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In which she holds forth upon doing nothing
New Zealand zebra, NZ
zeborahnz
I wasn't going to link to this incredible post "On Rape and Men (Oh yes, I'm going there)" because of... something I didn't understand well enough to judge whether or not I should step carefully. Later because... well, as of this moment, it's got 1684 comments and:

a) amazing as so many of them are, who's going to read through all those unless they've been having them appear in their inbox 200 at a time over the last several days?

b) the poor author deserves a rest from her moderating!

But you should totally read the post. I hereby give you permission to read only some of the comments. :-)

This is a preamble because someone asked me to repost one of my comments, with context, so he could link it elsewhere. And so:

Context:
Someone had asked, "So you would consider a man part of the problem if he treats women with respect and equality, and would never participate in sexist remarks, but does not call out other men when they do?"

My comment:
To paraphrase: All it takes for injustice to prevail is for good men to do nothing.

Silence tends to be taken as assent. So if one man makes sexist remarks, and five men stand around and let him, then:

a) the women present will feel as if all six men approve of that sexism;

b) the man speaking will believe he has been given tacit approval to keep on speaking;

c) each of the five men will believe that the other four have given tacit approval to those sexist remarks;

d) each of the five men will have reinforced in his own mind that the appropriate thing to do in this situation is to be silent. (This is because, when we make a choice to do X, we reinforce our approval for X. eg If you choose to buy something, you'll like the thing more after you've bought it than before.)

Silence reinforces the problem. Therefore it's a (passive) part of the problem.

Further pondering:
I was discussing the general topic with a friend at lunch, and a couple of the many powerful stories from the comments. Particularly one where a creepy man was being *seriously* creepy to a teenage girl in a train full of people in a way no-one could possibly not notice -- and no-one did a thing to stop him (until finally the train stopped in a station where someone on the platform noticed, came in, and pulled the creep back out). My friend was astounded that no-one had done anything, until I talked about how people do just go along with the crowd. Even if the fire alarm's going, if no-one else reacts, you don't either. At which she remembered a local case some years ago where a white person was beating up a PoC and a crowd was just watching and watching and watching until finally one man broke out of that mob-induced stupor and stepped in; then others helped, but it took all that time.

And... the thing is that once a mob of do-nothings has formed, it will be hard for people to do something. So we need to put in the effort to teach ourselves and teach our friends and teach our families that as soon as you see something icky going on, you step in that *instant*, so that the mob of do-nothings never has time to form in the first place. We need the stepping in to be practically instinctual.

We also need to teach ourselves and our friends and our families what "icky" is. "Icky" includes rape but you're not likely to see the actual rape, only the stuff leading up to it and enabling it. So "icky" also includes-but-is-not-limited-to physical intimidation, and verbal intimidation, and emotional blackmail, and victim blaming, and disbelieving women's experiences, and sexist remarks, and gendered language, and all that crap. We need to know that it's all icky, and we need to learn to recognise it when it happens, and we need to step up and make sure other people know it's not cool too.

[A note on comments: In homage to cereta I'm leaving comments open and unscreened. However, ickiness as defined above is strictly forbidden. Icky comments will be frozen or deleted at my discretion, and offenders will be sentenced to read all 1692 comments on cereta's post. This is to be a safe space for women and other rape survivors.]
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Two points from common, repeated psychological studies:

a) Diffusion of responsibility. You are more likely to be assisted if a lone stranger witnesses your plight, because that person experiences all the responsibility. The more people present, the less responsible they feel, and the less likely anyone is to help you. Everybody tells themselves that someone else will do something.

b) Humour increases tolerance. People are more likely to engage in sexist(/racist/homophobic/other "-ist") behaviour after they have listened to jokes featuring that behaviour. It's never "just a joke". The jokes contribute to an atmosphere of tolerance for unacceptable beliefs/behaviour. What should be borderline becomes acceptable, what should be unacceptable becomes borderline. The jokes and the remarks and the language and the attitudes do matter.

