Dealing with it.
June 20, 2013 8:37 AM   Subscribe

I’ve lived in this city for almost a decade. I chose my lavaball strategy early. I have big legs; thick, muscular. When I sit, I sit with legs straight and feet on the floor, using no more space than necessary. When I am lavaballed, I dig them in and hold firm.
posted by zoo (594 comments total) 103 users marked this as a favorite

 
Damn.
posted by cthuljew at 8:45 AM on June 20, 2013


Well I'm seeing red.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:49 AM on June 20, 2013


“That seems unnecessary,” she says. “You’re going to need to deal with it.”

Sometimes when given non-specific end-state-oriented directions, the solutions your people will come up with can surprise you!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:50 AM on June 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


It's a good article - yeah? I don't know what you call that writing style which is folksy and jumps backwards and forwards, and gets to a point slowly, but inexorably by example, but by God I love it.
posted by zoo at 8:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


That was very well written, and in my experience, very valid.
posted by Lafe at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2013


"lavaball" is a new one, heh. She is a badass.
posted by emjaybee at 8:54 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


By “lavaballing” she means man-sitting, right?
posted by acb at 8:55 AM on June 20, 2013


It's right there in the link.

Yeah, pretty enraging to read. Some people...
posted by ODiV at 8:56 AM on June 20, 2013


I have found that when some dude is "lavaballing" (a delightful term which is new to me), a pretty effective solution is to turn to him and loudly (but genuinely) say, "IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR TESTICLES?"
posted by phunniemee at 8:57 AM on June 20, 2013 [94 favorites]


It's right there in the link.

The link is giving me a 503. No Google cache neither.

By “lavaballing” she means man-sitting, right?

I am expecting a game with rolling desk chairs, goals, and a ball on fire. (I am also expecting disappointment.)
posted by mrgrimm at 8:58 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I will hope that the takeaway for men reading this is not to feel bad about being men, but to think about that scene at the bus stop where's she's being harassed by one guy and all the other guys look away. Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.
posted by emjaybee at 8:59 AM on June 20, 2013 [68 favorites]


I still prefer the term mansplaying for lavaballing. But no one can force neologisms to catch on, sadly.

This was a good essay, thank you.
posted by Drastic at 9:00 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I suffered similar, but more severe, harrassment in 7th through about 10th grade from several boys. Eventually I got fed up and dealt with it. I figured if they were going to call me a bitch then by god I'd be the worst fucking bitch they could imagine. And since then I've had to work very hard to reverse the automatic "bitch" reaction those years created so I can function in polite society.

But if any man on the street tells me to smile he gets an automatic FUCK YOU in response, no matter how friendly he was trying to be. My face doesn't exist for your pleasure.
posted by elsietheeel at 9:02 AM on June 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


edit: i got the page to load in chrome after a few tries ... but i'm guessing it's gonna go down again.

good read, thanks.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:03 AM on June 20, 2013


I have found that when some dude is "lavaballing" (a delightful term which is new to me), a pretty effective solution is to turn to him and loudly (but genuinely) say, "IS THERE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUR TESTICLES?"

I didn't know that "lavaballing" was a thing that pissed people off (I mean, I just went looking for other uses of the term and Google is failing me, and it's not on Urban Dictionary nor is it something that is described with a similar lava-related term, so I think it's fair to say that this is a pretty obscure or novel term). And before I go any further, I think the way she was treated in her non-transit anecdotes was deplorable. And yes, I can certainly see how an asshole could use transit to stake out an invasion of a woman's personal space.

That having been said, speaking as a dude: many of us have sensitive balls. If we sit with our legs closed together - and as a frequent transit user, I can say that sitting with your legs closed together is often required - frequently this means that our balls end up squeezed between our legs and that can be unpleasant, to say the least - to say nothing of the looks you get if you try to adjust them - and even if you can get them resting on top it's often still not comfortable at all. So it's not that there's something wrong with our testicles. It's that balls are just sort of naturally inconvenient in this sense.

When I take transit I almost always end up trying to get a end seat or standing; on the end seat I can sort of angle away so I can spread my legs a bit. I don't need to spread the legs apart to a 90 degree angle or anything, but there's gotta be some room or else sitting becomes just not good. So it's corner seat or stand.

I can see - easily - where dudes would use man-sitting as an aggressive harassment tactic, because it's been all too obvious in the past where dudes will use anything as an aggressive harassment tactic. All I'm saying is that at least some man-sitting is not an attempt to assert dominance, but rather an attempt to deal with the problem of balls.

(I do not think I have used the word "balls" quite so often in a single post before)
posted by mightygodking at 9:08 AM on June 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


CoralCache Link
posted by deezil at 9:10 AM on June 20, 2013


By “lavaballing” she means man-sitting, right?

I'm a man and I sit on public transit every day without lavaballing. Lavaballing is a much better term—it pokes fun at this ridiculous practice without establishing it as somehow a "manly" norm, when most men are able to ride transit without invading others' personal space.
posted by grouse at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2013 [45 favorites]


Well-written? Why did I spend so much of the time spent reading it wondering what she was saying?

Spoilers:
It's the boy two seats over who's throwing her pencils and erasers across the classroom; it's not her doing it.
This lavaballing is done by someone sitting next to her, which I don't think she ever gets around to explicitly saying. I was trying to picture the offender doing it standing up, and having trouble.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 9:11 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a friend named Genevieve Valentine, and the domain name made me do a double-take (no, not the same person).
posted by mrbill at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2013


Copied to Pastebin, which is a kludge, but I can't access CoralCache's here, and I figured others might have similar issues.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sitting on public transportation isn't particularly comfortable for many people. My husband has very wide shoulders/back and watching him try to scrunch in his arms to "fit" in a seat can be pathetic. There is a pretty marked difference between sitting next to someone who is trying to negotiate their personal space with yours, and sitting next to someone who is taking up a seat and a half by spreading their legs and expecting you to pull away and cede them room. It would be like if my husband, instead of trying his best to make room, spread his arms out and dared those around him to make an issue of it.

(This essay is about way more than lavaball, really, and I'd encourage people to actually read the whole article and not get bogged down in specific microaggressions. Lavaball is both an example and a metaphor.)
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on June 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


Maybe they just have a wide stance?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:18 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we sit with our legs closed together

I always found this photo interesting.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


And for those looking for the definition of Lavaballed:
For those unaware of this amazing term, it’s when someone sits on public transit and, presumably for reasons resulting from an unbearable, scorching heat in their groin, must spread their legs wide. The vast majority of the time, this is a man. The vast majority of the time, they encroach on the personal space of a woman.
...
When lavaballs happens, it is deliberate, and it must be answered; there is no option to ignore a thing that has been actively done to you by someone. It’s happened. You have to deal with it.
As others have pointed out, this is not the only topic in the article.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:19 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




Like muddgirl says:

(This essay is about way more than lavaball, really, and I'd encourage people to actually read the whole article and not get bogged down in specific microaggressions. Lavaball is both an example and a metaphor.)


It would be nice to have a thread about microaggressions against women where we could discuss those microaggressions and not have them nitpicked apart by "no listen really it's about this" by a bunch of, usually, men.
posted by sweetkid at 9:20 AM on June 20, 2013 [73 favorites]


Interestingly, evolution has positioned balls asymmetrically (one is always lower) to mitigate this kind of problem: a great example of counterintuitive non-design in action.
posted by Dr Dracator at 9:21 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


grouse: "when most men are able to ride transit without invading others' personal space."

I'm with mightygodking on this one.
I can't sit for very long without spreading my legs. It gets uncomfortable pretty quickly down there to the point where it eventually becomes painful even. Like him I try to sit on end seats or stand to avoid intruding into others' space but I'm a tall guy with long legs so sharing small spaces with others is bound to be extra uncomfortable for me and I usually have to at least max out usage of what might reasonably be considered my personal space.

Your mileage balls may vary but we're certainly not all constructed the same way.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 9:23 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The Kickstarter she mentions for the guide to "Getting Awesome With Women" (about halfway through the post) has been on my mind since I first heard about it a couple of days ago. It's such an outstandingly blatant example of rape culture, especially the part she outlines in which men are instructed to literally use physical force to get attention from women. I wish it surprised me at all that it closed out at 8 times more funding than was required. But then, as I've been told by a man this week, rape culture is just a thing that ugly bitches like me made up to be a "conversational turn-off".
posted by palomar at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2013 [44 favorites]


There's spreading your legs and then there's SPREADING your legs.
posted by grouse at 9:24 AM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.

The kind of people who threaten to rape women at bus stops are generally the kind of people who would have no problem with smashing the face of a white knight. I say this as someone who recently got drawn into a fistfight over *littering.*

So, no.
posted by Ghost Mode at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It might be worth remembering, as you read the article and plan your comment, that "lavaballing" is merely a symptom, not the disease itself.
posted by fight or flight at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I will hope that the takeaway for men reading this is not to feel bad about being men, but to think about that scene at the bus stop where's she's being harassed by one guy and all the other guys look away. Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.

Men don't speak up in these situations for the same reason women don't: We don't want to be beaten/stabbed/shot by the obviously irrational and agitated guy either.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


A man touching your shoulder when you’re ahead of him in line, to nudge you forward.

I'm a little confused as to how this get's lumped in with something like:

A group of teenage boys catcalling on the street. “Bitch,” said about you.

I get nudged all the time in line. I nudge. I thought this is what you did in this age where people are in their own electronic worlds in the city.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:25 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


May 29, 2013.

Ken Hoinsky begins a Kickstarter for ABOVE THE GAME: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women, based partially on posts he has made to Reddit . It funds, at eight times the amount he was asking for.

From Chapter 7, “Physical Escalation and Sex”:
The concept of “waiting for signs” or “Indicators of Interest” was commonplace in older pickup theory. It is 100% garbage and needs to be erased from the face of the planet.
Never, ever, ever, wait for a SIGN before you escalate! You will miss out on the vast majority of chances if you sit around waiting for SIGNS. Men are notoriously bad at reading women’s minds and body language. Don’t think that you’re any different. From now on you must ASSUME that she is attracted to you and wants to be ravished. It’s a difference in mindset that makes champs champs and chumps chumps..It is YOUR JOB, as the man, to lead the interaction. Be playful. Spin her around. Pick her up. Push her away as a tease and then pull her back in.
Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.
At this I feel nothing but rage.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 9:26 AM on June 20, 2013 [50 favorites]


I wish it surprised me at all that it closed out at 8 times more funding than was required.

It sounds more amazing than it actually is. The guy only raised 16k. Which, yeah, is not nothing, but he was only asking for a meager amount for his self published drek anyway.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:27 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]



Men don't speak up in these situations for the same reason women don't: We don't want to be beaten/stabbed/shot by the obviously irrational and agitated guy either.


It goes a long way if more people could stand up in these situations. There are small things you can do. Once I had a guy get in my face at a train station and these girls came up to me and were like, "THERE you are, we were looking for you!" and dragged me away. I didn't know them. But the guy stopped just because some other people got involved.

It really takes very little. You don't have to be a 'white knight.' You just have to be thinking of yourself as part of a community. It can work in small ways.
posted by sweetkid at 9:28 AM on June 20, 2013 [138 favorites]


Eight times more than the asking price is still eight times more than the asking price. $16,000 in donations doesn't seem that meager when it's donations made by dudes who support a book that literally tells them it's okay to pull their dick out and force a woman's hand onto it in order to woo her.
posted by palomar at 9:29 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Readercon incident mentioned in the article, previously
posted by filthy light thief at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2013


ABOVE THE GAME: A Guide to Getting Awesome with Women
posted by Red Loop at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


from the piece: She says, “Well, maybe he just likes you.” Horror fills me. I have the presence of mind to say, “I don’t care. I would like a seat reassignment.”

This kind of thing - juvenile male torment - has happened to pretty much every woman I know, and it BAFFLES me that the response is always "oh, he likes you!" Like that's supposed to make constant harassment okay. Why isn't the response ever the person of authority telling the boy to knock it off, he's behaving inappropriately? I socked a boy in 4th grade for this kind of thing. I didn't even mind getting in trouble for it, because he stopped bothering me after that.

Regarding the kickstarer thing: Here's a tumblr post from Casey Malone that discusses all of the problems with kickstarter's response really well.
posted by troika at 9:30 AM on June 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


As an amateur SF author, I find the SFWA bullshit particularly depressing.
posted by Mister_A at 9:31 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Be playful. Spin her around. Pick her up. Push her away as a tease and then pull her back in.

I had a man pick me up and "dip" me (on a first date, in a public place -who does this in a deli). Before I knew what was happening I was totally upside down. He could have dropped me on my head, he had my arms trapped and I wouldn't have been able to do anything.

It wasn't charming at all and actually terrified me that a guy I didn't even think of as that big or strong could totally pick me up and flip me upside down ice skater style before my body could even react to the danger. Horrifying.
posted by sweetkid at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


I am tired. I would like to go to the Little Prince's planet and boot him off and stare at the rose all day, because I am tired of being lavaballed and I am tired of reading angry screeds about lavaballing. By the end of this one I was marginally more tired of the former, which makes it a good screed as screeds go. Doubtless I shall have a score of others to compare it to in the coming months.
posted by Diablevert at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


10th Regiment: A big problem with these microaggressions is that they're tough to describe in a way that doesn't minimize them. I'll bet someone can have two interactions that would seem identical in writing, but feel very different. I suspect this is often by design, though maybe a bit subconsciously on the part of the offender, in order to provide a cover of ambiguity and neutral intentions.
posted by ODiV at 9:32 AM on June 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


So, if Jonathan Frakes sat next to her on public transit, would she call it a rikeraggression?

(I may have some major issues with the way this thing is presented alongside other things in a "I'm totally not going to say they're in the same category, I'm just going to disjointedly present them all together and let you draw the obvious conclusion" way, and some issues with the unspoken assumption that there are people with magical special powers that let them divine someone else's inner state via telepathy or whatever rather than consider, say, the fact that Riker sits that way because he has a bad back)
posted by ubernostrum at 9:33 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


it BAFFLES me that the response is always "oh, he likes you!" Like that's supposed to make constant harassment okay.

There are few things that will make me snap faster than someone handwaving away harrassment towards preteen girls as "oh, that's just boys being boys!" NO. FUCK YOU. NOW IS THE TIME TO EDUCATE THEM ABOUT HOW TO BEHAVE LIKE DECENT HUMAN BEINGS.
posted by elizardbits at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2013 [143 favorites]


Sitting on public transportation isn't particularly comfortable for many people.

Yeah, I'm tall too, and I hate being squeezed into tiny seats too, but the story she's talking about is one in which the guy is literally pressing his leg against hers to exert dominance when there are other empty seats right across the aisle. Aggressors don't need sympathy.
posted by psoas at 9:34 AM on June 20, 2013 [120 favorites]



Yeah, I'm tall too, and I hate being squeezed into tiny seats too, but the story she's talking about is one in which the guy is literally pressing his leg against hers to exert dominance when there are other empty seats right across the aisle. Aggressors don't need sympathy.

Thank you for that psoas.
posted by sweetkid at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'm tall, I'm gangly, and I don't fit into public transit (or many airplane) seats comfortably. But I fold up as best as I can when there are strangers sitting beside me, because we all have the same limited amount of space. It's not comfortable, but the bus ride or airplane flight will end, and I can then stretch out.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:37 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Hey, public transit is uncomfortable sometimes, I get it. I have broad shoulders and I feel like a rhino trying to get through the aisle and into my seat carrying a laptop bag and my lunch. But I don't let my bag smack people on the shoulder as I walk by, because I'm not an (absolute) asshole. I deal with it!

And encroaching on someone's space in the way described here is no better than casually whacking people with your bag as you walk down the aisle. You just don't do it. And these lava ball guys, would they do that if I was sitting next to them? No. They are cowards. I'm not particularly big or tough, but they only do this shit to women. Not that I've ever actually gotten a seat on the NY subway, mind.
posted by Mister_A at 9:39 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's hard to believe how deeply entrenched in culture this kind of insidious sexist shit still is, at this point in time. It's just reinforced at so many levels, you have to fight it at all those levels.
posted by Red Loop at 9:40 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ugh, saw some guy collecting for the "homeless" on the R train the other night coming home from work. He was the cheerfully aggressive sort and he kept referring to random female strangers as "the beautiful blonde" or "pretty lady" as in "and how about you pretty lady, would you like to donate?" The capper was there was a woman standing directly across from me and after she clearly indicated she wasn't interested in donating, he asked her for a smile. She clenched up and didn't smile and the guy asked her again for a smile. I could see her heart sink as she gave him a smile. Then the guy said "at least I got you to smile!" as if he did some great favor. It was wretched to watch and I wish I would have spoken up and told the guy to fuck off and leave everyone alone.
posted by Falconetti at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


when most men are able to ride transit without invading others' personal space.

Yeah, this behavior is not limited to male-female interactions, and it's not limited to legs. Some people are assholes and invade your space without consideration. It's far worse when you are a woman and it's a man b/c there are a host of other complications, but it still sucks regardless.

They do it because they think they can get away with it. Whether or not you want to let them really depends on the fucking situation.

I get nudged all the time in line. I nudge. I thought this is what you did in this age where people are in their own electronic worlds in the city.

I would also like to know the correct etiquette here. I usually say "excuse me" and lean forward to speak face to face (in a single-file line), but if the person is wearing headphones or otherwise not listening, I think a light tap on the shoulder is perfectly appropriate.

At this I feel nothing but rage.

At least a light has been shined upon it.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2013


Sitting on public transportation isn't particularly comfortable for many people.

I've got long thighs and wide hips. The seat depth on most buses in my city is such that if I sit with my legs close together, my knees grind into the back of the seat in front of me. It's not the most comfortable position, but if someone's sitting next to me, I have to keep my legs somewhat close together. Otherwise I'm imposing on that person's space and forcing them to sit all squished up into what little space I've alloted for them.

The thing is, it's public transportation. I'm not entitled to comfort above anyone else's needs. Yes, sometimes I have to sit in a way that is not especially comfortable. At the same time I'm sitting that way, there are people standing in the aisle of the bus holding onto a grip bar because they couldn't even get a seat. There's someone sitting next to me who will sprawl out a little bit more when the bus empties a bit and I move to another seat. It's just the way public transportation is. We have to make room for each other. If I act in a way that demonstrates my needs are more important than anyone else's, then I am being an asshole.
posted by palomar at 9:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


Once a boy snapped my bra strap in ninth grade french class. My teacher then gave me permission to slug him as hard as I could. Wish I could go back in time and thank her properly.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2013 [65 favorites]


Also, all this "oh my sensitive balls!" is kind of hilarious to me. I have 32F boobs, and yeah, they get sensitive during shark week. And yet I don't demand 3x as much space around me as normal because of that. I might sit with one knee up to ward off any bumping, but it doesn't impinge on anyone else's personal space. And yes, sitting normally with my arms by my side is uncomfortable at these times. I deal with it because I don't see the need to potentially inconvenience others for the duration of a 10-15 minute subway ride.

(I am assuming none of you have balls that could fit into a size 32F bra. This may be a miscalculation on my part and if so I apologize to you and your gargantuan nuts.)
posted by elizardbits at 9:47 AM on June 20, 2013 [142 favorites]


I'm really sorry for guys who have horribly agonizing testicle pain when they sit on public transit -- but I've heard you can do things like "stand up" instead of "open your legs as wide as you are physically capable of". And it's usually pretty obvious when someone is sitting normally with their legs spread slightly -- as it turns out, this is more comfortable for some women as well -- and when they are marking space by it.

A lot of this post struck home.
posted by jeather at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


There's spreading your legs and then there's SPREADING your legs.

This, exactly. If you've ridden public transit at any time since 1890 you know there's a standing army of shitheads who do a dozen aggressive and passive-aggressive things to anyone who looks like they don't hand out beatings regularly. It's an attempt to an exert dominance by people who have nothing else to be proud of.

I only ever stand on the subway but it is consistently obvious which people are sitting to be comfortable and which are invading others' space.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 9:48 AM on June 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


I suspect this is often by design, though maybe a bit subconsciously on the part of the offender, in order to provide a cover of ambiguity and neutral intentions.

But there's also the problem of expecting the worst out of people with no intentions at all other than getting to the end of the line. I know there is a total difference between some guy being "flirty" and a nudge, but it seems unhealthy to go through life suspecting that every nudge is an innuendo.

As to lavaballs, I'm a mousy, rather "effeminate" man in real life. I've always been so, it's just my personality. My brother on the other hand is a loud, lavaballer. Even before we were of an age to be sexual or have a sexual intent, he had a wide stance. It made for great car rides and my offense at his invasion of space usually made for a violent reaction reinforcing my mousiness. That said, I do not beileve that my brother is "rapey" in any stretch of the imagination, he's just clueless and the only person that ever challenged him on that was his snotty-nosed little brother back when he was 8. In his case I'm sure a little nudge would at least temporarily make him sit up a bit, cause him great embarrassment, and generally solve the problem. Again, I KNOW there are guys that are doing this intentionally in a sexual way or in a power-play. I'm not sure just how many of them there are vs. the clueless.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:49 AM on June 20, 2013


I would also like to know the correct etiquette here. I usually say "excuse me" and lean forward to speak face to face (in a single-file line)

"OI!" works
posted by Hoopo at 9:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


That said, I do not beileve that my brother is "rapey"

From the post we're talking about:

These are not the assaults, the beatings, the rapes. These are not the traumas. These are small things, mostly; they happen a hundred times a day, you have to deal with them all. To ignore these is to know they’re collecting little victories of privilege, and to wait for “baby” to turn to “bitch” when you don’t answer. To respond almost always risks escalation, telescoping the amount of time you’ll have to deal with it. Either can be dangerous, if the man has a mind.
posted by palomar at 9:53 AM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I was not implying, by "say something" that anyone be a white knight and go in fists a-swingin'. I meant, ask the woman "Can I help you?" I meant, say "Hey, I'm calling 911 right now." I meant, anything that tells that woman "No, I won't just stand here and pretend nothing's happening while this guy assaults you."

Or not saying anything, but calling 911. Or pulling the brake cord. Or anything at all that might serve to stop or interrupt what is happening.

But I guess there is some risk, so maybe you're right and it's dumb for me to expect anyone to do anything at all when harassment is happening in front of them. For me and this woman and the women on the receiving end, facing the risk is non-optional. My apologies for asking anyone else to stand up to it with us.
posted by emjaybee at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2013 [43 favorites]


To the guys here saying "it's uncomfortable to keep my legs together" I say so what? Has it not occurred to you that it's also uncomfortable for the person sitting next to you to have to twist their legs to one side and press them together in the way you, poor thing, find so intolerable? Your discomfort does not give you the right to inflict discomfort on others by invading their space. You need to suck it up.

And yes, men are often on the receiving end of this selfish behaviour too. And it drives us crazy too.
posted by Decani at 9:54 AM on June 20, 2013 [60 favorites]


Yes, I am narrow hipped and short and a woman so many people of both genders just figure my space is theirs when on public transport. It's extremely annoying.

Sometimes I do stand my ground and with certain men, it's definitely a dominance thing because they'll keep pressing their thighs into mine, more and more and more and more, until I get disgusted and move.

It's obvious. It's not an accident.
posted by sweetkid at 9:58 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would also like to know the correct etiquette here. I usually say "excuse me" and lean forward to speak face to face (in a single-file line), but if the person is wearing headphones or otherwise not listening, I think a light tap on the shoulder is perfectly appropriate.

There's a mildly contentious AskMe going on right now about this very subject, actually. I agree that a light tap is not, under usual circumstances, inappropriate, but I am also aware that there are people who will not react well to such things, and it can be hard to judge what someone's reaction will be.

(Life among other humans, so many questions, I just want to hug puppies.)
posted by elizardbits at 9:58 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Also, all this "oh my sensitive balls!" is kind of hilarious to me.

Dismissing someone else's description of their own experience isn't really considered good form around here.
posted by Longtime Listener at 9:59 AM on June 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


I told the story of the best response I ever saw to this behavior here. Warning: long thread, probably best not attempted on a mobile device.
posted by rtha at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are few things that will make me snap faster than someone handwaving away harrassment towards preteen girls as "oh, that's just boys being boys!" NO. FUCK YOU. NOW IS THE TIME TO EDUCATE THEM ABOUT HOW TO BEHAVE LIKE DECENT HUMAN BEINGS.

There were a lot of tedious things about going through ten years of single-sex elementary/secondary education, but not having to worry ONCE about my bra being snapped, my stuff being chucked about, or "boys will be boys!" as an excuse was fucking awesome.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm an average sized woman, which is to say, counting my gender as the other rather than the standard, short. One phenomenon I'm familiar with is that people, especially men, are significantly less likely to give way in crowds.

A Montreal side walk can comfortably fit about 2.5 people. Unfortunately, people tend to walk in pairs, in opposite directions, which means that there's usually going to be a trailer. My ex used to always ask me "why are you walking ten paces behind? Are you some sort of asian wife?"

But in a male/female pair, more often than not, the man is striding boldly and the woman is trailing a little, making way. Commonly the guy is on curb or house side, leaving the woman in the middle of the side walk.

One day, to prove my point about assumptions of right of passage, just as we were passing two men, I did not give way. The man in the pair who was opposite to me did not give way.

I nearly knocked the poor bastard over on his ass. I feel a bit bad about what was essentially assaulting a stranger, because if we both were giving way that was fair human habits, but what would have been an arm brush was a *clonk*.
posted by Phalene at 10:01 AM on June 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Genevieve Valentine is a name so criminally cool I assume she moonlights as a globe-trotting assassin and saboteuse in a bespoke suit.

That was also a great essay - awesome and inspiring. The "try it again and you'll pull back a stump" line is worth a cheer. Honestly I found it uplifting rather than enraging. I mean it is enraging, but it's also encouraging that folks like her are out there.

Kirth, I would gently suggest that any struggles with comprehension rest almost entirely with the reader. This is not difficult or circuitous writing.

Regarding speaking up: if you're scared, dudes, imagine how frightening it's gotta be for the one woman at a stop full of men? Honestly? I say this as a 5'6" guy 100% lacking in physical intimidation. I've made myself promise that I'm done letting this shit slide unchallenged. And you personally don't have to do a whole lot! Announce loudly that you're calling the police and then do so! Be the person that asks the bus driver to bar the shithead so the harassed woman doesn't have to deal! Work together instead of being scared alone.

The thing that I've realized is that men conceal this shit from other men. Creepers lean in close and whisper shit in passing. The one (1) time I've noticed and said something, it was because the dude called her a bitch as he walked away; I almost entirely missed the initial interaction.

10th Regiment: it's the "lumping" that is the point. People always like to pick out individual elements and say "but this isn't so bad." The problem is that it's everything together all the time. Please notice that this nitpicking is exactly what you're doing. You're plucking singular items out and suggesting that it's not that bad or she's misinterpreting or whatever, when the central point of the essay is "sometimes, when it's bad enough, and I can, I make a stand." Your response seems to be "have you ever considered not making a stand, instead?"

Also, seriously? If the person in front of you is texting or whatever, use your words, there's no need to touch someone.
posted by kavasa at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


Or pulling the brake cord.

Don't pull the brake cord unless someone is being dragged to their death by the moving train. Pulling the brake cord between stations will just make it take longer for help to arrive, trapping you in a small enclosed space with the harasser.
posted by grouse at 10:02 AM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


From the post we're talking about:

These are not the assaults, the beatings, the rapes. These are not the traumas. These are small things, mostly; they happen a hundred times a day, you have to deal with them all. To ignore these is to know they’re collecting little victories of privilege, and to wait for “baby” to turn to “bitch” when you don’t answer. To respond almost always risks escalation, telescoping the amount of time you’ll have to deal with it. Either can be dangerous, if the man has a mind.


Yes, I read that, and I'm saying that at some level there is unacceptable behavior and at another is people being selfish and clueless. Assuming that those minor slights like getting tapped on the shoulder are equated with things like a group of teens cat-calling is a tad paranoic. Was the woman that put her purse on me this morning a pre-rapist or was she just obnoxious? Was my failure to call her out for it adding to some smouldering pot of soon to be sexual assault?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2013


Look, here's the thing about "lavaballs": No one is forcing anyone to sit down next to anyone else. If you can't sit down without spreading your legs, then stand. If it truly is painful, and you cannot stand, perhaps you could ask your neighbors politely if they would let you have an extra seat because you are in pain.

Considerate humans help each other, and are aware of not only the public space of others but also the physical and emotional well being of others, and will make affordances for those in distress. They certainly don't press their legs against their neighbors attempting to win territory like some sort of silent napoleonic conquest of public transit seat space.

I would like to believe that most of us are considerate, thoughtful, socialized humans: that's the kind of world I would like to live in. And, well, due to my personal privilege, I largely do, which, well, makes me even more upset and horrified by these stories, because I know that I both do not experience these utter failings of humanity nor am I as aware of them as I should be.

This must have been hard to write. I truly and deeply appreciate it.
posted by Freen at 10:03 AM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Don't pull the brake cord unless someone is being dragged to their death by the moving train.

IIRC we also had a (long, fighty) FPP about pulling the cord a few years back, although not about the linked article.
posted by elizardbits at 10:04 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


One day, to prove my point about assumptions of right of passage, just as we were passing two men, I did not give way. The man in the pair who was opposite to me did not give way.

I've taken to deliberately walking into people who stop on the sidewalk and block it or who continue to walk abreast when people are coming the other way.

The guy in the subway isn't spreading his legs to oppress you he's doing it because subways are hot and his balls are sticking to his leg.

This is really not true; or at least, it isn't the case that most guys who are doing it are only doing it for the horrible pain they are in. The example in the post had a totally empty seat available also, and this is not uncommon -- a guy will sit down next to a woman even though there are seats with no one next to them available, then spread their legs at obtuse angles.
posted by jeather at 10:07 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


elizardbits, I think it was in the response to a flasher thread.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:08 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still prefer the term mansplaying for lavaballing. But no one can force neologisms to catch on, sadly.

I am a large man - broad shoulders, heavily built, just plain built big, like a fridge, but I do try to limit the amount of space I occupy on public transit, so, when sitting next to someone, no "lavaballs" for me (I became very aware of how I sat on crowded trains after being chewed out by an old man for sitting cross-legged on an Osaka commuter train).

However, the way men are built, it's not particularly comfortable to sit with knees pressed together. It is a biological fact of life that squeezing one's testicles in uncomfortable.

So I "mansplay" whenever it does not affect anyone else.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:10 AM on June 20, 2013


Oh yeah, brakecordgate was something else.

Anyway. The tap on the shoulder is fine, IMO. It's an appropriate way of getting the attention of someone who may have earbuds in, may be zoned out, may not respond because he's not named "Sir," etc. The author of the linked piece was talking about, not a nudge, but a more forceful nudge or push - she was talking about being steered by some stranger, rather than politely notified that the line had moved.

A tap on the shoulder is fine, provided you've tried to get the person's attention verbally first. A push/nudge/steer is grounds for a punch.
posted by Mister_A at 10:11 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not to feed the derail, but I think the problem with pulling the cord is that you are then stuck with the perpetrator. Calling the driver/conductor gets better results.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:11 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


If your balls are too sensitive, please STAND UP and find an elderly or pregnant or disabled person to take your seat. Or maybe a woman in heels. The modern world doesn't mean that chivalry has to be totally dead.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was not implying, by "say something" that anyone be a white knight and go in fists a-swingin'. I meant, ask the woman "Can I help you?" I meant, say "Hey, I'm calling 911 right now." I meant, anything that tells that woman "No, I won't just stand here and pretend nothing's happening while this guy assaults you."

Except this wasn't actually an assault. This was a threat, and probably criminal, but based on her article he never put his hands on her. And why would it help to call 911? She already did.

I understand that everyone is supposed to be a good citizen, and I would certainly intervene if physical harm were visited upon someone. But I'm older than I used to be, and I have a kid to worry about. I can't get in altercations with nutjobs unless the stakes are actual physical violence against an innocent person.

I think the expectation for other men to stick their heads out to help a women being harassed has its roots in weirdo macho assumptions about what "being a man" is all about. I would help anyone (male or female) being attacked physically but I can't help anyone (male or female) being attacked verbally. It isn't worth it.
posted by Ghost Mode at 10:14 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The kind of people who threaten to rape women at bus stops are generally the kind of people who would have no problem with smashing the face of a white knight. I say this as someone who recently got drawn into a fistfight over *littering.*

I think it's more accurate to say "The kind of people who threaten to rape women at bus stops are generally the king of people who would have no problem with threatening to smash the face of a white knight."

Here and there I've tried to bait aggressive (shovers, etc.) transit types into swinging on me, and it hasn't happened yet. They look for people who don't fight back.

If your balls are too sensitive, please STAND UP and find an elderly or pregnant or disabled person to take your seat.

Don't sit on mass transit, period. Somebody took a horrible lager shit in that seat at some point and you and I both know it has not been cleaned to an acceptable standard.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:16 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


A push/nudge/steer is grounds for a punch.

Agreed, maybe I just wasn't reading it as that forcefull.

Incidentally, and this perhaps speaks more to a difference in culture, my wife and I were on a VERY crowded (even by Chinese standards!) Beijing subway once and a guy kept bumping my wife from behind. She simply turned around and in a loud voice said, "bu peng wo!" (Don't touch me!) at which the man immediately dissolved into a puddle and quickly slinked off at the next station. From that point on my wife rode in a bubble of space with at least four inches between her and any other human on the car!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here and there I've tried to bait aggressive (shovers, etc.) transit types into swinging on me, and it hasn't happened yet.

All it takes is one.
posted by Ghost Mode at 10:20 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


lavaballing is a great word.

But what is "cisgender"
posted by DigDoug at 10:21 AM on June 20, 2013


Just for kicks: another aspect that's conspicuously absent from this discussion is the vastly different socialization men and women are subjected to. When transmen tell their stories of first being accepted as male, one of the things they often seem to remark on is the sudden lack of personal space -- people feel more or less entitled to not just encroach, but to make contact and even start walking into you or shoving you out of their way when they feel like it. While I can't find it, I'm pretty sure Norah Vincent's book about being "undercover" as a man also touched on this. They often come to the conclusion, after a while, that it's not a sex thing, and really not even a power/dominance thing; it's just a "nobody cares about your personal space" thing.

And this is something that -- whether realized consciously or not -- is the norm that men grow up with in our society, something that we internalize sooner or later and just stop noticing/caring about until someone who didn't grow up with it notices and writes about it and (which is how I first realized that, wow, I totally had been putting up with that for decades without realizing it). And it really is a thing, and it really is pretty ubiquitous, and it really is unsurprising if it results in a lack of respect for the personal space of others. It also isn't really necessary to automatically assume that the majority of such behavior must really have some completely different, sex-and-power-based motivation.
posted by ubernostrum at 10:21 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


cisgender means that you identify as the gender that was assigned to you at birth
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:21 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


But what is "cisgender"

As opposed to transgender. It works better than "normative" implying the other is abnormal.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:22 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Assuming that those minor slights like getting tapped on the shoulder are equated with things like a group of teens cat-calling is a tad paranoic

The point that's being made is that women experience people making free with our bodies, in general, more than men do.

