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Ronin bouncers, and risk management

December 18, 2012

Maybe I really should try working with some planned procrastination. The easiest way to (finally) scoop up after the dog, plunge the annoying side of the kitchen sink and clean it out, and take care of the dishes I’d put off because yucky sink? Sit down with the idea of writing something.  Now I’m delaying making a quick trip to the corner shop. *wry smile*

I’d actually been planning to write about something different (now that I’m back!), but ran across a good piece through a (private, so no link there) G+ community:

“Okay, so here’s why girls don’t get flattered when guys comment on their bodies.”  

I would think this would be pretty obvious to any thinking human being, but obviously not everybody has needed to think about it. The whole piece is good, but one part prompted me here:

My experience is pretty common. Girls start getting unwanted attention at a young age, and it happens for the rest of our lives. Men yell things at us on the street and invade our personal space on the bus or trolley when there are plenty of other seats. They try to look up our skirts when we sit down. They don’t listen when we try to rebuff them. We see reports of yet another girl raped on her way home last weekend, another woman whose body was found in a ditch. We’re told not to go out alone at night, to take someone with us even if we’re only driving to the store or the library or the gas station. We’re told to carry our keys like weapons, to park in the lot instead of the structure because it’s better to get rained on than raped and murdered. We’re told not to walk alone even during the day. We’re told close friends might rape us if they’ve had a bit to drink because they’re men, that it’s wrong, but it happens sometimes and we should be on our guard.

Imagine hearing that from the age of five. Imagine being told from childhood that men are more likely to hurt you than women are. Imagine knowing that, though you might be smart and well-trained, men will almost always be bigger and stronger than you, and you wouldn’t be able to beat most of them in a full-on fight. I can best my brother at arm-wrestling, yeah, but that doesn’t have many practical applications.

Now, as I briefly mentioned in an endnote on a recent post, my personal experience is very different there. I did grow up with a reasonable expectation that I could beat the crap out of most men. (Not so much when there are three or four of them, as harassers and other flavors of bullies tend to gang up, though.) I’m not a small person, and got some self-defense training at home; I’m also quick and wolverine-vicious when cornered. (Know thyself…) It still horrifies me to think that there are so many women who are trying to go about their business with this totally reasonable background fear for their physical safety.

As a side note, I have actually meant to write something about feeling very uncomfortable at having become more cautious and verging on timid with things like going out alone after dark (which is about 4 p.m. here, this time of year), living in an area with fairly high population density–and thus more potential human threats. I had no qualms whatsoever about walking around a smallish college town at all hours, even living near a campus full of street-harassing assholes. (I’m also an extreme night owl, so yeah, this is even more frustrating.) Where I’m living now, I was tending to do it anyway, until one really creepy incident when I was walking the dog about 2 a.m. and a car full of creepers slowly, silently, followed us down a deserted street. I don’t intimidate easily, but that was terrifying. I also just don’t open the door to strangers anymore when I’m home alone, after letting in one meter reader (we have both gas and electric inside, under the stairs) that I am still fairly sure only didn’t attack me because I was bigger than he was and very carefully not turning my back on him, because creepy vibes and inappropriate “compliments”. Neither scenario is something you are likely to run into every day, but the risk is definitely there.

So, now I fight feeling bad over “giving into fear” through risk management.*

I find it frustrating. One of the hard things for me about having developed a physical disability is being very, very aware that I’m not in very good physical shape right now, to defend myself if it becomes necessary. I’ve lost an awful lot of strength, with bones that are probably still fragile, and often walk with a cane which probably makes too many creeps think “sitting duck”–and this has really brought home how much store I was putting in the ability to fight predators off if required. And how much the possibility of running into them tends to linger at the back of the mind. I am also painfully aware of being less likely to get needed backup from any passers-by, if I should run into problems, than I would expect back home.

It’s kind of the flip side of the common theme the OP’s author was talking about. Nobody should have to feel a need for that kind of hypervigilance, whether or not they feel capable of dealing with (some) potential physical threats. Nobody should have to worry about the various kinds of victim blaming there, including the  “Why didn’t you kick him in the balls?” style I grew up hearing way too much of.

One of these days, I may actually get around to writing more about the problem with creepers, and how their creepy behavior gets tolerated and excused way too much, coming from (AFAICT) a combo of differential respect due (sexism, in this case), bystander effect**, and the surplus helplessness that helps feed it. Another big topic it’s hard to tackle. But, I could really identify with this quote from a comment on a Scalzi post about the whole Readercon mess:

I have spent time at conventions the last several years doing almost nothing but protecting the younger people in my group from unwanted harassment–especially on the days they want to wear the costumes they’ve been working on all year–so often I’m seriously thinking of just hiring myself out as a ronin bouncer. Not that I haven’t been the victim a few times myself, back in the day when I was younger and thinner, but now nothing puts the brakes on a douche-canoe faster than some 250 lb bald woman in a black t-shirt telling him loudly to back the hell off.

The thing is I shouldn’t have to be doing this. I should be able to go to a convention and actually attend, see things, talk to people–not have to be my own one-woman freelance police department because I can’t trust the con to do the job for me. It’s been this way for years.

