There are some people with whom I disagree so rarely that when it happens it makes me really pay attention. Randy King is one of them. If we find ourselves butting heads (well, I’d have to stand on a chair or cut his legs off, but you know what I mean) chances are that either there’s a breakdown in communication, or the subject is larger than we’re giving it space. Either way, it’s thinking time.
It all started because of this:
(Incidentally, I believe the thing to be a rip-off. I saw a post months ago about a bar in the US that posted a remarkably similar sign after one of their female employee had a bad experience on a date. Amusingly, Lincolnshire is where I live. Synchronicity, indeed.)
In response to that post, Randy wrote this:
So… going to stir the pot a bit I guess… been a while
I saw this link posted, then I read the article.
Now this seems like a great idea right…
You know what: I don’t think it is as great as it seems. I am glad this bar is doing something about potential sexual assault, but I feel this just propagates all the things I hate about the dual socialization of genders.
If you are uncomfortable you are allowed to make a scene, in fact do so! As much as possible. Be in charge of your own security as much as possible. Women for too long have been taught to be sugar and spice and everything nice, don’t make a fuss, don’t make people mad, be polite and let crap happen to you.
Enough is freaking enough, yell scream and give weird creepy dudes a lesson on how to behave, someone needs too… in public is the best place! These guys just get ditched Have not learnt a damn thing. Make the world better!
It is great to have a way to escape. It is great to feel more comfortable in bars, but the best way is to speak your mind loudly and proudly.
This is a great band aid… but not a cure. No more solutions that create better victims! This tactic should be an “and” tactic. Inform the staff and then… let ’em freaking have it!
But this is a start.
This was the first time I saw any constructive criticism to the original post – I’m sorry, but “this is shit” or “feminazis gone maaad” or “people who go on tinder deserve what they get” does not in fact count as “constructive” in my book.
So Randy summarised for me and all his readers his issues with the project, and I agreed with him. But I disagreed with him pretty hard, too. Definitely thinking time.
Issue no. 1: long-term vs. short-term.
In the immediate term, third party intervention may stop someone getting sexually assaulted here and now. That may do nothing to help them not get sexually assaulted tomorrow; in fact, it could lead to people becoming reliant on third parties sorting out their shit for them. However, if the target just couldn’t help herself today. not helping her won’t necessarily solve that. Getting sexually assaulted today doesn’t necessarily teach anyone how not to get sexually assaulted tomorrow; on the contrary, trauma can weaken people, particularly in the short term.
(Most importantly for me, however, is that if I can do something to stop a rape happening right here and now, I’ll bloody well do, because I don’t have it in myself to do anything else. Any thinking about the issue on my part is a rationalisation after the fact.)
Issue no. 2: what about people in process?
I know a lot of people who can’t stand up for themselves, for a number of reasons. Whether it’s socialisation, trauma, mental illnesses, personality disorders, whatever, it doesn’t really matter. The result is that they are, at this point in their life, unable to stand up for themselves. I spend a lot of my time standing up on their behalf. I have no problem whatsoever doing so, because it needs doing.
What often happens is that they start out amazed at my superpowers. I can say no! I can laugh in the face of horrible people and dare them to put a toe out of line because then I can unleash my undersized wrath upon them! I can tell people to eff off and die and the world doesn’t in fact come to an end! After a while, they get used to it. It’s just a thing I do. We play a steady game of good cop/bad cop. But often, over time, through imitation and osmosis and the repeated proof that it can be done, even by someone like me, they tend to pick up the habit. They might not go to my extents, because they weren’t socialised by jackals; however, slowly but surely, they end up standing up for themselves. They end up giving themselves permission to act.
Not standing up for those who can’t defend themselves may push some of them into finding an inner strength they never knew they had… or can simply allow them to become survivors. And the road out of survivorship is a long and damn unpleasant one. If I can spare someone that journey, I will.
For some people, that poster may be the first time they’re encouraged to follow their instincts, to listen to their intuition. It may be the first time that they’re told clearly to “do not deny is happening”.
For some people, it may be the first time that they’re encouraged to speak out and ask for help; the first time that help with this kind of problem is actually available for them. It’s remarkably common for people to ask for help with creeps and pervs only to see their concerns swept under the carpet. People stop talking because they assume that nobody will listen.
For some people, it may be the first time that they’re told that they have the ability (NOT the responsibility) to be a useful bystander; that if they see something suspicious going on they can actually decide to intervene in some manner. And I’m not talking about a public standoff or a violent intervention here; a quiet word with the affected person may be all that’s needed.
For people who run businesses where sexual harassment is common… Well, the bouncers at my old local stopped a rape while I was there. They were keeping an eye out on a situation that was going south, watched a middle-aged guy follow a young lady into the toilets, and pounced on him. They could have turned a blind eye. They might not have known what to look for. But they saw it and they cared and they took action, and a young lady did not get assaulted, and, you know, that’s kind of a big deal.
I wonder more and more often these days how many times in self-defence we set the first rung of the ladder so high that the people who need it the most just can’t reach it.
This was Randy’s response:
Addressing the ladder comment. In self defense, the rung can’t be set to high as it should never be set… if self defense is about the student, which it should be. Each person’s ladder will look totally different. This is why I separate it from martial arts. Where they would use a uniform system. That fails people that would not already be good at it.
So yeah, it turns out that Randy and I weren’t disagreeing at all. We were just looking at different aspects of the issue; which, unsurprisingly, is a complicated issue, because people aren’t simple and neither are their problems.
But I got to blog about it first, so I win.