“Creepy” means something different for men and women.

Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”

- via Mary Dickson’s A Woman’s Worst Nightmare (trigger warning on link for description / discussion of violence against women)

64 thoughts on ““Creepy” means something different for men and women.

  1. Mags

    Am I alone in thinking that the linked article is fear-mongering and even anti-feminist? Early in the article she says “We’ve seen the movies, we’ve read the articles, we know the statistics.” Is it not a fact that the random violent attacks are actually relatively rare? I don’t want to undermine the experience of people who have been subject to such attacks, but it seems to me that living in fear of an attack like that comes from *not* knowing the statistics.

    In fact, all of the people I know who have been attacked by strangers on the street are men. There are some streets it’s not worth walking down at night, no matter who you are. The guy who slept on the streets of Cairo wasn’t safe, he got lucky.

    Mags

    1. MadGastronomer

      Are you seriously saying that this article is anti-feminist because it talks about the fears that women have for their safety, and the reasons why they have them? Because it tells women that we do have reason to be afraid?

      Is stranger rape rare? Yes. But it does happen, and it can happen to anyone. Are men more likely to be attacked on the street? Yes. But women are more likely to be seriously hurt in such an attack.

      Downplaying the fears of women because you don’t think the statistics warrant those fears sounds more anti-feminist to me than discussing those fears and their causes.

      1. Cessen

        Are men more likely to be attacked on the street? Yes. But women are more likely to be seriously hurt in such an attack.

        Can you clarify your statement? It’s a bit ambiguous. Do you mean to say that in the event that a woman is attacked she is at greater risk of serious injury than a man in the event that he is attacked? Or do you mean that women are at an over-all greater risk of an attack that results is serious injury?

        If you men the former, then men could still be at a disadvantage. For example, if the statistics (totally made up for illustrative purposes) were:

        10% of men are attacked resulting in minor or no injury
        5% of men are attacked resulting in major injury
        4% of women are attacked resulting in minor or no injury
        4% of women are attacked resulting in major injury

        Your statement would still be correct, because in the event that a woman is attacked she has a greater risk of injury than a man in the same event (50% vs 33%). But over all, women are still at a lower risk of injury (4% vs 5%).

        I don’t ask this to be an asshole. I’m honestly wondering. Women could very well be at an over-all higher risk as well. But I’d rather not leave it up to interpretation of an ambiguous statement.

        I would also be curious to know what statistic(s) you are citing, if they are convenient for you to find.

        1. MadGastronomer

          But, you see, you are being an asshole. Go look it up yourself, if you’re so curious.

        2. Cessen

          I did look. For about 30 minutes before making that post. I found a lot of statistics about violent assault, and one statistic on women’s rates of injury from violent assault, but none about men’s rates of injury.

          And at that point it seemed sensible to ask you if you would be willing, if it was convenient, to point me in the direction of the information since you might know where it is. I do not mean this as a challenge. I simply would like to have access to the same information as you, if it would not put you out.

        3. MadGastronomer

          It is not convenient.

          Look, dude, if you’re wondering why people are have less than stellar reactions to you, it’s because you’re making a lot of privileged-and-unaware-of-it comments here, and that makes you part of the problem. If you really want to take part in the discourse in a productive fashion instead of repeating the same privileged crap feminists hear again and again from men (and sometimes from women), then I suggest you try the following steps:

          1) Go educate yourself on the basics of feminism. Feminism 101 is a good resource for this. So is Derailing for Dummies (and you’re approaching some of the behaviors addressed there).

          2) Actually listen to what women are telling you about their experiences. Don’t jump in with a “but,” don’t tell women what you think they should say, don’t tell women how you think it works.

          3) Learn to recognize and acknowledge your privilege, and realize that your perspective on these things is not new to us or unique to you. We’ve heard it, and are not only unimpressed, but annoyed.

        4. Cessen

          My apologies if I have caused offense. I did not mean to suggest that you are in any way obligated to answer my questions.

          Unfortunately Feminism 101 (which I have read quite a lot of already) does not seem to contain the information on those statistics. But I asked around elsewhere and someone found relevant statistics (though these are from 1994, so things may have changed since then, and of course it’s important to be aware of how the statistics were collected):

          http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/index.cfm?ty=pbdetail&iid=1145

          Most offenders did not physically injure the victim during the violent victimization. Females were injured in 30% of victimizations (1,493,100) and males in 22% (1,466,300).

          […]

          In 95% of all victimizations in which the victim sustained an injury, there was adequate information about the type and severity of the injury to classify it as serious or minor. (See Methodology.) Most victimizations involving injuries result in minor injuries. For males 17% of victimizations resulted in serious injuries, significantly higher than the 9% for females.

          […]

          When traveling, females were less likely to be victimized than males (14% and 20% of victimizations, respectively). The percentage of victimizations occurring while using different means of transportation also differed. Males were more likely than females to be victimized as they were walking and more likely to be victimized walking than while taking other means of transportation.

          So although women are marginally more likely to be injured (1,493,100 vs 1,466,300) men are more likely to be seriously injured (9% and 17% of those numbers, respectively). This is for violent crime over-all, however, so it’s not certain that this applies to violence in public spaces. But it would be a bit odd if it didn’t.

          Of course the large majority of this violence is also committed by men, so this is not an argument that men should be afraid of violence from women (in general they shouldn’t). But the idea that woman should be objectively more afraid of violence in public than men appears to be false.

          Of course there are cultural components to the fear. And there are plenty of things other than physical violence to be afraid of.

        5. alex

          I feel like these statistics are relevant, but they don’t seem to factor in rape as a violent act. In the US, 1 in 6 women have been raped, it’s an absolute epidemic here & worldwide. So in my view, physical injury is something which isn’t necessarily the only source of fear.

          I guess what I’m trying to say is, that if I have a 1 in 6 chance of a being raped, and I experience frequent uncomfortable encounters with men, which I do — I’m going to fear for my safety, my sanity and anything leading up to & including being killed, as one big miasma of things to worry about. “Afraid of being killed” seems like an apt summary of this miasma.

        6. Cessen

          Alex, yes, rape is absolutely an important thing to talk about, and it is highly gendered.

