Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Things that don't help

This isn't about being pessimistic, because tomorrow will be about things that could help, but unhelpful suggestions seem to come up more often. I believe that's because there are a lot of false assumptions and misunderstanding of the issues. If we examine the flawed thinking, perhaps the thinking will improve.

Back when I read Susan Brownmiller's Against Our Will, her solution to the problem was essentially that all women need to take urban defense classes. If we all know how to knee and gouge and hold our keys so that we are ready to stab with them, then we can be safe.

I loved this idea, because with that learning of self-defense there would be increased confidence and a feeling of power, and a reminder that your body is not just decor and an object for attraction, but it's you, and you can do things!

Not long after I saw a reasonable argument that the onus of preventing rape should not be on women; expecting women to prevent attacks can be a flip side to victim-blaming.

I still like the idea of encouraging women to take some kind of martial arts, for the other reasons, but there are flaws beyond the potential of "Why haven't you taken any kickboxing classes?" becoming the new "What were you wearing?"

Martial arts training may help some people not freeze, but freezing is a thing that can happen. It may not help people with disabilities, and they are targeted a lot. It may not help women who have been drugged. You can try watching your drink and even wearing the special roofie-detecting nail polish, but it can be so easy to miss something, and some people are really good at helping you miss it.

Self-defense training may not take effect soon enough to prevent childhood sexual abuse. It may not be enough in the event of a weapon, or multiple assailants.

Also, one actual way in which Against Our Will has become kind of outdated is that it focused on stranger rape. Sometimes strangers leap out from alleys, but that's not the most likely situation. It may be harder to gouge the eyes of someone you know, even as they attack you.

Also, let's remember that this discussion has not only been about rape. Think about sexual harassment in the workplace; hitting your creepy supervisor in the throat is going to get you fired. I'm not hearing a lot of stories of women who reported sexual harassment and saw appropriate consequences to the harasser, so I find it unlikely that they will be supportive of you taking your own action.

This lack of action is not due to lack of proof, or recording every interaction could be the answer. As it is, there is a recording of Harvey Weinstein admitting that he groped Ambra Battilana, and it didn't matter. This should not be surprising. Police have been using body cameras for a while, and not only do they not appear to affect police behavior, they do not result in convictions for criminal behavior. Lack of knowledge is not the issue.

I addressed the problems with trying to get all meetings to happen at restaurants last week, but I have seen two stories this week that relate to it. In one, an actress was propositioned in the restaurant, played it off, but then the producer wanted a ride to his car, and she didn't feel she could refuse. At one point she thought, "This is it; I'm going to get raped", but all he did was fiddle with her dress for a while. Still dehumanizing, but ultimately a relief.

However, when a restaurant was too noisy and an interview needed to be moved, David Schwimmer offered to get the reporter a third person to be in the room so she did not have to worry.

That can serve as a reminder that clearly men do know about the issues, but is also a reminder that intent is a bigger problem than circumstances. There are ways of twisting circumstances, if you are motivated.

And that's something to remember in light of concerns about "witch hunts" and educating men. I'm sure there are some who make things worse ignorantly, but there are predators, and there are people who find it easier not to deal with predators because it upsets the status quo.

Solutions that put all of the responsibility on the people most at risk are popular for the very same reasons that they are ineffective. Anything helpful is going to need to look at addressing structure.

No comments: