The tag lines from these poster series all turn the "obvious" interpretation inside out. For instance
Big text: "It was 2:00 A.M. I offered her a ride thinking you never know..." In tiny letters: "...if the guy who'd been after my friend all night might try something. No way I was taking off without her."
And I think that's pretty great! I appreciate that they're all like that -- that all have a "I'm watching out for her" theme where the standard social scripts would expect sexual violence.
And reallly, I don't want to see less of that. I'm not complaining, at all, about the good intentions. And it really, really is a good idea to keep an eye on each other.
But! I'd like to see some corresponding posters about intervening with the guys (and it's mostly guys) who are the implied threats the friends are being proactive about in the posters.
Because, seriously, each poster treats "those guys" as if they were unchangeable, unmovable Chthonic Gods of hearth and date rape. Instead of, you know, social beings who are subject to peer pressure, care about reputation, fear of seeming ignorant or stupid, threats to self-preservation, appeal to reason, etc., just like all other social beings are.
I particularly appreciated the "Don't Be That Guy" campaigns coming out of Canada. They're directed... well... directly at potential predators.
And yes, I completely understand that a disproportionate amount of sexual violence and coercion is perpetrated by a remarkably small percentage of predators. And I get that, by and large, those predators aren't going to be directly affected by any kind of appeals to their better nature or to guilt trips or peer pressure.
But! By tackling both sides of the perpetrator/victim problem, and not just the victim side, by setting those kinds clear social expectations in media we can still reduce the still very-large volume of assaults by the merely oblivious, ignorant, or intoxicated.
Which, in turn, will tend to make it much, much harder for the serial predators to "pass" as just one of the gang.
Final point, the other reason I'd like to see both sides addressed is that the tone of the ads is still a little patronizing: the whole "she can't help herself so I'll help her." It's really important to communicate that just because someone needs help they're not helpless. Because that kind of "good man gallantry" also perpetuates the attitude that without intervention women are fair game. Let's not be those guys either!
This is a long post, for which I apologize. But it's... bad. --tfl
Barge around one of those "men's rights" websites long enough and you're bound to find some asswipe so incensed by the very idea that he might have been "cuckolded" that he'll assert with callous passion that he'd abandon a dependent child if he felt he wasn't the "real" father. Because the most mature, "manly" thing you can possibly do when your fee-fees are hurt by an adult partner is to crush the emotional life out of little children who, like all children, make the only father they know the center of their universe.
I previously believed these men to be the biggest monsters in civilization and that anyone who even advocated doing such a thing, let alone committed something such a heinous crime against humanity should have DNR tattooed on his face so that paramedics and emergency room staff wouldn't bother resuscitating him should he ever come under their care.
Now I've heard of something even worse.
For nearly 30 years the London police routinely "deployed" undercover cops to infiltrate non-violent protest groups like Greenpeace and routinely supervised sexual relationships with female activists as part of their "infiltration."
These "infiltrations" lasted sometimes for years. One married officer, involved with a targeted non-violent activist for six years, attended couples therapy with his own real-life wife while simultaneously going to another couples therapist with his victim. Another, over the course of a decade, had serial multi-year romantic and/or sexual relationships with three members of a non-violent animal-rights or environmental group.
Another officer is alleged to have not only formed a relationship with a member of a (non-violent, remember) anti-war group but fathered a child with her!
That doesn't necessarily make him the worst kind of monster.
What does make it very bad is that when the police chose to terminate their investigations the undercover cops were obliged to abandon the intimate, often sexual, sometimes parental relationships they'd formed with their victims, again, over many years.
But you know what? That they did abandon their victims and the children they fathered and presumably helped raise, also possibly for years, was plenty bad enough, and certainly qualified them as... well... unqualified monsters. But even that didn't make them the worst kind of monsters.
Because rather than admit "oh, by the way, I don't love you. I've never loved you. I don't care about our friends -- in fact I only took up with you to betray them. I don't care about your parents, whom I've met and spent holidays together with you with. And I don't even care about the son or daughter I've fathered with you" the fucking miserable cowards were coached to, get this, being pretending to have deep depression and then to disappear with stories about needing to "find themselves." Perhaps by taking jobs overseas." And then erasing all traces of their non-existent former lives. Leaving their erestwhile partners humanly worried about them, concerned for them, sometimes spending years searching for them. And, of course, no doubt trying to explain to their children what's happened to Daddy.
