Dissecting That Dude.

Had lots of questions about the “That Dude” blog.

Lots of people want to know how to tell if someone is a creeper. Unfortunately, there are no fixed visual cues helping in their identification. They don’t all look, dress, or carry themselves a certain way. I also can’t list specific behaviours – if there where actions only creepers ever carry out, the problem would quite simply not exist. They’d get found out at the first offence, get punished for it, and that’d be the end of it. They secret of their success is that they can hide behind social scripts. They’ve got a good game going on – twisted, but good.

I don’t know an easy way to tell if someone is a creeper. However, there is a highly technical way of telling if someone is creeping somebody out: listen to the people around you; observe their behaviour around certain people; ask them if they are ok; be willing to respect their answer.

If someone is feeling creeped out, it doesn’t necessarily mean that their “problem person” is a creep; it could just be somebody whose behaviour is perceived as creepy, maybe rightfully so, but with no underlying creepy intentions. In fact, it doesn’t even necessarily mean that the “problem person” is being objectively creepy; there may be simply a mismatch in etiquette. Also, DeBecker notwithstanding, our intuition rarely exists in a vacuum. Memories, prejudices, etc. tend to affect our feelings about the people around us.

If someone feels creeped out, however, they are feeling creeped out. I realise this sounds damn obvious, but it clearly isn’t, because it’s routinely ignored, even by the people experiencing the feeling.

Pretending that the problem isn’t there doesn’t make it go away. Lying to yourself about your feelings doesn’t affect the situation, and often doesn’t even affect your feelings. Sweeping other people’s problems under the carpet may mean that you never hear about them again, but that’s generally because they’re given up talking to you. Talking to everyone but the person causing the problem also doesn’t tend to make it go away. And the vast majority of people going forth to deal with this kind of situation have to do so without knowing what the situation actually is.

If it was simple to deal with, so many people wouldn’t find it so damn hard to resolve.

 

I can’t tell you how to spot a creep. Misogynists, though, can be pretty easy to spot. They are also super-easy to mess around with, provided you are not greatly invested in your social standing or personal safety. The same signs tend to apply to misandrists, and people who embrace other “isms” and “phobias”: racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, etc. The only changing factor seems to be the nature of the people they have a problem with; their attitudes and how they manifest seem to be broadly similar – in the contexts where I’ve seen it, in a time and place where overt discrimination is not only socially unacceptable but also a criminal offence. Take all of this with several pinches of salt.

Also, please note that I’m trying to work out how their brains work based on their outward behaviour and reactions, and what they say about how they think. I don’t read minds. I don’t have a crystal ball. I could be dead wrong.

If someone truly believes that you’re inferior, their behaviour towards you tends to consistently reflect that belief. They may not tolerate your presence in their team because “you don’t belong there.” More often these days, they seem to tolerate your presence provided that your role reinforces your inferiority (e.g. you’re a lower grade) or your output demonstrates it (e.g. you produce less stuff, or stuff of a lower quality). They may be willing to have you around as an underling or mascot; some may designate you as an useful scapegoat.

If anything threatens the balance of your relationship (them on top, you below), though, they’re going to kick off. This could be anything from you getting a promotion, getting good grades, producing the same volume or quality of output – anything that suggests that you are their equal is an insult. How dare you behave as if you are their equal? And heavens forfend if you do better than them. That’s going beyond impudence into naked insolence.

And it’s not that they are getting competitive, though they may very well pass it all off as honest, natural competition. People don’t generally get competitive with those beneath them. This is not the workplace equivalent of a monkey dance. Their behaviour tends to have a slightly different flavour, involve a wider range of less-acceptable behaviours, and potentially escalate much further than a straight competition between adults (though some people are unfair, awful competitors, and I couldn’t begin to tell you what goes on in their heads).

When misogynists try to put you back in your place, in essence they are handing out an educational beat down. Because you are already inherently disrespecting their authority and they are often insecure, they’re likely to be quite vicious about it (for whatever value viciousness takes in your workplace). And their behaviour will continue to escalate until you start respecting the rule you’ve violated; the rule stating that you are and will always be an inferior life form. That, or until you take some (relatively) drastic steps or someone steps in to stop them.

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