This also makes it much harder to deal with the subtle stuff that tests the waters for if you're open to being assaulted.

For example, in the metro, I smiled at a young man who reminded me of my boyfriend. I'm a smiley person. He stands next to me- fine, all seats were occupied. I'm not paying attention--- bump! Okay, did his crotch just bump me? It wasn't like when I was full on forcibly humped in middle school. I straighten my posture a bit, as it could be just an accident. Bump. Still innocent enough in theory but... crotch! I death scowl at him. No more bumping.

Now rubbing your crotch against someone is open-and-shut sexual assault in Canada, if you can prove it. But these little subtle things are hard to prove. And because I generally get less personal space than men, I'm more open to Mr. Crotch Bump. They are not rape. But rape benefits from human sexism, because it strips me of security.
posted by Phalene at 10:26 AM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]



This is what she says in the post:
A man touching your shoulder when you’re ahead of him in line, to nudge you forward.

Some people here are considering that to mean a "tap," but it's not clear. In my experience sometimes a man will grip your shoulder and literally push you. Or say, "excuse me" while putting an arm around your waist and moving you to one side. It's not really clear, but in my experience as a woman getting physically moved around, I think that's what she's talking about.

The point that's being made is that women experience people making free with our bodies, in general, more than men do.

Yep.
posted by sweetkid at 10:31 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


as soon as i read the essay i knew how this post was going to go - we're just overreacting, right? thinking the worst of the men around us? that both genders do sort of similar things and you guys aren't waving your arms about assault?

but when we're groped, shoved, assaulted, we're questioned about what we did to invite it, how we didn't heed trouble, "why didn't you move when he pinned you into your seat?", "maybe he thought you were flirting when you didn't object to him cornering you?", "you just need to be more careful..."

that's what she's talking about - there is no answer to the microaggressions - even saying "these are things that happened to me" is going to be picked apart at every detail. people are going to suggest that she either relinquish more or stand up more (and some people in this very thread seem to be suggesting somehow she does both simultaneously!). it doesn't seem to matter to the detractors that many, many women have written this sort of column (and many women have filled up comment threads reporting similar things). every singular instance is just an invitation to tell us how we're doing it wrong.
posted by nadawi at 10:34 AM on June 20, 2013 [61 favorites]


and i can only laugh that some men think we don't know about how terrible it is for y'all to lug your testicles around - we've been hearing about your balls since you first discovered them. there is not a woman over the age of 12 that isn't acutely aware of how tender, cumbersome, and funny your nuts are to you. it does sometimes take us a while to learn that your sore jibblies aren't our problem.
posted by nadawi at 10:36 AM on June 20, 2013 [53 favorites]


I am a large man - broad shoulders, heavily built, just plain built big, like a fridge, but I do try to limit the amount of space I occupy on public transit, so, when sitting next to someone, no "lavaballs" for me (I became very aware of how I sat on crowded trains after being chewed out by an old man for sitting cross-legged on an Osaka commuter train).

However, the way men are built, it's not particularly comfortable to sit with knees pressed together. It is a biological fact of life that squeezing one's testicles in uncomfortable.


You're not the first person to say this and you probably won't be the last. Sorry because this is going to seem like I'm calling you out.

I'm 6'3", and overweight, particularly in my thigh area relative to the rest of me. I can easily sit down in a chair, with my legs parallel, without my knees touching and balls being uncomfortable. No one is making the case that everyone should touch their knees together. There's clearly a difference between your example and the authors.

Unrelated, it always makes me sad when I read this stuff because it's so easy to forget when you really don't have to experience it. I mean I think everyone has people who touch them in public transit or don't share the sidewalks, but I can't empathize with the catcalls and harassment and I'm sorry it happens to y'all.
posted by DynamiteToast at 10:37 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The point that's being made is that women experience people making free with our bodies, in general, more than men do.

I understand that point, but at what level is it "making free with your body"? Catcalls certainly happen to women far more often but a tap is something that happens to men and women, perhaps equally (especially on the East Coast of the US as I've learned to deal with from my fly-over upbringing). Dealing with selfish assholes certainly is an equal opportunity joy of life, but I think I'm understanding a bit more where you're coming from on this, are you saying the clearly unacceptable bullshit makes one less willing to forgive the less overtly sexualized, but assholish behavior?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2013


I think if we can just nitpick every single one of her examples then we will have finally solved rape culture once and for all.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:38 AM on June 20, 2013 [141 favorites]


Dealing with selfish assholes certainly is an equal opportunity joy of life

It is not.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


There's an obvious-to-the-casual-observer difference between "sitting as comfortably as possible in a way that doesn't invade your seatmate's space" and "lavaballing."

I assure you, women aren't really any more comfortable with our legs pressed together than men are -- we just got trained at an early age that sitting with our legs apart was "unladylike."

And there are points in between "legs pressed tightly together" and "lavaballing." Should you be unable to grasp this, I refer you to your grade school geometry classes. There are, like, 90 whole degrees between "parallel" and "right angle." True fact!

And while I'm on the subject of public transit annoyances: the moment there aren't enough seats left for everyone to have a row to themselves, pick your damn bag up and put it in your lap. If you are trying to be the last person remaining with an entire row to yourself due to your failure to move your baggage, you are being a jerk. Also, turn your headphones down, stop yapping on the phone at high volume, and for the love of Lady Bird Johnson, don't litter.
posted by asperity at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think if we can just nitpick every single one of her examples then we will have finally solved rape culture once and for all.

Guilty, but I was confused at that tap equated with the other horrors, so the nitpicking has helped.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:41 AM on June 20, 2013


Yeah, why did she stay sitting next to that boy? And why wasn't she nicer to him?
posted by Mister_A at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2013


I am a married vanilla het guy. About a year ago, ms. straw dragged me out to go square dancing, and unlike every other dancing occasion we'd been to for some reason square dancing clicked with me, and I'm now out dancing on nights when she's got other things going on.

We started dancing with a club that's got a strong core of LGBT members. There are two forks in the culture of modern square dancing, but this club has great dance hall that is the legacy of a more traditional straight club, so there's actually quite a bit more integration of straight square dance culture than in many gay clubs.

As tradition would have it, I ended up learning to dance "boy", and I found it amusing that when dancing "girl" the femme-iest lesbians would tap a hand and turn independently for a "California twirl" while the big burly bear 3 inches taller than me would insist on being delicately spun under my raised arm, but it's a great crowd, great fun that makes me think along with my excercise, and it's a community in which we're putting some effort.

A few weeks ago we learned that a caller whose teaching style we like (he'd guest-called our club) was teaching a move we could use more work on at another local club. It's a substantially straight club, but we're here in Northern California, there's that tie-in to straight square dance culture, and I couldn't imagine that things were all that different. We mentioned it to another dancer, and ms. straw, K. (female, sex and gender) and I showed up at that other club.

For the first few tips I danced with K., and then danced with ms. straw, and after a few more tips K. and ms. straw were commiserating over how physical various of the dancers were. And then after a few more tips, K. gave her regards and left for the evening.

In a way that I hadn't before, I "got" just how strong the bubble of het white male privilege is that extends around me. First, those things didn't happen directly to me, but, second, had I been there dancing with just ms. straw, she'd probably not have mentioned how physical people were without K.'s prompting, and once we started dancing together more we were obviously a couple, which extended some of that bubble from me over to her.

So I'm clueless, because what I do see I chalk up to inexperienced dancers, what mrs. straw sees is filtered through the "protection" of being half of a couple with me, and even if another dancer was getting more physical she'd likely chalk it up to inexperience, or "just that dancer" or whatever. I'm not just one level removed, I'm two levels removed.

And what's K. going to do? Raise a stink? There are only a few single dancers there, and the other men (gender and sex) are all similarly esconced in their partnered bubbles. Where's she going to get allies?

I recently bemoaned the necessity of becoming a part of a community in order to effectively create change from within it, and a friend of mine reinforced that necessity. I came to the conclusion that the right thing for me to do was more often to find new communities with a culture that I admired and join them, rather than trying to change the existing dominant cultures. So I'll continue to dance with the gay clubs.

But on public transit (or what-not) that's not really an option. And I still wonder if that's just the coward's way.
posted by straw at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


I understand that point, but at what level is it "making free with your body"?

You're a man, right?

How often do other men put their hand on the small of your back, or on your hip, and physically steer you out of their way, as opposed to tapping you on the shoulder?

Because that happens to me, and most other women I know, all the damn time.

It's things like that. It's the unnecessary touching, the countless times where a man has put his hands on my body in public and let them linger, where he would just tap or quickly nudge me if I were a man.

It's the idea that because I am in a female body, I am there to be touched. Whether I invite it or not.
posted by palomar at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2013 [47 favorites]


As a man, there's a part of me that really wants to pick a fight with Genevieve and this article. The essay as read by my brain, is being absorbed as: "All men are boorish, insensitive, self righteous, perverted, assholes and the world is apathetic to these transgressions." This gets my hackles up, because I am not (nor do I want to be lumped in with) a self righteous, insensitive, and perverted asshole.

As a husband, friend, brother, and son, however, there is the shocking coalescing of stories and experiences from females in my life describing the awful things boorish, perverted, asshole men have done to them, whether it be flashing, sexual assault, unwanted casual touching, or consistently patronizing comments. And the fact that to me, these events happen at a similarly shocking rate, definitely caused me to rethink how women must experience this world because of this.

So, as a man, and in a lame defense of my gender, I can choose to focus on the details/reasons/justifications around "lavaballing," the fact that she appears to be harboring a resentment dating back to high school, or that she's simply being oversensitive... but the simple fact is, for better or worse, I will never see the world as she does, will never fully understand, and more importantly, experience the situations, emotions and thought processes which comes along with being in this same world, but of a different gender.

As a man, I must recognize that because she isn't describing me or the people I associate with, the best thing I can do is to simply continue to not be that guy.
posted by Debaser626 at 10:42 AM on June 20, 2013 [52 favorites]


I ride public transport every day. I'm an average-sized woman, which is to say, small. I can tell the difference between a big guy who gets on the bus, sees the empty seat next to me, and thinks, 'Thank God, if I sit next to her I don't have to worry about taking up too much space,' and the guy who sits next to me and doesn't care at all that his lavaballing has me crushed against the window (or, worse, the guy crushing me who won't get up when it's my stop and instead wants me to crawl over him). Every woman knows this difference.
posted by toerinishuman at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


Thank you, Debaser626, for saying what I was unable to articulate.
posted by ElDiabloConQueso at 10:43 AM on June 20, 2013


Dealing with selfish assholes certainly is an equal opportunity joy of life

It is not.


I'm not sure I agree. Assholes are everywhere of every gender, race, creed, sexual persuasion, and ethnicity. I'm sure that women deal with sexually aggressive acts far more often, but selfish, inconsiderate behavior is pretty universal.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


But in a male/female pair, more often than not, the man is striding boldly and the woman is trailing a little, making way.

I think this is true, but as a man, I've always been a trailer. Friends have accused me of being their "bodyguard". I'm pretty sure it's some signal I give off, but I've never really figured it out. In fact, I still trail behind when walking with women.

I think if we can just nitpick every single one of her examples then we will have finally solved rape culture once and for all.

Is this a discussion or a therapy group? I'm sorry, the article makes a good point, but she is most definitely mixing in things that have nothing to do with her (loud phone calls trashing ex's) with things that are completely real (catcalling, wierd non-physical sexual assault), and IMO it weakens the article. Who is the article directed at, anyway?
posted by smidgen at 10:44 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


it's hard to explain things that seemingly happen to women and don't happen to men - like the "tap" - i'm guessing there aren't a lot of men here who have been grabbed around the waist by a stranger and steered to somewhere else. i'm guess a lot of men here haven't had their upper arm or wrist grabbed by a stranger to yank them to where the stranger thought they should be. i'm guessing most women here have had that experience, more than a few times. so it's difficult to discuss how a tap or a shove can be read differently depending on different experiences.

are you saying the clearly unacceptable bullshit makes one less willing to forgive the less overtly sexualized, but assholish behavior?

this is my view, with the added bonus of "and if you guess wrong and get assaulted, you'll have to justify every moment of your interaction - before during and after - so make sure you have a rock hard alibi."
posted by nadawi at 10:45 AM on June 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


while I'm on the subject of public transit annoyances: the moment there aren't enough seats left for everyone to have a row to themselves, pick your damn bag up and put it in your lap

asperity for mayor of Toronto!
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 10:47 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


In response to people saying it isn't worth it to say something when you see a woman being harassed – I am a 45 year old woman who poses no threat physically has lots to lose if I get smacked and I, with out a thought, say something loudly whenever I see another woman or a girl being harassed in public. There's no thinking about it. You just do it. My step dad who is 70 and not very healthy would go off without hesitation on anyone who starts harassing another person, regardless the genders involved. You live in a community. You stand up when you see someone being harassed.
posted by marimeko at 10:48 AM on June 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I don't like to by touched by random strangers without my permission. I hate all that hand on the shoulder bullshit, or weird arm-touchy stuff that goes on at a lot of things like sales meetings, and other business settings. I barely like hugging or shaking hands with people I don't know well. I especially don't like it in public. I occasionally get people sitting next to me on transit, doing the weird leg-space dominance thing. It's bullshit.

I'm also a large-ish man. That means that, outside of an institutional setting, I am far less likely to be the victim of sexual violence. I don't have to examine each of these (to me annoying) experiences and ask myself "is this a prelude to something worse?"

That is the essential difference here.

I also don't have to worry as much that calling someone else out on their shitty behavior may make me the victim of violence, sexual or otherwise.

There was a recent discussion about similar types of incident at this year's E3. It pisses me off, and I'm not even a victim of it. It's not about being a "socially awkward nerdy-type". It's about being an asshole and working out your bullshit hang-ups in public. the punk scene made an effort to (sometimes literally) stamp out this kind of thing. It didn't entirely take, but it sucks to have this kind of thing be taken as the norm (and sometime be vociferously defended) in an entire industry. Knock it off, idiots!



(Life among other humans, so many questions, I just want to hug puppies.)

I got to hug a wolf puppy today. It was awesome.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:48 AM on June 20, 2013 [28 favorites]


I understand that point, but at what level is it "making free with your body"?

It's the guy who put his hands on my shoulders and slid them down to my waist to steer me out of his way.

It's the guy who rests his chin on my shoulder from behind to ask me what I'm reading on the subway. (I wasn't even holding a fucking book.)

It's the guy who unnecessarily holds a door open for me, but only a very little bit such that if I intend to actually pass through the door I will have to rub up against him in some way. And it's the shiteating grin he gives me while doing so, displaying full knowledge and intent of his actions.

It's all the people standing around watching this shit and steadfastly staring off into the distance so they can pretend it isn't happening.
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on June 20, 2013 [40 favorites]


I got to hug a wolf puppy today. It was awesome.

I don't care if this is a derail, if you have photos of this I demand that you memail me a link. DEMAND.
posted by elizardbits at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


How often do other men put their hand on the small of your back, or on your hip, and physically steer you out of their way, as opposed to tapping you on the shoulder?

More than you'd think, remember I said I was mousy? I get shoved around, often, usually not by the small of the back, but shoved out of the way, usually with a hard elbow or shoulder. Women and men have a tendency to simply ignore my presence, especially on public transportation.

I don't have to examine each of these (to me annoying) experiences and ask myself "is this a prelude to something worse?"

That is the essential difference here.


That, is where I think the difference lies here.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2013


You live in a community. You stand up when you see someone being harassed.

Unfortunately, this is not so easy to do in practice. I was always taught to carry my cell phone and call 911 if I ever saw a bad situation, but to never get involved in it. (I’m 5’4” and 109 pounds, not that it matters if I’m dealing with someone with a gun.)
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:50 AM on June 20, 2013


Lavaballing?
posted by mrbill at 10:51 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


she is most definitely mixing in things that have nothing to do with her

i disagree. hearing the rape and murder fantasies from random men around me directed at other women absolutely feels connected to being expected to relax my boundaries and "deal with it."
posted by nadawi at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


I get shoved around, often, usually not by the small of the back, but shoved out of the way, usually with a hard elbow or shoulder. Women and men have a tendency to simply ignore my presence, especially on public transportation.

So, in other words, the touching you experience is markedly different from the touching I described. I am describing lingering caresses. You are not. I'm not sure why that's a difference that is hard to see, but evidently it is.
posted by palomar at 10:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


You live in a community. You stand up when you see someone being harassed.

"The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept."
posted by mrbill at 10:53 AM on June 20, 2013 [32 favorites]


I'm not sure why that's a difference that is hard to see, but evidently it is.

It's not, I understand that and I agree with it, keep reading!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2013


mrbill: "Lavaballing?"

No, actually. His legs are pretty straight in that pose.
posted by Karmakaze at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2013


I really loved this and thought it was a great piece of writing. I'm pretty sure the direction of this comment thread is being unduly influenced by the fact that "lavaballing" was what was highlighted in the pre-link text, and so was what a lot of people were looking for when they initially clicked ("Wtf is lavaballing? Lemme read this"). Oh well.
posted by a birds at 10:54 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I ride the #1 train twice a day and get lavaballed (holla) at least half a dozen times a week. I have attempted to hold my space, but honestly, I give it up because I am kind of grossed out by having to exert pressure up against some creep's thighs. Sometimes thighs in shorts, OK? Mostly I will contain myself into the tightest column of human form I can attain, or I just give up my space and stand. I'm old enough to remember when younger people and men would offer a seat with a smile. Now I'm being aggressively driven out of mine.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:55 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


she is most definitely mixing in things that have nothing to do with her (loud phone calls trashing ex's) with things that are completely real (catcalling, weird non-physical sexual assault), and IMO it weakens the article. Who is the article directed at, anyway?

This stuff, if you read the details of that paragraph, adds to the pervasive attitude that all women are crazy bitches, all women will smile at a man's command, etc etc. Because it's not just women to hear these things, other men do, too. And hearing the same things over and over again from many different sources normalizes that behavior. All these tiny things add up over time.
posted by troika at 10:58 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I did keep reading, 10th Regiment. It was hard to see that you were agreeing with me since you were telling me that being shoved out of the way by a hard elbow is the same as being caressed by a stranger. I did see you agreeing with another man, though, when they described their experiences.
posted by palomar at 10:59 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's the guy who rests his chin on my shoulder from behind to ask me what I'm reading on the subway. (I wasn't even holding a fucking book.)

This is the grossest thing I've read all week.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


And it's usually pretty obvious when someone is sitting normally with their legs spread slightly -- as it turns out, this is more comfortable for some women as well -- and when they are marking space by it.

As a woman with big thighs, I can attest to the fact that it is far more comfortable for me to sit with my legs spread. However, I don't. Why? Because it was drilled into my head as a little kid that I had to SIT LIKE A LADY. Knees and ankles together. It didn't matter that even at 6, I was more comfortable Rikering it. YOU SIT LIKE A LADY.

Little boys who grow into lavaballing men never had someone tell them to SIT LIKE A LADY, I bet. You can train yourself to do all sorts of uncomfortable things if the social shame is heavy enough.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 11:01 AM on June 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.

The problem with this is that men who do this to women also do this to weaker men. By saying something -- anything -- the individual man becomes the target, and because they're a man, they get punched in the face ask me how I know this. That, or worse, because the person behaving as described is likely mentally disturbed and unpredictable. There's also a risk/reward ratio involved: if five people are watching one person get verbally harassed but there is no physical conflict, they won't want to escalate it into something physical.

The solution is numbers; all people (men and women) who are collectively witnessing this need to team up and confront the person, or at least move between the harasser and the harassee. That's a lot harder to accomplish, unless you're witnessing it with friends, acquaintances or like-minded people.

Of course, in my experience, if the harassment escalated into something physical, the risk/reward ratio changes dramatically, and witnesses tend to jump in to restrain the harasser -- which is why harassers generally stick to verbal harassment when other people are around, and reserve their physical violence for women they catch alone.

Ugh. All of which just feels crappy to type, because emotionally everyone wants to confront attackers and emerge victorious, but as we all learn, usually the hard way, as we grow up it usually doesn't play out that way unless you're a singularly large and scary looking person yourself.
posted by davejay at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I do agree. It's not the same. I don't get carressed, I get dehumanized by assholes daily in different ways.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:02 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That was terrific and depressing in equal measure. For what it's worth (and I know it's not much), I can't even relate to the idea of guys who act that way. I'd like to think there isn't one in my circle of friends. How goddamn gross.
posted by yerfatma at 11:05 AM on June 20, 2013


i feel like some of the more detail oriented people need an example. googling for spread legs subway returns a few results, a lot of them pertinent, but this seems an especially good example - do you see how if the gal put her leg in front of her - lining it up with her hips and no wider, that she'd basically have to drape her leg over his or squeeze it under his? if your legs are so long and your balls are so unwieldy that you can't take up less room than that, maybe it's time to stand. we're not asking you to press a coin between your knees (even though that's how many of us were trained to be "ladies"), we're asking for maybe 6 inches less than that, allowing the people around you the room directly in line with their hips.
posted by nadawi at 11:06 AM on June 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Cis-het-male here. The entire shoulder touching business is interesting to me. When going to noisy bars, I often have to work my way through a crowd of people to get to the bar, a bathroom, etc. My general practice, if someone doesn't notice me or hear an "excuse me," is to place an open hand on the back of someone's shoulder (lightly, never actually physically moving someone), and say "Excuse me" when I had their attention. I've never really thought about boundaries with this, as it's something I do with both men and women. Am I unwittingly falling afoul of the rules of personal space here?
posted by bfranklin at 11:07 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


googling for spread legs subway returns a few results, a lot of them pertinent, but this seems an especially good example

Incidentally, everything between ".com/" and "/s1600" in that URL perfectly sums up how women feel when a guy is lavaballing.
posted by zombieflanders at 11:08 AM on June 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


The problem with this is that men who do this to women also do this to weaker men. By saying something -- anything -- the individual man becomes the target, and because they're a man, they get punched in the face

I'm fine with getting punched in the face.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:09 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Am I unwittingly falling afoul of the rules of personal space here?

Yes. If you have to touch someone, please just tap the shoulder gently. Hand on back is, at minimum, startling enough to make someone spill their beer.
posted by troika at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


This is the grossest thing I've read all week.

That's only because I didn't mention the time on the Paris metro when some random dude unzipped, whipped it out, and rested his cock on my friend Kate's shoulder.

We were 15.

No one did a thing.
posted by elizardbits at 11:10 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


May I also add that confronting is so not an option. People be mad dogs on a hot, crowded train.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:11 AM on June 20, 2013


the individual man becomes the target, and because they're a man, they get punched in the face

Yeah, the thing with getting punched in the face is that it is pretty clear, legally, that you are not allowed to punch people in the face if they don't want you to, and you can take legal action against the face puncher.

It's a lot harder to explain to the paternalistic dipshit cop that the Bad Dude said vulgar things to you and brushed against your shoulder in a way that is undefinably uncomfortable.
posted by phunniemee at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


i disagree. hearing the rape and murder fantasies from random men around me directed at other women

I can understand that! But that's not what she wrote. Maybe you were able to pick up on that subtext, but hoping someone will die or get fat doesn't seem to rise to the level of a rape and murder fantasy, even as it involves death. Maybe you've never done this, but I've certainly heard the equivalently loud talking women saying very much the same thing about a bad ex.

Anyway, this is diving perhaps too far into nit picking territory -- I still think this weakens the article, depending on who it is directed at, but I'm not going to debate the reality of the situation in general.
posted by smidgen at 11:13 AM on June 20, 2013


The guy in the subway isn't spreading his legs to oppress you he's doing it because subways are hot and his balls are sticking to his leg.

This is really not true; or at least, it isn't the case that most guys who are doing it are only doing it for the horrible pain they are in


This is the point. It's not pain, it's discomfort. Discomfort on the bus is a fact of life. I literally cannot fit in window seats because my legs are too long and there's not enough room. I would have to angle my legs well into the space that belongs to the aisle seat. So I gotta sit on the long bench at the back, the aisle seat with my knees angled into the aisle, or stand instead. Poor me. I'm sure your sweaty sticky nuts are plenty uncomfortable for you but you just gotta deal. Maybe consider standing in horse pose to air 'em out, because it wouldn't look any less ridiculous than they way you were sitting.
posted by Hoopo at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm fine with getting punched in the face.

I applaud your emotional resolve and imperviousness to pain. I'm too old and fragile, such a wee flower am I, apparently. Can you flex your pecs for me?
posted by davejay at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


I am reminded of a put-down I came up with in junior high when one of my acquaintances persisted in sitting like that: "Close your legs; I can smell your dad."

(Boy were we inappropriate. And yet we had a certain minimal decorum. Incest jokes? TOTALLY OKAY. Lavaballing? NOT OKAY.)
posted by mcwetboy at 11:15 AM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


well if people don't want to stand up and let women just have these moments all to themselves, maybe they can also stop telling her she obviously doesn't know what happened to her and someone who wasn't there and who wouldn't have helped obviously can see the flaw in whatever she did...
posted by nadawi at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Am I unwittingly falling afoul of the rules of personal space here?

Opinions range wildly.
posted by Nomyte at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2013


...the aisle seat with my knees angled into the aisle, or stand instead...

Yeah, pretty much what I figured out how to do on my own when I was growing up and getting taller. I still can't quite figure out why someone can't figure out on their own that invading other people's space for the sake of your sack is somehow okay.
posted by davejay at 11:17 AM on June 20, 2013


I will hope that the takeaway for men reading this is not to feel bad about being men, but to think about that scene at the bus stop where's she's being harassed by one guy and all the other guys look away. Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.

I couldn't agree more. But last time I said so around these parts--in very similar terms--I was informed that this was being a "white knight," and that this, too, was reprehensible.

My view is that we're all in this together against the assholes.

Of course, I'd like to add: I live in a place where this sort of thing is either very rare, or very well-hidden...so it's not a huge issue...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 11:18 AM on June 20, 2013


I applaud your emotional resolve and imperviousness to pain. I'm too old and fragile, such a wee flower am I, apparently. Can you flex your pecs for me?

A stated willingness to tell a stranger that he's being a dick in public is not me trying to assert my awesome manliness, here. I've been harassed in public and I would have loved for some third party to say 'Knock it off, dick.' I am attempting to be the sort of person that I would appreciate. This is how the world improves.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:19 AM on June 20, 2013 [33 favorites]


you can adopt my policy - immediately ignore anyone who seriously lobs white knight into a discussion of this type. it's like saying feminazi - an off switch to my listening.
posted by nadawi at 11:20 AM on June 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


The advantage of being a privileged interrupter is that you don't have to be within punching distance when you say something. And you can also say "Excuse me, mate, don't do that.", then if challenged, politely say "I just think you shouldn't do that. Sorry to bother you."

And from a safe distance, you're actually fairly safe off you can follow a script in that kind of measured manner. But it's still riskier than just pretending not to be there.
posted by ambrosen at 11:23 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying it doesn't happen - but I have been harassed many many many times and have never had a guy step in and help me in an aggressive or white knighty way (Sometimes more subtle like the girls I mentioned above, but mostly nothing). I have a hard time believing there's this real thing where women are getting harassed, men are trying to help them, and then the men are getting a beat down.

Once I saw a guy sort of trying to rub himself against women while people were waiting for the subway and one guy looked at him and was like - "dude? could you stop?" This was a like 5' 4" skinny jeans hipster white guy.

The other guy was much bigger than him. But he stopped. It really takes very little.
posted by sweetkid at 11:24 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I have been flashed or masturbated at no less than three times in my life. I'm sure the number would be more if I didn't ride my bike so much (although that -- being a woman in public space -- seems to invite plenty of catcalling). Every single one of my female friends I have talked to about this has been flashed, groped, or masturbated at. Every one.

One day during my commute, a woman on my morning rush hour train started loudly saying "Stop touching my leg!" The man next to her (she was trapped in a window seat, he was in the aisle seat) did not, apparently stop. She kept telling him to stop touching her. Eventually she asked him to let her out. Louder and louder, "Let me out, now!" but he would not. The train reached the next stop, and he got up and got off the train.

The woman then broke down in sobs. She looked strong and capable of defending herself and clearly was willing to shout at the guy to leave her alone; but in fact was shaken to the core by this exchange.

And then a young dude asked her if she was okay and struck up a conversation - which was nice - and then invited her to see his band play which I wasn't sure was really the right thing to do in this instance, but I do think he meant well.

I replay that moment, which happened at least 3 or 4 years ago, in my head all the time, wishing I had barreled out of my window seat and gone over there and told the guy to get the fuck out of her way. I'm a 5'1" woman, mind you, not some burly dude. I think if just one person had done that, it would have had a snowball effect and multiple people would have chimed in. It's just no one knows if they should take the first step, so we all just sit there horrified and paralyzed by indecision.
posted by misskaz at 11:25 AM on June 20, 2013 [53 favorites]


If it were safe to stand up to individuals who are harassing others, I'd do it more often. But on a couple of occasions, I've ended up in a worse situation than the individual who was previously being harassed. So I don't do it any more. People like sweetkid, saying that people don't end up being beaten up for intervening, is unfortunately inaccurate.

I loathe violence, and if there's something I can do to avoid it, I'm probably going to do that. Playing Good Samaritan doesn't always work out like in the story.
posted by Solomon at 11:33 AM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


sweetkid, saying that people don't end up being beaten up for intervening, is unfortunately inaccurate

I didn't say they didn't, I'm saying that it doesn't happen as often as people seem to fear. I'm sorry it happened to you.

I also pointed out several times that there are more subtle ways to address the issue.
posted by sweetkid at 11:35 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I always interpreted "white knighting" as leaping to a woman's defense unnecessarily, esp. in an online context. There is a patronizing quality to white knighting.
posted by Mister_A at 11:36 AM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I seems to happen far more than I fear. Your experiences appear to be quite different to mine.
posted by Solomon at 11:38 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd just liked to agree with sweetkid, here.

Recently, while being harassed in a laundromat full of people (which is a terrible situation because you cannot leave all your clothes there!), another man simply walked towards us and began staring the other guy down. The harasser (who apparently wasn't doing laundry, just stoping by to make people feel unsafe) promptly left.
posted by munyeca at 11:39 AM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


You know, if a man really needed to lavaball on account of "sensitive balls" and "squeezy thighs" or whatnot, they'd be doing it regardless of the gender of the person next to them.

But the ONLY time I've ever experienced lavaballing in my entire time was when the guy was explicitly interested in me, flirting with me, and we were planning to go for sexytimes soon anyway. And I've been riding public transit for 15 years.

So I suppose sitting next to another man suddenly cures your balls being sensitive or something? I 'unno, never figured it out.
posted by Conspire at 11:40 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


The Kickstarter she mentions for the guide to "Getting Awesome With Women" (about halfway through the post) has been on my mind since I first heard about it a couple of days ago.

I read abnout this yesterday evening and wondering whether to post it here:
Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”

- Source

SO. Now I am no longer rolling my eyes.

This guy is no longer just being weird and creepy on the internet. Now he’s writing a book about how to sexually assault women, and he is using something I believe in (Kickstarter) to ask YOU for money to do it. I am offended as someone who believes in the platform, and more importantly I am offended as someone who believes women shouldn’t be treated this way, and that people who say otherwise CERTAINLY should not profit off saying they should.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I disagree with sweetkid as well, and actually think that it's dangerous advice, at least in New York.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 11:41 AM on June 20, 2013


what's dangerous advice? What? Also, I live in New York.
posted by sweetkid at 11:42 AM on June 20, 2013


Re: intervention, You have to use your judgment, no doubt. But I have a few red lines myself- hitting a woman, for instance, I can not abide. I can't let that go, I am compelled to do something. BUT the something is different if the hitter is holding a gun, let's say, or I have my kids with me. I can still do something, even if what I do in those cases is call the police.
posted by Mister_A at 11:45 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Recently, while being harassed in a laundromat full of people (which is a terrible situation because you cannot leave all your clothes there!), another man simply walked towards us and began staring the other guy down.

I was gonna say, sometimes the least you can do (and sometimes all you need to do) is make it obvious that you're there and paying attention to what's going on. Especially if it's a weird/harassing situation in its embryonic stage, where the asshole involved can still just walk away without feeling like he was defeated in some Man Confrontation and the only way he can salvage his pride is by taking a swing at you, or whatever.
posted by prize bull octorok at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't know the term "lavaball" before but it sure makes sense. It certainly makes my blood boil. I have FIVE GENITAL PIERCINGS and yet I can keep my knees together. If you can't respect my personal space when sitting, then you can fucking stand up, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by janey47 at 11:46 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is possibly dangerous to intervene, yes! That doesn't make it bad advice to suggest intervention.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:47 AM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


At the risk of sounding terribly corny, I think "doing the right thing despite the risk of potential harm to self" is the precise definition of courage.
posted by Tevin at 11:49 AM on June 20, 2013 [36 favorites]


From what I've seen lava balling on public transit is less about balls and more about being a dick. The person doesn't want to share the seat. Maybe one of the the guys doing this just has ballsack surgery or has enormous balls. But the vast majority if them are people not wanting to share. Women do this too.

I was also puzzled by her observation about being touched on the shoulder. I don't like being touched in public either but tapping the person in front of you is the best place to make physical contact with a stranger. If they aren't paying attention and they are holding up the line I'm going to two them on the shoulder and tell them to move along.
posted by birdherder at 11:50 AM on June 20, 2013


Ultimately, any argument along the lines of "I can't sit comfortably without splaying my legs into the seats next to me" boils down to "My comfort is more important than the comfort of my fellow passengers". This is not a defense of the behavior.

If someone sitting next to you means that you can't both sit comfortably, then one of you will have to withstand the discomfort, or one of you will have to stand. If you want the other person to take on that burden, consider asking them politely. "Would you mind standing up? I need more room." If you don't think such a request is reasonable, then you shouldn't regard forcing the issue as reasonable either.
posted by baf at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


"The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept."

That video is awesome. The respect I have for the Australian military has totally eclipsed that I have for the US military.
posted by chemoboy at 11:52 AM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But the ONLY time I've ever experienced lavaballing in my entire time was when the guy was explicitly interested in me, flirting with me, and we were planning to go for sexytimes soon anyway.

Oh, no, I got lavaballed this morning right before the purse in the lap thing, same seat! After a train transfer I also got the "excuse me" where the person makes like they are going to walk by, but really they just want you to move so they can stand in your space thing. It was a great morning.

I think "doing the right thing despite the risk of potential harm to self" is the precise definition of courage.

