I am aware, painfully aware, of three separate instances of men acting inappropriately towards a woman that occurred to people I know over the last couple of months.

[Trigger warning: Sexual harassment and rape]

In once case, a man drove up to a woman who was just getting out of her car, in a relatively secluded parking, to ask her what kind of mileage she got on that model and make. In the second instance, a man skated (on in-line skates) up next to a woman who was skating on a long trail a mile or two into the woods where no one was around, and insisted on “teaching her” how to “draft” which involved him skating to a few inches behind her and holding his hand on the small of her back while he explained how great that felt. In the third instance, a stranger cornered a women in an enclosed space, tried to rape her, and in so doing hit her several times in the head while pulling off her clothing.

It isn’t possible to comfortably place all three of these instances into one category. They are not all three “creepy behavior, guys just don’t do that,” they are not all three “unwanted sexual attention” and they are not all three “violent attempted rape.” I’m saying this, the stuff I just said here in this paragraph you are reading, in a tone that you can not read (because I’m not bothering to write it that way) but that you could hear if you were here right now and I read it out loud, in a tone of dripping cynicism, the kind of tone you use when speaking to someone who is beneath contempt because of their attitude towards humanity and who you know will willfully misunderstand and scream and yell about whatever you say regarding the topic at hand. Phrasing this a slightly different way, if you are already mad at me for referring to those three events in one paragraph, then you are hopeless and I don’t want to talk to you. Stop. Reading. Now. You will not be allowed to comment on this post in any event, so just go away.

It is possible, however, that you understand why one might speak of these three things in one paragraph. In one case, the worst thing that could happen did not happen, but the guy in the story certainly was trying to make it so. In the seemingly least severe case, in the parking lot (or so I judge) it may well be that the guy asking about mileage was just asking about mileage. However, I don’t think he was. You don’t find out the mileage of a widely driven model of car by asking a person who happens to be driving one. People do not really know the mileage of the car they are driving. More importantly, if you are a guy, you should know better than to drive up to some woman who is all alone in a lonely parking lot, stop your car and come over to her to ask her a random question. And, when she looks at you, says nothing, gets back into her car and drives to a new parking spot far from you because you creeped her out, you should not be surprised. Regarding the second incident, again, the 45-52 year old (estimated) man could have grown up in a world where approaching a woman who does not know you on a lonely path in the woods and touching her without her even seeing that coming is normal. But I think not. I think that guy was either deluded into thinking that a certain percentage of strange woman he randomly touched would suddenly want to blow him right then and there, or he had nefarious goals in mind and did not expect the burst of speed he encountered. In this case, I happen to think the former is more likely than the latter for various reasons I won’t go into.

So, maybe I’m a little more suspicious than I need to be. In case II, the woman involved was less suspicious than I was, until she and I chatted about the event, after which she seemed to think this was actually a semi-bad thing that happened. So maybe I ruined it for all the perfectly innocent guys who wander around in the woods touching women they don’t know perfectly innocently. Whatever. In the case of the parking lot, the woman involved told me that she had no idea if the guy was up to something, but reasoned that the consequences of an unlikely event (an attack or whatever) were severe enough that the small effort of driving across the lot was worth it. In the event that he followed her she would then know to dial 911, or run his ass over, or whatever. Otherwise, no big deal either way.

In other words, everyone involved seems to be a little more cautious than they probably need to be, but the goal is not to hit some optimal median of reaction, because that would mean that half the time one under-reacts. That’s fine in Poker, in Horse Betting, in all sorts of activity. But, over a period of 20 or 30 years, the correct number of times to be molested or raped is not half the number of times it could have happened. No. It is zero. Just zero. And, in at least one of the cases to which I refer, the woman had prior nasty experiences already, thank you very much.

So yes, there is a point to all off this: In the first two instances I mention, but not the third, it is very possible, even likely, that the man involved was either totally innocent of any sort of nefarious planning or even (immature and sophomoric) unrealistically hopeful sexual thinking. But he was still doing something wrong even if that is the case. This is because from the point of view of the woman, he could easily have been a rapist or something like a rapist, and there is no way at all for the woman to know this. Imagine the not too unlikely case where either of those women was previously assaulted in a similar setting (park path in the woods or a lonely parking lot), and an “innocent” question or an “innocent” light touch on the small of the back was a trigger? Trigger or no, both of these men did something they should not have done.