          However, stranger rape, and especially in-public rape, are rare, and so have little to do (objectively, anyway) with fears of violence in public spaces.

        7. Cessen

          @Alex:
          Also, the statistics I referenced do include rape and sexual assault in their definition of violent crime:

          During 1994 U.S. residents age 12 or older experienced 11.6 million violent victimizations  murders, rapes, sexual assaults, robberies, aggravated assaults, and simple assaults. Men experienced more of these crimes than women: 6.6 million versus 5 million. Strangers to the victims committed most of the violence against males (3.9 million), while persons whom the victims knew committed most of the violence against females (3 million).

        8. alex

          Okay, but those statistics likely aren’t taking into account the unreported sexual assaults, which make up 60% of them.

          But even if they are, one thing I don’t really understand is why we’re drawing a separation between stranger assaults vs. the majority of assaults (non-stranger). The linked article says just as much about violent husbands as it does strangers, and the OP quote refers to a general idea of being “threatened by men” and not just “strange men.”

          Because the article talks about the breadth of these assaults, from husbands to boyfriends to first dates to friends to strangers, I don’t think it’s making any particular assertion about stranger assault being common when it may not be in reality; I do think it’s making the assertion that violence and rape against women is extremely common, which it is. And so for that reason I believe it’s not being unfeminist.

          I would like to add though, that ALL of the scary encounters with men I’ve had in my life were actually with strangers. I’m not sure what that says, but when the author of that article goes through all the precautions that women take to go out at night or whenever, they are incredibly familiar to me and something I am not sure I can unlearn.

        9. Restructure! Post author

          I would like to add though, that ALL of the scary encounters with men I’ve had in my life were actually with strangers. I’m not sure what that says, but when the author of that article goes through all the precautions that women take to go out at night or whenever, they are incredibly familiar to me and something I am not sure I can unlearn.

          Most of the scary encounters with men I’ve had were with strangers too. I wonder if het women had absolutely no creep filter and dated people according to random sampling, the domestic assault rates would be higher.

      2. Schala

        Yes, it’s anti-feminist because it tells women “we do have reason to be afraid”, precisely.

        I’ve been assaulted in elementary school, repeatedly. I’ve been assaulted in high school, somewhat less (it’s monitored and punished more heavily in high school, on school grounds anyways). I’ve been assaulted in a manutention job on three different occasions, punched in the gut once, someone threw a 2 lbs blunt object at me (and thankfully missed) and someone (much bigger than me) held me in a arm lock while threatening to kill me. All were bigger than me (I’m rather small built).

        Since then? Nothing.

        You know what happened after that? I transitioned to female. Now no threats. If someone’s a bigot or unhappy, they’ll say it behind my back, but no violence threat, no violence itself.

        I was initially more scared after transitioning, but after a few months of nothing at all happening, I realized I was scared for nothing. My chances for being a victim of violence diminished extremely it seems. Note that “not appearing gender-variant” helps tremendously there, no one guesses I’m trans – at best the more observant and knowledgeable of gender-variance (which are very few) will suspect something, without knowing.

        As for why men on average are more scared of being laughed at? They generally fear psychological violence more, because they know that physical violence is just a fact of life for them. If you’ve been beaten or felt forced to fight all your youth, chances are you’ll come to expect it, be prepared, and be ready to face the consequences of taking a hit…not so for psychological violence. As unfair as it is to them, it’s how they were raised.

      3. Mags

        Are you seriously saying that this article is anti-feminist because it talks about the fears that women have for their safety, and the reasons why they have them? Because it tells women that we do have reason to be afraid?

        My point is that we *don’t* have reason to be afraid, and telling us that we do is contributing to rape culture. Encouraging women to feel that they need to take dogs with them to bring out the trash is taking something away from them.

  2. Laughingrat

    Mags,

    Regardless of whether or not attacks by strangers are rare, the fact remains that we live in a rape culture, which means that rape is always held over women’s heads as a constant possibility, and that the power of that threat is used to keep us in line. The fact that rape culture also goes to so much lengths to obscure the most frequent source of violent attacks against women–men whom they know–is simply part of rape culture’s self-perpetuation technique.

    And honestly, women are more at-risk for violence than men are, and are less often the perpetrators of that violence. Rape isn’t the only kind of sexual violence; there’s an entire scale, from “complimentary” catcalls to furious slurs to hurled missiles to shoving to beatings to rape to murder. There’s an entire gamut of violence that not only is threatened against women on an ongoing basis, but is committed all the time.

    From the story:

    A woman’s worst nightmare? For too many of us, the most intimate of crimes is a bitter reality.

    It’s not “anti-feminist” to talk about that. Not hardly.

    1. Mags

      I didn’t mean to imply that this subject shouldn’t be covered. I have a problem with the tone of this piece though. I actually think things like this contribute to rape culture. She describes fears and fear-based behaviours that are very common but, I contend, actually misplaced. And she doesn’t point out that feeling afraid all the time is a kind of oppression that is not actually warranted for most women. The media make it look like we should all keep a can of mace in our hands all the time, but that’s not true. I think articles like this might make some women more afraid, when they should be just getting on with their lives.

      Mags

      1. alex

        I think it’s good to acknowledge that things are Really Bad. It seems to me that the idea that women are still struggling for equality is completely invisible to most people, even to some women. But I have discovered over and over that even good men don’t often know there’s a problem. I know that for me, it took a long time and a lot of bad experiences before I could open my eyes and see the problems for what they are.

      2. MadGastronomer

        Telling women what they shouldn’t or shouldn’t be feeling is anti-feminist and doesn’t help anything. We’re talking about what women do feel, and what many women feel is afraid. Statistics don’t change that and aren’t going to. What can change that is giving women the tools to make themselves feel safer, and changing the culture that leads women to feel unsafe.

        1. Schala

          Part of what leads women to feel unsafe is exactly the OP itself.

          If you tell someone that the boogeyman will eat them at every occasion, for sure, people will fear the boogeyman, even if there’s no rational basis for that fear. It becomes plain superstition.