I think that's actually the definition of "foolhearty". Courage is doing something despite being afraid.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2013


Yes, I read that, and I'm saying that at some level there is unacceptable behavior and at another is people being selfish and clueless. Assuming that those minor slights like getting tapped on the shoulder are equated with things like a group of teens cat-calling is a tad paranoic. Was the woman that put her purse on me this morning a pre-rapist or was she just obnoxious? Was my failure to call her out for it adding to some smouldering pot of soon to be sexual assault?

I fail to see how somebody being selfish and clueless excuses unacceptable behaviour. Mightygodking'ss bollocks might be mighty enough to force him into a wide stance, but he'd still better not cross the border between his seat and mine and his sweaty thigh against my sweaty thigh. I'm a fat fuck as well; I get it, but I try and not do it to people, especially not to women, because I'm intellectually aware enough of the fact that lavaballing is a form of low grade sexual harassement. Perhaps not in how a given individual guy intends it (perhaps I'm just an asshole who wants more seat space, not the feel of woman flesh), but certainly in how it is received.

Being a clueless asshole is not an excuse; it's an explenation and us blokes need to call each other out on this; somebody upthread gave the example of his brother doing it constantly but arguing he's not "rapey". It doesn't really matter how nice a guy he is or that he's harmless to the women who don't know him, get that bit of minor aggression aimed at them and who have to worry about whether or not this is one of those guys who will escalate. So erm, if your friends or family members do this, call them on it because if they are good guys, they'll be horrified and would want to not do that anymore.

As per usual, reversing the genders of victim and assaulter doesn't work. Men on the whole are not treated with the same daily (micro) transgressions Valentine details in her post by women. Nobody is going around aggressively showing photographs of her vulva to strange men at a busstop, certainly not enough that a lot of us men here would have our own stories of how this was done to us.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:53 AM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


at least in New York.

This has been my experience pretty much everywhere I've lived. The only times I've ever seen this sort of behavior, the harassers seemed to be "off" in some way, mentally ill or intoxicated or what have you. Often these are not people who are going to shy away on being confronted, and you have no idea if they are armed, whether they are violent, whether they are looking for a fight, or whether you can take them down. I have on more than one occasion seen intervention wind up in violent conflict, twice involving a bus driver getting the worst of it. I would be very, very careful in deciding whether or not to intervene.

It is possibly dangerous to intervene, yes! That doesn't make it bad advice to suggest intervention.


Actually it does. Call the cops.
posted by Hoopo at 11:54 AM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure I agree. Assholes are everywhere of every gender, race, creed, sexual persuasion, and ethnicity. I'm sure that women deal with sexually aggressive acts far more often, but selfish, inconsiderate behavior is pretty universal.

Please explain how "sexually aggressive acts" do not fall within "selfish, inconsiderate behavior."
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 11:55 AM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]



I think that's actually the definition of "foolhearty"

you're looking for "foolhardy"

But no it's not reckless or rash to let someone notice you have noticed they are harassing a woman (or disabled person, or whathaveyou).

I've stressed small things, small things work over and over in this thread (As have others) and it's really saddening to see people saying "no, really, do nothing at all. Harassed person is on their own."

Way to give voice to the harassers. I suppose they should just carry on then.
posted by sweetkid at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


Call the cops.

So, like, in a harassment-on-the-subway scenario, do I just start screaming "POLICE" as loud as I can, or is there a warp whistle I should buy that'll summon them to my traincar underground?
posted by Greg Nog at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I have one thing to say to any male with testicles who is complaining about sitting with their legs in an appropriate personal space manner: proper under-fucking-wear. Yes, it is true the boxers are very comfortable when you are wearing a suit and standing, however they do nothing to manage your package (that includes the penis) when in a prone or sitting position. Very similar to a woman with a proper bra, a properly sized and fitted jock strap or pair of boxer/briefs will alleviate any of the uncomfortable and awkward things that can happen when you need to sit down in a socially acceptable manner. Now, if you are wearing something that is too tight, it can be just as uncomfortable or more uncomfortable, however, and this is important now, a pair of well fitted underwear or underwear and jockstrap combination can prevent any unsightly bulges or uncomfortable pinching, even when crossing your legs. But, of course, this is only a public service announcement to inform you that maybe you should attempt some other means of managing your personal genital wrappings that makes it much more comfortable for you in public situations. You know, because defending lavaballing is kind of gross, and you aren't helping yourself by trying to side with men who try to physically assault women, even if it is in "minor" ways.

Also, of note, verbal assault is a crime in most states. It does, however, require witnesses who are willing to testify in court against the assailant. If you are a witness to someone being verbally assaulted (calling someone an epithet, such as "bitch" or any other abusive language, qualifies, especiaclly if there is some risk of physical battery due to a size/weight and aggressive stance), feel free to call the police, report the incident, and ask the arresting officer to put you down as a witness willing to go to court for the victim. A lot of police will not understand what you mean, since this is not normal behavior for people to do when they witness a crime, even a supposedly "minor" one, such as sexual harrassment in public. However, it is something that more people need to do. Be the change you wish to see and all that. Also, also, I believe that there are several states where camera phone video recordings are admissible in court if provided to the prosecution and properly logged into the evidence chain when the crime is reported. Yes, this means a lot more work on the part of the witnesses to the assault and willingness to engage with police officers beyond simply trying to describe the incident. Video of the incident is much more detailed if there are multiple angles being recorded.

I wonder if a "people of walmart" style webpage shaming idiots who lavaball on public transport would help on the social awareness part? You know, to have something to point to and say "Don't be this asshole".
posted by daq at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


So, like, in a harassment-on-the-subway scenario, do I just start screaming "POLICE" as loud as I can, or is there a warp whistle I should buy that'll summon them to my traincar underground?

I don't know what kind of security protocols there are on your City's subway system, but I can't imagine it's Wild West.
posted by Hoopo at 12:02 PM on June 20, 2013


So, like, in a harassment-on-the-subway scenario, do I just start screaming "POLICE" as loud as I can, or is there a warp whistle I should buy that'll summon them to my traincar underground?

My husband was assaulted on the 2 train a few months ago. When the train reached the station, he stood in the doors and screamed the word police over and over again. Within 15 seconds, two undercover cops showed up and arrested the guy who had hit him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, it's fucking public transit. Everyone is uncomfortable. It's crowded, it's 85 degrees, and it smells like a mix of Polish food and turds. Don't make other people more uncomfortable just because you can't sit in a narrow seat for 15 minutes. You're not going to go sterile, and you can take a shower when you get home.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


Call the cops

I'm sorry, in what universe would cops respond to calls about a harassment in progress?
posted by marimeko at 12:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


It is possibly dangerous to intervene, yes! That doesn't make it bad advice to suggest intervention.

Actually it does. Call the cops.


I am not sure what harassment scenarios people are envisioning here but given all of the examples in TFA it seems like very few would be best dealt with by waiting around for the cops to show up. ('Yes officer, he was calling her a bad word.') Most could be pretty easily dealt with by someone standing up and saying 'Hey broseph, everyone here thinks you're being a dick, quit being a dick.' Very little risk of violence there but even if there is a risk-- sometimes the right thing != the safe, easy status quo non-involvement thing.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:06 PM on June 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


Most could be pretty easily dealt with by someone standing up and saying 'Hey broseph, everyone here thinks you're being a dick, quit being a dick.' Very little risk of violence there but even if there is a risk-- sometimes the right thing != the safe, easy status quo non-involvement thing.

Thank you. THANK YOU.
posted by sweetkid at 12:07 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Everyone's going to have an anecdote about that one time the police were there really fast in time to save the day!, but realistically it's a stone cold fact of the universe that they're not going to be able to intervene in even most such situations. I'm not going to judge anyone for what part of the personal safety vs. intervention spectrum they decide to inhabit, but I'd still much rather live in a society that tended towards the latter, especially since a culture of intervention would make it safer for any individual intervener.
posted by invitapriore at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe you were able to pick up on that subtext, but hoping someone will die or get fat doesn't seem to rise to the level of a rape and murder fantasy, even as it involves death. Maybe you've never done this, but I've certainly heard the equivalently loud talking women saying very much the same thing about a bad ex.

Context, context, context. Women are still so much more likely to be the victim of violence by men, than vice versa and the anger a bloke bitchin- no, let's not use that word, complaining about his ex in public, in terms that so many women have heard directed at themselves as well, is incredibly threatening.

It's something that's hard for us men to understand, if we're not rapists/wife beaters because of course we've internalised a self image of us being good guys, but I'll never forget the fear my wife once showed when I was particularly angry and frustrated at a bit of electronic equipment, not long after we'd started living together and how she had to explain to me that in her experience, guys who could get so angry at an inanimate object had no problem hitting her as well...

Women are sensitised to male aggression in a way we are not simply because they've had to, because if they're not clued in to the potential danger hiding behind those micro trangressions we could blow off, they might escalate into rape, sexual assault or just assault or murder. Hence Ever Mainard's here's your rape joke.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:10 PM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


I fail to see how somebody being selfish and clueless excuses unacceptable behaviour.

It doesn't excuse the behavior, wide stance sitting should be called out for it's selfishness and sexually aggressive behavior should be called out for sexual aggression. As someone with testicles, the "aching balls" excuse is bullshit, it's just rude behavior.

But here's where I disagree:

Men on the whole are not treated with the same daily (micro) transgressions

I think men DO go through micro transgressions, they DO NOT go through sexually aggressive (no micro needed) transgressions. It's the line where the annoyances and the sexual aggression deviate where it gets fuzzy for me here.

Please explain how "sexually aggressive acts" do not fall within "selfish, inconsiderate behavior."

Why wouldn't they? They're on a different plane than lesser annoyances, but they still are selfish, inconsiderate behavior. Murder is also pretty inconsiderate, but that's on a different level than what we're talking here too.

you're looking for "foolhardy"

Yep. I'm a moron, if you couldn't tell already. Standing up is great and righteous and brave, ignoring personal harm is still not the definition of courage. One can be prudent and brave just as one can also be foolhardy and morally correct.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2013


Maybe you were able to pick up on that subtext, but hoping someone will die or get fat doesn't seem to rise to the level of a rape and murder fantasy, even as it involves death

The not-so-sub subtext is "Any woman who doesn't want to fuck me should die" or "Any woman who is fat is unfuckable [sub-subtext: which is a just punishment for not wanting to fuck me]."

As a woman, I now worry about whether he's going to catcall or hit on me when he's done with or distracted from his phonecall, and what he's going to assume is appropriate to do to me if I ignore him or turn him down.
posted by jaguar at 12:11 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Women are sensitised to male aggression in a way we are not simply because they've had to,

Thank you for understand this in a way most men do not.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I always interpreted "white knighting" as leaping to a woman's defense unnecessarily, esp. in an online context. There is a patronizing quality to white knighting.

That's similar to the use I've roughly discerned since I was, er, introduced to the term here. (But that's not what I was doing when I was accused of it for advocating intervention against verbal harassment... But people are more than infrequently rather sloppy about such accusations...)

As for the intervene or not intervene question:

My view is:

Women have to put up with more/worse verbal and physical harassment that falls short of violent assault, including catcalls and so on.

Guys tend to suffer more mid-high level harassment: they're more likely to get their asses kicked in roughly such situations.

Women have to worry about rape.

(Guys, incidentally, are more likely to be murdered...but that's a kind of different point I think.)

As someone up-thread noted, many guys think that it's not worth it to risk an ass-kicking to stop verbal harassment. They know that the woman is unlikely to be physically assaulted, and don't want things to escalate against them.

Furthermore, we live in a society that has a weird view, almost seeming to revere such acts only in movies. I can't tell you how many of my friends have argued with me that physical altercations are almost never warranted... They seem to think that only a savage would choose to risk violence "merely" to preserve someone's dignity...

Rorty (who I rarely disagree with) says something like: a liberal is someone who believes that humiliation is the worst thing that you can do to someone. I think that's pretty close to being right. And so I tend to intervene, though it often, well, scares me. But I think a mid-grade ass-kicking, if it comes to that, is preferable to an innocent person's being humiliated.

I really can't imagine that people have to put up with this sort of thing ever, much less all the time. I get tired of the men suck schtick...but it's not because I don't understand how that attitude could arise, even in a reasonable person...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:12 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Here's how I answered the question, earnestly asked, of how to intervene in street harassment in a previous MeFi thread:

I honestly don't know what to do in these situations, and as stated above, I witness them almost daily. I feel like I should do something, but I don't know if that's just my own case of Privilege Poisoning working me over. Women of Metafilter, what would you suggest? If some guy on the bus, at the bar, on campus, in the store, where ever, was creeping you out and not backing off, would you want the aid of a man equally unknown to you? In what ways could he help? Is staying out of it completely his best bet at being of use?


I don't presume to speak for women as a group, or for any group as a whole.

I should first say: if it looks like I am handling the situation, I don't want anyone to step in. For one thing, as you note, I've spent a lifetime taking care of myself, and I don't usually require assistance in these matters. Just as important: It's all too easy to escalate the confrontation, and nobody wants that. Also, of course, the sooner it's over, the sooner I can brush it off and get on with my day.

If it looks like the confrontation is already escalating, that's the time to consider stepping in, if you're of a mind to.

In my own limited experience, a mild approach may help most if what you witness is a verbal encounter or even a not-violent physical encounter (for example, the scenario I describe above where a stranger grabs my ass at the bus stop and I holler at him).

There is a very simple question that can defuse a verbal or nonviolent encounter. I've done it myself when I saw a woman trying to get a man to leave her alone; I've once or twice had male bystanders ask it of me when I was fending off a creep; my partner has asked it of women we've seen who might be in trouble. The question is:

"Is everything okay here?"

It's reasonably neutral. It doesn't (to my ear, anyhow) carry the White Knight connotatation, suggesting that I Am Here To Save You, Princess. It gives the woman a chance to say "Yes," or to say "No," and to elaborate on either answer if she wishes. It identifies you as a possible ally, a witness, and it reminds the aggressor that someone's watching. It does all this without prescribing a behavior or casting you in the role of savior.

Come to think of it, I have stepped in and said exactly this when I was witnessing a possible male-on-male assault brewing. To my ear, it's gender-neutral. "Is everything okay here?" could mean anything from "Do you need me to call the cops?" to "Hey, y'all, simmer down."
posted by Elsa at 12:13 PM on June 20, 2013 [48 favorites]


The thing I find frustrating about people saying they don't want to intervene because they might then also become the target of a mentally disturbed individual is -

They're often--usually--not mentally disturbed. Many of them are successful members of society. They have jobs and families and friends who like them. But they also don't see anything wrong with catcalling, or harassing women, because "it's a compliment!" and "lighten up and smile!" and when that doesn't work, "god why are you so frigid?"

It's the same problem I have with dismissing online harassment as basement dwelling teenagers because omg no, these are "normal" men with real Facebook accounts linking to their real names and jobs gleefully slutshaming some preteen whose photo was posted to a community without her knowledge or consent. (This is real. I'm not making this up.)

Moreover, you have a much much much better chance of being listened to just for being male. It's true in the board room; it's true on the streets. Women's dissents are assumed to be not serious, or else that we secretly wanted it. Fuck, women who are sexually assaulted are accused of having secretly wanted it to happen. A denial from a bystanding male unfortunately carries an implicit privileged power that I don't have access too.

People with mental illnesses are far more likely to cause harm to themselves than to others. To dismiss street harassment as the actions of disturbed individuals stigmatizes mental illness, and grossly diminishes how absolutely fucking pervasive the rape culture mindset is. I don't expect bystanders to get hurt or put themselves in harm's way on my account. But it would sure be nice to get some occasional acknowledgment that what is happening is noticed, and not okay. Even pointing out to the creeper that they have observers makes a huge deal.
posted by Phire at 12:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [67 favorites]


Men are less likely to be targeted for harassment and, in general, feel safer in public than women do. Speaking up about harrassment isn't white knighting, it's a good example of using your privilege for good. (Note: that link is about someone using their white privilege to help, but I think the general idea applies to men speaking up about harassment.)

That said, it's not always safe to speak up, whether you're a man or a woman. Especially on public transportation, where if things escalate, there's no way to escape and you're trapped in a small space with an aggressor. Use your judgment. I don't think it's a black and white thing where helping out is always dangerous, or if you don't help out you're a jerk who is supporting the patriarchy.
posted by mokin at 12:19 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Rorty (who I rarely disagree with)...

Rorty who I rarely AGREE with! Rarely AGREE with! Ack!
posted by Fists O'Fury at 12:21 PM on June 20, 2013


I've heard that sprawly sitting pose called "the starfish", but I may have to adopt "lavaballing" as a term.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am not sure what harassment scenarios people are envisioning here but given all of the examples in TFA it seems like very few would be best dealt with by waiting around for the cops to show up

I guess I'm not clear on what situations you're talking about then. I'm talking about people getting harassed by weirdos at bus stops and what I've seen happen as a result of people intervening.

To dismiss street harassment as the actions of disturbed individuals stigmatizes mental illness


I'm not doing that. I am referring to specific people I've encountered.
posted by Hoopo at 12:27 PM on June 20, 2013


i would star Phire a million times if i could! yes - the dismissal of the guys - like they're all super aggressive, mentally ill, or threatening in some other way. sort of like the dismissal of the PUA BS up thread - guys in their basements - but like, us women are saying creepy shit is happening to us ALL THE FUCKING TIME so it stands to reason that these dudes are coming out of the basement, and maybe just maybe look like regular guys, maybe ones who you think of as that funny guy but all your gal pals shy away from with little explanation.

it's proving impossible to google for, but as i remember there was some research recently that found that if a woman came up against a guy that wouldn't take no for an answer, the response that they heard the loudest and clearest was "i have a boyfriend" - not "i'm not interested." "please leave me alone" "i don't want to go out with you" "no" or any other form of expressing her own desires - but bring up that another man is planting his flag there and suddenly they hear you. this is such a problem that women are regularly encouraged to invent a boyfriend/husband to get left alone. is it really so hard to believe that a guy just raising his voice in an "i'm here" sort of way could stop a situation cold where a woman standing up for herself in big and small ways wouldn't work?
posted by nadawi at 12:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [38 favorites]


Why wouldn't they? They're on a different plane than lesser annoyances, but they still are selfish, inconsiderate behavior. Murder is also pretty inconsiderate, but that's on a different level than what we're talking here too.

So sexually agressive acts do fall under selfish, inconsiderate behavior. And it is true that selfish, inconsiderate behavior is universal. No one has not dealt with at least one asshole. Is selfish, inconsiderate behavior directed equally, with equal intensity and frequency, at men and women both?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was thinking about this thread on the subway just now and apparently Making A Face cause when a legsprawly dude sat down next to me and prepared to sprawl, I whipped my head towards him at Exorcist speed without changing my expression in the least, and he curled up into a little ball and didn't move for the entire ride up to 72nd street.

hooray metafilter
posted by elizardbits at 12:39 PM on June 20, 2013 [93 favorites]


Is selfish, inconsiderate behavior directed equally, with equal intensity and frequency, at men and women both?

The problem is what intensity is "equal". Is getting shoved against a wall better, worse, or equal to being "moved"? They are both selfish and dehumanizing behaviors. The intensity can also be subjective to the individual. So that makes it hard to answer your question. What I can say is that in general women are more often subjected to sexually aggressive behavior than are men.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:44 PM on June 20, 2013


and he curled up into a little ball and didn't move for the entire ride up to 72nd street.

Yeah, I go through this weird thing on public transit where I'm in a Schroedinger's Cat state of wanting and not wanting some bullshit to go down.

Not wanting because obviously that's the ideal state, not having to deal with bullshit every day. But wanting a little bit because I know that I am the person who is completely unafraid to go "crazy psycho bitch" on whatever jackass tries to get their jackass on, and if even a very small percent of the jackasses out jackassing today could have someone stand up to them, maybe they'll think twice about doing it next time.

But ever since I moved to a part of the city where 95% of my fellow train passengers are service workers in physically demanding jobs, most of the people on my train spend the entire ride sleeping. So it hasn't come up in a long time.
posted by phunniemee at 12:46 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Good job, elizardbits. 72nd is my home station, and getting off the train in the evening rush is often the worst experience of the day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:46 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Anyways, the specific incident I am referring to involved a guy that once held down by a bus driver after bloodying the bus driver pretty good started screaming about the CIA and fish. Before that he looked to be just kind of a dick bothering a woman. I feel pretty confident he was mentally ill. There are also a good number of people in Vancouver's downtown with mental health problems that aren't getting the help they need and are the most visible cases I've seen of people harassing other people on the street. I am not talking about Bro Ed Hardy.
posted by Hoopo at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2013


The not-so-sub subtext is "Any woman who doesn't want to fuck me should die" or "Any woman who is fat is unfuckable [sub-subtext: which is a just punishment for not wanting to fuck me]."

No. I'm sorry, but this is assuming way too much. Are you honestly trying to say that because it's a man who is raging on about an ex to a third party, he is raging solely because he's not getting fucks? Do you really want to go down that path of gender essentialism?
posted by smidgen at 12:47 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Don't pick your same old fights here. MetaTalk is an option if you have something you want to talk about.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:52 PM on June 20, 2013


Is there a term for when a dude decides to lean his whole body against the subway pole you are holding?

I haven't decided on a strategy yet. Sometimes I stand my ground and leave my hand where it is. I was standing here, I was taking up a reasonable and considerate amount of space until he decided he needed to lean his whole body against the pole, and my hand. Sometimes I retreat because otherwise I am stuck touching this person.

Elsa--perhaps we should have battle stations. One to two righteous scary ladies per car. Three during rush hour.
posted by inertia at 12:55 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Is there a term for when a dude decides to lean his whole body against the subway pole you are holding?

I don't know about a term, but I just put my hand on the pole anyway. If he wants to lean on my hand, it's on him.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2013


I usually make a pointy fist around the pole when people do that.
posted by smidgen at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


i've often dreamed of creating a gang of women - the boogeywoman stern-faced suffragette from the anti-suffrage literature mixed with the feminazi of the 80s - like a hard core red hat society. we'd just go from train to bus to crowded hallway shrinking creeps with our laser eyes and gnashing teeth.
posted by nadawi at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Is getting shoved against a wall better, worse, or equal to being "moved"? They are both selfish and dehumanizing behaviors.

The thing you may be missing, 10th Foot, is that these things happen all the damn time to women. I mean, like, to the same woman, this sort of insult will happen several times a day, depending on circumstances. Do people shove you up against a wall several times a day? I seriously doubt it. And if they do, that really sucks, and you must live in a constant state of wariness bordering on dread when you're in public.

But it's not about you, and don't take that the wrong way please. It's about the millions of women who are consistently harrassed and put upon every day. A woman has to put up with crap from men every step of the way, and it's awful.
posted by Mister_A at 12:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


It's about a two minute walk between here and the place I get salad and I counted five whistles and two "God Bless Americas" about me. I counted because I count sometimes and also this thread.
posted by sweetkid at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


My general practice, if someone doesn't notice me or hear an "excuse me," is to place an open hand on the back of someone's shoulder (lightly, never actually physically moving someone), and say "Excuse me" when I had their attention.

My practice is to sort of plow my way towards the bathroom totally without consideration of the genders, sizes, dispositions, whatever, of everyone in the way—because fuck you, people of the world blocking bottlenecks and ignoring people who want to get through. Fuck you.
posted by fleacircus at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2013


The problem is what intensity is "equal". Is getting shoved against a wall better, worse, or equal to being "moved"? They are both selfish and dehumanizing behaviors. The intensity can also be subjective to the individual.

Are we not to take individual women at their word when they say that this behavior is both intense and frequent? And are we not to notice how many individual women say this?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


shrinking creeps with our laser eyes and gnashing teeth

I have a truly horrifying grin that I like to deploy when a dude commands me to smile. It's like my face becomes a scary clown mask for a few seconds. Even the creepiest usually physically recoil from it.
posted by troika at 1:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [31 favorites]


Is there a term for when a dude decides to lean his whole body against the subway pole you are holding?

Unlike sprawlyness, this is not at all gendered behavior in my experience as a subway rider. So maybe "pole hog"?
posted by 0 at 1:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is awesome, troika. I mean it sucks that you have to do it, but great that you do this with such aplomb and humor.
posted by Mister_A at 1:01 PM on June 20, 2013


A datum. I have never heard the term lava ball. I am sitting normal and I happen to have a ruler within reach. My knees when sitting alone normal have a 5.5 inch space between them. I am normal size (5 ft. 9 in.; 150 lb.). If I am sitting on a bus next to another person, male or female, I am 95 % sure my natural inclination is to have my knees with less than a 5.5 inch space but it most definitely is not going to be 0.

(As far as I know my testicles also are normal size.)
posted by bukvich at 1:04 PM on June 20, 2013


I've done the weird-face thing before. I got it from this.
posted by sweetkid at 1:04 PM on June 20, 2013


Are we not to take individual women at their word when they say that this behavior is both intense and frequent? And are we not to notice how many individual women say this?

Basically, yes. This is the way these discussions go down. Women talk about their experiences, they're told that they're wrong because men have it just as bad or worse or they're imagining things and blowing innocent actions out of proportion. When a man steps in and says the exact same things that women have already said, the man is listened to and his viewpoint is respected.

It's happening in this thread, it's happened in many other threads, it will continue to happen.
posted by palomar at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [70 favorites]


Now I'm all worriedly insecure that my balls are too small because they've never hurt from sitting in a bus seat.
posted by item at 1:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [17 favorites]


2nding pole-hogging not being a gendered thing. So annoying. Seems to often occur with people texting.
posted by neuromodulator at 1:07 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


0, I have seen both men and women pole hog. However, in my experience, it has only been done to me in the way I described above by men. A woman has never intentionally pressed her body against my hands and invaded my space in such a way.
posted by inertia at 1:08 PM on June 20, 2013


The problem is what intensity is "equal". Is getting shoved against a wall better, worse, or equal to being "moved"? They are both selfish and dehumanizing behaviors. The intensity can also be subjective to the individual. So that makes it hard to answer your question. What I can say is that in general women are more often subjected to sexually aggressive behavior than are men.

The answer is actually very easy. Try listening to the many, many women in this thread who are directly telling you about their experience. Or ask any of the women you know (my wife can provide tons of horrible examples that far outpace the annoyances and threats I've received on the subway or walking around the city). The only thing that would make this hard to judge is the inability to believe that what other women tell you are true and told in earnest.
posted by Falconetti at 1:08 PM on June 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


that's true, pole hogs are often women. As are people with backpacks.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:08 PM on June 20, 2013


The asking-to-smile (from strangers) as a sexist thing is something I absorbed only very recently. I would never do it to people, but I'd see it done every once in a while and just think it seemed slightly off. I thought maybe I was picking up the over-earnestness of the asker because if someone did that to me, I wouldn't be horribly offended -- just slightly weirded out.

At some point, I remember my wife complaining about it and then reading about it here and suddenly realizing that there was a hidden assumption on the askers part that made it really distasteful. It was eye opening both to see what was at play and that my discomfort was actually validated even if I couldn't figure out why it bothered me.
posted by smidgen at 1:09 PM on June 20, 2013


Yeah, that Kickstarter game pretty much outlines the phenomenon of the rape culture. Basically, if you are forcing the woman to push away, you are forcing her to go out of her comfort zone to establish boundaries. Rape culture explicitly trains women not to do this, and this is basically how you get date rape. There's no question that this technique will succeed in getting you laid so long as you mostly target women who have been conditioned not to stand up for their needs or feelings. So you just have to wonder whether or not you actually care about the feelings of these women, and probably a lot of people reading this book won't.

If you ever want to be depressed, just check out /r/redpill for confirmation that there are plenty of guys out there who have really monstrous attitudes towards women.
posted by Deathalicious at 1:10 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


There are few things that will make me snap faster than someone handwaving away harrassment towards preteen girls as "oh, that's just boys being boys!" NO. FUCK YOU. NOW IS THE TIME TO EDUCATE THEM ABOUT HOW TO BEHAVE LIKE DECENT HUMAN BEINGS.
posted by elizardbits at 11:34 AM on June 20


When my daughter was in the 8th grade, a boy who sat behind her would say nasty things and act like he was going to grab her breasts. Her (about-to-retire) teacher did nothing. Finally one day, my kid got tired of dealing with it, so she picked up her metal ruler, turned around and smacked the shit out of him.

The teacher, of course, sent my daughter to see the principal. The principal called me at home, apologized, and said that if my kid had any more problems, ever, she should go directly to tell the principal herself. The principal also punished the boy, I forget exactly how, but she wasn't messing around.

So there is hope. (This was around 1993, in Texas, amazingly.)
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I've found pole hogging to be equal opportunity, and women have also rested their bodies on my hand. I make pointy fists too, but I had surgical complications on my right hand so there's always a tradeoff between "fuck you asshole" and "shit it hurts". I usually try to shove them really hard when I take my hand away because I can't give them the appropriate punishment (burning up instantly). I don't know if guys have the same experiences.
posted by jeather at 1:13 PM on June 20, 2013


Huh, looking for other terms of art for pole hogs, I found a blog dedicated to photos of sprawlie subway types. (Err, not that I approve of internet shaming pics.)
posted by 0 at 1:14 PM on June 20, 2013


Some days I wonder if we're really civilized at all.
posted by ZeusHumms at 1:16 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


However, the way men are built, it's not particularly comfortable to sit with knees pressed together. It is a biological fact of life that squeezing one's testicles in uncomfortable.

There is a happy medium between "sitting with knees pressed together" and "sitting as if your knees each require their own separate seat because they've had an argument with each other and your pelvis". I promise.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Huh, looking for other terms of art for pole hogs, I found a blog dedicated to photos of sprawlie subway types. (Err, not that I approve of internet shaming pics.)

It's really hard to tell from the photos what's going on. I know that I always make a point of getting myself and my stuff off the surrounding seats if people are standing, but a lot of times they just keep on standing, so I go back to sprawling, because it's more comfortable.

I don't do it when I'm sitting next to someone, certainly not to the extent that they would feel threatened, which is of course what the actual post is about.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we not to take individual women at their word when they say that this behavior is both intense and frequent? And are we not to notice how many individual women say this?

Nothing in what I said above has been intended to diminish anyone's experience, so please don't assume that of me. I believe that this happens often. I believe this happens intensely. I believe that sexually aggressive behavior happens more often to women than to men. Ibelieve women face sexual harrassment of all levels from annoying unwanted "flirting" right on up the scale to rape more often than men, period. Women are at least 10 times more likely to be raped, this is clear. I cannot aggree on this point more nor that it needs to stop.

At the same time there are some, some statistics on the other side of the "equivalence" question. Men are more likely to be the victim of violent crime, robbery, and/or assault. This is usually at the hands of a stranger, as opposed to a non-stranger with women. Men are more likely to be murdered. So there must be some sort of open aggression against men that is going on as well in our society and it would be hard to quantify it or its intensity to the victims.

Personally, I do face aggression daily, it sucks and it is also right that this is not about me and arguing about my experience only diminishes another's sucky experience, so I'm not going to go that route any more.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 1:20 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Huh, looking for other terms of art for pole hogs, I found a blog dedicated to photos of sprawlie subway types. (Err, not that I approve of internet shaming pics.)

That blog is kinda terribly racist.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:21 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


/me checks learned privileges at the door, bookmarks for later reference.
posted by Annika Cicada at 1:24 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




Sometimes when my hand is leaned against, I try to make a sudden movement, like to give them the benefit of the doubt that perhaps it was just an oversight that they were leaning on me. Then if they don't move, I wish I could shoot lasers out of my eyes.

I can't, sadly. Anyone know how to fix that?
posted by inertia at 1:26 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Re: Seat hog site. I've seen the butt crack pole hog thing a few times, but only in pictures. I've moved away from NYC -- is this a thing now? I'm alternately intrigued and disgusted.
posted by smidgen at 1:26 PM on June 20, 2013


MetaFilter: I'm Alternately Intrigued and Disgusted.
posted by Mister_A at 1:28 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've moved away from NYC -- is this a thing now?

no
posted by sweetkid at 1:28 PM on June 20, 2013


Oh well and thank god.
posted by smidgen at 1:29 PM on June 20, 2013


Metafilter: I've moved away from NYC now (it's gross now right? totally all got gross)
posted by sweetkid at 1:29 PM on June 20, 2013


There used to be a "pole-leaning douchebag" website or tumblr or something but I don't think it exists anymore.

Stolen from twitter, next time I'm asked to smile, I'm gonna do it by holding up the corners of my mouth with my middle fingers.
posted by misskaz at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


Yeah, that Kickstarter game pretty much outlines the phenomenon of the rape culture.

And one good way to combat that Kickstarter thing - speaking of "speaking up and doing something when you see shit going down rather than just letting it happen" - is to report it to Kickstarter. I did.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


WTF?
posted by smidgen at 1:30 PM on June 20, 2013


It is a biological fact of life that squeezing one's testicles in uncomfortable.

After I was hit by a car, I was left with a chronic back problem. I often get excruciating back spasms. They're exacerbated by sitting in a tight posture with my legs straight ahead (as most tightly-packed subway and bus seats require) and alleviated by sitting with one leg broadly crossed, that ankle on the other knee, with one arm spread across the seat back. That's how I sit on my own sofa.

It is a plain physical fact of my life that to be comfortable on a bus or subway seat, I would need to take up one-and-a-half seats. Do I routinely sprawl like that on a tightly packed bus or subway? Of course not, because my comfort isn't more important than other passengers' comfort.

I don't care why leg-sprawlers sprawl. I don't care if it's to protect their testicles, to express their manliness, to tacitly proclaim their right to space, or to press their sweaty thigh against my smooth thigh. I only care that they're infringing on my space and my comfort because --- for whatever unimportant reason --- they feel they're entitled to do so.
posted by Elsa at 1:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was in a car with the windows down, enjoying one of the first warm days of spring, when a male driver in the car next to mine said, "Smile! It's a beautiful day out!" To which I responded, "would you command me to smile if I were a guy?"

"No, of course not," he replied. "I'm not gay!" Because that would be the worst thing in the world, obviously.

He kept talking. I ignored him.
posted by emkelley at 1:33 PM on June 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


And one good way to combat that Kickstarter thing - speaking of "speaking up and doing something when you see shit going down rather than just letting it happen" - is to report it to Kickstarter. I did.

As did I. Sadly, they've stated that it's not offensive enough to kick off the site.
posted by zombieflanders at 1:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Conflation.

Next time a strange woman is being verbally abused by another stranger in your presence, jump up, pull out your cell phone, spread your legs and start vigorously fanning your crotch with your free hand.

Begin shouting:

"My God! My balls are on fire! Holy crap! I'm calling the fire department right now. Oh my God, the pain, sweet Jesus, make it stop!"

By all means, pay no attention to the abuser. Bullies will be stunned and disoriented. Normal people will be unnerved.