And this is why I wrote, over a year a go, a blog post about how under certain circumstances certain men should cross certain streets at certain times to avoid freaking out certain women that they are encountering while out walking. When I wrote that post, it fueled a just started and ongoing reaction to Rebecca Watson’s comment “Guys, just don’t do that” in reference to a guy doing something somewhat but not terribly dumb, and that fueled-up reaction became the First Great Sorting among the skeptics and atheist communities. With these three occurrences happening in one short period of time, I thought it would be a good idea to revisit that post, so I’ve placed a shortened and revised version of it below. Before we get to that, let me provide a short list of things guys should not do:

  • Don’t follow a woman on to an elevator and ask her if you can join her in her room or her in your room at 4:00 AM after she has told you she is heading to bed.
  • Don’t skate up to a woman on a lonely forest path and touch her even if you have what you think of as a good excuse lined up.
  • Don’t drive over to a woman who is all by herself in a lonely parking lot to ask her a question that you really don’t need to ask her. If you have a valid question and it’s an emergency, go ahead. But not just some random question that you made up so some girl would have to talk to you.
  • And in the middle of the night, there are times (not all) and places (not all) that you should somehow diffuse the sense of threat a woman might feel when your giant manly hulking form lurches towards her on some lonely street. So, diffuse, and stop whinging aboout it.

And now….the updated original post:

I am not afraid of dogs, and most women are probably not “afraid of men.”

Except I’m actually afraid of dogs and most women are justifiably afraid of men in a certain way. Your job as a man is to understand what that means. If this puzzles you, especially about the idea of women being afraid of men at all, then you need to reconsider your position.

I admit that I see “pit bulls” as potentially dangerous. When I was a kid, it was German Shepherds (or similar dogs) that were routinely trained as “one-man” guard dogs or attack dogs, and if you saw one either it was on a chain (not a rope, a chain) or on your leg (in a bad way). Seriously. These days, Shepherds are kept because they are good with kids. Go figure. The point is, I’m fully aware that almost 100% of the danger level of a dog is based on its training and treatment and not on its breed. So, when I see a “pit bull” I know intellectually that this could be the most gentle beast I’ll ever meet in my life.

Or not.

So the other day, I walked outside and found myself utterly alone. Surrounded by garage doors and closed windows in a sort of cul-du-sac, I knew that you could probably pop someone with a small caliber handgun and no one would hear it or see it. I wasn’t thinking that exactly at the time, but I could sense the loneliness and remoteness as I closed my garage door behind me, heading for the mail box, with the medium-term intent of hopping in my car (which was not in the garage) to head off and pick up Huxley from daycare.

That’s when the dog showed up. It was a pit-bull like dog, though I have no idea what the actual breeding history of this animal was. It was tall, almost as tall as a Dane, but had the pit-bull head and a boxer-like body. Some sort of Frankendogish mastiff derivative, perhaps.

The dog was un-chained and frenetic. The first thing it did was to run at me and bump its head into my leg. Then it ran around in the cul-de-sac, running up to doorways and then turning instantly away each time. When I say running I mean mainly walking very fast. The dog was only bounding into the air now and then. It came towards me a couple of times but almost as though I wasn’t there, it would just pass me. Instinctively, I employed the usual voice and hand gestures one employs to bring a dog to a spot and have it sit, so I could look for ID on its collar, but it would have none of that. This dog was not receiving any of my signals.

That, and the fact that it was foaming at the mouth, gave me pause.

Different instincts suddenly kicked in. I’ve had encounters with dangerous dogs, and if you’ve read the Lost Congo Memoirs you’ll know that I’ve had dealings with rabid dogs as well. After the fourth or fifth time that the frenetic zombie-like (but fast-style zombie, not slow-style zombie) frothing beast passed by, having made my way to the car, I quickly unlocked the door, hopped in, and slammed it shut.