          Continuing the propagation of that “you have reason to fear” is only doing kyriarchy’s work for it.

          What can be done:
          -Train people on how to react given situations, when a situation is definitely unsafe, or where someone should really watch out (all people, not just women – men are not Bruce Willis or Jet Li). Certain neighborhoods are pretty fine to walk at night, even 2 am, others aren’t even at 5 pm when the streets are crowded. It’s amazing what simply screaming could do if there’s people around.

          -Teach self-defense to all (who are interested) in a gender-neutral way, and promote it as important. As it stands now, it seems martial arts are seen as a past time or discipline for all (but mainly men), while self-defense is mainly seen as for women – because a guy who can’t defend himself without special techniques is seen as a wimp. And because women are thought to be unable to defend themselves period. It’s wrong stereotypes that get propagated because of this, and it promulgates this fear for women and nonchalance for men (lack of fear even when warranted).

          -Regulate weapons better than right now, where 14 years old kids can acquire deadly firearms as easy as a backpack (see Larry King’s murder). Canada has MUCH less problems with firearms-related crimes, because only hardened criminals and gangs/mafia are serious enough to go against the law – petty criminals wouldn’t risk it here (to get weapons illegally), while there’s no risk in the US. Conceal-carry should be reserved to people who have proven their psychological stability, and only adults.

          Threatening with a firearm is much more convincing and scary than with just fists. If someone threatens me with fists here, I can run away. If they hold a gun, I’m risking being shot.

          -Get rid of the stereotype that it’s “unfeminine” to participate in physical activity, including but not limited to, muscle-training (not at the olympic level, just local-gym level), non-cardio related machines, and fighting techniques for defense (like Judo or Aikido). Conversely, get rid of the stereotype that a non-muscled man is inferior and that 6-packs abs define “goodness” in men. Fit is fine, Arnold Schwarzenegger is an extreme.

          Those are not stuff that any one person or organizations can do on its own, it’s something we as a society should strive towards.

        2. Eivind Kjørstad

          Agreed.

          But when someone is afraid, it’s nevertheless useful to look at the reality of the situation. We use very different strategies for dealing with danger, versus dealing with fear which isn’t backed by real danger. For actual danger, we focus most of our attention on reducing the danger. For fear with little actual danger, we focus on the fear itself.

          Rape, in particular, is indeed very much about culture. The contrast is mindboggling. I’ve lived in Norway and Germany. Both have less than 1 rape for every 1000 inhabitants (the number varies somewhat based on whose numbers you believe) In contrast, I’ve got friends in South Africa, where a mindboggling 1 in 3 women in the between 16-35 report having been raped, and where in the province Gauteng, fully 37% of all males admit to having raped atleast once.

          If you’re a south-african woman, and fear being raped, you’re only showing common sense. If you’re a Norwegian woman, and fear being killed – the fear itself is likely more of a problem to your freedom than murderers will ever be.

      1. Eivind

        Schala !

        Your also fall in the trap of giving advice, that in practice, just adds to the fear for many.

        Telling people that everyone should learn martial arts and/or self-defence, and that this plays some significant role in reducing rape, or assault, or murder, or the fear of the aforementioned is harmful.

        It’s possible that martial arts as such *does* increase self-confidence and reduce fears, it’s also without a doubt good for a person to be physically active, purely for health-reasons.

        But most people (male or female) will not take martial arts training or self-defence training of any sort. At a guess, 95% of the population at the moment, has zero of both. The risk is that you’re making these 95% *more* afraid, by in essence telling them “you’d be safer if you did X and Y, but since you don’t, you’re at risk!” The advice also can feel very close to victim-blaming; it can easily feel as if I’m assaulted (I was; twice) and have no martial arts background (I don’t), then to some degree I am to blame for what happened.

        1. Schala

          I wasn’t talking about the current state of the world where 95% don’t know either, but about an ideal state, where it’s a mandatory course in school, for everyone (not just women).

          I’m not sure it plays a significant role in reducing assault, rape etc – but it plays a significant role in reducing the *fears* of such happening to them.

          Gun control would significantly reduce the murder rate, because while knives can be deadly, they’re easier to avoid and possibly harder to conceal. You don’t avoid gunshot, you hope they miss. And you can run away from a knife, fists, a baseball bat – contrary to the way running from a gun could kill you.

          “The advice also can feel very close to victim-blaming; it can easily feel as if I’m assaulted (I was; twice) and have no martial arts background (I don’t), then to some degree I am to blame for what happened.”

          Err, well, that’s what I was told more than half my life, when being seen as male. That it was my fault for being assaulted, I should fight back etc. Mainly because of a norm that says men should not need or ask for help for a fight, or they’re unworthy of that help because they’re too unmasculine (ironic isn’t it).

          I was assaulted a number of times I can’t really total, pre-transition, with 3 times as an adult and within a workplace. 0 times post-transition (it’s been 4 years).

          My advice isn’t the same as “standard advice” which basically just compounds the fear with maybe a bit useful, but completely irrealist advice, like staying indoors or always being with someone. If you need milk, you need milk – wether it’s dark or not. And that kind of advice is also lined with a heavy dose of victim-blaming – don’t talk to the bullies, don’t dress like that, don’t drink alcohol to the point of being drunk etc.

          I’m not advocating for those. I want an alternative that preserves the freedom to go where you need to or want to (ie a friend’s place, a bar) and to dress within your tastes (and law I guess – naked doesn’t cut it in many places). My advice doesn’t curtail those freedoms.

        2. jules

          an ideal state, where it’s a mandatory course in school, for everyone (not just women).

          Wait, how does this help anything? Victims may have more tools at hand for self-defense — but perpetrators would also have those tools to use for offense. I thought the whole point of martial arts (etc) as self-defense was to give a potential victim the upper hand against an untrained assailant, not to give an assailant more knowledge on how to cause harm.

        3. Schala

          “Wait, how does this help anything? Victims may have more tools at hand for self-defense — but perpetrators would also have those tools to use for offense. I thought the whole point of martial arts (etc) as self-defense was to give a potential victim the upper hand against an untrained assailant, not to give an assailant more knowledge on how to cause harm.”

