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Stranger danger
August 28, 2009 5:30 AM   Subscribe

The mantrust derail has taken over the Jaycee Lee Dugard thread.

It is a topic worth discussing but it needs its own thread.
posted by Kattullus to Etiquette/Policy at 5:30 AM (479 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I dislike creepy guys who approach me at train stations and start to talk to me while inching too far into my personal space. They suck. Guys who try to evangelize me on the bus or scream about Jesus on street corners, not so much creepy as irritating. Mostly due to the screaming or the talking to me on the bus.
posted by that girl at 5:34 AM on August 28, 2009


Personally I think that yes, it sucks to get weird looks for talking to kids in public, but that it doesn't rise to the point of active discrimination against males.

Either way, it's a discussion only tangentially related to the Dugard case.
posted by Kattullus at 5:35 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I don't really think it's a derail. It's wrapped into the thread topic and the event itself, as nadawi noted.
posted by Miko at 5:46 AM on August 28, 2009


I don't think 'discriminate' means what you think.

It's not really a much stronger word than 'prejudice'.
posted by Dysk at 5:54 AM on August 28, 2009


It's not really a much stronger word than 'prejudice'.

Thanks, dictionary boy. Does the word sometimes connote something stronger than mere 'prejudice'? Yes.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:00 AM on August 28, 2009


Thanks, dictionary boy. Does the word sometimes connote something stronger than mere 'prejudice'?

What? I'm sorry, you've confused me...
posted by Dysk at 6:02 AM on August 28, 2009


Yeah but the point remains the same - I think having a few people every now and again not automatically trust you alone around a kid is not akin to what most people's connotation of discrimination is in this country - a systematic pattern of lost rights and lives stemming from deliberate actions and events that sought to keep a group of people viewed as less than human.

I think you're looking for "looked down on", perhaps.
posted by cashman at 6:05 AM on August 28, 2009


As an adult, I'll ask a woman for help or directions every. single. time. before I ask a random dude. Not necessarily because the dude is dangerous, but there's a not-insignificant chance that he will misinterpret my request as interest. If I ask you for directions, I want directions, not a conversation about my marital status. Women, in general, have a much better sense of social boundaries with strangers.
posted by desjardins at 6:08 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


No offense to all the perfectly innocent males who would never hurt a fly, but men DO unarguably commit the VAST number of homicides.

Certainly that does not mean you are all monsters, but it does mean that if you are a strange man acting weird around me, I will take action to either get me away from you or vice versa. And I'll teach my kids to do the same. And please don't come crying back about how god-awful unfair that is.

I rate entitlement not to be murdered (or have my child kidnapped, etc.) over your right to not be treated like a potential murder, rapist, killer, whatever in a personal situation. I am not saying there is not an element of prejudice in there, I certainly do not regularly check the statistics by race and gender and adjust my level of guard thereby. But, as a woman, men are more dangerous to me than other women. "Weird-acting men" is a convenient (though often inaccurate) way to gauge danger.

Possibly illogical, but then I've never been attacked, kidnapped, raped, murdered, assaulted, etc, despite being in some pretty bad situations. So it's working for me.
posted by bunnycup at 6:10 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Connote is number one on my list of Words That Should Not Be Real.

(Connotate? Inferate? Insinuise? Implicable?)

Its also ranks highly on the Verbs That Are Good Names For Yachts scale.
posted by Jofus at 6:11 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is the attitude people are consciously instilling in their kids, it's obviously not worth the risk to me anymore to ever help a child in public again. I'm glad we had this talk so I know that my fear of having the cops called on me was actually justified.

Next time your kid was out playing and skinned her knee and I'm on my bike, I'm taking my anti-bacterial spray and pedaling on by. I hope it doesn't get infected.
Next time your kid got accidentally got locked inside the park at closing time, I'm going to leave her crying on the other side of the fence and not help her over. I hope she manages to find a different way out.
Next time your kid is lost in a weird part of town, I'm not giving her directions, she can ask the next stranger. I hope she can find someone of the appropriate gender to get help from.

Good work keeping her safe.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:22 AM on August 28, 2009 [27 favorites]


0xFCAF, the point is, how, as a parent who does not know you, am I to determine whether you are a psycho approaching to kidnap/murder/maim/rape my child or a normal person truly intending to help? Keeping in mind that I haven't, yet, developed the psychic powers you seem to think I have.

Do you think it's worth my child's life to me to just hope for the best, allowing and teaching her to allow anyone to approach her? That your magic infection-preventing anti-bacterial spray is one of a kind, and my child will face certain death if I do not teach her to allow any old stranger to approach? Simply put, it's not ABOUT you.

Instead of, what, picking up and walking off with a lost child, how about calling the police? Making other useful, adult decisions? It's not an all or nothing world, unless you want to make it one because your feelings are hurt.
posted by bunnycup at 6:30 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I bought this rock the other day that prevents me and my family from getting EATEN TO DEATH by a liger. I carry it everywhere and I'm not going to change my ways just because some people find it weird or offensive (yeah, it looks like a cock, so what?) because I have not been EATEN TO DEATH by a liger so I am obviously doing something right despite being in close proximity to a zoo.

I could also, you know, stop being a fearful idiot and look up the probability that I'm going to get mauled by a liger if Maryland.
posted by Loto at 6:33 AM on August 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


You've taken a good first step, Loto, but your protection is incomplete! Do you have manticore coverage? No? The chance of a manticore attack is substantially greater than zero! Protect yourself now! MeMail me for information on how you can reduce your chance of manticore attacks by up to 50% or more!
posted by Mister_A at 6:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


And yeah, listen, there is also a non-zero chance that anyone you speak to on the street could be a creepy perv, but the chance is much greater when that someone is a man. Sorry, men!
posted by Mister_A at 6:43 AM on August 28, 2009


It's OK to be self-righteously ignorant ...
posted by Space Coyote at 6:46 AM on August 28, 2009


It's actually pretty awesome that many women hate and fear men and think we're all wild-eyed molesters because it means fewer people ask me for directions and I get plenty of space on the bus and no one except my family would ever ask me to babysit and I don't have to do a goddamn thing if there's a lost kid crying his eyes out except tell someone in an official-looking uniform. Shit, I don't even have to do that, and no one will ever blame me.

And I'm a pretty safe-looking, well-dressed guy. I can only imagine that an older dude with bad skin or teeth would be like Unus the Untouchable.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 6:48 AM on August 28, 2009 [18 favorites]


Mister_A, your fearmongering has frightened me and shaken my world view. I must buy this manticore coverage immediately as these non-zero probabilities make me fear for myself and my family!

Yes, it is more likely that a dude is going to be a creepy perv than a lady. However, it is many, many, many times more likely that a person will be killed in a car accident than abducted by someone of either (or both!) genders. I highly doubt someone who is afraid of being murdered or having their children abducted is going to stop driving them around because that would just be inconvenient.
posted by Loto at 6:52 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm out running. It's around 8 PM. I go past a local golf course, and there's a girl who's climbed halfway up the fence, and she's crying for help. I come up and ask her what's going on - she got locked inside (why she was on the golf course, I have no idea) and just needed to be picked up over the fence. This isn't a heavily foot-trafficked street, so it realistically could have been an hour before anyone else even walked by, and it's getting cold out. I pick her up and lift her the rest of the way over the fence.

In a giant bout of fate laughing at me, the goddamn crotch of her pants catches on the top of the fence, and she's just flailing her arms around unhelpfully. So, you know, now what? I can keep pulling and hope that her pants don't just rip off (oh fuck). I can tell her to fix her own goddamn pants, but I'm tired from running and can't hold her up much longer and really don't want to drop her on her head (oh fuck). I can gingerly try to unhook it myself, but she could interpret this wrong if I touch anything but the fabric (oh fuck). In any case, what happens if she gets home and her parents see a hole ripped in the crotch of her pants? Oh, fuck, I am going to prison. I went for the third option and managed to avoid any actual problems.

And what was the reaction when I related only the first paragraph of this story to some friends? You're lucky no one saw you and called the cops.

Maybe I should have called the cops, but I didn't have my cell phone. Maybe I should have ran another ten blocks and started randomly knocking on house doors to get some adult of the appropriate gender, leaving her crying on the other side of the fence for fifteen minutes while I got help. Maybe I should have just kept on running and pretended not to hear her - I gave this option honest consideration, and based on this thread, if it happens again, I will keep running.

I don't need cops interrogating me because over-protective parents freak out whenever anyone with a Y chromosome is in ten feet of their kids. I don't like the fact that "you're lucky no one called the cops" is the response I get for helping out a child in distress. I don't like leaving kids in bad situations, but I'm not going to risk getting arrested because people like you can only teach safety in terms of MEN SCARY RAWRRR. The fact that this particular kid was crying and screaming for help might have been an indication that I was approaching her to help, not to rape, but even in this clear-cut case I ended up in pretty big stranger-danger territory thanks to a pointy chain-link fence. You'll have to forgive me if I think that operating in an environment of guilty until proven innocent isn't worth the risk.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:53 AM on August 28, 2009 [20 favorites]


how, as a parent who does not know you, am I to determine whether you are a psycho approaching to kidnap/murder/maim/rape my child or a normal person truly intending to help?

Part of the point is that parents seem to overestimate the probability that a random dude approaching a lost child is going to kidnap/murder/maim/rape them. Most of the bad stuff that happens to kids gets done to them by someone they trust, so arguably parents should spend more time trying to prevent those kinds of bad situations.

Do you think it's worth my child's life to me to just hope for the best, allowing and teaching her to allow anyone to approach her?

No, although I don't think your child's life is a lot safer when you teach them those sorts of things. But really the issue is that the idea that all men (and gay men in particular) are dangerous to young children is pervasive and arguably harmful. Similarly, you could point to statistics that minorities commit more violent crimes, but that doesn't justify a pervasive image of minorities as dangerous and violent.

(Note: I am not trying to imply any kind of reverse-racism or "men's rights" type claim here. Men are a privileged class so discrimination against them is not exactly the same thing as discrimination against an oppressed group. But that doesn't mean we can't think critically about what kinds of stereotypes are harmful).
posted by burnmp3s at 6:54 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Now I know that I can't speak for all women, or even one woman, but it seems to me that the concerns women have over approaching men are a little more quotidian than OMG he's going to kidnap, rape and murder me! More like, ugh this guy will think I'm coming on to him, or this guy will ogle my boobs, or this guy will get off at my stop and follow me around, or this guy might expose himself to me. These things happen all the time, so often that I don't know a single woman over the age of 15 who hasn't experience more than one. There are practical reasons to avoid contact with strange men, reasons much less dramatic than kidnapping and murder, but things that are to be avoided if possible.
posted by Mister_A at 6:57 AM on August 28, 2009 [17 favorites]


Men are a privileged class

Privileged men are a privileged class. Poor-looking, older, or basically just unattractive-looking men (read: creepy) are a shat-upon class.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:59 AM on August 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


Sometimes I wonder whether teaching kids to flat-out fear and avoid strangers is maladaptive. Strangers really aren't the problem in and of themselves. Their behavior can be. What if we concentrated instead on teaching kids how to read and react to situations and vibes that aren't normal, what to do if accosted or attacked, how to get attention when it's needed, what the best survival strategies are, etc? I suspect that it's easier, especially with young children, just to say "don't talk to strangers." But at some point, and it's really pretty young, kids should be learning how to manage the risks of being social and friendly in the world by using a 'toolkit' of strategies for avoiding/removing oneself from/deterring creepy interactions. I don't think I got any specific instruction on that sort of thing until I took a voluntary self-defence class in college and then got involved with the women's rights organization, at which point I came across a lot of behavioral, evidence-based strategies for keeping oneself safe. It strikes me that the emphasis we place on 'stranger danger' comes at the cost of spending time on the finer details of handling this sort of emergency. We expect kids to learn proper toothbrushing and stop, drop, and roll, and we've got "no, go, tell," but what else could help kids avoid abduction or abuse? Do we know? Do we teach it?
posted by Miko at 7:03 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


cashman: a systematic pattern of lost rights and lives stemming from deliberate actions and events that sought to keep a group of people viewed as less than human.

Like it or not, that is not what 'discrimination' means. What you describe is pretty close to the political term 'othering', though.
posted by Dysk at 7:08 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If this is the attitude people are consciously instilling in their kids, it's obviously not worth the risk to me anymore to ever help a child in public again. I'm glad we had this talk so I know that my fear of having the cops called on me was actually justified.

Stop being scared baby and grown up. If you're an adult, one of your responsibilities is to help and protect any kid that is in trouble, even if he or she is a complete stranger. If you can't do that, then I'm going to have to ask you to leave the gene pool.

I'm ok with someone calling the kids because they think I'm suspicious when trying to help a kid. THAT'S THE FUCKING POINT, that the kid is helped. If the cop and parents walk away thinking I'm some creepy stalker, that's fine too, because #2 they're wrong and #1 the kid is safe.

On the off chance I'm arrested and thrown in jail for a bit, yes that would be terrible for me and I'd deal with that if it happened, but the chances are remote, so I'm not too worried about, especially if a kid needs help. This may bite me in the ass in the end and again, that would be truly fucking terrible, but I'll sleep better knowing I tried to do the right thing.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:10 AM on August 28, 2009 [54 favorites]


See? That's why I married BB.
posted by Mister_A at 7:12 AM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Wow, there's a lot of straw-personning going on in this thread. From both sides.
posted by muddgirl at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2009


Additionally, I can say from experience that most parents don't want a strange woman walking up to their child and engaging with them, either. Just ask Paula Poundstone. Just ask me, although I wasn't sued.
posted by muddgirl at 7:14 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm ok with someone calling the kids because they think I'm suspicious when trying to help a kid.

Why can't the option of "people who are helping kids don't get the cops called on them" be on the table? Isn't it entirely reasonably that we not be suspicious of people who aren't behaving suspiciously?
posted by 0xFCAF at 7:17 AM on August 28, 2009


Why are kids put on such a fucking pedestal anyway? Talk about the overcompensatory infantilization of society....
posted by Rumple at 7:18 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


This is exactly why I made that shirt that says "NOT CREEPY" on it.
posted by Plutor at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


0xFCAF, in my personal experience, people who are helping kids don't get the cops called on them. The hysteria over the hysteria, if you will, is as much an illusion as the idea that all men are pervy child molesters. It really doesn't happen on a day-to-day basis. It may have happened, somewhere, sometime, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, it doesn't.
posted by Mister_A at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


I made one that says "NOT MALE".
posted by Rumple at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I also think it's interesting that some people who have privilege (and I use that as a technical term, which cortex won't like, and I use it as a term of kyriarchy, so I include myself as having white, cisgender, hetero-privilege) get all in a tizzy when they are restricted in a specific way, without recognizing that everyone else is far more restricted than they are.
posted by muddgirl at 7:23 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]



Part of the point is that parents seem to overestimate the probability that a random dude approaching a lost child is going to kidnap/murder/maim/rape them


FUCK PROBABILITY. My daughter died of a cancer so rare that about 30 kids a year in the United States get diagnosed with it. So fucking rare that they didn't even know what it WAS until 10 years ago.