That is when I noticed that my heart was racing and my adrenalin was pumping. I had just encountered a rabid dog that, once it freed itself from whatever trance state the brain-eating disease hat put it in, was going to turn on me and bite me in the face (last place you want to get bit by a rabid dog).

Or not. Probably not. The foam was surely just drool. Its frenetic behavior was probably just because it was lost. Its failure to understand my commands was probably … whatever. The dog was probably just confused. I suppose. Maybe.

So, I usually keep what happens in my house private, or at least if I write about it check first with the involved parties, but I think I will be forgiven for spontaneously telling you about a conversation I had with Amanda last night.

For the course of much of Rebeccapocalypse (the maneno with Elevator Guy, Rebecca Watson, and so on) Amanda was out of town while a friend of mine visiting from out of town and I huddled over our computers down in the blog cave, or visited SkepchiCON where, coincidentally, the Actual Rebecca Watson and other Skepchicks were hanging out, where the two of us fussed over the problem. So, Amanda missed all of the run-up, hadn’t read any of the blog posts, and had gotten only the briefest overview of events from me after her return. The story of Rebecca and Elevator Guy was low priority for her at the moment and the story thus went to the back of her head (well, probably, actually the front, but that’s not how we refer to it) for processing. Then, last night, the whole thing rushed forward and Amanda ran down to the blog cave to tell me something. I should say, this is a rare event. She was kinda freaked out.

“Do people get it?” she asked me, kinda freaked out (as noted).

“Get what?” I was distracted and unclear on the point she was making.

“Do people get what it is like for a woman to have a man join her on an elevator in the middle of the night? Do they understand that this is ALWAYS something that raises one’s stress level, even if just a little?”

“Huh?”

“Sometimes more, sometimes less, it depends on your state of mind, the time of day, all sorts of other factors, but if I’m in a hotel somewhere in the middle of the night and some guy I don’t know gets on the elevator, my stress level goes up and stays there until one of us gets off. If he says something to me other than ‘nice weather we’re having’ I get much more stressed. That’s true to some degree for all women.”

“Elevator? What?” She was going fast, almost upset.

“If the guy did what that guy did, asking me to his room, I’d totally Freak.”

Ah. She was talking about Elevator Guy. “Yeah. Desiree said would punch him in the face.”

“Me too.”

“That guy’s gonna have a bloody nose. Hey, did I tell you about this dog the other day?”

“Huh?”

Anyway, in life I was not as clueless as the above dialog suggests. Amanda hadn’t really been thinking about the issue at all, and the moment she gave it any thought she immediately concluded that Elevator Guy did the wrong thing and that Rebecca Watson, in pointing this out to the clueless, was doing all women in the West, where there are elevators and a chance of some equality, a service. And every other woman that I’ve spoken to about this has said the same thing, more or less.

Guys (and some gals) who are not getting this are making two mistakes. First, they consider the event post hoc and say that no one was attacked or raped, therefore there was no threat of rape or anything else serious. If it didn’t happen, it couldn’t have happened. (I will assume you get why that is stupid.) Second, they think of this sort of thing generally and figure that the chances that Elevator Guy was a real threat was low. Why or how they assess this is beyond me, since they weren’t there, but I suppose statistically it is a reasonably valid guess … chances are the foam is just drool, chances are the frenetic behavior is just confusion, chances are the zombie-like state of the 160 pound dog is just … oh, wait, sorry, I was talking about Elevator Guy. Right. Chances are that Elevator Guy was just a socially ignorant slightly drunk dweeb of no consequence.

Or not. And it is the “or not” part that a woman MUST pay attention to in order to live her life as long as she can before her first sexual assault, or to increase the amount of time spent between her most recent sexual assault and her next one, or to make the next sexual assault hopefully non-fatal or something that she can get out of quickly or minimize in some way. Because very few women get away without something happening in their lifetime.

It occurred to me some time ago that my knowledge of a woman having been sexually assaulted in the past is correlated with how much I know about that woman generally. I quickly add that correlation is not causation. The point is that if you know a woman and don’t have knowledge of her prior sexual assault, that may not be because it didn’t happen. It just may be because you don’t know.