          If an assailant finds that his or her victims can defend themselves effectively, thus prolonging the time needed to subdue them, and possibly being unable to do so, they’re likely to avoid doing so at all. That’s the whole point.

          Wether Jet Li vs Jackie Chan ends up into a stalemate doesn’t matter if one has enough time to call for help.

    2. John

      Wait, how does this help anything? Victims may have more tools at hand for self-defense — but perpetrators would also have those tools to use for offense.

      Many self-defence moves can only be used in reaction to an attack, and aren’t practical to apply except against specific attacking moves (e.g. you can’t use a choke defence against someone who isn’t choking you), so teaching someone to defend themselves is different from teaching them general fighting skills that could also be used to start an attack.

      1. Eivind

        This is true. Nevertheless, the biggest advantage of self-defence classes tend to be that people become more confident, which again tend to make them less likely to be choosen as victims. The goal isn’t so much to be able to “win” a physical confrontation, as it is avoiding getting involved in one in the first place. By sending less signals that you’re an easy victim, you’re less likely to become a victim at all.

        It’s an open question though, if this is a zero sum game. I consider it possible that the *relative* perceived vulnerability is more relevant than the absolute. That is, if everyone becomes less easy victims, violence may stay fairly constant, and the same people who tend to become victims today, would still become victims in this hypothethical future.

        Is there less violence incited in environments where the average person is a better fighter ? I don’t know any statistics for it, but I doubt it, and I even find it plausible that the opposite would be the case. (this may be a parallell to the idea that you’d get less crime in areas with more guns among ordinary citizens, because an attacker would not be able to feel sure he won’t meet deadly opposition – an idea that’s popular with the NRA, but largely unsupported in the real world.)

        Seeing as the aggressor has a choice as to whether and who to attack, aiming to “win”, or more modestly, to prolong the time/risk associated with subduing someone, is unrealistic, especially in a society where everyone has the same training. (and the aggressor thus has both a fair idea what opposition is likely, and experience in fighting someone using the standard defencive techniques)

        1. John

          I think the wider question here is how to reduce the factors that make violent inclinations more common. But that might be beyond the scope of this blog.

  3. Elizabeth

    It’s also interesting the way the answers are structured: “they” are afraid women will laugh at them, while “we” are afraid men will kill us. First and third person. The fear is personal for women, in a way it doesn’t seem to be for men. (In this quotation, obviously.)

  4. Blake

    I don’t think misogynistic men are actually afraid of individual women. They might be afraid of men seeing women laugh at them, but fundamentally you have to respect someone for their opinion to matter. In my opinion, this quote asks men the wrong question: it should be “why are you afraid of being a woman?” Being laughed at by a woman isn’t just about rejection, it is about having the structure of a misogynistic world inverted. It is the kind of humiliation that opens men to gender- and sexuality-policing, that renders them potential targets of sexual violence instead of potential perpetrators in the eyes of other men.

    Men are afraid for the same reasons women are: they live in a violent patriarchy. I see it as being similar to a younger sibling growing up watching their older sibling be abused; even if they are never abused themselves, it can still mess them up good. They still know that’s a possibility, they still witness horrific acts, they might even then participate if the options are “become a perpetrator or become a victim.” That is part of what patriarchy does to men; they have to find some mechanism to cope, and some find destructive, dangerous ones.

    Which also explains why men are afraid of women being equal to them, of women having sexual agency, of women being given credit for technological achievements. Those things would mean that women are just like men, that they couldn’t guarantee that the Terrible Things happen only to people Not Like Them. Fundamentally, men are afraid of men, of culture, of society, of ending up like the people they are drawn to, care about, but watch broken and angry and alienated by the violence they are asked to participate in with carrots and sticks.

    Not all men choose to give in, but for those men that do every woman is a potential target. To answer “why men are afraid of women”, you would have to ask just those men who are, and I doubt very much that they would have the insight to understand why.

    1. Slothy

      “Men are afraid for the same reasons women are”

      Would you please stop trying to play mind reader? It just comes across as smug.

  5. PharaohKatt

    I’m afraid of being raped, stalked, killed, hurt, threatened, assaulted. Sme of these things have already happened to me. I think we have reason to be afraid.

    1. Eivind

      Indeed. But being killed, is a really odd example of a female fear. Atleast if the point is to set women apart from men. Because men are, in every location I’m aware of, more often killed than women.

      And it’s a risk that is, essentially, down in the noise for both sexes. 18 men where killed, and 13 women where killed. In a population where around 50.000 die every year.

      About two thirds of the killed (both sexes) where people living in marginalized conditions, often crime-related murders.

      The risk for a normal average woman, to be killed. Is essentially zero. The same is true for a normal average man – allthough his risk is aproximately 50% higher, it’s still down in the noise. We’re talking one of 10000 dead here. Murders amount to 1% of death in accidents, and accidents account for a small fraction of all deaths.

      In short, murder is a really odd example, for something that a woman should legitimately fear more than a man should fear the same thing.

      Now it may be that, despite the factual situation, women *do* infact fear being killed more frequently than men fear the same thing. But if we are to analyse that (assuming it’s even true), then we need to look at why they *fear* it, since that’d be where the difference is, infact if you looked purely at objective risk, women should be -less- afraid of it.

      Your other examples though, don’t suffer from the same problem. I think it’s pretty clearcut that women are infact much more likely to be stalked or raped.

      For murder too though, men tend to be the murderers significantly more often than women, especially in the criminal scene, but also outside it. But they kill other men more often than they kill women.

      But for everyone to be afraid of men, is a slippery slope. Because other stronger conclusions are possible, and I’m not convinced we want to go there.

      Sure, if you’re killed, you’re about 75% likely to be killed by a man. But a black man [Removed by moderator. Citation, please.]