These findings have been replicated over and over again and there are still people who deny them. People need to be responsible for their actions. Men need to be responsible.

"Diffusion of responsibility" is a great name for something I... think I knew but not in so many words.

"Humour increases tolerance" -- yeah. I knew that and you knew I knew it but I don't think it can ever be said too often.

There's always the chance that someone who didn't know will stumble across this and take it on board.

Usually I keep away from these kinds of debates, because I find them very unpleasant. That goes for all sides of them. However, I'd like to make this comment somewhere, so I'm putting it here: it's a story about Sweden, more precisely about Lund, or rather the students of Lund, at least the subset of them who go to balls. I still think it illustrates... something.

One tradition of balls is speeches. There are usually several, starting with welcoming, and ending with thanks. Between those, you can put more or less anything. Some balls (not many, but there seems to be a couple) keep the old tradition of having a speech to Woman. Naturally, they now also have a speech to Man.

The speeches to Woman that I have heard were generally naive, bordering on (or downright) silly, but usually given in what I'd like to call a good mood. Positive, if you like. Or kind. The speeches to Man, now, could best be described as mean. Nasty. Yes, why not: sexist. And no, I don't think you change anything by ending it with: But never mind, we like you anyway, you're a great bunch.

I suspect that this is partly because women/people don't have a suitable terminology to speak well about Men. About a certain man or group of men, sure, but not about Men. It's not easy, in an age when we don't acknowledge any vital differences between men and women, beyond the purely sexual ones.

A ball is *not* the right place to rise from the table and tell a speaker that she (or he) is sexist. Something similar actually happened some years ago in Lund. I'm not familiar with the details, but from what little I read about it, the woman involved did go way to far. She made a public apology eventually.

However, there are ways to signal that you don't want to participate in a certain discussion, even if you are at a social event where you run the risk of making a fool of yourself. You can change the subject. You can turn away, and talk to someone else -- options are a bit limited here, I admit that. You can make a point of not laughing at jokes. All those methods are equally available to, and used by, women and men. It is also possible to simply state your disagreement.

There are times when you challenge people, and times when you don't. There are times when you simply learn from the experience. And the noisy people need somebody equally noisy to silence them.


The speeches to Woman that I have heard were generally naive, bordering on (or downright) silly, but usually given in what I'd like to call a good mood. Positive, if you like. Or kind. The speeches to Man, now, could best be described as mean. Nasty. Yes, why not: sexist. And no, I don't think you change anything by ending it with: But never mind, we like you anyway, you're a great bunch.

Yeah. I don't like any kind of "Men are inherently [whatever]" because a) it's false and b) it's not fair to those who aren't and (frankly, more important-to-me-right-now) c) it feeds into the idea that therefore they can't help themselves so it's up to us women to police them, and that's the whole problem. If a given man is [whatever] then it's up to *him* to change.

I suspect that this is partly because women/people don't have a suitable terminology to speak well about Men. About a certain man or group of men, sure, but not about Men. It's not easy, in an age when we don't acknowledge any vital differences between men and women, beyond the purely sexual ones.

I don't believe in any vital differences (beyond the physiological) myself, so the idea of such speeches at all is weird for me and if I were arranging such an event I'd be so tempted to arrange for the speeches for Man and Woman to be switched. :-) But what you say about terminology: yes, absolutely. It is actually socially unacceptable to expect good behaviour from men. And that's just wrong.

However, there are ways to signal that you don't want to participate in a certain discussion, even if you are at a social event where you run the risk of making a fool of yourself. You can change the subject. You can turn away, and talk to someone else -- options are a bit limited here, I admit that. You can make a point of not laughing at jokes. All those methods are equally available to, and used by, women and men. It is also possible to simply state your disagreement.

My feeling is that I would really prefer that men state their disagreement explicitly rather than change the subject, if at all possible. Because not all men are going to realise that a change of subject = societal disapproval. Obviously if you're talking to your boss or the mayor or something, that's a lot harder; otoh if it's someone in power then it's all the more important that *someone* tell him. And if it's in the middle of someone's grieving memories at a funeral reception, that's awkward too, so...