So when you tell me "it's not probable your child will get kidnapped", and the statistics are higher than her chance of being diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors, I'm not all that impressed.

I'm not saying that any one of YOU individually is a danger, but simply that I can't tell until after I let you approach my kid. So, yeah, I do the safer thing. Yes, there are myriad dangers in the world, many of them more likely that stranger-abduction or stranger-murder. But we control them or limit them when we can - we wear seatbelts, we get life insurance, we look both ways when we cross the street, we don't take our eyes off our drinks in a bar, we endeavor to eat well and exercise to avoid heart disease, we make our kids wear helmets and childseats, we lock our doors at night and we KEEP STRANGERS AWAY FROM OUR KIDS. If my kid MUST approach a stranger or vice versa, I'd prefer it was the stranger significantly less likely, from a statistical standpoint, to murder.

We don't put bubble wrap on them and refuse to let them have meaningful lives because of the potential dangers, but we take reasonable steps designed to avoid or reduce the likelihood of harm.
posted by bunnycup at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Everyone is so worried that if they go to help a kid in distress OMG the cops will be called. Does it occur to you that this is exactly the same mindset of a fearful freaked out parent who is thinking OMG a MAN is talking to my kid he must be a monster? In both cases you're going into crazed hypothesis territory without any evidence that any of this is true. Yes, parents are often, in this society, overly fearful. Yes, strange men approaching children are looked at askance. Does that mean that if a child is clearly in danger, a man should not approach them? No. Does that mean that if you're at the damn county fair and a little kid laughs you shouldn't laugh back? No. By helping that child or interacting with that child, you're helping change the mindset. And also, get some perspective, here. The odds are about the same that a parent is going to call the cops on you as that you're going to be a creepy stalker psycho kidnapper - probably less than 5%. Either way, you are dealing with edge case loons.

I'm a parent. I taught my kids that if they were in danger and it was at all possible, to go into a store or place of business and ask an employee there for help. This is how I got many bemused phone calls during my son's age 10 - 13 big walkabout years from distant businesses telling me to come and pick up my kid. Failing a business, if a kid is being chased by a bonafide actual weirdo, then they should ask any relatively decent looking adult for help on the theory that the chances of running into two weirdos in a row are remote. These kids are basically adults now and all this seemed to work out okay. I imagine that most parents are also relatively sane.

Also, Brandon, I'm glad I married you.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:29 AM on August 28, 2009 [15 favorites]


In some ways this situation is a self-perpetuating one. Girls (also possibly boys, but I am not one so I do not know) get told by their parents or guardians that strangers are strange and to be avoided (not that I actually remember being told this, actually).

Then, at some point or another, these girls (or perhaps women at this point) get approached by some creepy dude, thus cementing that strange men are creepy. Creepiness tends to be of a sexual nature, and women are generally considered the victims of sex, not the aggressors. The reason they get approached by creepy dudes is that the not-creepy ones are terribly afraid of approaching women or girls for fear of being considered creepy.

As a casual passerby, it is hard to tell if a man was approached by a child or did the approaching himself. The second is likely to be creepy due to the statement above re:normal dudes being too afraid to approach people, and since we like to keep children safe, we are more likely to take path that guarantees maximal child safety.

Perhaps the non-creepy guys have to approach people more and be non-creepy. But figuring out how to not be creepy and also approach people is rather tricky. I don't know if I know how to do it. The places I've approached people have generally involved some shared misery, such as waiting for the bus that's 30 minutes late when it's already snowing, or just missing the train when the next one isn't for 20 minutes (ah Japan, where 20 minutes is forever to have to wait for the next train). People working at stores. Oh, and the cluster of obviously foreign people at my relatively dinky train station where I generally see about 1 foreigner every two weeks (this one is the shared misery of sticking out like a sore thumb in a sea of Japanese people).

So, men. Good luck not being creepy! I'm sorry your gender has some creepy people who have approached people while being creepy, hence sticking into their general gender consciousness.
posted by that girl at 7:32 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


What if we concentrated instead on teaching kids how to read and react to situations and vibes that aren't normal, what to do if accosted or attacked, how to get attention when it's needed, what the best survival strategies are, etc?

Really? 5 year olds? The same people that think Barney, the tooth fairy and Santa Claus are real?

Maybe an adolescent, but I think parents are lucky enough to be able to teach their kids not to get in strangers cars, period. Much less "Don't get in anyone's car if you don't know them and their vibe seems wonky, but make sure you figure out the difference between a stranger who is upset because your Mommy really DID get in a car accident and a stranger who is nervous as to whether you'll believe the lie about Mommy's car accident (you know or lost puppy, or whatever) and get in his car so he can rape you."

We spend years teaching kids to do what adults tell them. Now you want young kids to figure out a complicated set of non-verbal triggers for when and when not to do what an adult tells them?
posted by bunnycup at 7:33 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now you want young kids to figure out a complicated set of non-verbal triggers for when and when not to do what an adult tells them?

Yes. It's a process.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:36 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


mygothlaundy: The odds are about the same that a parent is going to call the cops on you as that you're going to be a creepy stalker psycho kidnapper - probably less than 5%.

If you think that probably less than one in twenty men is going to be a creepy stalker psycho kidnapper, then you are one of the people we're complaining about.

Also, if I get the cops called on me probably less than 5% of the time, that's an unacceptably huge risk in dealing with any child, given how total and irreversible the consequences of getting arrested on a sex offence charge are, especially when a minor is involved, regardless of whether you get convicted.
posted by Dysk at 7:36 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Okay, 0xFCAF, honest question: what I don't understand about the fear many men express about helping children (and which you laid out here) is how we jump from "hmm, if this kid's mom stumbles upon me trying to help her kid, it's possible (likely?) that it will be mis-interpreted" to "I'm going to prison for child molestation."

I totally understand the intense discomfort that would come from a situation where a kid's parents are freaking out at you. I also think it's unlikely, but not impossible, that someone would call the cops in a misinterpreted situation like that, and that you'd have to talk to some burly dudes with guns who want to know why, exactly, you were touching the kid. But that's about as far as my imagination can take me before I think, okay, but unless you believe the child is going to start making up malicious lies about how you molested them, that's the end of it. The kid corraborates your story, maybe the mom is still giving you the stink-eye, but that's it. That's the worst-case scenario, and it sucks, but it's not anywhere in the ballpark of being thrown in prison or ruining someone's life.

Even in the worst-case scenario I think is plausible--not likely, but plausible--the cops get called and you have to explain yourself to them. I agree that's shitty and I agree it sucks to live in a world where that's a possibility, but taking that fear to the level of saying you're never going to help a kid out who is possibly in danger or real trouble just seems so, so overblown to me that I wonder if I'm missing something. Can you explain?
posted by iminurmefi at 7:37 AM on August 28, 2009


Why can't the option of "people who are helping kids don't get the cops called on them" be on the table? Isn't it entirely reasonably that we not be suspicious of people who aren't behaving suspiciously?

People aren't reasonable. That sucks, but it's true. However, in my experience, those initial suspicions (which I do think are somewhat reasonable) quickly evaporate when you're straight up and honest and don't get your hackles up about being questioned.

Believe me, I hate answering to authority and love thumbing my nose at it, but to me this is ridiculous thing to get your hackles up about. Help the kid. Tell with the scared parents or cops honestly and most of the time things will be fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:38 AM on August 28, 2009


I have to leave this thread now, this "issue" really pisses me off.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 7:39 AM on August 28, 2009


It's interesting to look back on my transient life growing up and realize which people I've encountered were predatory and which ones were not. As a parent myself now, I'm not sure I could always differentiate the one from the other.

I do know that no one that has ever offered aid while I was in danger had hurt me. I do know that my mother was too overprotective of my interaction around strangers and not protective enough of my (and especially my sister's) interaction around reasonably trusted, but totally sociopathic, relatives. I know the only person who ever attempted to sexually assault me was a long-time neighbor that had always treated me with kindness as a child and that I revisited before going to college (long after I moved away).

I know that I've encountered a lot of ignorant and maladjusted people, but they did not do sufficient harm to me in any way. If anything, encountering them has strengthened my own character. Lastly, I am suspicious of everyone around my own young daughter, but I also have the common sense to know that the people who are most likely to harm her are the ones I am least likely to anticipate. And while I proceed with caution I don't live in perpetual fear of that.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:40 AM on August 28, 2009


Since we've moved over here, I'll just say that yes, it sucks to get misjudged while being friendly with someone else's child. And yes, it's best to instill in children what to watch out for in their environment. Having said that, putting the nervousness of parents towards you, as a man, for being friendly with their child isn't in the same league as the civil rights examples being raised in that thread. It's not even in the same ball park. I think a sense of perspective is sorely lacking there, which otherwise clouds the deeper question of how we teach our children what to look out for and what to avoid.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now you want young kids to figure out a complicated set of non-verbal triggers for when and when not to do what an adult tells them?

Yes. It's a process.


Absolutely, as I said, one that adolescents may accurately be able to use. But I need to protect my kid at an age long before the higher-level critical thinking mechanisms for these types of decision-making patterns will develop. Hence - don't talk to strangers. Sweet and simple.
posted by bunnycup at 7:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


iminurmefi: Even in the worst-case scenario I think is plausible--not likely, but plausible--the cops get called and you have to explain yourself to them. I agree that's shitty and I agree it sucks to live in a world where that's a possibility, but taking that fear to the level of saying you're never going to help a kid out who is possibly in danger or real trouble just seems so, so overblown to me that I wonder if I'm missing something. Can you explain?

You seem to trust the judgement of the police a lot more than I do. In a situation like the one you describe, I see myself at least getting arrested and taken to the station before they even start asking questions.
posted by Dysk at 7:46 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher: Tell with the scared parents or cops honestly and most of the time things will be fine.

Again, given how severe and permanent the consequences are if things don't work out fine, "most of the time" isn't anything like good enough.
posted by Dysk at 7:48 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I know moderation is kind of a downer, but I always thought it would be more effective to teach kids to be wary of strangers who approached them, but that it would be perfectly okay to approach strangers when they needed help.

I still don't know what to do with the little kid situation, especially because they seem perfectly okay coming up to me, hanging on me, etc., out of nowhere. It's rude to approach a parent when their offspring is clinging to you like a barnacle, then say, "I think this is yours," but at the same time, once someone points the PedoStick at you, it's all over. I suppose worrying about it is my awful white male privilege. I guess I'll have to wait to do something about it until people who are more restricted than I have their issues resolved.

Of course, by that logic, I guess everyone else will have to wait, too, until we have located The Most Unfortunate Person in the Entire World and solved all of their problems, or at least brought them up to par with The Second Most Unfortunate Person in the Entire World. Sidenote: one of her unfortunate problems is she is actually acquainted with The Most Unfortunate Person in the Entire World, and when people tell her, "Hey, there are people who have it worse than you," she has to sigh and say, "Yeah, I know, I know."

Don't even get me started on The Antepentultimate Most Unfortunate Person — I pity that poor bastard. I'm taking him with me when I leave Omelas for the last time, but instead of going it on foot, we'll be riding bikes.
posted by adipocere at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


You seem to trust the judgement of the police a lot more than I do. In a situation like the one you describe, I see myself at least getting arrested and taken to the station before they even start asking questions.

And yet YOU think parent sshould trust the judgment of random strange men they've never seen before in their lives. At least background checks are done on cops (not saying that it matters much, nor drawing a conclusion that therefore cops are honest and fair). But, cops have proved something to society.

A man tries to walk up to my kid, and I have LESS to go on than that. You don't trust the cops, but I'm supposed to trust you, sight unseen?

(Of course I mean "you" in a general sense, not a personal sense.)
posted by bunnycup at 7:49 AM on August 28, 2009


don't talk to strangers. Sweet and simple.

That's a shame, I feel richer for having had parents who included me in conversations when they were talking with people they ran into, and taught me to be polite and friendly but also to have common sense when I was quite young.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:50 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also, if I get the cops called on me probably less than 5% of the time, that's an unacceptably huge risk in dealing with any child, given how total and irreversible the consequences of getting arrested on a sex offence charge are, especially when a minor is involved, regardless of whether you get convicted.

This is exactly the reasoning applied by bunnycup and similar parents -- the consequences of molestation/abduction/etc. are immeasurably large, and therefore it's worth taking steps to avoid even very small risks. Why is this a reasonable calculation for you to make, but not parents of young children? (Note: as a dad, I have been on both sides of this issue at various times.)
posted by brain_drain at 7:53 AM on August 28, 2009


If the parents knew them and introduced the child, they're not strangers then. Unless I am utterly misunderstanding your point...

And of course that forces me to say, yes, absolutely we know that far more kidnapping and molestation is done by NON-strangers. But teaching the kid not to talk to strangers is a good bet.

I was taught that and (SHOCKINGLY) I managed to have wonderful conversations with my mothers attorney and judge colleagues, my parents friends, neighbors and so forth. Yet, when a guy on a motorcycle wearing a hat and a mask drove back and forth past me 3 times in a row staring at me while I was playing outside at age 10, I had, too, the common sense to run inside and tell my Dad.

So, we can manage common sense, fear of strangers and conversations with adults fairly easily. It's been done for generations.
posted by bunnycup at 7:54 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't even like kids, and now I'm expected to risk accusations to help them, just to be a grownup?

Well excuse me if I don't pay mind to what you consider is my obligation. As long as Nancy Grace gets ratings, your brat can find their own way home.
posted by spaltavian at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, there are myriad dangers in the world, many of them more likely that stranger-abduction or stranger-murder. But we control them or limit them when we can - we wear seatbelts, we get life insurance, we look both ways when we cross the street, we don't take our eyes off our drinks in a bar, we endeavor to eat well and exercise to avoid heart disease, we make our kids wear helmets and childseats, we lock our doors at night and we KEEP STRANGERS AWAY FROM OUR KIDS.

Yeah, I agree that being protective or even overprotective of kids is fine. There are a lot of bigger threats to kids than strangers, but there's no harm in spending some time trying to prevent the unlikely ones.

Absolutely, as I said, one that adolescents may accurately be able to use. But I need to protect my kid at an age long before the higher-level critical thinking mechanisms for these types of decision-making patterns will develop. Hence - don't talk to strangers. Sweet and simple.

A lot of parents don't really get past that part, though. A lot of victims of sexual abuse (including older kids) are significantly worse off because the whole issue of sexual abuse is so taboo that they don't feel comfortable talking about it, even to their parents to stop the abuse from happening. So although talking to kids about that kind of stuff is tricky, it seems like explicitly talking about what they should do in those situations is important, at least at some point.