PS:You don't have to be a man to do this. Actually, it would probably be more effective if you weren't.

posted by mmrtnt at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I actually had no idea Kickstarter had a reporting function. Thanks for pointing it out.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:41 PM on June 20, 2013


I'm gonna do it by holding up the corners of my mouth with my middle fingers.

I have been practicing this in the mirror for 10 minutes now and it is glorious
posted by elizardbits at 1:42 PM on June 20, 2013 [35 favorites]


> I will hope that the takeaway for men reading this is not to feel bad about being men, but to think about that scene at the bus stop where's she's being harassed by one guy and all the other guys look away. Next time, don't look away. Say something. It won't change until enough men decide to stop ignoring it.

Hey, why can't it be both?
posted by officer_fred at 1:44 PM on June 20, 2013


I have been practicing this in the mirror for 10 minutes now and it is glorious

I've been sitting here performing my version of the "truly horrifying grin/scary clown mask" that troika describes above. I already had it in my repertoire*, but it never occurred to me to deploy it on the random "Smile, it can't be that bad" guys on the street. I'm really looking forward to it.

*Even without ever having seen it in the mirror, I know its power because when I do it to The Fella, he starts bellylaughing, then stops laughing, then shifts in his seat and asks me to stop.
posted by Elsa at 1:49 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


I loved this essay. I live this essay every day. One of the moments I regret most in life is when I didn't confront the guy on the train about his invasive comments, and instead let him continue to annoy another women.

I was flashed a few months ago on my walk home, and the cops listened very intently to my husband explaining the situation but not nearly as much to me. I am a very small woman, and men will push and inch their way into my space all the time. Last weekend while at a roller derby match, a man stood with his crotch basically in my face for a good minute and I had no idea what to say, when what I should have said was "get the fuck out of my face." Women are trained from a young age that their inconvenience is secondary to everyone else's convenience. I have full sleeves, and I have been physically grabbed by men asking me to explain their meanings. I am constantly told to smile, I have, on more than one occasion been followed around by men telling me exactly what they would like to do to my body and had no one say anything. I'm so used to this that I sometimes FORGET this isn't okay.
posted by Nimmie Amee at 1:52 PM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


At the same time there are some, some statistics on the other side of the "equivalence" question. Men are more likely to be the victim of violent crime, robbery, and/or assault.

Perhaps you could make an FPP about this, and we could talk about it there.
posted by KathrynT at 1:54 PM on June 20, 2013 [24 favorites]


I have full sleeves, and I have been physically grabbed by men asking me to explain their meanings.

Oh god, having visible tattoos is sometimes the Worst, because it gives creepers something to latch on to. Although, if I didn't have tattoos, it'd probably be the glasses, or the haircut, or whatever. But still, it is so often the tattoos.
posted by misskaz at 1:55 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Men don't speak up in these situations for the same reason women don't: We don't want to be beaten/stabbed/shot by the obviously irrational and agitated guy either.

If your wife/mother/grandmother/daughter/sister was harassed in public and everyone turned a blind eye, would you just shrug your shoulders and say that those people who didn't help just didn't want to get hurt? I'm sure you wouldn't stand idly by and watch someone you know get harassed but just remember...we are all someone's wife/mother/grandmother/daughter/sister.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:18 PM on June 20, 2013


How wide of a stance qualifies as 'lavaballing'? Give me a measurement here. I certainly try to avoid touching other people on the train, but now this has me paranoid.
posted by mike_bling at 2:22 PM on June 20, 2013


How wide of a stance qualifies as 'lavaballing'?

Once it overlaps onto or in front of the seats next to you would be my first response.
posted by jeather at 2:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


How about more than a few inches over the width of your hips? Honestly, if you sit with your feet hip width apart your legs won't go all butterfly anyway.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:23 PM on June 20, 2013


I think if you're conscious of the fact that there are people next to you, you're good.
posted by sweetkid at 2:24 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Imagine you are pantsless. Can the person sitting across from you see both balls and maybe some taint? You are sprawled too wide.
posted by elizardbits at 2:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can the person sitting across from you see both balls and maybe some taint?

...ew.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:31 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


If your wife/mother/grandmother/daughter/sister was harassed in public and everyone turned a blind eye, would you just shrug your shoulders and say that those people who didn't help just didn't want to get hurt?

Yes. That would be my assumption regarding why they didn't jump in. I am not sure what alternative reason there could be unless we're assuming they all just really don't care that someone is being harassed.
posted by Hoopo at 2:33 PM on June 20, 2013


This thread was my life when I used to commute, and thank you toerinishuman for establishing that 'having to crawl over the guy who won't let you up at your stop*' is a thing that happens.

I've always had this faint discomfort that I was uniquely unqualified to deal with the world, or that my small stature, or the fact that I look young for my age explained why this kind of thing kept happening to me. I hate how long I allowed myself to be shamed thinking this shit was my own damn fault. Just look at this thread and the original article for the many examples of how women could just Deal With It differently and the sexism and microaggresions would just go away!

*Fuck you, That Guy, for making me do the mental calculus to decide whether it would be less humiliating to display my ass or good china at your conveniently positioned (leering) eye level. I knew forcing me to crawl over you was a bullshit dominance move - but like most microaggressions - the only proof I had is how slimy you made me feel. I hope mine is the last fine ass you ever get to see that close.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:34 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Imagine you are pantsless.

We're talking about the subway, right?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on June 20, 2013


It's unfortunate that testicles are not detachable. I'd just leave them at home most of the time. Hopefully that will be offered as a feature when we upload our minds into robot bodies.

In the meantime, I'll just deal with any discomfort. I don't like invading other people's space anymore than I like having mine invaded.
posted by homunculus at 2:36 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


< Imagine every guy on the train pantsless and you'll never use public transportation again.

posted by mmrtnt at 2:36 PM on June 20, 2013


At the same time there are some, some statistics on the other side of the "equivalence" question. Men are more likely to be the victim of violent crime, robbery, and/or assault.

Much, much more rare than the everyday sexual harassement and even rape women have to content with.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I hope mine is the last fine ass you ever get to see that close.

Too bad you didn't have to rip a big one right at that moment.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 2:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I wasn't about to take the chance that he was into that sort of thing.
posted by Space Kitty at 2:39 PM on June 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


I am not sure what alternative reason there could be unless we're assuming they all just really don't care that someone is being harassed.

Plenty of people don't care when someone is being harassed or otherwise infringed upon, and plenty of people would prefer that women shut up and accept it, as demonstrated by the way women's complaints of harassment and other infringements on our personal space are commonly met (including in this very thread, with the explanations upthread and in MeTa that some men just neeeeeed to air out their testicles) by men telling us why those infringements are perfectly okay and nothing to get upset about.
posted by Elsa at 2:42 PM on June 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


Imagine every guy on the train pantsless and you'll never use public transportation again.

Especially because the image of a dude in just a shirt and nothing doing on the bottom is just instant sad. It's like the adult version of a kid who just dropped their ice cream.
posted by invitapriore at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


i just wanted to trick men into imagining themselves pantsless at my command

haha matriarchy
posted by elizardbits at 2:45 PM on June 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


BACK TO THE SPERM MINES
posted by shakespeherian at 2:51 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a 5'2" woman generally walking around with two children under four years old, and I intervene when I see a woman being harassed in public all the time. With a stroller. It's a little upsetting how many men in this thread are SO TERRIFIED about their personal safety that they'll happily let someone go on harassing or assaulting a smaller, weaker, less-socially-powerful person while they watch because it's just so super-great that that woman can be the scapegoat for the aggressive people!

Except that a lot of these guys ONLY DO THIS TO WOMEN and back down immediately when confronted by another man. You stand very little risk in this situation. You either don't think it's a big deal when women are sexually harassed, or you're fine with the harassment, or you're massively mis-assessing your risk and walking around in a state of perpetual terror about unlikely events ... events that scare the shit out of you but are ACTUALLY HAPPENING to women around you, but that apparently doesn't matter, because they're women.

You don't have to be directly confrontational. I have had good luck with a firm, "Sir, could you get that door for me?" to the harasser (when I'm pushing a stroller), which gives the harassee a chance to escape. Or "Is there a problem here?" or "Miss, is this man bothering you?" Or even, "Sorry to interrupt, but you look uncannily like my college roommate's wife, is there any chance you're from Boston?" just to get her away from the harasser. You don't have to be like, "HEY JACKASS BACK OFF LET'S DO FACEPUNCHING NOW."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:53 PM on June 20, 2013 [65 favorites]


Also my husband is 6'4" and doesn't fit well on public transit and uses these magic words called "Excuse me" when he accidentally bumps someone or is awkwardly too smushed up against them. People almost universally offer to move their legs over a little bit to give his scrunched knees some room because they feel bad for him for Being Tall On Public Transit.

People who are saying "But I haaaaaaaaaave to lavaball, MY TESTICLLLLLLLLLLES!" but aren't trying basic civilized politeness are full of crap.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:56 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


HEY JACKASS BACK OFF LET'S DO FACEPUNCHING NOW

Okay but I can say this sometimes anyway
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


From the article:
You’ll have to assume you’re operating alone; a dozen men at that bus stop will stand and watch the man with his iPhone out; when he threatens at length to rape and murder you for telling him to fuck off, they will stand and watch as you try to dial the cops with one eye on his fists. They’ll tell the bus driver you were making a scene.

I think it's worth it to point out that the writer, and I will take the risk and speak for other women as well as myself, is not necessarily asking anyone else to step in, confront the harasser, and possibly take the face-punches. You can also just not be the guy that "tells the bus driver you were making a scene" - you can stand up for the person being harassed even after the fact and help. Just by speaking up and saying "yes, this happened, and it was wrong" can mean a LOT.
posted by coupdefoudre at 3:03 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Elsa,

I don't think people in this thread are asking women to shut up and deal with harassment. There were a few people who were defensive because they are guilty of "lavaballs" and had no intention of harassing anyone by doing it. That is a very different thing, even if it's still not great. Apparently now not stepping up and confronting whatever asshole you see harassing someone means you don't care, or at least that's what we should assume.

You stand very little risk in this situation... "Is there a problem here?" or "Miss, is this man bothering you?"

Bullshit. What do you think the implication of these questions is to the harasser coming from another man? Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?"

I'm giving up. This is getting ridiculous.
posted by Hoopo at 3:04 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I love this thread so much because it reflects so much experience that is really hard to convey to people who have not experienced it. For me, it was extremely noticable when I moved to San Francisco at 18...I lived in the Tenderloin, and worked in the mission and had to walk through some intense-for-me streets to get to public transportation and back. I would get hollered at and whistled at and hit on and by the time I arrived at work I would take about 20 minutes to decompress from walking through the street before I could converse with people without becoming defensive.

It also really affected how I dressed and what clothes I felt comfortable in, in ways that were very subtle and hard to verbalize at the time.

Oh! And the tattoo thing!! I have a red dragon that is like a half sleeve and aside from people grabbing my arm to get a better look (JESUS JUST ASK FIRST PLEASE) I once had a guy lick his finger and move to rub my arm with the FINGER HE JUST LICKED because he'd never seen an all red tattoo and he wanted to know if it would rub off. THAT IS NEVER OKAY. I reacted appropriately stunned and upset and just in time to not get touched, and he was incredulous that I was irritated.

I also think that being 5'8" has helped me a lot, because although I have experienced a lot of these uncomfortable and daily harrassments, I've rarely felt physically threatened, and when particular egregious insults/space invasions occur, I could usually find the proper demeaning response without fearing for my safety.
posted by thankyouforyourconsideration at 3:11 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Oh Jesus, the Tenderloin. I will never forget two very large dudes approaching me as I waited for the light to change, announcing their desire to make me into a sandwich.
posted by ambrosia at 3:14 PM on June 20, 2013


I too had the experience of being told, "Oh, they just like you" when I went to my guidance councillor in 7th or 8th grade to complain about two boys who were constantly tormenting me. When she said that, I just stopped listening to her, realized that no one gave a shit and that I was on my own.

I'd still love to meet that woman again and explain to her exactly what that statement meant to me. I don't give real names online, but boy howdy would I like to publicly shame her for that.

Subway wide angle male sitters: when there's a row of them taking up twice as many seats as they need to be I have the urge to run up the row closing their knees - I call it playing nutcracker - but I've obviously never done it.

I've definitely done the thing where I keep my legs fixed and don't let the man sitting next to me take up additional space.
posted by sciencegeek at 3:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?"

Intimately, yes. This is what happens to women when we rebuff the advances, that or "Bitch, what, I'm not good enough for you?"

It never fails to amaze me how some guys can simultaneously accuse women of "living in fear" and "assuming the worst" and "can't you just give a guy the benefit of the doubt" when it's OUR safety on the line, but when they're asked to help out, they're like "but I might get hurt!" The fear you're worried about in that moment? That's what a lot of women feel every day.
posted by KathrynT at 3:22 PM on June 20, 2013 [87 favorites]


Hoopo: "Bullshit. What do you think the implication of these questions is to the harasser coming from another man? Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?""

So what you're telling me is, any given man might be a TERRIFYING SUPER-PREDATOR and therefore you're afraid to engage in normal public interactions because of the high risk level? Sort of how women are forced by rape culture to be on constant guard when in public situations?

It sounds like you're saying these terrifying super-predators can't be reasoned with and that intervention is futile, so we should all thank god a victim has already been chosen, step back, and let the minotaur devours its prey. NOTHING CAN BE DONE.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [53 favorites]


I am alternating between the capybaras and this FPP in order to maintain my serenity.

As a short Asian woman who perhaps will be carded for booze until her 60s, I've gotten all sorts of sexist racist smarminess on public transit. I still love public transit with the fiery love of an escapee from suburbia.

I will practice my rictus grin and try it out the next time someone tells me to turn that frown upside down. Frickin' genius.
posted by spamandkimchi at 3:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


t never fails to amaze me how some guys can simultaneously accuse women of "living in fear" and "assuming the worst" and "can't you just give a guy the benefit of the doubt" when it's OUR safety on the line, but when they're asked to help out, they're like "but I might get hurt!"

Are you saying I'm doing this?

It sounds like you're saying these terrifying super-predators can't be reasoned with and that intervention is futile, so we should all thank god a victim has already been chosen, step back, and let the minotaur devours its prey. NOTHING CAN BE DONE.

Actually no. I'm saying if the situation looks threatening, calling the cops is a perfectly good option. If it's not threatening, maybe just maybe the woman actually has it under control. Confronting someone can be dangerous. I nearly got in a fight just walking home for fuck's sakes. A person yelling at length about killing and raping someone at a bus stop with a dozen men standing there? I think the balance of probability suggests this person is a little off and maybe not to be reasoned with, yes. I would call the cops.
posted by Hoopo at 3:32 PM on June 20, 2013


I think the balance of probability suggests this person is a little off and maybe not to be reasoned with...

This is why I'm a big fan of diversion.

LIke pulling out your phone, pretending to take a call and saying loudly:

"I can't quite hear you. There's a guy yelling at some poor woman."
"No".
"What?"
"No. I think he's done. I think he realizes everyone's looking at him."
"Yeah"
"<Sigh>"
"Anyway. Is your brother going to make detective or not..?

posted by mmrtnt at 3:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


OK, so we've done geometry, we've suggested keeping your feet and knees at hip width or maybe even shoulder width as possible boundaries. Another possible method: if your leg hits someone else's leg and you keep on pushing, you might be lavaballing.

Generally speaking, acceptable social behavior if you accidentally nudge a stranger is a quick apology and withdrawal, enough so you're no longer touching. The lavaballer is more likely to pretend it's not happening, keep going, and maintain that unwanted physical contact until his seatmates give up their own space. And sometimes they'll keep expanding even after that, because at that point they've established their lavaballin' dominance, and why not keep going?

This is aggressive behavior. The reason the men who do this can get away with it is because it's a microaggression. Most of the microaggressions that the article discusses have something that the perpetrator or onlookers could point to as an excuse, and it feels ridiculous to complain, since it's "not that bad." This is bullshit. Unless these guys have all had recent knee surgery and have lost all feeling in their legs, they know damn well what they're doing even if they're not really thinking about it.

We shouldn't have to "deal with it."
posted by asperity at 3:48 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I nearly got in a fight just walking home for fuck's sakes.

Well, no, you nearly got into a fight because you decided to treat walking home like a game of chicken, then confronted someone who was minorly aggressive towards you. Was that guy wrong to elbow you? Absolutely. Did you have every legal and moral right to verbally call him out on it? Sure. But doing so also escalated a situation that was already over into a prolonged argument. You seem to be admitting that you were walking on what is socially accepted as the side of the sidewalk traditionally reserved for people walking the opposite direction (keep right, people, just like when you're driving), and you chose to make walking a battle of wills, and then you started an argument over it. Both of you were aggressive, and you chose not to just keep walking away.
posted by decathecting at 3:50 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


A 17 year old, writing in the Guardian: What happened when I started a feminist society at school
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:52 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Bullshit. What do you think the implication of these questions is to the harasser coming from another man? Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?"

I think you're overestimating the level of danger in these sort of confrontations, if you play them smart and don't come in as the big macho I am. The trick is to give the harassee a chance to escape, preferably without having the harasser lose face. Not to spare his feelings, but to not escalate a situation. So you do things like Eyebrows McGee mentioned above, where you pretend to have a connection with the victim, or ask the harasser to do something for you. You can also do things like just positioning yourself without actually saying something to let the asshole know he's being watched without directly confronting him.

Everybody of course has their own comfort level so I'm not judging people for not wanting to get involved, but sometimes you do need to take a little bit of risk to help somebody out or not be able to look yourself in the mirror anymore.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


That article adds a fresh layer of despair onto an already disheartening day. Such a brave and clever girl and such an appalling, despicable response.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Bullshit. What do you think the implication of these questions is to the harasser coming from another man? Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?"

Yes. In every confrontation with another man, no matter how civil, there is a real risk of it escalating to violence. You always must ask "is this worth a trip to the hospital." I absolutely agree that this is a factor, and it is something I consider all the time.

I suppose what men must decide is whether standing up against and speaking when a man engages in the everyday behavior of making the world hostile to women is worth a trip to the hospital. I know it's a tough choice, but I also know I think this guy is awesome and would rather be him than not. He's not battling microagression in the video, but he shows how simple it can be to take a stand.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:01 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Or maybe he is. I don't know what prompted the fight; from the dialogue, it sounds like the man was misbehaving toward the woman and she responded violently.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 4:03 PM on June 20, 2013


I think the thing is, if every individual guy stood up to the aggressor, it would mean that all the guys at the bus stop would be doing it simultaneously, and the aggressor would back off. The guys would then act as witnesses if need be. This is what we should be raising our boys to do and our girls to expect. (Actually, we should be raising all children to do both.)
posted by billiebee at 4:10 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


...

I've had balls my entire life, and this whole idea that some guys need to sit with their knees two feet apart to protect their testicles is news to me. Sure, they can get uncomfortably bunched up, but there are other ways you can sit.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:10 PM on June 20, 2013


You seem to be admitting that you were walking on what is socially accepted as the side of the sidewalk traditionally reserved for people walking the opposite direction

If there is any kind of arrangement for sidewalks vaguely resembling a "socially acceptable" side to walk on here, I have yet to see it. People simply walk wherever they like, and yes, it's really annoying. This is a derail though.

What I'm saying is that "Is there a problem here?" or "Miss, is this man bothering you?" is just as likely to come off as aggressive to a guy in the midst of aggressively shouting threats at someone. So in comes me, 6'4" 230. Someone in the middle of doing some kind of fucked up dominance dance is not always going to say "sorry sir" when I come up and say "hey it looks like you're being a dick, want me to do something about it?"
posted by Hoopo at 4:12 PM on June 20, 2013


Thanks for acknowledging it, Bunny.
posted by Hoopo at 4:16 PM on June 20, 2013


it seems like we've covered as many angles as we can of how you would personally feel in a very specific circumstance...
posted by nadawi at 4:17 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Threads like these just make me want to go out in public wearing full-coverage plate armour, complete with dragon-sculpted helm and spiky knees.
posted by zennish at 4:17 PM on June 20, 2013


It's a little upsetting how many men in this thread are SO TERRIFIED about their personal safety that they'll happily let someone go on harassing or assaulting a smaller, weaker, less-socially-powerful person while they watch because it's just so super-great that that woman can be the scapegoat for the aggressive people!

It's amazing to me the number of men in this thread who fear DANGER! who probably also cross the street against the light every damn day. There are any number of potentially hazardous things we do in any given day (eating! You can choke on your ham sandwich and die!) to say that the ones that would stop harassment of women are the ones you're not willing to do make your priorities really, really glaringly obvious.
posted by sonika at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


is not always going to say "sorry sir"

No, almost certainly not.

What happens is the dude blusters for a bit, calls someone a bitch or fat or ugly, and then slinks away like the shithole they are.

Hassling a woman is basically a zero risk activity. Usually all it really takes to get them to stop is someone, anyone, stepping in simply showing that the hassled woman is not alone. The number of guys who will actually escalate once called out on their behavior is vanishingly small.
posted by phunniemee at 4:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Also, I have found that wielding the stroller has ended all sexual commentary about me and never do I ever get a "Hey lady, why don't you smile!" But it's not a perfect world because to fill the void of public annoyance, I get weirdos trying to touch my kid.
posted by sonika at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hoopo, the thing is there's no need for an "in comes me". The way the dynamic is, the interaction has a figleaf of being a public conversation, so you can definitely join in from a distance with a "Hey, dude, there's no need for that" at the kind of politely firm level without posing a threat.
posted by ambrosen at 4:20 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I get weirdos trying to touch my kid.

Ugh yes this is the worst
posted by Hoopo at 4:26 PM on June 20, 2013


sonika just recovered a memory for me - the first time I actually got straight up two handed groped from behind in public was while crossing the street with my eight month old baby in her stroller. I screamed like a banshee, which only made the guy laugh at how 'feisty' I was, and he made kissy noises at me until I was halfway down the block. I suppose it's for the best that I can't actually set people on fire with my mind because I'd probably still be in jail.

I'm gonna go take another shower.
posted by Space Kitty at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I know I'm chipping in late on the nudge on the shoulder, but ... The nudge on the shoulder can seem innocuous or supremely minor if you haven't experienced a lifetime of men touching you at their will and (trying to) moving you to the place they want you to be. It's just a few fingers or a few curled fingers (which feels a bit fist-like) or a palm or a splayed hand pushing at you to get your attention or to physically push you forward or start the

Even when the nudge is at its creepiest - when the nudger curls the fingers over the shoulder to give them more control over moving you, and sometimes rubs the thumb up and down your back (while applying pressure) as if to calm an excitable creature who might freak out on him, moving it out of initial nudge territory, is not as obviously obviously creepy as other instances.

It's not a man coming up behind you, putting both hands on your waist and moving you in another direction, or grabbing your arm to control your movement or drag you in some direction, or sliding his hand between your upper arm (exploring a bit) and your torso and pulling you in a direction BY THE TORSO or the waist, or placing the palm in the small of your back to direct you, the hand lingering just above your butt like he's claimed you and all you other dudes better back off.

But it is part of a longer experience of men coming up behind you, putting their hands on you, either putting them in intimate places or trying to control your mobility, often without a verbal preamble ("Oh good! The line is moving!" "Excuse me, they're calling your name." "Gang way! I need to get to the bathroom!" Even a cough would do) or visual indication. So once again, someone has come up behind you and has started touching you without warning. And in my personal history, sometimes a nudge isn't just a nudge. Sometimes the nudging hand lingers and the second one creeps up, which feels aggressive and scary. Or the one hand slides down your back and just happens to brush your butt. Or it slides down your back and makes a right turn to graze your breast. Sometimes the nudge - which is already longer than a tap on the shoulder or a sharp poke in the back - feels like it's lingering there..

And sometimes if you aren't instaBitch or ignore the nudge but move out of the way, it's treated as an invitation to touch you again. The ante gets upped. This time, they grab an arm, or actually touch you in more overtly sexual manner. Or they feel free to suggest things, because clearly you liked it when he touched you.
posted by julen at 4:35 PM on June 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


(shoot! The first paragraph should end "start the movement forward".)
posted by julen at 4:42 PM on June 20, 2013


Actually no. I'm saying if the situation looks threatening, calling the cops is a perfectly good option.

And so is everyone else. So what's the problem? (Not just directed at you, Hoopo, I think there's a misconception here.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:46 PM on June 20, 2013


The thing that I've realized is that men conceal this shit from other men. Creepers lean in close and whisper shit in passing.

I just wanted to stress this because while it has been mentioned several times in this thread, there are a lot of guys out there (in the world, not necessarily Mefi) who genuinely have a hard time understanding the day-to-day street harassment that women deal with because they've never seen it happen. They need to understand they never see it because harassers will often not do it if there are other guys around. They do it when they are alone or when they are with a group of like minded guys who will join in on the harassment.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


if you murder me, then I'm dead and cannot suffer any further.

if you rape me, then I get to deal with the shame of that for the rest of my life. Including being shamed for it. And blamed for it. And being told by all manner of well-meaning parties that "it's all in my head" and "I should just move on with my life".
posted by lonefrontranger at 5:40 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This thread is giving all those relationship AskMes a run for their money in how much it inspires me to mouthify my husband's wang from my gratitude and pride in him for being such a good man and decent human being.
posted by Jacqueline at 5:49 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most men are good and decent human beings.
posted by 0 at 5:53 PM on June 20, 2013


It's also worth emphasising that if you don't speak out against it when it happens, the context you've granted to the creep is that creeping, stalking, touching, groping, harassing is okay/normal/expected behaviour.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


Most men are good and decent human beings.

This may be true. But all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Most men are good and decent human beings."

Yeah, but my husband takes it a step further by interjecting himself into these sorts of situations, even if he has to take a punch to the face to do so (he lets them throw the first punch). A lot of the situations described in the linked post and the comments here would have ended quite differently if my husband had been present. That seems to be unusual given the number of men in this thread stating that they don't confront harassers themselves because they're scared of them as well.

My husband's self preservation instincts may be lacking (he's also physically inserted himself between a pitbull and the smaller dog that the pitbull was mauling), but I'm proud of him for confronting harassment and bullying whenever he witnesses it instead of defaulting to conflict avoidance like most humans seem to.
posted by Jacqueline at 6:13 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The male co-worker who repeats you and gets the credit

The man who says you’re too angry for him to take seriously; if you want him to listen, be calmer


I've never experienced street harassment/sexual harassment at work/men telling me to "smile," etc. I never had boys throwing crap at me in school.

But I've spent most of my professional life in a very male world. And these two sentences resonated so strongly with me that it was almost a relief, or something, to see them written down in black and white.
posted by gerstle at 6:16 PM on June 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


phunniemee: "Hassling a woman is basically a zero risk activity."

It's this, and it really shouldn't be.

Personally, I can't think of a civilization in recorded history that dealt with the male/female divide in what we would consider as a modern society anything approaching an appropriate or effective way. Vastly more in an urban setting. Cities have been horrible for women for millennia.

Where the hell is it okay to randomly approach a woman on a public conveyance anywhere on the planet and touch them on the arm uninvited, let alone put your chin on their shoulder*? This is 100% not acceptable to me as a person and should be similarly unacceptable a society as a whole.

In no way do I condone this behavior whatsoever. This shit is horrible and should be a crime.

That being said, I understand that because I look vaguely threatening/like a cop, that I miss almost everything sweetkid has been talking about, simply because nobody wants me to smile, and I don't have tattoos for people to comment on. I'm a guy who got most of his genes from his Polish grandfather, which means I'm under six foot, have a wide yet really short pelvis, Popeye forearms, and my shoulders are two and a half feet apart.

I would never, ever encroach on another person's duly allotted public space on public transportation. Yet I feel like I'm getting grouped in with these "lavaballing" idiots just because I have a 29" inseam, occasionally ride the bus, and I'm a man.

Unfortunately, the reason nobody says anything is because depending on where you lived, sometime in the late 80's through the mid to late 90's, getting into a random fight didn't mean you ended up in the hospital with a few stitches, or a broken arm, it ended up with you being dead. Hope you didn't have a wife or kids you were supporting while people monday morning quarterbacked your option to not get involved.

*Seriously, this is killing me, someone who puts their chin on my fucking shoulder had better get ready to get that chin broke to hell. The Solar Plexus is right there, throw that elbow. I'm a horrible Buddhist.
posted by Sphinx at 6:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think I've told this story here before, but maybe not.

I was walking down the sidewalk one day - lunchtime-ish, weekday - and a few steps in front of me there was a guy walking, and a few steps in front of him, a woman walking.

He was making kissy noises to her, and telling her how fine she was, how he loved her long legs, etc. Her posture got very stiff and she began to walk faster.

I said to him something like "So does that work? Do you get phone numbers and dates and stuff when you talk like that?"*

He said something like "Fuck you you dyke cunt bitch," loudly and aggressively. He didn't stop walking but he turned his shoulders towards me and leaned closer. I just shrugged and walked away.

So had the woman he'd been harassing. She was long gone.

* I got the idea for this from a Dykes to Watch Out For strip.
posted by rtha at 6:23 PM on June 20, 2013 [30 favorites]


i'm sorry you feel lumped - while sometimes women might react strongly to things that don't seem like that big of a deal from an external perspective, please trust that if it hasn't been a day of shitty thing after shitty thing we're pretty good at recognizing the difference between "i'm trying" and "i'm shoving my leg against yours in a dominating fashion." and if someone does snap at you, just try to think about the world she's moving through and how it seems a bit more fraught than yours. she might have over reacted, but the penalty for under reacting is sometimes just too high.

to restate it (and put it together) - lincoln is fine but this dude is being a jackass, even if there's not a sexual component. he's super tall - but he could still not have his leg in the spot directly in front of her hips/shoulders.
posted by nadawi at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


goddamn I love you rtha.


Profession of adoration aside, most of the time acknowledgement of their shittiness is all it takes to stop them. Assholes like that are generally cowardly inside and calling them on their nonsense really throws them off.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I incredulously read some of the comments defending lavaballers (I love the term) and called my fiance into the room and asked him to sit comfortably and I sat next to him at about the distance of a bus seat. Yeah, his knees are about two inches apart, he's comfortable and NOT TOUCHING ME. Come on. Don't be ridiculous, you can sit perfectly reasonably without touching the person next to you, barring the occasional, ACCIDENTAL jolt from traffic. Those guys sitting with their legs 12 inches apart? Yeah, it's not for comfort. It's for dominance and get off their side. If you're not sitting with your legs shoulder-width apart to show that snotty bitch next to you who's the boss of the 45A? Then we're not talking about you.

And it's amazing how people, mostly men, ignore when a woman is being threatened or harassed and how incredibly small and unsafe it makes you feel. Back when I took the bus to work daily, I was standing at my stop at 8:00 in the morning. And man came up to me and started making sexual threats. VERY loudly. I tried to ignore him by hiding in my City Paper and he started saying things like, "I KNOW YOU AREN'T REALLY READING, BITCH. I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME." All the well-dressed men at the stop with me ignored this, some of the glared at me like I did something wrong, some moved away, I guess to give him more room to knife me or something, and no one said a word. Luckily for me, a woman with bigger boobs than mine (sorry, bigger-boobed lady) walked by and distracted him AND my bus came. No one would have had to yell at the guy, someone could have just stood next to me, or asked me the time or something, just to let us both know that people were paying attention. This was years ago and I can remember exactly how embarrassed and gross and alone I felt.
posted by Aquifer at 6:52 PM on June 20, 2013 [20 favorites]


Yeah, there is no defending lavaballers. Nobody's asking anybody to only ever sit with their legs primly crossed.

Not only do I have male parts, but I also have a not-small backpack which, when I sit down on the subway, I rest between my legs. I can easily, comfortably seat myself, even with my bag safely between my legs, without going beyond the boundaries of my seat. Yes, some people are just naturally wide, but there's a huge difference between naturally taking up more space, which is a thing that happens, and splaying yourself open, as if your sneakers were gyno stirrups.

As for subway pole-leaners, I make the following suggestion. Leaning on the pole when it is crowded should trigger a spray of white paint. The ensuing white line on the leaner's back will then cause Pepe LePew to relentlessly attempt to fuck them. The end.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:05 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, what can I do as a guy who doesn't ride the public transportation much anymore? Post more? Bring an extra belt to belt my knees together?

I have no idea what is going on on the subway on the east coast. %95 of my public transportation stories are from Minneapolis where we're cold, but friendly.

All these anecdotes, mine included, aren't helping the problem, the problem is that there's some sort of overriding US cultural misogyny on public transportation. And that isn't okay at all.

Can I sign up somewhere to wear a huge hat that says SAFE SPACE on it?
posted by Sphinx at 7:09 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


i didn't lump you so i don't know why i'd apologize to you for it.
posted by nadawi at 7:10 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, what Aquifer and others have been saying. It is so scary to know you're in this alone. I was walking down a street that lead into a major US college campus in the middle of the day. Not a ton of people around, but a scattering of pedestrians. A guy who had been harassing me at an earlier light had followed me halfway up the street screaming about how I was a bitch. No one on the street said anything.

Then he yanked my computer bag off my shoulder. And after a cold frozen paralyzed split second, I yanked the strap back and started screaming like a fucking lunatic. "FIRE RAPE POLICE HELP BOMB FIRE THIEF" - like some kind of 911-call Tourettes. (My DATA was in there. Personal comfort? Whatever. My thesis data? Worth getting attacked over.) No one on the street said anything.

Aggressor dude ran off, and I started to sob as I approached the person closest to me on the sidewalk. He was maybe 25 feet away at most, certainly close enough to see and hear what had happened. I asked for his cell phone to call the police. He didn't want to give it to me, so I asked HIM to call the police. He didn't want to do that either, so I just stood in his path crying and begging some more until he got uncomfortable enough from the other passerbys giving us looks and let me make the call. Then he grabbed his phone out of my hand and walked off.

The part that ended up giving me nightmares wasn't the aggressor. It was phone guy and the other two men on the block who didn't even turn around.
posted by synapse at 7:16 PM on June 20, 2013 [27 favorites]


All these anecdotes, mine included, aren't helping the problem, the problem is that there's some sort of overriding US cultural misogyny on public transportation everywhere. And that isn't okay at all.

FTFY
posted by phunniemee at 7:18 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


synapse, I'm so sorry that happened to you. And in my experience, the behavior of people right after a trauma survivor experiences the trauma is actually more predictive of how nasty the recovery is going to be, than the trauma experience itself.

All of you acting like helping a trauma survivor is outside the realm of human decency, please understand this. Even being there and saying, "Hey, that wasn't your fault" or "I believe you" is a HUGELY HELPFUL intervention.
posted by jaguar at 7:20 PM on June 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


There was a post a while ago with a New Zealand PSA about intervening when someone's at risk of sexual assault. I liked it because I'm not a very confrontational person and it showed a few less-confrontational strategies for speaking up, or getting help, or redirecting the victim and/or aggressor. I wish there were more things like this because aggressors know what they're doing. The observers have a whole lot of uncertainty about what's going on and what the best tactic would be, and some role-played examples would probably make things a lot easier.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:21 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I can barely stand getting a "No, thanks" out to a petitioner outside the Co-op, let alone inserting myself into any of the situations described in this thread.