It's that part. Nominally responsible police supervisors coaching agents to behave like the worst stereotypes of Peter-fucking-Pan "can't find yourself" male irresponsibility as the way to "extract" themselves from these undercover long-term relationships. That's what takes them across the threshold from everyday callous asshole monsters and into over the top unbeatable monsters.
SWEET mother of pearl!
Check out this YouTube transcript of the officers and members of Parliament left trying to sort it all out. The conversation between the blithe cops and incredulous MPs is just surreal!
Here's a quick and dirty transcript.
Q: What happens if a child is born as... has been alleged? What happens? Where's the responsibility for that?
A: Well, those individual cases are clearly going to be explored by the court.
Q: No... [back talk] What obligations are there for the men if a child were [pause] from a preapproved liason?
A: You're taking my words in a slightly different way. I did say, absolutely, that preauthorization, we don't do that today about relationships. Not ordinarily.
Q: What do you mean by "not ordinarily?"
A: If people become involved in a relationship it has to come back to the supervisor.
Q: The thing is, if a supervising officer knows about a sexual relationship, and a child is born from that relationship, then the Met has some... responsibility [garbled] that child, because that police officer will be using a false name that child has some sort of right to know the correct legal name of their father.
A: Our expectation is people will not engage in long-term relationships. [back chatter] They will not get involved in long term relationships and get involved in the sort of things you're describing... and are well documented in terms of those sorts of things.
Elsewhere another legislator asks "What advice does the supervisor give in those circumstances, to the officer, one to protect the employee as well as the other party involved, who very well may be a suspect but more likely might not be a suspect, because the relationship is there.
Mark Jenner lived with a woman under a fake name. Now she has testified to MPs about the ‘betrayal and humiliation’ she felt
He was a burly, funny scouser called Mark Cassidy. His girlfriend – a secondary school teacher he shared a flat with for four years – believed they were almost “man and wife”. Then, in 2000, as the couple were discussing plans for the future, Cassidy suddenly vanished, never to be seen again.
An investigation by the Guardian has established that his real name is Mark Jenner. He was an undercover police officer in the Metropolitan police’s special demonstration squad (SDS), one of two units that specialised in infiltrating protest groups.
His girlfriend, whose story can be told for the first time as her evidence to a parliamentary inquiry is made public, said living with a police spy has had an “enormous impact” on her life.
“It has impacted seriously on my ability to trust, and that has impacted on my current relationship and other subsequent relationships,” she said, adopting the pseudonym Alison. “It has also distorted my perceptions of love and my perceptions of sex.”
Alison is one of four women to testify to the House of Commons home affairs select committee last month.
According to another article an alleged police officer named Mark Kennedy...
... was at her grandmother's 90th birthday where he seemed very "comfortable".
Lily's mother said: "He seemed absolutely devoted to my daughter. He used to stay here, slob around, watching TV with us, all that stuff that you do in a relaxed way with people in the family".
"These shadowy figures were presumably making decisions about my dinner dates and whether or not I was going to spend the night with my boyfriend, reading emails, listening to phone calls - deeply personal stuff."
It's not clear whether all agents involved in these sexual relationships with members of target groups were men, but at best they were the clear majority. As yet another Guardian article says "Ten women and one man have launched a legal action claiming they were tricked into forming deeply personal relationships with the police spies. The women say they were duped into forming long-term, sexual relationships lasting years with undercover officers."
There's just... everything wrong with this story!
For those of us into consent, the false pretenses, reports of sex back to supervisors, coaching and training by supervisors, and on and on amount to absolutely clear cut violations of consent. In the U.S. anyway, they'd be actionable crimes of assault and/or criminal seduction.
For those of us opposed to that pesky social construction of gender, it's appalling that police would have calculatedly manufactured -- literally constructed! -- egregiously gendered male lassitude, depression, flight, and abandonment as their routine means of removing agents from their surveillance roles.
And if, as has been alleged publicly and seems to be documented in closed hearings, some agents actually fathered and then abandoned children in the course of their "duties" then virtually no social, legal, economic, or even corporal punishment would be adequate to the monstrosity of such behavior either by the "agents" themselves or, perhaps worse, by their knowing supervisors. Such behavior is beyond intolerable.