Having said that, putting the nervousness of parents towards you, as a man, for being friendly with their child isn't in the same league as the civil rights examples being raised in that thread.

If that was at all directed at me, I completely agree, that's what I was trying to suggest in the note after my comment above. I would see the discrimination against men in terms of interacting with young children as a minor convenience, not something on the same level as racism or even the kinds of abuse that parents are afraid of in the first place. But in my opinion it's worth talking about any social issue, even if it's not that important.
posted by burnmp3s at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2009


If you're an adult, one of your responsibilities is to help and protect any kid that is in trouble, even if he or she is a complete stranger.

It is no such thing. In the fairly-recent past, it was an implicit part of the social contract under which we lived, and that was a good thing. No one except that weirdo-fringe group of creepy guys we're discussing wants to see kids get hurt. That contract is not, however, unilateral. Being willing to help out requires the expectation that our actions be considered as acting in good faith, and the point that 0xFCAF is making, which no one seems to be addressing, is that we will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt. Parents have taken a sharp turn toward stone-cold-crazy in the last twenty years, and there is absolutely no way I'm going to risk a jail term by helping someone if their parents are likely to interpret an action of mine as malicious. There's no safety net: if I were to find myself in exactly 0xFCAF's position, and chose to help someone over the fence, and her mom was in a bad mood and decided that I looked a little shady, the police would never arrest me in a heartbeat, the mere fact that I was accused would cause me to lose my job and friends (because social mores governing sexual offenses are completely insane, and the burden of proof rests entirely on the accused), and I'd be out tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees. This is assuming that I am able to summon an iron-clad defense of my actions, which will of course not exist, so let's tack on five years of a prison term and a lifetime on a sexual offender list as further payment for my good intentions. If the rest of the world isn't likely to hold up their end of the bargain, ain't no way in hell I'm putting my neck out to protect their kids.
posted by Mayor West at 7:55 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


You don't trust the cops, but I'm supposed to trust you, sight unseen?

(Of course I mean "you" in a general sense, not a personal sense.)


It's not that I don't trust the cops, full stop, it's that I don't trust the cops to take a measured response when somebody is screaming "PEDO!" and pointing at me, because of how seriously horrified our society is of sex offenders and pedophiles.
posted by Dysk at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2009


police would never arrest -> police would arrest
posted by Mayor West at 7:56 AM on August 28, 2009


brain_drain: Why is this a reasonable calculation for you to make, but not parents of young children?

If the probability of my being a pedo were actually around 5%, I'd say it would be fair enough to assume the worst. But it's many orders of magnitude less. I think the probability of my being beaten with the pedo stick is much, much closer to that hypothetical 5% that somebody mentioned.

So if it were, in fact, the same calculation, then you'd have a point.
posted by Dysk at 7:58 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If my kid MUST approach a stranger or vice versa, I'd prefer it was the stranger significantly less likely, from a statistical standpoint, to murder.

That's funny. Parents used to (hell, some still do, just in a more oblique way) say exactly the same thing about having their kids be friends with/date members of another race. "I'm not racist, it's just statistics, you understand..." etc...

It was ridiculous then, and it's ridiculous now. The fact that to you the boogey-man out to get your kids is "any man daring to walk down street" versus "black kid who MUST BE INTO drugs" doesn't change how absurd such generalizations are.
posted by modernnomad at 7:59 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I always help children in distress. No one has ever treated me badly for it. I will continue to help your children if I happen upon them in a time of need, even though there is a risk that someone will misunderstand. Because it is the right thing to do, and because doing the right thing is always worth the risk of sacrifice.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:00 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


I still don't know what to do with the little kid situation, especially because they seem perfectly okay coming up to me, hanging on me, etc., out of nowhere. It's rude to approach a parent when their offspring is clinging to you like a barnacle, then say, "I think this is yours," but at the same time, once someone points the PedoStick at you, it's all over.

Well, I can understand this, but I have to agree with my spouse upthread and in the other thread that the vague "what if?" fear shouldn't get in the way of actually helping a child. Now, as for other circumstances, such as you describe, of some random child coming up to you and talking to you, wanting a push on the swings or what have you, that's a matter for your own discretion, I guess. I've run into situations before where a kid at the beach is swimming around, swims up to me and starts talking to me, and yes, the thought does cross my mind, "Huh. I wonder if this looks bad." But I don't see a need to be rude to the child; I usually just smile, exchange a couple pleasantries and say "Well, see ya." Most little kids have a short enough attention span to wander off to something else after this anyway.

Yes, on one occasion I got a weird, pretty hostile look from a dad at Wal*Mart. His son was lost, I happened to be the closest grown-up, and I was telling him "Wait here while I go get someone to call for your dad" when his dad showed up. At first there was that "what are you doing to my boy?" look, but I chuckled nervously and said, "He got lost. Was just about to get your name on the intercom." And the dad actually laughed, "Oh, God, just what I'd need - everyong thinking I'm one of those clueless dads." He thanked me, and we parted ways.

I realize we're exchanging a lot of anecdotes here, which is fine and all. I'm just saying none of our anecdotes are hard-and-fast rules about the way it always is. Personally I think that getting That Look from a parent isn't the end of the world, and fear of it definitely shouldn't stop you from helping a child.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:04 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


FUCK PROBABILITY. My daughter died of a cancer so rare that about 30 kids a year in the United States get diagnosed with it. So fucking rare that they didn't even know what it WAS until 10 years ago.

So when you tell me "it's not probable your child will get kidnapped", and the statistics are higher than her chance of being diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumors, I'm not all that impressed...

If my kid MUST approach a stranger or vice versa, I'd prefer it was the stranger significantly less likely, from a statistical standpoint, to murder.


So on the one hand, "fuck probability", but on the other hand "Statistics are the reason I treat male strangers differently than female strangers". Probability and statistics go hand in hand. You can't ignore one and worship the other.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:04 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


now I'm expected to risk accusations to help them, just to be a grownup?

Yes. If you help a lost kid find his mommy at the store, you're not going to jail. This is a silly panic, even sillier than the "stranger danger" panic that engendered it. Please read what BB said in the original thread - there are simple, common-sense steps you can take in almost any situation that is likely to arise that will eliminate any suspicion that you're up to no good.

And it wouldn't hurt to try to understand what is going through parents' minds when their children are injured or missing. Parents are extremely distressed by this sort of thing! Be cool. Be the hero. Don't be petty and defensive, be calm and explain what happened and what you did. If the parents are jerks about it, so what? You helped a kid. You were the hero. You aren't going to jail. Stop watching so much TV or whatever it is that is giving people these crazy ideas about parents.
posted by Mister_A at 8:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


I need to point out something about bunnycup wrote. Using the same logic, and the same data source, the statement can be transmuted to:

No offense to all the perfectly innocent black people who would never hurt a fly, but blacks DO unarguably commit the VAST number of homicides.

Certainly that does not mean you are all monsters, but it does mean that if you are a strange black person acting weird around me, I will take action to either get me away from you or vice versa. And I'll teach my kids to do the same. And please don't come crying back about how god-awful unfair that is.

I rate entitlement not to be murdered (or have my child kidnapped, etc.) over your right to not be treated like a potential murder, rapist, killer, whatever in a personal situation. I am not saying there is not an element of prejudice in there, I certainly do not regularly check the statistics by race and gender and adjust my level of guard thereby. But, as a Caucasian, black people are more dangerous to me than other Caucasians. "Weird-acting black person" is a convenient (though often inaccurate) way to gauge danger.

Possibly illogical, but then I've never been attacked, kidnapped, raped, murdered, assaulted, etc, despite being in some pretty bad situations. So it's working for me.


This variant is, of course, quite offensive, and, in fairness, it is obviously not what bunnycup said. Yet it's the same data source used and the same logic of reasoning. The only thing changed is that the element of discrimination changed from gender to race.

Food for thought.
posted by WCityMike at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Really? 5 year olds? ...Now you want young kids to figure out a complicated set of non-verbal triggers for when and when not to do what an adult tells them?

I didnt' say that. What I said was that I think that right now, we're great at "sweet and simple," and then...we tend to leave it at that, as if that were (a) actually protective (it's not) and (b) enough.

I was honest when I said that after "stranger danger" I received no other specific training or even lengthy talk about the more nuanced elements of self-protection. No, a 5-year-old can't handle all degrees of nuance, but they are capable of knowing when things aren't right and acting on that feeling, as I know well from teaching kindergarten for years. They can understand that it's generally all right to converse with strangers when also in the presence of a trusted adult or when you need help and are alone. They can learn the markers of (theoretical) trustworthiness - uniforms, etc. So I'm saying that 'stranger danger' is perhaps a useful concept for the very young, but it's absolutely not sufficient on its own, nor is it sufficient for kids in the middle school-age years, 7-10 or so, and then I think another and yet more specific set of skills and knowledge becomes quite important as puberty sets in, 11/12 and onward. Also, as children's free range and unsupervised activity level increases, so should their instruction on dealing with people.
posted by Miko at 8:07 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'll tell a store employee. I'm not getting involved personally.
posted by spaltavian at 8:08 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So on the one hand, "fuck probability", but on the other hand "Statistics are the reason I treat male strangers differently than female strangers". Probability and statistics go hand in hand. You can't ignore one and worship the other.

The low probability of a harm will not dissuade me from protecting against it, as I said, within reasonable bounds (i.e. I do not watch overhead for airplanes flying through the sky and avoid walking below for fear they will crash onto me). I do, however, endeavor to protect against harm in the most reasonable way possible.

I think you must also see that to some degree I was being rhetorical. One can't avoid the action of statistics/probability at all time, rather I was explaining my own particular sensitivity.

Put another way, I will teach my children to avoid ALL strangers (because the lowness of the probability of harm from a stranger will not dissuade me from teaching this lesson, which I learned to my benefit). However, if a stranger MUST be approached, I will teach them to approach a woman with children - the lowest likelihood stranger to harm them.

Under your approach, I would have to keep my child indoors in bubble wrap all the time. As I said, I am not willing to do that.
posted by bunnycup at 8:12 AM on August 28, 2009


If the probability of my being a pedo were actually around 5%, I'd say it would be fair enough to assume the worst. But it's many orders of magnitude less.

We're not talking about the likelihood of you being a pedophile. We're talking about the likelihood that someone who triggers a parent's danger radar is a danger to a child. "Many orders of magnitude less" than 5% is something like .005%, or 1/20,000. Although I doubt there are any reliable statistics, my own view is that parental radar is much better than this. If someone walks alone several times through a playground staring non-stop at my daughter while she is playing, sure, he could be just a harmless guy thinking of his own daughter who lives somewhere else, but there's a much greater than 1/20,000 chance that he's a risk. No one can say for sure exactly what the odds are, but we're not talking about calling the cops on shady-looking people, we're talking about taking greater care and being alert when suspicious characters are around kids (or at least that's what I'm talking about).

I think the probability of my being beaten with the pedo stick is much, much closer to that hypothetical 5% that somebody mentioned.

Seriously? I just don't see it that way, and I'm a man who is equally at risk of this when I'm alone. Kids get helped by strangers all the time without incident. But if that's how you see the risk, then I understand your calculation to avoid contact with kids. I just think it's a sad state of affairs.
posted by brain_drain at 8:18 AM on August 28, 2009


No offense to all the perfectly innocent black people who would never hurt a fly, but blacks DO unarguably commit the VAST number of homicides.

If we're going to play "how to lie with statistics" maybe we want to see who really does kill kids. The answer of course is "generally parents." 3% strangers. "Most of the children killed are male and most of the offenders are male"
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:19 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


A few years ago I was selling electronics. A young mother and her five-year-old son approached me to ask about wireless routers. We had been exchanging Q&A for a couple of minutes when the boy, out of the blue, just hauled off and punched me in the crotch. Ouch! Who knows what that mom had been teaching him about conversations with strangers. She seemed rather non-plussed, but did hold his hand after that. Anyway, I still made the sale, despite the lump in my throat.
posted by netbros at 8:21 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


If we're going to play "how to lie with statistics" maybe we want to see who really does kill kids. The answer of course is "generally parents." 3% strangers. "Most of the children killed are male and most of the offenders are male"

This is why we raised our kids to never talk to me. It was a win win.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:22 AM on August 28, 2009 [21 favorites]


Who knows what that mom had been teaching him about conversations with strangers.

I think video games were to blame. Did he yell "FALCOOOOON PUNCH!" ?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:24 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


brain_drain: Seriously? I just don't see it that way, and I'm a man who is equally at risk of this when I'm alone.

Given that I'm a long-haired beardo, I somehow don't think that's the case...

(Yeah, I know being awful and making an assumption here. Feel free to make an epic call-out if you're a long-haired beardo, too.)
posted by Dysk at 8:24 AM on August 28, 2009


Under your approach, I would have to keep my child indoors in bubble wrap all the time. As I said, I am not willing to do that.

That is so not my approach at all.

However, if a stranger MUST be approached, I will teach them to approach a woman with children - the lowest likelihood stranger to harm them.

Is this a statistic that you can cite, or is this just your opinion? It would be interesting to see data about strangers that harmed children that approached them.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:26 AM on August 28, 2009


don't talk to strangers. Sweet and simple.

That's a shame, I feel richer for having had parents who included me in conversations when they were talking with people they ran into, and taught me to be polite and friendly but also to have common sense when I was quite young.
posted by Space Coyote at 9:50 AM on August 28 [+] [!]


Imagine, if you will, a world where both could happen. Because it can.

I have a story similar to 0xFCAF's that happened in 1987. I still remember the look on the mother's face.

I was walking to get on an "UP" escalator at the Tabor Center in Denver which had just been built. (It's a huge indoor glassed mall). At the base of the escalator just to the right, was a park bench. As I walked to get on the escalator, I remember seeing the mother and her three young children sitting on the bench. Half way up the escalator I hear a child screaming and it sounds like it's right next to me but it doesn't make sense since there is nothing on either side of me except a 25 foot (and climbing) drop to the floor below. I look at the escalator railing and see two little hands holding on for dear life. I reach over the side and pull the little girl on to the escalator to safety and meet her running, screaming mother at the top. She gave me a real nasty look, grabbed her daughter and walked away. I wanted to punch her square in the mouth. Thing is, I know what was going through her head and it pissed me off. It pissed me off to feel like I would even be in a position of having to explain why I had the audacity to try and save a little girl from splattering all over the mall floor.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:27 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Under your approach, I would have to keep my child indoors in bubble wrap all the time. As I said, I am not willing to do that.

Perhaps wax paper then? Some sort of epoxy resin? Carbonite is probably too expensive.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:29 AM on August 28, 2009


(and I use that as a technical term, which cortex won't like, and I use it as a term of kyriarchy, so I include myself as having white, cisgender, hetero-privilege)

I think I remember arguments about the use of technical/academic terms in lay conversations and the semantic bumpiness that can come with it, and it feels like something I might try interceding in if I saw people talking past each other because of it, but I don't remember having a specific dog in that fight and I'm wondering what you're referring to, muddgirl. Maybe I'm forgetting some exchange, but my gut reaction here is that you're confusing me with someone else on that point.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:29 AM on August 28, 2009


Fuck it, who needs a low blood pressure.