Nevertheless, threads like this one make me more likely to at least try.

I will add that I hate our species.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 7:21 PM on June 20, 2013


But I've spent most of my professional life in a very male world. And these two sentences resonated so strongly with me that it was almost a relief, or something, to see them written down in black and white.

Yes.

At this point in life, I put my earbuds in when I'm out in public and walk with purpose to where I'm going, paying absolutely no attention to anyone around me. So I don't think I notice street harassment as much anymore, even though it still happens - I've just learned to fully ignore it.

BUT, at work? I deal with this insidious shit every. single. day. and I am telling you, it wears me down. Every day the following things happen to me or to another woman right in front of my eyes:

- being talked over or interrupted by a man who does not do the same thing to other men when they speak

- voicing any objections (no matter how "nicely" they're put) and being labeled a complainer or a troublemaker, while men can regularly be grumpy, complainey or moody as fuck and I have yet to hear the same labels being applied to them even once

- speaking up in a meeting and having the boss mansplain (sorry, lack of a better term here) the very basics of the topic I had just talked about, as if I don't understand what it is I'm talking about

- hearing a male not two minutes later in the exact same meeting make a statement that really is a very basic or obvious point and getting a response of "Great point!" from the same boss

- always thinking twice about what I'm going to say and how I should state it in a way that I won't be labeled as "irrational", "emotional" "hysterical" etc.

- Adjusting my speaking to be as factual and neutral as possible when I might in fact feel passionately about something and then getting a little resentful that most of the men seem to be able to express themselves as passionately and freely as they want and will still be given thoughtful consideration (even if they are actually being a little irrational)

- Every day not being able to tell if there is something wrong with me and my performance or if I'm actually dealing with unfair attitudes toward women in my industry. Ongoing anxiety over that because there is no real way of knowing

So rape culture is what it is and pay inequality is what it is. But aside from those things there are a million little things like this every day that happen. Things that have no labels and aren't quantifiable. And these are the things that really affect me right now. Street harassment is shitty and misogynistic assholes are too. I do what I can to minimize these things in my life as much as possible. I avoid guys with bad attitudes about women. I've learned to ignore men who catcall or harass me in small ways in my life. I love my chosen field of work. I want to go as far as I can in it. I don't know what I need to do to be taken seriously and be respected in it. I don't know how to minimize the effects of sexism there and I don't know how to ignore it. Right now this is what's most upsetting to me.

And when I google something like "how women are undermined in the workplace" eight out of ten of the results are either about how women undermine themselves or women are undermined by other women. Sexism? What sexism?
posted by triggerfinger at 7:26 PM on June 20, 2013 [23 favorites]


Two staff-meeting memories:

1. The CEO was meeting with all the executives in the office, plus me, because I was on the Marketing team and whatever we were talking about was marketing-related. I'm female, my boss was female, everyone else at the meeting was male. The CEO looked at both me and my boss and said, "Can one of you take notes?" My boss was in the process of pulling out a notepad when I said, "Right, because we're the girls" only halfway under my breath. She still took notes (why she didn't assign that to me, as a junior person, I can only guess at), but there was a flicker in her eyes that registered ... something.

2. In a different job, I often ended up as the person who repeated other women's comments and got the "good job" response from them. I considered myself a radical feminist at the time -- and still do, in the sense of "radical" meaning "root," because I believe that misogyny is at the root of most inequality in the world -- but I couldn't quite connect that philosophy with the practicality of being in a staff meeting, seeing someone's awesome comment getting ignored, and realizing that I was loud and forceful enough to get that same comment heard. I wish, very much, that I had been more vocal at the time about attribution.
posted by jaguar at 7:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The man who asks why women wear makeup; he likes women to look natural.

This was the only line in the article I couldn't relate to. I've said as much to a former girlfriend in order to undermine her default acceptance of the male gaze within the cosmetics advertising industry. I was trying to directly contradict that messaging as a [not-a-paid-model] male whose esteem mattered to her.

Eesh typing this is like walking on eggshells. I don't often think about or engage with this subject (that's privilege talking) but I do agree with the prevailing opinion here.

How is a rejection of industry beauty standards aggressive towards females? I've always understood these standards to be a set-piece of chauvinism and a hindrance to equality. Aren't asymmetrical expectations of the genders nearly always sexist? (Maternity, period and menopause -related issues notwithstanding).
posted by troll at 7:49 PM on June 20, 2013


Are we not to take individual women at their word when they say that this behavior is both intense and frequent? And are we not to notice how many individual women say this?

for me, no, but i take issue with the overly general chastising of "men" as a group. it's the same way i take an issue with equating "terrorist" with "arab" or "muslum."

i don't doubt that many/some women experience this frequently, but i'd argue that it's a relatively small proportion of men doing the vast majority of this behavior.
posted by cupcake1337 at 7:52 PM on June 20, 2013


"How is a rejection of industry beauty standards aggressive to females?"

The way you phrase it can imply that you believe that women exist for you to look at.

"I like women to look natural" is about you and your preferences; "You don't have to wear makeup to be attractive to me" is more supportive.
posted by Jacqueline at 7:53 PM on June 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


How is a rejection of industry beauty standards aggressive to females?

Because the woman in question is wearing makeup her own reasons and the comment assumes she is wearing makeup for "you"/ for men in general.
posted by marimeko at 7:55 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


If you want to get noticed during meetings I recommend being a large male with a beard. It's always worked for me. I mean, I would literally put piles of books in front of myself, put my hands in my lap and keep my eyes down, and I would still see people's heads swiveling towards me when a convenor asked if there were any questions. It was freaky.

Incidentally, I have a fairly deep and resonant voice, so if you don't believe what I say in the paragraph above I recommend reading it slowly and with a rumbly, booming quality. It will sound much more plausible.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:57 PM on June 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Also, a lot of men who like women to look "natural" don't actually know what "natural" looks like. A lot of them mean "I want you to look perfect, but not flamboyant." Which... requires makeup.

In addition, there are a not-insignificant number of men who object when their girlfriends wear makeup because they assume she's doing it to attract other men.

So while any individual male may not be trying to assert dominance when commenting on his partner's makeup choices, he should probably be aware that this is an area where abusive bullies tend to make a stand.
posted by jaguar at 7:59 PM on June 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


How is a rejection of industry beauty standards aggressive towards females? I've always understood these standards to be a set-piece of chauvinism and a hindrance to equality.

Women's faces do not exist to give men aesthetic pleasure, and men who trumpet their general preferences are setting themselves up as the arbiters of how women should behave. In a one-on-one relationship like the one you're describing with your girlfriend, that's up to you and her to negotiate; in a wider conversation like the one described in the linked article, that's one man stating a sweeping preference for how "he likes" women in general to perform femininity.

If you want to get noticed during meetings I recommend being a large male with a beard.

I keep trying, and yet it hasn't paid off so far.
posted by Elsa at 8:00 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


Metafilter: I recommend reading it slowly and with a rumbly, booming quality.
posted by smidgen at 8:07 PM on June 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


There was actually a bit in MTV's "Girl Code" in which one of the comedians said something like, "When a guy says he likes a 'natural look,' he's like, "Like Kim Kardashian!' He actually thinka she doesn't wear any makeup."

And that was the joke.

Guys liking "a natural look" is cliche and mistaken enough to be a joke, on its own, on MTV.
posted by jaguar at 8:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've said as much to a former girlfriend in order to undermine her default acceptance of the male gaze

Why do you assume that women who wear makeup are trying to attract male attention? Maybe we like to do things because WE want to. Also as someone up thread earlier said, most men who prefer the "natural look" don't realize that most of the naturally beautiful women are wearing makeup. Women should be doing what they want to do, not what you think they should be doing.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 8:28 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


it's proving impossible to google for, but as i remember there was some research recently that found that if a woman came up against a guy that wouldn't take no for an answer, the response that they heard the loudest and clearest was "i have a boyfriend" - not "i'm not interested." "please leave me alone" "i don't want to go out with you" "no" or any other form of expressing her own desires - but bring up that another man is planting his flag there and suddenly they hear you. this is such a problem that women are regularly encouraged to invent a boyfriend/husband to get left alone.

I have a boyfriend and I've said as much in situations like these. It's not good enough: how come I'm not married? How come he won't cough up for a ring? Where is he RIGHT NOW?

I've also told harassers I was a lesbian -- I really should have predicted that the response would be "invite her along!"
posted by mirepoix at 8:34 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


And I've thought about getting a pawn-shop wedding ring to wear out in public (like Virginia Madsen in Sideways) but I don't think my boyfriend (whose opinion matters to me) would appreciate it.
posted by mirepoix at 8:38 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why do you assume that women who wear makeup are trying to attract male attention? Maybe we like to do things because WE want to.

So self-esteem has no social aspect? People are not islands and grooming is obviously done with other people in mind, even if only subconsciously.

Also as someone up thread earlier said, most men who prefer the "natural look" don't realize that most of the naturally beautiful women are wearing makeup.

Now who's making assumptions? We're speaking in categoricals where there are multitudes. Some guys feel that way, but I genuinely prefer no makeup. This isn't to say my preference should be subjected onto women with difference preferences. They can have them. This is totally besides the point.

Women should be doing what they want to do, not what you think they should be doing.

I absolutely agree with this, and I don't know why my earlier comment would imply otherwise.
posted by troll at 8:44 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Do you know how easy it is for the next line to be "who the fuck are you?"

Intimately, yes. This is what happens to women when we rebuff the advances, that or "Bitch, what, I'm not good enough for you?"

It never fails to amaze me how some guys can simultaneously accuse women of "living in fear" and "assuming the worst" and "can't you just give a guy the benefit of the doubt" when it's OUR safety on the line, but when they're asked to help out, they're like "but I might get hurt!" The fear you're worried about in that moment? That's what a lot of women feel every day.


Wait, did hoopo do this, or is he the representative for all men now?
posted by spaltavian at 8:44 PM on June 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


troll, it seems to me that people were responding to you broadly not personally. they don't know you so they probably aren't specifically insulting your motives or assumptions, rather they are saying why being told that a man prefers women without makeup can be problematic.
posted by nadawi at 8:56 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mean you asked a question and they answered, why are you responding aggressively?
posted by nadawi at 8:58 PM on June 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


troll, it seems to me that people were responding to you broadly not personally. they don't know you so they probably aren't specifically insulting your motives or assumptions, rather they are saying why being told that a man prefers women without makeup can be problematic.

Right, I was only using an experience as an example, and my responses weren't meant to defend myself but to flesh out an idea. Sorry.
posted by troll at 9:00 PM on June 20, 2013


Speaking for myself only - when I wear makeup it's to look better, yes. Not "better for men", not better "for any particular man" or any other single person. Just better. Better for me when I catch myself in the mirror. It's for me. To cover acne or whatever happens to be bothering me that day. Or because I want cat eyes that day. It's incredibly personal. Like tattoos - no one tells you what to do or gets a say, even if they mean well.

When guys have said to me in the past that they'd prefer me to wear less makeup/look natural (and this was always meant in the nicest way and probably to show me that they were not shallow, which is great) it didn't matter. I can't do that for you. What I wear or how I do my face or hair - that is all for me. For my own personal reasons. No one gets to tell another person how to present themselves.
posted by marimeko at 9:21 PM on June 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


Can I just say.

I don't want anyone to risk themselves by "street intervention" if they don't feel comfortable doing so.

Just please don't pretend nothing is happening, like you can't hear anything, and the aggressor is some invisible bogeyman. At least stop reading your iPhone or eating your bagel or whatever. Pay attention. It's the polite thing to do when someone is being harassed.
posted by zennie at 9:37 PM on June 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Wait, did hoopo do this

No, but frankly I am so lost at this point about what intervention scenario we are talking about and its not really worth continuing because this isn't about me anyway and let's all drop it already because I think we just lost someone over this which is dumb.
posted by Hoopo at 10:23 PM on June 20, 2013


Kind of late, but the lavaballs thing is epidemic in Japan, and yeah, it's a dominance thing. Older males, usually, but sometimes younger males. As a foreigner that's physically larger than most Japanese people, even as a guy, I get men thrusting their legs out as far as they can, and it's pretty clearly them trying to push me away/let me know they are the dominant male. Luckily, I know enough Japanese that, as mentioned upthread, I'll start to ask how their testicle surgery went.

For guys getting defensive about this, jesus, as mentioned above, if sitting in a manner considerate of those around you is too difficult, stand. My cousin, who is much, much larger than I am (former offensive lineman at the college level) came to Japan, saw the size of the seats on trains in Japan, laughed a bit, and stood. He realized that if he somehow managed to sit down on the train here, he'd easily take up a seat and a half. Rather than be a dick, despite the knees that go with having played football, he stood. He stood on trips that lasted over an hour each way, only sitting if there were no other people standing.

If you can't sit in a manner that doesn't fuck with other people, maybe you really, really shouldn't sit.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:27 PM on June 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


must...lavaball...
posted by telstar at 1:22 AM on June 21, 2013


I wish this post hadn't taken the direction it's taken. There's enough stuff in the article without getting fixated on how men sit and personal space.

Yeah - I'm of the opinion that men aren't sitting in this way to be sexist or to dominate. They're doing it because it's a comfortable way to sit, and the patriachy allows them to sit comfortably. Maybe they should be more considerate on packed subways, and maybe women should be afforded the same opportunity to sit comfortably, but unless some guy is forcing his legs into your legs to make himself more space (and this is absolutely unforgivable), then I don't see it as a sexist micro-aggression.

I'm on my own now, sat at my desk, and my legs are roughly at this angle. I don't think I'm subconciously trying to show my computer my cock or dominate it,

I don't think equal opportunities should be about forcing men to sit demurely. Be aware of others space; don't push women on the tube; don't fuck with other people. But if all these areas are taken care of, and lavaballs still annoy you, then maybe the problem isn't with the person sitting with his legs splayed.
posted by zoo at 2:00 AM on June 21, 2013


Sitting with your legs wide can be learned behavior. I always sat with my legs closed until my (female) psychologist told me that sitting with them open would make me feel more confident, which worked, oddly.

I still try and avoid taking up space on public transport.
posted by Charlemagne In Sweatpants at 2:11 AM on June 21, 2013


zoo, the point is, the legs spread wide thing is failing at your idea of 'be aware of other's space' and 'don't fuck with other people.' No one is asking men to sit demurely. They're asking people to be considerate of others.

Forcing physical contact with another person is aggressive behavior. Forcing another person to either move away from the way you unpleasantly choose to claim your physical space, or to endure unwanted physical contact? Aggressive.
posted by Ghidorah at 2:45 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm on my own now, sat at my desk, and my legs are roughly at this angle.

And the dude in that picture is quite clearly taking up more than one tube seat, with his left leg extending into the seat next to him. Which in this case is not a problem as it's empty, as is the one next to it, but it's still a dominance thing going on here. If he sits like this when somebody else is sitting next to him, he's forcing them into less space for his comfort, because that's more important than theirs. Even with the empty seats it makes it slightly harder for people to claim that seat, as if somebody else is already intruding into that space, dollars to doughnuts he'll not stop just because you're sitting down. Consciously or unconsciously, this is something he's trying to achieve, because after all it's nicer not to have somebody sat next to you.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:33 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


My partner has a strategy for dealing with men who invade her space on public transport, which consists of looking pointedly at their crotch and then saying in a loud voice "shut your legs, your cock isn't that big." This usually works.
posted by walrus at 4:10 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


i don't doubt that many/some women experience this frequently, but i'd argue that it's a relatively small proportion of men doing the vast majority of this behavior.

But unfortunately the members of that small proportion of men don't all wear distinctive t-shirts or badges which announce their membership in the Guys Who Are Ruining It For The Rest Of You Club. So we women, when we encounter any man out in the world, need to put y'all through a quick mental evaluation first to see whether you're a member of the GWARITFTROY or not.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:34 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


A female friend of mine just the other day told me about some men intervening on her behalf at the park in the middle of the day. She was walking her dog on this path that circles part of a golf course and this guy started following her closely. She was aware of him and just continuing her walk. This is as many of the women in this thread know a common occurrence and you are aware of a potential threat and you just start making sure you're in a safe place or getting to one. It's a drag - you're out in the park enjoying your day, and now because of some stranger you have to be on alert.

Then this group of 3 men playing golf had stopped their game about 100 ft away and yelled:

HEY! HEEYYYY!!! WE SEE YOU! Stop following her! WE SEE YOU!!!!

She looked and the 3 were just standing there, looking straight at the guy from afar. The guy turned and started walking the opposite way.

My friend said it was really awesome. She was handling it fine, but it was so great to have strangers stand up for her. She was able to go back to just enjoying her walk, they went back to their golf game and stranger man was called out.
posted by dog food sugar at 4:34 AM on June 21, 2013 [36 favorites]


daq: "Also, of note, verbal assault is a crime in most states. It does, however, require witnesses who are willing to testify in court against the assailant. If you are a witness to someone being verbally assaulted (calling someone an epithet, such as "bitch" or any other abusive language, qualifies, especiaclly if there is some risk of physical battery due to a size/weight and aggressive stance)"

Verbal assault usually has to include an explicit threat of violence to qualify. Swearing at someone is not nearly as clear cut and by itself usually doesn't rise to the level of a crime.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:03 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That having been said, speaking as a dude: many of us have sensitive balls. If we sit with our legs closed together - and as a frequent transit user, I can say that sitting with your legs closed together is often required - frequently this means that our balls end up squeezed between our legs and that can be unpleasant, to say the least - to say nothing of the looks you get if you try to adjust them - and even if you can get them resting on top it's often still not comfortable at all. So it's not that there's something wrong with our testicles. It's that balls are just sort of naturally inconvenient in this sense.

When I take transit I almost always end up trying to get a end seat or standing; on the end seat I can sort of angle away so I can spread my legs a bit. I don't need to spread the legs apart to a 90 degree angle or anything, but there's gotta be some room or else sitting becomes just not good. So it's corner seat or stand.

I can see - easily - where dudes would use man-sitting as an aggressive harassment tactic, because it's been all too obvious in the past where dudes will use anything as an aggressive harassment tactic. All I'm saying is that at least some man-sitting is not an attempt to assert dominance, but rather an attempt to deal with the problem of balls.


As a rule of thumb (and speaking as a dude myself) there is no need to have your knees further apart than your elbows (when your elbows are by your sides). If you have no room to put your knees that far apart, you're on sardines-in-a-can rules and it's going to be an unpleasant journey for everyone. If the outside of your knees are the same distance apart as your elbows, if anything's aggressive it's the positioning of your elbows right into the other person's sides. And it's wider than you need. More than that you can do if you have the space, but is an aggressive act if you don't.
posted by Francis at 5:34 AM on June 21, 2013


Yeah - I'm of the opinion that men aren't sitting in this way to be sexist or to dominate. They're doing it because it's a comfortable way to sit, and the patriachy allows them to sit comfortably. Maybe they should be more considerate on packed subways, and maybe women should be afforded the same opportunity to sit comfortably, but unless some guy is forcing his legs into your legs to make himself more space (and this is absolutely unforgivable), then I don't see it as a sexist micro-aggression.

I'm on my own now, sat at my desk, and my legs are roughly at this angle. I don't think I'm subconciously trying to show my computer my cock or dominate it,

I don't think equal opportunities should be about forcing men to sit demurely. Be aware of others space; don't push women on the tube; don't fuck with other people. But if all these areas are taken care of, and lavaballs still annoy you, then maybe the problem isn't with the person sitting with his legs splayed.


Projecting much? Neither the link, the OP, nor AFAIK any post here are all "close your legs all the time, asshole!" They're all about men forcing their way into women's personal space or taking up more than one seat because of "health reasons" for their sensitive balls, which, no, is not a thing that happens outside of infinitesimally rare occasions and has not to my knowledge been offered by anyone described in the post or comments. The only thing stopping this from being blatant OMG GUYS MISANDRY IS REAL AND HURTS MEN is the begrudging acknowledgment that, sometimes, maybe (your words), women shouldn't have some dude pushing his way into a seat-and-a-half. And even that's noticeably half-hearted, as if women having "problems" with guy's nuts in general are the real issue.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:46 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Idle curiosity, but I wonder how much it would cost to place ads on the subways showing people lavaballing and saying something like how they are overcompensating for having a small penis. That should at least nip that problem in the bud for a bit, we could even kickstarter it and have stretch goals of putting the ads on public transport in a multitude of cities.
posted by koolkat at 5:53 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


saying something like how they are overcompensating for having a small penis.

This would reinforce patriarchy rather than combat it.
posted by 0 at 6:04 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I feel weird about the people here saying that one shouldn't intervene or call someone out if they see some kind of harrassment or abuse going on.

I've intervened in a couple of violent situations (not sexism but bear with me) in the last couple of years. I'm a smallish, not particularly strong woman, and when people find out about it they tend to call me an idiot, because "one of them might have had a knife" or something.

Now, there is something that happens when you see an innocent person get attacked, which for a fair proportion of people, including me, is that your brain shuts down logic and just goes "we have got to go help that person not get hurt" and you just DO it.

I feel like it might be the case that some folk in this thread are feeling like they might not do that, and feeling bad because of it, and getting a little over-defensive about it. Saying it's "bad advice" to advocate stepping in, and that it's dangerous and not worth it. I suspect, however, that were they in a situation that was unacceptable to their sense of what is ok, they would totally step in and do something. You can't not - your brain won't accept it. Or maybe it's your heart.

Anyway, the key thing here is to have in your mind, what your idea of unacceptable is, because then you won't get any moral confusion when you do or do not act, whatever the risk of maybe some guy going crazy at you instead of the woman (or indeed anyone) he's harassing or attacking. You're going to draw attention to it, so you might well get back up. The victim, if left unaided, is on their own.

So what is unacceptable? Is it ok for a vulnerable person to be threatened verbally? Is it ok for a person to force clearly unwelcome physical contact on another person?

I don't think there's any point in asking yourself what you would do if this happened. Just check how ok you think any of it is in the first place, and your brain/heart will do the rest.
posted by greenish at 6:11 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


For the guys who get all bent out of shape with the "yes, but I'M not like that! Just because some men are doesn't mean we all are!" I would like to offer up this little analogy:

Imagine for a moment that a woman came up and flicked your earlobe every time you went out in public.

Why flicking your earlobe? Well, it doesn't particularly hurt, but it sure is annoying. While it's not a dangerous act in and of itself, it shows that the person flicking your earlobe is completely disregarding your personal space, is completely disregarding your right to go through your day with an unflicked earlobe, and may suggest that the person doing it is unstable. If some stranger came up to you and flicked your earlobe, it would probably make you feel unsettled and unsafe, right? Like, if this person thinks it's OK to flick a stranger's earlobe, what else do they think it's OK to do?

So anyway, here you are, a guy, out walking down the street, and one woman (of let's say 20 you pass) comes up and flicks your earlobe. And then you get on your train, and one woman (of let's say the 50 women on your train car) comes up and flicks your earlobe. And then you get off the train and walk some more, and another woman comes up and flicks your earlobe.

It's not every woman, but every time you leave your house, at least one woman will flick your earlobe.

And when you get your earlobe flicked, you look around you to confirm that, yes, you just got your earlobe flicked, you're not crazy, right? And a couple of the men around you look up and roll their eyes, or maybe shake their heads a bit, because yeah, man, isn't it annoying when women flick our earlobes? You look around at other women, women who are not flicking earlobes, and they do not look back at you. Women don't get their earlobes flicked, and hey, you just got your earlobe flicked once, what's the big deal? Who cares if you get your earlobe flicked once, right?

You tell all your female friends about how women flick your earlobes, and they laugh and say, "no, surely not! Not every day!? That's ridiculous. I've never flicked anyone's earlobe! Women just don't do that!"

Except it DOES happen every time you go outside. You live in a world where it's a certainty that a woman will flick your earlobe. Every time you pass a woman alone out on the street, you stiffen up. You pick up your pace a little. You wince. Because you don't know if that woman is an earlobe flicker. She might be, she might not be. But you are just so goddamned tired of getting your earlobe flicked, it's easier to treat her like an earlobe flicker. You want remove yourself from the situation as quickly as possible, just so you don't have to get your earlobe flicked yet again.

That is what it's like. That is the world we live in.
posted by phunniemee at 6:27 AM on June 21, 2013 [46 favorites]


Some people are never going to believe that women can't tell the difference between a guy who is just sitting and one who is aggressively trying to move into your space. They're never going to believe that we haven't considered that the guy might just be awkward rather than threatening or creepy. They're never going to believe that we might be the best interpreters of our own experience.

Trust me. I can tell the difference between the guy whose knee brushed mine when the bus went over a bump and the guy whose knee is apparently trying to become one with my leg. I can tell the difference between the guy who touched me because he was squeezing towards the door of the bus at his stop and the guy who was just squeezing. I've had a lifetime of training in this. If degrees were awarded, I'd have been an MD/PhD by the time I was 17 in this.
posted by rtha at 6:29 AM on June 21, 2013 [29 favorites]


you can adopt my policy - immediately ignore anyone who seriously lobs white knight into a discussion of this type. it's like saying feminazi - an off switch to my listening.

Late to party, but this bears repeating. "White knight" is a kind of idiot's NLP - a phrase pushed into the langage by MRAs to suggest that taking action against the harassment of women is intrinsically suspect or laughable. I don't think it's impossible that people could use it without being aware of this, but it is worth pointing out that if you use it in that context and you don't actively hate women, then you're being played by people who do.
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:39 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Phire: "The thing I find frustrating about people saying they don't want to intervene because they might then also become the target of a mentally disturbed individual is -

They're often--usually--not mentally disturbed. Many of them are successful members of society. They have jobs and families and friends who like them. But they also don't see anything wrong with catcalling, or harassing women, because "it's a compliment!" and "lighten up and smile!" and when that doesn't work, "god why are you so frigid?"
"

Given that this was the New York Subway, I'm not sure that's a safe assumption.

If there's one thing that's ingrained into NYC culture, it's "Don't start shit on the subway".

I'm not meaning to nitpick her examples, but I really do think that this particular kind of bystander behavior and the kinds of aggression that it enables are very specific to New York City. For all of NYC's reputation for being loud and in your face, most New Yorkers are extremely non-confrontational when in public. The few people who don't fit this mold get all of the attention, because nobody ever tells them to shut up.
posted by schmod at 6:51 AM on June 21, 2013


Not meaning to nitpick your nitpick, but the example she uses is at a bus stop, not the subway.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:03 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


maybe the problem isn't with the person sitting with his legs splayed.

Zoo, the whole point is that in public spaces, using a lot of space when other people clearly need some of that space, or you're blocking access, is rude and often aggressive.

At this point in this thread, you're bringing up how you sit at your desk in a way that makes it clear that you didn't read/didn't get or worse, didn't believe what women are saying they experience frequently. And you're probably not a "Men's Rights Advocate" in a specific way. Consider re-reading the article and the thread, and consider talking to the women you know about what it's like to be a woman. I hate that feeling afraid stops me from going where I want when I want. I hate that if I behave like a person, without attention to gender, plenty of people, mostly men, will call me names like feminazi and disrespect me because I'm "aggressive". I really freaking hate getting paid less than men, being denied opportunity because of my gender. I hate that this country couldn't pass an Equal Rights Amendment for women.

BTW, if women sit that way at their desks, they'll be considered unfeminine by many. Can we just be people living in the world?
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on June 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


At 19, I bought my 1st car. The used car salesman's 1st question for me was "What color car are you looking for?" I can't remember if he called me 'little lady.'
posted by theora55 at 7:06 AM on June 21, 2013


I just, on my way into work, had this guy brush past me, really close on a sidewalk that wasn't THAT crowded, and say "Excuse me, pretty." I looked completely startled, and then he looked offended, and was like, " don't worry, you're OK."

It's like...I don't want to call the cops on this guy, I just want to make it understood that in this world you don't brush up against women and call them pretty as part of your getting by them on the street. I don't think anyone needed to say anything RIGHT THEN either, but I also don't think this guy was mentally disturbed or anything at all, and certainly didn't need "charges" brought against him. He needs to know it's not like a fun way to perk up his morning to brush up against a lady and that "pretty" can be a threatening word when someone is literally leaning on you.

That's all most of us are saying when we're saying pay attention, take notice, say something if you can.
posted by sweetkid at 7:09 AM on June 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


how much it would cost to place ads on the subways

For the last several years, manner posters have been put up in Japanese trains and train stations. I have no idea how effective they are, but most of them are pretty awesome.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:09 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Idle curiosity, but I wonder how much it would cost to place ads on the subways showing people lavaballing and saying something like how they are overcompensating for having a small penis. That should at least nip that problem in the bud for a bit, we could even kickstarter it and have stretch goals of putting the ads on public transport in a multitude of cities.

I doubt most subway systems would put up ads with stuff about small penises in them, but the DC Metro does have ads about more aggressive subway sexual harassment. The "rub against me and I'll expose" you campaign has gotten some criticism for being too porny in it's phrasing, but it is something.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 7:23 AM on June 21, 2013


We have announcements in NYC that are like "a crowded train is no excuse for inappropriate touching."
posted by sweetkid at 7:28 AM on June 21, 2013


And as if on cue, this morning on my bike ride to work I got a super slimy "Hey, sexy tattoos" from a random pedestrian. I didn't mean to make eye contact with him, but I was trying to determine if he was about to step in front of me despite having a red light because his body language indicated he might. I try to avoid eye contact because it invites interactions but sometimes it happens anyway.

Three blocks later, a male pedestrian tried to catch the eye of the woman on a bike in front of me, succeeded, and then started talking to her about her triathlon jersey. After he left, we just made eye contact and sighed.

I'm just trying to get to work. We're just trying to get to work. This is Every Day.
posted by misskaz at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


I wish this post hadn't taken the direction it's taken. There's enough stuff in the article without getting fixated on how men sit and personal space. [...] I don't see it as a sexist micro-aggression. [...] I don't think equal opportunities should be about forcing men to sit demurely

what? of everyone here you are the one that had more control over the direction, but you chose the quote about lavaballs - a completely out of context and sort of aggressive quote from an entire fabulous piece. if you thought that men splaying on the subway wasn't a micro-aggression, why'd you focus on that part?

i loved the essay and have enjoyed parts of this conversation, but the framing nearly sunk it. i thought, eh, we all pick bad quotes from time to time and maybe zoo is just really fed up wit the splayers or loves the word lavaball or something - but to find out you don't even think it's an issue? to the point of coming in way down here to just be like "i'm not showing my computer my cock hahaha" is just seriously disappointing.
posted by nadawi at 7:54 AM on June 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


So yesterday, on the bus heading home, there was an incident. The bus was crowded, and a woman asked a man, who had just squeezed on with the crowd in the middle door, to take his backpack off. He told her to lose some fucking weight, you bitch. She started to cry, and two other women, and myself, told him that this was a bad thing to say. He came back with more shut the fuck ups, more stupid cunts, and mind your own fucking business, bitch. You have made it my business, I told him. He kept on, we shouted for the driver to pull over and get him off the bus, which she did. She came around to the door but he refused to move, so she said she'd call security, and went back to the front. I got up and stood in front on him, and told him to get off. You have been asked to leave the bus. Now do it, I said. Maybe it was this thread, or maybe it was a whole lot of other anger-making shit that has happened in the last week (you know, Nigella Lawson being assaulted by her husband at lunch, the Australian PM, the Rapey Kickstarter) but I locked eyes with him and he stepped backwards and onto the sidewalk. Before the door closed, he informed me that I was a fat, ugly bitch, that he hoped that I would die soon, and that I probably already had cancer, with an icing of both middle fingers raised. The woman who was crying had moved off during all this, and was being comforted at the front of the bus by the other passengers.

It wasn't until I got off the bus that I realized that he had backed off, almost automatically, because I was using Angry Mom voice, with a hint of the Command Voice a (female) co-worker, who had been in the Canadian Army, once taught me: lower your tone and your volume, and speak slowly and clearly. Anyway. That was just yesterday, and I think it was the energy I was carrying from reading this thread on and off throughout the afternoon that this guy received the benefit of. It still upset the hell out of me, though, that deluge of woman-hating language to which the bus guy had such quick and effective access.
posted by jokeefe at 8:00 AM on June 21, 2013 [87 favorites]


*slow claps for jokeefe*
posted by gauche at 8:03 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Major. Stand up and cheer for jokeefe!
posted by sweetkid at 8:04 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Three blocks later, a male pedestrian tried to catch the eye of the woman on a bike in front of me, succeeded, and then started talking to her about her triathlon jersey.

I think I missed something here. Was he catcalling about her jersey or just asking her questions in a small-talky sort of way?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:08 AM on June 21, 2013


I am a nervous weakling with rubber-band arms and an effeminate demeanor. I am threatening to no one, yet I figured out long ago that I feel like utter shit if I don't step in when seeing a woman being harassed. Of the dozens of times I've intervened over the years, only once had resulted in anything approaching a physical altercation (2001, Portland: some teenage boys were following a girl too closely; I heard her plead with them to stop as I rode my bike by. I got off my bike, asked her if she wanted me to escort her, and they got in my face. I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations & they backed off, yelling 'faggot' all the way - in itself kinda funny because in their eyes I was the one who 'ended up' with the girl & they were the two guys walking off together. I walked with her a few blocks & that was that). Usually, the most that happens is words tossed my way, and very few assholes are gonna start a fight with a stranger on a crowded train no matter how big a lunatic they are.

I'm absolutely not saying that women need men as their protectors - it doesn't matter if the person stepping in is male or female. Hell, an ex-girlfriend of mine would say something in aggressive situations as often - if not more - than I would. More than once I've found myself relieved that a stranger interrupted someone fucking with me - in Philly, an elderly couple stopped a no-necked thug from ripping me apart because I'd yelled at him after he'd nearly hit me with his Mulletmobile. Instead, sometimes humans need other humans as there's strength in numbers, and if I say something then maybe someone else will too.
posted by item at 8:10 AM on June 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


Also, don't carry switchblades, especially when they're cheapies you bought in Mexico for $5 that probably couldn't cut a block of Spam.
posted by item at 8:13 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Was he catcalling about her jersey or just asking her questions in a small-talky sort of way?

I'd be pretty annoyed if a pedestrian was trying to engage me in small talk while I was on my bike, especially since small talk is often just another way to flirt.

Then again, triathlons are unusual enough such that it might be more socially acceptable to talk about them among participants. I don't know.

Maybe she was delighted by the attention, and now they're married with four hundred squalling children.

Anything's possible.
posted by Sticherbeast at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow, way to be, jokeefe!

It reminds me of the research that suggests that the more you fantasize about or imagine yourself doing the right thing in a difficult situation, the more likely you are to actually act that out in real life. You're effectively practicing your mental response to a future situation and priming yourself to act in the way you hope.