In fact, if you are in your 30s or older and you don’t know of any women who have had a sexual assault or something in their history, that means that there are certain conversations you are not having and that you exist in a state of cluelessness. Almost certainly.

When I was about 14 through 17, hanging around in an inner-city crime ridden urban environment, with no car, and spending a lot of time at night on foot going places, I learned to do this trick. Say I’m walking down State Street and it’s 1:00 AM and there’s a woman walking in front of me in the same direction. With very few exceptions, I’ll overtake her, and there will then be this long, maybe one-third of a city block long period when I’m right behind her, then right next to her, then just in front of her.

From any of those three vantage points, I could grab her. From behind, or from next to her, or by turning around and grabbing her from the front. Then I could push her to the ground and drag her into an alley or whatever.

But I would not do that. Therefore, the woman walking alone at 1:00 AM in the morning downtown has nothing to worry about, right? Well, actually, since she does not know me she has a great deal to worry about because the chances that some guy walking (fast) alone down State Street in the middle of the night is some sort of sexual assaulter or mugger is hard to assess, and not zero.

So I learned this trick. Cross the street about a block back and “pass” the lady that way. Same with a potential head-on encounter. If you see a woman walking towards you in the middle of the night on a lonely urban street bla bla bla, my practice in those days was to cross the street to not stress her out.

Interestingly I stopped doing that second move when I moved to South Minneapolis a number of years back because because the social context there was very different. It would have been considered very bad form. Instead, you make eye contact and say hello. To everybody. That’s how we roll in that neighborhood. Context is important (a fact that many of those who have been harassing me on the Internet ever since I first wrote this post a year ago do not, and never will, understand.)

All men. ALL men who have given sufficient consideration to women’s position in our society do something like this walking trick (maybe not even about walking, but about something) in the right context (for some that will be common, for others, rare). If you are a man and you do not know about this then there is a problem with you.

Here’s the thing. A woman normally possesses a certain sense of caution related specifically to things that mainly happen to women, which does cause stress. A man should respect that and act accordingly, by doing certain things and not doing certain things. Every single person I’ve spoken to about Rebeccapocalypse has had a view of this roughly in the same range: Rebecca displayed normative behavior in being put off by Elevator Guy and it was up to her to decide to speak about it, and generally a good thing to do so. People do disagree on the modus operendus of speaking out, but not dramatically. Everyone understands that a woman should have a certain sense of caution … as should a man but in different ways, for different things, to different degrees … and that a man should respect this and act accordingly. By doing certain things and not doing certain things.

But then there are these people, mostly guys, and also Richard Dawkins, shockingly, who don’t get it at all. I’m thinking that the fame factor has caused Dawkins to live a life in which certain conversations have been avoided, and he is just socially retarded because of this, though in most ways he is a fine example of an English Gentleman. Or maybe being socially retarded and being an English Gentleman are the same thing in certain areas. Oh, right, this might apply to privilege, might-en it? And privilege might be what makes men tend to be stupid about certain things. Get out of my way, Bitch, I’m walking down the street and I don’t care that trammeling past you is going to freak you out. Your problem. What are you doing out in the middle of the night by yourself anyway? Oh, if I was asked over for coffee at 4AM in the morning in Ireland on an elevators, I’d see it as a complement! Yes, yes, I suspect Richard Dawkins has been asked over for coffee and servicing at the wee hours of the morning many times, because he’s a star and that is what happens. So from his point of view, I suppose he was giving Rebecca the highest complement when he figured that she had no brief: “Rebecca, you are one of us stars! You have a groupie! Good show, Old Girl!”

Oh, but sorry, my cynicism is getting the better of me. All that shit that was in my head came out rather suddenly. Sorry about that. Anyway, I want to close by restating my point so it can’t be missed.

I was freakin’ afraid of that dog, even though I know how to handle big dogs. I was afraid of that dog even though I’ve smelled the breath of more than a few wild super-carnivores who were busy contemplating me as a meal or a rival, so a dog should be nothing to me. I was afraid of that dog even though I’m not afraid of dogs. I could not help myself from being afraid, and I have chosen to do the very unmanly thing of not lying to you about that. My heart was beating when I got into the car, into safety.

