Monday, June 24, 2013

How to deal with sexism

This post is loosely connected to my previous post, but frankly, there's just so much content available along these lines, that I couldn't fit everything into one. Indeed, I'm barely scratching the surface even now.

How do we deal with sexism? How do we deal with misogyny? Dan Cardamon, in the video above, uses humor.

If you're not familiar with 'Elevatorgate,' it was that tempest in a teapot when Rebecca Watson dared to suggest that it made her uncomfortable to be propositioned by a stranger in a hotel elevator - just the two of them, at 4 AM, in a foreign country.

Oh, 'men's rights activists' had a fit! How dare she suggest such a thing! And believe it or not, they're still upset about it. This is an actual comment on the above video:
Many men feel deeply uncomfortable and depressed if a woman even remotely suggests that they are scary or threatening. Where is your concern for the feelings of these men? Why should the feelings of the woman count more than of the rejected man?

Funny, huh? But those comments he shows in this video clip aren't nearly so funny. Yes, those are actual comments directed at Rebecca Watson - indeed, just a small part of the vicious response that she's endured since then. Incredible, isn't it? Do you wonder why so many women are afraid to speak up?

If a woman feels uncomfortable, she has the right to say that, no matter what. Maybe every woman wouldn't feel that way, I don't know. But if so,... so what? What is there in what she said to bring on such rage in men? She didn't even identify the man, let alone accuse him of being a rapist. She just suggested that men not do that kind of thing, because it makes her uncomfortable.

Was he a rapist? I have no idea. Probably not, I suppose, but I don't know. How could I? But as I said, she didn't claim that he was. She has never claimed that he was. And note that she doesn't need a reason to feel uncomfortable. However, if she did, how about this situation?

That's almost identical, a woman at a conference in a foreign country, a woman who let one of the conference people into her room to talk,... and was nearly raped by him.
Guy wants to come hang out. That’s fine by me. I don’t really have any good friends at this conference, and I’m always open to making more friends since I travel so much and it can get really lonely. I had had dinner with this guy, another speaker, and one of the conference organizers a couple times earlier in the week since I had arrived early for training. He seemed pretty cool. He wasn’t bad looking either. Why not? Guy comes up to my room. I let him in. We talk for a little bit about nothing consequential. Guy jumps on me and pins me down. At which point I think, “Gee this guy seems to have gotten the complete wrong idea about this situation.” I try to pull away and say something to affect of, “You know I really like to get to know people before I do stuff like that.” This certainly wasn’t the first time someone had tried to touch me when I wasn’t receptive. That said I’d always been able to either say “No thank you,” and or physically remove myself from the situation. ...

Perhaps I was not making myself clear, “No!” “Stop!” “I don’t want to do this!” Though the guy in question had carried on a conversation in English just fine as well as performed talks and training in English, perhaps he just couldn’t understand me when I tried to explain I’m a boring person who likes to get to know someone before intimacy. Also I like to begin with kissing and work my way up to the pants down action he was trying to initiate. Once he had my pants down and his pants down and was completely ignoring my shouting for him to stop, it suddenly became clear to me what was about to go down. If I didn’t do something I was going to be raped without protection in a foreign country. I was unsure of what legal and medical help would be available to me. I could catch a disease. I could need an abortion. Do they have the morning after pill in Poland? Do they have whatever it is they give you if you have been potentially exposed to HIV? I decided it wasn’t going to go down that way, not if I could help it.

He was holding my arms down of course, so I leaned up and bit him on the arm as hard as I could, at which point he started swearing and punched me in the face. There was a good deal of struggle, at one point I had my phone and was trying to get in touch with someone I knew at the event while not live tweeting what was going on. He got a hold of my phone and threw it across the room. I hit him in the face but all that did was piss him off more. He slammed me against the wall. I hit my head pretty hard and felt dizzy. Up until now I’d only feared for my chastity, but now I realized this could be even worse than that. He obviously had no qualms about injuring me to get what he wanted. That was about it. I had been hitting the wall with my fist so hard my knuckles were bruised the next day because I knew another speaker was in that room. If between my shouting and banging I could get his attention surely he would help me. I assume he was still at the speaker party. No help was going to come. This was going to happen. I nearly got away half a dozen times, but one time I managed to lunge up towards the table and grab hold of a coffee cup. I knew I only had one shot. So I hit him with everything I had, and I got him right in the temple. And guess what, he let me go. He keeled over in pain clutching his head swearing at me. Even in the dark I could see the blood gushing from his face.

I'm a man. Do you know how infuriating that makes me feel? Have you ever been to a conference? Have you ever had to worry about rape? Have you ever had to worry about rape anywhere? Not if you're a man, like me. Not if you've stayed out of prison, at least.

I've always gone everywhere without a care. I've been to conferences. I've felt free to drink all I wanted. (I went to one work-related conference which had a free bar - funded by commercial interests - which lasted for 48 hours straight. Anything you wanted, free, for two whole days. Yeah, that was sure professional, huh?)