      1. Eivind

        Citation ? Okay. Fine. USA has about 12.5% people who self-identify as black. I reckon you don’t need a citation for that, but if you do, try http://www.census.gov/popest/national/asrh/NC-EST2008-srh.html

        Yet, in 2008 (latest year I could find stats for) 36.5% of those convicted of murder or homicide where black. You can find those numbers here:
        http://www2.fbi.gov/ucr/cius2008/offenses/expanded_information/homicide.html (Crime in the United States 2008: Expanded homicide data)

        36.5% is pretty accurately 3 times 12.5% – thus a black person is 3 times as often a murderer as an average American is. If you compare to an average non-black person, then you end up concluding that the black person is, 4 times as likely to be a murderer as the non-black person. (numbers in the same citation I already provided)

        Okay, technically these are numbers for CONVICTIONS – I guess it’s possible that conviction-rates does not accurately reflect murder-rates, but it seems likely to me that they’re close parallells, there aren’t high numbers of unreported cases of murder, like there are for many other crimes.

        1. Restructure! Post author

          The Color of Deception: Race, Crime and Sloppy Social Science by Tim Wise:

          The screed to which I refer is, The Color of Crime: Race, Crime and Violence in America, by white nationalist, Jared Taylor. Taylor is the publisher of the racist magazine, American Renaissance, and host of a bi-annual conference, which attracts open neo-Nazis as well as a gaggle of academicians who proclaim black genetic inferiority. According to Taylor, there are several “facts” about crime that have been hidden from view by the civil rights community. Among them:

          * Blacks are much more dangerous than whites as evidenced by higher crime rates;

          * Black criminals usually choose white victims and are far more likely to victimize whites than whites are to victimize blacks (both for regular violent crimes and hate crimes);

          * Black crime rates justify racial profiling, since it only makes sense to focus law enforcement attention on those who commit a disproportionate share of crime; and finally,

          * The interracial crime data makes white fear of African Americans perfectly rational.

          But a close examination of these arguments proves that Taylor and his followers are either statistically illiterate, or knowingly deceive for political effect.

          First, as for the disproportionate rate of violent crime committed by blacks, economic conditions explain the difference with white crime rates. According to several studies, when community and personal economic status is comparable between whites and blacks, there are no significant racial crime differences (1). In other words, the implicit message of Taylor’s report — that blacks are dangerous because they are black — is insupportable.

  6. Amanda

    I’m sure a lot of people are familiar with the novel ‘The Color Purple.’ In one of Alice Walker’s later novels, ‘The Temple of My Familiar,’ she re-visits Shug and Celie. And Shug shares a story with one of the protagonists about how Celie treated their old dog miserably. Beat it, kicked it, not one little word of kindness. Basically, the same way Mister had treated her. And in the same circular way, one day the dog bites Celie and runs away. And Shug points out the similarities.

    I think a lot of the time it’s like that for creepy men. I both fear and pity them. Because something awful must have happened in their lives for them to act that way. And I honestly think it’s part and parcel of the same patriarchy used to keep women down. But at the same time, why do they have to take it out on someone else to feel better about themselves?

  7. jen

    I never thought about the word “creepy” before, but come to think of it when I describe someone as “creepy” it generally means they have done something that made me feel uncomfortable, like standing unnecessarily close, unnecessary touching or groping, following me around, or sitting next to me uninvited and acting as if “sorry I prefer to be alone right now” was an invitation to begin a conversation about why a pretty girl like me would want to be alone, rather than a polite request to go away. I think that for whatever reason we don’t feel able to say “that guy crossed my boundaries in a way that made me feel uncomfortable or scared” so instead we say “that guy’s creepy”.

    1. Cessen

      I think that for whatever reason we don’t feel able to say “that guy crossed my boundaries in a way that made me feel uncomfortable or scared” so instead we say “that guy’s creepy”.

      Yup. I think it would be good to move toward the former, and away from the latter, as a language choice. “Creepy” minimizes it, because the word is also used much more broadly for much more minor (and often fairly innocent) infractions.

      1. Restructure! Post author

        Really, Cessen, you have no business dictating women’s language choices when it comes to expressing concerns about our safety. Women’s safety is more important than men feeling romantically rejected. I mean, there is a lot of privilege there, if you’re not even worried about physical safety when interacting with strangers of the “opposite” gender, and your concern is that someone is calling you a name you don’t agree with.

        It doesn’t seem like you understand the point of the post. From your perspective, and from the perspective of many male geeks, men get called “creepy” for “minor” “innocent” “social” “infractions”, of some arbitrary set of rules that men can’t figure out because of a lack of social skills, but which all women somehow know because of “inborn” social skills or something like that.

        If someone calls you creepy, then by definition you are creepy. It’s just like if someone says that you are being scary because you are scaring them, you can’t just say, “I didn’t intend to be scary. You just think I’m scaring you and being scary, but you’re wrong. I’m not.”

        “Creepy” doesn’t minimize it, because I think that’s what “creepy” really means, something about feeling uncomfortable and scared. Again, you can’t say, “You just think I’m making you uncomfortable, but I’m actually not. You’re wrong.”

        1. Cessen

          Huh? Who’s dictating? I’m participating in the discourse.

          It doesn’t seem like you understand the point of the post. From your perspective, and from the perspective of many male geeks, men get called “creepy” for “minor” “innocent” “social” “infractions”, of some arbitrary set of rules that men can’t figure out because of a lack of social skills, but which all women somehow know because of “inborn” social skills or something like that.

          I don’t think that women have some mystical “inborn” social skills. But women do have a lot more leeway in how they behave without coming across as dangerous. To go to an extreme example, touching someone on the shoulder from behind is–in the typical case–scary when a guy does it to a woman, but is positive when it’s the other way around. Now, this is a really blatant example (and even so there are guys that violate this). But there are a lot of subtler things like this as well. It’s not that women have better or “inborn” social skills. It’s that as a guy the line to walk is much narrower if you don’t want to be creepy, and therefore much more difficult.

          And, counter-intuitively, it seems like there is a lot of denialism about this (in similar form to your quote above), even though it is a direct corollary to what you’re saying: women are more afraid of men than the other way around.

        2. Restructure! Post author

          Huh? Who’s dictating? I’m participating in the discourse.

          Very well. You have no business making suggestions about women’s language choices when it comes to expressing concerns about our safety, since it’s not your life on the line.

          But women do have a lot more leeway in how they behave without coming across as dangerous. […] It’s that as a guy the line to walk is much narrower if you don’t want to be creepy, and therefore much more difficult.