Being willing to help out requires the expectation that our actions be considered as acting in good faith, and the point that 0xFCAF is making, which no one seems to be addressing, is that we will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt.

I addressed it, repeatedly and I'll do it again here, hopefully with better editing.

That sort of response is, IMO, foolish and paranoid to the nth degree. It doesn't matter much if you aren't given the benefit of doubt and it doesn't matter if everyone walks away thinking you're a creepy dude. What's important is making sure the kid is safe. That's what matters, not your sensitive feelings and whether the world thinks good of you and gives you accolades.

I'm not saying men haven't been wrongly accused and I'm sure as hell not saying that's ok, but in the greater scheme of things, I do believe it's better to help the kid and take that small, but potentially devastating risk, because it's better for society at large. Again, I say this as big, black scary dude who's natural expression is kinda intense and unfriendly, but it is morally wrong to ignore a child in need of help.

If you worried, carry a cell phone with ya and call the cops (if you have time) as you go to help the child, being sure to leave your name and number. If someone challenges you on what you're doing, give your name and invite them to help you help the child. Yes, some people will be crazy and stupid in their responses to you, but that's true of many other situations. Fuck it, you can't control what others think and do, you can only control your actions. Do what's right and most times things will work out fine and when they don't, at least you'll go down knowing you tried to something good.

As to WCityMike's analogy of race:

Certainly that does not mean you are all monsters, but it does mean that if you are a strange black person acting weird around me, I will take action to either get me away from you or vice versa.

Relax, we tend to kill other black people more often than we kill whites. You're worrying about the wrong thing, re (from Mike's link): "Compared with the overall involvement of blacks as victims, blacks are less often the victims of sex-related homicides, workplace killings, and homicide by poison."

You white people like to kill as part of sex, shoot up the workplace and use poison (WTF?), while we keep in the family so to speak. As far as strangers go, ya'll are pretty safe from us. Here's the numbers:
From 1976 to 2005 --

86% of white victims were killed by whites
94% of black victims were killed by blacks
Mike, if you could throw in some analogies about fat people or vegans, this thread would be perfect.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:30 AM on August 28, 2009 [38 favorites]



However, if a stranger MUST be approached, I will teach them to approach a woman with children - the lowest likelihood stranger to harm them.


Define harm, because if your child approached my sister on a bad medication day (or any number of other psychologically ill mothers in my extended family) on an average day, your child might walk away with a serious psychological scar.

"Miss, miss, can you help me, I've lost my mommy!"

"Your mother lost you? The police are going to come and take you away from your mother forever because she doesn't deserve to take care of you. If it happens again, someone is going to KILL you. Do you understand?"

Malice comes in many forms, not all of them so easily gendered.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Brandon Blatcher just won the thread.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2009


86% of vegans were killed by fat people. It was on accident, though. We didn't see them sitting there.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:32 AM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Repeating the concept for truth- people have privilege because they have privilege, not for any other reason. Male, female, black, white, whatever.

Using statistics and probablilty, real or imagined, to prejudge people's actions IS WRONG. Not just morally wrong, but statistically wrong. If white males commit 80% of murders, all that means is that if you are murdered, there's an 80% chance it will be by a white male. It has ZERO predictive value on how your next interaction with a white male will play out.

Being a member of some cohort or another does mean you may experience differing levels of various discriminations and prejudices. But all that means is that there are differing levels of jerks out there who will try engage in discrimination and prejudice. It is no excuse to lump other people into categories of fear and mistrust. What happens to other people or has happened to you in the past has no bearing on what will happen in the future.

It is wrong. No matter who does it. Crying "woe is me" because life isn't fair might feel good, but it solves nothing. It is a reason, not an excuse. Lots of people are assholes, but instead of looking at them as individual assholes, when we look at their bad behavior as proof that we are being discriminated against, we do a disservice to only ourselves. We are creating excuses in our minds, creating unstoppable monsters to make us feel better about our bad luck, and to give ourselves an excuse to not be better people in the future.

When we create these scenarios, we diminish ourselves, other people and society. How many positive interactions in society have been avoided because the black guy mistrusted the white guy, who mistrusted him back because they were both afraid how the other guy would react? How many people cause themselves greater harm because they were afraid to ask some stranger for help, and how many strangers failed to help because they were afraid their motives would be questioned?

All of this stems from the fear created by prejudice of all types. Prejudice that stems from historical mistreatment is just as bad as the predudice that caused that mistreatment in the first place. Everyone's prejudices come from a "sincere" place in their hearts- I can safely prejudge because I have a good reason for it. The problem is, there never is a good reason for it, and we are just deluding ourselves.

In other words, correlation is not causation. Our brains are wired to believe that it is, and in some cases it works out. But that's no excuse to do nothing or to not change our behavior and act like better people. And maybe, just maybe, create a better society for everyone.
posted by gjc at 8:33 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


I think "that girl" has a point. Men fuck it up for other men. This is why someone divorcing a dude will go out of her way to not tell him where she's going, because other assholes bothered their exes and so on. I guess to some degree just sealing off new information helps both parties but there's an aspect of caution there too.

The word "creepy", though, is thrown around much too liberally for my tastes. If men were women we'd be wanting to reclaim the word :p Anything that gives you weird vibes, or turns you off, is so easily termed "creepy". 'Oh his face looks creepy.' Really? What the fuck? It's a heavy word is all I'm saying. Although much of the promiscuous usage is lightly meant, or within a limited frame of consequence, so I guess that's neither here nor there.

As for kids, yeah. American society really has an absurd fear of pedophiles. But yeah. I think we can agree that men in general are more unpredictable on this front. Why is that so hard to accept? Men crash cars more. Men take more of certain types of risks. Low-income men in developing countries are much worse with debt. etc. etc. It could be genes, socialization, or a factor of the two—but the pattern differences are there. There's a reason why when David Brooks said that a Republican senator had his hand on his inner thigh for an extended period during a dinner he said, "I’ve spoken to a lot of young women who are Senate staffers and they’ll have these middle age guys who are sort of in the middle of a mid-life crisis. Emotionally needy, they don’t know how to do it and sort of like these St. Bernards drooling everywhere. And you find a lot of this happens in mid-life and among very powerful people who are extremely lonely." Why aren't there women in the Senate like that?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 8:34 AM on August 28, 2009


When my daughter was four, she went to a safety seminar thing with my wife and came back with a VHS tape called "Stranger Danger" or something weird like that. It had rapping spokesbeasts and washed up regional rock bands singing songs about not talking to strangers and finding a policeman or adult if a stranger tries to talk to you.

Thing is, this stuff never worked because my daughter is never, ever, ever in a position of having to make that decision since we are now the over-protective parents. Go figure.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2009


Oh, and I will *always* intervene when a child needs help because I was raised to do so, though I suspect that more children need to be protected from their own parents more so than the average person (male or female) on the street.
posted by mrmojoflying at 8:35 AM on August 28, 2009


my daughter is never, ever, ever in a position of having to make that decision

What happens later? When you're not there? When she goes to camp? College? When she's walking from her friends' house, with her friend, to the corner store?
posted by Miko at 8:36 AM on August 28, 2009


Brandon Blatcher: Do what's right and most times things will work out fine and when they don't, at least you'll go down knowing you tried to something good.

(The following is all theoretical - I doubt I can truly say how I would react in a panicked or emotionally charged situation.)
If we're talking about hauling a child off an escalator precipice, then yeah, I'd probably do it. But if it's a lost kid bawling on a pavement somewhere? "Go down" in this circumstance could mean a permanent spot on the sexual offender register, the loss of virtually all social capital, and a number of years being the subject of amateur exploratory surgery. Yeah, I think I'd save a life against the off-chance of that happening (you're also probably less likely to get falsely accused of something if the kid is saying "but mommy/daddy, he saved me!"), but not for anything less than that.
posted by Dysk at 8:39 AM on August 28, 2009



Is this a statistic that you can cite, or is this just your opinion?


It's my, and popular, opinion. And I'm sticking to it! If there is a citation out there, I certainly did not check it. I went with what my Mama taught me!
posted by bunnycup at 8:41 AM on August 28, 2009


Malice comes in many forms, not all of them so easily gendered.

Yeah, by harm I don't mean someone acting bitchy. I mean rape, murder, kidnapping, assault, maiming, etc. Obviously.
posted by bunnycup at 8:42 AM on August 28, 2009


There was a guy in college with me who was accused by a female student of sexually assualting her. Police were involved, he was requested not to attend college until the matter went to court. Shortly before it did she confessed that she had made it up as she was unwell.

The moral of the story: Guys, stay away from all women because they could potentially fuck up your lives and ruin your career.

Hang on, that's totally INSANE. I meant to say, sometimes bad shit can happen and all we can do is not live in fear of it but prepare ourselves to avoid it happening and deal with it the best we can if it does.
posted by Elmore at 8:44 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: "As to WCityMike's analogy of race"

You perhaps misunderstood what I was trying to say, Brandon. To me, what Bunnycup was saying was that she deemed maintaining and teaching to her child a prejudice against men was acceptable, based on statistical sources, in the name of preserving the best chance of survival for her children. My response was that the logical structure of her argument, and statistical source that she used, would equally serve her to maintain and teach a prejudice against African-Americans for the same reasoning. Since most anyone would consider the latter to be extremely offensive, the former should be as well.

Given the fact that I even stated outright at the end that the transmutation of her argument was quite offensive, I think it was fairly obvious I was not holding it out as a personal belief. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your response, but I'm not sure why you seem to have interpreted my statement as something I believe, when it's fairly obvious I don't.
posted by WCityMike at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


In fairness to you Miko, I was being somewhat facetious. Of course she goes to camp, sleep-overs, etc. We've discussed with her what to do if she does not feel comfortable in situations or around certain people. It seems kids develop that sense much sooner that we give them credit for. I do have to admit that I was a hovering parent though, mostly out of my paranoia.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:45 AM on August 28, 2009


Thank you for your contributions to this topic, Brandon. Sorry you have gotten frustrated with the thread, but believe me when I say you've made a difference. As an onlooker who was starting to be swayed by the "it's too much trouble to help people" mindset, I'd like to say thanks for steering me straight.
posted by ODiV at 8:46 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I meant to say, sometimes bad shit can happen and all we can do is not live in fear of it but prepare ourselves to avoid it happening and deal with it the best we can if it does.

Agreed, wholeheartedly. There are NO actions (re: teaching children stranger danger, etc.) that can prevent all of the harm all of the time, and every reasonable teaching method I can think of will sometimes lead to "over-protection," by which I mean fearing an innocent stranger.

I want to be clear that I do NOT support pegging all men attempting to help as pedos or potential murderers, simply that I feel it is rational and appropriate to teach my kids to fear all strangers, and to approach a female if a stranger must be approached. It's not a perfect solution, nor have I said it was. It over-does it sometimes, and under-does it others. But it's the best I have (until those psychic abilities come along).
posted by bunnycup at 8:47 AM on August 28, 2009


Since most anyone would consider the latter to be extremely offensive, the former should be as well.

Really/!?!? It's offensive to teach my kids to fear strange men because if I was teaching them to fear all people of a given race, that would be offensive?

I actually gave your statements MORE credit for intelligence than that, it didn't even occur to me that you'd put such a silly premise in writing.
posted by bunnycup at 8:49 AM on August 28, 2009


A few statistics to throw into the thread (courtesy of the US Dept of Health and Human Sciences):

During 2006, an estimated 905,000 children in the US were determined to be victims of abuse or neglect. (So for a population containing an estimated 73 million children, that's roughly a 1 in 80 chance that a typical child will be abused or neglected in some way.)

Around 25% of those cases involved physical or sexual abuse (Lowering the 'stranger danger' probability to 1 in 320, because we're not concerned about neglect in the topic at hand).

In 2006, nearly 80 percent (79.4%) of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and another 6.7 percent were other relatives of the victim. (Assuming this statistic applies across the board, that brings the risk from strangers to an individual child down to about 1 in 2400.)

My assumptions may be a bit rough and ready, but compare 'stranger danger' to figures like road fatalities, domestic accidents and illness and it's quite small potatoes.

Some other figures from that year (admittedly selected more for shock value than anything else):

Children in the age group of birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization at 24.4 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;

Women comprised a larger percentage of all perpetrators than men, 57.9 percent compared to 42.1 percent.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Really, what I think is the most important issue here (and the one I initially raised over on the blue, before getting caught up in the 'debate' we're having now) is being ignored. My major concern is not what this policy of 'stranger danger, fear men!' does to men, but does to the mindset of a whole generation of children.
posted by Dysk at 8:50 AM on August 28, 2009


bunnycup: Really/!?!? It's offensive to teach my kids to fear strange men because if I was teaching them to fear all people of a given race, that would be offensive?

Word it differently, and it sounds quite different. It is offensive to teach your kids to fear all members of a certain sex by default, yes.
posted by Dysk at 8:52 AM on August 28, 2009


Sure, if I said something I didn't say, then maybe that would be offensive.

Nice "win"?
posted by bunnycup at 8:53 AM on August 28, 2009


bunnycup, how is it in any way different to what you said, though?
posted by Dysk at 8:53 AM on August 28, 2009


Well, it's NOT what I said, for starters.
posted by bunnycup at 8:55 AM on August 28, 2009


And so, if you want to make the case that something I said is offensive because something you said I said instead was offensive, and therefore I said something offensive then....

Oh, then that would be your winning rhetorical technique!
posted by bunnycup at 8:56 AM on August 28, 2009


Also (ugh I hate posting multiple times), I think the topic of the extent to which it is appropriate to make a logical leap from "men commit more murders" to "fearing men is absolutely equivalent to racism" has been well covered already, with the conclusion being that it suffers from quite a few flaws. Read up for details, as I'm not going to commit myself to cut-and-pasting the well-considered comments to that effect.
posted by bunnycup at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2009


My assumptions may be a bit rough and ready, but compare 'stranger danger' to figures like road fatalities, domestic accidents and illness and it's quite small potatoes.

Now seems as good a time as any to recommend The Science of Fear: Why We Fear the Things We Shouldn't--and Put Ourselves in Greater Danger

One of the examples the author sights is how parents, largely due to the "stranger danger" fear, rarely allow their children to walk or bike to school unattended anymore. Even though statistically, that child's chance of being in a car accident on the drive to school is astronomically more likely that running in to a creepy psycho if he or she had walked on biked.
posted by The Gooch at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2009


bunnycup, are you teaching your kids to avoid strange men? Or are you teaching them to avoid strangers who are men? They aren't the same thing, and your earlier comments indicate that you're doing the latter.

