles (and slightly different perceived roles). He’s white, slightly below average height but muscular (pumps iron on a regular basis). He was on his way home from the hairdresser once, during winter, and had his hood up. This was in the Far Distant North(TM), so it was quite dark already. So he sees a guy walking towards him on the same side of the road – this is a road with neither much traffic nor much light – and they eventually come close enough that my friend notices he’s black. Which he didn’t think twice about, he had no reason to pay any attention to the stranger.

    However, my friend, who’s properly dressed for winter in the Far Distant North(TM), is getting hot under all his layers. So he reaches up and pulls down his hood, showing off his… freshly shaved head.

    The other guy immediately crosses the road and makes a WIDE berth around my friend and his new hairdo. It took him a few minutes to realize that the move could have seemed pretty intentional and threatening.

    Thank you for your post. As a white woman who’d have a hard time looking threatening if she tried, I haven’t experienced this fear in people – fear of me being a rapist, fear of me being a criminal etc.* – but I’ve read stories similar to yours. This is the first time I’ve heard this particular POV though – someone trying to ease people’s racism-based fears. I think it’s incredibly gracious of you, I’m not sure if I would have decided to be the considerate one in your situation. I’d be too hurt and angry to be understanding. Then again, when a behaviour becomes a regular pattern, the only route left is probably to change one’s own part in it. Something to keep in mind as a general approach to life and people, perhaps. To some degree, anyway.

    * Okay, I’ve had “fear of me being a shoplifter” since I like hooded jackets with lots of pockets. :-p

  155. 155
    nunya bidness

    A lot of men are not rapists, but a large majority fantasize about it. Before you yell at me about how wrong I am just think about the last smoking hot woman you fantasized a sexual encounter with, did you also dream of asking permission and her assent or did you hop straight to the naked writhing part with the gasps of pleasure. See, you skipped right over that because that’s the work part of it and it’s boring compared to naked part. The only difference between that and an active rape is physical contact. Rapist just act in the physical world the same way most of us males act in our thoughts and we don’t believe what we are doing anything wrong even though the effect on women and their ability to navigate the world in peace and safety is essentially the same.

  156. 156
    julian

    Although perhaps my heightened sensitivity to people sneaking up on me or running down the street with their face hidden comes from living in New York City?

    I don’t know what’s with atheists and skeptics. It’s like as a group we really don’t get basic self awareness or how it relates to protecting yourself.

    The whole being extra cautious after dark? How the fuck is that not something that clicks in everyone’s head?

    My thought process after hearing Schrodinger’s Rapist was something like ‘So it’s like when you’re walking back home by yourself and it’s after dark. Yeah, I get it. You don’t know that guy coming up on you isn’t gonna try to take your wallet. He’s been following you for two blocks now and you don’t recognize him. Yeah, I can see why you’d be careful.’

    Seriously it clicked so fast I still don’t get why there’s such a fuss about it.

  157. 157
    Crommunist

    I don’t fantasize about raping strangers (or anyone, for that matter). If you do, which you seem to be saying, then you have a problem. That is not normal.

    Also:

    a large majority fantasize about it

    Citation SORELY needed.

  158. 158
    ischemgeek

    ^ As a jogger who had someone try to punch me for running up on him (and, as I’ve said in other posts, I’m a small woman, not exactly imposing, but the guy in question had recently been mugged and like you, all he heard was running steps and heavy breathing), that’s why I make a habit of calling out, “coming behind you!” as I approach someone when I hit a distance of about 20 feet. Doesn’t interrupt my jogging, does prevent someone from thinking I’m about to attack them.

    This also prevents collisions if someone suddenly decides they want to go look at pretty flowers on the other side of the path, which has also happened to me before. XD

  159. 159
    Kevin

    Fear is an evolutionarily derived USEFUL emotion.

    Really. Isn’t she trying to deny our evolutionary heritage as animals that were at one point in our deep history PREY?

    Ridiculous.

  160. 160
    hkdharmon

    As a large white man, I have also experienced some of this and I have also made accommodations. This may be why big guys tend to have reputations for being mellow and cuddly; we kinda have to.

  161. 161
    James

    I’m an average sized white guy, and I too engage in the foot shuffle/cough/sniffle approach to conspicuousness.

    Startling people, really any people, doesn’t generally get good results, in my experience.

    Very well conceived argument on this difficult topic.

    Thanks!

  162. 162
    hkdharmon

    I, for one, fantasize about the woman voluntarily participating in and enjoying the sex with me. If you fantasize about *forcing* women to have sex with you, and you think it is normal to do so (based on your assertion that most men to the same), I recommend some sort of counseling.

  163. 163
    julian

    Um…

    Considering the amount of rape oriented porn there is out there (both in the West and East) I really don’t think it’s fair to say it isn’t normal.

    It’s in everything from mainstream porn sites like Brazzers to the obscene Russian Rape videos that often get passed around. The only difference is that there’s no vocal ‘no!’ from sites of Brazzers. It’s usually just a look of paralyzed fear while the man is loud aggressive and violent towards her.

    nunya bidness largely overstated his case (I see nothing to suggest it’s the majority of men) but he does have a point. Rape fantasies aren’t uncommon among men.

  164. 164
    Tuesday

    Gotta admit I’m conflicted here.

    Crommunist, I get what you’re saying. If other people are discomforted by their preconceived ideas of us, then it’s good for society if we modify our behavior so that we reduce their unease.

    And yet on the same day I read your article, I read your fellow freethoughtblogs.com blogger Maryam Namazie posting about threats made at a meeting about Sharia law and human rights ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/maryamnamazie/2012/01/17/you-can-expect-threats-if-you-discuss-sharia ), and how she plans on keeping the discussion going even though it obviously upset a Muslim outside.

    It seems to me that, following your suggested course of action, the good thing for Maryam to do is to permanently cancel the meeting and stop saying bad things about Sharia law since it obviously upsets some Muslims. But I’m fairly sure that’s not the conclusion you would have me reach.

    Please help me out here.

  165. 165
    Crommunist

    I’m not saying that people don’t have rape fantasties, I’m saying that if your mental reaction to seeing an attractive woman is to imagine yourself raping her then you’re fucked in the head.

  166. 166
    Crommunist

    The question is “do you care about including those voices”? If someone is obnoxiously racist in my presence, I’m going to dump my accommodating behaviours immediately and explain to them every single way they’re wrong in as black a way as I know how. I try to make this point explicit – this is only relevant or useful if you are interested in making someone more comfortable. I have no desire to make religious bigots or people who threaten others more comfortable. They SHOULD be made uncomfortable. The key is consistency – if you don’t care about involving a certain group and your behaviour alienates them, then you have absolutely no reason to change.

  167. 167
    julian

    Probably but that seems besides nunya’s point. That we (men) in our fantasies about sex and women almost never think about consent. It’s assumed (it being a fantasy, yeah, it’s probably gonna be there) and mostly ignored (especially in punishment or ‘revenge sex’ style fantasies).

    Of course I have no idea how common that is.

  168. 168
    RealityEnforcer, Roaming Bear, terror of the Boy Scouts

    As far as I can tell, Mallorie is saying that I shouldn’t have to clear stray power cords and books off the floor for my mother, who right now has a foot in a cast and is on crutches. She should just deal with her (legitimate) fear of falling, and not ask that anyone do anything to make her more comfortable. And she should get herself over to a psychologist, because this fear of falling thing is just getting out of hand.

    It would be better for everyone involved if my mom didn’t have a broken foot, but she does, and at this point all we can do is try and make is easier and less fall inducing.

    It’s similar with Schrodinger’s Rapist: It’s not nice, it’s not right, but it’s there, and we can work on letting it heal and work on making sure that she won’t fall at the same time. Although Schrodinger’s Rapist will probably take more than 6 to 8 weeks.

  169. 169
    lofgren

    I agree completely. Being aware of your surroundings is absolutely reasonable, especially if any assumptions you might be making help protect you and do nothing to harm the object of your suspicions.

    A prominent female skeptic once commented that men don’t have to think about what shoes we wear when we leave the house, because it doesn’t occur to us that we might have to run away from a rapist. Well, no, it doesn’t occur to me that I might have to run away from a rapist. But it does occur to me that I might have to run away from a mugger, or have to kick my way out of a bar if a fight breaks out, or even run towards somebody who needs my help. So yeah, I absolutely do consider these things when I choose my footwear for the evening. It kind of annoys me when people don’t think about it.

    Likewise a guy running down the street in a hoodie could be up to any manner of no good – or he could be running from something that I should also be running from, like gunshots. If you’re out running and you’re not obviously dressed like somebody who is just out for some exercise, you should be prepared to draw looks from passersby.

    But again, all this is in NYC. If you’re out in the ‘burbs, your chances of getting mugged or having to run from gunshots go down dramatically (in most suburbs anyway – and even NYC has improved significantly in this regard). Your chances of getting raped do NOT. And I suspect that people’s reactions to you if you are a big black man also do not adjust realistically compared to the statistical likelihood that the big black man is a mugger compared to, say, ANY man in a major city.

    So the phenomenon is not imaginary – but I for one feel it is just wise to be on your guard when somebody around you is acting in a peculiar fashion, such as following you home or running towards you with his face masked. It’s probably nothing – but wouldn’t you rather be at least a little emotionally and physically primed just in case it is something?

  170. 170
    =8)-DX

    I really enjoyed this post. The past year I’ve been slowly realising (with a kind of od frown on my face) my various privilege (white, male, sheltered, middle-class, well-paid, bilingual European) I have and how it has actually negatively effected me as a person.

    I think overall the principle of trying to understand the areas one is privileged in and modifying one’s behaviour so as not to cause undue distress or harm to people is a good one to apply to problems of class / gender / race / etc.

  171. 171
    Pteryxx

    @julian: I suspect we involve consent in our fantasies much more often than we explicitly realize, simply because we (mostly) fantasize about sex with a happy, involved, responsive partner who’s fully aware of and enjoying the activities. Explicit consent gets discussed (and consent gets discussed explicitly) when someone says “But how do you know it’s not rape?”

  172. 172
    SallyStrange

    This would hold true if:

    -1 in 5 white people were violently attacked at some point in their life
    -only 1 in 71 black people were violently attacked
    -the perpetrators of such attacks were 98% black people

    But it doesn’t hold true, so you look foolish.

  173. 173
    SallyStrange

    According to a study of college students, IIRC, about 30% of men said they might rape someone if they thought they could get away with it. I don’t think “a majority of men fantasize about it” is a supportable statement. It is true that we live in a rape culture, and consent is not really built into a lot of what we consider sexy, but that’s not the same thing at all.

  174. 174
    Daniel Fincke

    If someone is obnoxiously racist in my presence, I’m going to dump my accommodating behaviours immediately and explain to them every single way they’re wrong in as black a way as I know how.

    And I’m hoping you’re going to videotape it and make it viral on the internet because I’d love to see it.

  175. 175
    Pteryxx

    @BaisBlackfingers re rape stats: The exact numbers vary a bit depending on the phrasing, the definition of rape vs. sexual assault, how the study accounted for underreporting and such. Basically, quibbling over the exact numbers is usually a derail. Somewhere around 1 in 4-6 women have been raped/assaulted, while around 1 in 15-20 men have raped/assaulted a woman (along with fuzzier stats for the reverse, same-sex and so on). Some good sources are RAINN’s stats (http://www.rainn.org/statistics) and my favorite source, Meet the Predators (linky) because it’s men self-reporting, so MRA’s can’t blame it on lying women.

  176. 176
    nightman2112

    I have to say, for the last few months, I have been on the fence with this issue. I can totally understand where women are coming from by wanting to bring about necessary changes in the skeptical community. However, there are a number of minor objections, like the ones you cited, that I have found very compelling. However, due to this post, I have gained more clarity on the issue than six months of lurking ever did. Awesome, amazing, fantastic post! Very well done!

  177. 177
    Dave

    I never bother to comment on blog posts, but I just wanted to say that this post is very enlightening. It has changed my understanding on how women and black people live in one fell swoop. I’m going to have to share this with friends.

  178. 178
    Melody

    I’m a short hispanic woman, and I’ve had white people act scared around me. (which is odd considering how harmless I am). So, I definitely believe you when you say white people act afraid when you are around.
    Things I have noticed are the clutching of purses, and suddenly crossing the street, etc. I was complaining to my sister one day about this. And she came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. She said, in place of getting upset, why not just do the same thing they are doing? If a woman clutches her purse and looks at you suspiciously, do it back to her, and make her believe you are afraid she is going to steal your purse. I haven’t tried this because I’m the shy type. Just thought I would share that.

  179. 179
    Crommunist

    Now I have to start carrying a purse? Dunno… they seem really cumbersome. What about a parasol instead?

  180. 180
    Fred

    There’s a Vancouver Skeptics in the Pub event downtown tonight at the Railway Club. Even if the Crommunist can’t make it downtown there will be at least one 6′ 6″ guy there who tries not to surprise smaller people unnecessarily. Maybe I’ll see you there.

  181. 181
    RowanVT

    Sometimes it’s very hard for me to wrap my head around this stuff. My parents managed to raise me pretty much completely unaware that some people can judge others based on their skin color. After all, there are people paler than I am, and darker than I am. So what? We’re all humans, so I treated everyone the same. I didn’t begin understanding that concept until pretty much Jr. High and once we really started history classes and social studies. Oh what a shock it was, and an appalling one.

    For most of my life, I have also lived in locations where there is an even mix of ethnicities. Walking around my Jr. High, most of the students were hispanic and the rest were equally white/asian/black. College was pretty much the same. My first work place the same as well and my manager would tell stories of the crime of ‘walking while black’ and his run-ins with cops as a kid. I think he was amused by my boggling.

    I currently work in a location where 90% of our clients are hispanic or asian.

    Reading things like this makes me fret sometimes, wondering if my actions are ever viewed as condescending or racist which makes me quite sad. I hope I’m not, but I’m often a poor judge of human body language (animal body language, no problem. :/ stupid brain.).

  182. 182
    Luna_the_cat

    That’s why we offer suggestions to assess the situation and be aware; you seem to want a bright-line directive, a one-size-fits-all answer which is perfect in every situation, and you complain that gee, you couldn’t possibly do ANYTHING” when one isn’t forthcoming. Real life doesn’t work that way. –But people who are at all sensitive to how other people are reacting (oh, yeah, that might be part of the problem here) can take steps to lessen their perceived threat level. Maybe you don’t have to cross the street; maybe a friendly nod and veering a few feet towards the side of the sidewalk is plenty. Maybe passing the person and getting on with your walk is needed. Maybe falling behind further is needed. Figure it out for what is happening there and then. You don’t have to be an effing rocket scientist, you just need a little bit of situational awareness and a willingness to expend a few millijoules of energy to treat somebody else like a human being.

  183. 183
    smhlle

    Some of my sexist fear of men when I am alone is actually size-ism. A man as old and tiny as Ron Paul does not scare me. (Ideology aside. So my ‘sexism’ is not pure, it is mitigated by various factors.

    Cops hate domestic disturbance calls (or so I’ve heard). Should they set aside their too-broad fear of screeching broads? Or is heightened concern and apprehension sometimes valuable?

  184. 184
    Enkidum

    Help! Radical black power activists! They’re coming to take my beautiful white babies! And they’re going to rape me! And they’re pretending to be nice, smiling, and saying “good evening”! Is there no end to their devious ways?

  185. 185
    Luna_the_cat

    …Not quite. I would feel sorry for the skunk.

  186. 186
    Luna_the_cat

    Oh please, could we get pictures…?

  187. 187
    Zach

    I’m white, and I’ll admit that even just a few years ago I got nervous walking past black or native people, or even groups of teenagers. As a skeptic, though, I quickly gave it some thought and realized that in my entire life I had walked past these groups any number of times without any incident… What was I afraid of?

    It didn’t happen right away, but after that I gradually became less and less nervous in these situations until eventually I stopped giving it any thought at all.

    If you want to change your behaviour to make me more comfortable, that’s your prerogative, but honestly I think the real solution to this problem is for us, white people (or anyone who feels threatened by other people of a given race) to apply some skepticism and realize that their fears are unjustified. And, frankly, I feel bad that other people feel like they have to go consciously out of their way to try and make me feel better when it really shouldn’t be the problem.

    I think there’s an analogy to be drawn to Christians in the US who are terrified of atheists. But we don’t go out of our way to make them feel comfortable. We make them deal with their prejudices face-first. Same with the gay rights movement in the 90′s and on. It wasn’t about shutting up and staying in the closet anymore, it was about making people deal with the fact that they were uncomfortable until they realized that they had no reason to be. I acknowledge that this analogy falls a bit short because it’s not like there were some atheists or gays who were giving people a reason to fear them (as with muggers or rapists) but the point is that prejudice is only defeated by acknowledging that it might not be accurate.

    Which brings me to Schrödinger’s Rapist. There were some fairly comprehensive statistics about rape released by the CDC back in December. Nearly 1 in 5 women are raped at some point in their lives. That’s too many, but at the same time it’s over 80% of women who are never raped. Of those ~20% who are, only ~15% of them (or ~3% of women overall) are raped by a stranger. I think that a 3% chance of a random person who approaches you being a rapist does not give you the right to treat that person as a potential rapist. But the probability is not even that high: when you spread it out over every strange man who will approach a woman in her lifetime it becomes almost negligible.

    I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be concerned about rape: we should ALL be concerned about rape. Furthermore, I’m not saying that people can control how they feel in a particular situation, such as being approached by a large black man on the street or a strange man in a bar. You don’t really have control over how you feel, and I don’t have the right to tell you to feel differently.

    All I’m saying that maybe a little bit of skepticism should be applied before we decide how to treat our fellow human beings and that maybe it’s not the fault of other people when they happen to fall into a category that you have a prejudice against.

  188. 188
    Luna_the_cat

    Since I had not said this before, I just wanted to chime in with this as well — as another physically small woman, you larger people and men who take the time to send the social signals of “I’m not sneaking up on you/I’m not targeting you”:

    I regret the fact that I react with tension when I don’t get those signals, but yes, I am doing a threat assessment when someone comes barrelling down the sidewalk (I’ve been attacked by a gang of teen boys who were “just out for a laugh”, after all, as well as harassed a couple of times by people who drove up next to me; and just recently a girl was kidnapped just from the end of the road I live on, and raped), or knocking on the door when I don’t know you (and I’ve had some well-dodgy f***ers show up at my door). I have a legitimate concern for my self-preservation, based on experience. And when you are aware of that and take steps to address it, I appreciate that. I regret that we live in a world where that is even necessary. It would be wonderful if we lived in a world where my fears were “unreasonable” in truth, and you really didn’t have to expend that energy to smooth our social interactions. But really, it isn’t that world. Not yet. And I really appreciate the fact that you act out of consideration. I understand that it can’t be nice for you either, but it puts us on a far friendlier footing and it is a definite signal along the lines of “here is a decent human being.”

    Thank you.

  189. 189
    Lod

    The world is an unsafe place, bad things happen all the time. But, just because some one has “raised my stress level” by being so socially obnoxious as thinking they were able to speak to me like I was there equal does not mean I deserve special treatment or have been victimized. Leave the special pleading to those unfamilliar with ideas of equality. I feel uncomfortable at times, yes, but I also understand I’m not special and reality does not revolve around me. When you are that stranger who no one will speak too because youre different, well then maybe youll actualy know, but until then try to not be so openly inviting towards entitlements that disestablish others equality.

  190. 190
    Crommunist

    Don’t invite your entitlements to disestablish my equality, bro!

    LOVE the $50 words. So much easier than actually developing a coherent argument.

  191. 191
    Luna_the_cat

    Your statistics leave out how many women are groped, verbally abused, and otherwise harassed. Do you think that because this “isn’t rape” that these (incredibly common, sadly) incidents do not legitimately play into threat assessment?

    Now, try another analogy, too. Pretend that you are a soldier on deployment. Let’s say that you encounter around 150 people every day when you are out on patrol. Let’s say that you are on your second 6-month rotation, and you patrol 6 days out of every 7. Only once out of all that time has someone been an insurgent with a bomb, and hey, you weren’t even badly injured — just a little bit of shrapnel in your leg, you were better in a few weeks.

    Think it’s unreasonable to be jumpy while out on patrol? After all, odds are you’re perfectly safe.

  192. 192
    Pen

    I meant I know if I’ve been made to feel uncomfortable, for example, when I was sitting having a drink with male colleagues and all they could talk about is the waitresses’ breasts.

    I also realize that this may well be what men talk about when they are amongst men, which is fine.

  193. 193
    'Tis Himself

    Mallorie doesn’t feel fear in such situations. Therefore, it is abnormal for ANYONE ELSE to feel fear. Mallorie has determined she is the archetype of womankind and all women who fail to meet her strict standards are deeply flawed and in need of immediate psychological treatment.

    Either that, or she’s so self-centered she doesn’t comprehend that others might have different reactions to certain situations that she might have.

  194. 194
    Zach

    I came back to clarify one point in my original post before I reply to you, so just bear with me for a minute.

    Of course, being treated like a rapist can sometimes be a valid reaction. If a guy walks up to you at a crowded bar and strikes up a conversation then he deserves the benefit of the doubt. If he walks up to you alone in an elevator, then maybe he’s just oblivious (I admit that I would have been before the whole Rebecca Watson thing) but a little bit of caution is warranted. From the point of view of the guy: if I want to have a nice conversation with a woman I’ve never met before, then I should be cautious not to send off a creepy vibe. But at the same time, if I’m waiting for an elevator and it arrives with a lone woman on it, who I have no intention of speaking with, I’m not going to wait for the next elevator just to make sure she’s comfortable. If I’m walking behind a woman alone on the street and she’s walking slowly, I’m not going to cross the street to pass her. These are the kind of situations where I think a little bit of perspective is in order.

    @Luna: I don’t have statistics about groping, verbal abuse or sexual harassment; but I suspect that they would still be lower than guys who don’t do these things.

    Regarding the soldier, odds are that he is perfectly safe. But, again, he can’t control his feelings so if he feels threatened then that’s just an unfortunate reality that may require some therapy. What it doesn’t do is give him a right to treat every civilian he walks past as a potential threat, interrogating, searching or detaining them based based simply on a skewed threat assessment.

  195. 195
    crowepps

    I think that a 3% chance of a random person who approaches you being a rapist does not give you the right to treat that person as a potential rapist.

    I have seen this argument a number of times and there’s one thing that needs to be clarified, what exactly do you mean by “treat that person as a potential rapist”?

    I’m assuming since he isn’t actually known to be a rapist, the woman in question isn’t pulling out a gun and shooting him, or enveloping him in a crowd of pepper spray, or using her self-defense skills to break his kneecaps, all of which we would agree are an overreaction to mere potential.

    But it would sure help move the conversation along if you would explain what exactly is the behavior that you are including in “treat that person as a potential rapist”? A reluctance to talk? Looking wary? Fleeing? What is it exactly you believe in some way violates the rights of a random man choosing to approach a woman who is a stranger to him?

  196. 196
    Drew

    I didn’t say that both sides were equally wrong, nor that both sides have an equal amount to change, but both sides DO have an obligation to change in an effort to eliminate “sex-based prejudicial behaviour”.

    One side is being disproportionately alienated

    Absolutely. One side has many more behaviors to change than the other, and I wholeheartedly agree that much of what the “man” side says can be construed as a temper tantrum, but incorrect behavior exists on both sides, correcting incorrect behavior is the obligation of everyone. Accommodating one sexist behavior while complaining about another is irrational.

    The “whole problem” doesn’t stem from the fact that women are asking men to be mindful of their behaviour – it stems from the fact that many of those men are acting like they’re being asked to make some kind of major sacrifice.

    I don’t think the whole problem “stem[s] from the fact that women are asking men to be mindful of their behaviour” I think that’s a good thing, and I think that “men” side should be mindful of their behavior, change anything that can be recognized as wrong, and not automatically lash out defensively when there’s a suggestion that some of their behavior is wrong. I think the problem is that the men get defensive and lash out without recognizing what it is that they should be changing about themselves.

    I also think that of the large array of crap arguments that have come out of the “men” side of this argument, there is one reasonable point (this doesn’t at all level the field, there’s still a lot of incorrect behavior that is not being addressed by the “men” side) about a crap argument that that has come out of the “women” side.

    In an ideal world the discussion would go something like this:

    “You made a lot of good points against sexism, however that one argument you used was flawed: It depended on sex-based prejudicial behaviour.”

    “That’s a good point. I’ll stop using that argument.”

    If I hear some people arguing and they throw out an argument that is inconsistent with other things they’ve said, I call them on it. I will not abide a hypocritical argument whether I agree with the arguer’s main point or not. To continue using a flawed argument once it has been pointed out to you that it is flawed and why it is flawed is unreasonable.

    I also see evidence that people on both sides of the issue are much quicker to condemn the action of others than they are to look inward to see and acknowledge their own gender-based prejudicial behaviors. I stand by my suggestion that this remains the “whole problem”.

  197. 197
    Luna_the_cat

    Most of the stats on it I’ve seen report that 50% of women have experienced or will experience fondling, groping, verbal harassment, etc. Personally, I would set that as being a bit low. Also, it doesn’t happen just once. If you live in a situation where it can happen, then it tends to happen on multiple occasions.

    The point, please consider, is that it is NOT irrational to consider it a possibility; the odds are NOT small. It isn’t the same as “nothing has ever happened to me”; and if you recognise that a soldier is going to have certain jumpy reflexes (fair or not) after something has happened once, then you should recognise that women are going to have certain reflexes when something has happened a lot more than once.

  198. 198
    Luna_the_cat

    ….and to complete that thought, it costs you only a small amount of effort to act in awareness of that fact, for a potentially great benefit to both you AND the person with whom you are dealing.

    “Yeah but it’s not fair” is a whine which misses the point. LIFE is not fair. We have to deal with it anyway. You can deal with it considerately and effectively, or not.

  199. 199
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    All runners should call out, “Heads up! Coming through! On your left!” if they don’t want to scare people or get clonked with a lunch box.

  200. 200
    erk12

    Would you mind expanding on what some of those signals would be? Has this been covered elsewhere? I’m wondering because it took me until sometime in my mid 20′s to realize I should look at people at work and say “Hi” when I often cross in the hall. Even if I don’t know them. This was not obvious or natural to me.

  201. 201
    Drew

    I feel I need to clarify

    I also see evidence that people on both sides of the issue are much quicker to condemn the action of others than they are to look inward to see and acknowledge their own gender-based prejudicial behaviors. I stand by my suggestion that this remains the “whole problem”.

    It would be more appropriate to say

    I also see evidence that people on both sides of the issue, when presented with evidence that some of their behaviors may exhibit gender-based prejudices, are much quicker to lash out and condemn the gender-based prejudicial behaviors of others than they are to look inward to see and acknowledge their own. I stand by my suggestion that this remains the “whole problem”.

  202. 202
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    RealityEnforcer, have I told you lately that I love your comments!?

  203. 203
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Part of my rape-proofing when I was younger was to dress in boyish clothes and stride along. I was disconcerted when a woman crossed the street to avoid me rather than pass face to face.

  204. 204
    Brad

    Great article! I was uncomfortable with the “but what about racism” arguments, too, and with this you’ve clearly put them to rest.

    One clarification I haven’t seen anyone else make regarding the ways we adjust our behavior:

    1. Making adjustments “in real time” based on the cues we read in those around us.

    2. Making adjustments in our behavior patterns based on our own observations over time, or based on the advice of others (“guys, don’t do that”).

    Both are important, and can reinforce each other.
    (And for those who don’t have great skills in reading cues, learning about behavior patterns and listening to the advice of others is that much more important.)

    Since I’ve now become aware that many women find being alone on an elevator at night with a man to be a high stress situation (to pick a purely hyptheical, totally non-controversial example out of my hat ;)), its now up to me to decide what to do with this advice:

    Does it provide some new information that should help improve the way I “read” a situation? Of course!

    Does it mean I would never get on an elevator alone with a woman? No, it depends on the circumstances (place, time, etc), and the cues I get from her.

    Does it mean I’m now more likely to take the next elevator, when I probably would never have even considered that before? I hope so, yes.

    I really don’t see how someone could reject this kind of advice without in essense saying “sorry, but I’d much prefer being an asshole”. Which is their right, I suppose.

  205. 205
    Cipher

    Liam, I think you’ll find there was an “or” in there. See, I can’t actually take the responsibility to cross the road to put distance between us if I don’t know you’re there. I try to keep an eye out behind me, but sometimes (as was the case with the jogger) it’s dark and I miss something. If you signal your presence, I can cross if I feel it’s needed, but I understand that some people may be less comfortable yelling to random strangers than they would be simply crossing the road. I have crossed the road myself when approaching someone from behind, because I don’t like to signal my presence but I also don’t like to startle people. Thus, it seems like a valid option to me.

  206. 206
    Summer

    Maybe I’m using an already debunked myth, but isn’t accommodating people’s fears already a standard part of our society? The handshake, as we know it, began as a way to let a stranger know that you are unarmed and therefore not a threat. I was always told it began because people would hold out their hands to show that they had no weapons and were safe. We understood that we could be seen as a threat, and modified out behavior accordingly, thus creating the commonly used handshake. Shuffling feet when coming up behind a stranger just seems a newer version of the handshake.

    My own personal anecdote: My mother was Native American, my father was white. Thanks to the luck of the genetic dice, I’m as pasty as they come. Complete with blue/green eyes and brownish-red hair. I grew up in a town that was 99% white, and pretty damn racist to boot. But I lived within an area where a few reservations were located. Sometimes my mother would take me with her to events. Every time she would walk through the door without so much as anyone blinking, while I would get looks, faces, and questions about my business there. Often I could just reach over to my mom and the issue was void, but sometimes I would wander off by myself and be confronted by nervous and concerned people. They had no way of knowing who I was or why I was there, and in an odds game it was safer for them to assume I was one of the bigots from the nearby town come to make trouble (or some damn hipster there to be “ironic”). I took it as perfectly reasonable for me to make it clear I wasn’t there to piss anyone off or start trouble. It didn’t infringe on my freedom or make me feel offended, it was just the polite thing to do. I understood that they had to make a snap judgement for their own protection, and if it weren’t for the actual racists out there they wouldn’t of had to. The assholes bitching about how the Native Americans never work, or are all on drugs, or just freeload off the government pissed me off far more than the people who feared I might be one of those assholes.

  207. 207
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    A friend of my daughter gets strip-searched every time she flies. The US border guards assume she’s Mexican and jump to the conclusion that she’s carrying drugs. She now drives where she wants to go.

  208. 208
    Cipher

    As Stephanie points out, we’re generally told to project confidence. Now (after the thing with the jogger) I am usually on my phone with a friend or family member, visibly noticing people but pretending to be confident, when I’m waiting at bus stops and walking home in the dark and stuff. I’m on my phone for two reasons. One is that, while I’m not sure whether it would actually deter someone who wanted to hurt me, I want someone to know if something happens to me, and I want them to know where I was. The other is that it helps me stay calmer while still being alert.

  209. 209
    RowanVT

    Between the ages of 17 and 23, I had three close calls with sexual assault.

    At 17, I was stalked. Most likely by the guy who took my information to register me to vote. He tried to break into my house and the only reason he gave up was because of the two large and very angry dogs that were inside my house.

    At 19, a classmate developed a creepy obsession with me and at one point began punching objects around me when I expressed interest in a different man.

    At 23, I had walked a friend through downtown San Jose to the lightrail station at midnight. The train was only showing up once every half hour at this point, and because she required two canes to walk, I went with her to keep her safe. I also brought along a large dagger, the kind you buy at ren faires. I sat with her until the train arrived, and then walked back to my college campus alone. A guy began following me. I began making random turns, and even circles. He continued following me, so once I was around a corner I darted across a street and got under a street light. I may not know how to knife fight, but I know the right way to hold a dagger for slashing rather than stabbing. I was in a crouch, ready to defend myself as best I could. The guy stopped on the other side of the street, stared at me for a while, and then turned around.

    I live by schrodingers rapist.

  210. 210
    Luna_the_cat

    I’m honestly not sure if it’s been covered elsewhere, sorry. Maybe someone else has some suggestions.

    My own suggestions:

    Work on being aware that if you are in a space with only one potential exit, then if you alone with a woman (especially one who is smaller than you are) you could potentially control that space and prevent her from getting away from you — especially if you are between her and the exit. Maybe you have no intention of being an asshole, but those are the situations that assholes love to take advantage of, so many women (especially those who’ve encountered assholes in their past) will be on heightened alert.

    So: don’t get between her and the exit. Maximise the distance between the two of you. If you don’t feel compelled to make conversation, then you should probably not make eye contact (not universally true, but I’m going by my memory of such situations); if you just look at something neutral, like the wall or the buttons, it isn’t a threat. If you do feel compelled to make conversation for whatever reason, then something bland and neutral is better, like “great weather we’re having.” Making it in any way about her is going to be a no-no. If she starts a conversation, even if it’s one about herself (like “I hate these slow elevators, I’m really tired”), then still keep it not about her; neutral would be something like “yeah, I know what you mean.”

    If it’s a “passing by someone on an otherwise-empty street” situation, even just aiming yourself conspicuously a few feet away from her is good, the “I will pass you with a wide berth, I am not aiming at you” signal this sends is a reassurance. If she keeps glancing back at you, she’s nervous. Brief eye contact (a couple seconds?), a nod and an adjustment of direction might help, but there it’s a bit more difficult because the exact physical situations are always going to be different, and so there is no one easy rule, no one-size-fits-all solution. Making noise so that someone knows you are coming up behind them, and so that it is obvious that you are making it obvious that you are not sneaking, is fantastic, though. That’s why whistling or singing something quietly is good.

    Maybe that helps. I hope so.

  211. 211
    SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu

    Your long-ass reply was notably devoid of examples what the problematic behaviors on “the other side” were.

    Sounds like you’re just upset the fact that occasionally (frequently?) men who don’t consider themselves sexist get told that they are acting sexist.

    Cry me a river, bub.

  212. 212
    Liam

    Irene has debunked that shit over at Daniel’s blog already:

    I couldn’t find an irene, nor anyone who ‘debunked the shit’ out of those DOJ stats. Ill go over it again, though I’m doubtful you will take any of it in

    Those statistics break down if you look at specific contexts:
    Two men getting in a barfight, two victims of violent assault.
    Gang fight, fan fighting after a football match, lots of victims of violent assault.

    Certainly not.
    Firstly, bar fights as i linked earlier, usually involve a smaller victim who did not provoke the attack. I’m not sure why you’d attempt to lower the impact of bar fights on a victim, consequences can range from minor injuries, to brain damage and death. In fact the Australian government passed a set of harsh laws a few years ago in response to the number of deaths occurring from physically unprovoked assaults on drunk people.

    Fan fighting after a football match? Lol yeah, im sure they skew the statistics wildly.

    As for gangs, i also went over this in another post. According to statistics from wikipedia, there are 800 000 gang members in the USA, out of a population of 300 000 000 that is less than 0.3% of the population. So no, that will not skew the statistics by any significant margin.

    Yet when you talk about things like domestic violence, sexual harrasment, rape, the victims are predominantly female.

    Indeed that is horrible isnt it.

    Would you put the bloke who got himself a black eye in a bar fight into the same category as the woman who was raped?

    Cool false dichotomy bro. Lets try another, would you put a woman who got felt up a perv in the same category as a guy in hospital in a coma undergoing facial reconstruction.

  213. 213
    Alverant

    I have to ask the question, what’s the limit? How far should we [men] be willing to go to make sure we don’t accidently seem threatening to women. The way some people here talk, all men should stay at home 24/7 with an implanted GPS system so anyone can find out where we are. Or walk around with a bull horn saying, “I am not a threat. Trust me, I am not a threat.” OK that’s a bit of an exageration, but just existing should not be considered a threat.

    Keep in mind, I don’t reject the idea of accomidating people so they feel more comfortable. I know it’s something we all have to do regardless to help everyone get along. But it also appears that there may be times we miss out on things because of that fear. For example as a large single white man, I fit the stereotype for a child molester. Fortunately I don’t like kids so I don’t go where kids hang out. But there are families in my neighborhood that do have kids and when I drive home from work during the summer, I take it slow to make sure I don’t hit any. But I also run the risk of people thinking, “He’s drively slowly in front of my kids. Is he stalking them?” These days all it takes is an accusation of abuse to ruin your life.

    Likewise my cat is pretty friendly and likes attention. He’s let complete strangers pick him up and pet him. He even let my neighbor’s toddler touch him (parents were around of course). He’s likely the most laid back cat you’ll meet Now when he goes outside I always stick close to him. There are dogs around I want to be able to pick up my cat quickly if anything happens. Last summer a bunch of kids were playing in the grass and my cat wanted to investigate and make friends. I couldn’t let him because a large single guy with a cute animal near a group of kids would send up red flags.

    On the same note, I can’t go to a kid’s movie at the theater even if it’s good for adults. It’s a small thing but it isn’t right. It does appear necessary until women don’t have to worry about rape and parents don’t have to worry about their kids being abused.

  214. 214
    Alverant

    That just ain’t right.

  215. 215
    Marnie

    @Alverant

    The way some people here talk, all men should stay at home 24/7 with an implanted GPS system so anyone can find out where we are.

    I believe this is the reason these conversations never end. You don’t “have” to do anything. No one expects you to do anything. People are explaining which situations make some people nervous. If someone were telling you that some dogs find it intimidating when you tower over them and touch their head, and you might want to not do that, you probably wouldn’t think your rights were being repressed. When someone tells you that rushing up behind a women in a dark empty street at night can be seen as potentially threatening, your response shouldn’t be “don’t tell me what to do!” No one is telling you what to do. We are telling you how your behavior is perceived.

    This is not about taking away someone’s rights. It’s not a zero sum game. You are free to keep plowing down the street and men, women, and children who take assessments of possible risks are free to question your intentions when you do so. If you happen to think it’d be nice to put people more at ease, there have been some suggestions for ways to do so.

  216. 216
    Nick Gotts

    Same here. I was already careful not to appear to be following a woman in the street, in any potentially threatening situation – for example by crossing the street to avoid coming up behind her in a lonely place. In elevator situations, I tended to allow someone who had arrived before me to get in first, but would now, if the situation seemed to make it appropriate, get in first, leaving the other person to choose whether to share the elevator with me.

  217. 217
    Zach

    @Luna

    I’m not saying it’s irrational to consider the possibility. I’m saying it’s irrational to treat someone as a potential rapist based simply on that possibility. The distinction is between thoughts/feelings versus actions.

    I’m not trying to tell anyone how to feel: women who have experienced (or are especially aware) of sexual violence are going to be cautious around men they haven’t met before. The soldier in your example is going to be cautious around civilians while on patrol. What I think is important, however, is not to base one’s actions on preconceptions. Thinking “possible rapist” in your head is not something you can really control on the spot, but treating a someone differently from how you normally would have treated them without this thought is (in my opinion) wrong.

    Treatment of other people should be based on their actions, not your preconceptions. If a guy walks up to you alone in an elevator and asks you to his room for coffee, that’s creepy. Maybe he was just oblivious to how he comes across, but it’s still creepy and you’re justified in treating him with more caution than someone who just got on the elevator and stood next to you. The same goes for someone who follows you around all night, or randomly brings you a drink, or even just says things that make you uncomfortable.

    You can’t control how you feel or what you think, but you can control how you act towards someone. If that person has done nothing to make you uncomfortable then I think it’s wrong to treat them as though they had, simply for existing. And in the case of the guy simply walking past you on the street, I also think it’s wrong to expect him to go out of his way just because you’ll be made uncomfortable simply by his presence.

  218. 218
    carlie

    Oh no! Tell her we feel for her and to let everyone else at home do all the work for awhile.

  219. 219
    carlie

    Plus, Alverant is engaging in enough hyperbole to choke a horse.

  220. 220
    Living With Mormons

    Wow! Great article. I haven’t given this issue much thought before, except for one time when I heard Christopher Hitchens talking about how someone asked him if he would feel more or less safe if, when coming upon a group of young men in a dark alley, he noticed they were coming out of a church. His answer was a rich one (much like these comments) and much more eloquent than I can fumble through, but it just highlighted how complex this sort of issue is.

    I’m a white Brazilian male, raised by a very independent divorced mother and older sister team in an extremely chauvinistic and misogynistic country, so I’m sure my views are skewed a bit, but you sure made me think, sir.

    Thanks for the great post.

    LWM

  221. 221
    Marnie

    @Zach

    Thinking “possible rapist” in your head is not something you can really control on the spot, but treating a someone differently from how you normally would have treated them without this thought is (in my opinion) wrong.

    Do you treat car salesmen as possible liars? Do you treat people selling watches or laptops on the street as possible thieves? Do you treat someone who calls your house for charitable donations as possible frauds? What about the person who comes up to you on a street corner with a sob story and a request for some change? Does it cross your mind he or she might be a grifter?

    At almost any time you interact with strangers, you assess a person’s intentions and the likelihood that you could be at some sort of risk. That risk might be identity or property theft or being taken advantage of or being physically harmed. You simply are not going to treat everyone in every situation the same way. That doesn’t mean you live in abject fear it means you avoid potentially bad situations.

  222. 222
    Liam

    Liam, I remain unconvinced that you have the senstivity to tell when you have perturbed someone. Beyond that, women are told that projecting a confident demeanor is something that may protect them from assault. You have no way to know whether such a reaction is honest or intended to hide fear.

    This wasn’t ‘confident’ demeanor, this was ‘completely nonplussed demeanor’ as in “oh its just some dude walking by, I’ll go back to angry birds now”. Are women told ‘if you feel threatened by someone, pretend they aren’t there.’ Or maybe i was so scary they were presenting their phones to me, so as to save me the trouble of attacking them. (please don’t take that last one seriously, please dont ):

    This is actually exactly what people here are saying. You have no idea if that “sketchy” person (your word for how you describe someone whose behavior and intentions are unsure to you) has any ill intentions or not. The more risky the situation, the more you are likely on your guard. You don’t expect him or her to accomodate you, but if that person does choose to cross the street, you probably feel less on your guard. This is not to say you hate whatever type of person that person is or that you are a helpless waif. It is saying that in your risk assessment of the situation, the risk is now significantly lower.

    I don’t have a car, so i have to walk a lot, and i walk mostly at night, so i pass a lot of people in the dark. It is rare that do feel on guard (I don’t consider a person being large or black as immediately a threat) But i do realise that my safety is my responsibilty, if i do see something sketchy, perhaps a group of people street drinking i will make it my responsibility to avoid interacting with them. I will not walk past them, and determine whether they are safe by whether they move for me or not. Its far too late by then. As you mentioned, you do not expect people to accomodate you, perhaps a small minority will, so to use that as a measure of a threat level is going to be extremely innacurate.

    What you have said in your post is that you do empathize with the situation you just don’t realize how common this behavior is in life. The fact that you can identify someone as “sketchy” or a situation as somehow risky, means that you do the same thing for different reasons.

    I am slightly shorter than the average man, and i have a damaged knee that is visibly obvious when i walk and that if hit it can permanently incapacitate me, so were i to be attacked, the chances i could defend myself or even flee effectively are low. Basically, i am a perfect target for someone looking for trouble. saying that, I do not place half the population into the ‘might attack me’ group and wince each time they pass, or an entire racial minority for that matter, actions are certainly a better measure, and i admit i was a bit harsh on the old woman crossing the road, assuming him being black was not the main factor in the fear, which i can’t know. Drunk people, medium sized groups of people. people carrying weapons etc. But it is ridiculous to place half the population into the danger category, then live in fear of that category. The vast vast vast majority of people simply want to get from A to B, and i don’t think they should have to participate in this ridiculous charade.

  223. 223
    erk12

    OK, thanks. I didn’t know if there was a secret “not a weirdo” hand shake or somesuch.

  224. 224
    Alverant

    @carie
    One instance of admitted exageration is not “enough hyperbole to choke a horse”.

  225. 225
    Marnie

    @Liam

    I do not place half the population into the ‘might attack me’ group and wince each time they pass, or an entire racial minority for that matter

    You’ve made this all too binary.

    I am not scared of men. I don’t go to a meeting and think “these men could rape me.” I don’t go grocery shopping and duck behind the plantains when a man passes me. I am not scared of men, I’m cautious of high risk situations. Walking in my suburban neighborhood, in a pleasant community, during daylight hours is not risky. Walking in downtown, in the evening on a busy street is marginally more risky, but not by a lot. Walking in a secluded area of downtown by myself is more risky still. Doing so at night is riskier still. Someone else may be able to do something unpleasant (mugging, groping, raping, stabbing, whatever), but the fact that there is another person doesn’t send me into a quivering spiral of fear. I read their body language and assess their proximity, and whether or not I’m confined. These are all unconscious, the same way you assess what you might do if that slightly erratic driver in the next lane swerves or what you would do if that really drunk guy at the bar who looks like he’s about to puke, gets too close to you. Someone staring at me intently, gesticulating wildly, approaching me quickly or cutting off my only exit, would send off alarm bells. It’s at that point I might have “possible rapist” in my head. I might also have “possible mugger” and “possibly unhinged and voilent person” in my head. If they are physically larger than I am which is very likely (I’m 5′ 3.5″ and 130 lbs) and reasonably able bodied, I am going to consider them a greater risk.

    This is how you survive as an animal on this planet. You assess relative risk and your fight or flight response kicks in as the risk grows.

  226. 226
    carolw

    As far as I remember (it’s been a while), he used himself as an example in that initial question. But that was just his ice-breaker to get the class started. We covered a lot of possible scenarios we might encounter in the classroom with students from all different backgrounds.

  227. 227
    miller

    …[white people] are more likely to be victims of crimes committed by white people than by black people.

    Not that I disagree with your general point, but this is not the correct statistic to use. White people may be more likely to be victims of crimes of white people rather than black people, but is this in proportion to the population of black people vs white people, or is it out of proportion? More precisely, is it in proportion to the number of black people you pass in the street vs the number of white people you pass in the street?

  228. 228
    Alverant

    @marie
    Wrong, I am expected to do something. I am expected not to frighten people. If threatening behavior is preceived, people would react in accordance to that threat. In your example of running up behind a woman, there could be a completely innocent reason why the man was running. But if someone sees that as threatening, they have the legal right to defend themselves. Then what happens? A perceived threat is enough justifcation to kill in some instances whether or not there was actually a threat. Imagine you’re trying to catch a train or bus then suddenly getting hit or maced or shot because someone thought you were a threat. What would you call that?

  229. 229
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    3%
    Do you know 30 women?
    Well, it has happened to one of them.
    Add to that number all those women who had close calls with stranger rape, like me.
    Add to that fear stuff like the mail my university sent around after an attempted rape on campus: I should be very afraid and not walk on campus alone.
    That brings those 3% a bit into perspective.
    I also wear seatbelts all the time.
    The chances might be not that high, but the cost when you err is too big to risk it.

  230. 230
    Marnie

    @Alverant

    If you are running up behind people and they have a right to kill you if you are perceived as a threat, then this has nothing to do with gender or rape. That is true of anyone. A man who outweighs and is much taller than you can see you as just as much a threat as a woman.

    That doesn’t seem to be reducing the population by much.

  231. 231
    Alverant

    One other thing Marine, I never said we shouldn’t avoid acting threatening to others. In fact I said the oppositte. All I asked is when do we draw the line. When does being nervous become paranoia? When does concern over perceived threats become unresonable?

    This goes beyond gender or rape. Guns make everyone equal. A woman running behind you can be just as big of a threat as a man.

  232. 232
    Luna_the_cat

    Sadly, there isn’t’ if there were, and it were an honest signal (i.e. not used deceptively ever), then life would be simpler for all of us.

    Another suggestion, though — if you haven’t already, find and read a copy of Edward T. Hall’s The Hidden Dimension. It’s an older book, been in print a long time, and if you don’t want to buy your own copy most libraries can get you a copy. It isn’t about gender relations, but it is about how space and nonverbal communication in general affect people’s reactions. It can offer some illuminating ways of noticing how people around you act.

  233. 233
    Zach

    @Marnie

    Hm. I’m starting to feel like I have the wrong idea. As someone who is typically too shy to approach women so has very little experience with how they treat someone who approaches them, can I just ask:

    Does the threat assessment that you make in your head that says “potential rapist, despite any particular signs from this man that he is” cause you to treat him differently than you would if this hadn’t occurred to you?

    If you’re alone on an elevator and a man gets on and smiles politely at you, do you back away from him or get off and wait for another elevator?

    I ask because these are the sorts of things that I’m arguing against. Just meeting a man at a bar and doing a risk assessment isn’t what I find frustrating, it’s the idea that Person A might be treating Person B differently despite Person B not having done anything to warrant Person A’s suspicion.

    (Also, if you really want to know: I typically trust people until they give me a reason not to, so in all of your examples, no I don’t treat any of those people as “potential” anythings unless they give me a reason to. Even if the thoughts pop into my head, I don’t let them affect how I treat my fellow humans. Yes I have the privilege of not having to worry about being raped, so I wouldn’t generalize this to others, but you specifically asked about me and that’s the honest answer.)

  234. 234
    doktorzoom

    How can you say Mallorie’s not empathetic? She seems to have tons of empathy for hypothetical victims of PTSD survivors, who just need to get their act together for the sake of everyone else.

  235. 235
    bigdumbguy

    Good post! Thank you. Although I am white, I am big and tall (~250 lb., ~6’5″) and male, and so I’ve made many of the same accommodations, including shuffling my feet when behind someone and stepping back a good distance after ringing a door bell/knocking. Sometimes, I end up crossing the street to avoid frightening someone. Like your experience with your co-worker, I tend to send my wife (both female and much less intimidating looking, generally) to ring a doorbell or approach someone–especially a child.

    Similarly, I’ve always loved children, ‘mugging’ (making faces) at them and trying to get laughs, but I only do so in public when my wife is right there; when alone, I never acknowledge a child as existing unless I am talking to their parent. Single men, especially, have to take many such precautions around children as well as around women.

    As I remember one study, the researchers came to the conclusion that men were less empathetic as they were so much less likely to approach a crying child–but, I know I would be very empathetic and, while it would pain me greatly not to help, it just isn’t a role I am allowed by society to play (I would find my wife, another female, or an authority figure, unless it was a really obvious emergency). At least, I rarely feel that I will be personally in physical danger or sexually violated.

    I wish there were other solutions to these unfortunate circumstances, but I don’t know what they are. Perhaps, racism will diminish, but are some men always going to be sex abusers and rapists, so tainting all men with suspicion?

  236. 236
    pengray

    There’s no “line”. It’s just about trying to be considerate about not making others uncomfortable.

    By the way, I think you have a rather skewed view of self-defence.

    “Feeling threatened” alone does NOT give anyone the legal right to injure or kill someone; and as far as I know, claims of self-defence are investigated just as any other case of violence. If it is found that you were using excessive force (or were unjustified in using force at all), you’ll be tried and judged just like any other criminal.

  237. 237
    doktorzoom

    I’m remembering that episode of “TV Nation” where they filmed multiple taxicabs driving right past well-dressed black actor Yaphet Kotto…and stopping a block or so away for a Louis Bruno, a white man (with multiple felony convictions in his past) wearing jeans and a T-shirt.

  238. 238
    Brad

    @Alverant:

    have to ask the question, what’s the limit? How far should we [men] be willing to go to make sure we don’t accidently seem threatening to women.

    I don’t know that it’s all that complicated.

    We (men) are being told by some women “here are some specific situations that make me (and probably some other women) uncomfortable. I’d feel much better it if you didn’t do these specific things in these kinds of situations.”

    So now we (men) have the choice: do we hear this advice and allow ourselves to consider a different perspective when we find ourselves in that situation in the future? One that just might (depending on the exact scenario) cause us to make different choices than we would have before? Give us new information for our arsenal of understanding social cues?

    [snark] If we had to give it a name, we might call it learning something, or perhaps trying to become a better person. [/snark]

    Or do we instead say “thanks for trying to show me how to understand you better, but I’m much rather ignore your advice and do what I’ve always done, no matter how much it bothers you”? (Otherwise known as being an asshole, especially now since you can no longer use the defense of ignorance.)

    Oops, closed my [/snark] tag too early :)

  239. 239
    joed

    wow, i just seldom hear anyone talking about the “white privileged society”
    Professor Robert Jensen at UTexas Austin and Tim Wise
    are two white guys that really have much excellent, honest and profound information and knowledge about the White Privilege that we live in.
    Thanks for the excellent post here.

  240. 240
    Cipher

    Oh hell! Thank you for sharing that, because I do the same things (especially the eye contact one, which is going to be pretty hard to do anything about but I’ll work on it) and I didn’t even think about that aspect of it. Damn. Well, something to add to my mental social situations flowchart :)

  241. 241
    Cipher

    nunya bidness, huh? Is this you? Because, um, if so, gross, and hypocritical.

  242. 242
    Marnie

    @Zach

    You are asking me about how I personally react and that is fine and I will tell you but it’s missing the forest for the trees. But here you go…

    If you’re alone on an elevator and a man gets on and smiles politely at you, do you back away from him or get off and wait for another elevator?

    No, I often say hi to people in elevators just to break the silence. As a general rule, someone else in an elevator of any race, gender or age, who is just being pleasant is of no concern to me either way.

    But, if that man propositions me, that does make me uncomfortable not because I am offended but because I am now confined and he has expressed a physical interest in me and I’ve had a fair number of experiences with men who don’t take even very polite rejection well. I’m not scared he will rape me, I’m just alert that the situation has an added level of potential risk. This means that when I say “no thank you” or “oh, I’m married, but thank you,” I am doing my very best to avoid allowing anything to escalate.

    A similar analogy for you might be that you are in an elevator, there’s another person in there who says hi. Then the person turns to you and asks for money, possibly doing so while standing in front of the exit. Even if that person isn’t particularly imposing, they have changed the dynamic of the situation in a way that may make you a little more alert. Not horrified and cringing, but still more aware of the situation. You know that some people who ask for money may get angry when you reject them and while you may feel you aren’t necessarily in particular danger, you’d rather avoid any conflict altogether (I’m assuming). How you address the situation may differ based on their body language, their size and your ability to escape the situation.

  243. 243
    Marnie

    @Alverant

    FYI, my name is Marnie, you’ve spelled it wrong a couple times. I find it helpful just to copy and paste the person’s name because I’m terrible about spelling names correctly even when I’m looking right at them.

    No hard feelings, but I thought I’d mention it.

    All I asked is when do we draw the line. When does being nervous become paranoia? When does concern over perceived threats become unresonable?

    Just as I cannot tell you that you MUST cross the street or not corner a strange woman and proposition her, you can’t tell someone she can’t be paranoid or overly concerned. We are not talking about how people feel or what they must do, we are talking about social cues that mean different things at different times and different places. If don’t want to cross the street or give a person a wide berth, you are free to do what you like for whatever reasons you deem appropriate.

    I find it somewhat tiresome when I’m walking a perfectly happy dog on leash and someone scoops up his or her child and crosses the street in abject fear. But I also know that not everyone is comfortable with dogs and some have had really frightening experiences. There are also people who react less dramatically but may still have a fear of dogs. I take it upon myself to try to gauge people’s body language long before I get to them so that I can give them a bit of space if they need it. Obviously, there are times when that’s not possible, but it doesn’t put me out terribly to be conscientious of my fellow human beings even if it seems to me that dog body language is dead easy to read and the other person should see they have nothing to fear. When someone seems overly dramatic about the whole thing, I still try to be kind but I might roll my eyes a little too. So be it. If you care about putting people at ease, you can treat the situation the same way. Yah, some people over react. You took the high road, were kind and then moved on with your life. If you don’t want to worry about what other people think, then you just have to accept that some people will act uncomfortable around you.

    This goes beyond gender or rape. Guns make everyone equal. A woman running behind you can be just as big of a threat as a man.

    I never said you couldn’t be assaulted by a woman. You just choose not to consider that as a potential risk and for where you live and what you do and where you go and how able you are to defend yourself, it may make sense not to worry about a person running at you. You might feel differently in other situations.

  244. 244
    Pteryxx

    if there were, and it were an honest signal (i.e. not used deceptively ever), then life would be simpler for all of us.

    Well, there KIND of is… it’s “respecting people’s boundaries”. Consideration for others, generally realized as being polite, willing to back off, and willing to apologize when necessary, almost always indicates a decent person.

  245. 245
    Ysanne

    I don’t know the social standards of knocking at other people’s door where you live, but in Germany and Hungary it’s considered pushy and rude not to take a step back.
    Precisely for the reason of respecting other’s space and boundaries — which can be interpreted anywhere on the scale from simple bad manners to a manifest threat, depending on the specific situation and people involved.

    Now a house (and its doorstep) is someone’s private space, so it’s reasonable to expect people to wait for permission/invitation to enter it. However, a sidewalk in a public street belongs to everybody — so the standards for private space are not the ones to apply.

  246. 246
    Pteryxx

    @bigdumbguy:

    What burns me is that people will jump to suspicion of any sufficiently male-looking (or odd looking) person who’s anywhere near a child in a well-traveled public place, while simultaneously overlooking actual child-raping predators because “They’re such pillars of the community!”

    *headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

    And yes, because I’m scary-strange (and also blunt and clueless) I stay well away from kids unless I’ve spoken or made eye contact with their guardian adults. Then I do it anyway, because I want kids to learn they can talk to respectful weird people who might be drawing in public or wearing live rats. *sigh*

  247. 247
    Pteryxx

    Likewise with the eye contact and such. I’ve found that a deliberate nod and smile toward the person seems to work okay in lieu of eye contact, at least among strangers where no conversation’s expected. (It doesn’t work at all in the workplace. <_< )

  248. 248
    carlie

    Alverant – it’s carlie. And the one instance of exaggeration is your whole basis for the rant you gave; your entire argument is based on the idea that you are being asked to change your behavior in an onerous and ridiculously accommodating way. So yeah, it is important.

  249. 249
    Angra Mainyu

    Regarding Comrade Physioprof’s argument, I don’t agree with his reasoning.

    Let’s suppose, for the sake of the argument, that there is a social environment in which there is a high chance that a man (but not a woman) would attack and beat up a stranger (but even more likely that they would attack men).

    Would women be acting in a sexist manner if they were afraid of strange men, but not of strange women?

    It seems clear to me that the answer is “no”.

    They would be justified in that context, regardless of whether men are at a greater risk.

    If by “X is sexist” you mean something like “X is irrationally afraid of people of gender G, but not of a different gender”, or “X is afraid of people of gender G more than X is afraid of people of gender ¬G in a way that is disproportionate to the relative threat they pose, based on the information available to X”, then the fear would not generally be irrational in that context (though it might be in specific cases, of course).

    If by “X is sexist” you mean something like “X hates people of gender G”, or “X believes people of gender G are inferior”, then a it does not follow that women would be acting in sexist manner – but the concepts based on fear seem to be the most fitting ones in this context.

    My point is that whether or not Black people are at a greater risk of being the victims of crime does not imply that those White people are being racist in the context under consideration.

    Also, that White people are more likely to be victims of crimes committed by other White people may look more relevant at first, but upon further consideration, that’s not the relevant point, either.

    For instance – and to put an extreme example, but I hope the relevance issue is clear -, it’s more likely for a man to be killed by a mosquito (which carries some serious illness) than by a (healthy) wild tiger, but it would not be speciesist for a man to fear any healthy wild tiger, but not any mosquito, in a face-to-face encounter.

    On the other hand, what seems to have relevance in terms of the rationality of the fear (which may not be all crime, but some kinds of violent crime) is whether a White person is equal or more likely to attack another White person, than a Black person is (considering similar kind of attacks, effects, etc.).

    If the answer is “yes”, then those White people who fear an attack by a Black person – but not by a White person – would be acting in a racist manner, as long as they have access to the data.

    Else, then it depends on the likelihood in question, and how much information they have about it: It may be that the White person in question is still being a racist, if he reacts with relative fear that is not proportionate to the relative likelihood of attack, given the information available to them.

    Regarding whether the comparison between the two cases (i.e., women afraid of men vs. White people afraid of Black people), I’d say that that depends on factors such as how likely it is that a man (or maybe a healthy adult unknown man, or whatever the feared group actually is) would attack a woman vs. how likely it is that a Black person (or maybe a healthy adult unknown Black man, or whatever the feared group actually is) would attack a White person, as well as what exactly “treating all men as potential rapists” entails vs. “treating all Black people” entails (in reality, it’s not all people in those categories who are feared, and the kind of treatment one is talking about may vary significantly).

    Side note: Of course, it seems obvious that being afraid of all Black people (including, say, old ladies) would be racist in realistic contexts, and the same goes for women being afraid of all men (including, say, 90 years old men and generally men weaker than they are), but I don’t think that those cases are the most common.

  250. 250
    Ysanne

    Funny you should bring up the bike/bell situation: In my experience (of 23 years of bike commuting) it’s a classic “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” thing.
    Zipping past people without them hearing me come up is scary for them, and puts me at risk of them swerving into me because they don’t even know I’m there.
    But giving a warning with the bell startles them, too, sometimes making them jump/swerve right into my way (in a completely understandable attempt to evading something coming from behind that they haven’t located yet) instead of going along their nicely predictable path. Plus, it regularly gets me tirades of harassing them, since what is intended as a polite warning gets misinterpreted as a rude “get out of the way”-shout.

    Interestingly, this problem doesn’t come up between car drivers… because cars have rear-view mirrors and drivers know it’s their responsibility to keep track of what’s behind them instead of just minding where they are going.

    What I’m trying to say here is: It’s important to be considerate to the people around you to make everyone’s life nicer. But this doesn’t only apply to those that are commonly considered the “threat” (fast bikers, quiet joggers, big men, etc) — the “victims” (slow bikers, people easily startled for whatever reason, small females, etc) also need to contribute to co-existence: E.g. by keeping track of the traffic around them, or giving people a hint that they need extra distance, or voicing their concerns when they feel uncomfortable.

  251. 251
    Cipher

    Again speaking from personal experience, because that seems to be the kind of information you’re looking for, Zach:

    I would smile back, nod, and back away, while running through my options. Whether I got off the elevator would depend on a lot of factors – there would be risk assessment going on, as well as some anxiety-calming. Being on the autism spectrum, I have reason to believe that my interpretations of body language may be somewhat off, so I would not trust myself to assess a “polite” smile correctly, so that part of the scenario isn’t very helpful. I have been given excellent reasons to trust almost no one, and I’m far from alone in that. My demographics and history mean it’s far from unthinkable that I will be raped again, and my first priority is always going to be protecting myself. Not everything is about the poor innocent man, and he will just have to deal with the pain of seeing a small woman backing away from him or getting off an elevator. Shock horror. If you really want to cry about the plight of the poor poor non-rapist man, fine. We can trade horror stories all day – yours about people getting out of elevators and keeping their distance, ours about people… well… not keeping their distance at all. That’ll be fun, huh?

    And frankly, I’m not sure you’re in any place to tell us how to apply skepticism when you’ve admitted that you trust strangers until they give you a reason not to. Please don’t argue with us about how we assess risks when you patently have no idea what we have to live with.

  252. 252
    Pteryxx

    @Ysanne re bike bells:

    I’d add to that, “learn about your community”. When I was new to my college campus, the first few bike bells I heard startled me into turning suddenly (and one time I knocked some poor biker flying with my backpack). Once bike bells were familiar, I learned to move right and yield the sidewalk cutouts, and signal with my head which way I was walking in case of *silent* bikes approaching. (They don’t all have bells, or use them.)

    Honestly, a lot of this stuff could be folded into general orientations, diversity training or sensitivity training, or heck, manners.

  253. 253
    ischemgeek

    ^ Zach, thing is it’s very similar to what Ian was talking about in the OP: As a woman, if you’re aware of your surroundings and society’s constant message to you, you can’t not be aware of it. Safeguarding your safety is an all-the-time job.

    You’re looking at the stats the wrong way. Let’s look at a different scenario: Your odds of dying in a car wreck in your life (according to the numbers Google spits out) is somewhere around 1 in 84. You probably still wear your seatbelt to mitigate this risk, though.

    By comparison, 1 in 5 is huge. Do women still seem so irrational for taking precautions to try to avoid dangerous situations?

    If we do, then why do you wear your seatbelt? After all, women taking slightly inconvenient safety precautions to attempt to lower and/or control our risk of something that affects one in five of us is irrational, so how irrational is taking a slightly inconvenient safety precaution to attempt to lower and/or control your risk of something that (according to the stats) will only affect 1 in 84 people.

    And that’s without taking into account sexual assault that is not rape, sexual harrassment, and other crimes that disproportionately affect women.

  254. 254
    Ysanne

    I hope you do realize how much of a non-argument this is.
    A broken foot and the resulting need that others keep the floor clear of clutter one could trip over (something that most people think is a sensible thing to do even without people on crutches around) are
    1) very obvious — as opposed to heightened fear of and extreme reactions to otherwise ordinary things (such as almost smashing a lunch-box into a random person’s face) without any perceivable warning;
    2) temporary — and something is being done to address the underlying problem;
    3) specific to a given person’s specific situation — not being generalized to all people on the basis of sex, race, size or other attribute that is pre-determined by birth.

    Apples and oranges really.

  255. 255
    ladyh42

    Skipping comments for the moment to just say this; I heart you forever for this post.

  256. 256
    Cipher

    Why do people keep assuming nothing’s being done to address the underlying problem? O.o

  257. 257
    julian

    Liam, your statistics are a little out of date. I don’t really know if what that report states has held true since the late 80′s or if the rates of gone down or up.

    Anyway, while it does list men as being 70% more likely to be robbed and 2x as likely to be assaulted, the report doesn’t seem to take into account female rates of sexual harassment like gropings or pinching certain body parts or sexual violence other than rape (and even then statutory rape cases that don’t involve physical force are excluded)

    So while, yes, when the threat is violence and violence only men seem to be more often targeted than women but, honestly, that sounds even more fucked up to me. Women are targeted for sexual violence. If I’m attacked I have possibly a beating to look forward to. If my wife is attacked…

  258. 258
    julian

    @CC

    Probably because they’re determined to view you as the bad guy no matter what.

    @Ysanne

    How fucking dare you assume someone on crutches needs you to pick up after them, or hold open doors or carry things for them. Don’t you realize how incredibly condescending and dismissive it is for you to just assume they need you to do anything for them? Jesus, you’re just trying to infatalize people.

    More seriously

    1)Being mindful of others is pretty obvious
    2)Things are being done. Among them is trying to improve the well being and health of rape survivors. Not giving them anxiety and panic attacks is kinda up there.
    3)Funny thing, depending on the nature of the disability and individual you’re always going to be tailoring how you ‘help.’ I’ve been yelled at for trying to hold the door open for people on crutches or offering to carry bags for them.