          And, counter-intuitively, it seems like there is a lot of denialism about this (in similar form to your quote above), even though it is a direct corollary to what you’re saying: women are more afraid of men than the other way around.

          I’m not sure what you think I’m denying.

          If an adult female stranger goes up to a man on the street for no reason and says, “Tell me your name,” it’s not as creepy as if she went up to a child on the street for no reason and said, “Tell me your name.” I mean, you could say that for adults, the line to walk is much narrow than for children, and so children have “child privilege” because children have less power to intimidate adults, but that would be pretty asinine.

        3. Mags

          You seem to have completely misinterpreted Cessen’s point here. He is not saying that creepy behaviour is always minor; he’s saying minor behaviour gets called creepy so using the word creepy may minimizes the behaviour being discussed in the mind of the listener.

          I may say someone is creepy simply because of the look on his face (which may just be the way his face is, for all I know). So perhaps you would be better using stronger terms if you want the listener to understand that you took the behaviour seriously.

          I’ve been very disappointed with the discussion here, and I expect I won’t be participating again. I’m particularly annoyed by the responses to Cessen. Asking for data to back up your statement is making privileged assumptions? The right to discuss the effectiveness of particular word choices is gender-specific? I can’t help wondering if you all would have responded the same way if Cessen were a woman.

        4. Eivind

          “I think it would be good to move toward the former, and away from the latter, as a language choice”

          That’s clearly a statement of his personal opinion, and not an attempt to dictate anything for anyone.

          You, on the other hand, seem to quite clearly state that he’s not allowed to state his opinion, you say:

          “You have no business making suggestions about women’s language choices when it comes to expressing concerns about our safety, since it’s not your life on the line. ”

          As this discussion has demonstrated amply, it *is* mens lives on the line, more often than female lives, infact, so it’s not even factually correct. Besides, as I’ve demonstrated (cites in a response above that needs to be approved), risk is much more strongly divided by other factors than sex, such as race or (even more strongly) geographical living-area.

          If you’re a white upper-class female living in a safe part of a safe town in a safe country – your risk is a tiny fraction of the risk of a black male living on the shadier side of a shady town. Nevertheless, it seems to me you’ll grant the white priviledged female that she has business stating her opinion, whereas the male, does not.

        5. Cessen

          Restructure:

          If an adult female stranger goes up to a man on the street for no reason and says, “Tell me your name,” it’s not as creepy as if she went up to a child on the street for no reason and said, “Tell me your name.” I mean, you could say that for adults, the line to walk is much narrow than for children, and so children have “child privilege” because children have less power to intimidate adults, but that would be pretty asinine.

          I feel like we’re talking past each other. I’m genuinely baffled by some of your responses, because you seem to be arguing with someone else.

          Your “child privilege” reference seems to indicate that you believe I’m making a “female privilege” argument, which I am not. And yet… while using that same analogy you implicitly agree with my actual argument that men have a much narrower social line to walk to avoid being seen as dangerous/creepy than women do.

          Given that we seem to agree on that latter point, does it not make sense to you that it actually takes more social skills/awareness for a guy to avoid creeping someone out than it does for a woman? To me this seems like a pretty obvious conclusion to draw.

          Of course, women need more social skills/awareness for other issues (slut shaming binds, anyone?). I’m not denying that. But I often feel like there is an implicit, “Hey guys, it’s easy for us to avoid being creepy, so clearly it is for you too,” in these kinds of posts. Which really doesn’t scan.

        6. Restructure! Post author

          Cessen,

          I agree that it feels like we’re talking past each other. Even with your last comment.

          With your “men have a much narrower social line to walk to avoid being seen as dangerous/creepy than women do” argument, you also seem to implicitly agree that it can be interpreted as the “female privilege” argument.

          does it not make sense to you that it actually takes more social skills/awareness for a guy to avoid creeping someone out than it does for a woman?

          It does not make sense to me, from my experiences of being creeped out by men, because I feel that an important characteristic of a creepy guy is that you can’t actually call the police on him or say “that guy did X to me, what a horrible person!”, because he didn’t actually do anything illegal or technically wrong. An example is a man standing very close behind me when I am standing at the doors of a spacious and relatively empty bus. If he moved one centimetre closer, he would be pressing his crotch against my ass, which would be illegal. But he’s not actually touching me, so he seems to be aware of the legal and strict-social boundaries, and he’s purposely staying within that, yet being pervy as much as possible without being accused of wrongdoing.

        7. Cessen

          With your “men have a much narrower social line to walk to avoid being seen as dangerous/creepy than women do” argument, you also seem to implicitly agree that it can be interpreted as the “female privilege” argument.

          So, let’s say that I point out that adults have a much narrower social line to walk to avoid being seen as dangerous/creepy than children. Am I implicitly making a “child privilege” argument? I mean… it’s hard to argue the truth of my statement. So I’m more than a little confused why making such an observation forces me to implicitly agree that it’s child privilege.

          Unless that is, indeed, what it is? But my understanding of social justice terminology is that privilege is a more technical term that excludes these sorts of things, no? The more appropriate term would be “benevolent ageism” or something along those lines:

          http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2008/02/09/faq-female-privilege/

        8. Restructure! Post author

          Cessen,

          I mean… it’s hard to argue the truth of my statement.

          I don’t know what you’re trying to say, except maybe you are claiming that what you say is true and that any arguments against it are invalid. I disagree with the entire premise of your statement, that being creepy or not creepy is about following or not following “social” “rules”.

          The more appropriate term would be “benevolent ageism” or something along those lines:

          You can call it what you want, but I think that line of argument as more similar to people arguing that being accused of being a pedophile is worse than being a pedophile’s victim, or being accused of racism is worse than being a victim of racism, etc.

          There are comments that were not published that argue the same thing as you and use the term “female privilege”, so I don’t know what point you are trying to make, and your behaviour resembles trolling. Someone also submitted a comment linking to a SNL skit on sexual harassment, the commenter suggesting that the difference between a creepy man and a non-creepy man is that the former is unattractive and the latter is attractive. (Of course, it can be argued that it applies to women as well, except women are usually not physically intimidating by being larger/stronger and towering over men they approach.)