Eh. Life is complicated, film at eleven. One does what one can, anyway.

if I were arranging such an event I'd be so tempted to arrange for the speeches for Man and Woman to be switched.

Do you mean: have a man give the speech to Man and a woman the one to Woman? Yes, that could be interesting. You'd have to choose the speakers carefully, though. :)

I interpreted it as: Take the speeches written for those two purposes and swap them, without telling the audience, so that what they hear as the speech to men was actually written to be the speech to women, and vice versa.

Ah, of course! Could be very interesting too...

(Now you made my imagination start working too early in the morning)

Thank you for posting this. I wish I had thinky thoughts to add, but I am, at the moment, a bit brainfried. However, I am earmarking it as something to bring up in possible Offline Project to Do Something.

In general – and this applies both to discrimination and to other matters – there seems to be a common feeling that there is a "correct" way to do something and then there is the way things are actually done, and if one strays to the "correct" way, one is frowned upon.

One example, which is totally unrelated to discrimination: I was the vice chair of an election committee in the European Parliament elections. In that capacity, I noticed an accidental breach of ballot confidentiality, and made the call to refuse the ballot. Afterward, the first comment one of the committee members made to me was: "Kaijanaho, you screwed up!" Later, he explained that I should consider whether it is worthwhile to enforce all the rules...

(It should be said that the person in question and I had a long discussion, and he said a lot of sensible things, and also helped me cope with my guilt. You see, I did screw up, but not in the way he meant: my emotional message was wrong in the situation, resulting in that voter refusing to vote again.)

I'm currently pondering the right response to an entirely non-hypothetical situation.

A writer on my flist put up, this morning, a long excerpt from a WIP. It is not under a LJ cut, so my first instinctive point - cut this shit, I don't want to see it' has already gone away, but still.

I found it ugly. It features a woman being kidnapped, blackmailed, physically and sexually assaulted, and that's just the start of it. And it's presented in terms of a sexual relationship - in language that makes it pretty clear that this is a) an erotic experience and b) a proper way for people to behave.

The intended readership seems to like it. (People in comments say the usual happy appreciative things - Love it, want more, great stuff etc.)

I found it greatly disturbing. It perpetuates many of the myths - he's a mythical beast who cannot help himself, he has a right to violate her so he can survive - and while I could have lived with the actions in a villain or even a redemption story, played out as erotic it just turned my stomach.

And... I'm not ready to have that discussion. I don't know this person (or persons - it's a husband and wife team behind the blog) well, and I lack the vocabulary to express the depth of my disgust with something that appears to register only as 'alpha male being alpha' with both writers and readers. (At least I hope that none of them would condone the sentiments that surface in the story, and I am reasonably certain that they will deny them, but I cannot unread this piece, and I cannot ungrasp the subtext, and... I also don't feel I can walk into somebody else's living room (read blog) and call them out on the glorification of assault.

You want me to go call them out instead? :-)

Hmm. At the least - if it were fanfic, it would be socially acceptable to demand that warnings be listed at the top; even with original fic, a request for trigger warnings seems reasonable.

If commenting in the blog feels awkward, a private message / email could be easier.

Argh, gotta get back to work, I'll get back to you.

Oh god, I can so sympathize.

I have an uncle who is writing a novel. Or has written - wevs.

it's a scifi fantasy type story

for teens

so, of course, he asked his wannabe ya librarian neice whose read fantasy since she was 8 or so to read it. And let him know what she thought.

O.o

what she thought wasn't typical family conversation, to say the least.

So instead she wrote a super long email asking just what kind of review was he looking for...and did he know that i am a crazy feminazi that eats sexist sci and fantasy writers for lunch? Did he still want to know what i thought? And maybe he should try reading some ya lit and realize that it is no longer 1960 something. Only i tried to be much more polite than that.

Or something like that anway.

I haven't heard anything back.

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