I wouldn’t blame a strange woman if she was unnerved by me, a lone guy, if she and I were the only ones walking in a dark alley. I call this the Creepy Default.
This has happened twice, but I was the one unnerved due to doing everything I could not to be creepy (my cane doesn’t help, I suppose). Neither time did the woman walk faster or even appear to notice, but I was flustered.
When I told my friend this, she got upset. She said I wouldn’t hurt anyone and that women have no reason to fear me, alone in an alley.
However, the problem is twofold.(1) I wouldn’t hurt anyone and
(2) women have no reason to fear me.
In terms of (1) My friend knows this, as does anyone who knows me. (Commenters, mostly from Geekdom, would probably disagree. Yes, Thor: The Dark World sucked: Deal with it!) However, people who don’t know me have little reason to think otherwise: obviously, in most situations they wouldn’t assume so. But you could place anyone in a dark alley, in the shape of a dude, and it would appear creepy.
This ties into the second assertion: it is false. Horrible men – men who I am not like – have created an environment in which the default position for women is/should be to be hesitant about strange dudes (i.e. the Creepy Default).
I’m focusing here on dark alleys, but of course, it can be almost anywhere. The dark alley is representative of wider environments (including digital ones, Mr Send Women Topless Pics of Me and his brother Put Women on Twitter Lists Called “Women to Sleep With”).
I did not create this environment and I would like to see it gone. But, for now, we are fools to think this environment doesn’t exist. It is selfish, arrogant and entirely antithetical to being a good person to assert that because you’re OK, you’re a “good guy”, that women should just be OK with you, that women should trust you while walking in an alley. (That actually tells me you’re not as “OK” as you think.)
You won’t fight that culture created by horrible people in the environments where they tend to play out the worst. If you care, if you really care, about changing that environment, then we need to be doing all we can to not give truth or evidence for the Creepy Default. This isn’t about changing women’s perception but the environment that gives it truth because, for now, I’d rather women were cautious of men, due to men giving so much reason for distrusting their intentions. (Yes, I realise I’m “telling” women what to do.)
You can both acknowledge you would never hurt an innocent person and understand why marginalised people, like women, feel threatened by “your type”. Don’t assert your “good guyness” by bulldozing your way through people’s fear just because you happen to the one good guy left in the world: this is about more than people believing you’re just the nicest guy. This is not about whether everyone acknowledges your character traits; it’s about whether women feel safe in the world.
But then, maybe it isn’t. It can be both. And that can happen, again, not in the situation of a dark alley and your mere dismissal of a woman’s concern for her safety. Again, no one loses out by you temporarily acknowledging why she feels threatened, even if you’re nice, while you do what you can to try make sure innocent people are never hurt again. You won’t lose out on your Nobel Prize because the strange woman in the alley was fearful of your proximity, because she didn’t know you.
However, a question that arises for me is if this is not double-standards, as when people have distrusted me when I wore “Muslim garb”. That is, they were afraid I might commit a bit of terrorism. Should I have the same attitude?
Is it double-standards to accept that as a male, I understand and acknowledge women’s fear if they ever convey it – but to find it problematic to be profiled as a terrorist (this was when I was a teenager)? Is it wrong to dislike being judged because of the colour of my skin, but more understanding when it’s judging my sex?
I think yes since there is more justification for the sex judgement – the Creepy Default – because there, we have plenty of evidence that misogyny and sexism is a rampant, persistent problem. It exists on multiple layers. Race terrorism, on the other hand, has little justification: That I was, even then, an atheist was meaningless. I was judged dangerous because these people believed all “Muslim-looking” people were dangerous.
Sure, not all men are dangerous but a lot are. A significant, stupid, persistent number. The same can simply not be said of Muslims or people from Muslim countries.
But perhaps I’m missing something? Thoughts?