          I feel disgusted about this line of discussion, because it’s like a group of people are discussing something serious, like our safety and survival, and then a person comes in and says that being so concerned about our safety and survival prevents him from getting a girlfriend. There seems to be a fundamental lack of empathy here, as well as privilege because that person takes their safety and survival for granted, and is worrying about things higher up in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, while believing his less necessary “needs” trumps other people’s more basic needs, because we are of a gender that is less important.

          (This whole thing also is part of a common het male geek narrative that cries, “I liked someone and that person didn’t like me back! Girls never experience this!” which only makes sense for men/boys who implicitly define women/girls as the women/girls they are attracted to.)

        9. Schala

          “(This whole thing also is part of a common het male geek narrative that cries, “I liked someone and that person didn’t like me back! Girls never experience this!” which only makes sense for men/boys who implicitly define women/girls as the women/girls they are attracted to.)”

          Not sure it implies this. Some guys are just rejected or never approached by anyone at all. I mean anyone.

          Pre-transition, I dated one person, it lasted 3 months, it wasn’t what I (and apparently her too) was looking for. No dating after, until transition, where I got about one date a year without trying (in 3 years). Consider that trans status, and being pre-operative are big factors to not being dated, but it didn’t stop those. Arguably it probably prevented more that would have otherwise.

          So I can say “I didn’t experience this as a girl, but did as a boy!”, with more or less the same physique (take me “before”, remove oilyness from my skin to some degree (including all teenage acne), give me A cups and give me more fitted clothing – that’s all that happened).

          I had long hair, I was somewhat skinny (17.0 BMI), I had asperger, I was socially awkward, and I hated playing ‘games’ (the dating games especially) or following conventions “just because”.

          I have long hair, I used to be somewhat skinny (at least, I was a year ago…trying to lose some), I have asperger, I am socially awkward, I hate playing ‘games’ or following conventions “just because”…and have dated. I’ve been with my boyfriend for almost 2 years now, so I gained weight, along with him, during this time.

          Being socially awkward, transsexual, asperger and a hardcore gamer (videogames this time) has not prevented my dating – as long as I wasn’t forced to do the first move (apparently I almost did, by ignoring conventions of ‘what you can say to people’, went a bit too personal because I trusted him and he perceived it as a move on him – but there was no pressure to impress or sell myself).

        10. Restructure! Post author

          Not sure it implies this. Some guys are just rejected or never approached by anyone at all. I mean anyone.

          Guess what? Some girls and women are just rejected or never approached by anyone at all. I mean anyone. I honestly can’t understand why you believe that all women have been approached and that women can’t be rejected, unless by “woman”, you’re visualizing a thin, white, cis woman with clear skin, no visible disabilities, a full set of straight teeth, hairless instead of hirsute, etc.

          So I can say “I didn’t experience this as a girl, but did as a boy!”, with more or less the same physique (take me “before”, remove oilyness from my skin to some degree (including all teenage acne), give me A cups and give me more fitted clothing – that’s all that happened).

          I had long hair, I was somewhat skinny (17.0 BMI), I had asperger, I was socially awkward, and I hated playing “games’ (the dating games especially) or following conventions “just because”.

          Cis women and teenage cis girls can have acne too, and this would also kill dating chances at least as much as it would for a cis man or teenage cis boy. Being female != having clear skin.

          I’m not sure why you feel the need to mention that you had long hair and were skinny, since to me, in addition to what you said earlier, it just means that you have physical characteristics that are considered desirable on a woman. I don’t know how that helps your point.

          Being socially awkward, transsexual, asperger and a hardcore gamer (videogames this time) has not prevented my dating – as long as I wasn’t forced to do the first move (apparently I almost did, by ignoring conventions of “what you can say to people’, went a bit too personal because I trusted him and he perceived it as a move on him – but there was no pressure to impress or sell myself).

          Let me guess – you are a thin-to-average, pretty white girl with clear skin and no visible disabilities, wearing nice clothes that complement your body, with long, appropriately-groomed hair.

          I honestly don’t understand how you don’t feel any pressure to impress, or to sell yourself, as a heterosexual woman, unless your body image and appearance issues have all been solved now.

        11. Schala

          “Cis women and teenage cis girls can have acne too, and this would also kill dating chances at least as much as it would for a cis man or teenage cis boy. Being female != having clear skin.”

          I mentioned the lack of acne, because after 8 years of “pizza face” (almost literally) I went clear in 6 months due to estrogen – at 24 years old. So um yeah. Excess testosterone that apparently my body couldn’t/wouldn’t use all went there – once I flushed it (by using T blockers and E), nothing left. I guess teenage acne could also be caused by excess estrogen, but I’ve seen less women with full-blown acne, in their 20s.

          “I’m not sure why you feel the need to mention that you had long hair and were skinny, since to me, in addition to what you said earlier, it just means that you have physical characteristics that are considered desirable on a woman. I don’t know how that helps your point.”

          Before, those were undesirable. I would constantly get told “eat more, get bigger” by men and women. Once I transitioned, it just stopped. Suddenly I wasn’t “too small”. I would also get constantly teased about my hair, some joking they would cut it, getting told how it looks too girly. After transition, it suddenly wasn’t “too girly”.

          “Let me guess – you are a thin-to-average, pretty white girl with clear skin and no visible disabilities, wearing nice clothes that complement your body, with long, appropriately-groomed hair.”

          Right now I would say average, no idea if pretty, white, with somewhat clear skin, no visible disability (but revealing my trans status is like revealing I have 2 heads), wearing clothes I appreciate, which don’t necessarily ‘complement my body’ (I generally like clothing for its aesthetics, not how much it emphasizes my body, so I prefer prom-style dresses to what is passed as evening wear nowadays), and my long hair is always down, never ‘groomed’, washed every 3 weeks, brushed when I feel like it (rare enough). It looks better than it sounds, but nothing like shampoo commercials.

          “I honestly don’t understand how you don’t feel any pressure to impress, or to sell yourself, as a heterosexual woman, unless your body image and appearance issues have all been solved now.”

