There’s a lot heat that has been shed over the last week based on what struck me as a brief comment by Rebecca Watson about getting hit on in an elevator at 4am, as part of a much longer vlog:
Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and — don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.
One wouldn’t think ‘don’t be a creep’ would be especially controversial, but, then again, a statement that not raping people isn’t very difficult brings out the assholes. So guess what happened in response to Rebecca’s vlog? Assholes. Lots and lots of assholes. Fortunately, Lindsay Beyerstein is on the case, and she has the best explanation I’ve read so far–it might even reach some of the assholes:
You’re familiar with the concept of the elevator pitch, right, fellow nerds? That’s the thirty-second pitch for your brilliant invention that you will deliver to the CEO of your company if you ever get her alone in an elevator. Ever wonder why it’s called an “elevator pitch,” as opposed to a “hotel lobby pitch” or a “gastro-pub pitch”? Because an elevator is an enclosed space where you might find yourself face-to-face with someone whom you wouldn’t ordinarily talk to, and, at least for those few seconds, that person is your captive audience.
This only works in movies. The nerd fantasy of the elevator pitch is about as realistic as the fantasy of the nymphomanical space twins with a thing for Magic the Gathering–but that doesn’t make it any less compelling.
Ok, that’s not it, but that cracked me up. Anyway, here’s the key point (italics original; boldface mine):
Men who want to flirt with women have to realize: Women live in a state of continual vigilance about sexual safety. It’s like having a mild case of hay fever that never goes away. It’s not debilitating. You’re not weak. You’re not afraid. You just suck it up and get on with your life. It’s nothing that’s going to stop you from making discoveries, or climbing mountains, or falling in love. Sometimes you can almost forget about it. It doesn’t mean it’s not there, subtly sucking your energy. You learn to avoid situations that make it worse and seek out conditions that make it better.
If a female stranger is wary around you, it is not because she suspects you are a rapist, or that all men are rapists. It’s because a general level of circumspection is what vigilance requires. Don’t take it personally.
If this frustrates you, try to remember that women are blamed for lapsed vigilance. If a woman does get raped, everyone rushes to see where she let her guard down. Was she drinking? Was she alone? Was she wearing a short skirt? Did she go to a strange man’s room for coffee at 4am?
A woman must be seen to be vigilant as well as be vigilant. If she is deemed insufficiently vigilant, she will be at least partly blamed for any sexual that violence befalls her. If she’s regarded as downright reckless, that “evidence” can be used to completely exonerate her rapist. If it comes down to a he said/she said dispute over whether sex was consensual, as so many rape cases do, the dispute becomes a referendum on whether the woman seems like the sort of reckless person who would have sex with a stranger.
That is the best framing of the problem I have read so far (possibly ever). As the kids used to say, read the whole thing.