Teaching them to avoid strange men, and not doing the same for strange women would bother me somewhat, as well.
posted by Dysk at 8:59 AM on August 28, 2009


I think the chances of a stranger being vitally helpful so far outweigh the chances of a stranger being malicious that I think children are best taught reasonable caution and preparation, as opposed to fear, when around strangers. I would hope that if any child of mine were in trouble, that reasonable, kind, and upstanding adults would step forward to help in appropriate ways. I'm sorry that anyone who knows without a doubt that their intentions are honorable and wishes to help stops themselves from helping because of misplaced hysteria. I hope that your own sense of community and adult responsibility keeps you ready to help in sensitive and appropriate ways.

In my years working with children, some of the things were told to make sure we were taking reasonable cautions to protect ourselves when trying to be of assistance to unknown (or really any) children:

-Stay in public view. Don't take a child off alone anywhere, whether it's to make a call or get out of a busy spot or anything. Try to be sure that other adults can see everything that happens.
- Don't touch kids needlessly. If you absolutely have to touch them to move them out of danger or something like that, touch only the arm/shoulder. But avoid doing this - it really can freak kids out. Sometimes kids will touch you spontaneously (if they're scared). If that happens, gently disengage.
-Bring someone else in immediately. Someone above suggested telling a store clerk. Good, but don't just tell and walk away. How do you know they're not the freak? Instead, ask someone nearby to send a store clerk over, and then say "Jill's become separated from her parents [whatever]." Stick around so that you can also witness the outcome and you and the store clerk are each other's witnesses.
-Don't offer a kid anything to eat or drink. It seems like a nice thing to do if they're upset, but of course, it could be taken badly. You also don't know their allergies, etc.
-When in doubt, call the police in.

You might get a dirty look for helping. That doesn't change the fact that you did the right thing, and you'll do it again.
posted by Miko at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Children in the age group of birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization at 24.4 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population;

Women comprised a larger percentage of all perpetrators than men, 57.9 percent compared to 42.1 percent.


I'm going to guess that both of those are because neglect is included and that the numbers would be a little different if only physical abuse or only sexual abuse was counted.
posted by soelo at 9:00 AM on August 28, 2009


Even the worst-case scenario I think is plausible

I can think of worse ways a situation could go before the police even get there, especially in a crowded place. And having the police arrive, while reacting to an assumption of guilt, can be dangerous.

Men == stranger danger is not a new concept.

20 years ago, in Singapore, my mom is sending me and my 3 year old sister off to window shop with the new housekeeper she'd hired. She pulls me aside when she sees that the lady's husband will be coming with us, and warns me that he may try to steal my sister, and I should be keeping my eyes open.
posted by nomisxid at 9:03 AM on August 28, 2009


Le Morte de Bea Arthur, those stats are pretty interesting. The one area I think may be very debatable is this:

Women comprised a larger percentage of all perpetrators than men, 57.9 percent compared to 42.1 percent.

...if we're talking about abusive interactions with strangers. I have no doubt that the raw number for rate of abuse by women is high, but only because women are far more involved with child care and are more often sole caregivers for children. Once you remove family violence from the equation, I suspect the percentage might change.
posted by Miko at 9:04 AM on August 28, 2009


Mantrust would be a pretty good surname for a sidekick in a detective procedural. Maybe Burt Mantrust or Don Mantrust.
posted by klangklangston at 9:04 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


bunnycup, are you teaching your kids to avoid strange men? Or are you teaching them to avoid strangers who are men? They aren't the same thing, and your earlier comments indicate that you're doing the latter.

Teaching them to avoid strange men, and not doing the same for strange women would bother me somewhat, as well.


Actually, I specifically said:

Put another way, I will teach my children to avoid ALL strangers (because the lowness of the probability of harm from a stranger will not dissuade me from teaching this lesson, which I learned to my benefit). However, if a stranger MUST be approached, I will teach them to approach a woman with children - the lowest likelihood stranger to harm them.

And before you ask how my child is to know if a woman has children, I specifically intended and should have said "a woman who has children with her". I realize that parents commit most child abuse, murder, kidnapping etc.
posted by bunnycup at 9:05 AM on August 28, 2009


Men == stranger danger is not a new concept.

Oh heck no, in fact, it's the major topic of loads of centuries-old ballads, among other things. If you're in a ballad, never let someone on a gallant steed take your lily-white hand and lead you to the woods.
posted by Miko at 9:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


I suppose worrying about it is my awful white male privilege. I guess I'll have to wait to do something about it until people who are more restricted than I have their issues resolved.

You misunderstand me.

Go ahead and complain about being seen as a pedophile (which I doubt you are seen as, most of the time). But recognize that sometimes being falsly accused of being a pedophile (which again, I think rarely happens) is the terrible bargain that males pay in order to gain other benefits in society. Males are assumed to be more aggresive than women, more physically violent than women, and more sexually voracious than women. On one hand, these false assumptions benefit you in 95% of interactions. You'll have to give up those 95% positive interactions to get rid of the 5% negative reactions.
posted by muddgirl at 9:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I truly think Miko has some very thoughtful and well-considered contributions to this thread. I admire avoiding the stream of rhetorical this-and-that, and actually contributing really useful thoughts on how adults should help kids, and how parents can teach their kids very useful harm-prevention tools.

Though Brandon Blatcher already won the thread, I think Miko's contributions really deserve attention, too.
posted by bunnycup at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm going to guess that both of those are because neglect is included and that the numbers would be a little different if only physical abuse or only sexual abuse was counted.

Almost certainly, but they are also both statistics we don't hear a lot about in the media.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 9:08 AM on August 28, 2009


To me, what Bunnycup was saying was that she deemed maintaining and teaching to her child a prejudice against men was acceptable, based on statistical sources, in the name of preserving the best chance of survival for her children. My response was that the logical structure of her argument, and statistical source that she used, would equally serve her to maintain and teach a prejudice against African-Americans for the same reasoning. Since most anyone would consider the latter to be extremely offensive, the former should be as well.

That's a pretty poor reading of bunnycup's statements in this thread and trying to equate what she has written here with outright racism is in pretty poor taste too. She isn't teaching her kid an inherent prejudice of all men equivalent with teaching that child to hate all black people. She is teaching her kid that given a particular set of circumstances (the child needs to approach a stranger for help) what the reasonably safest course of action her child should take. I'm not understanding why that is such a controversial position.
posted by The Gooch at 9:09 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If you're in a ballad, never let someone on a gallant steed take your lily-white hand and lead you to the woods."

Also, you should avoid fucking with Stagger Lee's hat.
posted by klangklangston at 9:11 AM on August 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


This is exactly the reasoning applied by bunnycup and similar parents -- the consequences of molestation/abduction/etc. are immeasurably large, and therefore it's worth taking steps to avoid even very small risks.

The consequences of "Molestation/abduction etc" are acute and need not be elaborated on. But what's missing here is an acknowledgment that there are very negative consequences inherent in raising a child to have an essentially paranoid worldview. I think they're MUCH deeper than most concerned parents imagine.

And, for the record, though the Jaycee Lee Dugard situations are the ones that tend to get the headlines, MOST molestation scenarios involve seduction (often prolonged), not overt violence. So, the man that is "successful" (terrible word, I know) is the one who can negotiate his way through the child's defenses. This is why so many molesters are relatives, neighbors, family friends, clergy, trusted teachers etc.

So, short of isolating your child completely from all "strangers", the only truly effective defense is education. This is borne out by some study from a few years back (sorry, no link, I'm being anecdotal here) which concluded that the most at risk children were the ones who had had absolutely NO sex education.

Finally, if two high profile Canadian cases are any indication, men are not the only creeps out there.
posted by philip-random at 9:12 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


bunnycup, fair enough. Please allow me to extend an apology.

The Gooch, I think what happened (for me, at least) is mistakenly conflating bunnycup's views and statements with those of others (in this thread and on the blue), which much more closely match what I was finding problematic. Clearly, this is a mistake.
posted by Dysk at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2009


bunnycup, it's a bit unclear what of your responses were responses to me, and what were responses to Brother Dysk, so here's my best hash at it.

I want to be clear that I do NOT support pegging all men attempting to help as pedos or potential murderers, simply that I feel it is rational and appropriate to teach my kids to fear all strangers, and to approach a female if a stranger must be approached.

The material you cited as the basis for it being "rational and appropriate" to teach your children to approach a strange woman instead of a strange man equally supports it somehow being "rational and appropriate" to teach your children to approach a Caucasian instead of an African-American.

Really/!?!? It's offensive to teach my kids to fear strange men because if I was teaching them to fear all people of a given race, that would be offensive?

So predicating your actions based on an entire race being statistically more dangerous is unthinkable, but predicating your actions on an entire gender being statistically more dangerous is not?

I actually gave your statements MORE credit for intelligence than that, it didn't even occur to me that you'd put such a silly premise in writing.

Kindly avoid the ad hominems.

And so, if you want to make the case that something I said is offensive because something you said I said instead was offensive, and therefore I said something offensive then....

I never "said you said instead", and, in fact, said clearly at the end that you never said it. I was using an analogy, not putting words in your mouth.

Oh, then that would be your winning rhetorical technique!

Again, avoid the ad hominems, please.
posted by WCityMike at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2009


Thanks to MetaFilter I have become aware of the danger of strangers. I have avoided it up to this point, I'm not a Nancy Grace fan myself, but now the scales have been lifted from my eyes. I've decided to force my kid to repeatedly view this instructional video just to make sure he understands the rules.

Brandon Blatcher just won the thread.

Really, it's a tie between Brandon and Miko.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2009


Assuming this statistic applies across the board, that brings the risk from strangers to an individual child down to about 1 in 2400.

OK. Now we just need to figure out how many men are actually wrongly arrested, let alone convicted of something, while trying to help a strange child. And then we can talk about things being worth the risk.

Stranger danger mentality in our culture is not good. Neither is rape culture. But in them, there are four groups of people. The groups overlap, but almost everyone falls into at least one category: people who commit crimes, victims of crimes, people who are taught to be constantly vigilant about their own safety, and people whose feelings are hurt by other people's vigilance. None of these things are good, but one is the least bad, and I for one am really tired of hearing about the poor, poor folks who fall into the final category.

Is it right? No. Am I going to come to some kind of wonderful realization about anything from hearing the umpteenth heartfelt, personal anecdote about the guy who tried to be nice but ended up getting--horror of horrors--a dirty look from a woman? No.

Why can't the option of "people who are helping kids don't get the cops called on them" be on the table? Isn't it entirely reasonably that we not be suspicious of people who aren't behaving suspiciously?

Did someone call the cops on you? It doesn't sound like they did. You just thought they maybe would have if the situation had been different, which it wasn't. People saying "you're lucky no one called the cops" later on is not the same thing as people actually calling the cops.
posted by lampoil at 9:13 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Also I want to thank Brandon Blatcher for his awesome comments in both of these threads. I wish I were as articulate on the subjects that matter to me.
posted by lampoil at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


"If you're in a ballad, never let someone on a gallant steed take your lily-white hand and lead you to the woods."

the demon lover

To be fair, you should avoid the wild-eyed women too.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:15 AM on August 28, 2009


So, short of isolating your child completely from all "strangers", the only truly effective defense is education.

AGREED. But that said, education needs to occur at age-appropriate times and in age-appropriate ways. For a very young child lacking well-developed critical thinking skills, "stranger danger" and "bathing suit zones" are clear and understandable.

CERTAINLY a more nuanced view needs to be taught as a child ages and becomes capable of more judgment-calls, as Miko suggested and I initially criticized. The nuanced view is not possible with a very young child, as I pointed out, but as Miko stated in follow up (and I agree), that this does not in any way suggest that the education should be limited to "stranger danger". As a child ages, so should the depth and breadth of the discussion.
posted by bunnycup at 9:16 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


lampoil, it's pretty difficult to accurately measure or gauge what percentage of people convicted of a certain crime are wrongly convicted. So we are (at least potentially) talking about quite a lot more than hurt feelings.
posted by Dysk at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2009



Kindly avoid the ad hominems.


Sure thing. Kindly avoid putting words in my mouth, particularly when they are not drawn from my clear meaning and intent.
posted by bunnycup at 9:17 AM on August 28, 2009


the numbers would be a little different if only physical abuse or only sexual abuse was counted

Then again, maybe we should look at all the data, and not just the parts that confirm our phobias. Statistically, any random parent is a far, far greater danger to their child than any random stranger. And also statistically, any random mother is more likely to cause the death of her child than any random father. The only sane response to this information is for me to put my mother in a home before it's too late!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2009


'there's a lot of straw-personning'

Oh, Christ.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your response, but I'm not sure why you seem to have interpreted my statement as something I believe, when it's fairly obvious I don't.

Oh no, I didn't think those were you personal thoughts at all, but I did feel the need to poke holes in the reasoning of a person who might think like that.

But if it's a lost kid bawling on a pavement somewhere? "Go down" in this circumstance could mean a permanent spot on the sexual offender register, the loss of virtually all social capital, and a number of years being the subject of amateur exploratory surgery.

Do what's right. Things tend to work out well when you do that. I'm not ignoring the various serious potential consequences that you list above, but doing what's right tends to win out in the end and when it doesn't, you still sleep better.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:18 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


She isn't teaching her kid an inherent prejudice of all men equivalent with teaching that child to hate all black people. She is teaching her kid that given a particular set of circumstances (the child needs to approach a stranger for help) what the reasonably safest course of action her child should take. I'm not understanding why that is such a controversial position.


Because using the statistic "More murders are committed by men than by women" as a reason to defend "I'll teach my children to avoid strange men if they must approach a stranger" is unnecessary. People can teach their kids to avoid whoever they want, and will feel justified most of the time by confirmation bias because most of the time strangers are NOT going to be harmful.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:21 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's my, and popular, opinion. And I'm sticking to it! If there is a citation out there, I certainly did not check it. I went with what my Mama taught me!

I'm wrong, but many people agree with me!
posted by grobstein at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


And also statistically, any random mother is more likely to cause the death of her child than any random father. The only sane response to this information is for me to put my mother in a home before it's too late!

I see that, but the issue missed by that logic is that I can and do know myself, know my husband, know our approach to parenting and detailed aspects about our care level. *I* know that *I* am not a danger to my children.

But I can't know that about a stranger until trial and error teaches me. The "cost" of error being as high as it is....

The more complicated case is that of people who aren't strangers but with whom I leave my child - babysitters, childcare, family members, perhaps neighbors and so forth. The people those neighbors might have visiting their homes who may or may not be strangers. They are not addressed by "stranger danger" and, as many upthread have pointed out, are more likely to harm. So whereas this thread seems to be about discussing the pros and cons of stranger danger, it is not to say these issues are any less important.
posted by bunnycup at 9:22 AM on August 28, 2009


it's pretty difficult to accurately measure or gauge what percentage of people convicted of a certain crime are wrongly convicted.