          I don’t need to sell myself, except over my trans status (and it’s a horrible sale), but that’s because I’m considered at least a bit attractive, whereas pre-transition, I was horribly unmasculine looking AND expected to do the first move. Even if I attracted one person per year, it would be more than before. So let’s say my expectation isn’t that high.

          I generally also don’t put on make-up. I have no idea how I could impress someone, and am generally not interested to do so (or for others to impress me). If it means less dates, so be it.

          And no, my body image and appearance issues have not all been resolved, but I consider they matter less, especially to have dates. Everyone has flaws. I don’t want to date someone who pretends they’re perfect. Consider that a pre-screening thing.

        12. Restructure! Post author

          I mentioned the lack of acne, because after 8 years of “pizza face” (almost literally) I went clear in 6 months due to estrogen – at 24 years old. So um yeah. Excess testosterone that apparently my body couldn’t/wouldn’t use all went there – once I flushed it (by using T blockers and E), nothing left. I guess teenage acne could also be caused by excess estrogen, but I’ve seen less women with full-blown acne, in their 20s.

          It doesn’t work like that–I’m not suggesting that teenage acne could be caused by excess estrogen. When cis women need to treat severe acne, one common medical solution is for her to take birth control pills, if she needs some sort of contraceptive anyway. That’s why I’m not surprised that taking estrogen to transition would get rid of acne, since taking estrogen for birth control also can get rid of acne.

          It’s not like estrogen is the essence of womanhood and testosterone is the essence of manhood. Both women and men have estrogen and testosterone. A woman isn’t “not a woman” if she has acne, or is hirsute, or has high testosterone levels, because that would be the wrong-visualization that I was suggesting earlier: that some people’s definition of a “real” woman is an ideal woman. If you define women as only the ideal women, then of course they have no problems attracting people.

      2. Elizabeth G.

        Cessen, Good Job! You can identify “creepy” behavior, such as touching a women with out permission or warning. If you know something could be seen as creepy (whether you agree that it should be seen as such) if you go ahead and do it then you are implying you don’t care if you creep someone out.

    2. John

      That sounds to me like a universal definition of “creepy” — it’s certainly the one I (a geeky man) would use. I think the definition of “creepy” is the same for both sexes; it’s the implications (whether the violation might turn physically violent) that are different.

      1. MadGastronomer

        And you are under the impression that “implication” isn’t part of a definition? We are talking about connotative definitions here, not denotative ones, so what you’re calling implication is most certainly part of the definitions used.

    3. AMM

      I think that for whatever reason we don’t feel able to say “that guy crossed my boundaries in a way that made me feel uncomfortable or scared” so instead we say “that guy’s creepy”.

      I’ve always thought of “creepy” as meaning something that, without being explicitly threatening, makes you afraid. So the second statement is IMHO not weaker but just more general — he might be creepy (making you afraid) without crossing your boundaries.)

      I honestly don’t think men and women differ that much in what they mean by “creepy.”

      But there are lots of behaviors that many women might find “creepy” (especially if they’ve had bad experiences with the guys who do them) which many men (e.g., those who haven’t suffered those experiences) might not.

  8. Restructure! Post author

    Bitch Ph.D. has a post on two reasons why women fear for our physical safety more than men. (trigger warning)

    Reason #1 is men harassing women.

    Reason #2 is [“rape-prevention” or] “safety” advice.

    I would also say that a corollary to #2 is the victim-blaming when women are sexually assaulted. Women see people telling women who were victims of sexual assault that they should have been more careful, implying that it’s the victim’s fault if someone raped her, because it must mean that she didn’t take all the precautions. Hence, we are taught that if we don’t take all the precautions and be paranoid all the time, we are being irresponsible.

    (However, please do not leave comments suggesting that women should change how we deal with our safety for men’s romantic benefit.)

    1. Mags

      Reason #2 is [“rape-prevention” or] “safety” advice.

      This is almost exactly my point; this article contributes to that message. It says “we are afraid and engage in these fear-based behaviours because we are constantly at risk” when it should say “we are afraid and engage in these behaviours because we have believed a lie”.

    2. Eivind

      I think that hits it spot on Restructure!

      The combination, is what makes it so bad. When you combine harassment, with a contstant stream of “safety advice” wherein you’re recommended to do X, Y and Z and avoid doing W and U to reduce the chance of being assaulted – it’s no wonder many feel scared.

  9. Scribblemethis

    If you’re a woman, you just can’t win.

    Taking proper precautions? Being concerned or afraid? Building or joining a community to share your thoughts, feelings and experiences with other women? Then you’re paranoid, believing (or telling) lies and attacking the poor poor men just for being men. They have it so hard, you know. Really, we’re oppressing them. It’s your fault.

    Getting discriminated against? Being bullied, harassed, belittled or demeaned? Even attacked? Then you did something wrong. You should have been more concerned. More aware. Taken more precautions. It’s your fault.

    What’s next, telling us it’s our fault for being female because if we really didn’t want to go through this stuff, if we really wanted to be able to feel safe and be safe that we should have been men (and macho, hetero men at that) instead?

    All who do evil hate the light… and when you shine that light, by telling the truth, by being honest with your thoughts, your feelings and your experiences, when you refuse to go along to get along… they feel attacked. It doesn’t matter if you’re not talking about them as an individual. If they have done or wanted to do the things you are exposing, they feel attacked. Even if you name someone else or don’t name anyone at all. So, they “defend themselves” by attacking back. By belittling. By trivializing and patronizing your experience of being yourself. By trying to invalidate you as a person. It has to be your fault… after all, it couldn’t possibly be theirs.

    1. MadGastronomer

      So much this.

      Discussing the fact that women are scared, and what they do about it, isn’t reinforcing rape culture. Telling women they’re wrong to be afraid, though, is victim-blaming, which, as far as I’m concerned, IS reinforcing rape culture.

      Quoting statistics isn’t going to convince people not to be afraid. It’s a ridiculous tactic. Quoting statistics and then telling women they’re wrong because of them works even less well, and is a horrible thing to say besides.

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