One last point, and it's an important one in terms of the history of feminism and men in feminism: These alleged events took place in England in the early 1980s, by men (policing back then was still mostly men) who came of age in or before modern laws about sexual assault, seduction, or male responsibility were much more than the theories of "cranky women's libbers." That today even the police themselves are uncomfortable with the allegations (See "More squirming from police chiefs today when the question of the long-term or sexual relationships between undercover officers and activists arose in public.") and are equally quick to point out that such egregious, criminal-in-any-other-circumstances behavior would no longer be condoned. That at one point it was condoned -- not just the romantic and sexual relations, and not only actual fathering of children, but coordinated abandonment of those relationships and those children -- shows how genuinely awful pre-feminist men could be. And helps explain why, in turn, those nominally infamous "angry feminists" of the era in turn might have had actual reason to be.
But more to the point, in terms of gender equality and men, can you imagine the kind of twisted horror men were raised in back then that they could blithly abandon not only social, romantic, sexual, or even familial relationships but actual parental ones? When you hear anti-feminists talking about "the good old days when men could be men," that's the kind of men they were talking about: men so amputated of humanity that they amounted to sociopaths! Thanks but no thanks!
Language Log author, joint professor of linguistics and computer and informational sciences, and gender stereotype curmudgeon Mark Liberman crops up another example of the persistence of gender stereotypes...
You know all the times that men complain about women talking too much? Apparently there's a biological explanation for the reason why women are chattier than men. Scientists have discovered that women possess higher levels of a "language protein" in their brains, which could explain why females are so talkative.
Previous research has shown that women talk almost three times as much as men. In fact, an average woman notches up 20,000 words in a day, which is about 13,000 more than the average man. In addition, women generally speak more quickly and devote more brainpower to speaking. Yet before now, researchers haven't been able to biologically explain why this is the case.
There has never been any "study" showing that "women talk almost three times as much as men", although the "research" in question has been cited by dozens of science writers, relationship counselors, celebrity preachers, and other people in the habit of claiming non-existent authoritative support for their personal impressions;
Real-world studies of gender differences in language use indicate that men and women are about equally talkative. One large, relatively recent study (M.R. Mehlet al., "Are Women Really More Talkative Than Men?", Science, 317(5834) p. 82 July 5, 2007) found essentially equal counts of about 16,000 words per day in six samples of university students in the U.S. and Mexico.
Just a little editorial note here from a guy who studied the history and philosophy of science in college: The lead researcher who's lab has found increased levels of a protein encoded by a gene called FOXP2 in little girls is claiming, for television cameras, that this "explains" why women talk more than men. Except, of course, people like Mark Liberman who research and measure how much men and women actually speak say, have said, and (based on computational surveys of databases of thousands of recorded conversations. And except, of course, that the one single researcher who made the original claim based, evidently, on zero actual research, retracted her claim the day after it hit the newspapers. (Turns out she may have gotten it from... a flipping puff piece in Cosmopolitan, which in turn got it from idle speculation from a... televangelist!!!) And except, of course, that the FOXP2 guy who's in the news today has been told and thus knows for a fact that women actually don'ttalk three times as much as men do.
Well so what? I mean except that it's a 100% falsehood that persists because for those who are completely invested in gender stereotyping the information is "fabricated but true." So again, so what?
Well. The guy really has detected elevated levels of that protein in little girls. And there really might be a reason for it. (Remember, I'll never say there are no differences between the sexes -- see, oh, say, penises and vulvas!) But if the guy's going to just go grab the first stereotype that crosses his mind, as he does here, and says "that explains it," and if the "explanation" is actually, um, a complete lie, then... whatever the real reason might be for those differing protein levels will go unexplored, unreported, and un-further-researched. Which is really a shame. Because the real reason, which we might never know because the fake one is so satisfying to gender bigots, might actually be interesting, useful, and even productive.
Point being here that gender stereotypes aren't just abstractly counterproductive. They get in the way of real science, real work, and real... um... reality!
