Part three of a series.
I disagree with a lot of people, a lot of the time. I even disagree with people who are being very reasonable and forthright with their thought processes in how they came to the conclusions they did. In fact, often, it’s those thought processes that give me insight into exactly how they missed the point of whatever it was they were disagreeing with in the first place. It’s at times like this that you have to step back and objectively analyze exactly how and where they went wrong so as to make them an object lesson for others that will almost certainly make the same mistakes.
@Mechelle_68, a twitter follower of mine, disagreed with most of my analysis of the ongoing Rebecca Watson “Elevatorgate” nonsense. She offered a number of arguments against what I had said in my first two posts, many of the points relating directly to the concept of privilege.
The main way she got things, in my view, completely wrong about Elevatorgate:
The issue that was pointed out here is that the man disrespected Rebecca by extending an invitation to her after she expressed, in the bar, that she was tired and wanted to go to bed. Also, that she had stated during the Con that she’d prefer to be treated as a “thinking human being, first”. Enter fire and brimstone.
Firstly, it’s possible this man may have not heard Rebecca make this statement. Bars are noisy. And if you’ve ever been to a post-con bar-meet, you know they’re even noisier. Loads of different conversations taking place and alcohol being consumed. You do good to hear someone talking to you without them shouting in your face. Now if Rebecca had jumped up on the bar and said “Excuse me, can I have your attention? Quiet, please, I have something to say. I’m tired and I’m going to bed. That’s all. Thank you.” then yeah, it’s possible to assume the man deliberately ignored her wishes. But I doubt very seriously that it played out like that. Chances are this guy didn’t hear her.
This was a hotel bar, filled mostly with the con goers, at 4 AM. Even at fairly large conventions, like TAM, I understand the bar scene is relatively close quarters so everyone can discuss. Sure, it’s a bar, and there’s likely to be some noise, but I strongly doubt it’s anything like a pub at happy hour. There’s absolutely no reason not to take her at her word that it happened exactly as Rebecca said — she announced to the remaining people at the bar that she was going to bed, then she left the bar, and one of the people in that crowd followed her out. Sure, I don’t know, because I wasn’t there. Neither were you, so who are you to cast aspersions on Rebecca’s credibility?
Say, for the sake of argument, that this person was not at the convention to hear her say explicitly that she would not like to be sexualized at every con (and remember, she was speaking not just for herself, but on behalf of all women, to actually encourage more participation by women in such cons — because that’s a big problem our community has in terms of inclusion at the moment, since women don’t particularly like being included in a movement just to be leered at). Let’s say also, for the sake of argument, that he had not heard her say that she was going to bed; rather, that he had seen her get up and start to leave the bar. Let’s even say for the sake of argument that he only coincidentally left at the same time.
Even with all these hypotheticals, the salient points are still that she was alone, slightly tipsy, in a foreign country, at 4 in the morning, in a hotel during which time most of the activity was winding down for the night, and a stranger got on the elevator with her and the first contact she’d ever had with this guy was for him to offer her coffee in his room so they could “talk”. Because he found her “interesting”. Rebecca still has every right to be creeped out. She has every right to say “don’t do this”, partly because it won’t work, but mostly because it will set off triggers like crazy in any society in which women are trained to be rape-avoidant. And that’s even ignoring the fact that he was supposedly paying enough attention to her to know who she was and to think that she was interesting, and yet wasn’t paying enough attention to know she’d talked that day about being sexualized, nor about being tired and wanting to go to bed. You know, because that fact would just make the whole situation all the creepier.
Let’s say for the sake of argument that Rebecca had taken this man at his word, and joined him for further conversation and coffee. Now, hopefully, that’s all this hypothetical elevator-guy had on his mind. But since we’re doing hypotheticals, let’s also assume that Rebecca had been sexually assaulted.
Yes, I’m suggesting the unthinkable, and I’m painting Elevator Guy as Schrodinger’s Rapist and therefore apparently disqualify myself from the conversation akin to Godwin’ing a thread. But still, play along, because I have a point to make.
What judge in Ireland, or England, or the USA, or in any other country in this world, would accept Rebecca’s word against the Elevator Guy’s and convict him of rape after she willingly joined him in his hotel room at 4 AM for “coffee”? In fact, would YOU accept her word in those circumstances?
Privilege works that way too, you see. Rape is disturbingly common and underreported in Western society, very likely because of how unlikely it is for the rapist to actually get convicted of his crimes. Men have the privilege of being given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to he-said/she-said situations where what she-said might give you five-to-twenty. If Rebecca had for some reason gone to his room, she would therefore have been insufficiently self-protective, and therefore would have been assumed to be a slut trying to screw over her last one-night-stand.
Don’t think it could happen in your country? Hell, it even happens in the liberal socialist paradise that is Canada.
I have more to say about Mechelle’s post, but that’s enough vitriol for one night. Tomorrow, I hope.