As a result, I have no doubt that threads like this are a lot more productive than we might cynically expect in slowly changing behaviors of at least those of us here for the better.
posted by gilrain at 8:14 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


I think I missed something here. Was he catcalling about her jersey or just asking her questions in a small-talky sort of way?

She's stopped at a red light in downtown Chicago, looking straight ahead, waiting for the light to turn green. He's crossing the street in front of her. I saw him keep looking at her, smiling, saying "hey" and then "hi", turning and nodding his head, trying to get her attention. She kept ignoring him until she eventually did that tight-lipped smile of acknowledgement. Then he said "oh hey triathlon huh? did you do a triathlon? wow that's cool." It was weird, uninvited, and not the kind of situation where "small talk" is a normal expectation.

This is what a lot of us are talking about. That interaction may seem harmless to most, and I even understand as I'm typing it that it sounds so innocent. But women have sixth sense about such things. It's not a normal circumstance where someone would start talking to you except because they desire (or worse, think they deserve) your attention.

I understand if you don't think this is an example of street harassment. I don't think it raises to the level of harassment either. Rather, it's like the ear-flicking analogy phunniemee describe. Just a constant, low grade but persistent demand for your attention, smile, "small talk" etc that in my opinion happens a hell of a lot more often if you are a woman.
posted by misskaz at 8:18 AM on June 21, 2013 [22 favorites]


Fuck yeah jpokeefe.

The command/mom voice you describe is what I think of as the "Talking to dogs" voice (because I'm not a mom but I've owned dogs, I guess).
posted by rmd1023 at 8:21 AM on June 21, 2013


Yeah. I think what triggers the sixth sense is when you're doing something else (even if it's staring ahead) and not engaging with the world around you, and someone interrupts to demand your attention.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:25 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I understand if you don't think this is an example of street harassment. I don't think it raises to the level of harassment either. Rather, it's like the ear-flicking analogy phunniemee describe...Just a constant, low grade but persistent demand for your attention, smile, "small talk" etc that in my opinion happens a hell of a lot more often if you are a woman.

And this is one reason I've been so thankful for all these types of threads. They raise the level of awareness of things I've been lucky enough to not to have to experience in real life. I like to think I've always been a "pretty good guy" (don't we all) but these threads have helped me come to a better understanding of the persistent wearing-down small-talk thing, for example. So thanks to everyone for sharing these stories - it does make a difference.
posted by mikepop at 8:31 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


the small talk/passive aggressive attention getting thing is so hard to explain - i've known so many guys who say that they'd love it if someone just asked about their day or cared if they smiled - they talk about how they like adding whimsey to women's days. and i've tried to explain how it doesn't feel so whimsical from this side - but then there's the push back of "no! i'm not a creep or anything! i'm just saying hi!" and so i try to use analogies about stones and wearing away and how even nice gestures on the wrong day can sting (and how even on good days it's presumptuous to demand a passerby's attention just because you want it). but then there's more defenses - "people are just too over sensitive" "well if she wants to overreact that's her problem" "i still don't see what the big deal is..."
posted by nadawi at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


I'm not meaning to nitpick her examples, but I really do think that this particular kind of bystander behavior and the kinds of aggression that it enables are very specific to New York City.

I assure you it is not. I've been grabbed when walking by business guys enjoying a latte and some fresh air when I refused to smile on command, and had people just seamlessly flow around me on the sidewalk while I'm trying to get my arm back from this dude's clutches. In Seattle.
posted by KathrynT at 8:38 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


The fact that we keep having to explain ourselves just underlines what we're saying here. misskaz related a story about unwanted male attention and then had to elaborate because her story wasn't taken at face value. Why should we have to engage in "small talk" when we're out for a bike ride or trying to get to work? Most men don't have to deal with that kind of crap, why should women constantly have to suffer it? And if we ignore the attempts to engage us then we're subject to further harassment and/or abuse. What makes that okay?
posted by elsietheeel at 8:42 AM on June 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


I think I missed something here. Was he catcalling about her jersey or just asking her questions in a small-talky sort of way?

It's not that you're wrong; it's that this man would almost certainly not ask about the triathalon if it was a man wearing the jersey. Becuase seriously, do you care what's on people's shirts? Dude was just looking for a reason to approach her.

You might think, "what's so wrong with approaching a woman, if it's non-threatening"? And the answer is, well nothing, at a party, or a bar or something. People in those places are generally trying to be social. But women on the street are just trying to get home or work or wherever. They are not "found women" to the man who's just looking, even if he really is not a threat. The line between "annoying" and "sexist" can be a little blurry here, but you can be confident that you are not the missing element in this woman's life. You can wait until you find women in situations where it's normal to approach, and where they are not trapped.
posted by spaltavian at 8:45 AM on June 21, 2013 [18 favorites]


And this is one reason I've been so thankful for all these types of threads. They raise the level of awareness of things I've been lucky enough to not to have to experience in real life. I like to think I've always been a "pretty good guy" (don't we all) but these threads have helped me come to a better understanding of the persistent wearing-down small-talk thing, for example. So thanks to everyone for sharing these stories - it does make a difference.

Aw. yay. This seriously warms my heart.
posted by sweetkid at 8:48 AM on June 21, 2013


I pretty much avoid all interaction with women on the street. There are times I'll say something to a random man nearby, like the other day I pulled into a parking lot right next to another guy in a car the exact same model and color as mine, and jokingly said "hey, nice car!" I wouldn't bother if it was a women driving, because I feel like there's too great a chance she'd find it offensive/harassing. Something similar happens when I'm riding my bike (road bike, spandex and such) - I'll always smile/nod/wave at cyclists coming the other way. Men normally wave or nod back. Women tend to act like they didn't see me, I still do the wave, though, I don't know why.

I don't know what this says about me or society. Maybe it's appreciated. Maybe it's sad. Maybe both.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:52 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


maybe it's not about you.
posted by nadawi at 8:55 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't really see where he said it was about him, nadawi. I get some of the comments in this thread have been dismissive or obtuse, but that comment was innocuous.
posted by spaltavian at 9:03 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


yea I think that comment was OK tylerkaraszewski
posted by sweetkid at 9:06 AM on June 21, 2013


i'm probably just sensitive. to me it reads as exactly the kind of defensive rebuttal i was speaking about a few comments up, including the "well i still do it..." including the one i forgot to add "i do it to men and women so it's not offensive!" whatever. i should probably step out.
posted by nadawi at 9:12 AM on June 21, 2013


Ah yes,the "small talk".

Last month I had missed two flights in a row from LGA to LAX. The ticket agent managed to find an aisle seat for me on a noon flight. There's a man in the window seat and the middle seat is free. As I stow my backpack, he says with what I've come to call the Nice Guy simper how it's good to have some space. I give him a noncommittal mmhmm. I was a month behind with the NY Times and brought out a stack to read. "What cha got there?" "The paper. I am not interested in talking to you. The fact that we are sitting near each other does NOT mean that you are entitled to my company." "But....." "Back off!" He shut up, but then proceeded to take down both trays, put out both paper and a laptop and lean over the middle tray for the rest of the flight. When we landed, I think he wanted to shove past me, but I had put on my backpack so all he could do was whine.
posted by brujita at 9:19 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I cut off all my hair a year ago or so ago and the incidence of catcalling has gone down by an absurd amount. I'll get the occasional, muttered "dyke bitch," but I'll take that any day when the alternative is "I'm going to cut your pussy out and wear it as a bracelet."

The one I still get, though, is the food commentary. "Girl, you don't need to eat salad. Get yourself a sandwich!" or "Hey, I like to see a girl eat ice cream. [to my mom] It's a good thing you raised a daughter without an eating disorder." I have yet to find a wittier response than "Um. What?"
posted by coppermoss at 9:26 AM on June 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I have yet to find a wittier response than "Um. What?"

Although it's not witty, I think "Fuck you" is entirely appropriate.

Or you could go for the Southern Fuck You and say "Well bless your heart."
posted by elsietheeel at 9:29 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


...to me it reads as exactly the kind of defensive rebuttal i was speaking about a few comments up...

It was meant as an anecdote, not a rebuttal to anything. I'd defend my position on the bicycle-nod-as-you-pass-thing, but at this point I sort of don't see how it could possibly turn out well for anyone.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:31 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Becuase seriously, do you care what's on people's shirts?

Some people definitely do, I get a lot of comments from dudes about a couple of rock T-shirts I wear and they're all "hey nice shirt fuck yeah those guys rule" and I'm all "yeah they do!" and then I guess we're rock & roll buddies that like the same band or something. But the point isn't whether or not you care about what's on the shirt. I think the point is it's not threatening for a guy to do it to another guy, it's a different dynamic and guys have to be aware of that. It's a totally different thing to do it to a woman you don't know who's minding her own business.
posted by Hoopo at 9:33 AM on June 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


So yeah, after a handful of incidents where some dudebro would come up to me and read whatever was written on my shirt while running a fingertip across the letters on my chest I don't wear shirts with slogans on them anymore.

My MetaFilter t-shirt stays at home.

posted by ambrosia at 9:41 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I understand if you don't think this is an example of street harassment.

Well now I do, thanks for clarifying that. I was picturing some guy at a light saying something like, "Oh, hey, windy city triathalon? Did you do that? My cousin Lou did that too... blah blah blah." Just asking about a jersey sounds like a normal human interaction, but what you describe later certainly sounds like he's a creeper.

maybe it's not about you.

No it's not, I was trying to get an idea of what was being described here that was not clear from the initial description. I was trying to be part of a conversation and understand the situation better.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:44 AM on June 21, 2013


I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations

I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations

posted by Hoopo at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think the point is it's not threatening for a guy to do it to another guy, it's a different dynamic and guys have to be aware of that.

It's not even that it's necessarily threatening. I'm not threatened by much of anything, but I'm definitely annoyed that I am essentially FORCED to either be a rude "bitch" and ignore or rebuff, or let someone take up MY time with their small talk.

Men ONLY have to deal with interactions like that strictly on a bro level. Women have to gauge if the interaction is a DUDE I LIKE YOUR SHIRT THAT BAND IS AWESOME or if it's a HEY PRETTY LADY I LIKE YOUR SHIRT I'VE NEVER HEARD OF THAT BAND BUT LEMME HOLLA AT YOU*.

The first is fine. The second is not. But sometimes we can't tell which one it is, and sometimes we don't give a fuck which one it is because we're sick of dealing with ANY of it.

* The second one often turns into WHAT YOU'RE IGNORING ME FUCK YOU FUCK YOU FUCK YOU YOU STUPID WHORE I'M GOING TO RAPE YOU YOU FAT BITCH
posted by elsietheeel at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


There's a boatload of shorthand in that story that will be almost instantly read and understood by most women, and mostly missed by most men.
posted by rtha at 9:50 AM on June 21, 2013 [13 favorites]


Regarding the kickstarter mentioned above, while Kickstarter says they can't stop the project at this stage, they have put out a pretty good apology and said they're donating $25,000 to RAINN. So, good for them. Not a great outcome overall, but a pretty solid response given the circumstances.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:53 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


BTW, The 10th Regiment of Foot: Yeah, there's a huge difference between the two - in one, you've got a normal conversation and in the other you've got someone demanding attention and working hard at interrupting someone who is clearly otherwise engaged. I'm a chick, and normal eye contact followed by "hey, awesome shirt" or something doesn't twitch me. Someone inserting themselves into my attention and trying to talk to me is pretty much automatically assumed to have ill-or-at-least-not-good intent unless they immediately (and truthfully) inform me that my hair is on fire or something.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:57 AM on June 21, 2013


I'm slowly working my way through this thread, but after reading so comments where people say, "but if I intervene then I'm in danger!" I feel compelled to share a few of my experiences.

1) It's the wee hours of the morning, and my (male) friend and I are walking home from a night out. While we're walking past a mostly empty parking lot, I see a man who is restraining a woman who is struggling. He's standing behind her, trapping her arms by her sides. In my slightly inebriated and emboldened state, I stop right in front of them and ask the woman if everything is okay. The woman says no. I tell the guy he needs to let her go if she doesn't want him to touch her like that. He lets her go. He says something along the lines of if I don't want him touching me I should be on my way. By now, the woman is half a block away, and my friend and I walk on.

2) I was walking home from the metro around 9:30 at night, down a very well lit street, and I noticed a middle aged man walking really closely behind me. After about a block, he says, “Hey, girl.” I ignore him and walk faster, he catches up to me, “I’m gonna walk you home.” At this point there are other people around so I stop and say, quite loudly, “No, you’re not. I don’t know you. Leave me alone.” He keeps talking to me, saying he’s a nice man, he’s not a bad guy. I say again, “Leave me alone. I’m not going anywhere until you walk away.” At this point, he says, “Is it because I’m [race]? If it is, that’s too bad, because I am one of the nicest, most caring gentleman.” I say I’m sure that’s the case, but I don’t know him and I don’t make friends out of strangers at night when I’m walking home alone. He asks if he was too aggressive. I say again, I’m not going anywhere until he leaves, I’m not messing with a stranger at night. He finally says, “Alright, alright, that’s too bad, but I understand” and walks off. Half a block away, an older man on a second story porch says, “Crazy guy, eh? I was watching! I would have been there.”

3) It's Halloween and I'm all dressed up for the zombie lurch -- I have fake wounds, red corn syrup smeared all over my face and neck, and tattered clothing. I'm walking home and I pass by a house I pass by every single day. There are often a handful of men hanging out who usually smile and wave. Today, though, when I'm made up to look like a zombie, a couple of the men happen to be hanging out on the lawn. One of them (who I don't recognize) grabs me, says, "C'mon and give me a kiss." Almost before I can react (because I'm in shock because wow, what the fuck, who just grabs a stranger on the street and demands a kiss?), one of the other men (who I recognize) is at the asshole's side and he grabs him, says, "That's my neighbor and you need to leave her alone." The asshole backs off, but doesn't apologize. Despite the neighbor standing up for me, I change my route to avoid walking past that house from then on, even though it adds a few minutes to my commute.

I might have been totally foolish to intervene in the first situation, but it looked like this woman was being assaulted, and I sincerely doubted that the police would get there in time, or that they'd even take it seriously. After my friend and I walked off, I looked back and saw that the man had gone in a different direction from the woman. I would have gladly taken a punch if it meant preventing something worse from happening to that woman. Besides, there was someone else with me, and I figured that would act as a slight deterrent to someone actually assaulting me.

In the second situation, I was pissed off, but I was almost more upset at the man who shouted down that he "would have been there." Things could have gone south VERY QUICKLY if my harasser hadn't been so, uh, understanding, but this guy, who was FAR OUT OF HARM'S WAY, couldn't be bothered to even shout down, "Hey, leave her alone!" That momentary distraction could have given me enough time to slip into a shop, or get a few feet further away from the person my harasser.

In the third situation, I was thankful that my neighbor intervened, but it also got me wondering if he would have done the same if I weren't his neighbor, but just some random woman walking down the street in a Halloween costume.

I can't really pull all of these stories into a cohesive narrative, but they all inform how I feel about harassment and intervention in different ways. I know that when I see or hear something going on, I will not hesitate to speak out. If I can get someone a few seconds to get away from someone, or if I can call other people's attention to Shit That Should Not Be Happening, I'm going to take that chance. As someone else said above, most harassers try to hide what they're doing from everyone except the person being harassed. I'm all for making a scene if there are other people around. If the harasser gets violent in a group of people, there will be witnesses, and maybe something can be done about it. If the harasser isn't called out but is the type who could get violent, what happens when people don't call it out, and the harasser then ends up alone with their victim?

Sometimes it's worth the risk to intervene.
posted by SugarAndSass at 9:58 AM on June 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Well the apology is a little late, the material will still be disseminated. But that's a nice solid donation to RAINN. I give you two and a half stars, Kickstarter.
posted by troika at 10:02 AM on June 21, 2013


Kickstarter's initial response was a "Sorry, we can't do anything," issued at a time when they absolutely could have done something. The donation is therefore most likely a bow to continued pressure. So I'm going to give the people who continued to pressure Kickstarter five stars, and Kickstarter itself no stars.
posted by jaguar at 10:08 AM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm slowly working my way through this thread, but after reading so comments where people say, "but if I intervene then I'm in danger!" I feel compelled to share a few of my experiences.


Experience:
I once was minding my own business, *not* trying to approach already aggressive looking people in a confrontational manner, and had a group of four men approach me, one walk up to me, and ask me if I knew where [some person] lived as a cover to allow him to get close enough to punch me in the face, after which all four of them charged at me and I ran in the opposite direction shouting for help. They fled when enough lights in nearby apartments turned on. I went to the hospital and got stitches, which cost me about $1,000. Luckily I was only punched once and all four of them didn't catch me. They were never caught (although a police report was filed).

Maybe your interactions with random aggressive strangers on the street at night will go well. Maybe they won't.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 10:09 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


They fled when enough lights in nearby apartments turned on.

Imagine what would have happened if nobody had turned their apartment lights on? That's what it's like for women when this harassment happens. Frequently people won't just do nothing, they'll actively go out of their way to avoid noticing or interfering. Even during broad daylight.
posted by KathrynT at 10:12 AM on June 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Maybe your interactions with random aggressive strangers on the street at night will go well. Maybe they won't.

That is exactly it.

Every time, in these threads, someone says "But maybe he was just awkward or maybe he was just being friendly or maybe he was just really wanting to know what time it was" in response to a woman's story about an interaction with a stranger that didn't even seem that "bad" at the surface...well, yeah. Interactions with random strangers - aggressive or not - on the street might go well. And maybe they won't. Schrödinger's encounter.
posted by rtha at 10:13 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Men ONLY have to deal with interactions that strictly on a bro level.

I'm not sure what you mean here. "Bro level" as in only interactions with other men, or bro level as in not needing to worry whether I'm being hit on or not? I've had plenty of comments on my shirts from women, including them getting way closer than they need to be to read what it says. So, if you're saying men don't get small talk from non-bros, I disagree and wonder where you're getting your information. But if you're saying the context is different because I'm a man so it's less annoyingly incessant and has less potential for bad consequences whether they are flirting or just being friendly, then I would agree.

"The paper. I am not interested in talking to you. The fact that we are sitting near each other does NOT mean that you are entitled to my company."

This sounds pretty rude to me. Airplane small talk is rather common among all genders.
posted by 0 at 10:16 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, look, a dude is here to talk about his privilege and assumptions couched as fact. Thanks, dude!
posted by zombieflanders at 10:19 AM on June 21, 2013 [14 favorites]


Airplane small talk is rather common among all genders.

And dislike of airplane small talk is also rather common among all genders.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:20 AM on June 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


I would have gladly taken a punch if it meant preventing something worse from happening to that woman.

I think most people, myself included, would agree that taking a punch to prevent something worse is worth doing. The threat of a punch in the face is not what's going to hold me back. There are apparently "good guys" in this very thread that have carried fucking switchblades to project a tough guy image, that is what gives me pause.

I'm not sure what you mean here. "Bro level"

I think it's clear from the context that what is meant is that a guy can confidently take "hey nice shirt" from another guy at face value.
posted by Hoopo at 10:21 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think it's clear from the context that what is meant is that a guy can confidently take "hey nice shirt" from another guy at face value.

Then the commenter is incorrect that men have to ONLY deal with interactions at that level.
posted by 0 at 10:24 AM on June 21, 2013


There are apparently "good guys" in this very thread that have carried fucking switchblades to project a tough guy image, that is what gives me pause.

That was one person and he acknowledged that it was foolish, so I don't think generalizing on that point is warranted.
posted by invitapriore at 10:27 AM on June 21, 2013


Do we really have to make this thread about how men have to deal with crap too?

Yes, men have to deal with crap. There. Let's move on.
posted by troika at 10:27 AM on June 21, 2013 [8 favorites]


Then the commenter is incorrect that men have to ONLY deal with interactions at that level.

Did you even bother reading any of the other sentences in the post you quoted, or are you just picking out the one where you can play the WRONG, DUDES HAVE IT HARD TOO card?
posted by zombieflanders at 10:29 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


[Cool it.]
posted by cortex at 10:32 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


That was one person and he acknowledged that it was foolish, so I don't think generalizing on that point is warranted.

I'm not generalizing. I'm not saying "all wanna-be tough guys carry switchblades".
posted by Hoopo at 10:34 AM on June 21, 2013


can't we just agree that in some circumstances bystanders can be speaking up more than they are and that there are non-confrontational ways to speak up and that everyone should be trusted in their own internal calculus (but we should also be considering if our internal calculus is calibrated correctly)?
posted by nadawi at 10:37 AM on June 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would love to, nadawi
posted by Hoopo at 10:38 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Becuase seriously, do you care what's on people's shirts?

Some people definitely do, I get a lot of comments from dudes about a couple of rock T-shirts I wear


A passing "Metallica! Woo!" is not the same as trying to stop a stranger cold and talk to them. One is the same as a nod, the other is "ha! I have cleverly pointed out something about you that I will use to imply you owe me some of your time". This is especially so when you do it to someone who's more or less stuck by being in public transport, at a stop light, alone after dark, etc.

Look, "stranger danger" can go too far, but you have to acknowledge how much the world changes if you can't credibly say "eh, if he touches me I'll just punch him in the face".

Men get in these situations too, but they don't creep around the sides of almost any public setting, because we are not assumed to owe anything to anyone. And we don't! But women don't either, and a general rule of thumb when dealing with strangers is "might this person feel worried or scared to reject my advance"?.
posted by spaltavian at 10:38 AM on June 21, 2013


I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations

I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations
posted by Hoopo at 11:50 AM on June 21


Yup, um, that's what I said. Maybe it wouldn't have needed repeating if I'd added for context the fact that I was a junkie at the time, often scoring on the street in less-than-ideal situations. As I said, it was misguided, a stupid affectation I thought made me look tough, an accessory to go along with the busted leather jacket over a hoodie and the steel-toed boots.
posted by item at 10:39 AM on June 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm not generalizing. I'm not saying "all wanna-be tough guys carry switchblades".

You expressed concern about the general case of intervening when another person is being harassed based on one person's story about one incident, which is generalizing. In any case, I agree with nadawi, so I guess there's not much more to be said on this point.
posted by invitapriore at 10:41 AM on June 21, 2013


A passing "Metallica! Woo!" is not the same as trying to stop a stranger cold and talk to them

Agreed! That's what I said, too!
posted by Hoopo at 10:41 AM on June 21, 2013


can't we just agree that in some circumstances bystanders can be speaking up more than they are and that there are non-confrontational ways to speak up and that everyone should be trusted in their own internal calculus (but we should also be considering if our internal calculus is calibrated correctly)?

Yes, yes, a million times yes! Seriously, leaving people to be trusted to their own internal calculus is a running theme throughout this whole thread!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:56 AM on June 21, 2013


Truly nice guys are capable of respecting the fact that women by themselves have the right to be left alone.

Rtha, to me bringing out a bunch of stuff to read, not smiling back and slightly turning away means one does not want to be disturbed and I had made it clear by my reaction to his first comment that I wasn't in the mood for conversation.

I'm sure his " But" was going to be followed with " I just wanted to talk to you" I just DIDN'T want to talk to him.

I've posted my favorite quote from scotus member Louis Brandeis before on mefi.
posted by brujita at 10:57 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe it wouldn't have needed repeating if I'd added for context the fact that I was a junkie at the time, often scoring on the street in less-than-ideal situations. As I said, it was misguided

Hi item, sorry I didn't really mean to quote that as an attack on you so much as to highlight that this is indeed a thing that some people do and it factors into my decision making, however apparently that's generalizing. I've known people who carried knives and even asp batons in my life, but I thought singling out an example from this thread was a little more effective rhetorically than "hey take my word for it". Sorry!
posted by Hoopo at 11:00 AM on June 21, 2013


pssst brujita, I think it was 0 who made the comment you are objecting to, not rtha....
posted by ambrosia at 11:01 AM on June 21, 2013


Sorry, rtha...yeah I meant 0.
posted by brujita at 11:03 AM on June 21, 2013


I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations

I flicked open the switchblade I used to carry because of terribly misguided tough-guy aspirations


Incidentally, I read that sentence one way the first time and differently the second:

"I carried a knife in order to deal with others" tough-guy" aspirations and then "I carried the knife because of my own tough-guy aspirations". Big difference!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:04 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just because I didn't see it mentioned before, but there's another reason why some bus riders might sit with legs at angles, and that is pregnancy. Once you're past the fourth month or so-- at least in my experience-- you can't sit with your legs pressed together; there just isn't room.
posted by jokeefe at 11:19 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Once you are past the fourth month of pregnancy you can sit however you damn well please!

Relatedly...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


I assure you it is not. I've been grabbed when walking by business guys enjoying a latte and some fresh air when I refused to smile on command, and had people just seamlessly flow around me on the sidewalk while I'm trying to get my arm back from this dude's clutches. In Seattle.

Yes, this has happened to me in public spaces in every city and town I've ever lived in or visited, all of my life. It's not specific to NYC, or to the subway, or to any type of woman or man, or to any age.

And it's not just that some men expect unknown women to be attentive ornaments who entertain them in public spaces (though that is certainly the case and certainly annoying and exhausting) and it's not just that some men sexually assault women (though that is also the case and is the background radiation that poisons our lives) but that some men feel entitled to handle us with no invitation or acquaintance and that this handling --- this hand-on-waist or arm-over-shoulders or fingers-around-wrist is both invasive on its own and and suggests the possibility of further intrusion.

I deeply regret that I spent my youth resisting the kneejerk response of BELLOWING AT THE TOP OF MY LUNGS the instant a strange man lays hands on me. As a younger woman, I was much more likely to try to extract myself gracefully from such an encounter and give the man the benefit of the doubt. Now I just yell, at the highest volume and lowest pitch I can manage, as plainly descriptive as my wits will allow in the moment, e.g., "TAKE YOUR HAND OFF MY ASS" or "WHY ARE YOU GRABBING ME?" or "STOP TOUCHING ME" or "LEAVE ME ALONE OR I WILL CALL THE POLICE."

One of the great joys of my middle age has been the decline in street harassment. As great a joy is the sheer blank panic I get to see on the faces of those men who do still harass me, who certainly don't expect a sound akin to a police dog's bark to emit from my mouth as soon as they [cup my ass/grab my wrist/put an arm around my shoulders/rub against me].
posted by Elsa at 11:20 AM on June 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


no one is advocating knees together. we're asking for less than 2ft apart. pregnant women get the whole row when i'm riding - i'd always rather stand than cramp her in.
posted by nadawi at 11:21 AM on June 21, 2013


(I mean, sure, they usually wipe that panicked look off and start calling me a crazy bitch who should be so lucky, but that split second of terror when I open my mouth and HOLLER LIKE A BANSHEE is delicious.)
posted by Elsa at 11:23 AM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


By the way, from the same site I just linked...
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:25 AM on June 21, 2013


there's another reason why some bus riders might sit with legs at angles, and that is pregnancy.

Did you ever notice that pregnant women don't qualify for the priority seating on the bus in Vancouver? It's weird.
posted by Hoopo at 11:27 AM on June 21, 2013


some bus riders might sit with legs at angles

Read that as 'legs at ankles', spent a good minute in a seated position staring at my legs trying to figure it out.
posted by item at 11:53 AM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of one of the days when I was smooshed into a 4 train. Like everyone else, I was not happy about having to be part of a human sandwich. Just before my stop (phew!), some woman I'm squished next to goes ballistic on me and tells me to back off -- which was physically impossible. At the time, I thought she was f*cking nuts given the situation we were in.

As it turns out, she probably had a bunch of context for that, given the stories I've heard here and elsewhere since then. So, now I figure at that point she thought I was some bozo trying to cop a feel (when all I wanted to do was get off the damn train). But you know what... it's all good. I suppose it would have been worse if she called the cops -- but I don't think she would've had much of a case and I don't take it personally. And instead of thinking of her as a crazy B, I now have a lot more sympathy for her in that situation. It's quite possible someone *else* next to us was doing something I wasn't aware of (ick).

All of this to say that being sensitive to generalizations as a gateway to sloppy thinking about issues is fine. That's the type of thing discussions can tease out. But being sensitive because you think you're going to be labeled as some monster because you might accidentally touch legs with another passenger is probably revealing a flaw in your thinking....
posted by smidgen at 12:00 PM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Woman dressed as a vagina stopped attack on man dressed as penis
posted by homunculus at 12:15 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


May this be the future of human civilization forever and ever.
posted by elizardbits at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Aaaand now I'm writing a short story about a perfectly normal put-up woman just trying to make her way home on public transit when a stranger's exhortation to "Smile, sweetheart!" causes her face to split into a deadly rictus that brings madness to those who gaze upon it. It's kinda terrible but it's still filling my heart with glee.
posted by Elsa at 12:48 PM on June 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


May this be the future of human civilization forever and ever.

Sorry, if I'm going to have to wear that suit, I'm going to take up more than my fair share of room on the subway seat.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 12:51 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really hate meandering, hyperbolic commentaries like the one this FPP links to.

Please understand where I am coming from when I say that, because it's not that I disagree with the central premise. I can attest that I have been subjected to unwanted attention ever since I was a young girl, and I sincerely believe that if not all than certainly most women put up with enough crap every damn day simply because of our sex that yes, it weighs us down. We get wary and weary of having to, as she puts it, "Deal with it." If this post was really a good-faith discussion on that phenomenon, I would be fine with that. It's a discussion worth having.

But this type of commentary, this seemingly angsty hyperbolic screed has become so prevalent that I find THAT wearying, too.

It's insulting to me that a very real concern for women--in this case, an ominous and virtually omnipresent expectation that we "shut up and take it" when our personal space is violated--has, yet again, been appropriated by some Internet Famous Blogger for the purpose of stirring up a controversy with her at the center. This piece might as well be entitled, "How I, Famous Crusading Blogger, Personally and Courageously Took A Stand Against Tyranny for the Sake of All Women!", and that's just bullshit. Seriously, I could make a template for this kind of op-ed, it is so prevalent these days.

It's pandering, blatantly manipulative rhetoric, personally aggrandizing and specifically designed to elicit a reaction, and it is the worst kind of linkbait. The author plays upon our own fears and concerns, deliberately stirring us into either righteous indignation on her behalf or righteous indignation on behalf of those men (whom she deliberately and dismissively congregates into one indiscernable and inseparable body) who do NOT behave so execrably as her antagonist has done.

It's divisive and, apparently, effective, because that scenario is playing out right here in this Metafilter thread, though thank goodness we have clearer heads making more reasoned discourse the default. I appreciate all the comments by feminists, men and women, in this thread, about how we can make all our daily interactions better for everyone.
posted by misha at 1:20 PM on June 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


This piece might as well be entitled, "How I, Famous Crusading Blogger, Personally and Courageously Took A Stand Against Tyranny for the Sake of All Women!", and that's just bullshit

I'm sorry that that was your takeaway. I didn't get that from the article whatsoever.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:23 PM on June 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


It's insulting to me that a very real concern for women--in this case, an ominous and virtually omnipresent expectation that we "shut up and take it" when our personal space is violated--has, yet again, been appropriated by some Internet Famous Blogger for the purpose of stirring up a controversy with her at the center. This piece might as well be entitled, "How I, Famous Crusading Blogger, Personally and Courageously Took A Stand Against Tyranny for the Sake of All Women!", and that's just bullshit. Seriously, I could make a template for this kind of op-ed, it is so prevalent these days.

I read a completely different piece, apparently.

I don't understand how her telling her own experiences is "appropriating" - that term, to me, means "taking something that doesn't belong to you." But she had those experiences, she had her reactions to them, and I can't parse what it is she has appropriated.
posted by rtha at 1:30 PM on June 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


righteous indignation on behalf of those men (whom she deliberately and dismissively congregates into one indiscernable and inseparable body) who do NOT behave so execrably as her antagonist has done.

Perhaps I'm missing something, but where does she do this?
posted by zombieflanders at 1:33 PM on June 21, 2013


on behalf of those men (whom she deliberately and dismissively congregates into one indiscernable and inseparable body)

I went back and re-read the essay after seeing your comment, and I must disagree. I don't see it.
posted by ambrosia at 1:54 PM on June 21, 2013


Hey, ambrosia! I'm sad that you don't wear your Mefi shirt any more!

I respect you, and, on preview, those other Mefites I see telling me my reading on this is way off, so I will look at it again. I am, admittedly, barely functioning on 3 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours, and grumpy as a result.

Am I the only one that finds it strange that feminist Genevieve Valentine has never shared this the anecdote about what happened to her in school before today, though? Seems like it would have come up before. It is a perfect parable of blatant sexism in action, and she has often spoken and written on that theme before, most noticeably when she was harassed by that creeper guy at the convention a while back.

Honestly, that's what set my back up, I think, that anecdote, because it IS such a perfect example.

Going to take another look now.
posted by misha at 2:24 PM on June 21, 2013


Am I the only one that finds it strange that feminist Genevieve Valentine has never shared this the anecdote about what happened to her in school before today, though?

I think it is possible that people relate things that happened in their childhood to their adult lived experience at their own pace, and do not necessarily therefore deliver the whole thing in a single narrative basket the first time anything related comes up.

So, if the question you are actually asking is "Does anyone agree with me that she made that anecdote up?", I think the answer is "insufficient evidence, but it seems from the accounts of others in this thread and elsewhere that such an anecdote is not beyond the bounds of possibility, as they have related similar stories of being harassed at school and teachers excusing the behavior of their harasser".
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:29 PM on June 21, 2013 [11 favorites]


i've been accused of having a life too "perfect" for anecdotes of fucked up behavior - but, you know - some of us just have a lot of stories. sometimes we put things together later, sometimes we hold onto things for a number of reasons. sometimes writers specifically keep stories tucked away to use when they're useful. you honestly seem to be seeking offense. maybe these kinds of essays just get your back up too much to give them a reasonable read.
posted by nadawi at 2:32 PM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Misha wrote: Am I the only one that finds it strange that feminist Genevieve Valentine has never shared this the anecdote about what happened to her in school before today, though? Seems like it would have come up before. It is a perfect parable of blatant sexism in action, and she has often spoken and written on that theme before, most noticeably when she was harassed by that creeper guy at the convention a while back.

Maybe? I have lots of ancedotes I haven't shared online in various findable and unfindable places. Some I've talked about with other people in offline; others I just haven't pulled out for a variety of reasons. Some I've tried to submerge in the back of my head because I don't want to think about them, much less talk about them; others haven't really seemed like an appropriate anecdote for a discussion/screed so far. There are also some I haven't wanted to put out there before to be picked apart about what I should have done or how I wasn't grokking the situation correctly or how dumb I was, etc. Sadly, I have enough alternate anecdotes to make my points (to spare!) that I don't have to pull those out until I'm ready to talk about it.
posted by julen at 2:34 PM on June 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


Am I the only one that finds it strange that feminist Genevieve Valentine has never shared this the anecdote about what happened to her in school before today, though?