  259. 259
    Ysanne

    We (men) are being told by some women “here are some specific situations that make me (and probably some other women) uncomfortable. I’d feel much better it if you didn’t do these specific things in these kinds of situations.”
    [...]
    Or do we instead say “thanks for trying to show me how to understand you better, but I’m much rather ignore your advice and do what I’ve always done, no matter how much it bothers you”? (Otherwise known as being an asshole, especially now since you can no longer use the defense of ignorance.)

    You’re missing the step of evaluating how reasonable or trivial the situation in question is (e.g. “following the woman in a park after dark for half an hour” vs “passing her on a wide sidewalk in bright daylight”).
    Not everything that bothers someone is everybody else’s responsibility to fix. Figuring out where “obviously reasonable” ends, where “ridiculously extreme” begins, and what to do with the stuff in between is the hard bit.

    Your answer not only completely misses the question here, it even suggests that uncritical compliance is the only way to not be an asshole.

  260. 260
    julian

    You’re missing the step of evaluating how reasonable or trivial the situation in question is

    And you’re missing the whole relevance thing.

    The comment expresses the entirely radical idea of ‘take other’s comfort levels into consideration.’ That’s where it ends. It doesn’t have to be complicated… unless of course you want it to be but that’s more or less on you.

  261. 261
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    There’s a huge difference between jumping to the interesting/appealing part of a scenario, and having a particular transition in mind. If I’m daydreaming about sex with an existing partner, the thoughts don’t tend to stop for whose bed we’re going to be in, or whether this will be before or after dinner, or which of us says “so, do you want to?” or the mechanics of removing my shoes. I already know that, broadly speaking, we are each interested in sex with the other; the answer at a given time may be “not now” (for any number of reasons), but it’s not “and don’t ask me again,” even if it isn’t explicitly “give me some time to digest that huge meal.”

    Assuming that because the fantasy skips past that mundane stuff I want not to have to ask is like assuming that if I’m daydreaming about a really good meal, I would object to having to tell someone what I wanted for dinner, do some of the cooking, or pay if I was in a restaurant.

  262. 262
    Lod

    Your flippant remarks simply reveal your own shortcomings not mine, Bro’.

  263. 263
    Ysanne

    There is a difference between “taking into consideration” and “having as your highest priority”. And you’re missing it, too.

  264. 264
    Pteryxx

    Hi everybody, I’m Pteryxx, Speaks-to-Strangers, and this other person does not speak for me. Thank y’all for sharing your thoughts and anecdotes in this huge-ass thread. I’m glad to meet you and learn more about the world that has you in it.

  265. 265
    Marnie

    @Ysanne

    There is a difference between “taking into consideration” and “having as your highest priority”. And you’re missing it, too.

    I actually did a search on the page for “highest priority” and cannot find anyone who has used that term except in this quote from you. Risk analysis is “taking into consideration” no one here said that a man walking past is the “highest priority.”

    People may not assess the same level of risk as you but you seem to think that the topic is moot if anyone has ever over reacted in any situation.

    I feel like it’s been said a million times, but I’ll say it again. No one is tell you that you have to change your behavior, people are talking about behavior that can make some people uneasy. It’s no different than someone telling you that it makes some people uncomfortable if dramatically scratch your crotch in public or pick your nose. You can choose to ignore that bit of etiquette advice guess what, people will have less than flattering thoughts about you.

    That’s all this topic is about.

  266. 266
    julian

    Your flippant remarks simply reveal your own shortcomings not mine, Bro’.

    No, your shit argument took care of that.

  267. 267
    Ysanne

    @CC,
    to be honest, from your postings in your exchange about the (fortunately averted) metal-lunchbox-reflex with Mallorie I get the impression that you think that trauma justifies behaviour that endangers people who share the streets with you, and nothing really needs to be done about it.
    I’m extremely sorry for what happened to you, I really wish you all the best. But I refuse to subscribe to the idea that the quite extreme needs of heavily traumatized people should be the basis of everyday human interaction in public spaces.
    When you suggest that men should cross the street so you feel comfortable, you’re ultimately implying that there should be a men’s and a women’s side of the street.
    Yes, it’s unfair to you the way it is. I’m honestly sorry.

    .
    .

    @julian,
    I really hope you’re being sarcastic… Otherwise I should probably claim that I feel uncomfortable because you’re resorting to expletives and threatening language (“how fucking dare you”), and that it’s very chauvinistic of you to tell me what to think about having a broken leg — been there, done that, twice, including surgery, a nice big scar, months of walking on crutches, and hilarious situations with kids going “Mom, does that woman have a wooden leg?” upon seeing me.

    How fucking dare you assume someone on crutches needs you to pick up after them, or hold open doors or carry things for them.

    I don’t assume anything of the kind. I think — and said! — that people should pick up after themselves by default, and in particular when somebody is likely to trip over the mess.
    The condescending stuff about a need to have stuff picked up after them, have doors held open or stuff carried were all made up by you. Nice try though.

    2)Things are being done. Among them is trying to improve the well being and health of rape survivors. Not giving them anxiety and panic attacks is kinda up there.

    So by doing stuff such as “jogging past them”, I give the (otherwise unrecognizable) rape victims panic attacks? I guess such cruel and inconsiderate behaviour just *makes* them bash me with a lunchbox and it’s really my fault to assume that people on the street are ok with me using it, too.

    3)Funny thing, depending on the nature of the disability and individual you’re always going to be tailoring how you ‘help.’ I’ve been yelled at for trying to hold the door open for people on crutches or offering to carry bags for them.

    Well, not everyone is able to decline a polite offer of help in a civilized manner, and a broken leg doesn’t suddenly impart this skill… So what?

    I do love though how you contradict yourself. In 2) you ask for extra-special consideration (including giving up one’s own rights) to be extended to everybody, just in case they’re too traumatized to deal with otherwise normal behaviour. Before 1) and in 3) you explain how assuming someone could use help or even offering it is condescending and infantilizing.

  268. 268
    Leni

    Ha! As long as your break dancing doesn’t look like this, you’re probably ok. Can’t be worse than my Elaine vs Ed Grimley dance.

  269. 269
    Cipher

    No, my story is meant to inform you that this is a reaction that people have, for understandable reasons, and they may not be able to control it. While Mallorie et al. may prefer me to, I cannot actually afford to stay in my house or anywhere else until I’m “all better” (not that that’s actually going to happen anytime soon) – I have to go out in public. And really – can you think about what it would mean, if I actually had the option stay in my house? Sure, it’s not okay that I have defensive startle reactions, it’s not fair to fear that strangers are rapists, whatever. Can you tell me how it’s fair that I should have no access whatsoever to any semblance of a normal life, until I “get over” being subjected to violence? As you may notice if you actually read the story, I did not actually hurt anybody, merely reacted with the reflex of preparing to strike, which, as others have noted, is quite common both among people with PTSD and, to a lesser extent, people without it. And I was ill and horrified by the fact that I could have hurt a stranger. Can you tell me how you got the impression that I think that’s okay? Can you tell me how you got so fucking confused that you think I’m, like, contentedly living traumatized, making no effort to climb out of the hell someone else put me in? Since you’re confused, I’ll tell you: I work very hard every day to keep my fear under control, to reduce the number of flashbacks, to sleep without nightmares, to remember that I’m a person and not a thing, to learn to trust those people who have demonstrated they are trustworthy, to be prepared to push back against people who don’t respect my boundaries. But it’s hard going, and no matter what, I’m going to live with the memory of what happened to me for the rest of my life. So sorry that people are expected to fucking coddle me by not sneaking up on me. Shit.

  270. 270
    Saint Gasoline

    I agree, everyone should definitely go out of their way to make white people comfortable, even if those expectations that would make them comfortable are entirely unreasonable. Black men should, upon seeing a white man in the street, immediately cross to the other side, and in the event that there are white men on the other side as well, they should jump into the bushes and hide themselves, or at least pull out a spare argyle sweater and/or sportcoat that they keep handy for such occasions, put it on, and then do the Carlton dance to put the wary white men at ease.

    Similarly, if women are talking about how all men are potential rapists, that makes white men incredibly anxious and uncomfortable. These women should thus take your example and bend over backwards to make sure these privileged people do not feel threatened, either by remaining completely silent at all times or else by denying the existence of rape or the possibility of even being raped by a man.

    Obviously, I’m joking here, but you can probably see where I’m going with this. I am quite aware that African Americans may have to go out of their way to put silly white people at ease. The point is, however, that they shouldn’t HAVE to do that. If you are NOT a mugger and a criminal, then THEY’RE the ones with the problem for assuming you’re one. Don’t be an apologist for this sort of implicit racism by making it seem like you are obligated to placate irrational fears.

    Is it nice to put people at ease? Sure! But how can you put someone at ease if your identity itself, as a black person, or a man, is primarily what makes that person uneasy? And what of your own unease? I’m sure you’ve felt pretty shitty as a result of all these sort of assumptions yourself. It’s not clear-cut either way whose feelings matter more, whose are more reasonable, and so on. However, I think the person who assumes all men are rapists is probably a lot less reasonable than the person who is upset that someone would view all men as potential rapists. Most men, in fact are NOT rapists, and most black men are NOT muggers.

    If someone were deathly afraid every time they so much as read about or saw a black person, we wouldn’t expect black people to placate this unreasonable fear, and we’d rightly expect the person who is afraid to do her best to conquer this fear that is implicitly racist. This would also mean, of course, that black men should not go about jumping out of bushes to scare her or sprinting at her while screaming maniacally, as that would just be cruel. Even fears that aren’t entirely reasonable deserve some level of basic empathy and consideration.

    What those considerations will entail will be open to interpretation. In regards to sexism, for example, I think it is mostly unreasonable to assume most men are rapists and I think that a man asking a woman to “come to his room for coffee” in a non-threatening manner on an elevator is engaging in something relatively harmless (after all, all of the arguments for why that is threatening tend to hinge heavily on the fact that the man is “alone” with the woman on the elevator, which would seem to imply that not only is it wrong to proposition women, but also to ride with women on elevators). I can see both sides of the argument, of course, but it is not nearly as cut-and-dry as some like to make it seem.

    With racism, the scenario is similar.

    In short, we should do our best to put people at ease and we shouldn’t go out of our way to make them uncomfortable, but if they are afraid of you because of your very IDENTITY then you shouldn’t feel obligated to put these people at ease; THEY should feel obligated to stop being racist and have temper their fears to be more reasonable.

  271. 271
    Ysanne

    The question is if “taking into consideration” other people’s comfort level is the same as “making their comfort level and what needs to be done to keep it high one’s highest priority”.
    Not risk analysis.

    And this bit

    Or do we instead say “thanks for trying to show me how to understand you better, but I’m much rather ignore your advice and do what I’ve always done, no matter how much it bothers you”? (Otherwise known as being an asshole, especially now since you can no longer use the defense of ignorance.)

    in my opinion clearly says:
    “If you know something you do makes someone else uncomfortable, and you still keep on doing it, you’re an asshole.”

    This completely ignores the needs/comfort/motivations/whatever of the person that was labelled an “asshole”, and assumes the comfort of the first person as the highest priority.

  272. 272
    Leni

    Melodydiaz, that is really a brilliant idea.

    I’m an atheist and I’ll sometimes hear “but you’re so nice for an atheist!” My stock reply is a good-natured (as opposed to angry, even if I am) “And you’re really nice for a Christian!”

    The pause while that sinks in is just golden.

  273. 273
    Saint Gasoline

    Wearing a seatbelt doesn’t discriminate against another person, though, so it’s not a good analogy. You wear a seatbelt even though the chances of an accident are low because there is no downside to wearing it. The downside to treating all men as rapists, though, is that you’re treating people who probably aren’t rapists as, well, rapists.

    Also, when you say “The chances might be not that high, but the cost when you err is too big to risk it,” that’s the exact same kind of reasoning that got us into the Iraq war, which is a more fitting example than a seatbelt because there are costs on both sides.

  274. 274
    Aspen

    Now if only more men were merely thoughtful and considerate like you are; we wouldn’t even be having these debates. This should be #1 on the How to Be a Man guide.

  275. 275
    julian

    The condescending stuff about a need to have stuff picked up after them, have doors held open or stuff carried were all made up by you.

    Yeah, I was trying to mirror all the absurd accusations and leaps you’ve been making. Sorry [not really] that wasn’t clearer.

    So by doing stuff such as “jogging past them”, I give the (otherwise unrecognizable) rape victims panic attacks?

    *points to first response*

    Seriously, though, if you want to be around other people you need to be willing to factor in that your behavior and actions can affect others. You kinda need to be considerate and stuff.

    Which isn’t to say you can’t enjoy the sidewalk or a bike path or whatever. Just that you need to remember there are other people on it. People you know nothing about. You don’t know their experiences, how their day is going or how they might respond to a perceived threat.

    So, hear me out, try to be understanding when or if something happens. It probably won’t (most who suffer from PTSD and the like seem to be a greater threat to themselves than to others) but if it does try not to be so self centered.

    you ask for extra-special consideration (including giving up one’s own rights

    *points to first response again*

  276. 276
    julian

    I find it sickeningly ironic that ClassicalCipher, someone who has PTSD, is on the Autism spectrum, a survivor of multiple rapes and violently abusive environments and likely spends more time trying to see the world through the eyes of other people than most of the posters here is being berated for sharing her emotional response to a situation she perceived as being snuck up on. She didn’t hurt anyone and went about her day without causing someone injury yet her moment of fear is enough for some to declare her unfit to live among people.

    CC, I’m sorry you have to deal with this kinda crap.

  277. 277
    Cipher

    Thanks, Julian, for being supportive :) The friendly faces are much appreciated. I’m not too hurt by it anymore, just angry, and kinda unpleasantly perplexed by the fact that people would rather individually pathologize me than engage with the fact that society consists of people with histories, and those histories frequently include traumatic events.

  278. 278
    Cynthia

    Crommunist, you made me cry. And that is not an easy thing to do. You made the perfect post about sexism and I thank you for it.

    As a female in a majority male field, life was – difficult. The men I worked with were not “bad” guys, but they were so very sexist. And it took a lot of my time and effort to get all of us to a place where they understood what they were doing and why it bothered me. And that, at least around me, they could not behave that way and have it pass unremarked. If this post had been available then, I would have printed it out for each of them and taped it to their foreheads.

    Since I can’t do that, I’ll give it to my teenage kids. They’re already disgusted that rape is so much a ‘blaming the victim’ thing. And the reality that people can be afraid of you for your size or skin will enrage them. This post will just give them a great example of how to write a persuasive essay and how to make their momma cry with pride. And one small blow for the civilized future of humankind will be struck. It’s all I can do right now.

    Thanks again for being a great writer.

    And now I need to get a tissue for the tears!

  279. 279
    Randy

    While it appears considerate to adjust your behaviour in response to irrational prejudice, you are in fact accommodating the prejudice and enabling it to continue.

    The essence of prejudice is treating an entire group as different from the general population, ignoring the individual, logic, and common sense.

    It is plainly sexist to view all men as rapists. While most rape is committed by men, most men do not rape. It’s important not to get it backward.

  280. 280
    Crommunist

    Thank you for commenting without reading the post first. It’s a refreshing change.

  281. 281
    Cipher

    No one is saying all men are rapists.
    We are saying that since the rapists do not wear neon signs, we do not know which men they are, and must do our risk assessment accordingly.

  282. 282
    julian

    I can see both sides of the argument, of course

    No you don’t. That you believe people here have been arguing most or all men are rapist is enough to make that clear.

    Also, I love how the group of people who’ve called Rebecca Watson untold retched things for ‘speaking for all women’ are now trying to tell The Crommunist how to be a proper black man and how to fight racism.

    Most men, in fact are NOT rapists, and most black men are NOT muggers.

    And yet despite not all men being rapists women are almost exclusively raped by men and sexually harassed at a horrifying rate. Again, by men. So what do you suggest women concerned about being targeted by sexual violence do around strangers or in places they feel vulnerable in?

  283. 283
    Ysanne

    @CC,
    please don’t get all defensive. I absolutely don’t mean that you should stay locked up at home, that you should/could “just get over it”, that you wouldn’t try to overcome defensive reflexes; and it’s pretty obvious you’re not living contentedly traumatized and in fear for fun.
    (And just in case: I really don’t want to sound condescending with “yeah, I understand” stuff because there’s no way I could know how it really feels what you went through; I’m simply sorry.)

    What made me think that you considered the “near miss” with the lunchbox (or rather, the possibility of a hit) acceptable was the way you described it as a realistic and reasonable response. It seemed that you meant “whacking jogger as response to running up”, which suggested that you’d be fine with getting into a situation in which you knew you posed a danger to those around you (through no fault of theirs or your own).

    Reading your last post, I guess I should have understood “reflexes as response to trauma”.
    Sorry for jumping to conclusions.

  284. 284
    RobertL

    I’m a large, bulky white guy who lives in Australia. I was probably a teenager when I first noticed that my presence on the street scares some people.

    So I too shuffle my feet or clear my throat or (my favourite) whistle while I walk along.

    I probably used to resent the fact that people were scared of me for no particular reason. Now that I am a bit wiser, I no longer resent it, but it still saddens me a bit.

  285. 285
    Liam

    “Yeah but it’s not fair” is a whine which misses the point. LIFE is not fair. We have to deal with it anyway. You can deal with it considerately and effectively, or not.

    I’d advise to anyone who ever wants to change anything it this world against using the “lifes not fair” non-argument. It’s a cheap way to dismiss people’s objections to anything. Watch this:

    upset about male privilege? do not think treatment based on your gender is fair? Well “life’s not fair”

    If you do not think people’s objections or grievences are not valid or of concern, there are a number of ways to show this. “life’s not fair” is not one of them.

  286. 286
    Ysanne

    @julian,
    first off, no idea why there’s no “Reply” link underneath your post from 5:10am. I’d use it if there were.

    Second, you’re doing a fine job of evading the actual arguments, alleging “absurd accusations and leaps” without evidence (in order to justify attacking me for stuff you made up), and replying to stuff taken out of context and skewed to suit what you want it to mean.

    Well, at least you’ve managed to refrain from insulting language this time around. But there’s really no point in arguing in this way, when you just refuse to address even a single argument of my whole post, and just go on about something completely different.

  287. 287
    Liam

    This blog post was a response to conversation here about the concept of Scroedingers rapist. It is where every man exists in a quantum superposition of being both a rapist and not a rapist.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers/2012/01/16/schrodingers-rapist-and-schrodingers-racist

  288. 288
    SallyStrange

    Teenagers are narcissists.

    You know who else tends to score high on narcissism tests? Misogynist men.

  289. 289
    Liam

    @Saint Gasoline

    Very bad idea bringing up the elevator thing, the rest of your post could have done without it. It just makes it very easy for people to not address anything else in your post and specifically target that. Unless your entire post requires the inclusion of a reference to E.G, just don’t do it.

  290. 290
    Marta Layton

    This was a really thought-provoking twist on the Schroedinger’s Rapist theme. Thank you for sharing it, and your experience. (I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with that, though not surprised given our culture.)

    I do wonder, though, how analogous white people acting out of fear of minorities are to women acting out of fear of men. I am caucasian so I have never experienced racism myelf, and so I cannot do any more than raise the question as a sincere question. But it seems to me that being subjected to these sorts of interactiosn would leave you feeling angry and perhaps powerless or objectified, but I’m not quite sure it would feel as thoroughly violating as sexual violence. This is not because women are weaker than men, but because the interaction that’s being twisted is so much more intimate by its nature. Many of us are raised up thinking that sex has to involve love, which always involves an element of letting down your guard and being vulnerable. That’s not true with walking down the street.

    (I’m not trying to downplay racism’s seriousness or harmfulness. It is awful, and I hate that anyone has to live with it. I’m just recognizing what to me seems like an important distinction between the two situations.)

    By the way, I wonder if it would be useful to think of race-linked interactions where both people are minorities. I’m reminded of a scene in The Closer where a Latino man (no gang affiliation but in a gang-heavy neighborhood) is shot and a black EMT is afraid to get out of his vehicle to save him until a cop ensures him the scene is under control. The EMT basically says that they can’t help anyone if they get shot themselves – a reasonable position, but I am sure to the people whose family member was just shot and is still not dead, it would be a hard truth to accept.

  291. 291
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I find it interesting how often men and women asses the level of threat differently.
    I’ve had this discussion with my husband who makes that assesment based on “stronger than me-weaker than me”.
    For me, that makes no sense, since “stronger than me” is probably 80% of men age 16-70. So, I actually try to look for other criteria. Which means that I’m more weary of the smaller built neighbour who, from time to time shows anger-management issues than of the bulky built construction worker.

  292. 292
    SallyStrange

    What you’re reading basically amounts to “Tips on How Not to be Mistaken for a Rapist/Sexual Harasser.”

    Is that a problem? Or do you like acting in ways that are indistinguishable from the ways sexual predators behave? What’s your goal here?

  293. 293
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Saint Gasoline
    If I treated all men as rapists I wouldn’t leave the house ever again. So that’s a nice big strawman. I treat some men in certain circumstances as potential rapists, which is quite a big difference.
    Please, tell me how I am discriminating against them by keeping my guard, not going somewhere and not engaging in certain activities with them.
    Do you think I actually owe them my attention, trust, company?
    The cost is actually all on my side.
    Because the fact that I don’t dare to walk dark alleys all by myself does not cost you shit, but restricts my freedom.
    Oh, if I engaged in casual sex I’d also treat everybody as Schrödinger’s STD carrier. Do you think that it would be discriminatory if I set my personal boundary at men having to wear condoms?
    And I treat all other drivers on the road as Schrödinger’s car accident, meaning that I watch their behaviour for mistakes and reckless driving so I can react to it.
    I also treat every dog as Schrödinger’s snappish mongrel, meaning I’m not going to pet it or engage with it without giving the situation some assesment.
    And I treat every person standing behind me at the ATM as Schrödinger’s fraudster, meaning I shield my hand when entering my pin.
    I also treat every stranger who tries to chat up my kids and give them candy as Schrödinger’s child molester.
    Tell me, am I unfairly discriminating against other drivers, sex-partners, dogs, bank clients, candy-strangers as well or only against the strange man in a lonley spot or enclosed space.
    If so, why is that?

  294. 294
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Speaking about the crying child, you can alert somebody who is socially allowed to approach the child with you.
    But you’re right, risk assessment in that area can be pretty shitty.

