Posts Tagged ‘rape culture’

Well it's not been the best Christmas I've ever had! I'm not sure how much I should say about this, seeing as it's the subject of ongoing enquiries, but some lowlife hacker managed to empty my bank account. More than empty, in fact. Over the course of two days, my balance went from £780 in credit to £450 overdrawn. Also the timing meant that my rent didn't get paid, leaving me a further £425 in debt. I discovered all this late Christmas eve, which didn't do much for my Christmas morning or that of my mother and sister.


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Originally posted, 01 June 11.

For some reason this story seems to have just impacted atheists and others on t’other side of the pond. I’m not going to say much about the subject here, as it’s told in the women’s own words and voices in the video playlist below. Their lives say infinitely more than I could manage in a hundred blog-posts. This was a documentary made in 1997, just one year after these institutions closed for good.

I would like to add one point though, that the documentary wasn’t written to make, yet makes very well between the lines. This is the face that ‘mild’ religion takes when it has a real voice in government. This is no way-out conservative fundy sect, or far-off Islamic theocracy. It’s mainstream, ‘gentle’ western Catholicism. And this is why I believe Irish atheists should be consulted and listened to more, when the subject of the impact of Cathoicism in the third world is discussed. They’ve lived through what the Catholic church does to people when it has power in the land. They know in their very bones.

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Risk Avoidance

Or: Schrödinger’s Volvo-driver

Originally posted, 16 July 11.

We all knew I’d get to what’s become known as Elevatorgate eventually. I was aware of it in a small way almost from the start, but—rather naïvely, as it turned out—thought that Ms Watson’s point was so clear and obvious that hardly anyone could object to it. How wrong I was! Anyway, it’s a simple point, but one that quite obviously, in view of the number of objectors to it, needs to be kept alive; though hopefully without the rancour that it’s been creating over the past several weeks. So this is my small attempt to both keep the issue alive and present a possibly new way of approaching it.

For those who don’t know about it, I’ve tried to present an argument that’s self contained, and needs no knowledge of the particular shitstorm that prompted this article, so as not to have to rehash the entire sorry business over again.

For those who do, I’ve tried to concentrate on what I see as the most important aspect of it. It’s mainly addressed to those who apparently don’t get it, and I’ve tried to make an analogy which throws some light on the biggest misapprehension that I’ve seen. Namely that feminists are accusing all men of being potential rapists. Because, you know, we’re really not. And those readers who already get it? Well, maybe you could find the analogy below, or a similar one, useful in explaining it to those who don’t.

That said, let’s be about it

Me on crutches with a broken knee

I ride a bike. Well, two actually; a pedal-bike and a motorbike. (No, not at the same time) As such I’m constantly, though usually at an unconscious level, aware that my life is in some danger, especially in traffic. A diesel spill on a corner—left by a truck with the fuel cap left off (more common than you might think)—could leave me sliding up the road on my face. A T-boning that might, for a car driver, end in nothing but some inconvenience and an insurance claim, could send me over the bars and head-first into the side of a vehicle. When I’m on the push-bike, a driver could pass me and make a sudden turn across my path. I’ve had many such near misses. Any cyclist or biker could tell you the same. I have a metal strip pinned permanently to my tibia; the result of a non-near-miss. It could have been worse. Much worse.

The above dramatic preamble is not an attempt to scare folks out of ever riding a bike, of either kind. What I’m attempting to show is that bikers and cyclists, like car-drivers but more so, have to be constantly alert to danger. This corner might be the one with the diesel spill (or the horse-crap, on country lanes. Helluva tyre-lubricant, that stuff), and not knowing how to get out of a skid before it happens is the best way to guarantee a nasty spill when (not if) it does happen. Likewise, we don’t assume that every car-driver on the road is a blind moron with broken indicators (turn signals). We just learn to act as if they might be, and plan accordingly. If a car’s waiting to pull out of a junction, our danger-awareness gets hyped up a notch. Not because ‘that driver’s a fool’, but because ‘I need to be ready to brake or swerve if he turns out to be a fool’. If he’s waiting to join the opposing lane, and the traffic on the opposite side is heavier by a large margin than on this side, then the driver is more likely to be watching for a gap to pull into over there, and spending less effort watching for a gap to drive through on this side—so hype the awareness up two notches. He might be the best, most vigilant driver in the world, but I’m better off planning what to do if he’s the worst and most careless.

Bikers get hurt and killed in collisions. With cars.