I dunno. I never heard of her before this post. None of her anecdotes strike me as weird or "too perfect" or as anything other than "Oh yeah, me too (or, my friend, too)."

I have a shitload of stories I've never told here, even when they'd fit the discussion. Why? Because.
posted by rtha at 2:44 PM on June 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Am I the only one that finds it strange that feminist Genevieve Valentine has never shared this the anecdote about what happened to her in school before today, though? Seems like it would have come up before.

So you doubt what she's saying because....she didn't talk about it at a certain date?

Hmm. Is there a schedule written down somewhere? I'd like to check that in case there's a window I need to try to meet. Thanks.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:56 PM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I've never told the "anecdote" about being grabbed for refusing to smile before, either. Up until very recently, it didn't seem noteworthy enough to be a story, these things just run together into the background of ordinary life eventually.
posted by KathrynT at 3:34 PM on June 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I don't find it strange that I haven't heard that anecdote before. I have similar anecdotes from my school days. I've also talked about feminism in various places (including here) and have not used those anecdotes to illustrate my points before. It doesn't mean I made up the existence of my own anecdotes, it just means I didn't feel like using them. They're mine, I get to choose how to deploy them.

But then, I didn't get the "How I, Famous Crusading Blogger, Personally and Courageously Took A Stand Against Tyranny for the Sake of All Women!" vibe from her post, either.
posted by palomar at 3:54 PM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Becuase seriously, do you care what's on people's shirts?

SERIOUSLY. I've actually cut down on wearing some of my geeky t-shirts out in public because I'm sick of complete strangers accosting me and demanding to know what it means. "It's a caffeine molecule. I like coffee." "It says 'Bad Wolf,' it's a Doctor Who reference." "Schrodinger's Cat is a physics thing. YOU CAN GOOGLE IT."

A fellow geek walking past who says, "Hey, awesome shirt, I love The Avengers" who keeps walking is way different than someone who grabs my wrist and insists that I explain what my shirt means and why I'm wearing it.
posted by Aquifer at 4:12 PM on June 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


A fellow geek walking past who says, "Hey, awesome shirt, I love The Avengers" who keeps walking is way different than someone who grabs my wrist and insists that I explain what my shirt means and why I'm wearing it.

As an aside, this is part of why I think the nodding-while-bicycling thing is ok. I nod and continue past you, and in 10 seconds I'm gone, never having said a word. It's an implicit "in" reference that I feel you're opting into by getting on a bicycle. You have invited other cyclists to wave as they pass, like wearing a "bad wolf" t-shirt invites doctor who references. Except that a cyclist nodding as the pass in the opposite direction never turns into an attempt at conversation. It is always, without exception, a passing nod of recognition. And if you don't reciprocate, then fine, the other person will continue on in the opposite direction regardless.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:13 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never get The Nod from another lesbian here in SF - if we did that, we'd nod our heads off. But I got one when I stopped by the grocery store near my office in Menlo Park, where we are less ubiquitously visible. It was nice.
posted by rtha at 5:52 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


GUYS!

I was telling my boyfriend/fiance-thing about this thread and he figured it out! We just need to reconfigure bodice chillers into ball chillers and voila: problem solved.

Bonus: they look like butt plugs!
posted by kavasa at 6:43 PM on June 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


boyfriend/fiance-thing

Stealing this.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 7:47 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


saying something like how they are overcompensating for having a small penis

Why is it OK to make this sort of mean-spirited comment about men?

If we are talking about wanting a society where women aren't treated creepily and crappily based on their body parts, I think we need to show some respect and compassion toward men's bodies as well.

How do you think it makes any man reading this thread, who happens to have (or thinks he has) a small penis feel? To use something about his body, his sexuality, as an insult? To infer that men with small penises *should* feel less-than?

It's shitty. Please knock it off.
posted by nacho fries at 9:20 PM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


Maybe your interactions with random aggressive strangers on the street at night will go well. Maybe they won't.

I once intervened on a man assaulting his girlfriend in the street. He went to his car, got a hammer, and attacked me with it.

It's the risk. The other risk, of course, was that he was in the process of murdering her.

I don't want to die. I don't want strangers to attack me with hammers. But I am part of this society, and if I let somebody abuse somebody else and don't try to help, and I part of what makes this society worse. I know it's a lot to ask, but it was one of those moments where there was a right thing that was hard and a wrong thing that was easy, and it couldn't have been clearer to me, and I made a choice. To this day, I can't imaging making the other choice.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:39 PM on June 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


Why is it OK to make this sort of mean-spirited comment about men?

In a world where bitch, pussy, cunt, cocksucker, and whore are common insults, I don't really care if you feel bad that some makes a comment about dick size. This is how women feel all the time. Now you get what we face on a daily, regular basis.

That small-dick comment was in response to a guy doing something wrong. Women get these comments for just existing.
posted by troika at 9:40 PM on June 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we are talking about wanting a society where women aren't treated creepily and crappily based on their body parts, I think we need to show some respect and compassion toward men's bodies as well.

If men are using their genitalia as an excuse for exercising power over women, their genitalia is now a subject appropriate for mockery. It is not an attack on all men or all men's genitalia. It's a specific response to a specific behavior, and one I think is fair.

Perhaps your issue is that there are men with small penises and it isn't nice to make them feel badly when they have nothing to do with the event in question. I guess I feel, in the balance between giving women a tool in which to make the world feel a little less hostile vs. men feeling sad because their genitalia is held up to ridicule, if this particular sort of mockery works, perhaps men might not begrudge women this tool.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:45 PM on June 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


i do agree that insulting dick size is a way that the patriarchy hurts men. i think until we edge a bit closer to equality, it'll keep happening and that in the scheme of things it's a much less imperative issue than the safety issues facing women, but i've tried to stop using that particular line of insult for that reason...
posted by nadawi at 10:30 PM on June 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


I think it's really odd to try and separate sexualised aggression from physical aggression.

When a dude puts his hand on my neck to move me around, the implicit knowledge is that he could physically force me around. It's there in the fact he does that to me and not another dude, that he's bigger and carries more muscle. It's an everpresent stink in those interactions.

The last time I got catcalled was with my three year old next to me. I felt awkward wearing a skirt and a tight top, and that outfit has been retired because Mummy, what did those men say to you? is not a question I ever want to answer again in that context. I don't want to realise that I'm teaching her Jokeefe's command voice already, and I'm seeing her use it already because it makes her plethora of boy cousins back the fuck off. Or that she knows escalating from command voice to banshee scream will actually finally get someone to intervene, because 'she has to learn to deal with it' - it being, somehow, the ever-present outright fucking aggression women get, as the price of being women.

Each instance of catcalling, of lavaballs, of creeper-shit, is just another goddamn reminder that men think their needs trump mine, that they can and will physically force me to conform, that if I react 'badly' I may be subject to sexual violence, not just violence.
posted by geek anachronism at 11:26 PM on June 21, 2013 [15 favorites]


I personally agree that comments about small dicks do not help the bigger picture goal, which is to make it not okay to attack and belittle people on the basis of their gender and sexual characteristics (among other things).

As much as I loathe Ann Coulter, for example, when I hear her being attacked in specific ways related to being a woman, I feel incredibly disturbed and threatened myself, by people who are nominally "on my side" – almost like dealing with a feral animal that might turn and attack you at any moment, even if, for the moment, they seem relatively calm and okay with hanging out. One wrong step from their point of view, and you can become exactly the same sort of target. When Hillary Clinton was campaigning for the Democratic nomination was a really ugly and sickening time for me. I've never felt so alienated from "liberal" online political discussion and, I guess, online culture in general.
posted by taz at 3:13 AM on June 22, 2013 [24 favorites]


In a world where bitch, pussy, cunt, cocksucker, and whore are common insults, I don't really care if you feel bad that some makes a comment about dick size. This is how women feel all the time. Now you get what we face on a daily, regular basis.

I'm a woman.

If you choose to use objectifying, hate-filled language toward other humans who happen to be men, that is your choice to make. I choose not to.

And please don't tell me how I feel "all the time".
posted by nacho fries at 9:47 AM on June 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


It is not an attack on all men or all men's genitalia.

Yeah, just the guys with wee schlongs?

The guys with huge cocks, they obviously aren't the ones who are giving us women a problem?

Come on. The tiny-penis thing is illogical, inaccurate, tired, and not even funny.
posted by nacho fries at 9:55 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


i think the point around that has been made and maybe it'd be good to find a topic that isn't so focused on what about the mens.
posted by nadawi at 9:56 AM on June 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


If this line of discussion isn't to your liking, you can skip over it. I think it's worth hashing out. Perhaps it warrants a MeTa, since it does involve larger site-wide issues.
posted by nacho fries at 9:58 AM on June 22, 2013


it hurts conversations about the safety of women when they get diverted to being about men's concerns. skipping over it doesn't help that problem. i don't think one lazy joke and a couple spirited defenses at the bottom of a nearly 500 comment thread warrants a metatalk thread to hash it out, but that's your call to make.
posted by nadawi at 10:17 AM on June 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


agreed with nadawi. I don't like "small dick" comments and think it's how patriarchy hurts men too but am also really tired of what about the menz invading all these threads.
posted by sweetkid at 10:19 AM on June 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


I think, though, that protesting against advocating ways to fight against oppression that are aggressively nasty and mean-spirited against a whole group of people is not really "What about the menz." If a bunch of men were discussing ways in which they are often systematically denied time bonding with their children, and advocated yelling "Get a job, you worthless gold-digger!" at women with children in public during the day, I think that's an appropriate point for course-correction.
posted by jaguar at 10:22 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have have always thought of the "tiny penis" accusation as metaphorical, not literal - it's about insecurity, and not actual size. Obviously, other people use it and hear it differently.

I find it incredibly irritating when - and it's always when and not if - a discussions about women's experiences turns into a discussion of how men feel. Plenty of men here are able to also share their experiences as they relate to the subject at hand without it becoming All About How Men Feel. Plenty really don't and apparently can't. So maybe yes, a meTa is in order, because it seems incredibly....ugh to discuss how bad some men feel about their penises in threads like this.
posted by rtha at 10:24 AM on June 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, can we re-rail this? A big public campaign of some kind against the harassment of women and the toleration of said harassment would be great.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:27 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If a bunch of men were discussing ways in which they are often systematically denied time bonding with their children, and advocated yelling "Get a job, you worthless gold-digger!" at women with children in public during the day, I think that's an appropriate point for course-correction.

If this thread were about that, then yes we could discuss it here.
posted by sweetkid at 10:27 AM on June 22, 2013


I think it's worth thinking that a MeTa thread, though it might seem like a remedy, is unlikely to work as an actual remedy in this case. Up to you guys of course. This thread has been mostly fine, it can continue to be fine.
posted by jessamyn at 10:29 AM on June 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


How about this: By combating sexualized microaggressions, like lavaballing, with sexualized (micro)attacks on the aggressor that imply he's not a "real man," we're reinforcing the following ideas:

1. There are "real men" and "wannabe men," and the "real men" are defined by the presence and size of their penis. (transphobic, at the very least)

2. Women only respect "real men" (heteronormative) ...

3. ... so men need to act like "real men," i.e., assholes with massive egos, in order to impress women

.... which reinforces the idea that "real men" need to act like aggressive assholes to women.

So it throws trans people and gay people under the bus, while indirectly reinforcing the very problem it's hoping to solve -- which makes things worse for women, as a whole.

That's why I don't think it's a "What about the menz???" issue, but part of the main issue.
posted by jaguar at 10:49 AM on June 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Which is also why I think the anecdote about the older woman faux-sympathizing with the young man's painful hemorrhoids is awesome. There are ways to be sarcastic and get the same point across, without reinforcing the problem.
posted by jaguar at 10:51 AM on June 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Would MeTa not be more appropriate if people were advocating the use of "small dick" etc as an insult on the site? But this is about the use IRL which we can't police one way or the other.

In any situation where one side has power over the other, the oppressed group will have those who think using a tool of the oppressors against them is a fair way of trying to fight back. There may be some collateral damage with that, (some men's feelings in this case) but it won't be comparable to the damage that the oppressed group face. The other side of the argument is two wrongs don't make a right, and there is no desire to use the tools of oppression because its compromising a principle. I think there are legitimate arguments to be made on both sides. I don't think it's a derail as such, in that it fits with, "if we're going to have a public campaign what language do we use and why?". But it feels like the thread could just get bogged down in those arguments rather than moving forward.
posted by billiebee at 10:55 AM on June 22, 2013


I've been busy, and I haven't had time to come back into the thread after rereading the op-ed until now, but I did reread it like I promised I would.

I want to thank everyone who disagreed with me so civilly before, by te way. I didn't mean to make such a drive-by comment as I ended up making; I thought through a lot more than I actually wrote, but in editing it down, I was not so coherent. I didn't express my thoughts well at all, but just kinda went off on a rant, an overblown one at that.

On rereading, I agree I was overly harsh in my initial characterization of this piece. I have seen more than enough of the Famous Crusading Blogger posts lately (SO many! They are very much a Thing in the blogosphere, believe me, and The Dramaz gets to you after a while), and that probably had me looking at this one with an attitude coming in. Add in the lack of sleep and--well, it was just a clusterfuck, honestly. Never good to come into Mefi when you are exhausted and carrying a fair bit of grar around, whether posting or commenting, and I know better. I should have just refrained from commenting at all until I'd had a good few hours of sleep at the very least. So I want to apologize for doing that.

One thing I did want to clarify, though, was what I meant when I referred to her anecdote being perfect, because on rereading, I still feel the same about that bit.

What bothered me about the anecdote was the way it seemed more like a stereotype of what we picture when we women think of the ultimate sexist than seemed realistic to me. You know that cartoon about the straw feminists that don't really exist?

Well, that schoolkid anecdote seemed like that to me, like the guy was a strawman characterization of the worst sexist tropes out there. It just semed too...perfect.

I don't use that word lightly; though clearly young and in a new school, a new class, a new seat, Genevieve Valentine nevertheless did All The Right Things in this storyl she was perfect. And the bully antagonist in her anecdote did All The Wrong Things. So badly does the antagonist behave that it's like a textbook worst case scenario, practically the perfect storm of stereotyping.

How many "bad guys", after all, even sexist jerks like most of us have encountered at least once in our lives, are truly without any redeeming values whatsoever, and as universally condemned and despised as this bad guy is? No one in the class will sit by him, which is why the seat between them is empty (and even the one beside it, before Genevieve Valentine takes it). The guy is such a jerk that he has no friends in that class at all. Yet no one, not even the other girls in the class, support her when he swears at her, makes obscene suggestions, picks on her and takes her things away from her. And the teacher even bends over and picks up the stuff he throws across the room for him! He doesn't even get sent to the office for throwing books across the room?! Wow.

How many of us, on the other hand, are composed enough, at moments of great stress, to keep our wits about us and behave accordingly when one offense evolves into a constant barrage, onslaught on top of onslaught? Genevieve Valentine, in ninth grade, does this. She formally requests a seat change, presses her case when the teacher refuses, and still keeps her cool when the teacher refuses again. She behaves perfectly, when most of us would be at the very least flustered and upset. She is just so obviously in the right, and the guy is so utterly, blatantly wrong. Until she snaps.

Do I think this is all made up? no, I didn't say that. I've no doubt something happened. Maybe even several things; that actually seems more likely. I'm not accusing her of making the whole incident up out of whole cloth. It absolutrly feels hyperbolic and embellished to me, though.

It's like she took a composite of all the worst qualities from every obnoxious bully, sexist creep or arrogant jerk she'd ever met, just rolled them all into this one guy to make for a better story. And then, to top it off, she imagines how she would have handled all of them in a perfect world, where she wasn't caught off guard, or upset, but completely in control. so she tries to work through the system first, and then she rains vengeful hellfire down on the perpetrator(s) in one fell swoop, like an avenging angel of feminism.

It's a great vignette, when seen in that light, and wonderfully written for maximum efect. Genevieve Valentine IS a great fiction writer, after all; her short story about the teenage girl demonized (literally!) for having unprotected sex is a personal favorite of mine. But it's because this felt like more of her fiction that it bothered me. It's too perfect, and that's why I also feel like it is strange she's never used this perfect parable as an example of sexism run rampant (and how to combat it).

Anyway, whether you agree or disagree with me on that bit, I certainly didn't express it well before. Again, I'm sorry about that, and anyway I hope it's a bit clearer now why her anecdote seemed off to me.
posted by misha at 11:17 PM on June 22, 2013


Do I think this is all made up? no, I didn't say that. I've no doubt something happened. Maybe even several things; that actually seems more likely. I'm not accusing her of making the whole incident up out of whole cloth. It absolutrly feels hyperbolic and embellished to me, though.

It didn't to me. This is not the first time I've read stories like this, where the little boy behaves like an utter shit but it's the girl who gets into trouble if she objects or defends herself, some even in this very thread. To start to doubt it just on the grounds that it feels unlikely to you is exactly the sort of denial of a particular woman's lived experience we're already complaining about in this thread.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:26 AM on June 23, 2013 [7 favorites]


But you're talking about the outcome and overall theme, which misha is not questioning. She's not denying the experience; she explicitly says she has no doubts that something happened. Her doubts are about the reported details, and her arguments seem reasonable to me.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 5:27 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


While we're discussing horrible people on public transport:
Dear New York: Please Make Subway 'Grinding' a Felony. Now.
The defendant entered a crowded subway train during rush hour, pressed his body against a female victim, and rubbed his penis on her. Because of the crowded subway car, the women were unable to move away from the defendant, who ejaculated on the women’s bodies and clothing, and then fled. … The victims were young women commuting to and from work or school.
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:58 AM on June 23, 2013


Honestly, if we want to say Genevieve Valentine is lying, that's a thing we can do. It's certainly a familiar response to accounts of women's experience.

It's not something that is going to be provable one way or another, however, absent a time machine, so I'm not sure what the profit in doing so is.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:11 AM on June 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think we should certainly be able to say women are lying. It's a familiar response to accounts of women's experience because it's a familiar response to pretty every single thing on the internet.

Metafilter has a rep for playing Internet Detective and it does nobody any favours to pretend that this is something that only happens inside the context of experiencing sexism.

If the story feels wrong to you, say so. I'm sure the rest of us are capable of parsing your doubt inside our own highly partisan world views.
posted by zoo at 9:45 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think we should certainly be able to say women are lying.

That is a totally different thing with a totally different context.
posted by sweetkid at 10:24 AM on June 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Course you can say a woman is lying. It's just that when you do so just based on your own hunch or feelings, especially when it's already clear you're coming into a story with certain preconceptions, that makes it questionable.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:27 AM on June 23, 2013 [6 favorites]


How much of her story had to be wrong/inaccurate for it to be discounted? If it is discounted, does that mean that all the stories told here should also be discounted? What if I misremembered what the guy ahead of me said to the woman - that maybe he was making kissy noises, and instead he was whistling the cat-call whistle? Is that enough to discount the whole thing? Maybe I'm just trying to capitalize on the "real" pain that women who have "really" been assaulted or harassed!

The link to the woman who says she grew up with monkeys story as a way to point out that sometimes people make shit up is, frankly, insulting. Almost no one is actually raised by monkeys. A great many women are sexually harassed and assaulted. So what was your point in linking to that story?
posted by rtha at 10:30 AM on June 23, 2013 [12 favorites]


That is a totally different thing with a totally different context.

Then an overarching statement about how women are believed should include that context. Women are believed less irregardless of context (cf mansplaining, etc). It seems suspect that you would want to see an implied context only in situations where you agree.

Course you can say a woman is lying. It's just that when you do so just based on your own hunch or feelings, especially when it's already clear you're coming into a story with certain preconceptions, that makes it questionable.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people on all sides of an argument aren't aware of their own preconceptions, and your statement is meaningless for this.

How much of her story had to be wrong/inaccurate for it to be discounted?
With your examples, you're very much reducing this into absurdity. You're asking for something that can't be provided and you're making a silly comparison. (What if it was a wednesday and not a thursday).

Misha has doubts about the story. She's been asked to go into more detail, and she has. She's now being told that
- she doesn't believe G.L. because G.L. is a woman.
- she doesn't believe G.L. because G.L. is a woman telling a specific story.
- she has preconceptions, and that's why she is wrong to question this story.
- she has to define exactly what level of accuracy is the correct level of accuracy she needs in the story.

Misha has also stated that this is also all personal opinion and she might be wrong. She's not dismissed the fact that sexism exists. So why with these pretty obvious rhetorical devices to make her look as though she's arguing in bad faith?

The link to the woman who says she grew up with monkeys story as a way to point out that sometimes people make shit up is, frankly, insulting. Almost no one is actually raised by monkeys. A great many women are sexually harassed and assaulted. So what was your point in linking to that story?
You can work out my point by reading what I said. In context.
posted by zoo at 11:00 AM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


GV, not GL. My apologies.
posted by zoo at 11:02 AM on June 23, 2013


I think we should certainly be able to say women are lying. It's a familiar response to accounts of women's experience because it's a familiar response to pretty every single thing on the internet.

I think that would have worked better if you had linked to a man's experience being questioned... as it is, we just have two examples of women being accused of lying, which seems not to bear out your "everything on the Internet is questioned, regardless of gender" proposition.

"Internet Detective" is a useful phrase, though, because detection is a process of uncovering information and relating it together to form a viable hypothesis. For example, Mike Daisey's accounts of his meetings with Chinese workers were found to be unconvincing by people with experience of Chinese component assembly factories, and the cross-checking of his reports first with their impressions and then on the ground revealed that those inconsistencies were symptomatic of misrepresentation of his experiences.

As I said, absent a time machine it is unlikely that any detective, Internet or otherwise, is going to be able to disprove Valentine's account. "This story does not ring true to me, because of foo" is a thing that can be said, but it isn't going to go very much beyond that, especially since foo in this case is "my personal narrative aesthetic". Bar in this case is probably the allowable narrativization of childhood memories and indeed of anecdotes.
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:04 AM on June 23, 2013


"This story does not ring true" is as useful and viable as saying "This story rings true"

The only differences are :
- You believe one of the responses.

The time machine thing is a distraction. "You can't prove it, so just don't say it" is a silencing tactic pulled out simply because you do not agree with her "personal narrative aesthetic"
posted by zoo at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2013


OK, so it seems you are imagining that I expressed an opinion about the veracity of Genevieve Valentine's story. I concluding from this that you may be having an argument with a person who represents the kind of person you'd like to be fighting, and the inputs you will actually get in this discussion may be seen through that lens.

That's fine, but it's not particularly useful. The whole "is this a wholly accurate rendition of true events?" derail is also not particularly useful, because it is wholly unprovable. Personally, looking at:
It's like she took a composite of all the worst qualities from every obnoxious bully, sexist creep or arrogant jerk she'd ever met, just rolled them all into this one guy to make for a better story. And then, to top it off, she imagines how she would have handled all of them in a perfect world, where she wasn't caught off guard, or upset, but completely in control. so she tries to work through the system first, and then she rains vengeful hellfire down on the perpetrator(s) in one fell swoop, like an avenging angel of feminism.
It feels like we have read a different story. Spitballs, the C-word and throwing things from her desk do not seem to be "a composite of all the worst qualities from every obnoxious bully, sexist creep or arrogant jerk she'd ever met". Especially given that she then describes being sexually harassed at Readercon, and references Steubenville and the assaulting of Rihanna.

For that matter, pushing over a teenaged boy's chair does not read as raining "vengeful hellfire down on the perpetrator(s) in one fell swoop, like an avenging angel of feminism".

I think that the truth or untruth of the story is unprovable. I imagine that we can assume it is as accurate as the stories we might tell about significant events in our high school lives, when we seek to tell them in an engaging fashion over a few paragraphs.The nature of misha's abreaction to it, though, struck me as extreme in its force and phrasing. Just as the nature of your response struck me as extreme, although I now think I understand the why of that better, I think, and also the likely utility of continuing this conversation.
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:07 PM on June 23, 2013


Course you can say a woman is lying. It's just that when you do so just based on your own hunch or feelings, especially when it's already clear you're coming into a story with certain preconceptions, that makes it questionable.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that most people on all sides of an argument aren't aware of their own preconceptions, and your statement is meaningless for this.
You'd be wrong, especially in this particular context, as misha made her preconceptions clear from the start, then when she got negative feedback on that was honest enough to look at Valentine's article again with more neutral eyes.

Besides, there's also the first part of my statement. You can't just dismiss somebody's experiences because it doesn't feel right to you. Now of course tyou also said:

"This story does not ring true" is as useful and viable as saying "This story rings true"

But this is not the case either. It's quite clear, both from this thread as elsewhere, that more harm is done by disbelieving women about their own experiences than by believing them, of which Valentine's story about being bullied at school is the example in question. "This story does not ring true" shifts the emphasis of the discussion into a tedious exercise in truth seeking, ignoring the larger issues that Valentine addresses; "this story does ring true" doesn't, allowing a more interesting discussion to occur.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:08 PM on June 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or what running order squabble fest said better.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:10 PM on June 23, 2013


Y'know, memory is such a fickle thing. Every time we remember something, there's the possibility of rewriting the memory in our brains. It's one of the reasons why you and a sibling can both remember an event, but have conflicting stories about it. Not to mention the standard embellishment and smoothing of narrative that happens when a story is retold.

So it's entirely possible that Valentine's story didn't happen the way she says. Maybe she's conflating multiple events, maybe she's remembering the bullies as being more sinister than they were. Maybe it's embellished.

Does it really matter?

She was using the story as an example of how harassment was overlooked and discredited by an authority figure. Similar stories happen all the time. I don't doubt that Valentine has experienced many examples of harassment and delegitimization. Whether or not her story is true seems entirely beside the point.
posted by mokin at 12:54 PM on June 23, 2013 [9 favorites]


How many of us, on the other hand, are composed enough, at moments of great stress, to keep our wits about us and behave accordingly when one offense evolves into a constant barrage, onslaught on top of onslaught? Genevieve Valentine, in ninth grade, does this. She formally requests a seat change, presses her case when the teacher refuses, and still keeps her cool when the teacher refuses again. She behaves perfectly, when most of us would be at the very least flustered and upset.

Another way to look at her behavior:

Perhaps, in 9th grade, her sense of self, and sense of inherent worthiness, hadn't yet been ground down by a lifetime of bullying and harassment and cultural messaging? Perhaps that is what a healthy, strong woman looks like, before any distortions and damage is done?

I can recall clearly standing up to authority as a child (and teen). Including shutting down bullying and creeper behavior from boys and men. And those memories aren't manufactured (my family can back them up).

I question your suggestion that "most of us" would be too flustered and upset to act so decisively. I believe she might very well have conducted herself exactly as she's told us.
posted by nacho fries at 3:17 PM on June 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


misskaz: "I have full sleeves, and I have been physically grabbed by men asking me to explain their meanings.

Oh god, having visible tattoos is sometimes the Worst, because it gives creepers something to latch on to. Although, if I didn't have tattoos, it'd probably be the glasses, or the haircut, or whatever. But still, it is so often the tattoos.
"

I have commented positively on people's tattoos before (never "sexy tattoo" which sounds gross; generally just "nice tattoos" or "I like your tattoos") and only now have I realized that I invariably do this more often with women than men even though I am married and have no interest in pursuing other women. I wonder whether this is just a side effect of the habit of evaluating women based on their appearance or something else. Either way, your story definitely made me think about this, and I'm feeling like I probably shouldn't compliment a stranger on their tattoos apropos of nothing anymore, especially not if I tend to do so in a gendered fashion.
posted by Deathalicious at 3:18 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


It would be sad if you had to censor yourself altogether though - isn't it better just to be aware of what you're doing (which you now are)? So if you're about to do or say something you wouldn't do to a man you can consider whether to go ahead or not. I have a tattoo that I love and I don't mind someone saying they like it, even a stranger, male or female. What I mind is the fact that it's on my lower back so when I bent over and my top rode up and a guy lifted it up further to see it better...yeah, that's different. It's definitely a "know it when I see it" feeling as to whether someone is commenting appropriately or not.
posted by billiebee at 3:37 AM on June 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think it is okay to say, "Hey, I had a problem with X in this post, and so I was initially too prone to discount it, but I still believe the overall message is important."

Which, for the record, I do. Many of the examples Genevieve Vakentine gives in her account struck home with me. I kinda wish she hadn't made the school anecdote the center of the piece (though "dealing with it" as an underlying theme works so well once she has established that framework that I can see why she did). I kinda feel she is too quick to generalize, too. But so what? That's just my opinion. We all get to have those.

People are complex beings. Me, I'm a woman, a feminist, an agnostic, a writer, a mother, a daughter, an artist, a wife, etc. I am also a cynical skeptical pain in the ass*. I bring all that to the table and carry it with me as my own baggage.

I think it is valuable to speak to our own perceptions, and also to question what we read on the internet in general. Part of empathizing with others is, after all, recognizing how our own baggage gets in the way, right?

We can all be judgmental, and we can also be overly quick to assign labels to people. I did both here. I am not a sexist, I do not deny sexism exists (and maybe if we could also lay off on dismissing other commenters by just slapping those kinds of labels on them as well, that would be a good thing).

Anyway, I don't want to keep contributing to a derail here. Feel free to skip my comment(s), or FIAMO, or whatever.

*I am also old. The first time I read the "full sleeves" commemt? I thought the commenter was talking about clothes, and I couldn't understand why people would ever discount her because she was wearing a dolman blouse or long sleeves. Then I realized no, she meant tattoos that cover her arms. Doh.
posted by misha at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2013


Hahaha, me too. I was all like, OK, what the heck have I missed? When did sleeves become creep-magnets?
posted by thinkpiece at 11:15 AM on June 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not that I'm mocking sleeve-fetishists, no way.
posted by thinkpiece at 11:16 AM on June 24, 2013


Tell me more about your sleeves, are the full or 3/4 length? Do they have cuffs? French cuffs?!?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 11:21 AM on June 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I PUT ON MY SHIRT AND WIZARD HAT
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:21 PM on June 24, 2013


I've had some success with lavaballers by acting like I have an itch on my leg and vigorously scratching, pushing his leg off mine. If he moves it back immediately, I know he's a total asshole and likely not to move. But sometimes this keeps their legs off.

It's not just this - men in general expect their space to stay theirs. I sat next to a guy once who was slouching so much he was almost off the seat. Me sitting normally allowed my arm to barely stay in contact with his. He addressed me immediately: "we shouldn't be touching." I pointed out I was sitting as close to the confines of my seat as I could. He just repeated his assertion, not changing his posittion at all to accomodate nontouching. I finally stood and warned other passenger eyeing the seat that he was big baby.

But that was mild. I've had men shove me, physically press against me, etc, all because I was taking up space they perceived as theirs. It's ranged from amusing to terrifying to depressing. And usually a daily occurance. Microaggressions, indeed.
posted by agregoli at 10:50 AM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


My new lavaballer defense strategy is to start scratching my legs and yell "MAN THESE BEDBUGS ARE THE WORST, AMIRITE?"
posted by inertia at 11:44 AM on June 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


I cannot agree with nacho fries more right now.

The author didn't act perfectly in the story about her ninth grade class. A better response would have been to ask for a seat reassignment immediately when the harassment began. She didn't. An even better response when the teacher told her that she had to "deal with it" would be to contact the school administration and inform them that a teacher had told her that she must "deal with" verbal and sexual harassment from fellow students. She didn't do that.

Part of what I like about her story is that it has gotten me to think about my own ninth-grade self, and what I would have done in that situation. And now I'm remembering that when I was that age, I responded to catcalls and gross remarks from strangers in the street by giving them the finger or yelling back, and somehow (out of fear, or being worn down by no one else caring, people trying to downplay the experience as not a big deal and not worth my anger), somehow along the way I've gone silent.
posted by inertia at 12:08 PM on June 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I PUT ON MY SHIRT AND WIZARD HAT

What level do you have to be to cast Lavaball?
posted by homunculus at 12:18 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorcerer / Wizard Spell: Lavaball
posted by homunculus at 12:52 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


this comment by mightygodking referenced in an updated post today
posted by secretseasons at 12:57 PM on June 25, 2013


Um, also a lot more in that update, not just a mefi shout-out. Sorry.
posted by secretseasons at 12:59 PM on June 25, 2013


is anyone else having trouble reaching her page? seems down over here...
posted by nadawi at 1:18 PM on June 25, 2013


Yeah, here's the Google text-only cache.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:25 PM on June 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Could someone who has commenting access follow up with GV and tell her in response to this:

" But here’s what these comments do, in an essay about the hardships of being a woman: They make sure we never forget that we’re expected to accommodate men."

...That there were a lot of other comments from women who said exactly that?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:00 PM on June 25, 2013


yeah - that was my reaction too - i wish that calling out metafilter specifically had also included a "overwhelmingly the thread was blahblahsupportiveblahblah" - but she does sort of touch on that at the bottom by saying that the response has been overwhelmingly by women sharing their own stories. since she's not a mefite (i don't think) she probably doesn't know how hard fought the boyzone battle was here and how comments like that don't go unchallenged anymore. at the same time, it's not really her job to know that or note that. doesn't keep it from stinging a little - like, i don't want awesome, smart feminists to see that and think "whelp, better not check out this metafilter business!"
posted by nadawi at 3:16 PM on June 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


EmpressCallipygos: "Airplane small talk is rather common among all genders.

And dislike of airplane small talk is also rather common among all genders.
"

As a hardcore airplane small talker, me getting married is probably the best thing to happen to people who hate airplane small talk, as now I always am already traveling with someone I love to talk with.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:22 PM on June 25, 2013


inertia: "The author didn't act perfectly in the story about her ninth grade class. A better response would have been to ask for a seat reassignment immediately when the harassment began. She didn't."
The escalation is rapid. Three weeks into the school year, after watching the teacher repeatedly take note and do nothing, I wait after class and ask for seat reassignment.
This seems to me like asking for a seat reassignment pretty early on. I guess she could have gone to the teacher after just one day, but it sounds like the teacher wouldn't have cared one way or the other.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:47 PM on June 25, 2013


Um, also a lot more in that update, not just a mefi shout-out. Sorry.

The update was great, but I still don't know how I'm supposed to get a woman with headphones on to move up in the line or skooch over a bit when I've got to get by.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:52 AM on June 26, 2013


I still don't know how I'm supposed to get a woman with headphones on to move up in the line or skooch over a bit when I've got to get by.

There is a section of this web site where those questions would actually be relevant.
posted by grouse at 7:10 AM on June 26, 2013


And if you stunt post there it will be deleted so fast it will make your head spin.
posted by jessamyn at 7:13 AM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Dear AskMe

I'm reading a thread where women appear to want to talk about their experiences of the patriarchy in action. However they're not leaving me enough room to talk about specific things that are an issue for ME. Can you suggest ways that I can get them to metaphorically scooch over, or should I just keep my conversational legs spread wide and force a bit of space?