And here’s the thing, the point you need to get: I can only tell you about the dog. I can’t tell you a story about a sexual assault. I don’t have one. I only have the dog story for you because I’m a 50-something year old man, not a 50-something year old woman. If I was a 50-something year old woman, I’d be able to tell you stories on point for the current discussion, stories about men who cornered me, who touched me when I didn’t want that, who verbally threatened me, who woke me up in the middle of the night or tracked me down on some dark street or who freaked me out in an elevator. If I was typical, that is.

But I only have the dog story to help you empathize with Rebecca because I’m a man.

Oh by the way, that assault I mentioned in the beginning? Yeah, it was in an elevator. The woman was not able to get away by pressing “door open” and walking out the door as Richard Dawkins recommended. Oh, she pounded on that button as she screamed for help but it didn’t work. What did work was fighting the guy off, and that only worked because she was big and strong enough, and only then, barely. So Richard, do you have any further advice for women about how to not be raped? Thanks, please keep it to yourself. Nobody wants to hear it.

Comments

  1. #1 Anonymous
    July 31, 2012

    i never talk to women they can scream rape and i get jailed and they do not need evidence where i live her words are enough

  2. #2 Doug Alder
    July 31, 2012

    Well said Greg – Somewhere in my 20s (which would put that in the 70′s) – I realized that I should cross the street and did so (and would still if I roamed the streets at night , which I don’t).

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    July 31, 2012

    Ya, it is kind of a shock to realize that you don’t do this street crossing thing anymore because you don’t wander around at night as much any more.

  4. #4 David Evans
    July 31, 2012

    Very good post. When I read

    “…the goal is not to hit some optimal median of reaction, because that would mean that half the time one under-reacts. That’s fine in Poker, in Horse Betting, in all sorts of activity. But, over a period of 20 or 30 years, the correct number of times to be molested or raped is not half the number of times it could have happened. No. It is zero. Just zero.”

    something in my nerdly brain went “click”. What an excellent way of putting it.

    In your last paragraph, “begging” should be “beginning”

  5. #5 Greg Laden
    July 31, 2012

    Anonymous: How much time have you spent in jail having spoken to a woman who then screamed?

  6. #6 Stephanie Zvan
    July 31, 2012

    Yes, yes, Anonymous. *pat, pat* I’m sure that’s exactly how it works.

  7. #7 Michelle
    July 31, 2012

    I like to run around our local streets, normally at about 8pm from September to about March (I live in Australia mind).

    But from March on it gets dark, and I don’t like to run in the dark because it scares me. Now I live in a very safe suburban area, the chances of being assaulted at 8pm even in the middle of winter dark are probably zero – but growing up I learnt that I have to keep an eye out for my safety and that probably zero is not the same as exactly zero.

    My husband says “Surely nothing would happen to you, you don’t need to be scared”. I know he understands that I am scared (sometimes he runs with me in the dark and then I am never scared), but he has never had to be scared like women have to be scared so he doesn’t really understand what that means. He says “apply your reason” and I do … but though I know the odds are probably zero – as Greg says, probably zero is not the same as exactly zero, and my reason knows this too!

    And thanks to all those men, my husband included, who do understand, who know that women know that they are not all rapists, but who understand that a strange man in the dark is something to be wary of and who take steps to help us feel safe!

  8. #8 Betsy
    August 1, 2012

    Thank you for this entry. It gives me hope. I can count only 3 men in my life who would even understand the issues you bring up. However I’m fairly sure even those 3 men still haven’t thought through the issue enough to act on it such as crossing to the other side of the street or taking the next elevator….

  9. #9 gwen
    August 1, 2012

    Thanks for the post Greg. Well said.

  10. #10 Daniel J. Andrews
    August 1, 2012

    I started crossing streets and trying to appear harmless in my early 20s (well, actually I was doing it in my early teens but at that time it was because I was the one afraid of people and was trying to avoid them–which probably is what gave me insight into how other people would feel when a tall fit looking guy was striding in their direction).