  295. 295
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    You seem to be chronically unable to make the distinction between a risk-assessment that is supported by data, like 1 in 6 (I’m taking the more conservative data) being a rape victin, 1 in 30 being raped by a stranger, almost every woman having experience with sexual assault, and biased irrational fear that black people are all criminals.
    When you’re done scoring glorious victories against strawmen, come back for some discussion.

  296. 296
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Yep, with 1 in 6 women being victims of rape, being afraid of rape clearly is an irrational fear

    It is plainly sexist to view all men as rapists.

    Good thing nobody is actually doing that.
    Except some men, I’ve noticed….

  297. 297
    Harry Organs

    We make accommodations in speech, behaviour, dress, mannerism, conversation topic
    I’m curious… what exactly does this involve, beyond the common decency expected from every human being?

  298. 298
    Luna_the_cat

    @Pteryxx,

    Well, yeah, but that’s a category of behaviour, which requires situational analysis — a little more complicated than a “secret handshake”, or, say, hopping one leg with your left trouserleg rolled halfway up and saying “we meet on the square but part on the level.” :)

  299. 299
    keddaw

    Fair point about the privileged part. Instead of whites being approached by blacks, let’s make it a black being stopped by a white police officer. Most white police are fair minded and not racist, but I’m betting most black people are afraid when stopped by a white police officer.

  300. 300
    Luna_the_cat

    @Zach,

    I will have to think about how to respond, because Marnie has said everything there that I would like to say, and said it better than I think I would have. Not sure how to add to it without just repeating it all.

    I do not live my life in constant terror of men. Believe it or not, most people don’t, even the ones who are saying that men often do things that make them uncomfortable or even fearful in light of past experience. However, I also have to factor experience of risk indicators into my evaluations of any given situation; and this is certainly influenced by the fact that the overall risk of unpleasant behaviour being directed at me is NOT vanishingly rare, despite the fact that the vast majority of my interactions are quite friendly and pleasant. — In other words, it is not “irrational fear”, but realistic acknowledgement of documentable probabilities.

    And the realistic evaluation of risk/behavioural indicators is I think one of the points being made about the difference between aggression towards women vs. racism. (The other point being made, of course, being that “to set people at ease sometimes it’s worth doing something you personally find unfair.” For which I can only applaud Mr. Crommunist and the other people who are chiming in with “yeah, I guess I do that too.”)

    In the case of something like And in the case of the guy simply walking past you on the street, I also think it’s wrong to expect him to go out of his way just because you’ll be made uncomfortable simply by his presence. …just walking past me in the street? Not a problem, but what are the other circumstances? Is he crowding me despite plenty of room on the pavement? Is he the only other person on an empty street and closing with me fast? Of course it doesn’t mean that he is absolutely going to attack me, but if he were going to attack me, then those are indicators; that’s why, if someone is genuinely uninterested in attacking, AND doesn’t want to make me wary/nervous, then it is useful for them to (a) avoid sending out “high risk” indicator signals and (b) maybe even do small things which indicate low risk. If their desire is not to have me flinch when they show up at my elbow, then that will surely make me more kindly disposed towards them, and less nervous about them.

    I think the thing which has galled so many of us after this whole discussion started is that the position of too many men seems to be “we should be able to do anything we feel like short of actually doing harm, and if it makes women nervous that’s entirely THEIR fault, THEY should change their reactions, WE shouldn’t have to change what we are doing.” I’m not accusing you of falling into this category, but there are certainly many responses which have pretty much taken this line. And that…doesn’t work. Especially if you want more people to hang around you.

    Ok, guess I found plenty to say after all. But I still like how Marnie has put it.

    @Liam,

    The protest I keep hearing by men against having to alter their behaviour in order to not discomfit women in certain situations, is that it is “not fair” to “force” men to act or not act in certain ways, when obviously it’s just womens’ faults that they react in certain ways.

    Well, the point is, it isn’t fair that women have cause to be afraid of some men. And maybe it isn’t fair that other men are penalised for that. But life by itself is NOT fair, that is the reality for everyone, and what we are doing is working on finding ways to make it more fair for everyone by dealing with it effectively. “You can’t [make us] do [X] because it’s not fair” is a dodge, and a dishonest one that ignores all the other constant unfairnesses that we all deal with.

    Try not to miss the point again, ok?

  301. 301
    Pteryxx

    @Luna:

    Yeah, and that’s the problem with it… there’s only a simple, clear-cut rule on the conceptual level.

    Maybe we need some training videos that flash a YIELD sign?

  302. 302
    ischemgeek

    @Gilliel I think it depends on your power level. My boyfriend is Native and mentally ill. Because of these two factors, he’s at a huge social disadvantage to most people. He assesses risk on a large number of factors ranging from “Can I get away with telling you my parentage?” to “how prone to losing your temper are you?” I do the same.

    Most of the gay men I`ve met told me they assess on a number of factors as well… and like my boyfriend and I, they don’t tend to do a one-time assessment and then drop it, but rather an ongoing mental assessment monitor that is constantly being updated.

    By contrast, my dad, who is a tall, straight white guy with a prestigious job, assesses solely on “how likely is it that you could beat me up?” one time. If the person is in the “no threat” category, he dismisses them forever, if they’re in the “maybe threat” category, he’ll re-assess periodically, and if they’re in the “yes threat” category, he’s very wary around them forever. But unlike the rest of us, he doesn’t put in the mental effort of constantly assessing and re-assessing threat.

    So, while I admit that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not necessarily a gender-divide thing but a power-divide thing. People who are more likely to be at risk have to assess risk more.

  303. 303
    ischemgeek

    Speaking as someone who’s more often a pedestrian than a cyclist (drivers in my city are insane and the cops are strict about sidewalk-cycling so since I’m not willing to risk life and limb or a several hundred dollar fine for a faster commute, I walk or jog), have you considered it might relate to when you ring the bell? If cyclists start ringing a good ways away, I don’t start, but if they wait until they’re right on top of me, it’s startling because it can sound like the cyclist is about to hit you and is ringing in a “Oh shit! I’m about to hit you! Move out of the way!” sort of way.

    The cyclists I like are the ones that start ringing about ten meters or so behind me and keep ringing every few feet as they approach: Reason being that I can then hear where they are in comparison to me and what direction they’re going in, as a kind of sonar for where the bike is. Or if you must ring only once, ring at a decent distance away so I have time to look over my shoulder and see where you are before you pass.

  304. 304
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Ischemgeek
    Maybe it’s also privilege
    Yeah, you can tell what privilege I have by my comment. I was talking about straight, white, able guys in a white kids club country.
    Shame on me.
    That’s not meant ironically. I’m trying to learn, but regularly fuck up.

  305. 305
    Luna_the_cat

    @ischemgeek

    So, while I admit that the plural of anecdote isn’t data, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not necessarily a gender-divide thing but a power-divide thing. People who are more likely to be at risk have to assess risk more.

    More anecdote, I’ve had some experience with abused kids, and I’ve seen them go in one of two directions: either embedding themselves in the “potentially violent bully” category in order to claim the power difference that they’ve been on receiving end of for themselves, and often learning how to play on other peoples’ fears; or becoming extra vigilant for social cues, and doing constant reassessment of the “threat level” of the people around them in order to head off trouble. The people who just do a one-off assessment and then go happily on their way expecting other people to simply adapt to expectation, yes, I think those are generally the people secure at the top of the social ladder. They don’t pay constant attention to the internal state of those around them because they don’t have to.

    The TL;DR version is that I completely support the notion that social sensitivity isn’t a biological gender thing, OR a race thing for that matter, it’s a power thing.

  306. 306
    Luna_the_cat

    This could be problematic to answer. I think for many of the people here (me included) the “common decency” umbrella pretty much covers it. On the other hand, there are people who discard the notion of any type of reining in behaviour (short of not desecrating the corpse of their grandmother on the dining room table, at least) for the sake of “common decency”, as being oppressive and trampling on their right to “be themselves.” That disagreement on what falls under the rubric of “common decency” and its worth seems to be at least part of the overall divide.

  307. 307
    AndromedaCat

    I just wanted to say that I thought this was an excellent post. It was really enlightening for me.

  308. 308
    quentin

    “In contrast, it is “racist” for white people to view all black people as potential criminals, because (as far as I can discern from available crime statistics) white people are the ones who possess the privilege of being less likely to be crime victims than black people, and they are more likely to be victims of crimes committed by white people than by black people”

    This does not mean that they should not be more cautious when crossing black people. Everything depends on the percentage of black people in their neighbourhood. Example: 99 white and 1 black in the neighbourhood, the black man and 9 white men are criminals. There are more white than black criminals (9 versus 1), yet if you see a white man coming, there is fewer chances that he is a criminal (about 10% chance) than if you see the black man coming (100% chance).

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not about racism and I totally agree with the whole post. I’m just a little fussy about stats…

  309. 309
    Crommunist

    I’m just a little fussy about stats…

    No, you’re really not. If you were, you’d realize that the scenario you’ve created doesn’t make any sense. Even under your scenario, there is not a 100% chance that the black guy coming toward you is a criminal, and I’m having a hard time understanding how your own brain didn’t strangle you for typing that.

  310. 310
    raymoscow

    If all the white men in that sample were criminals, then there is 100% chance that any white man approaching you is a criminal.

    Therefore, it’s prudent to fear the white man. [/satire, I hope]

  311. 311
    miller

    I was trying to make the same point as Quentin in comment #95.

    The point isn’t that Quentin’s scenario reflects reality. The point is that we can’t rule out Quentin’s scenario with the statistics given, because we were given the wrong set of statistics.

    What you stated: White people are more likely to be victims of crimes by white people than crimes by black people.

    What should have been stated: The fraction of crimes (with white victims) that are committed by black people is equal/less/greater than the fraction of the population that is black.

  312. 312
    Moderatating voice

    Hold on a moment. You say you don’t think white people should make the comparison because they haven’t experienced discrimination for being black. You object to people expressing a certain argument, because of the color of their skin? That, I’m afraid to inform you, is called an “ad hominem”

    Schrodinger’s rapist is of course equivalent to racism. It is discriminating against someone, even for a moment, on the basis of an accident of their birth.

  313. 313
    Crommunist

    Once again, you have my sincere thanks for not actually reading the post, but instead responding to something I didn’t write. It is so tiresome having to deal with critical thinkers all the time. It’s nice to occasionally have an ignorant blowhard show up. They’re so rare on the internet.

  314. 314
    BaisBlackfingers

    @Pteryxx,

    Thanks, exactly what I was looking for. I didn’t mean to quibble, I just want more accurate numbers in my head for the overall rate because that provides context for alot of other things.

  315. 315
    KarenX

    I would like to know how being extra wary of some people is discriminating against them. What exactly is me being extra wary of a guy preventing the guy from doing?

    Or maybe “being more cautious = discrimination” is just another one of those silly equivalences, like “accommodation and consideration = sacrifice” and “singling women out for sexual attention = treating everybody the same.”

  316. 316
    Kat

    Yeah, it’s natural… if you know what it feels like to be on the other side. Many, if not most white males don’t, so they are not aware of such a need. I see this in my friends, otherwise great and sensitive men, all the time. They simply never have thought of that, until I pointed it out.

  317. 317
    BaisBlackfingers

    @ Tuesday

    There is also perhaps a meaningful difference in reducing unease by eliminating ambiguously/potentially threatening body language and reducing unease by eliminating the expression of an idea.

    There is no thought that is unexpressed when I whistle on my way to work. No censorship occurs because, frankly, in the context of my commute to work, walking in silence is not speech. Accommodation here costs trifling inconveniences most of the time.

    Stopping a conversation because someone has their sensibilities offended is a form of accommodation that costs a heck of a lot more.

  318. 318
    Melody

    Haha, Thanks I think your take on that is an even better one.
    Next time I get a “You are an atheist? But you are so nice!” I’m going to reply with a “And I think you are nice, too, for a [insert religion here]” and say it as if I’m oblivious to the connotation. Then I will make this face —> ^_^

  319. 319
    Melody

    I live a pretty rough neighborhood. I take public transportation or walk. Sometimes, I have to do this at night, no way around it. I’ve been groped, grabbed, followed, and told some pretty disgusting things. I’ve had incidents where I think I’m making friendly conversation with a stranger, and he somehow interprets this as If I’m interested. I’m fine with that, but when I reply in the negative sometimes this nice person turns very scary. Example: “Stop acting like a crazy bitch! We had something going!”

    This happens on and off. And, tbh, it’s probably never going to stop. So, I get uncomfortable sometimes. When exactly? Hard to pinpoint, definitely at night, definitely if I’m on the train or the bus (even if it’s crowded, no one ever intervenes :( ).

    Sometimes, I can be cold or even down right snippy to strange men. Sometimes looking back at certain situations, I don’t think it was merited, and I feel bad. If the shoe were on the other foot, I’d probably feel wronged, I mean I hate when it’s done to me because I’m a minority. Assumptions about my intentions that is. It feels as if some one were contesting my humaneness (something I value and consider central to my identity) without even talking to me. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings with presumptions and ensuing behavior. What I want is to feel like I have a little control when it comes to protecting myself from harassment/groping/and heaven forbid something even scarier. I really haven’t found a way to do both yet, unfortunately.

    This is what came to mind when I read about Schroedinger’s Rapist. I’m not really trying to make an argument, and I don’t have any answers. I only wish to point out that we all have our own perspectives that have been molded from our experiences, our backgrounds and our environments. I’ve met women and men in this community who have very different experiences than I have. We are all trying to come together within a movement, with very different outlooks and expectations, it seems. I just hope we can all listen to each other and try to see where we all are coming from. This is why I shared my embarrassing story.

  320. 320
    Marnie

    So, it seems like a bunch of people are stuck on this whole “ZOMG YOU THINK ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS” thing because of the term, “Schrödinger’s Rapist.” So why don’t we change that. Why don’t we call it:
    Schrödinger’s Perfectly Pleasant Person

    Any time I meet anyone they are Schrödinger’s Perfectly Pleasant Person. They might turn out to be a really nice person or a completely unmemorable person, but then again, they might not. What are the odds? Who the heck knows. Most people are generally lovely people who will do nothing to me that I will remember even an hour after interacting with them. But, the person might also have some ill intentions. They could be an identity thief, a con artist, a mugger, a murderer, a groper, a rapist, a sneeze-upon-er, or something else that I might consider unpleasant.

    I tend not to take much note of other people unless they act in a way that catches my attention. If that happens, I naturally notice their verbal and non-verbal cues and doing so may trigger some warning bells. Those bells may ring to varying degrees. These are the same cues almost anyone notices, e.g., someone standing too close, someone staring directly at you for a long period of time, someone apparently headed straight for you at a fast clip. Some are based on scenarios you learn can be iffy, e.g. , someone asking you for something or trying to sell you something, someone prodding you for personal information, or someone claiming to be an authority figure who have identification to prove it. None of these necessarily mean anything or result in any bad outcomes, but these are the types of situations that might make you take a moment to assess the situation.

    I feel this way of men, women, children, and even, in many cases, animals. It has nothing to do with what race, gender, age or even species (where applicable, most dogs aren’t trying to sell you a “roylex” watch) one might be dealing with.

    If someone pushes your alarm bells further, for instance, by cornering you or taking an attack stance, you rightfully decrease the odds in your head that you have a perfectly pleasant person and your fight or flight response may begin to take effect. For an able bodied, larger individual, the threshold for risk may be higher than a less able bodied and/or smaller person. A person skilled and able to use some for of self defense may have a higher threshold for risk than someone who doesn’t.

    Schrödinger’s Rapists is just one facet of this risk analysis that people do, it just happens to be a risk that is primarily targeted at women and perpetrated by men, at least according to reported statistics. If a man were to feel at risk of sexual assault, he’d be performing the same type of risk assessment that the woman does.

  321. 321
    Susannah

    Great post!

    I’m white, female, and small (5’3″).

    And I can scare people if I’m not careful. Coming up behind someone, how can they tell what colour, size, or sex I am? Footsteps are footsteps, unless they’re in spike heels.

    So, like you, I shuffle my feet. Or cough, say, “Excuse me”. Something to warn people that I’m there, and I’m not trying to sneak up on them. It’s basic politeness.

    Something that happened 30 years ago taught me a lot. I am Canadian, and had spent almost 20 years in Mexico; I was not really used to the idea that blacks were different in any way. I had just moved to Oklahoma. I was heading into a store from the parking lot, when a woman, big in late pregnancy, came up from another direction. Of course, I opened the door for her.

    She hung back, staring at me. I stood and waited, confused. She looked scared. Of me? Finally, I realized; she was black. She wasn’t used to whites opening doors for her. Did she think I was going to release the door just as she went through, to hit her with it? I smiled at her, and she took the risk, and ducked through quickly.

    I was badly shaken by this. I had never seen the results of racism so clearly before. And I realized that the fear response doesn’t necessarily depend on the present “threat” – I was no threat to anyone – but on the previous experiences of the one frightened.

    To be offended by having to modify one’s behaviour to put someone at ease is ridiculous; sure, I’m quiet and gentle, and would never hurt anyone willingly, but how does a stranger know that? And how can I know what dangers others have already faced?

  322. 322
    Ysanne

    @ischemgeek,
    tried already — it’s good in theory.
    Some sensible people react in a casual and cooperative manner to the well-ahead warning of a single, short, not-too-loud bell sound. A noticeable proportion has an angry “how dare you try to kick me off the street” reaction — they seem to think I’m shouting “Move!” from far, far away already. (Then again, there are enough cyclists who say exactly that with their bell all the time.)
    My solution for not too loud and crowded surroundings was to say “excuse me” in a decidedly friendly un-sarcastic tone instead of using the bell, which seems to work because it’s a phrase not associated with “biker coming up”, but with “person warning of their presence”. Of course this miserably fails on loud main roads… and the reason defeats the point of having a bell to give warnings that reliably can be heard.

  323. 323
    Saint Gasoline

    First of all, I didn’t call Rebecca Watson any wretched things at all, nor do I condone those people. I think that both sides blew the elevator thing out of proportion. Was it a smart decision on the part of the proposition-maker? Nope. Was it an example of horrible sexism? Nope. It was a mild social faux pas and nothing more, if you ask me, but let’s not beat that particular flayed horse.

    Also, I’m not trying to tell Crommunist how to be a “proper black man,” as you put it. I’m simply pointing out the irony that his anecdotes are about how he is subject to terrible implicit racism all the time and yet HE feels as if HE’S the one who has to change, rather than the racist old ladies clutching at their purses for no good reason! I don’t think he’d advocate that black men walking down the street should cross to the other side to avoid frightening white people, for instance, and for good reason: because he’s not a mugger and people who think he is are being racists using shoddy reasoning. But if you want to portray me as the racist bad guy “telling a black man how to act” because I’m saying he doesn’t have to placate the implicit racism of white people like me, go ahead and call me racist. Because if we’re going to water down that word to mean “someone who thinks black people should be able to walk down a sidewalk” then you’re basically trivializing that word.

    “And yet despite not all men being rapists women are almost exclusively raped by men and sexually harassed at a horrifying rate.”

    So? Let’s suppose that 100% of people who punch others in the face have red hair. But among those with red hair, only 2% of them punch people in the face. Does that make it reasonable to be deathly afraid of redheads punching you in the face? No. So the fact that almost all rapists are men is entirely irrelevant. Most rapists also have ten fingers, but I don’t see you cringing whenever someone with ten fingers is around.

    “So what do you suggest women concerned about being targeted by sexual violence do around strangers or in places they feel vulnerable in?”

    I don’t think the women have to do anything. What I’m arguing against is a bad argument (i.e., the Schrodinger’s rapist argument). If a woman is terrified to be alone with a man in an elevator, by all means she should get off. If she sees a black man in the street and is terrified that she’ll get mugged, by all means, cross the street. I understand that you can’t control your fears in the moment. But don’t then write a blog post about how black men shouldn’t walk down the street toward white women, or try to justify your unsupportable assumptions about how someone could is “possibly” a rapist or a mugger when in reality they are probably not. And I’m not saying that these posts shouldn’t be written because the feelings and fear aren’t legitimate. I’m saying it shouldn’t be written because it’s a bad argument, plain and simple.

  324. 324
    Chris

    Great article, and you have a new subscriber

    I’m 6’1, 350lb white male with a full beard. I learned a long time ago to be cautious in how I move around. In college, my dorm, which housed about 1200 students, was directly across a sports complex from the main student rec center. When I was done working out (usually at night) I would always pay attention to who was in front of me. Anyone by themselves, but especially females, I would give a 40-50 yard head start to. I’d check my phone, adjust my iPod, whatever, to kill time. Because there was a high probability that the person was heading for my dorm. It’s bad enough for a big guy to be behind you, but for them to follow you (at least to your eyes) into your dorm at night… yeah. I wanted to avoid both the possibility of being maced/what have you, but also just not wanting to make anyone afraid.

    It’s bad enough with me as a white male. I can change my behavior to be less threatening. It’s unimaginable to me to have a “threatening” skin tone. I admit to my small-all-white-town sensibilities at least in the beginning, but I’m happy that I’ve noticed my reactions to people have changed since living in a large city, and especially since I started working in a library that services probably 50-60% low-income black and hispanic patrons. I look at behavior, and not appearance now. I still watch around me, because I’m rather averse to being mugged, but my suspicions are based on setting and actions, not on who they are. Of course, that’s as far as I know. Maybe people of color who have dealt with me have another opinion.

    All in all, I don’t think it’s bad to accomodate potential fears. I’m a humanist, and part of that is wanting other people to feel happy. If what I’m doing makes them unhappy, and it’s an easy enough fix, well then.

  325. 325
    joed

    well, it is very easy to tell which of the commentators here are aware of their white privilege and which are not.
    Seems this post is about becoming aware of self and others. if i see/feel that my action/presence is creating unease in another human i will attempt to create comfort. not always possible nor am i always aware. but white privilege is an immoral constant in us/canada/uk/etc.
    if we dont address it, as this wonderful post does then we are all losers. white privilege causes much harm.
    Tim Wise and Professor Robert Jensen, UTexas Austin,
    are both worth listening to concerning White Privilege.
    Most folks confuse white privilege with white power or white supremacy. White Privilege is the day to day privilege people seen as white take advantage of, consciously or not.

  326. 326
    Saint Gasoline

    And you are chronically unable to estimate what constitutes good data!

    Here’s an example: 100% of women are raped by people with two eyes! 100% of women are raped by people with fingernails!