Thanks in advance!
posted by billiebee at 7:19 AM on June 26, 2013 [11 favorites]


Don't you just burn a hole in the back of her head with your eyes?
posted by ODiV at 7:45 AM on June 26, 2013


The update was great, but I still don't know how I'm supposed to get a woman with headphones on to move up in the line or skooch over a bit when I've got to get by.

I missed the latter part of this thread but is this an actual question? Wave your hand slowly in their peripheral vision (but well away from their head). If you don't think that will work you can memail me and I'm sure we can come up with something for you without cluttering the thread.
posted by mikepop at 8:49 AM on June 26, 2013 [6 favorites]


Don't you just burn a hole in the back of her head with your eyes?

That technique works just as well at getting the person driving two cars ahead of you in the passing lane to either pass or pull over. I used it on the way home today, and sure enough, after eight miles of laser gazing,, he crossed three lanes of traffic at the last moment to take his exit. Success!
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:15 PM on June 26, 2013 [3 favorites]


is this an actual question?

It wasn't particularly, but there was some genuine sentiment behind it. Since I got such a great response, maybe I should rephrase it and see if I can express it in a better way. Starting over...

Hi, I'm your father/brother/son/spouse/significant other/friend/coworker/boss/subordinate/waiter/bartender/janitor/lawyer/fellow passenger/bus driver/coach/student/teacher/co-participant in a web community/fruit vendor/plumber/barista/sales associate/flight attendant/neighbor/one of the thousands of other random guys you'll have to interact with during the course of a very normal day. I've read the original post and the subsequent posts and while I typically won't have to go through the sort of harassment many of you have said happens not infrequently, I'm sorry that my fellow brethren can behave that way and I sympathize, that sucks. I don't support the paternalistic hegemony and I certainly don't want to add fuel to the fire, but here we are stuck having to interact as is necessary for life where half of us are males and can't really do anything about our gender status. Unfortunately this is where things get complicated, I, again, don't want to bother you, bug you, scare you, creep you out, or piss you off further and I'm definitely looking to make you conform to some other way of being, in fact I would prefer to be part of the solution to this problem, which, I'm afraid will actually necessitate similar action by us men. I hope our interaction can be as painless and seamless as possible and for most people my default would be to treat you respectfully as I would any other human being, however you have stated that due to the steady stream of insult over the years even interactions with men that to me appear seemingly inconsequential will only cause more grief. How then can I change my words, approach, and actions to better accommodate your needs so that these necessary interactions of daily life are productive for us all, come off respectfully, and do not leave you with a further feeling of annoyance, frustration, anger, or fear?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:05 PM on June 26, 2013


Hi,

I am a lady in your internet community/real life/commute*. I love interacting with nice people of all genders! I hate interacting with total jerks. Don't show me your genitalia, don't occupy five seats with a sprawl worthy of the Dallas-Fort Worth area, let me know when I'm being a jerk and blocking your exit from the train and I actually think things will go okay!

*opinions only valid for one lady per comment; not intended to reflect on the opinions of all ladies or people in general
posted by jetlagaddict at 6:11 PM on June 26, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look, I've been in a line and distracted. If I don't move forward for 30 seconds, unless I am next, nothing terrible is going to happen to you, person right behind me, if you just wait for me to notice that I can move up. You don't actually need to do anything! Just wait and the problem will solve itself.

If you are in a setting so crowded that you need to touch me to pass me, and I'm not able to hear you -- you'd be surprised at what noise comes through even if I have headphones on -- you can just edge your way through while not touching anything but my arms and I will notice and move. If it's that crowded, this is normal. If it isn't that crowded, you probably don't need people to move anyhow.

And don't do stuff like this.
posted by jeather at 7:11 PM on June 26, 2013


How about limiting your words and actions to those you'd use when dealing with a 6'5" 300lb man? Would you randomly touch him/push your legs into his space/call him sweetheart/put your hand on his wrist/around his waist etc? No? Then don't do it to a woman. I think mikepop's advice is great for the particular situation you're talking about. If it doesn't work, may I suggest you try to come up with a solution all by yourself and employ some common sense? Maybe in some sort of thread where men are talking about what they find difficult, and not this one?
posted by billiebee at 4:04 AM on June 27, 2013 [3 favorites]


*opinions only valid for one lady per comment; not intended to reflect on the opinions of all ladies or people in general

Personally, I'm a lady who actually wouldn't mind being tapped on the shoulder and asked to move. I'm also fortunate enough to never have been touched anywhere else under the pretext of "just trying to get by you," though. Although I probably would be creeped out if anyone tapped me anywhere BUT the shoulder, so.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:21 AM on June 27, 2013


But unfortunately the members of that small proportion of men don't all wear distinctive t-shirts or badges which announce their membership in the Guys Who Are Ruining It For The Rest Of You Club.

that's the basis for pretty much every stereo-type. why is your stereo-typing justified while other stereo-typing is not? i'd honestly like to know how your (or anyone else) makes that distinction.
posted by cupcake1337 at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2013


Are you actually claiming that women that are wary of strange men until they have proven that they aren't sexually, physically, or otherwise aggressive is some sort of pejorative stereotyping?
posted by zombieflanders at 9:56 AM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


cupcake, in situations where gender should be excluded from decision-making (for example, many workplace scenarios: hiring, promotions, pay), you are on-target with your line of questioning: stereotyping and profiling isn't OK.

In situations involving personal safety and well-being, women are entitled to decide for themselves what level of good faith they are willing to assume on the part of men they don't know. It's a very individual process.

If it weren't the case that violence against women by men was so endemic, I would agree that the more enlightened, humane approach would be to assume good faith and trustworthiness across all genders. Unfortunately, that isn't the case; and moreso, women who relax their guard and end up in harmful situations are shamed and blamed -- they are too often accused of making unsmart choices, of "asking for it", of being complicit in their own harm.

For me, personally, it deeply pains me that I have to run strange men through that mental spreadsheet. I would like the world to be different. It isn't...not yet.

(Also, it's worth noting that men run other men through that same safe-or-not mental sieve. My karate sensei, who could certainly defend himself if attacked, tells me that he assesses risk from other males out in public himself, all the time. It's just safe and sensible.)
posted by nacho fries at 10:38 AM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


i'd honestly like to know how your (or anyone else) makes that distinction.

I base it on behavior. What criteria do you use to judge how iffy a stranger might be to you?
posted by rtha at 11:00 AM on June 30, 2013


i'd honestly like to know how your (or anyone else) makes that distinction.

I basically have a "one strike" policy for anyone where I'm in a situation where I might be in some sort of danger.

Now, keep in mind that danger for me can include being in public and ... getting groped by strangers (it's happened!) having someone pull out their penis and masturbate in front of me (it's happened!) asking me a question and then yell at me when I don't reply or can't understand them (it's happened!) asking me personal questions that are none of their business (it's happened!) trying to get me to go somewhere that I don't want to go (it's happened!) touching me for any reason other than just getting my attention (it's happened). So usually a lot of this stuff happens in a split second. Someone enters my personal space sphere and I have a short amount of time to decide if I trust or distrust this person. And then if I distrust them, whether I am unsafe around them or not. And then what to do that won't make it worse.

Most people in public are generally neutral/innocuous and are making an effort to appear that they are aware that they are in public and are mindful of others. Many of the other people who aren't are either children or people who have some sort of visible reason why they may not be that way (visible mental/physical impairment, other things). At this point gender hasn't come into the picture. However at the point at which someone is entering my physical space for some reason (talking to me, moving towards me, touching me, staring at me, lavaballing me) they are already, whether intentionally or not, invoking a response from me.

Many people, male and female, are able to enter my personal space and not be creepy at all. Partly this is because of how people circle back to the "Hey we all know we're in public, sorry I had to tap you on the shoulder but you dropped something and it was important that you know right away..." sort of idea. That is calming. Making clear that we agree on the same conventions but there was some reason why they were skirting them.

However, many other people start out interactions without even making it clear that they agree on the same conventions (they are yelling, they are standing too close, they are remarking on my appearance, they are staring too long) and that's basically the one strike. I'm not sure at that point what else you and I don't agree on, but past experience has taught me that it might be a number of things and I'm more concerned for my personal safety than I am in your right to sit/stand/talk/move exactly how you want if that involves an intersection of your space and mine. Many many people in public understand this. Others if it's explained to them, can at least sort of get it. A small minority don't understand and/or don't care. A smaller subset of those people are actively dangerous. All I am doing is protecting the integrity of my own personal space. And I still try to be mindful of not stereotyping, but other than people who are clearly mentally unstable, the only people who get in my face in public are men. And nuns.
posted by jessamyn at 11:40 AM on June 30, 2013 [12 favorites]


that's the basis for pretty much every stereo-type. why is your stereo-typing justified while other stereo-typing is not?

With most other stereotypes, my danger in ignoring them is making a social faux pas.

With this particular stereotype, my danger in ignoring it is getting sexually assaulted, raped, or killed.

I think there's kind of a difference there.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on June 30, 2013 [4 favorites]


that's the basis for pretty much every stereo-type. why is your stereo-typing justified while other stereo-typing is not?

The hyphens make it impossible for me not to read this in the voice of a carnival barker from the 1910s.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 12:17 PM on June 30, 2013 [2 favorites]


And nuns.

If you'd brought enough chewing gum for everyone, this wouldn't be a problem, you know.
posted by rmd1023 at 12:20 PM on June 30, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am so sorry to make this about me and my stereotypes but hey I just had an incident that was relevant that might help explain this....

I went hiking today by myself. This involved driving to a place that was a little remote, parking my car and walking into the woods. When I found the parking place (which was teeny) there was one other car there and there was a guy there sitting on the trunk of his car, in hiking gear, smoking. Coming, going, I didn't know. I did my best to ignore him as I got out of the car, put on bug spray, put my things away etc. As I walked around the car to go to the trail I smiled and said hi and he smiled and said hi. This is all, so far, normal and okay.

As I started on the trail I noticed it was really muddy and I turned around and asked him "Do you know which trails are muddy? Did you already walk this way?" and he stopped and sort of looked at me and smiled again and then paused for a sort of long time.... (long enough for me to think here what the hell is going on?) and lowered his eyelids and looked at me and said "Do you want to go for a walk?" in this sort of ... I don't know pickup way? I am not so quick on my feet but I knew I didn't want whatever he was suggesting and I said "Oh, no, I am just trying to figure out which trails are muddy..." and he said "Okay, I'd suggest going left and then right" and I said thanks and walked in to the woods.

And at this point I was totally flipped out because

1. I was pretty sure that guy had propositioned me (maybe he thought I was propositioning him first?) but not totally sure
2. I was in the middle of nowhere, alone, and I was walking further into the middle of nowhere. I had my phone but no other real defensive options if there was trouble.
3. My alternative was to turn totally around, be weird, walk right back past the guy and leave
4. My experience with women propositioning me is that no always means no. My experience with men propositioning me is that no sometimes means no and sometimes means "try harder" and sometimes means they get angry/offended and act out. So.

So I spent the first half mile on a shorter trail that sort of looped instead of getting too far away from everything, thinking about what I'd do if I saw him following me. When I looped back I noticed his car was gone. Only at that point could I actually start enjoying myself because it was clear that the guy wasn't going to a) follow me b) wait for me and be weird. None of this has anything to do with the other guy at all. His rights have not been abridged. If I saw him elsewhere I wouldn't even think "Oh that's the creepy guy from the hiking trail" because hey, maybe mixed messages (though I think not, but whatever). The only reason people even know that this "stereotyping" is happening is because, especially lately, women (and some men) have been relating stories where they have felt preyed upon by other people and talked about what they have done to stay safe. And this is totally on topic in the face of the original topic which was how to carve out personal space appropriately (and inappropriately) for oneself.

If that guy had been a lot more clear that he realized that I might be nervous being near a strange man alone in the middle of nowhere, I would have felt significantly more at ease. Instead, he crossed a boundary in an awkward time/place in a way that resulted in me being afraid. So that's a decent example of the distinction that I was pointing out earlier. And I was thinking as I walked in the woods how ironic it would be if I got attacked by a stranger after making that comment and before making this one. The end.
posted by jessamyn at 2:01 PM on June 30, 2013 [10 favorites]


In situations involving personal safety and well-being, women are entitled to decide for themselves what level of good faith they are willing to assume on the part of men they don't know.

With this particular stereotype, my danger in ignoring it is getting sexually assaulted, raped, or killed.

ok, so, what about racial profiling (say, at airport security checks) or stop-and-frisk laws? you could make a similar argument about safety.

i'm not saying it's wrong to be suspicious. clearly, the difference is that the targets of racial profiling are actually impacted by behavior, while just being suspicious probably doesn't harm anyone. but, the vibe i get from some of the comments in this thread (not really worth my time to re-read the hole thread) is too-wide of a man-hating vibe, and that can be harmful.

----

1. I was pretty sure that guy had propositioned me (maybe he thought I was propositioning him first?)


he probably thought you propositioned him first.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:11 PM on July 1, 2013


ok, so, what about racial profiling (say, at airport security checks) or stop-and-frisk laws?

This is the opposite power dynamic. Racial profiling is flagging as suspicious those marginalized by societal power systems and is an expression of the extant dynamic, an expression of inequality; women being wary of strange men is a reaction to/against a power dynamic and societal inequality.
posted by shakespeherian at 5:24 PM on July 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


women being wary of strange men ...

yes, well, if you actually read my comment you'd notice that i wasn't making that comparison.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:01 PM on July 1, 2013


I did read your comment. Could you explain what it is I'm misunderstanding instead of snarking?
posted by shakespeherian at 6:47 PM on July 1, 2013 [2 favorites]


cupcake1337, your assertion that "some [uncited] comments" give you a "vibe" that is "too man-hating" is almost classic concern trolling. I believe you're sincere, but it's a derailing technique, conscious or not.
posted by jaguar at 6:57 PM on July 1, 2013


he probably thought you propositioned him first.

I am a pretty savvy lady when it comes to euphemisms, and I have never heard "Do you know which trails are muddy?" refer to anything sly. Why on earth would he think she had propositioned him first?
posted by KathrynT at 6:58 PM on July 1, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, nothing jessamyn said sounded even like flirting, let alone propositioning. It's perfectly possible that the guy was just clueless and meant no harm, but still, very creepy. Especially in a forest.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:26 PM on July 1, 2013


Yes, I agree that he may have thought she was propositioning him. There are people who think that any social interaction initiated by a woman is a proposition. But if he did think he had been propositioned then Jessamyn was absolutely right to be nervous: she was alone with someone who might react badly if she declined his advances.

It's possible that Jessamyn misread the situation, but if so, no harm done. He wasn't propositioning her, she didn't "accept" his advances, everything's OK. But I think it's massively more likely that he was propositioning some random stranger in a forest. This is weird and scary (I would be scared if someone propositioned me in those circumstances) and sounds more like the start of a horror story than any normal human interaction.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:53 PM on July 1, 2013 [1 favorite]


i'm not saying it's wrong to be suspicious. clearly, the difference is that the targets of racial profiling are actually impacted by behavior, while just being suspicious probably doesn't harm anyone. but, the vibe i get from some of the comments in this thread (not really worth my time to re-read the hole thread) is too-wide of a man-hating vibe, and that can be harmful.

I'm not sure what the response you are looking for is, here. You quite correctly identify within a couple of sentences of your comparison with racial profiling that it isn't good comparison. So, essentially, what we've got here is that you think some of the comments in this thread might have a man-hating vibe - you don't know which, and it's not worth your time to go back and look, but you definitely think that - and that vibe might in some unspecified way be harmful.

I'm not sure that in itself is going to be enough to convince women to change their behavior, or even at this point whether you think they should. Is your recommendation that the people in this thread, although you cannot say who they are, who are giving off a man-hating vibe, although you cannot say exactly how, should... try to hate men less?
posted by running order squabble fest at 12:33 AM on July 2, 2013


> 1. I was pretty sure that guy had propositioned me (maybe he thought I was propositioning him first?)

he probably thought you propositioned him first.


He 'probably' thought she had propositioned him by asking "Do you know which trails are muddy? Did you already walk this way?" That's some obscure trail-walking flirting, right there.

Isn't that kind of the problem, and a reason to be suspicious? The fact that a woman has to be so very careful all the damn time because the threat is real. If I smile at him and make small talk he'll think I'm making myself available to him, so I then run the risk of him assuming he can act upon that, and have to deal with the consequences of rejection. If I'm in a wide open space, alone, I'm vulnerable. If I'm in a small, enclosed space, I'm vulnerable. He can attack me if he wants, and I have no way on earth of knowing what's going on in his head. Is he a Good Guy or not? What do I base that judgement on? Isn't a level of suspicion just basic self-protection? A human reaction to unknowable threats to safety? Yes, its a shame that I can't approach all strange men with an easy heart and a conviction that I am safe with them. But I can't because, well, read the news.
posted by billiebee at 1:58 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


ok, so, what about racial profiling (say, at airport security checks) or stop-and-frisk laws? you could make a similar argument about safety.

Not based on first-hand experience, though. Any instance of racial profiling at airport security is based on "this one incident that happened once before that I heard about". A woman being cautious around a man is based on "these hundred or more incidents that happened to me before".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:18 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also, racial profiling is an oppressive behavior directed at minority groups. Men aren't a minority group and women aren't being "oppressive" when they act on their fears by behaving with caution.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:51 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


With this particular stereotype, my danger in ignoring it is getting sexually assaulted, raped, or killed.

Purely statistically speaking, a woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted, raped, or killed by someone she knows and most likely this will take place in her own home, the home of a friend or neighbor, or at her school, very seldom in a public place like on public transit, a parking lot, or a restaurant or bar.

Sleep tight!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:15 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[No metadiscussion in the thread, please. Thanks.]
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:20 AM on July 2, 2013


Purely statistically speaking, a woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted, raped, or killed by someone she knows and most likely this will take place in her own home, the home of a friend or neighbor, or at her school, very seldom in a public place like on public transit, a parking lot, or a restaurant or bar.

Those statistics are well known. Are you saying Jessamyn shouldn't have been worried about the strange man propositioning her in an isolated place? Are you trying to discount EC's concerns about men she doesn't know for some reason?
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:27 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


women aren't being "oppressive" when they act on their fears by behaving with caution.

I don't think the validness or not-validness of the fears is why it's not oppressive. I think it's not oppressive because it's not actually oppressing them - there's no structural power dynamic, here. (To be somewhat tautological)

If I'm a TSA agent and I disproportionately pull middle-eastern-looking people aside for extra pat-downs, I'm oppressing them because I'm in a position of power. If I'm a cop and I pull over a black guy in a nice car because he looks suspicious, this is also creating oppression for them because I'm in a position of power.

If I get nervous about talking to a guy because apparently some men think "hey, is that hiking trail muddy" is a proposition, I'm not exerting any kind of structural power over him. Where's the oppression?
posted by rmd1023 at 5:29 AM on July 2, 2013


Are you saying Jessamyn shouldn't have been worried about the strange man propositioning her in an isolated place? Are you trying to discount EC's concerns about men she doesn't know for some reason?

Absolutely not, just throwing them out there becuase they are relevant to the discussion. Their arguments are clear and I have no reason to rebut them. Just because it's statistically less likely doesn't mean there is a zero probability of something happening and making yourself more vulnerable through lack of vigilance is certainly not a wise course of action for any person!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:45 AM on July 2, 2013


making yourself more vulnerable through lack of vigilance is certainly not a wise course of action

Of course, the problem when it comes to the justice system - or even outsiders' opinions - is what constitutes lack of vigilance? Being somewhere / saying something / wearing something that in some way leaves one open to attack? Who gets to decide the parameters of vigilance? And what really galls me is: the assumption that as a woman I have to be vigilant, which assumes some level of inherent threat, while at the same time not being allowed to be too suspicious or 'man-hating'. It's a fine line to walk and it is tiring.
posted by billiebee at 6:15 AM on July 2, 2013


Absolutely not, just throwing them out there becuase they are relevant to the discussion.

They are only relevant to the metadiscussion. When it comes to the discussion about "why women are being cautious around men they don't know", they are irrrelevant, particularly in my case (I have not ONCE suffered assault at the hands of a man I've dated or known well - but I have had countless scary run-ins with total strangers).

I can only agree with Rustric Etruscan that you are trying to discredit women's statements about their personal experience. Just like plenty of other men in Metafilter do. ...Which maybe also explains why I'm developing a prejudice against Some Specific Guys On Metafilter.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:19 AM on July 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


the assumption that as a woman I have to be vigilant, which assumes some level of inherent threat, while at the same time not being allowed to be too suspicious or 'man-hating'. It's a fine line to walk and it is tiring.

Yeah, that. Not cautious enough and something happens? You should have been more careful! "Too" cautious? It's sexist to assume every guy is going to rape you!
posted by rtha at 6:27 AM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


FWIW, it's a tonal mess when you write one paragraph implying that women can never be too vigilant against men, even men they know, and then tag that grim thought with a jocular "Sleep tight!"
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 6:28 AM on July 2, 2013 [8 favorites]


(I have not ONCE suffered assault at the hands of a man I've dated or known well - but I have had countless scary run-ins with total strangers).

This. Do men even have a parallel situation? You may have had run-ins with violent guys, or been the victim of a crime. Have you ever just walked across a crowded barroom floor and expected some level of sexual assault? Its the constant, low-level alert for these things which women contend with, that I just don't think guys understand. And instead of saying, 'wow that must make life tough. I'll try and imagine what that feels like.' our reasons for even stating it are dissected and refuted. Hey, don't worry, it's usually someone you know!
posted by billiebee at 6:29 AM on July 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


FWIW, it's a tonal mess when you write one paragraph implying that women can never be too vigilant against men, even men they know, and then tag that grim thought with a jocular "Sleep tight!"

Agreed, that was sloppy and I'm sorry for that. I find the statistics horrifying and my tendency in the face of things that are disconcerting is to make humor, usually of a dark and sarcastic nature. In this case I find it particularly disconcerting and horrifying that a woman's most vulnerable moment is when and where she should feel the most safe, thus the off-tone tag "sleep tight".

I can only agree with Rustric Etruscan that you are trying to discredit women's statements about their personal experience.

On the contrary, the statistics actually support a woman's justifications for vigilance as it is in the times and places that a woman should* be able to let her guard down that she is most likely to be attacked. Given that we know attacks do happen outside the home, women could probably stand to be even more vigilant!

*Outisde the fact that a woman should be free not to have to go through life with her guard up all the time anywhere.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:20 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the contrary, the statistics actually support a woman's justifications for vigilance as it is in the times and places that a woman should* be able to let her guard down that she is most likely to be attacked.

So if you agree with me, then why did you say something that contradicted what I was saying?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


thus the off-tone tag

And since edit is done - by "off-tone" I mean "inappropriate".

our reasons for even stating it are dissected and refuted

Which was not my intent at all. This is certainly a subject wound with a great deal of deep seated emotion and an uncautious, jocular (though I think you might laugh at the connotations of that term being applied to me if you met me) comment on this open forum can easily be misinterprited. I need to better keep my conversational style in check if I want to contribute to this discussion at all without stepping on toes or leaving people with the impression that I'm trying to undermine their personal experiences.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:46 AM on July 2, 2013


I need to better keep my conversational style in check if I want to contribute to this discussion at all without stepping on toes or leaving people with the impression that I'm trying to undermine their personal experiences.

An even better thing you could do - maybe just listen, especially since this is a conversation in which women are sharing personal experiences about something that happens exclusively to women.

It is possible to participate in a conversation by just being the listener, you know.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:48 AM on July 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's also a conversation taking place on an open community forum, as it should be because frankly if we want to do anything about the problem it's going to take including more men in more dialogues as it's not women with similar stories doing these things to women.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:51 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[might want to take this to MeMail folks]
posted by jessamyn at 8:54 AM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The thing is, in those stats, the 'someone you know' field includes 'the dude down the street' and 'the local cafe owner' and people who are not friends or acquaintances, but are known to the victim.

And I have been assaulted by someone close to me but it does not detract from the fact that strange men are actually dangerous to me. I have, at this point, curated my life to exclude the creepy and the boundary crossing people (mostly men) except for when I am having to deal with strangers. So that does take up a disproportionate amount of my fear, because I am able to exist at home in a safe space, and primarily spend my time with safe people.

Which means, when dudebros holler at me from their car while I'm with my kid, it's still terrifying because I can't fucking run, I can't really hide, and I have to somehow teach my daughter how to exist in this shitty world where dudes think they can shout crude invitations to women out their car window with no repercussions because there are none. Because it's 'just' verbal, it's not 'actually unsafe' and it's not a crime. Yet, I haven't worn that outfit again. Yet, I had to explain to the three year old why those men said that. Yet, it's another little chip in my desire to not loathe mankind.

Even though I intimately know and understand that the majority of rape is not perpetrated by a stranger, I also know that the precursor to rape is perpetrated in public, and that rapists will levy their 'relationship' into an opportunity to rape - remember, it's not a stranger if you met them at a bar, or know them from the bus stop, or the rapist says you're friends.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:47 PM on July 2, 2013 [6 favorites]


Yes, the "80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim" statistic absolutely includes acquaintances, like the guy at the bar who keeps touching your back while making small talk or the co-worker who tells sexist jokes. It's not some stranger-danger hysteria to be wary of strangers who are trying to become not-strangers.
posted by jaguar at 7:47 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Because it's 'just' verbal, it's not 'actually unsafe' and it's not a crime.

Exactly.

What the stats about violent crime against women don't account for is the non-criminal behavior by strangers; behavior which creates a toxic atmosphere for women.

It's friggin' relentless some days.
posted by nacho fries at 7:49 PM on July 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


Purely statistically speaking, a woman is far more likely to be sexually assaulted, raped, or killed by someone she knows

Judging by your words I thought you were talking about a 95%/5% split or something, but you didn't give any numbers at all and just linked to a 135 page PDF. (Re which: c'mon, dude.) I looked and I saw that 35.2% of rape/sexual assaults are in incidents involving strangers, and personally I would never use "far more likely" to describe 64.8% vs. 35.2%.

Even if it had been something like 95%/5% I was going to point out a host of problems with using that statistic the way you were using it. Such as: the numbers are dependent on an already high level of avoidance and awareness which can mask the real danger of those situations. In general it's a mess to re-phrase incidence rates as probabilities you can apply to everyone individually, and I think you were doing it wrong in this case. It's like you were saying that because "far more" people are injured falling down stairs than falling from tightropes, stairs are inherently more dangerous than tightropes on a per-traversal basis. Which is not only wrong, but has dismissive implications when the subject of conversation is the dangers faced by those who are forced to walk tightropes.

That's what I was going to say. But hell, man, 35%? If people are doing their best to avoid and be careful of strangers, and still this number is 35%?—that's a lot of falls from tightropes.
posted by fleacircus at 8:03 PM on July 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


It's like you were saying that because "far more" people are injured falling down stairs than falling from tightropes, stairs are inherently more dangerous than tightropes on a per-traversal basis.

I think you got it backwards. Most people meet more strangers than people they know. Even if you know several dozen people who are men, there are far more who have walked pass you, driven pass you, stood behind you in line, at a bus stop, etc. So, the probability of a stranger sexually assaulting you, raping you, or killing you is spread out over far more people than for the people you know. For any given stranger the probability is far less than for someone you know.

Yes, the "80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim" statistic absolutely includes acquaintances, like the guy at the bar who keeps touching your back while making small talk or the co-worker who tells sexist jokes.

Oh, you know this for a fact? Every single study that has looked at that? Do you have any evidence?

Also, I have to note that

What the stats about violent crime against women don't account for is the non-criminal behavior by strangers; behavior which creates a toxic atmosphere for women.

When I said I felt a "vibe" I was immediately challenged, yet "toxic atmosphere" is taken at face value.
posted by cupcake1337 at 4:24 PM on July 3, 2013


When I said I felt a "vibe" I was immediately challenged, yet "toxic atmosphere" is taken at face value.

You find it odd that we took something that is provable at face value while challenging a statement about comments which were "not really worth [your] time to re-read the hole [sic] thread" to provide?
posted by zombieflanders at 4:50 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, the "80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim" statistic absolutely includes acquaintances, like the guy at the bar who keeps touching your back while making small talk or the co-worker who tells sexist jokes.

cupcake1337 wrote: Oh, you know this for a fact? Every single study that has looked at that? Do you have any evidence?

That is totally a thing you could research and get back to us on!
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:55 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


Usually, when someone claims something is "absolutely" some way, I assume they are very knowledgeable about the topic and could easily provide evidence backing up their claim.
posted by cupcake1337 at 5:23 PM on July 3, 2013


When I said I felt a "vibe" I was immediately challenged, yet "toxic atmosphere" is taken at face value.

I think a difference here is that you were challenged because you had made an unevidenced statement about posts to a message board which were right in front of you - which you had had to scroll past, in fact, to post your statement about the vibe you were getting from them, while avowing that it was not worth your time to read them to check that your statement was even subjectively accurate.

Whereas "toxic atmosphere" is here referencing something quite different, and related to the lived experience of women. Specifically, it references the fact that the 2008 study on victims referenced is limited to reported assaults (and verbal threats of assault), and thus does not take into account the large number of unreported harassments or threats, of a kind referenced by the OP and the subsequent discussion.

So, most obviously, evidence of what is being described as a "toxic atmosphere" is pretty well-attested. Whereas nobody else detected the "man-hating vibe" you were getting, and since you apparently didn't think it was worth your time to find the examples you thought you had seen, that "vibe" was not seen as a very credible complaint.

Now, what's odd here is that you do seem to think it is worth your time to try, as far as one can tell, to argue about how cautious women should feel entitled to be around strangers. Which I suspect is actually a less valuable use of your time than going back and either supporting with examples or retracting your assertion about man-hating vibes - at least in terms of your perceived credibility in this discussion.
posted by running order squabble fest at 5:30 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


Whereas nobody else detected the "man-hating vibe" you were getting

Correction: nobody else commented on it in the affirmative. You can't know what silent readers detected.
posted by 0 at 6:02 PM on July 3, 2013


Nor indeed what the lurkers said in email. But sure - feel free to gloss to "nobody else who expressed an opinion, or responded to the assertion in any way".
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2013


The difference is that I was saying my opinion, whereas she/he was saying something like it was "absolutely" a fact.
posted by cupcake1337 at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2013


No - that was another statement entirely - to be exact, this statement:

Yes, the "80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim" statistic absolutely includes acquaintances, like the guy at the bar who keeps touching your back while making small talk or the co-worker who tells sexist jokes. It's not some stranger-danger hysteria to be wary of strangers who are trying to become not-strangers.

I don't know where that 80% comes from - but, as discussed already, the 2008 report puts strangers at 52,890 of 203,830 cases - not exactly 20%, but not far off. However, there are then 27,430 reports involving casual acquaintances and 9,350 "don't knows". The statistical majority are "well-known", but there's probably some variation in what is meant by "well-known".

I think it's probably worth thinking about what you're hoping to achieve by hoeing this row, though. First because facts are tricky things, especially when considering statistics. Your assertion that women meet more unknown men in a day than known men sounds like a decent hypothesis, but I doubt that you have a statistical proof for it beyond your understanding of how the world works (at least, how a particular kind of world works - I know villages where you don't see a stranger from month to month).

Second, because... well, because I'm not sure what your objective is. Are you trying to compel women to be less cautious of strangers through applied argument?
posted by running order squabble fest at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2013


Yes, the "80% of sexual assaults are committed by someone known by the victim" statistic absolutely includes acquaintances, like the guy at the bar who keeps touching your back while making small talk or the co-worker who tells sexist jokes.

>Oh, you know this for a fact? Every single study that has looked at that? Do you have any evidence?


Yes I do, in terms of the statistics nationally recognized by RAINN and the Department of Justice:

Approximately 2/3 of rapes were committed by someone known to the victim.
73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger.
38% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance.
28% are an intimate.
7% are a relative.

Usually, when someone claims something is "absolutely" some way, I assume they are very knowledgeable about the topic and could easily provide evidence backing up their claim.

I am, I can, and I did. I work professionally and hold various certifications in this field. And usually, someone who wants to challenge me in good faith asks good-faith follow-up questions rather than implying ("absolutely" falsely, in this case), that I have no clue what I'm talking about.
posted by jaguar at 6:45 PM on July 3, 2013 [4 favorites]


yet "toxic atmosphere" is taken at face value.

I welcome the opportunity to revise my comment to be more accurate:

"...behavior which sometimes creates a toxic environment for some women."

I can't speak for all women, all the time; so I apologize for the original over-generalization.
posted by nacho fries at 7:05 PM on July 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


What the stats about violent crime against women don't account for is the non-criminal behavior by strangers; behavior which creates a toxic atmosphere for women.

I can only speak for myself, but I did not need this statement to be qualified by statistics or adding "sometimes". Because I know exactly what you meant as I'm sure did the majority of women reading it.

Yesterday I filled up my car with petrol. As I walked back across the forecourt after paying I had to pass two 20 something guys. I was wearing tight jeans. I have a large ass. (Actually the jeans were tight because I have a large ass, rather than design, but I digress. I just wanted to reinforce the fact that I did not wear tight jeans because I was "asking" for attention, because we live in a society that asks for that disclaimer). I knew they would pass comment and they did. I felt nervous and angry as I passed them, and when they saw my face as I turned to get in my car they said "but she looks mean." Because not only am I to expect comments, I must welcome them, be flattered that some randomers have an opinion on my - MY - body or else I'm mean/frigid/a bore. (As one total stranger told me after I refused to let him take my photo in a club. I mean wtf?! I told him I didn't care if he thought I was boring because "I don't give a fuck about your opinion of me" and he stormed off. And then I was afraid in case I bumped into him later.)

I didn't say to anyone about the incident yesterday because why would I? It's just what happens. My day was shittier for it for a little while and then I carried on, as you do. I dealt with it. But that is exactly the sort of non-criminal behaviour that creates a toxic atmosphere even when you're carrying out the most mundane tasks in broad daylight. And we all have hundreds of examples, I'm sure. Which to me is what this thread is about, a chance to air these and legitimately say "I'm so sick of it." Preferably without having to explain over and over again why we should be allowed to say it.
posted by billiebee at 4:45 AM on July 4, 2013 [10 favorites]


You know what? I don't care if someone thinks I am "man-hating" because of the opinions I hold-opinions I have because of the experiences I and other women I personally know have had. It's immaterial to me what anyone else thinks of my opinion, and they can whine if they like, and I can think their whining is ridiculous if I like. OR, I can just not think about it at all, and expect they will just have to deal.

Like I am expected to deal, like my daughters are expected to deal, with the stupidity and rudeness of SOME men we encounter, in this big wide world of ours.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 9:10 AM on July 4, 2013 [5 favorites]


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