    On streets where I can’t cross I move well over early on so the woman knows I’m not blocking her path. At my age though I find I more likely remind young woman of their father, favorite uncle, or as happened two weeks ago when the young woman asked me a bus schedule question and started chatting freely, their grandfather (sigh).

    Good message, Greg. I wish bone-headed guys would just get it. It is scary being approached when you’re by yourself. Is it so hard to put yourself into other peoples’ shoes?

  11. #11 Dunc
    August 1, 2012

    @Anonymous: “i never talk to women”

    That’s probably for the best. I’m sure they’re relieved.

  12. #12 sailor
    August 1, 2012

    Greg, I gather from your comments you have now stopped holding your breath waiting for Richard Dawkins to apologize for his crassness. Just as well you would probably be asphyxiated.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    August 1, 2012

    Sailor, I forgot to add my video response to Dawkin’s suggestion:

  14. #14 Amoeba
    August 1, 2012

    I normally don’t approach women in the street, except when they look like they need assistance. I’ve started cars, changed tyres etc.
    If I saw a man and a women together, but she seemed uncomfortable, perhaps acting under duress, I’d call the Police.

  15. #15 Not Anonymous
    August 2, 2012

    “How much time have you spent in jail”

    There are things other than jail.

  16. #16 Mike Macke
    Germany
    August 2, 2012

    I do somehow understand the point made regarding stress.

    Probably American assessment of the issue is also somewhat different to Germany’s, where I live (although I assume that women’s liberation here in Germany basically is about similar to America).

    What I’m afraid of is something different (which also happened in America): Put in “scared old white man” instead of “women”, put in “black boy” instead of “man”, and you have a perfect excuse for the murder of Trayvon Martin:

    (see: “If the guy did what that guy did, [...], I’d totally Freak.”
    “Yeah. [...] said would punch him in the face.” “Me too.” “That guy’s gonna have a bloody nose. “)
    If such problems anywhere in the (democratic) world cannot be solved otherwise, every group arbitrarily defined has to stick to themselves… No other solution possible?

  17. #17 Gav
    August 2, 2012

    The dog analogy might be a good one. Based on around a half century of distance running:
    - most dogs are nice
    - most dogs who aren’t nice can read body language and carefully ignore you
    - of the remainder, where there is an owner around, most (men and women alike) just don’t get it. “He was only playing!” Sure.

    So for men. Nasty dogs are relatively easy to deal with though.

  18. #18 NotACat
    United Kingdom
    August 2, 2012

    The link to “rebeccapocalypse” is 404. In the meantime, your Search facility is proving very helpful, thank you.

  19. #19 sailor
    August 2, 2012

    That was short and sweet

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2012

    Not Anonymous, i’m so glad you gave us that video of some guy telling us how from his and Dawkin’s POV Rebecca Watson needs perspective on being a woman.

    It will be taken under advisement.

  21. #21 Patrick Wm. Connally
    California, USA
    August 2, 2012

    As they tell you in sexual harassment in the work place
    1. Never approach or be alone with strange children or women.
    2. Never touch other;s children or women you are not on a familar bases,

    I am not trying to disagree and as a uncle of a young woman like almost everything said except-
    Most of the people here are not familar with disability rights and integration so can I treat you like you treat Professor Dawkins because you have an able bodied mind set?

  22. #22 kransky
    August 2, 2012

    While I can understand the sentiment here, I think your suggestion that men cross the street is insulting, both to men and women.
    It ignores the fact that men are also assaulted, both physically and sexually. Should a man then cross the street when approaching another man, too? You might argue that women are sexually assaulted by men more often, and your point is taken, but appealing to statistics in the same way, shouldn’t a black man cross the street when approaching someone at night since black men are more often perpetrators of assault? Certainly not, and I would never argue otherwise, because doing so would assume black men are assaults waiting to happen, just as this article assumes all men are assaults waiting to happen. Again, I understand the sentiment, but women are not fragile little dolls in need of protection against all worry. If a man can handle the fear of assault while walking at night, a woman can as well. I don’t think anyone, male or female, has a responsibility, if they are acting within the bounds of the law and common decency, to constantly worry if they are offending the people around them somehow.

  23. #23 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2012

    Patrick, I do not understand your question.