This is a difficult point. Obviously any wrongful convictions are tragic, and the recent spate of DNA exonerations, especially for Jim-Crow-influenced convictions, is real food for thought. On the other hand, I've been tangentially involved in some child-abuse trials, and I'm awed at how immensely difficult it is to get a conviction even when there seems to be abundant evidence for it - 'beyond a reasonable doubt' always becomes iffy when children give testimony.

What's certain is that the fear of wrongful conviction is much, much more widespread than actual wrongful conviction, or even actual wrongful accusation. Because the incidence is far less frequently occurring than the fear of the incidence, this becomes a form of hysteria too, and one that's equally as ineffective as an overdeveloped fear of strangers.
posted by Miko at 9:23 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Brandon Blatcher: I'm not ignoring the various serious potential consequences that you list above, but doing what's right tends to win out in the end and when it doesn't, you still sleep better.

I'm not really sure I'd sleep better in prison than I would having left a lost child to wander up to the next strange man that walked past... I don't disagree that doing the right thing tends to win out in the end, but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't sleep better if they didn't.
posted by Dysk at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2009


bunnycup: "Kindly avoid putting words in my mouth, particularly when they are not drawn from my clear meaning and intent."

"[I]n fairness, it is obviously not what bunnycup said" – the second clause of the first sentence immediately following the analogy.
posted by WCityMike at 9:24 AM on August 28, 2009


Oops, late, as usual. Pardon me while I catch up on this thread. I declined to comment in the main post because it was getting noisy, though it's more of a parenthetical conversation that a derail. It does pertain, though. The subject was snatched by a genuine creepy guy out of the blue,which while rare, still sucks whenever it does happen.

My gut reaction is that I'll risk being accidentally taken for Creepy Guy if that's what it takes to keep a kid safe & return them to their parent, rather than let them wander lost, into the hands of a possibly Actually Creepy Guy. I live in a neighborhood 2 blocks form a short-term "mental health institution," and about 8 blacks from the state-run long-term mental hospital, so there is an actual abundance of not-sane people wandering the streets of my local area, which makes me feel that I'm not just hyperventilating to worry about unbalanced adults having access to small children. It's worth a sideways glance, or even a confrontation, if that's what comes of it. Looking out for one-another's kids seems like the neighborly way to behave. It'd be pretty awful if I shrunk away from helping someone's lost tot out of fear of the Creepy Police, only to find out later that kid had gone missing.

Also, friendly kids are friendly. I'd hate all of them to grow up thinking how screwed up it was that no one was ever friendly back. It's obvious where the boundaries lie here, so polite conversation with a kid that approaches me seems natural. Though I'm more comfortable speaking to a kid that's with its "responsible party," I'm not gonna run away from a 6 year old who walks up with a "Hey, mister!" Though I'm not gonna lay hands on them, either. Bright line, right there.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:25 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


People can teach their kids to avoid whoever they want, and will feel justified most of the time by confirmation bias because most of the time strangers are NOT going to be harmful.

Agreed, wholeheartedly, that most of those strangers are not going to be harmful. But how do YOU suggest parents educate a 3, 4 or 5 year old to determine which strangers are harmful and which not?

I will honestly and openly listen to answers, but I have not seen any other adequate methods presented for very young children. We've talked a lot about nuanced education, but I contend that children, before age 8-10, may not be able to comprehend those nuances.
posted by bunnycup at 9:25 AM on August 28, 2009


"[I]n fairness, it is obviously not what bunnycup said" – the second clause of the first sentence immediately following the analogy.

Then why am I being asked to answer for the meaning of it?
posted by bunnycup at 9:27 AM on August 28, 2009


The answer is clearly concealed carry permits for children.
posted by electroboy at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's my, and popular, opinion. And I'm sticking to it! If there is a citation out there, I certainly did not check it. I went with what my Mama taught me!

I'm wrong, but many people agree with me!


Am I wrong? Send along your statistic that most stranger child rapes, murders and assaults are committed by women who have children.
posted by bunnycup at 9:29 AM on August 28, 2009


Yeah, not a derail.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:31 AM on August 28, 2009


Oh, Christ.

I think you mean "Oh, non gender specific savior."
posted by ODiV at 9:35 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, it seems like most of men's negative experiences here go as far as getting a dirty look, and worrying about the possibility of more.

Sort of like if a woman interpreted every leer as a narrowly escaped rape, and then insisted that it was only in her self interest to completely avoid being in the company of men ever.

Of course then I have a feeling the same men would also pipe up to say that that's unfair generalizing and paranoia towards men.

But apparently unfair generalizing and paranoia towards mothers/parents is just fine. If it's men doing it.

Heaven protect you from mothers' dirty looks!
posted by Salamandrous at 9:38 AM on August 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Things I have learned from this thread and the kidnapping thread:

1) I am a potential rapist/kidnapper due to my possession of a penis
2) There is at least a 5% chance that I am a rapist/kidnapper
3) Parents and children are justified in being wary of my presence on account of my XY status
4) I'm possibly a murderer as well
5) It's still my duty to approach and assist vulnerable women and children (preferably with witnesses present to observe my actions).
6) It's also my duty to accept the risk of being wrongly accused because, as a white male, I have alot of privilege.

This has been very instructive and I just want to thank everyone who has participated in this discussion. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go buy a cowbell to hang around my neck so that the Normals can avoid me when I'm out in broad daylight.
posted by Avenger at 9:39 AM on August 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


I was lured away from my back yard and sexually assaulted by a stranger when I was 7- I was one of those rare 3% who actually get hurt by strangers.

And to compound matters, someone who saw and followed me home to tell my parents- I tried to send them away. Because I didn't want to get in trouble for talking to a stranger. I'd already been assaulted, and already thought it was my fault because I broke the don't talk to strangers rule.

So you know what I tell my kids? "If you're lost or you need help, look for a mommy or daddy." Even a 3 year old can figure out the guy with a baby in his cart is a daddy- and I figure parents are more likely to know what to do if approached by a random lost kid. I *don't* tell her not to talk to strangers.

I'm scared shitless when I watch my 7 year old daughter fearlessly greet strangers everywhere we go, but I just let her do it. Being afraid of people won't keep her safe. Helping her figure out which people can best help her will keep her safe.

And it guarantees that if she's ever in trouble and 0xFCAF wanders by, she won't send him away and stay in trouble. Sometimes "protecting" your kids only makes it worse. I encourage you to let your kids talk to strangers- because sometimes, they *need* to.
posted by headspace at 9:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [40 favorites]


I was going to add --

All the "Stranger Danger!" crap sort of pisses me off. You do want to try to teach your kids to be discerning, but to raise them cowering in fear of anyone they don't know is taking things to an absurd extreme, considering the very small odds.

My daughter has been just about the most gregarious human on the planet since she opened her eyes. By the time she could walk and talk, she would pretty much march up to anybody she saw and announce "Hi! I'm Erin!" despite our feeble attempts to thwart this behavior. We had this conversation once when she was four:

"Honey, that man's a complete stranger!"
"No he's not -- we just met! His name is Bill!"

I did what I could to make her reasonably understand that she couldn't just blindly trust anybody, but rather than scare the friendliness out of her, I mostly just committed myself to more carefully looking over where she was until she got old enough to fend. She's 17 now, and still just about the most gregarious person on the planet, and she has a fundamental trust in the goodness of humanity that is one of the most pronounced characteristics of her now mature personality. If I'd throttled that when she was young, I'd hate myself for it now.
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


bunnycup: "Then why am I being asked to answer for the meaning of it?"

Okay. Let's put it this way. Let's say someone believed that 4 + 5 = 10. They believed this because, in their viewpoint, what we think of as '[six things]' was, to them, '[five things]' – but just for that one equation. So, how would you try to convince this person that 4 plus 5 didn't equal 10?

You: "Okay, well, let's test that same logic out in another situation, okay? Does 3 plus 5 equal 9?"

Person: "No."

You: "What does it equal?"

Person: "8."

You: "So doesn't that mean that 5 is actually [five things], and not [six things]?"

Same thing here. It's an analogy, a comparison, an application of your exact logic and your exact statistical source to a different situation, to try to show you why you're wrong.

You're saying: [danger of harm to children] + [statistically greater likelihood of [gender group] to do harm to children] = [moral justification for teaching children to beware [gender group]]

I'm saying: Okay, well, let's test that same logic out in another situation, okay? Does: [danger of harm to children] + [statistically greater likelihood of [racial group] to do harm to children] = [moral justification for teaching children to beware [racial group]]

You: No.

Me: What does it equal?

You: [danger of harm to children] + [statistically greater likelihood of [racial group] to do harm to children] = [it is nonetheless immoral to teach children to beware [racial group]]

Me: Why?

You: Because [moral justification of discriminating against racial group] != [moral justification of discriminating against gender group].

And I'm saying that's wrong. That it is as morally unjustified to discriminate against a gender as it is unjustified to discriminate against a race.

Of course, I'll admit that 'morally unjustified' does sound really bombastic and melodramatic ...
posted by WCityMike at 9:44 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


7) "A lot" is two words.

Seriously though. It's not your 'duty' to help kids, but it's a decent thing to do. And people might be 'wary' towards you for any number of reasons, sure, but it's nothing to get too bent out of shape over.
posted by ODiV at 9:45 AM on August 28, 2009


Agreed, wholeheartedly, that most of those strangers are not going to be harmful. But how do YOU suggest parents educate a 3, 4 or 5 year old to determine which strangers are harmful and which not?

I suggest nothing, but when I have kids and have to educate them about what to do if they get lost and whatnot, it will probably involve 1) making sure that they're actually lost, that is, making a real effort to find the adults they are supposed to be with, 2) finding a person, man or woman, who appears nice, 3) remembering a list of things that creeps do but nice adults don't, and 4) maybe finding another nice person if the first one seems too creepy.

But whatever you're teaching your kids is for all intents and purposes fine. My only beef was that you were trying to use statistics to prove to other people that YOUR child-rearing technique was somehow better than other peoples.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:46 AM on August 28, 2009


So you know what I tell my kids? "If you're lost or you need help, look for a mommy or daddy." Even a 3 year old can figure out the guy with a baby in his cart is a daddy- and I figure parents are more likely to know what to do if approached by a random lost kid. I *don't* tell her not to talk to strangers.

Headspace, I asked for an alternate technique for young kids and that is a GREAT approach. In fact, it may be that "a mommy or a daddy" is a more straightforward and clear approach for young kids, given some thought on Devils Rancher's comment about his daughter.
posted by bunnycup at 9:47 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Am I wrong? Send along your statistic that most stranger child rapes, murders and assaults are committed by women who have children.

The middle way on this argument is that you may be wrong by assuming that men are more likely to be the baddies in an actually statistically meaningful way.

If there are differing statistical likelihoods of a random man vs. a random woman in aggregate being a child-victimizer, but both percentage likelihoods are very small, it's not unreasonable to argue that treating the two classes in fundamental different ways is foolish. e.g. the difference between an 0.02% chance of case A and an 0.03% chance of case B occurring is both measurable and arguably insignificant in practice.

Because it's easy to restate that example as "case B is 50% more likely than case A" and people aren't great at ferreting out the meaning of statistical tomfoolery and because critical thinking often exits stage left when children-in-danger enters the conversation, this stuff can get really weird really fast.

To the point that, as folks have suggested, the comparative real danger of a kid walking to school vs. a kid being driven to school doesn't enter the conversation even if it's just as if not significantly more relevant to the child's practical safety than some aspects of the stranger danger argument.

I'm not bring this up to be a pain, and I'm curious about statistics on the subject, so I want to be clear that this isn't some facetious SHOW ME THE NUMBERS thing. But if the argument is going to be that men are that much more dangerous, etc, it'd be good to look at what the actual absolute numbers are, rather than just blithely accepting that some differential value between potentially very-small numbers is a good reason to establish or encourage in kids a systemic distrust of half the people on the planet.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:49 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


My only beef was that you were trying to use statistics to prove to other people that YOUR child-rearing technique was somehow better than other peoples.

At no point was I endeavoring to do that, nor do I think it's even a reasonable conclusion to make from my statements (assuming you are talking to me). At no point do I recall suggesting that parents who failed to teach stranger danger were bad parents, and I remained very personal about my decisions, even mentioning my daughter's death from a statistically-unlikely cause to explain my personal abundance of caution.
posted by bunnycup at 9:50 AM on August 28, 2009


WCityMike, I'm sure YOU know what you're talking about....but your little mathematical/equation logic is meaningless to me. See, I am a GIRL, and you should know - I can't do math.
posted by bunnycup at 9:51 AM on August 28, 2009


I am a potential rapist/kidnapper due to my possession of a penis

I'll repeat myself: It is a terrible bargain that we all have struck, to live in a society where dudes get a lot of benefits from appearing to be aggressive and sexually insatiable. Men get a pass on many behaviors, but in exchange are sometimes considered to be dangerous all out of proportion to reality.

Sucks, huh? Instead of whining about it, join a feminist organization. Most feminist recognize what a terrible situation we're all in.
posted by muddgirl at 9:56 AM on August 28, 2009 [13 favorites]


bunnycup: "WCityMike, I'm sure YOU know what you're talking about....but your little mathematical/equation logic is meaningless to me. See, I am a GIRL, and you should know - I can't do math."

I'm not sure where you're going with the second half of the sentence ... do you somehow think I'm misogynist or hold antiquated sexist beliefs, and thus that's supposed to be a barb or something? ... but I've explained myself a few times over, not just there but elsewhere.

If your continued response to all of those statements is just going to be "wha?", well, then, there's not much for us to go from here. Which, perhaps, is your intended outcome.

Teaching your children the inherent misandry which you're teaching them is something that's just wrong, and it's going to show up later in their lives in all sorts of little and big ways.
posted by WCityMike at 9:57 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


My only beef was that you were trying to use statistics to prove to other people that YOUR child-rearing technique was somehow better than other peoples.

At no point was I endeavoring to do that, nor do I think it's even a reasonable conclusion to make from my statements (assuming you are talking to me). At no point do I recall suggesting that parents who failed to teach stranger danger were bad parents, and I remained very personal about my decisions, even mentioning my daughter's death from a statistically-unlikely cause to explain my personal abundance of caution.

You know what, you're right, my apologies. My beef should be more specifically stated as that you were trying to use a statistic to prove something that it doesn't prove.
posted by 23skidoo at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2009


I don't think the racial angle is all that clear cut.

Let's take six black teenagers walking side by side vs six white teenagers. Who'd give you more grief for bumping into them? In my experience, the former by far (grief not in "screw you" but as in getting literally fighty about it.) It's silly, but it's there. Is it not okay to be more careful to avoid brushing into the former then?