Now consider a woman getting into a hotel lift at four o’clock in the morning. A man who she’s never spoken to follows her in. The doors close. Her danger awareness goes up a notch. She’s not scared out of her wits, just slightly more aware of possible dangers. She’s in an enclosed space that has no exit with a strange man. It’s not that she assumes he’s going to rape her, mug her, grope her or even stare disconcertingly at her. Its just that she has to be aware that the possibility exists, if only at an unconscious level.

After a short silence the man makes a thinly veiled sexual proposition. Now she’s in an enclosed space that has no exit with a strange man who she knows desires sex with her. Not only that, but he began the overture with the words “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”, so he’s clearly aware of at least some of the discomfort his proposition would cause her, yet chose to ignore it and give priority to his sexual desires. The danger-awareness goes up another notch or two. We’re probably still not talking about anything most people would describe as ‘scared’ here. Just ‘creepy’. In fact, I’d contend that ‘creepy’ is actually a synonym for ‘mildly scary’.

It’s not that women think every man they meet is a possible rapist, mugger, groper, et cetera. It’s just that they have to be aware that some are; and just as a biker can’t tell the good drivers from the bad, nor can a woman tell a good guy from a bad one. So she makes plans for what could happen, whilst hoping it never does. And a closed lift, a dark, empty street, a stairwell and other such places inherently offer less opportunities for escape or avoidance, whilst aiding any would-be attacker by being free of observers and possible interference. Most of the time the scariness will be slight enough that we could term it creepy or uncomfortable. It’s there though, and unneeded heightening of it by making stupid passes in circumstances that are bound to fail ninety-nine point nine percent of the time anyway, is impolite at best, and downright scary at worst; if the woman is a survivor of previous attacks, say. Not to mention that cold-propositioning a woman who you’ve never even passed the time of day with is akin to saying “Hey, nice body. Can I shag it?” Kinda sexist, wouldn’t you say?

Women get raped, mugged, groped and more. By men.

If the scene in the lift were like a possible bike accident, the car at the junction would have crept forward a foot or two and then stopped. No need for actual braking, but the fingers would be curled over the brake lever, and the muscles tensed in the right leg, ready to brake hard if things should get worse. Probably I’d be laying off the throttle a touch. Often, though I know, at the back of my head, that the distance between me and the junction is too damn short; like the closed lift, if the car does pull out, I won’t have any time to do anything useful. Happens ten times a day, yet I still wish I could say to car drivers, “Please don’t do that. It’s not really getting you out of the junction any quicker, and it’s a little bit scary.” And most drivers, on hearing me, would think, “Yeah, I can see that. I’ll try to be more thoughtful now that I know.”

When the road safety issue comes up in conversations now and then, virtually all car drivers say something along the lines of “Yeah, I think like that too, but I can see why you do it more intensely. You have a greater risk of a bad outcome.” More to the point, I’ve never met one who assumed I was insulting all car drivers, or them in particular, by acting as if any random driver just might be the one that pulls out in front of me. They call me sensible for it; and, indeed, would think me crazy for not thinking in such a way.

When the woman, who is well known for trying to promote feminist issues—including such displays of unthinking, often unconscious, sexism—and make people more aware of them, mentions the lift incident as an anecdote in a video blog, and mildly says “Uh, guys… don’t do that,” and mentions that it’s a little creepy, seemingly half the male—and even some of the female—inhabitants of the internet go absolutely fucking librarian-poo, claiming she’s calling all men rapists or would-be rapists. But, you know, being trapped in enclosed spaces, or alone in the dark, are fears common to both men and women. It’s just that women have a greater risk of a bad outcome.

It’s not rocket surgery. In fact it’s mostly just plain old good manners. If you know something makes people uncomfortable, even if you don’t ‘get’ why, don’t do it.

Here’s another interesting parallel.

How many times have you heard statements like “Well if you will ride a bike, you have to expect…”

How many times have you heard statements like “Well if she will dress like that…”

Can we all say “victim blaming”? All together now…


Alice Sprinklings

I like that analogy. Well done.


Thank ‘ee kindly.

amy obukuro

Well done, Daz– this is right up there with Greta Christina’s post on this topic for sanity and reasonableness:-))


I did something sane? Blimey, must be slipping! 🙂

Seriously, though, there’s been a lot of ugly around this very reasonable point. I’m still hoping, probably against the odds, that the most vitriolic has come from MRA groups outside the atheist camp. Having seen ERV’s actions (not to mention Dawkins, of all people!), I’m pretty sure it’s a vain hope…

On a lighter note, do you follow The Life And Times Of Cannonball Jones blog? His latest is right up your street, I think. There’s even a spider….

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