  24. #24 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2012

    Kransky, no, you don’t “understand” the sentiment at all.

    I’m not ignoring assault on men at all. I’m just not talking about it. It may well be true that a man should be considerate in relation to other men in the way you suggest.

    Regarding your question “shouldn’t a black man cross the street when approaching someone at night since black men are more often perpetrators of assault?” …. again, that is not the topic of this post; it is not being ignored, just not talked about here. There is one blogger who happens to be black who has taken up that issue and discussed it, and his answer to your question would be “yes, sometimes’ but again, that is not the topic here.

    This article does not assume all men are assaults waiting to happen. I do not say that, I do not imply that, I do not assume that, I do not believe that. That is something you have added into the conversation because you have misunderstood the point being made, or misread the post.

    My only question for you is this: Is your lack of understanding of both this post and of the overall situation due to having only glanced at the post, or due to your inability to understand the post, or is it willful? There is a lot of willful ignorance in this area and it is disgusting. I certainly hope you are not doing that here.

  25. #25 kransky
    August 2, 2012

    I do not misunderstand the post or the situation. I understand both perfectly. However, though I do agree people should not actively make strangers uncomfortable, I do not agree that anyone has the duty to go out of their way to make strangers more comfortable. It’s not willful ignorance, it’s not a lack of understanding, it’s a disagreement, and I resent the implication made in the original post that there is something wrong with me as well as the implication in your last post that I am either ignorant or disgusting or both.
    I was not and am not trying to stir up trouble or advance some kind of misogynistic agenda, because I have none. In fact, I consider myself a feminist, though I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything to you in this context, nor should it, but don’t lump me in with the he-man woman-haters. I just think the idea smacks of old-fashioned notions of helpless women needing to be protected by chivalrous men.
    I only mentioned men because if men should do this for other men as well, then it’s not a gender issue, it’s a courtesy issue and should be framed as such. I’m not trying to minimize or trivialize assaults against women. I agree that approaching a woman in a deserted parking garage or in an elevator at night is at best creepy and at worst actively menacing, but going out of your way to cross the street is a bit much.

  26. #26 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2012

    The idea that this smacks of old fashioned notions of helpless women needing to be protected by chivalrous men is real, and that has to be taken into account, and if that is the idea someone has while being polite then they are doing it wrong; I totally agree with you there. How we behave with each other is not a simple set of rules (and I did not propose a simple rule here).

  27. #27 jane
    August 3, 2012

    Greg, it seems to me that you were needlessly insulting to Kransky, at 3:19 above (“his” presupposed “lack of understanding” being attributed to one of three errors by or inherent flaws in himself). As a woman, I’d appreciate the sensitivity of a young man or group of men who took the trouble to avoid me in a very remote area. On the other hand, I don’t think I can expect that every man will repeatedly cross the street as necessary to avoid me and any other women he might encounter. The extra time and steps could be a meaningful inconvenience in severe weather or if someone is in a hurry.

    I do keep a cautious eye on men on the street, but do not fear the proximity of those who appear to be sane and going about their own business. If I had ever been raped, maybe I would fear them. On the other hand, I might say to myself that it’s not beneficial to fear every man or dog you see, even if you’ve been bitten, and that regular exposure to harmless men and dogs helps us remember that most individuals of both species are just minding their own business. And if I were to accept the idea that many women can’t bear the stress of such exposure, I myself might wind up trotting back and forth to avoid other women. Because I have fairly short hair and used to count as tall, I have been mistaken for a guy in dim light, so do I too have a moral obligation to go out of my way to avoid passing other women on the sidewalk? Maybe I do, but I don’t believe the point is beyond argument.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    August 3, 2012

    I have been needlessly cranky lately.

    I’m not suggesting that everybody has to cross the street all the time! But basically, yes, you make all good points, thanks for the comments.

  29. #29 kayvaan
    San Francisco
    August 7, 2012

    I’m a big, tall man and I’ve been going out of my way to make room for people so as not to intimidate them practically my whole life. I do it because I happen to be hyper sensitive to how people perceive me, so it’s really a temperament thing. I’m actually so sensitive to it that I sometimes can’t decide whether to cross the street because I worry that the person may get OFFENDED by my crossing the street. It’s a can of worms, I tells ya.