(this is a bad example because the frequency with which I bump into people isn't high but I can't think of better ones off the bat.)
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2009


Cortex, I guess where I am coming from is not that intense statistical analysis. I was taught that men are more likely than women to commit stranger-on-stranger crime, and the numbers I have read today bear that out. Therefore, when I was challenged as to my belief on same, I was genuinely open to the opportunity to have my belief disproven. In fact, later in the discussion when a method of directing children's attention to the parent v. non-parent rather than stranger v. non-stranger distinction was made, I wholeheartedly support that.

I say this not to make this very personal and construe your words as unduly critical, but only because I want to be clear that I am interested in this debate and coming from a genuine place of ensuring that my future children will be as best protected as I can do.

And if anyone wants to have a more general discussion about child-safety, bringing into it car v. walking, disease prevention and vaccination, pre-birth genetic diagnosis, dangerous extracurricular activities and hobbies, I am more than happy to have that discussion. But I think those haven't been a part of THIS discussion, because the focus is "stranger danger" and abduction-prevention.

Unless, of course, I am completely misunderstanding you - but I do think there are a few people here genuinely interested in the topic and others interested in bickering. I am much more interested in the first approach.
posted by bunnycup at 9:58 AM on August 28, 2009


And I'm saying that's wrong. That it is as morally unjustified to discriminate against a gender as it is unjustified to discriminate against a race

And I'm saying I find it baffling that an obviously intelligent person such as yourself would equate dolling out simple, easy-to-follow advice to an unsophisticated child along the lines of, "If you should get separated from me, look for another mommy and ask for help" with outright racism.
posted by The Gooch at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2009


I'm not sure where you're going with the second half of the sentence ... do you somehow think I'm misogynist or hold antiquated sexist beliefs, and thus that's supposed to be a barb or something? ... but I've explained myself a few times over, not just there but elsewhere.

No, it was a semi-serious joke against myself. I truly am a verbal person, almost incapable of rational logic in the mathematical terms you used. I simply am very poor at "thinking" that way, and used a silly joke to communicate that. Relax!
posted by bunnycup at 9:59 AM on August 28, 2009


Non Prosequitur: Let's take six black teenagers walking side by side vs six white teenagers. Who'd give you more grief for bumping into them? In my experience, the former by far (grief not in "screw you" but as in getting literally fighty about it.) It's silly, but it's there. Is it not okay to be more careful to avoid brushing into the former then?

This runs so utterly and completely counter to my experience, for what little that's worth.
posted by Dysk at 10:02 AM on August 28, 2009


Teaching your children the inherent misandry which you're teaching them is something that's just wrong, and it's going to show up later in their lives in all sorts of little and big ways.

Well, to take the dramatic/rhetorical approach, I would rather they HAVE lives to spend as adults in therapy complaining about how much their Mommy messed them up by doing everything possible to keep them safe. Again, since my kid won't get that (because she died from a very statistically unlikely cause), I'll go for "alive and fucked up emotionally" over "dead".

That said (more for rhetorical purposes to explain why I don't find your outrage persuasive), I link back to again and endorse a second time headspace's suggestion of the method she uses. Not because I am particularly motivated by the plight of the poor men my future kids won't approach (the poor things), but because it's a wonderful method and one easier for kids to understand, I would think.
posted by bunnycup at 10:04 AM on August 28, 2009


Things I have learned from this thread and the kidnapping thread:

1) I am a potential rapist/kidnapper due to my possession of a penis
. . . etc.


Things I have learned/confirmed in this thread:

1) There are men in the world who are desperate to play the role of victim.

2) There are parents in the world who are overprotective of their children.

3) The use of statistics to inform decisions in this area -- by parents or potential samaritans -- is useless at best and counterproductive at worst.

4) Some people dislike children ("brats") so much that topics like this make them angry.

5) Most of you are smart and level-headed and great!
posted by brain_drain at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Let's take six black teenagers walking side by side vs six white teenagers. Who'd give you more grief for bumping into them? In my experience, the former by far (grief not in "screw you" but as in getting literally fighty about it.) It's silly, but it's there. Is it not okay to be more careful to avoid brushing into the former then?

(this is a bad example because the frequency with which I bump into people isn't high but I can't think of better ones off the bat.)
posted by Non Prosequitur at 9:58 AM on August 28


holy shit
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Who'd give you more grief for bumping into them?

What race are "you" in this scenario?
posted by Miko at 10:05 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Actually you're right, Brother Dysk. That's too much of a generalization.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 10:06 AM on August 28, 2009


ANECDOTE FIGHT!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


it's pretty difficult to accurately measure or gauge what percentage of people convicted of a certain crime are wrongly convicted.

That's true. How about the number of men who are arrested for talking to children at all, rightly or wrongly? Do we know that number? Do you know anyone who was arrested in a situation that could be interpreted as their trying to help a child? I don't. I do know people who were assaulted as children, though.

Look, I don't have hope that we could actually compare the risk of being assaulted or kidnapped and the risk of being wrongly arrested while helping a child. My point is simply that those with an irrational fear of the latter are no less irrational than those with an irrational fear of the former.

Salamandrous perfectly captures the double standard that makes my head spin whenever I read a thread about any kind of assault.
posted by lampoil at 10:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Things I have learned from this thread

Awesome, you should put that on usenet!
posted by Miko at 10:06 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


would equate dolling out simple, easy-to-follow advice to an unsophisticated child along the lines of, "If you should get separated from me, look for another mommy and ask for help" with outright racism. (The Gooch)

See every single prior comment I've made in this thread and respond to any of them. *sigh* At this point, I'm starting to just repeat myself, over and over again. Which means either I'm habitually not making myself clear and don't realize that, or there's nothing being listened to on the other side of the aisle. Either way, at this point, there appears to be no movement of the discussion, just reiterations.
posted by WCityMike at 10:07 AM on August 28, 2009


Which means either I'm habitually not making myself clear and don't realize that, or there's nothing being listened to on the other side of the aisle.

Well, there is a third option - you might be WRONG, with incredibly unrealistic and off-based assumptions that were strongly refuted before, I think, you even began criticizing ME.
posted by bunnycup at 10:09 AM on August 28, 2009


This issue of many men being unwilling to come to the aid of a child in distress is a direct result of these wonderful moral panics that we (at least here in the U.S. - I'm sure other nations have their own unique ways of fucking up) seem to need to indulge in from time to time - media driven hysteria that benefits nobody, least of all the children themselves, and too often results in innocent people spending years in prison. Look up Debbie Nathan and what she has written about the great satanic ritual abuse circle jerks of the 1980s and what the results of that particular idiocy were.

Also keep in mind that some of us guys just don't make such a good impression for one reason or another. We may be as good as gold on the inside where it supposedly counts, but maybe we're not all that attractive, or we don't dress all that well according to some unspoken societal standard. Whatever. Plus, you don't know what kind of parents that poor kid in distress has. Are they reasonable, rational people? or are they raving idiots with fingers poised over the 911 on their cell phones? You just don't know, and while the odds may ultimately be in your favor, the price that you will pay if they are not are just too high.

So before placing any blame for this state of affairs on the men who choose not to help, consider the culpability of the media, the police, prosecuters, parents and social workers, who all, I'm certain, had the very best of intentions when they hung your ass out to twist in the wind.
posted by metagnathous at 10:09 AM on August 28, 2009


WCityMike: Which means either I'm habitually not making myself clear and don't realize that, or there's nothing being listened to on the other side of the aisle. Either way, at this point, there appears to be no movement of the discussion, just reiterations.

bunnycup: Well, there is a third option - you might be WRONG, with incredibly unrealistic and off-based assumptions that were strongly refuted before, I think, you even began criticizing ME.

This may be a controversial position, but maybe you just... disagree?
posted by Dysk at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, fear is hereditary then?
posted by Elmore at 10:13 AM on August 28, 2009


you might be WRONG, with incredibly unrealistic and off-based assumptions that were strongly refuted before, I think, you even began criticizing ME. (bunnycup)

Ah, you really love the ad hominems, don't you?

You might be WRONG, too, with incredibly prejudicial and misandrist assumptions that you've carried around before, I think, you ever saw MY first comment in this thread.

So, y'know, allow me to volley back at your ad hominems with one of my own: go suck lemons. And learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.
posted by WCityMike at 10:14 AM on August 28, 2009


Cortex, I guess where I am coming from is not that intense statistical analysis. I was taught that men are more likely than women to commit stranger-on-stranger crime, and the numbers I have read today bear that out.

My general feeling about bringing numbers (or second assertions about numbers) into a conversation is that it's pretty much a do it right or don't do it thing: the bit about lies, damned lies, and statistics is a good line because it's apt when statistics show up in a conversation unvetted.

I'm not clear that the numbers I've read today have borne out what you feel they've borne out, is where my point of disagreement with the bit I quoted from you earlier comes from. It's not clear to me that there is in fact a practically meaningful difference in the absolute rate of misdeeds that justifies a strongly gender-split approach to the problem, in other words, even if the comparative differential across gender lines is notable.

And I say this with wholly gentle and seeking-mutual-understanding intent: if someone cannot fairly confidently navigate the distinction between absolute and comparative differentials in the case of these sorts of statistics, if they cannot comfortable translate those numbers into practical real-world contexts, they should not be relying on those numbers to guide them through life. It's reckless. It's worse than gambling, because at least the gambler knows he's a mook when he puts his money on the table.

Unfortunately, it's also something that news and news-like agencies do a terrible (willfully or otherwise) job of dealing with when approaching stories, and so the misunderstanding of stats and figures and probabilities becomes not just an issue of personal awareness/education but one of broadcast misinformation and a general acculturation toward seizing on numbers that Sound Good, etc. It's a big and very general problem, and not one that any particular person in this thread is responsible for per se, but everybody could benefit from being more familiar with how to either navigate these quantitative waters or stay responsibly far from the pool.

My biggest fear with this line of argument is that it'll be taken as "you can't talk about numbers if you aren't a Stats major". Very much not my intent. More that it's important for people to know the limits of their own personal grasp of this stuff and be careful to make sure their reach does not exceed that if they want to argue responsibly using numbers. Statistics are a tool, like any other, and you can injure yourself and others if you try to swing a hammer you're not competent with. Etc.

End of rant. Apologies.

Therefore, when I was challenged as to my belief on same, I was genuinely open to the opportunity to have my belief disproven. In fact, later in the discussion when a method of directing children's attention to the parent v. non-parent rather than stranger v. non-stranger distinction was made, I wholeheartedly support that.

I totally dig that. And I agree with you, the general approaches toward helping kids find active ways to deal selectively and positively with a stressful situation rather than broadly and negatively are a great idea.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:16 AM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


This may be a controversial position, but maybe you just... disagree?

Ohhh, good fourth option! I think we have a winner!

WCityMike, you proposed two options and asserted that one of them must be happening. A third and even fourth reasonable option were quite logically possible. Victim complex-much?

Um, YES, I had my opinions about child safety LONG BEFORE I ever read your comments on the subject...
posted by bunnycup at 10:18 AM on August 28, 2009


WCityMike: And learn how to disagree without being disagreeable.

Pot, meet kettle.


(I'm the frying pan in this analogy.)
posted by Dysk at 10:18 AM on August 28, 2009


I've seen very few situations where people modify behavior in response to statistics. Mostly it seems to be used to confirm previously held beliefs and reinforce existing prejudices.

That said, I'm off to buy lottery tickets, because the MegaPowerWhatsit is up to $333 million this week.
posted by electroboy at 10:22 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


It's not clear to me that there is in fact a practically meaningful difference in the absolute rate of misdeeds that justifies a strongly gender-split approach to the problem, in other words, even if the comparative differential across gender lines is notable.

I think that's a fair point. If I am reading what you are saying correctly, I would translate that, for example, looking at even the dramatic statistics showing men commit most murders they do not necessarily translate into what is real-world best protection for children. This, given that we cannot force the reality that children face to confirm to a statistical analysis of past events, particularly when that statistical analysis is not limited to the harm we are trying to prevent (i.e. that the statistic I first quoted includes all murders and does not, thus, speak directly to which strangers are more likely to kill children).

Being that we can't force reality to conform to the past statistics, limiting our teaching approach to the outcome shown by those statistics may not, in a real-world sense, be the best protection, and therefore kids are best-served not by being taught only "No strangers, but if you must, women" rather a more comprehensive view. And while I initially made a few comments suggesting that comprehensive view was not particularly possible, as said, I heard a great suggestion for one method (approaching mommies and daddies).

Apologies if I am putting words in your mouth, or misunderstanding. But I do think your comments on the statistics (assuming I am understanding your comments right) give support to the idea, well-expressed by Miko, headspace and others - that there are much more USEFUL distinctions to teach children.
posted by bunnycup at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2009


WCityMike, you proposed two options and asserted that one of them must be happening. (bunnycup)

I said (in admittedly a bit more obtuse vocabulary), "Either I'm not making myself clear, or people aren't listening. But at this point, people are just repeating themselves, and no one's moving on their position." I guess it wasn't clear that I was including myself in that last part.

I've always held my opinions out as just that, opinions, not ironclad, rockhard bedrock-steel facts. So of course what's happening between us is just disagreement. Neither one of us has a direct hotline to the Truth of the Matter.

Victim complex-much? (bunnycup)

You know, while snark is valued on MeFi, continued ad hominem remarks usually don't reflect well on the person who keeps using them over and over and over again. Your call as to whether to keep using them or not, but all it does is make you look like the kind of person who resorts to ad hominem attacks against people with whom she disagrees. That's not something I think you want.
posted by WCityMike at 10:24 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've seen very few situations where people modify behavior in response to statistics. Mostly it seems to be used to confirm previously held beliefs and reinforce existing prejudices.

Do you have any statistics to back that up?
posted by burnmp3s at 10:25 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


After moving from somewhere rural to the DC area, I was fascinated by how often I am asked for directions. I can't stroll the length of the Mall without being asked for directions by at least two or three groups of people. Then I realized that as a petite white female who is alone, I am as stereotypically non-threatening as possible.

Luckily for them, the Most Dangerous Game is more fun with cunning prey, so I don't abduct people who have obviously poor navigational skills.
posted by little e at 10:28 AM on August 28, 2009 [24 favorites]


Do you have any statistics to back that up?

83%
posted by electroboy at 10:28 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


WCityMike, thanks for the unsolicited advice, but I think I'm fine.
posted by bunnycup at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2009


I guess I'll point out what it's like from the other side.

I was not quite thirteen, waiting on a corner for the bus to come, when a car pulled up about ten feet away and a woman got out of it and approached me. I was not a socially ept child, but wow, could I sense waves of, to use a politically incorrect term, The Crazy, radiating off of her. Shakily-applied mascara, misbuttoned blouse, and a barely perceptible shaking in her voice as she asked me to get into her car so she could talk to me. She looked like someone I had seen before, but she was so disheveled and twitchy that I could not place her. I said something to the effect of "we can talk here" and wished that my bus stop had other kids who came to it. "It's about your father," she says. At that point my bus came, and that was that.

It turns out she wasn't precisely a stranger; I had been introduced to her a couple of years back. Danger? At the time, yeah, probably a little.