Readercon does not surprise me in the least. More’s the pity. It may just become synonymous with other great moments of harassment like Penn State and Tailhook.

(Plus comment from an e-mail) Ronin bouncers FTW! According to my mother’s plan (and not just hers, unfortunately), it’s just all unbalanced Titlvgvnahita*** responsibility all the time, for those than can handle it, so as not to let other women down–et pour encourager les autres asshats. Not exactly an adequate way to deal with systemic problems, no… (/comment)

I should probably point out, too, that I am all for trying to find nonviolent solutions to problems, and trying to make nonviolent communication work. I have had trouble with, quite frankly, acting like a PTSD-driven nutter at times when I was younger; not a pleasant way to live, or to relate to other people.  And it’s frustrating when using nonviolent methods becomes very, very difficult at times, thanks to some of these expectations. Plus dealing with clueless assholes who refuse to leave other people in peace, short of the equivalent of “some 250 lb bald woman in a black t-shirt telling him loudly to back the hell off”, while purposely looming like the Hulk.

Unfortunate situation, all around. Including the tendency for people who have not needed to think so much in terms of risk management dealing with other humans to keep insisting that it’s all irrational, and possibly personally insulting to the Good Guys. No worries; I’m not going to rehash all the purposely clueless backlash against, say, Schrödinger’s Rapist or any other attempts at pointing out that there are, indeed, some problems here. Urgh.


* See also: VICTIM BLAMING, THREATS, AND RISKS: Why the Debate Over Victim Blaming is a Misunderstanding of the Difference Between Threat and Risk. I didn’t mean to also paste in that graphic, but will just leave it.

For example, people who drink and drive are threats. Awareness campaigns designed to make drinking and driving socially “unacceptable” and revoking the driving licenses of offenders are threat management actions. Being extra vigilant while driving on Friday and Saturday nights is risk management. Wearing a seat belt is risk management.

In this example, being in an accident with a drunk driver is a symptom or a risk of the social disease (threat) of drinking and driving. Eliminating the practice of drinking and driving (threat) would also eliminate the risk of being hit by a drunk driver.

** OK, I can’t resist throwing in a quick quote here, after all:

I was in a Rite Aid in mid-town Manhattan and stood in line forever. Some extremely smelly guy was attempting to buy two tall boy quarts of Coors.  He was pissed because the lady wasn’t going to sell them to him because he was drunk.  When she turned around, he simply got them and started walking toward the door.  I was standing in his way and he said in a gruff and rude voice, “MOVE!”  I said, “No–pay for the beer asshole.”  He suddenly became worried and tried to get around me.  I continued to block him and he changed his tone and wanted to be my best friend.  Yeah right buddy.  Take a fucking bath and give up booze–you clearly can’t handle it.  A large black man in charge of security arrived and took care of the prospective thief.  The amazing thing, NOBODY even noticed what had happened or acknowledged anything.

Back in West Virginia about four people would have jumped in and helped detain the guy, then we would have talked among ourselves about
it for 15 minutes.

15 minutes is a conservative estimate, IME. 😉 People violate the social contract like that, they will get people coming down on them like several tons of bricks, then discussing their gall and apparent lack of raising at some length. Sometimes the response seems like a bit of overkill, but yeah.

I  had to laugh when I ran across that one, because I have seen pretty much the exact scenario play out as he describes. With a small teenage checkout girl in a grocery store lunging across the counter and tackling some frat boy who tried to smuggle a six-pack of beer out under his shirt, then turned very insulting and started cussing at her when she suggested he might want to pay for that. He ended up with at least six customers on him, very quickly; I was too far back in line to get up there myself. (General frustration with shitty-acting frat boys probably helped there.) Then there was the drunk dude who started beating on his girlfriend outside a restaurant near the Roanoke City Market, and wound up in the hospital himself. Then there was the horrible stalky (older, non-student) ex who came in and tried to shoot a girl I was in high school with during lunch, in the cafeteria. He ended up under a huge dogpile before he could let off any shots, with everyone at the tables near him jumping on him, and I think he also ended up in the hospital. (Unfortunately, he did eventually kill her after she went back to her job in a restaurant.) Then there’s the perv who tried to snatch me off a park playground when I was a toddler, and parent dogpile. And so on.

But, yeah, that is the kind of bystander effect I am used to seeing, which is totally unlike what you get in New York or London (or so many other places/cultures). I doubt that the difference in per capita crime rates (violent and property both–discussed briefly in the endnotes there) is totally unrelated. Again with the low expectations, and the (“surplus helplessness”-based) idea that somebody else is magically supposed to do something about problems.

*** “They have just become offended”, indeed. 😀 (From the same e-mail to Mr. U, who enjoys puns.)
“Gilahi is short for an ancient Titlvgvnahita, the warrior womens society, meaning something that grows from the back of the neck.”

Yeah, I think we’re dealing with two different organizations, and somebody was having some punning fun at some point.
“The Kilpatricks say that it means, ‘They have just become offended’.”

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