    But I would personally categorize things like crossing the street in an “extra consideration” bucket that I would not deem required of basic courtesy. It’s awesome to be extra considerate, but it’s fine to be just regular considerate (which might be not crossing the street but leaving lots of space and trying to not look too shady :).

  30. #30 ildi
    August 11, 2012

    On the other hand, maybe you feel like you’ve been treated badly by some woman that day, so doing a spiteful thing like taking the opportunity of walking up close behind another woman later that night to possibly give her a jolt of fear is just part of the game, right? It’s not like you’re actually going to harm her in any way because you’re a trustworthy sort of bloke.

  31. #31 Greg Laden
    August 13, 2012

    Thunderf00t is of no consequence, generally or in relation to this post, but Ildi (though it is deeply hidden) brings him up in her rather enigmatic comment. So, given that, I’ll point you’all here:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/08/10/in-praise-of-whistleblowers/

  32. #32 Rob
    Chicago
    August 23, 2012

    I work with heterosexual men that have been convicted of partner abuse. One of the things I teach them about is their unearned male privilege. You may have seen lists of examples of male privilege relating to equal pay and so forth. While all of these examples are all valid, the men I see don’t always relate to them. (She has a job, not me. So she is the privileged one.) The question I ask them that best demonstrates male privilege is this: “How much time do you spend every day woryring about being raped?” The answer that I get back almost universally is “None.” This, my friends, is male privilege. Women do not have this privilege. Crossing the street as suggested is an acknowledgement of the awareness that I have such privilege and am choosing to use it to instill safe feelings rather than fear.

  33. [...] I could com­pletely under­stand the con­nec­tion as soon as I read Greg Laden’s post on sep­ar­ate instances of inap­pro­pri­ate male beha­viour to female acquaint­ances, in [...]

  34. [...] you don’t understand why all of this matters, probably reading these few posts won’t convince you neither. I mean, there isn’t anything that difficult [...]

  35. #35 Helga Vierich
    June 2, 2014

    I walk an Irish Wolfhound. Nobody would get past her. She has already seen off a pair of guys who open and entered the back patio door of the house while I was just out of the shower… and I live in a rural area, so that could have ended very badly.

  36. […] http://freethoughtblogs.com/crommunist/2012/01/16/shuffling-feet-a-black-mans-view-on-schroedingers-rapist/http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/05/women-in-elevators-a-man-to-ma/http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/07/31/guys-crossing-the-street-rabid-dogs-and-elevators/careershttp://blogs.wsj.com/juggle/2011/04/10/why-women-rarely-leave-middle-management/why is it up to the disadvantaged to “fix things” (not get raped,…http://9gag.com/gag/5674046http://orangenarwhals.nfshost.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/tumblr_md8wgiOrdH1qf66ono1_1280-300×218.jpghttp://feministing.com/2012/01/12/new-men-can-stop-rape-ads-rock/ … learn to be more assertive) anywayhttp://www.career-intelligence.com/management/Seven-Myths-About-Getting-Ahead.asphttp://navigatingcultures.com/blog/?p=1125 And I think it’s this: teaching women to be more assertive and agressive in speaking up and asking for stuff is all well and good, and it will certainly help women be more successful in a man’s world – but it’s yet another example of how women must adapt to men to get ahead.  Why is it never the other way around? […]

  37. […] “Here’s the thing. A woman normally possesses a certain sense of caution related specifically to things that mainly happen to women, which does cause stress. A man should respect that and act accordingly, by doing certain things and not doing certain things. Every single person I’ve spoken to about Rebeccapocalypse has had a view of this roughly in the same range: Rebecca displayed normative behavior in being put off by Elevator Guy and it was up to her to decide to speak about it, and generally a good thing to do so. People do disagree on the modus operendus of speaking out, but not dramatically. Everyone understands that a woman should have a certain sense of caution … as should a man but in different ways, for different things, to different degrees … and that a man should respect this and act accordingly. By doing certain things and not doing certain things.” Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators – Greg Laden Blog […]