    Do you see why it is unreasonable to go from that data and then conclude that it is perfectly legitimate to view all people with two eyes or fingernails as “potential rapists”?

    All the data you can muster to support seeing men as rapists can also be fiddled with to show that black men should be seen as violent criminals. Did you know that the percentage of black males incarcerated in prison compared to their population as a whole is nearly 20 times that of white people?

    I know what you’ll say: those statistics are flawed and don’t account for problems in the justice system, poverty, etc. But you’d be missing the point! I don’t think those statistics are legitimate defenses of assuming black people are criminals; I’m merely pointing out that using those statistics is similar to what you’re doing with rape statistics in assuming all men are rapists. After all, I highly doubt you’re controlling for poverty, problems in the justice system, and a whole host of other variables when asserting that there are good reasons to suspect most men as potential rapists.

    In most situations, seeing men as a potential rapist is unreasonable and irrational (because the datum that MOST men are not rapists should be the most important), and seeing black people as potential criminals is likewise unreasonable and irrational for the same reasons.

  327. 327
    teebee

    “The other way is to recognize that while I strongly dislike the fact that people see me as dangerous because of how I look, it is up to me to decide what to do with that information. If I don’t care about spooking my neighbours, I don’t have to shuffle my feet – let them deal with their fright. But if I do care, then I have to find some way of mitigating that fear so we can coexist harmoniously.”

    I wonder about this line of logic. If I change a few key things it sounds pretty sketchy…watch.

    The other way is to recognize that while I strongly dislike the fact that people see me as sexy because of how I dress, it is up to me to decide what to do with that information. If I don’t care about turning on my neighbours, I don’t have to wear conservative outfits – let them deal with their hormones. But if I do care, then I have to find some way of mitigating that sex driven reaction so we can coexist harmoniously.

    Yeah, there might be some holes in your line of logic, here.

  328. 328
    Crommunist

    Except that I am not saying “therefore it is okay for someone to react inappropriately because of my race.” If what I wear elicits some private response in another person’s mind, then I have to decide whether or not I care. That in no way licenses my neighbours to respond inappropriately (calling police, macing me, hurling epithets at me on the street). The parallel I think you’re trying to draw is that my argument seeks to justify blaming women for “dressing provocatively” as a means of excusing sexual assault. The problem is that the problem with assault is the assault. The actions of others, rooted in either misogyny or racism, are not excused even if I choose to accommodate the brain-failures of others.

  329. 329
    Saint Gasoline

    Giliell, you said: “Please, tell me how I am discriminating against them by keeping my guard, not going somewhere and not engaging in certain activities with them. Do you think I actually owe them my attention, trust, company?”

    I’m not saying that women owe men attention. I’m simply saying that when women make the argument that men are Schrodinger’s rapist, it is a bad argument and one that makes horrible assumptions about people for which there are plenty associated costs, many of them among women who will be fearful in situations where they normally wouldn’t or shouldn’t be afraid, but are because this terrible argument is gaining acceptance in our culture. I’m also saying that it is wrong for exactly the same reasons it is wrong to assume most black people are criminals. Contrary to Crommunist’s post, I think he is incorrect to say that the burden is on him to put racist white people at ease; the burden should be on the racist white people to not make racist assumptions and perpetuate those assumptions.

    Again, if you think I am saying women owe men anything, you are quite wrong. I simply think that bad arguments should be avoided. You have every right to be on guard or fearful if that’s how you feel at the moment. I’ve admittedly felt irrational fears around people of color. However, I don’t then go online and try to defend my false assumptions and fears under the guise of “Schrodinger’s mugger” because I recognize that this is a terrible argument. If I’m asking anything of women, and feminists, multiculturalists, and postmodernists in particular, it’s that I don’t think you should be making silly arguments that make no sense! Not because I don’t agree with these causes, but because I don’t like seeing people on my side making silly arguments.

    And no, you are not wrong to protect yourself against potential car accidents caused by other drivers, or potential thieves who may steal your PIN at the ATM. But you WOULD be wrong if you go on the Internet and say, “Hey, don’t be wary of ALL drivers, just watch out for the ASIAN WOMEN drivers, because data I’ve pulled out of my ass and used incorrectly show they are the worst drivers!” or “Hey, if you see an Indian guy behind you at the ATM, cover your PIN, because those guys are notorious for looking over your shoulder and trying to pickpocket your card!” Perhaps you can see why your examples are benign and why the examples I’ve listed are NOT benign, and why your Schrodinger’s rapist argument has more in common with the less benign latter arguments than the former!

  330. 330
    Crommunist

    I think he is incorrect to say that the burden is on him to put racist white people at ease

    Except that isn’t what I said.

  331. 331
    Sheesh

    I’m going to try and get this comment on http://yoisthisracist.com

    That would be good for a laugh — Yo, is it racist for black men to accommodate white people’s prejudice by, e.g., the Crommunist shuffling his feet or crossing the street rather than overtaking someone alone on the sidewalk?

  332. 332
    Pteryxx

    @Saint Gasoline:

    I’m merely pointing out that using those statistics is similar to what you’re doing with rape statistics in assuming all men are rapists.

    Except that nobody’s actually MAKING that argument. Frankly, if you can’t tell the difference between “some” and “all”, you have no business trying to cite statistics.

  333. 333
    julian

    Was it an example of horrible sexism? Nope.

    sigh

    That’s twice I’ve seen you mischaracterize the arguments of the people you are arguing with.

    But if you want to portray me as the racist bad guy “telling a black man how to act” because I’m saying he doesn’t have to placate the implicit racism of white people like me, go ahead and call me racist.

    That’s three. I didn’t call you a racist.

    Does that make it reasonable to be deathly afraid of redheads punching you in the face?

    That’s four. No one is advocating being deathly afraid of men or calling it reasonable.

    But don’t then write a blog post about how black men shouldn’t walk down the street toward white women

    That’s five.

    try to justify your unsupportable assumptions about how someone could is “possibly” a rapist or a mugger when in reality they are probably not.

    Gotcha. It’s ok to be concerned about being mugged or raped but it’s evil to actually be on your guard around people.

    And I’m not saying that these posts shouldn’t be written because the feelings and fear aren’t legitimate.

    Again, what do you propose people concerned about sexual assault and harassment do?

  334. 334
    crowepps

    I am familiar with the concept of Schroedinger’s Rapist, which is about how women process risk assessment during an encounter with a male stranger. Their mental processing itself can’t be the problem, since it isn’t something which the man would be aware of unless he is psychic, and I am assuming you aren’t simply ordering women to stop being mentally wary when it is entirely appropriate for them to do so.

    Your statement was that women shouldn’t “treat a person like a rapist”, and I am asking, what exactly do you mean by that? Does “treat” reference behavior? What is the behavior which a man would equate with being ‘treated like a rapist’? What exactly is it about how the woman would be behaving that you find objectionable, and what behavior would you have expected instead from a woman confident the male stranger was not a rapist?

  335. 335
    AylaSophia

    @Liam

    “In both instances, they looked up at me walking passed, then went straight back to their smartphones unperturbed.”

    Throwing in my $.02 as a skinny white twentysomething woman– I often do exactly that… as a cover for my risk assessment. If I notice someone walking past me in a dark and/or isolated area, I will frequently pull out my iPod or phone and pretend to be fiddling with it, so as not to attract attention by suspiciously staring. Meanwhile, you bet your ass I am watching the person out of the corner of my eye, evaluating for threatening behaviour, and making a note of escape routes. And none of this comes off as anything but nonchalant texting, because that would defeat the entire purpose of projecting an air of confidence. An air of confidence doesn’t have to be. “I can take you in a fight,” it can (often more naturally) be just “I believe I have nothing to fear from you.”

    On the flip side, and back to the main point… I am, as mentioned, a skinny young-looking white woman. I’m also a very fast walker, and I often misjudge the speeds of people walking ahead of me on the sidewalk. Consequently, I frequently find myself being blocked by a couple of people walking abreast and have to stop short rather than run into them. I try to slow down until I get room to pass them, but at this point I’m obviously already walking closer than is socially acceptable. Often the people in front of me look back in surprise and suspicion when this happens– it happened yesterday, in fact, when I surprised a pair of teenagers, both wearing track pants and hoodies, one black! Talk about defying stereotypes. I never think of myself as a potential threat to anyone, but this just goes to show that I need to be more aware of my own movements. Perhaps we all do.

  336. 336
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Saint Gasoline
    Have you met between 15 and 20 men today?
    One of them was a rapist.
    Do you know which one? Neither do I.
    You keep telling me that it’s unreasonable of me not to take chances when I’m in a vulnerable position like alone in a dark car park.
    I keep remembering the night when I made it to my car moments before the guy made it to me.
    The guy who had passed me walking the other direction and who had cat-called me when walking past me.
    The guy who had the turned around and followed me, first with some distance while we were on the main street with other people.
    The guy who had closed the distance while walking up the more lonely side street.
    The guy who had tried to get to me once I was in the dark car park.
    The guy who would probably have raped me if I hadn’t been lucky.
    And the guy whom you would have defended at any instance before the final attack.
    If I had stopped, turned around and confronted him on the main street or side street, people like you would have attacked me because I was unjustly vilifying an innocent man as a potential rapist. And because I knew taht, and he knew that, he was safe and I wasn’t. Attitudes like yours enable rape.
    Oh, and had he succeeded, the person who’d have been blamed would have been me.
    Because that’s what my family and friends did afterwards. How could I have been so stupid to park my car there.
    Also, you understand shit about statistics, probabilities, necessary and sufficient criteria. Pay more attention in school next time you’re in 9th grade or so.

  337. 337
    Luna_the_cat

    Most rapists also have ten fingers, but I don’t see you cringing whenever someone with ten fingers is around.

    Most NON-rapists also have ten fingers. If almost all rapists are men, and almost all non-men are non-rapists, then it is a distinguishing characteristic; in other words, precisely not at all the same situation as when both rapists and non-rapists share a characteristic to the same degree.

    And yet, you criticise other people’s logic.

    Also, I share julian’s impatience with your ability to read and understand what is written, combined with a dishonest tendency to fill in with your own misrepresentations and strawmen instead.

  338. 338
    Luna_the_cat

    @Gilliell

    Gasoline apparently does not understand basic concepts like “distinguishing characteristics.” Don’t expect him to grasp anything more advanced, that’s just unrealistic.

  339. 339
    Luna_the_cat

    I simply think that bad arguments should be avoided.

    This being the case, Gasoline, why do you keep making them?

    I’m going to point this out to you again, as being a particularly bad example of your bad arguments. You keep saying, “but rapists all have ten fingers/fingernails/other universal human characteristic, and you aren’t afraid of people for THAT.” Yeah, all rapists have fingers. All non-rapists have fingers. There is no difference whatsoever on any level there between potential rapist/non-rapist, at any level. On the other hand, almost all rapists are men. Almost all non-rapists are not men. It is therefore a differentiating factor. This does NOT make the argument (which you seem to be hung up on) that “all men are rapists.” NO-ONE IS SAYING THAT. But it means that male or not-male does, in fact, isolate the risk largely to one part of the population.

    I don’t actually expect you to grasp this, given your history, but I’m sure that makes it clear to most people just how bad your understanding of this situation is.

  340. 340
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Saint Gasoline
    Well, you are either willfully ignorant or just not able to follow the argument.
    You go on and on and on characterizing fear of rape as irrational when it’s something that is so endemic in our society that it’s normal.
    I also never categorized “potential rapist” by skin-colour (hi there, I live in Germany, white kids club all around), but by behaviour.
    And yes, of potential behaviour by men, because that’s a pretty necessary condition for being a rapist (exceptions apply), just like the fact that being a driver is a necessary criterium for causing a traffic accident with a vehicle.
    I’m not saying “watch out for people who drive and who have a green car/are Asian”, I’m saying “watch out for people who drive and who accelerate although they’re approaching a red light.”
    If you don’t want me to mistake you for somebody who’s going to ignore the red light, slow down when you approach it.
    If you don’t want me to mistake you for a rapist, don’t follow me into a dark area and close in on me.
    Can you understand that or do you have another strawman to beat up viciously?

  341. 341
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    AylaSophia
    I apply the same tactic, often engaging in lengthy fake phonecalls communicating where I am and where I’m going and when I should be home in order to create an audience, to signal “I’m not a lonely woman”

  342. 342
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Luna
    Yes, I’ve noticed that.
    He also seems to think that, since all snakes have no legs, the poisonous and the non-poisonous alike, it makes no sense looking for other criteria to tell one from the other.
    In other words: somebody didn’t pay attention in highschool.

  343. 343
    Verbose Stoic

    I think you’ve missed my point. My point is two-fold:

    1) There’s nothing I can reasonably do to actually make her safer; even crossing the street (unless it’s a very large and busy one) doesn’t actually make her safer.

    2) Given the same situation, what actions will make her uncomfortable will depend on the person, not on the other details of the situation.

    So, take the “walking down an empty street at night” situation. The advice given has included three options: slow down, cross the street, or move out further. Obviously, we also have “behave as you normally would” as an option as well. Now, for some women, they won’t bat an eye if I act normally … but might get nervous if I do things that aren’t normal, like slowing down. Slowing down is really bad, since it cold look like following. Simply swinging out more is no different from acting normally until you do it. And you can conceive of cases where crossing the road startles her (she saw you, turns back, doesn’t see you, wonders where you went, figures out you’re gone, and then looks over and sees you paralleling her).

    None of the advice says how to determine what state the woman is actually in. It’s all based on assuming two things: that women in general react the way you do and/or that men can get the information to tell which actions will or will not make her uncomfortable. But all we have is “There’s a woman in front of me”, not enough information to decide.

    So if I decide that not knowing whether it will be a problem or not I’ll just act normally and if she is a bit wary of me, oh well, is that a problem? Or do you have more information to allow me to make a more informed decision?

  344. 344
    Pteryxx

    @Verbose Stoic:

    That’s why it’s an issue to say “You should do X in general because doing Y makes some individuals uncomfortable”; it’s almost impossible to form a rule that won’t make anyone uncomfortable in those cases.

    It is very, very likely that behaving in a considerate and nonthreatening fashion will, in fact, be perceived as less threatening than will behaving in an inconsiderate and/or threatening fashion. You don’t need to resort to ridiculous straw-absolutes.

    But all we have is “There’s a woman in front of me”, not enough information to decide.

    And all SHE has is “There’s a man behind me.” If you actually gave a crap about lack of information, you could oh I dunno, act in a way that conveys the information “I am not a threat” instead of demanding that other people give you their status reports before you bother with being considerate.

    But if “act normally” for you includes being willfully oblivious, then yes, I would recommend that you not act normally around other people.

    And as for this:

    None of the advice says how to determine what state the woman is actually in.

    Demanding verification of other people’s mental states is really none of your damn business. You could, of course, go up to every woman you pass and ASK “Am I making you uncomfortable?” Care to guess how your behavior might affect the responses you get?

  345. 345
    Luna_the_cat

    @Verbose

    I really don’t get the impression that you read what I wrote.

    Do you understand that you need to be able to read the social and situational cues of the moment yourself, and there are things that you can do which affect other peoples’ perceptions of the level of danger that you pose? And that, if you are acting in a considerate manner towards one’s fellow human beings, this is something that most people do?

    You seem to be claiming that because you cannot pre-determine a hard and fast rule which will absolutely apply in every situation with every possible hypothetical person, then there is no point in you monitoring or altering your own behaviour at all. Is that what you mean to claim?

  346. 346
    ischemgeek

    @Ysanne, in that case, I’d have to say the angry pedestrians have a problem (unless you’re cycling in an area where cyclists aren’t supposed to be, like sidewalks in my city, in which case, it’s a mutual-fault situation). As you pointed out, reasonable and sensible people react appropriately.

    I’d say just keep ringing. Better that they know you’re there and get pissed off than not know you’re there and exhibit dart-out behaviour that potentially could cause a collision. I’d like to think of myself as one of those “sensible” pedestrians, and I really appreciate the warning when it’s given appropriately. But that said, if someone waits until they’re on top of me before ringing, it’s almost better if they just zip past at speed since as I said, it sounds less like a “look out ahead” ring and more like an “impending collison! Dodge, you fool!” ring.

  347. 347
    Drew

    Your long-ass reply was notably devoid of examples what the problematic behaviors on “the other side” were.

    My long ass reply was devoid of what the “man” side’s problematic behaviors because they’re too numerous to count, and it was already getting too long.

    The one problematic behavior that I was attributing to the “woman” side was arguing for the need of eliminating gender-based prejudicial behaviors while also requesting accommodation for a gender-based prejudicial behavior. It’s a hypocrisy that is pointed out in the original article, and one that author suggests should be allowed, I disagree. As I said before “I will not abide a hypocritical argument whether I agree with the arguer’s main point or not.”

    Sounds like you’re just upset the fact that occasionally (frequently?) men who don’t consider themselves sexist get told that they are acting sexist.

    That was not my point at all. Please forgive me, I’ve been told that I have a talent for obfuscation (though none was intended).

    I’m not upset by that at all. I think it’s very important to have a light shone on our behaviors. It’s very important to constantly be viewing one’s actions through the lens of someone else’s perception. That is why I think this dialogue is very important.

    Here, I’ll try to make my point more concisely:

    If we’re striving for the elimination of gender-based prejudices and prejudicial behaviors, and you point out to me a behavior that I exhibit that indicates a gender-based prejudice that I may hold (even one that either I didn’t know I held or didn’t realize that it was prejudicial), that’s a good thing. It will make me become self-reflective, try to examine my mindset, and see things in a different way. I’ll invite you to elaborate, explain to me why that behavior is bad, and I’ll do my best to change it.

    On the other hand, if we’re striving for the elimination of gender-based prejudices and prejudicial behaviors, and you ask me to change my behavior to accommodate your own gender-based prejudice, that is not a good thing. I consider it an irrational request. Rather than accommodating the hypocrisy inherent in your request (as the OP suggests I should), I’ll invite you to buzz off.

  348. 348
    kennypo65

    Thank you for an incredibly thought provoking post. I have been reading your stuff since you came to FTB and, while I admire all the posters here, you and Hank Fox are the ones that I wish I knew in real life. Keep on doing what you’re doing.

    Much love,

    Ken Polit Finleyville,PA

  349. 349
    Marnie

    @Drew

    The one problematic behavior that I was attributing to the “woman” side was arguing for the need of eliminating gender-based prejudicial behaviors while also requesting accommodation for a gender-based prejudicial behavior.

    The chances of a woman being raped by a female stranger are so vanishingly small that I don’t think there are any statistics for it. I suspect my chances of being raped by a woman I don’t know are pretty close to my chances of winning the lottery. It is not prejudicial to proceed with the assumption that a woman on the street won’t rape me.

    But, if you’ve read any of the other comments here, you’ll see that people aren’t just aware of the risk of rape and they aren’t just worried about men. If I, a relatively small white woman, come barreling up behind a person, in a dark isolated street, they are likely to take notice and need to assess the situation. Regardless of my gender, or even my size, I may want to mug, pick pocket, or harm the other person. If I happen to be physically imposing or obviously wielding a weapon, I would be an even greater risk.

    Whenever someone is assessing risk, there are a range of possible outcomes. The fact that rape is not generally a risk with a strange woman or child or animal, but is with a man, is simply a function of biology.

    If you or I or anyone else wants to not make people worry about our intentions, we can take note of behavior that sends off warning signals. We don’t have to. I might be in a rush or might not see another person, and I might inadvertently startle or worry them. I just need to deal with the fact that I gave off ambiguous or dangerous signals and now that person probably thinks I could have been a potential criminal. I don’t get to stomp my feet and demand that everyone treat me as though I would never harm anyone. They have no way to know that and their well being is a greater risk than my pride.

  350. 350
    Verbose Stoic

    Pteryxx,

    “It is very, very likely that behaving in a considerate and nonthreatening fashion will, in fact, be perceived as less threatening than will behaving in an inconsiderate and/or threatening fashion. You don’t need to resort to ridiculous straw-absolutes.”

    The problem is, as I’ve said, that there are differences over what does, in fact, constitute acting in a non-threatening fashion when you get down to things like “crossing the street”. For example, look at what I replied to. Slowing down behind her and giving more space, to me, should be seen as more threatening than blowing past her. So unless I’ve missed some context in the original comment, I consider that to be more threatening. Since I submit that what will be perceived as more or less threatening will depend on the person, I submit that many of the purported options won’t actually work in general to make the person feel less threatened, and then wonder if simply acting as per normal — ie keep up my normal pace and pass as appropriate — doesn’t work better as a general rule of thumb than the others.

    “And all SHE has is “There’s a man behind me.” If you actually gave a crap about lack of information, you could oh I dunno, act in a way that conveys the information “I am not a threat” instead of demanding that other people give you their status reports before you bother with being considerate.”

    And I concede that’s all she has, which is why I wouldn’t be offended if she, say, decided to increase or slow her pace or cross the road if it makes her feel more comfortable (or, at least, I ought not). Again, the point comes back to that if I’m being considerate, I want to ensure that she actually is conveyed the message that I am not a threat, but as that requires me to know what she perceives as being less of a threat — meaning the person in the specific situation, not a bunch of people sitting safe at home in front of computer monitors — that means that I need to have some idea about her mental state. Which I can’t get in a normal simple street encounter. Thus, I propose that I don’t alter my behaviour at all, knowing that many women will not be bothered by it and knowing that if I guess wrong I’ll actually make her feel more threatened instead of less, and so fail in my attempt to be “considerate” by your lights. The idea of being considerate is, again, to make the person you’re interacting with feel better, not conform to suggestions given out by people sitting safely in front of computers and trying to imagine or recall what things are really like in those situations.

    “Demanding verification of other people’s mental states is really none of your damn business. You could, of course, go up to every woman you pass and ASK “Am I making you uncomfortable?” Care to guess how your behavior might affect the responses you get?”

    My thought is that the answer I will get will depend both on the behaviour taken and on the person I interact with. But I don’t want verification of mental states after the fact. I want to know what their state is likely to be BEFORE I take actions to try to reduce their perceived threat. What I absolutely do not want to do is make someone feel more threatened while trying to make them feel less threatened. And it seems to me that if I don’t know if taking an action will make them feel less threatened, the safest thing to do is not alter my behaviour at all, because I know that at least some if not many women will not be bothered by it and also know that it would at least be consistent with all of my body language and actions and will thus be predictable, whereas altering my behaviour might make me seem unpredictable and so more of a threat. Again, there are some things that it is obvious you don’t do — try to avoid, for example, leering or checking them out — but the suggestions being given here are not that obvious, and so I fail to see how I would miraculously become inconsiderate by being skeptical that they will indeed, in general, make them feel less threatened. About the only one that’s reasonable is crossing the street, since there are fewer obvious cases where that will cause more unease … but will it reduce it enough to make that effort worthwhile, even in cases where it might make it worse?