I've mingled with conference organizers, speakers, and guests. I've gone to hotel rooms. I've had people come to my hotel room. I've never, ever - not once - ever worried about being raped. I'm a man. And I can't tell you how much it pisses me off that women do have to worry about things like that (as well as lesser sexual assault, and sexist behavior in general).

But if you think that pisses me off, the story gets worse:
Conference staff was originally very supportive. But then they went to hear his side of the story and they suddenly wouldn’t even look at me. I realize it’s a complicated situation, but what I hit myself in the eye? I asked an organizer point blank if he believed me, and he said he didn’t know. I don’t know what the guy’s story is, but from the police and the conference’s refusal to act, I assume it’s pretty convincing. Hotel staff pulled the security tapes. Someone I thought was a friend of mine watched them with hotel staff. The general jist I got from the interaction was because I was on the tape letting him into my room, walking in the hallway with him, etc. I must be lying. Where in any of that did I consent to unprotected sex, being hit, etc?

The interesting stuff is the reactions. The people who say things like, “This isn’t what I think of course, but I bet a lot of people don’t believe you because you flirt on Twitter,” or “Everyone saw you kiss so and so at this party, so of course no one believes you didn’t want to have sex with that guy.” The implication is I think a bit disturbing. If I pursue a relationship with one guy, I have now consented to sex with any guy? I realize the typical argument is that a girl wearing a short skirt is asking to be attacked. But this seems to go a little further than that even. Because I from time to time express myself in a provocative manner, there was no attack at all. I have consented to any sexual thing any human being wants to do to me ever. Of course reasonable people should see that this is complete nonsense. “I watched the security footage. You let him in your room. How can I believe your story?” I never said I didn’t let him in. While in hindsight this was ultimately a bad move, the real irony is the author of the quote above invited me to hang out in his room alone at an event a couple months ago and have a few drinks. I accepted and we hung out and had a great time, alone. At no point did I feel threatened. The number of times I have hung out alone with another conference speaker are too many to count. I just want to be one of the guys you know. I want to be invited into your exclusive little groups of infosec rockstardom. I want to be good enough to be friends with you guys. I want to be invited to be on panels. I want to coauthor some research. Good luck having any of that ever happen for me if I have to hide in my room alone.

Yes, I know that men can be falsely accused of rape - and certainly of attempted rape - so don't even go there. I'm pissed enough as it is, just reading this, so don't even try to make that argument. There's just no comparison with what women have to fear. And you dare criticize Rebecca Watson for being uncomfortable with your clumsy invitations?

I'm just too angry to express myself clearly, so I'll let someone else do it. This is an Australian columnist, a man who's commenting on Australian issues I know little or nothing about. (My thanks to M1nks for the link!) But he seems to be just about as angry as I am, so I'll let him express it:
I mean, what is it with you losers? Do you genuinely hate women? Or are you just too stupid to live and breed? I mean that literally. The gene pool would be better without you. Yes, Sattler, I’m looking at you. And your mate, Akerman. And that restaurant owner with the sub-moronic sense of humour. And the misogynist fools the Chief of the Army is talking to here. And that slobbering waste of human skin married to Nigella Lawson. And seemingly 95 per cent of the communters on Youtube. And the army of dickless wonders stinking up Xbox Live. And the celebrated rapists of rugby league. And that soccer coach with the delightful Dark Ages twist on marital relations. And and and …

Well, you get my point.

Or you don’t, because you are a misogynist dickless wonder who thinks the last week is all just a feminazi PC plot, or even worse just a bit of fun, or just what everyone is saying anyway. That’d be you, Piers, that last one. At least Sattler had the nads and the lack of sense to front Gillard personally and destroy himself in an explosion of shameful stupidity. Your smarmy, weasel words on the ABC’s Insiders, basically gargling and spitting up Sattler’s word vomit all over again don’t even get the grudging Jackass points that his suicidal performance demanded.

Seriously. What is up with you people?

All of you.

Do you not have wives and daughters? Do you not love them and want the best for them? ...

Because the truth is the world is not solely populated by misogynists and homophobes and embittered, deeply stupid and potentially violent males. It’s also full of calmer, gentler, more intelligent and wiser men who know better than these fools and who are perfectly capable of standing them down. Men who want better for women because so many of the people they care most about in the world are women.

Where are these blokes when a man puts his hands around a woman’s neck and starts to squeeze? Where are they when some idiot demeans and disrespects a prime minister, not because of what she’s done, but because of what she is? Where are you guys? Because if you just stepped up and said no at the very moment that it's happening, not later, but right then and there, some of this wretched dickishness might finally die out.

You know? I think I'm starting to like these Australians! How about you?

Well, if you're not there yet, this might do it. This is from the Australian Army:

We need more of that kind of plain-speaking here, from our leaders and from everyone. This is how to deal with sexism.

PS. Again, my thanks to M1nks for the link (which led to the final video, too).

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