Going even further, this kind of gleeful disregard for truth in favor of acknowledged bullshit raises the question what other human progress is our fondness for stereotypes interfering with? What other bullshit about, oh, say, men is propagated by assumptions that we already "know" so well we don't bother to find out? What other bullshit about women? Of children? Of trans people? And so on?
The only good news? Other people have been studying the FOXP2 gene for years. You'll just never hear about them on the Today Show or from Glenn Beck, though, because their findings don't luridly reinforce bullshit stereotypes about how men are "less fortunate" in their language skills or how women are "compulsive chatty cathys.") $%!@#!*&!!!!
Ever wonder if men are "socially constructed?" A lot of people think that's feminist claptrap. But if so then why did it become a huge trending item on both Google and Twitter when Tim Gunn mentioned he'd been celibate for 29 years? I wrote this at my other blog a while back. Andrew Sullivan linked to the original. I'm reposting it here.
The original article is kind of a piece of work. The reporter (and, evidently tens of thousands of people querying Google) are somewhere between shock, fascination, and denial that the Project Runway co-host hasn't had sex since the early 1980s. All the more so because Gunn says it hasn't been a very big deal for him.
The real hoot is that people who (correctly) don't bat an eye that Gunn's last relationship was with a man nevertheless disapprove of his failure to be sexual at all for three decades.
Another weird thing about the original article is that the reporter asked, of all people, a surgeon who specializes almost exclusively in women's health and sexuality to opine on Gunn's "condition." (You'd think they could find at least one psychologist or urologist in LA who regularly sees gay men. Or men period.)
...Gunn's 29-year, self-imposed dry spell was "not a natural state."
Berman said that, if she were treating Gunn, she'd like to know: Does he continue to be celibate by choice -- or out of fear? For example, she said, if we lived in a magical world where sexually transmitted diseases and AIDS were not an issue ... would Gunn still abstain from sexual intimacy?
"It's not a natural sort of decision, nor is it biological or physiological -- we are not wired that way," she said. "It sounds like there are issues relating to trust," she added.
Look, I don't want to single out Berman, or even the reporter, and certainly not all the people who think this is just earth-shattering news. Imagine, a man! Who doesn't have sex! Inconceivable! Almost intolerable!* But that whole "man must boink" business is as clearly socially constructed as a Windsor tie. What's really chilling is that a man who doesn't "boink" isn't just weird, he's broken and wrong and by gum we'd better fix him or else really break him!
Call it the opposite of the other obligatory gender construction, "slut shaming." A man who, when given a choice to take it or leave it picks "leave it" ought to be ashamed of himself. And the only reason people don't shame the crap out of them is there are just a whole lot more places to hide, and a whole lot fewer witnesses (how does one witness not doing it anyway?)
There are a lot of really bad consequences to this assumption that "man must boink." Really bad. And given that, going back as far as the late 1970s researchers have notice that as many as 15% of adult men really would rather not, that's a lot of potential bad stuff. For instance you know that eternal "joke" about how 90% of men masturbate and the other 10% are liars? If you're not one of the 100% who everyone "knows" wants sex then you're going one of a couple of ways, none of them very good and some really bad. For instance you might do really ugly stereotype-ish things because you're trying to "pass." Or you might take the prim/prudish path and say all sex is sin and should only be done "for reproduction." If that. Or you might just lie a lot. But since we live in a misogynist culture pretty much all the ways of "passing" involve misogyny, and since people trying to pass tend to be over the top then, yeah, you can end up with a lot of over-the-top misogyny.
Most of which (though not all) could be mitigated (though probably not eliminated) if the asshats at USAToday and "experts" from the L.A. Times would keep their ignorant, stereotype-enforcing pie holes shut.
A few years ago I got a brainstorm from one of Twisty Faster's posts and decided that in a lot of ways it makes more sense to say that men are the "sex class" (meaning they're the class constructed to be reflexively, uncontrollably, obligately sexual) while women might be better designated as the "no sex" class where it's simultaneously inconceivable and intolerable that a woman would ever experience, let alone admit, sexual interest. In either case, people who don't fit their respective stereotypes aren't just thought to be somewhere on the normal bell curve, and they're not just considered maybe a little quirky, and they're not maybe just in a less-obvious part of the population, they're broken, sick, wrong, and actually kind of a threat. One that needs to be "mended," or explained away or even outright denied.