  351. 351
    Verbose Stoic

    Luna,

    I suspect that I could make the same charge against you that you don’t read what I write, which normally means that we’re talking past each other somehow.

    First, to return to something from the first comment, I don’t see acting normally as doing nothing, but instead as choosing to do something: act as normally as possible to make myself predictable and reduce any perception of oddness. So it isn’t really giving up, but more a playing of the odds.

    “Do you understand that you need to be able to read the social and situational cues of the moment yourself, and there are things that you can do which affect other peoples’ perceptions of the level of danger that you pose? And that, if you are acting in a considerate manner towards one’s fellow human beings, this is something that most people do?”

    My reply is that in the specific cases cited, there isn’t enough information to determine what those things are. It’s something similar erk12′s comment: no one is saying how to figure out in what cases you should do what things. Even taking your advice there, I’m skeptical. You talked, for example, about whistling or humming but I’m immediately reminded of horror movies where that’s used to build fear and suspense and wonder if that will indeed really work to reduce the perceived threat or increase it most of the time. So my suggestion of “Act normally” is, in fact, at least in part a suggestion of how to do just that. First, if you do act according to all the social conventions you’re probably doing everything you need to do anyway. Second, if these things aren’t built into the social conventions at least you’re acting as expected. Now, if you happen to know things that absolutely will reduce the level of threat, then I have no objections to doing them. My problem with these cases is all of the suggestions as if it is known that they will reduce the level of threat even though it seems to me that we know no such thing.

    “You seem to be claiming that because you cannot pre-determine a hard and fast rule which will absolutely apply in every situation with every possible hypothetical person, then there is no point in you monitoring or altering your own behaviour at all. Is that what you mean to claim?”

    No. The suggestions are, it seems to me, PRESENTED as rules, and my reply is two-fold. First, that they won’t work in all situations, and so I have to be able to choose between them. Second, that there isn’t enough information to choose between them. In light of that and the fact that acting, essentially, as if she isn’t there will not bother a good number of women, I choose to generally just act normally, except in cases where I know that a certain behaviour is appreciated.

    See, part of the problem is putting the onus on me to figure out what the right behaviour is, when I don’t know what bothers her or if she’s bothered at all. Since she knows what will make her more comfortable, shouldn’t the onus be on her to act to increase her comfort level and for me to not react badly to that, in any way? So if she wants to cross the street, or speed up, or slow down, or take a side street, that’s fine. I just act as I would anyway, meaning that I’m predictable and she can feel safer knowing that I didn’t, say, cross the street after her or follow her down that street, or increase my speed because she’s walking faster, or slow down because she’s walking slower. It takes the guesswork out of it for me and gives her actual direct evidence of whether I should be perceived as a threat or not. Again, if it’s just obvious — like, say, don’t loiter around her car in a dark parking lot — then I should, but these cases, to me, are not that obvious. Are they that obvious to you?

  352. 352
    Katie

    My personal perspective on Schrodinger’s rapist as a woman is this. There’s an extremely high likelihood a woman will be raped or sexually assaulted in the course of her lifetime–like a 1 in 6 chance. There’s also an extremely high likelihood that if you are raped, some jackhole (or several jackholes) are going to take issue with the way that you behaved/dressed and blame you for causing your own rape because you were insufficiently suspicious of the male populous at large. You were drinking in the presence of men? You wore a low-cut top in the presence of men? You let some guy you barely know walk you home? You were walking by yourself after dark…where there could be strange men?

    Believe it or not, this sort of rationale actually prevents female rape victims from getting the justice they deserve. It will prevent cops from taking them seriously or treating them with respect if a female rape victim does decide to report it, which only further discourages rape victims from reporting these crimes or pressing charges. It will prevent the victims from being taken seriously in court rooms and result in reduced punishment for the rapist or the rapist being let off entirely. (Look up Julian Hall, Robert Dewar, or the Toronto police if you think I’m exaggerating.)

    I’m not arguing that this isn’t a sexist perspective. It absolutely is. But it’s the reality women live with: not only are you taught, from a very young age, to be wary of men in general because they might rape you, if you *are* raped, you have to prove that you took all the necessary precautions to avoid being raped in order to avoid the general harassment of others or to receive justice.

    This is NOT something that people who are the victims of non-sexual violent crimes or thefts from non-white offenders have to deal with, which in my opinion makes a big difference in whether you run from a black person on the street or whether you are a woman and always use a buddy system if you’re walking by yourself after dark. If you’re in a predominantly black neighborhood, are white, and are mugged by a black person, the cops aren’t going to question whether you were REALLY mugged because they think a white person walking in a black neighborhood is ASKING to be mugged. “Are you SURE you didn’t want that black person to take your wallet? Because it seems to me that black person was just taking what was freely offered to them, since you as a white person MUST KNOW that the very act of being in a black neighborhood makes you a target and therefore had already entered some unspoken social agreement that your wallet was theirs for the taking.”

    This is the crap women have to deal with, and it’s a big part of the reason why we watch our drinks, refuse to let men we don’t know come into our homes if our roommates aren’t there, or hop off the elevator in the parking garage if some guy gets on and we’re alone even if it’s not our floor. It’s absolutely sexist, but I don’t think it’s an apples to apples comparison to white paranoia toward people of color. Where white paranoia of blacks comes from a white supremacist perspective wherein white people already have the upper hand, a woman’s paranoia toward men comes from a patriarchal perspective wherein men have the upperhand. A woman being generally distrusting toward men for fear of rape has far more in common with a person of color going out of their way not to draw the attention of cops for fear that the cops will target them due to their race or treat them with unnecessary suspicion or roughness due to their race than a white person being suspicious of a black person on the street. It’s a survival mechanism for existing in a sexist/racist society wherein who you are makes you a target for potential violence and injustice, and wherein who you are also makes you less likely to get justice when you are wronged.

    If you’d like to HELP women, instead of getting mad at them when they treat you distrustfully, understand that their fear from the same sexist rape culture that makes you a potential criminal and them a perpetual potential victim who, if she is victimized, will find it very hard to avoid being re-victimized by society and the justice system if she can’t prove that she did all she could to avoid being raped.

  353. 353
    Luna_the_cat

    @Verbose,

    So a more concise version of your answer is, then, that you will act “as normal”, and it is entirely the woman’s responsibility to divine your intentions and react “appropriately”, and if you happen to make her nervous by doing whatever you’re doing that’s really just her tough luck and she can run away if she feels like it. Your excuse for doing this is that you “do not have enough information to know what she is thinking”, with your belief (or additional excuse) that altering your behaviour in some way could obviously scare someone.

    Trying to understand what someone else in a situation is thinking and acting in small ways to make them more comfortable (in any way beyond not overtly harassing them, at least) is clearly a great difficulty for you.

    You are, of course, free to take this attitude and act accordingly. We are, of course, free to call you a self-centered asshole for it if it comes to that; so, y’know, don’t act all shocked and offended if that happens.

  354. 354
    Carlie

    Yes, exactly this. What is such a big problem with being labeled in someone’s mind as a potential threat? The problem to you is that oooo, someone thinks you might possibly be a bad person so they’d better take a precaution and be more wary. The problem to them is that if they let their guard down and it was a false positive, they could end up raped or dead.

  355. 355
    Verbose Stoic

    Luna,

    I think that at this point you aren’t reading what I posted, because in the very comment you purportedly summarized I said this:

    “Now, if you happen to know things that absolutely will reduce the level of threat, then I have no objections to doing them. ”

    And this:

    “Again, if it’s just obvious — like, say, don’t loiter around her car in a dark parking lot — then I should, but these cases, to me, are not that obvious. ”

    And so your reply of:

    “Trying to understand what someone else in a situation is thinking and acting in small ways to make them more comfortable (in any way beyond not overtly harassing them, at least) is clearly a great difficulty for you.

    You are, of course, free to take this attitude and act accordingly. We are, of course, free to call you a self-centered asshole for it if it comes to that; so, y’know, don’t act all shocked and offended if that happens.”

    Is absolutely missing the point. I am, as I said twice in that very comment, quite willing to understand what someone else in a situation is thinking and to act in small ways to make them more comfortable. What I’m saying is that in the specific case mentioned — the dark street and walking case — I don’t have the information to actually be able to understand what they’re thinking and to be able to act in small ways to do indeed make them more comfortable. I don’t think that the “crossing the street” or “slow down” or “whistle or hum” options are that obvious. I asked you if they were to you. You, interestingly, never bothered to answer or even address that question.

    Now, the thing is, in cases where the behaviour is not in and of itself threatening — and I suggest that the normal behaviour of simply walking down the street at a quick pace is not — I hold that if someone feels uncomfortable then the onus is on them to change the situation so that they feel safe. I apply this to everyone, including myself. I wouldn’t even consider asking, say, large men to cross the street so I don’t have to be afraid to be mugged by them. That, to me, is an unacceptable demand. If I really want to be on the other side of the street to make me feel safe, I’LL cross. Otherwise, I’ll be wary and keep walking, and do whatever I need to to determine what the level of threat is. I won’t ask other people to guess at what makes me uncomfortable. Again, obviously threatening behaviour is something that everyone should adjust. But I don’t agree that normal behaviour in this street case, at least, is obviously threatening or that the options are obviously better. And I gave reasons why acting “normally” has benefits (ie it’s predictable and doesn’t give any impression of odd behavior that can be disconcerting). So you can call me a self-centered asshole, but I assure you it’s because of nothing I’ve actually said or done.

  356. 356
    Luna_the_cat

    @Verbose

    I don’t think that the “crossing the street” or “slow down” or “whistle or hum” options are that obvious. I asked you if they were to you. You, interestingly, never bothered to answer or even address that question.

    For that, I apologise. The answer is yes — to me (and if you read the other comments, to many others of the people here), those options are just that obvious. In the vast majority of cases, at least.

  357. 357
    SallyStrange

    This, times a million.

    It apparently really hasn’t sunk in for a lot of men that it’s not just the fear of sexual harassment and sexual assault that keeps women wary. It’s also the fact that, if you are assaulted, your chances of getting redress through the criminal justice system are vanishingly small, AND chances are good that bringing charges against your attacker will lead to YOU being re-victimized.

    This simply does NOT hold true in cases of crimes by black men against white men (let’s be honest, that’s what the guys are really talking about when they say “it’s just like white people thinking all black people are criminals”). If anything, the respective skin color of the hypothetical assailant and victim increases the likelihood that the cops will take it seriously, search assiduously for the criminal (to the point that they may even arrest the wrong guy), that the attacker’s case will go to trial rather than plea-bargained down, that the prosecutor will throw the book at him, that the jury will find him guilty, and that the judge will give him a prison sentence, rather than, say, house arrest.

    That’s why the comparison is not only spurious, but also consistent with racist AND sexist thought patterns.

  358. 358
    Allie

    As always, your comments are useless and stupid. Congrats for completely missing the point.

  359. 359
    Allie

    I approve of this endeavor, and of yoisthisracist.com, which is the funniest shit I’ve ever read.

  360. 360
    Allie

    The only difference between that and an active rape is physical contact.

    And that a pretty HUGE difference. Like the difference between me watching a movie where a bunch of people are killed and committing mass murder. Or the difference between me thinking about hitting an asshole who cut me off in traffic with my car and actually doing it.

    Thoughts aren’t action (well, anywhere but in JesusLand…)

  361. 361
    Aaro Sahari

    Thanks for this post man!

    Being a big, white man in the whitest country in the world (Finland) I related to your stories in an extremely personal manner. Clearly I have little to nothing to add to the issue of racism, although my Finnish compatriots definitely would benefit from increased discussion on it. My experiences as a big man, with light step, typically dark clothes (yes, hoodies too) and fast pace, are strikingly similar to yours, and I find myself accommodating to people’s fears when out and about.

  362. 362
    Saint Gasoline

    Thank for the interesting discussion, everyone, and for remaining civil. I still disagree, though, and I don’t think our disagreement is as huge as you might think it is.

    I’d like to reiterate here that my ONLY point is that Schrodinger’s rapist is a bad argument. I am NOT saying that women who are afraid in certain situations should just suck it up. I am NOT saying that men should feel like they should make women uncomfortable. All I’m saying is that women shouldn’t use terrible arguments with clearly racist analogues to justify their uncomfort and to spread unreasonable fears among other women.

    Most of us recognize that it is perfectly fine to say, “Be wary of other drivers on the road,” “Don’t leave your checkbook out,” or “Watch out for suspicious activity at the airport.” It is NOT fine, however, to use these legitimate safety concerns to negatively stereotype a particular racial/gender/ethnic or other identity. “Be wary of Asian women drivers on the road,” “Don’t leave your checkbook out with Mexicans around,” and “Watch out for people in ‘muslim garb’ at the airport.” The problem with the Schrodinger’s rapist argument is that it goes beyond simple safety concerns and targets a certain identity group as potential rapists, and that this is done for no good reason given the fact that most men are NOT rapists. Compare this with outrage over stereotyping Muslims as suicide bombers. Even if we recognize that MOST suicide bombers are Muslim, right-minded people correctly point out that portraying all Muslims as suicide-bombers is racist because MOST Muslims are not suicide bombers!

    Again, this is not an excuse for men to be sexist or unfeeling. This is not a criticism of women who genuinely feel afraid of being raped, as rape is indeed a very big concern and a HUGE problem in our society. This is ONLY a criticism of this silly argument. There are plenty of ways to advocate women’s safety and feminist causes WITHOUT resorting to an argument that is, in logical form, IDENTICAL to the clearly racist examples I’ve listed above.

    The typical response to this, and I notice this is now listed as an update to this blog post, is that because men are privileged it is acceptable to make such arguments for this group, whereas it is not acceptable for groups with less privilege. I for one find this argument incredibly ridiculous. It is wrong to punch people in the face, for example, and only an incredibly naive person would say, “Well, it’s wrong to punch people without privilege in the face, but it’s perfectly fine to punch white people in the face!” I don’t think the issue of privilege makes this argument any less wrong or any less unsupported by any kind of rational thinking for the same reasons. If something is wrong, it is wrong for everyone.

    In conclusion, I agree with most of what this post is saying, but I don’t think this in any way shows that Schrodinger’s rapist is a good argument. All it does is try to change the subject, saying that we should try to be more welcoming to women and respectful of their fears. And I agree with that. But it’s a red herring. The rapist argument is still wrong. And those of us who think the argument is wrong don’t necessarily think that we shouldn’t try to be more welcoming and respectful of women.

    So I respect that you may disagree with me, but let’s keep in mind that all we disagree about is whether Schrodinger’s rapist is a bad argument or a good one. I for one find it an important disagreement because I think this type of thinking and reasoning perpetuates racism/sexism. You can’t deny that this is the same type of argument that has been used historically to denigrate women and other minorities. The only difference is that you’ve replaced “woman” or “African American” with “man”, and I don’t think that little difference suddenly makes this type of thinking correct.

  363. 363
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    So, since you need an easy answer, here you have one:
    Think “what would I do if I wanted to assault her?”
    Do something else.

  364. 364
    Marnie

    @Saint Gasoline

    Most of us recognize that it is perfectly fine to say, “Be wary of other drivers on the road,” “Don’t leave your checkbook out,” or “Watch out for suspicious activity at the airport.” It is NOT fine, however, to use these legitimate safety concerns to negatively stereotype a particular racial/gender/ethnic or other identity. “Be wary of Asian women drivers on the road,” “Don’t leave your checkbook out with Mexicans around,” and “Watch out for people in ‘muslim garb’ at the airport.” The problem with the Schrodinger’s rapist argument is that it goes beyond simple safety concerns and targets a certain identity group as potential rapists, and that this is done for no good reason given the fact that most men are NOT rapists.

    So what you are saying is it is ok to be cautious of and avoid risks of rape but not if we are only worried about rape around men? On the surface, your argument sounds solid but it’s not, for two reasons.

    1. When I “don’t leave my checkbook out” I’m still not leaving my checkbook out around people of any given nationality but I’m also not leaving my checkbook out around people of the privileged nationality because I know my risk has nothing to do with skin color or birth place but with the situation. But I’m still treating everyone as a potential thief. There’s no getting away from the fact that you can interpret “not taking a risk” and “being cautious” as “treating someone like a potential X.” There are billions of people who aren’t potential X and I treat every last one of them as a potential X by your standards.

    2. In the case of rape alone, there is close to zero risk of a strange woman raping me. She may do countless other things I don’t like and I don’t leave my wallet out or tell her my mom’s maiden name or follow her to a dark alley to buy a laptop. She could potentially be a lot of things. But there’s close to zero chance she will rape me. So of all the many risks I may assess in a situation, I’m going to assess the rape risk primarily when I’m around a man. It’s like worrying about drowning on a plane ride. It is possible but of all the risks I might be assessing that is pretty much non-existant unless some crazy happenstance comes alone that requires special consideration.

  365. 365
    Pteryxx

    Sheesh, since @Saint Gasoline’s still relentlessly pursuing that tangent:

    Look, dude, nobody has said it’s Fair as a matter of principle that men are scarier to women in general. The whole point of the OP is that yes, it’s unfair, but because we DO live in a world where so many women get threatened, dismissed, and hurt by men as a matter of course, it’s unfair TO THEM to harp on a point of principle at the expense of their safety. It’s Un-Fair for YOU to keep insisting that the group at less risk being politer than usual is more important than the group at greater risk being less threatened than usual. Especially when you’re a member of the group you’re defending; funny how that works.

    I pass as white, and I’m thankful to Crommunist for pointing out how scary *I* might be because of that. What’s FAIR is for me to be gentle to people I might frighten, because I’m more concerned about being decent to others than with getting all huffy about a disparity that works IN MY FAVOR.

  366. 366
    Verbose Stoic

    Giliell,

    “So, since you need an easy answer, here you have one:
    Think “what would I do if I wanted to assault her?”
    Do something else.”

    Okay, this is going to sound like a facetious comment, but there’s an important point behind it. If I do what you suggest, my number 1 thought of what someone who wanted to assault her would do is:

    Make her feel like I’m not a threat, while remaining one.

    Someone who doesn’t want to rape her doesn’t care if she consider him a threat or is at least a bit wary. While it may hurt feelings, it doesn’t frustrate any of their goals in most cases. Someone who does want to rape her, however, really wants her to not see him as a threat until it’s too late.

    See, the problem is not that women can’t tell the difference between rapists and non-rapists because non-rapists deliberately or even unthinkingly act like rapists. The problem is that women can’t tell the difference between rapists and non-rapists because rapists act deliberately or unthinkingly like non-rapists. If we were actually acting in threatening ways — and in some cases I might concede that’s the case — then it would be good to stop doing that. But in general, most of the time we aren’t. We’re acting in ways that are perfectly normal and harmless except for the fact that rapists will do it too.

    Advocate anything that will give a false sense of security — like I suggest crossing the street does — and you play into the hands of rapists, giving them a way to seem like less of a threat without actually being one.

  367. 367
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Verbose stoic
    Stop being obnoxious, please.
    There are certain things you would have to do if you wanted to assault her.
    To stay within easy reach, for example. If you stop to tie your shoe-laces so she gains 20 yards while you then take time to walk at a slightly slower pace than she is, you’re obviously letting her get out of reach.
    If you go to the other side of the road for passing her, instead of 15″ between her and you, there are now several yards. If you stop outside of the building you need to enter, too, to smoke a cigarette, to make a phone call, you’re letting her get out of reach.
    Most women will evaluate the question of safety with regards to having a safe place to go to.
    The one time I nearly got assaulted, I made it to my car in time. He’d followed me and had shortened the distance all the time until we were in the dark car park.
    Now, of course, that could be you going to your car. Since you’re probably taller than I am, you walk faster than I do, and right until the moment I dashed for my car and you either dash behind me to get me or don’t, I have no way of telling if you’re the rapist or the guy going to his car. Yet if you remain at a distance that gives me space to get to my car, I don’t need to worry.

  368. 368
    Pteryxx

    @Verbose Stoic, you’re seriously trying to claim that actual rapists, who hate women and see them as prey, are going to be MORE considerate than actual decent guys who pose no threat? First off, you’re wrong: (Link to Predator Redux) And second off, that’s the most hateful and twisted dose of gaslighting you’ve spewed yet. Most of us ARE capable of being decent to one another as a matter of course, however you think it works in your little world.

  369. 369
    Ruthie

    Excellent post. The most crucial part being the question of 1) DO YOU WANT WOMEN TO BE COMFORTABLE? That is the whole point of the Schrodinger’s rapist analogy.

    Women must act in a Schrodinger’s rapist world. The *usual* way this plays out is that the WOMAN must modify HER behavior. (This brings to mind a discussion I read of the different responses of women and men to the question: “You emerged from the store later than you expected, and it’s already dark. What steps do you take to get to your car and go home?” Men usually say, “Uh, I walk to my car, open the door, sit down, start the engine, drive home…” and women say “I get out my keys and clench them with the pointy part out, look around the parking lot, stay in lighted areas, avoid other people, check the back seat before I start my car…”) It bears repeating: in the *usual* way things work out, the WOMAN modifies HER behavior to avoid (however effectively or not) being raped.

    Whereas men, if they know this, can try to make women feel less threatened by choosing to modify THEIR OWN behavior instead and send the message that they are NOT a rapist and attempt to relieve the woman’s anxiety.

    IMO, if you know this is the situation when you, a guy, walk by a woman at night and see her tense up, and you don’t care, that makes you someone not worth interacting with. If you use it to make her MORE uncomfortable deliberately because you think it’s amusing or are trying to “prove” something (to her? to feminists?), that makes you scum. If you care about how women feel, you act to make her feel less threatened. If you don’t want to act, or you don’t care enough to act, and that makes you upset because it makes it sound like you don’t care about women and that makes you sound like some kind of sexist a&&hole…well then you’ve got some cognitive dissonance to work out, don’t you?

  370. 370
    Grypo

    Or they are hyper aware that they may frighten you, not the other way around.

