Friday, July 19, 2013

Changing the Creepy Guy Narrative - WWW Edition

With all the talk of what constitutes harassment in the SFF community, the incredible Jay Lake had a link to Chris Brecheen's experience on BART. Go read it please.

Twenty-five years ago, I had a similar experience on the D.C. Metro. A young man was lliterally hitting on every woman in the car. They scrunched away from him, looking fearful. I think what pissed me off the most was the amusement on the male passengers' faces. I watched him ask the woman in the seat in front of me for a date. I watched her cringe and say "No."

More than than once. Just like every other woman.

So of course, he moved and sat down next to me. Before he could say anything, I said, very loudly, "No. I'm not interested."

On the plus side, he got up, found an empty seat, and didn't bother the three women sitting behind me. But you should have seen the ugly looks I got from every other passenger, including the women he had been bothering. You would have thought I'd kicked his puppy.

At the time, I was living with my cousin who was a police officer in D.C.

At the time, D.C. was the murder capital of the U.S.

At the time, women were expected to be nice to men no matter what, and as my cousin said, that was a receipe to get raped and murdered.

Maybe I've been lucky. I've projected an image of "Don't fuck with me" all my life. Originally just to keep from getting beat up in the high school girls' bathroom.

In fact, one of the security guards at the D.C. office where worked stopped me one day after lunch and asked where I served.

"Served?" I know I had a puzzled look on my face.

"Yeah," he said. "Which branch?"

I laughed. "Never. Sorry."

He shrugged. "Oh, well, you walk like a vet."

So much for my mom's attempts to make me adopt a "lady-like" walk. My stubbornness and my super-cool cousin have probably saved my life more than once.

Now that I think about it, my mother tried to get me to adopt the very behaviors that would make me a victim. I resisted, but what about all other women in vulnerable positions? If we don't stand up for each other, who will?

I applaud Chris's behavior that day on BART, but guys like him are few and far between. We can't rely on white knights to save us, ladies.

We need to save ourselves.


  1. I've always found the "Cooperate with a mugger or rapist because otherwise you'll make them mad, and the mugger might rape you or the rapist might kill you," to be incredibly stupid. I mean, if everyone (and especially every woman) is being told to cooperate with assailants, wouldn't that logically make people more likely to mug or rape? "Hey, no one's going to hassle me, so I can do what I want!" People who might not have the balls for it will give it a shot because, hey, no one fights back, right? Or even speaks sharply? Hardly any dirty looks, even! Awesome! [eyeroll]

    I've always had a confident aura when I'm out in public. Most of my life, when I've been out in public I've been alone 90+% of the time. The fact that I'm 5'11" and have always been husky or muscular or however you want to describe it helps too, I'm sure; I don't have to try as hard as some slender woman who's only 5'1".

    But still. The whole, "Don't make them mad!" thing has always sounded stupid. How about if everyone fights back? Or at least stands up to harassers verbally?

    And yes, a large part of the problem is that whenever a woman does stand up for herself, even if only verbally, even if the guy was very clearly being an asshole, the censure of observers is more likely to fall on her than on said asshole. Lots of social pressure for women to be all Nice and Passive and Lady-Like, even in the face of harassment. And so it goes, round and round, until we are where we're at -- a world where harassment seems normal and women who object are being bitchy and over-sensitive. :/


  2. Angie, women like need to remain bitchy! otherwise, there are guys who try to turn it around and say, "What? I can't approach an attractive woman anymore?" And it just gets worse.

    What makes me even sadder is that the same kids today who think racism is wrong still misogynistic behavior is okay. GK turns thirteen next week. I've tried to instill in him respect for the opposite sex, and that "No" means "No". I pray every night that what I've said sinks in, and if he's every in Chris's situation, he'll step in and help someone in trouble.

  3. Right, we've seen a lot of that crap recently, not just this latest, but with the Rene Walling/Readercon thing earlier. People in the conversations (even women [sigh]) saying, "What, so no one's allowed to flirt anymore?"

    I'm trying to figure out where all the stupid comes from. The idea that any actual flirting, the way a normal person would do it, would be considered harassment. I like Scalzi's quote on that, though: "If your flirting strategy is indistinguishable from harassment, then it's not everyone else who has a problem."

    I honestly can't imagine that it's hard to figure out that a woman who has her shoulders hunched and her face buried in a book doesn't want to be approached by anyone. Or that, if you go up to a woman and say, "Hey, nice hairdo," and she gives a weak smile, says, "Thanks," and turns her back on you, that she's not interested in continuing the conversation. Or that if you step right up next to a woman, say in a line or something, and she takes a step away from you without making eye contact, she doesn't want to engage with you. This isn't esoteric, it's not a secret code. The only possible conclusion I can draw when a guy persists beyond this kind of point is that he's an egotistical asshole who gets that she's not interested but thinks he can overwhelm her into saying yes anyway, and giving him a place to stick his cock, which is all he really cares about. And yeah, that's harassment, and might end up being rape.

    How is this hard to figure out? Why does that [points up] make people say, "What, you mean we can't flirt anymore?!" and get all snarky or pissed off? I honestly don't get it. :/