The opprobrium heaped on Gunn just makes the case. He's male but not obligately sexual and he's suddenly weirder than if he had three buttocks.
More proof, by the way, that society's patriarchal. And classed. And gendered.
Me? I'm not on the same part of the bell curve as Gunn but since my first trip through a gym lockerroom in 7th grade I've experienced intense pressure not just to "be a man" but to be compulsively sexual. Sexual's fine -- I like being sexual -- but compulsively? No, that's not been good at all -- it pushed me into places I'd rather not have gone, before I was ready to go there, and I'm just continuing to confront, over and over, the places that pressure told me to go that I really should never have gone and wish I hadn't.
I wish Tim Gunn and all the other asexual and unsexual people in the world the best of luck, sure, but even more I wish they got a little more understanding too. Actually, more than that, earnestly hope someday they'll be as tolerated and accepted as "not broken" as anybody else.
Ugg. Sorry about the rant. Hope it doesn't sound like man'splaining, it's just... I've got a lot of frustration about this. And I'm really glad you brought it up, Jill, because if we're ever going to get out of the patriarchy/gender trap (I know we have different opinions about whether we can) we're going to have to get people to stop contemplating psychiatric "fixes" for men who don't fit the "and the other 10% are lying" stereotype.
People want to believe men "think with their little head" so badly it hurts. Us.
Iowa Dentist James "I'm a man so I just can't control myself" Knight, DDS, may have won his wrongful termination case, but his former assistant, Melissa Nelson, should have a pretty strong case for a sexual harassment suit even if Iowa says being "too hot" isn't grounds for unlawful termination. Katy Waldman of Slate Magazine has the scoop. (Italics mine.)
Every particle of me wants to disagree with the Iowa court that today protected a male boss’s right to fire an employee simply because he finds her “irresistible.” The court (all men) ruled 7-0 in favor of a dentist, James Knight, who terminated Melissa Nelson, a ten-year member of his staff, in the interests of saving his marriage. Things Nelson had not done: flirt, behave inappropriately. Things she had: exchanged personal but Platonic text messages with the 53-year-old Knight (whom she says she regarded as a “father figure”), worn clothing that “distracted” him.
On a legal level, though, Knight’s defense appears pretty airtight. His lawyers bat away the charge of gender discrimination by claiming that their client let Nelson go not because she was a woman, but because her ineffable attractiveness threatened his marriage. This is lame, but valid in the eyes of the law: Bosses are allowed to fire workers for stupid emotional/family reasons, such as to mollify one’s wife or eliminate nest-wrecking temptations. In his decision, Justice Edward Mansfield observes that Knight replaced Nelson with another female staff member, which would imply his motives were not purely sexist. And if Knight were bisexual and Nelson an alluring young man, presumably the dentist would have resorted to the same infuriating—but legal—tactics. (On the other hand, might Nelson have a case against Knight for sexual harassment? According to an AP report, he once told her that “if his pants were bulging,” she should take it as a “sign her clothes were too revealing.” Also that her “infrequent sex life” was “like having a Lamborghini in the garage and never driving it.” Ick.)
That sounds about right -- for better or worse being "too hot" doesn't seem to be a protected class, and for better or worse the court is right that it's not gender specific. But it also sounds like Nelson shouldn't have had to put up with the kind of hostile environment Knight seems to have created for her.
Here's the statute, by the way:
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when
submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment,
submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individuals, or
such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
(29 C.F.R. § 1604.11 )
Items #2 and #3 sound like they fit the bill. Knight's conduct towards Nelson was used as the basis for employment decisions... such as whether Knight continued to employ her, period! And an environment where one is fired because one's employer can't stop texting you about his "bulging" pants sounds like the very definition of unreasonable interference with someone's work performance!
We'll leave it as an exercise for the reader whether the message Knight chose to send by, frankly, appealing to stereotypes of male helplessness in the face of sexual "provocation" was really the best way to handle either a) a professional employment situation b) a marital issue with his wife or c) a not-for-cause termination of a 10-year employee.
I mean, yeah, I guess, it worked in the sense that he evaded one lawsuit. But what a humiliating surrender to male-gender indoctrination! Hard to see how that's going to work out for him.