  371. 371
    Nancy Wilkinson

    I just wanted to thank you for writing this, is all. As a Black woman, I have been repeatedly incensed by the argument against the “Schroedinger’s Rapist” idea which you cogently dismantle here, and I’ll remember your explanation next time it comes up.

  372. 372
    Crommunist

    It’s always risky when one tries to draw general statements from personal experience – some people were offended by what I wrote (which I think is borne of misunderstanding, but what do I know?). I’m glad it resonates with you.

  373. 373
    J.M. Perkins

    Hey Crommunist;

    Great article. While I certainly can’t truly understand what it would mean to have people treat me differently because I’m black (I’m about as white as they come) I wanted to share some of my experiences. I definitely here what you are saying re: the whole ‘sizeist’ issue (even though that isn’t probably in fact a thing). I’m 6:4, 260 pds and strong. Through the years I’ve internalized a lot of behaviors in order to not seem a threat: I smile a lot (and am careful lest my smile itself makes people uncomfortable, which has happened *sigh*), make sure to leave people a good distance from me, don’t wear certain clothing, and do my best to sit, lean, slump and in every respect do the opposite of loom. I also consciously shuffle my feet so I don’t ‘sneak up on people.’

    I tell you what though, strangers (particularly women) really don’t talk to me unless I’m walking around with my Boston Terrier. I guess the reasoning goes ‘Well, he hasn’t murdered that small animal, I guess there’s a good chance he won’t murder me.’ It is uncanny how differently I’m treated when I have a dog with me.

    The way I think of it, everyone is constantly developing a threat score for everyone else: mine is fairly high because I’m big and male and bearded (though it would no doubt be much higher if I was darker skinned) so I have to take conscious steps to lower that score for the sake of others (mostly women). It helps that I’m a charming guy though, hey, what can I say?

    Although, I think this issue extends beyond just needing to ‘make women comfortable.’ Because of my size, I can not expect help if assaulted or in danger. I was once threatened in a bathroom and because of my size (I’m assuming) when I reported this to the police was literally informed ‘You weren’t in any danger.’ I know that women oftentimes face incredible sexism when it comes to reporting assault or harassment to the authorities but I would like to point out that men (particularly big men) face a different sort of sexist unhelp (ie the deal with it). Since that time, I have learned to rely on myself more.

    Moreover, because of my size/latent ‘threat score’ I believe that should any (witnessed/reported) altercation take place, I would immediately be assumed to be the aggressor and treated as such.

    Perhaps saddest of all, I believe that ‘Schroedinger’s Rapist’ is related to ‘Schroedinger’s Pedophile’ which is to say, I believe that when women assume the ‘better safe than raped’ approach to men they will often extend that to ‘better safe than molested.’ While men can (and I do) take steps to reassure women that I am not a threat, there aren’t equivalent potential steps (that I know of anyway) when it comes to being around children. It is my experience that society -as a whole- has taken the approach as prudent ‘never allowing a man to be alone with a child’ and to cast immediate suspicions upon any man who is fond of children or even interested in child care.

    To whit: there’s this article http://blog.chron.com/momhouston/2011/10/the-controversy-over-men-who-wipe-babies%E2%80%99-butts/ and the comments which basically gets down to the heart of the issue: with vocal mothers like this the only prudent ‘move’ or men to make is to avoid children (because women feel they can’t trust men not to molest children and men feel like they can’t trust women not to falsely accuse them). When I was younger, I taught three year old Sunday school… I’m just eternally grateful that this wasn’t one of the mothers at the time.

    TLDR: I agree whole heartedly with your comments about working and consciously acting in order to make others (in this case women) more comfortable. While I’ll perhaps never be able to (fully) understand the racial side, my own experience being big map up well with yours. While I accept your reasoning on how to act around women given the dilemma they face, I bring up the fact that this better safe than sorry thinking gets extended to children with much worse results with less options for mitigation.

  374. 374
    sc_5143122106cf5e82acd263d94d691cc0

    The majority of humanity (i.e: nonwhites) view anti-racist white people as the most brainwashed and closed-minded idiots to ever walk the face of the earth.
    Everyone has racial prejudice, it’s natural. I say this as a nonwhite, and people accept it. When no one is aware of my racial background, I am immediately seen as a white supremacist. Why is having a racial opinion, for whites, automatically considered the opinion that they are the “MASTER RACE”? I find that mentality to be far more racially hateful than the true racism of most people, which merely boils down to wanting to live with your own kind.

    Racism doesn’t mean, like most anti-racists believe, that everyone vehemently hates each-other for no reason whatsoever. I think that anti-racism is a compensation mechanism for not having any real issues to struggle with, and making up a crusade for oneself. I mean virtually everyone in the USA agrees with the sentiment on this website, why are anti-racists still crusading against something that is non-existent, claiming that it is still the biggest evil?

  375. 375
    Crommunist

    Nope. Everything you’ve said is wrong. Which is quite an accomplishment – usually people get SOMETHING right.

    I’m also pretty sure you didn’t actually read what is written here, so I’m going to assume this is a copy-pasta.

  376. 376
    HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    “It is not “sexist” for women to view all men as potential rapists, because (other than in prison) men possess the privilege of being subject to a vanishingly small likelihood of being raped by either men or women, while women are subject to a substantial likelihood of being raped by men. ”

    This is not true.
    I submit to you the following analysis of the CDC’s 2010 NIPSVS survey: http://www.genderratic.com/?p=836
    And the results of this independent study: http://feck-blog.blogspot.com/2011/05/predictors-of-sexual-coercion-against.html?spref=fb

    Both show parity across genders as both victims and perpetrators of sexual violence. Your “excellent observation” is relaying false data produced by allowing cultural biases to trump open minded investigation and proselytized by vultures who rely on a culture of fear and discord.

  377. 377
    Marnie

    @HidingFromtheDinosaurs

    Your first link regarding the NISVS misrepresents its source. The NISVS consistently shows that women are, across the board, assaulted more often than men. Here’s the PDF that article uses as a reference http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/NISVS_Executive_Summary-a.pdf

    The best you can surmise from the summary is that men should be cautious with other people too. The fact that men can be forced to have sexual contact when they are not willing does not mean that women are safe from sexual assault. It’s not a contest where one gender wins the rape race. Women can be cautious and aware of risk and so can men. Keep in mind too that a man can be assaulted by a woman and a man can be assaulted by a man. The numbers your posts reference don’t specify gender.

    Your second link to feckblog offers absolutely no information about where the numbers are drawn nor a breakdown of the gender of the perpetrator. So even if the numbers are legitimate all they tell us is that men can be assaulted to which no one here has said otherwise.

    Instead of arguing that women shouldn’t be aware of the risk of sexual assault, you should be arguing that men should be aware of the risks they face, as well.

  378. 378
    codyreisdorf

    Very enlightening—as a tall white guy, for most of my life I’ve been only slightly aware of the situational differences between the sexes, and virtually completely ignorant of the differences between the minorities.

    You’ve got me wondering: is it possible that Obama is overly accommodating in negotiations because of deeply engrained habits to make white people feel more comfortable?

    Although he’s upset and disappointed me on some occasions, I tend to think he’s probably pretty close to optimally pragmatic, which I think is incredibly important to get anything done. If I’ve underestimated the challenges he faces due to racism then this additional contribution would probably explain the difference.

    Makes me wonder if there is a way we could characterize or quantify such effects objectively.

  379. 379
    Crommunist

    I’d imagine the way he deals with individual members of Congress and other politicos is shaped by a desire not to conjure the “angry black man” image. To a certain extent I’d imagine that he puts in extra effort not to lose his cool, because he knows that the slightest misstep along those lines will be mother’s milk for the ravenous right. His wife (for whom I gain more respect every time she does something) has commented on that lamentable fact for herself.

    However, I sincerely doubt the President is as accommodating as he is out of a desire to appease white folks. Friends of his say that he’s always been that way, and it works pretty well as a long-term strategy (look at his approval vs. Congress’).

  380. 380
    Jack Vermicelli

    “Very articulate even!!! :)”

    ಠ_ಠ

  381. 381
    Rachel

    If CC had a motor disorder that caused uncontrollable movements, you would never dream of saying she shouldn’t go out in public lest she hit someone in the face (At least I hope you wouldn’t). This is no different. I’m sure she’d rather not have those symptoms either.

    Everyone, when in public, should be considering what their behaviour might be signalling or doing to others. This is called tact and courtesy and you should display it regardless of your age, size, sex or gender.

    At the end of the day, it costs a jogger nothing to call ‘coming through’, so they don’t startle someone.

  382. 382
    Katalina

    Yes! That’s a much, much more accurate comparison.

  383. 383
    carolinemannheimer

    BlahBlahBlah. I glazed over after the third paragraph. The lady didn’t cross the street because you were a young BLACK guy walking quickly towards her- she crossed the street because you were a guy walking quickly towards her- with your hoodie up. It’s likely, since your hood was up, she didn’t know, definitively, what race you were. Look, there are stereotypes for a reason, deal with it. Or if you don’t like the stereotype, then break it. But seriously, as a single woman who grew up in Washington Heights (NYC) in the 70′s, spent most of the ’90′s in Newark, NJ and the first 21st century decade in west and north Philly- all without driving a car and all with only getting robbed twice (and nothing worse)- pretty damn good compared to every other white person I know that’s spent any long periods of time in any major city- and I’ll tell you why. Because I’m “street smart”. I know to not walk around with headphones on, to be aware of my surroundings and, if a strange dude, no matter what color, is walking towards me at a brisk clip, you are God damned straight, I’m gonna cross the street and any woman who doesn’t won’t last long where I’m from.

    To me YOU sound far more racist then anyone I personally know because of your intolerance of white people who compare sexism to black racism. Why are you so hung up on the skin color of white people? Are you as intolerant of other races comparing sexism to racism?

    And to the white person who apologized, oh my, do you ever make me sick. Get over your white guilt, you bleeding heart. Did you do something to the poster to apologize for? No? Then shut the fuck up.

  384. 384
    Crommunist

    I glazed over after the third word.

    In all honesty though, I’ve never understood why people feel the need to BRAG about how little they’ve read of the argument they’re responding to. Do they think it will make me MORE likely to take their opinions seriously? “I refuse to engage in this discussion honestly. Here’s a long screed about my personal beliefs on a topic I haven’t bothered to read about!”

  385. 385
    Kiwi

    Thank you for being willing to make women feel comfortable around you without being an ass about it.
    Assuming you’re straight, you deserve to find the best woman possible out there- and she deserves someone like you.

  386. 386
    asdf

    i’m a white, late twenties woman.

    1. anyone running up behind me scares me. i don’t even need to look back to see the person. add a glace back to see a hood, scarier. not that i think hoodies are scary, but it does go hand in hand with people concealing themselves.

    2. perhaps your lady friend getting more responses is based solely on the fact that women are less intimidating, or that she’s a pretty lady. sexism?

    unfortunately, clothing and attractiveness also have a huge impression on how we perceive people. imagine two people (any race) walking up to each other in identical clothing. these are very complicated situations/scenarios. there are many things to take into consideration. it’s not so black and white… pun-ny!

    i know that racism exists. i hate it the same way i hate sexism. it’s all because people are ignorant and don’t have these kinds of conversations. i have great hope for my generation.

  387. 387
    Jacqueline Homan

    I like you!

  388. 388
    Av8or

    Great post, though I admit, while I understand the point you’re making, I don’t get all of it and tend to agree with Comrade Physioprof’s comment. In my own personal experience, I’ve been the victim of sexual assault by white people, not black people. As a result, as a woman walking down the street alone, I am afraid of men to a degree, but I’m much more afraid of white guys. They rarely smile, never say hello, and rarely make eye contact. This makes me wonder if they’re plotting something. Black guys usually smile, strike up a conversation, or at least say hello. I don’t know if they’re honestly interested in conversation or if, as you say, they are trying “to make white people feel safer,” but either way, I don’t feel threatened. Now that I think about it more, the difference may be in body language.

    As for the race issue itself, as a white lesbian mom of two mixed-race sons, I have always dreaded the day when other white people (some of them members of my own family) stop seeing my children as “cute little black kids” and see them instead as “big scary black men.” I cried the day my son came home from day care and told me that he was bad because he’s black, but another kid (the bully) in his class was good because he was white. All I could do was reassure him that whoever said that was wrong, that color doesn’t make a person good or bad, give him a giant hug, and let him know how much I loved him and that he was a wonderful kid and a good person.

    I feel completely unprepared for how to help my sons work through these things and talk to them about it. There is no possibly way, even if I’m with them 100% of the time, for me to know exactly how it affects them or to even notice every little (seemingly innocent to white people) racist thing that they experience throughout their day. I’m not black, and the circumstances and issues I deal with are different from what they will be dealing with. As a gay person, there’s things I do to make homophobic straight people feel more comfortable–like not holding my wife’s hand in public. This, in itself, raises some issues as people are more open with their prejudices when they don’t realize that there’s gay people around. But for our sons, it’s different. They will face different circumstances and prejudices. So while I can sympathize with them, I cannot empathize with them.

    Your post has given me a new ideas for how to talk with them about these things. (And I welcome others if you’ve got them!) Is it fair and right that the things you mentioned may happen to them? No. But, it’s difficult to change people’s minds and prejudices if they never feel comfortable around you in the first place.

  389. 389
    sigs

    nah I think he’s making a fair point. Why is the racism always whites-oppressing-others; I mean, just look at all racial aggression in Africa. “Whites” are a party? Hell no. It’s all Tutzis and Hutus and what-not. We call that racist? No, it’s just an “ethnical conflict”. Whites are on the good guy side, globally speaking, of course due to material abundance in mainly white societies.

  390. 390
    Crommunist

    Yeah… you have no fucking clue what you’re talking about.

  391. 391
    Hibernia86

    The problem, though, is that the author of this post calls people who cross the streets to avoid a black person racists, but doesn’t apparently feel that women who cross the streets to avoid men sexist. There is no logical reason to make this distinction besides political correctness.

    As for the note at the bottom of the post, do you have any evidence that whites suffer more crime from whites than from blacks? I highly doubt that this is true for crimes like muggings, car theft, ect.

  392. 392
    Hibernia86

    Also, I should add that regardless of the amount of crime whites suffer from whites, the likelihood that a random black person they meet will be a mugger is much greater than the likelihood that a random white person they meet will be a mugger. So if you are going to criticize white people for being cautious around random black people, calling them racist, then you should criticize women for being cautious around random men. You have to pick one way or the other for both groups. You can’t just make different standards for each group depending on politics.

  393. 393
    rengeko

    yeah, no. crime is most often intraracial, NOT interracial. i am a white woman and feel MUCH less danger from black men than white men. statistics bear this out. i do not understand why people just assume black people are born criminals. even just by racial statistics, most crime cannot possibly be perpetrated by blacks. whites comprise ~72% of the population, blacks ~12%. you’re going to seriously argue that those 12% commit all violent (and most non-violent) crimes in the country?

  394. 394
    Anthony Zarat

    There is no reason for people not to take precautions. Many men f, for example, treat all women as Schroedinger’s false accusers, particularly in the context of marriage and strategic false allegations of domestic violence (for custody/property division purposes).

    The problem with your argument is that women are as likely to rape men, as men are to rape women:

    http://i.imgur.com/Ps9wW.jpg

  395. 395
    onaluna

    Yeah, the very articulate even “joke” was pretty chummy. Knock that shit off, people.
    http://jezebel.com/5905291/a-complete-guide-to-hipster-racism

  396. 396
    onaluna

    Did he ask if *he* would be afraid if someone his size approached him in a dark alley? It’s a bad example, because a dark alley is already a menacing setting.

  397. 397
    rengeko

    aaand, we hear from the MRA faction.

  398. 398
    mirror-universe rengeko

    The image is a screen capture taken from the federal NSVIS 2010 survey. The data clearly indicates that almost exactly the same number of men were the victim of ‘forced envelopment’ as women were of ‘forced penetration’.

    This would appear to be in complete opposition to Comrade Physioprof’s assertion that women are at great risk of being raped by men, and not the inverse.

  399. 399
    Marnie

    @mirror-universe rengeko

    Except it doesn’t specify that the men were forced to penetrate women only that they were forced to penetrate someone or something. It’s interesting that you couldn’t come to the conclusion that men might assault other men. Your assertion that women rape men as often as men rape women is not borne out by your screen capture.

  400. 400
    Skeptical

    Did I read this article wrong or did you just claim that since you as a black man is subjected to racism then men are obliged to take the Theory Of Schroedinger’s rapist seriously?

    Or did you object to the use of black men as a counter-example?
    Let us then take another example. The harshest bullying I have ever experienced were from women. Does this mean that women are obliged to take my fear of Schroedinger’s bully as a guiding principle?

  401. 401
    Egalitarian

    Actually, many men are rape victims if you properly define rape. According to the latest CDC (US government) survey, 4.8% of all men have been “made to penetrate” and 79.2% of the perpetrators were women. Examples of “made to penetrate” are: a woman who has sex with a man who is passed-out drunk, or a woman who forces a man to have sex with her through violence or threats of violence. There is some confusion due to the fact that their definition of rape excluded “made to penetrate” and only included men who had been penetrated. That was far less common (1.4% of men) and was mostly perpetrated by men. However, if you include “made to penetrate” as rape, which you should, since it is forced sex, women are a significant percentage of rapists, and the majority of male rape victims were raped by women.

    The above, lifetime stats do show a lower percentage of male victims (up to 1.4% rape by penetration + 4.8% made to penetrate = 6.2%) than female victims (18.3%) although it is far more than commonly believed. However, if you look at the report’s stats for the past 12 months, just as many number of men were “forced to penetrate” as women were raped, meaning that if you properly define “made to penetrate” as rape, men were raped as often as women.

  402. 402
    Andre2

    There is a difference between scaring somebody by coming up behind them fast, and scaring somebody by just being black at them.

    Yah accommodating people in the interest of working together (or not getting arrested) despite there racism is a all around nice thing to do and sometimes needed… but you want to know the big secret?
    That is not something white people should be happy with.

    I think this guy sums it up pretty well.
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20120807202823AA02mwe

    So next time I am walking down the street at 4 in the morning or alone in an elevator with a women, I am going to make a point of making eye contact giving her a smile and saying “Good morning” to her.
    Now some of you might be asking why don’t I go the full mile and ask her to coffee? Simply because that is kinda creepy truthfully. RW did nothing wrong in her “guys don’t do that” video, Its the shit that came after that I have a problem with.

  403. 403
    Steve Caldwell

    Andre2 wrote:

    RW did nothing wrong in her “guys don’t do that” video, Its the shit that came after that I have a problem with.

    I keep hearing things like this. I wish folks were specific, providing direct quotes, and URL links for this.

    I haven’t read or watched 100% of Rebecca Watson’s internet output. But what I’ve read on Skepchick and watched on YouTube doesn’t fall into the “shit that came after that I have a problem with” category.

    Maybe there is something obviously wrong and offensive in what Rebecca Watson has written or said. All I’m saying is I haven’t seen it yet. And no one so far has responded to requests for specific and concrete examples (with URL links so we can see the quote in its original context).

    A few times the reply has been it’s obvious and I should Google it myself. Personally, I feel that is a deflecting strategy and if it’s really that obvious and easy to find, a person complaining about Rebecca Watson could provide just one sourced and specific example (with URL).

    So far, no one has provided a specific example and all I’ve seen is vague complaints.

    For what it’s worth, I feel that the deadpan humor in Rebecca’s response video listed below was an excellent response:

    Update! Plus dating advice
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7m1sm8z7i0I

    Given the level of vitriol directed at her for suggesting “guys don’t do that,” this is an appropriate response IMHO. As with everything in life, your mileage may vary.

  404. 404
    Really?

    Congratulations, you just justified racism against your own race. Martin Luther King must be spinning in his grave.

  405. 405
    Karen

    Update #1 is flat-out wrong, as opposite sex rape perps of both genders are within ten percent of parity. In addition, rape in general is a more frequent occurrence for men when prison rape is included.

    Aside from that, I take issue with the feminist-rooted premise that this is about making women more comfortable. The point for me is that you as a black man should not -have- to make white people more comfortable by changing your behavior, what matters is whether or not you actually do harm them and what they take away from their observation of the fact that you ultimately didn’t. The same goes for the proposed obligation for men to change their behavior to “make women more comfortable.”

    I am averse to that notion in the first place for the same reason; men who have no intention of doing harm have no real reason to alter their behavior, and any woman who is interested in observing reality will take note of moments where she found herself uncomfortable and nothing went wrong.

    The women in question are not uncomfortable round strange men walking down the street or on the train because of anything threatening the men are actually -doing-, they are uncomfortable because of the false cultural trope of Schroedinger’s Rapist, which was hardly a new concept at the time of the eponymous essay’s writing. It was already a part of the gender zeitgeist, via the fearmongering engaged in by parents, peers, educators, law enforcement, and the media in the upbringing of young women. Women are taught their whole lives that they must fear this fate at every turn and the facts simply don’t support this.

    You don’t get to pick and choose which statistics you like and don’t like based on your own personal feelings on them. They are statistics whether you like them or not. They may not tell us -why- things are the way they are, but they tell us which things are and which things aren’t.

    The reality of the situation is that women are statistically the -least- likely victims of random violence, that the vast majority of rapes and sexual assaults -do not- begin in public with a stranger, and to endorse Schroedinger’s Rapist as valid flies in the face of these facts. Defenders of SR are literally saying that these feelings of paranoia brought on by a lifetime of external disingenuity are more important that the facts and one’s actual chances of something like this happening, and as someone who values the facts, this I cannot support.

  406. 406
    Forbidden Snowflake

    You don’t “value facts” as much as you devalue feelings. You define a situation in which one person caused another person fear and nothing more as “no harm done”, which isn’t true when the subject is social interaction.

  407. 407
    Rutee Katreya

    That’s novel. I’ve never heard of the use of acquaintance rape to argue that fearing people is TOTALLY OUT OF LINE. That’d be clever, if it wasn’t so damn nonsensical.

  408. 408
    Eldin Alvere

    So… it is sexist but best to just deal with it…

    Also, no, men make up about 1/5 of all rape victims. So it’s not really “vanishingly small”.

  1. 409
    More Than Men – Weekend Link Party – January 20, 2012

    [...] Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist. A dismantling of a common “argument” used by the anti-diversity side, written by someone who knows. [...]

  2. 410
    | IdioPrag

    [...] had done little to fight racism for actual normal victims. We still think that if you don’t “shuffle your feet” enough then you are to blame for your own [...]

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