I’ve been thinking about people’s questions I haven’t got an answer for, and those Captain Awkward letters about creepy guys.
The more I think about it, the more it seems that some questions can’t get “good answers” because the questions are part of the problem. The questions reveal a mental attitude that is one of the underlying contributing causes of the problem. They aren’t questions that, if you answer them straight up and directly, will take you to a solution of the problem. The answers need to go a lot deeper, because that’s where the underlying cause of the problem is.
For instance, take some of those questions creeps or even a near-rapists in people’s social groups. Women (in the examples given) are being victimised or at least terrorised by known perverts; they go for help to the males in their tribe; they get no help whatsoever; so they feel even more victimised, and betrayed to boot. The “right answer” to that issue depends very much on which aspect of the problem we’re trying to solve. Are we looking on who’s to blame for the misbehaviours? Or who’s to blame for creating and maintaining the environments that facilitate those misbehaviours?
I look at the situations and how they are being framed by the women talking about them, and I’m struck by something else entirely: their lack of assumed power. Not only they don’t feel they have any power to control the behaviour of the creeps, their enemies, but they don’t even feel they have any power to affect the behaviour of their friends. Women are asking their friends or even partners to please stop forcing them to interact with potentially dangerous people… They’re asking for that, as if it was an optional extra, a boon someone may or may not grant you, rather than an essential part of any functional, healthy relationship. And they’re coming up with nothing, and they’re floundering.
Nowhere in this I see them make a stand. I don’t see them enforcing or often even having boundaries – which doesn’t mean that I think that “it’s their fault”. This has nothing to do with blame. It means that I think that their issue runs a hell of a lot deeper than the immediate creep-related problems they’re looking at, and the only answers that are really going to make these problems go away for good will have to be looking a lot deeper, too. And the practical solutions are likely to seriously upset their respective apple carts, because their entire social situation is predicated on a powerlessness that, if they ever get shot of it, will require either everyone around them to make some major adaptations or be gotten rid of. That’s unlikely to be a smooth ride.
Questions about imposed, limiting personal narratives are another example. The immediate issue is “how do you get rid of these narratives”, and that’s a relatively simple question to answer. It’s not easy work, but it’s simple. But then there’s often corollary issues, like “What do you replace these narratives with?” “How do you know who you really are?” “Where do you get validation from?” And those are infinitely deeper questions, because they suggest that the person asking it believes that they need a narrative and/or some kind of official validation in order to be worthy. That’s a problem on a whole new scale, and I personally don’t have a good answer to it. Not yet, anyway.
People are frustrated by their immediate issues, and may not have the time or energy or inclination to deconstruct and reconstruct their lives in order to find a solution. But unless the deeper problems are addressed, every other solution’s going to be little more than wallpapering over cracks.