I would like to think that most children can pick up on danger. They're practically afraid of broccoli and the shadows under their bed, it shouldn't particularly strong signals to trigger fear when caution is not enough. Twelve isn't exactly a kid, but I think she would have scared the crap out of me when I was four, too, the same way my relative, before her schizophrenia became manifest, gave me the heebie jeebies. Kids don't have wonderful alert systems when it comes to poison and firecrackers and guns, but frightening people and animals? You bet. Kids can be a lot sharper than you think, even without hoverparents displacing their anxieties onto their progeny.

This is one of the few situations where I would not mind it if people trusted one another just a tiny bit more.
posted by adipocere at 10:29 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you apprehended my intent perfectly well, bunnycup, yeah. And that what it comes down to is prioritizing the distinctions we teach kids to make is I think the biggest practical takeaway, yeah.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:31 AM on August 28, 2009


A former colleague of mine once told me what she teaches her, I think they were, 8 and 10 year old daughters

She taught them, beginning from first grade, that adults don't really need help from children. So if someone asks for help with a puppy or whatever, to be distrustful of that. So, she told them, whenever an older (than them) stranger asks them for help, they should say "I will get my Mommy, she will want to help too!"

I thought that was fairly clever. We teach kids not to be "rude," and it can be confusing for them to know they must be polite but be expected to say no and walk away from, say, someone asking for help finding a lost puppy. She felt she was giving her kids a great "out" from that.

I don't know how practical is, but I just recalled it and thought it was interesting.
posted by bunnycup at 10:37 AM on August 28, 2009 [16 favorites]


| WCityMike, thanks for the unsolicited advice, but I think I'm fine. (bunnycup)

Alrighty, then, please do keep up ad hominems and that kind of nastiness against all those who disagree with you. The community has a way of policing itself. Take a stroll around MeTa's archives and see how warmly those folks are welcomed around here after people have dealt with their bullshit for a good, long while. Disagreement happens daily, hourly, by the minute, by the second here on MeFi. If with each disagreement every MeFite had manifested the barbs you used in our difference of opinions, this community would have self-destructed before mathowie had a chance to close comments on the very first thread. Given I'm not exactly of a warm state of mind towards you after your entirely disagreeable way of dealing with differing opinions, people eventually being served their just desserts sounds rather scrumptious at this point. Have fun! *plonk*
posted by WCityMike at 10:37 AM on August 28, 2009


Let's take six black teenagers walking side by side vs six white teenagers. Who'd give you more grief for bumping into them?

ANECDOTE FIGHT!

When I was a teenager, I once found myself in a predominantly poor, black, urban neighborhood at night, walking alone, young, white, stupid, and totally not belonging, at a time when racial violence was high, in a place where I had been repeatedly warned not to be. The circumstances aren't important. There were clusters of tough looking dudes on every corner, and they all looked at me like I was out of my fucking mind. I went into a convenience store to ask for directions, and the proprietor, an older black man from the neighborhood, told me, "You really shouldn't be here!" As I continued to walk, the corners got darker, the dudes standing on them got older and tougher, and the stares got more confused. Eventually, I asked for directions from a couple of huge guys coming out of a bar. They pretty much escorted me through town while we talked. Point is, not only did none of these strangers harm me - everyone I came into contact with was concerned about my welfare.

The next day, I found out that somebody else in the group I was staying with had been jumped in this same area in broad daylight earlier the same day and was beaten so badly that he was in intensive care. Basically, the group of guys he was walking with were all a bunch of cocky alpha types.

As much as I hate to generalize from a single experience, I did feel like I learned a valuable life lesson that day. In my experience, it's actually safer to be an innocent alone among strangers if you have pure motives and an open mind, than to be a tough guy in a pack, with the illusion of safety in numbers, and something to prove.

As always, YMMV.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:37 AM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


As I said, WCityMike, thanks for the unsolicited personal advice (read: it's rude to give people unsolicted personal advice), but I think I'm fine (read: don't do it again, it's rude.)
posted by bunnycup at 10:38 AM on August 28, 2009


This is for you, little e.
posted by Mister_A at 10:40 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


| As I said, WCityMike, thanks for the unsolicited personal advice (read: it's rude to give people unsolicted personal advice), but I think I'm fine (read: don't do it again, it's rude.) (bunnycup)

Suggesting how you should interact with someone with whom you disagree, without that suggestion being asked for, is rude? Is that not what you're doing right here and now? Or is what is good for the gander not good for the goose?
posted by WCityMike at 10:41 AM on August 28, 2009


Here's some unsolicited personal advice: Go outside, both of you.
posted by brain_drain at 10:42 AM on August 28, 2009


ANECDOTE FIGHT!

I've got one!

It would seem that Blatcher and I share, aside from the bonds of Meta-matrimony, a bit of a default "mean face." I'm a head-shaving bearded dude with a bit of a permascowl when I'm not paying attention, which means I rarely have to share my seat on the bus and that door-to-door sales was a challenging job for me until I started wearing a ballcap.

This Sunday, I was taking the bus to a social call that I was a bit nervous about, reading a book when my anxiety would allow me to pay attention to it. A family of four got on - mother, father, 3-5 year old boy, infant daughter - and sat down a few seats ahead of me, near a middle-aged woman. I can only imagine that my background anxiety was deepening the old permascowl, because I came out of a stressed-out reverie to discover the lad scowling back at me, but kind of smirking a little, too. What can you do? The hairy eyeball mimic thing he had going cracked me up, which in turn cracked him up. After a quick glance at his parents to confirm that they were still embroiled in conversation with the middle-aged woman, I grinned at the lad and then stuck my tongue out at him, which I reckon is Little Kid for "we're cool."

Then I swiftly returned to my book, head down, although I could still see the kid watching me out of the corner of my eye, still grinning, clearly wishing to continue our face-making war. I wouldn't have minded doing so myself, honestly - that quick little exchange of ours had been the brightest, most instructive part of my day up until that point. But, yeah, there's no way I was going to risk any drama with his folks. I don't know how they would have regarded me, but I didn't want to take any more chances than I had already. As a bald beardo with a subterranean self-esteem, I just sort of assume that I creep out everyone who sees me in the first place, you know?

Meanwhile, I began picking up snatches of the parents' conversation with the middle-aged lady, which now encompassed the boy as well. She was asking him all manner of things - when his birthday was (springtime), how he felt about his sister (i have to protect her from the bad guys), whether he preferred fire trucks to dump trucks (fire trucks), on and on and on. I couldn't picture any context where I could have conducted the same sort of interview without skeeving everyone out. Honestly, I found the lady's relentless curiosity a bit skeevy myself, but that's probably got more to do with my own rather imbalanced notions of privacy than anything else.

Then my book finally hooked me good and the outside world was gone until I reached my stop. The kid stuck his tongue out at me as I disembarked.

What's this prove? No idea. Like 95.28453% of all anecdotal evidence, probably nothing.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:42 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Can I ask you two to take this elsewhere if you need to keep up the one-on-one thing? It's not going anywhere and it's not really a public issue.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:43 AM on August 28, 2009


Hi. Creepy-looking guy here. Anecdata: couple of years ago, I was grocery shopping w/ my mother. She had an embarrasing accident common to octogenarians and I had to take her home ASAP. Got her home, cleaned her up, went back for my groceries. On the way there I realized I had not noticed that in cleaning her up, I had, uh, gotten some on me, so now I kind smelled of old lady pee. Oh well, they're holding my groceries for me, I'll just dash in and pay. I do. Then my car won't start. Great. Well, hell. I'm only a mile and a half from my house, I'll walk home and call a tow truck. I gather my groceries and begin the trudge home. (Yes, I DID leave my cellphone at home, thanks for asking.) It's about half a mile down a busy road with no sidewalks before I get to the turnoff to my neighborhood. As I'm walking, one grocery bag rips open. Fuck. I gather the stuff up, try to carry it all, fail, cuss loudly.

A minivan pulls up beside me. It's a woman with three kids, all under ten. Here's what she sees: a sweaty, red-faced guy in sunglasses, a ponytail, long scraggly gray beard, wearing ripped jeans, a black t-shirt that reads "FUCK ART LET'S KILL" and who smells vaguely of urine.

"You look like you could use some help!" she says, and before I can mutter thanks she's out of the minivan, leaving the engine running, and scooping up my groceries. I pile in the minivan beside the kid in the car seat, and she gives me a ride home. We chat about how nice it would be to have sidewalks. Her name is Kathy. Her husband is a dentist. She helps me unload my groceries and drives off, after anxiously asking if I'm sure I have my house keys. I do. Thanks, Kathy.

I'd never been inclined to help out strangers in distress, but now I feel like I owe Kathy one, so the next time I see someone who needs help I'll do so. And then I won't be surprised when I get questioned by cops, cuz, hey, I'm a creepy guy.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:47 AM on August 28, 2009 [28 favorites]


Suggesting how you should interact with someone with whom you disagree, without that suggestion being asked for, is rude?

Well, in my neck of the woods yes, giving unsolicited personal advice is considered rude. On the other hand, requesting people to stop doing so is generally kosher. Here's hoping the third time is the charm: I have managed to live 29 years on this planet through some pretty horrific circumstances without your personal advice, and I would be utterly pleased to continue on that way.
posted by bunnycup at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2009


I think the problem with the discrimination argument is that being wary of strange men is not the same as "distrust all men forever" I think its a given that when you're raising a child, they will interact with men, known and unknown throughout their lives. Your kids will have teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, boyfriends, husbands. We have to include the knowledge that a child's world is very small. In the beginning it's as small as can be. Parent and child. Everyone else is an outsider.

You ever hold somebody's newborn child? It doesn't matter how many babies you've held or how close you are to them. They trust you, but "hold the head, no not like..wait..just give it back"

As kids grow up, their world grows. And while you may see a kid as just another kid, but in that very small world of parent and child you are a large percentage of all the people that kid has ever met. How they manage your entrance into their world simply has a lot more weight and consequence.

While it's easy to use edge cases to try and prove a bigger point. It seems to me that if parents are slightly warier of men in the beginning it's ok because as the child ages, becomes more aware, teachable and mature, that bias will even out through contact with aforementioned teachers, coaches, neighbors, friends, boyfriends, husbands.

Even in extreme cases when we collectively get paranoid and start sharpening the torches and lighting the pitchforks, in the lives of individuals it evens out.

But if anyone's determined to truly see this hint of a chance of possible suspicion as true discrimination, then that's fine. Welcome to the club. You'll be happy to know that we've been fighting this battle for a long time, and was wondering when you'd join us. We have a long storied history of living with discrimination, and offer a wide selection of fine Poems by Maya Angelou and Public Enemy albums to help you articulate that strange new feeling you're dealing with.
posted by billyfleetwood at 10:48 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Here's an improbable string of ifs that I'm perfectly happy living with, and one which will never prevent me from helping a child in trouble:

If I help a child, and if my help is misconstrued by other adults, possibly including the child's parents, as harm, and if the police are called and also convinced of my ill will, and if eventually a jury is convinced that I meant to hurt the child, and if a judge were to throw the book at me, and send me to prison for attempting to harm a child, then, knowing that men convicted of child-related crimes are the least welcome in prison society, and knowing that even if I survived such prison time, regular society is even less welcoming of such criminals, I would kill myself, even knowing that my motives and actions were innocent from the start. If I were then exonerated, it would be posthumous, and my accusers, humans all, would surely feel bad, and might then modify their attitude towards other helpful men.

But really, that's such a specious trail of ifs that I will ignore the "risk" and continue to help people in distress, no matter who they are. Sure, I could trigger some warning lights if I approach a hurt child, but I'd hope (and really expect) that somewhere along some chain of ifs, someone would come to their senses and realize I'm innocent.

And I don't mean this as a prescription for others, or as some way of shaming people for exercising more caution that I do; I may be an unusually helpful person, and I may be a fool for trusting such a string of others to trust my nature in turn. It's my prerogative to offer help, and if someone wants me punished for it, there's a ridiculously small chance that I will come to haunt them from my grave.
posted by breezeway at 10:49 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have managed to live 29 years on this planet through some pretty horrific circumstances without your personal advice, and I would be utterly pleased to continue on that way. (bunnycup)

Bunnycup, if you do so really desire to keep this up, and I doubt you do, then my e-mail address is in my profile, and I haven't opted out of MeFiMail. Otherwise, please respect cortex's request and knock it the fuck off.
posted by WCityMike at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2009


All I know is that if I see a child that needs help or is in danger I will do what I can to help that child out. If you want to teach your child to go up to a women with kids rather than me when they need help, that is perfectly acceptable, they are your children and you know whats best for them, I do not. All that matters, in my view at least, is that the child is safe. I will always be there to help whether it is a child, a family, man or woman, because that's how I was raised, to help people in need and not to worry about what people think.
posted by lilkeith07 at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2009


Because I'm now an adult, I feel that I can finally reveal that the code words for any "stranger" sent by my parents to pick me up were "Luke Skywalker."
posted by klangklangston at 10:50 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Because I'm now an adult, I feel that I can finally reveal that the code words for any "stranger" sent by my parents to pick me up were "Luke Skywalker."

The ones my parents picked were maybe less effective: "Hey kid, get in the car!"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:54 AM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


Because I'm now an adult, I feel that I can finally reveal that the code words for any "stranger" sent by my parents to pick me up were "Luke Skywalker."

I was going to mention the code-words technique as well, but I didn't have any experience with it (my parents didn't use it, but I plan to.)
posted by bunnycup at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2009


I couldn't picture any context where I could have conducted the same sort of interview without skeeving everyone out.

Here, I think that context is: the adults initiated the conversation. Had you been sitting with them, and they initiated conversation, they'd view that a lot differently than had you just struck up the converstaion unbidden.
posted by Miko at 10:55 AM on August 28, 2009


Because I'm now an adult, I feel that I can finally reveal that the code words for any "stranger" sent by my parents to pick me up were "Luke Skywalker."

Ours was Yoda.
posted by electroboy at 10:56 AM on August 28, 2009


Also, I'm totally going to kidnap klangklangston now.
posted by electroboy at 10:57 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Oh, man, I remember that we had some sort of code word protocol for a while, and a phone system where if someone wanted to call the house while we were home alone, they'd call and let it ring once and then hang up and then call back and we were supposed to answer those calls.

We pretty much gave up on that, as I recall, once it became clear that (a) nobody could remember the system very well and (b) nobody ever tried to rape any of us through the phone, etc.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:58 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


breezeway: If I help a child, and if my help is misconstrued by other adults, possibly including the child's parents, as harm, and if the police are called...

Given society's hysterical hyperparanoia about sex offenders and pedophiles, it doesn't need to go further than that. If you're an even slightly creepy-looking guy, you'll probably get arrested so they can sort out what's what at the station, away from the hysterical pedo-stick wielding parents. They probably won't charge you unless the situation is irreedemably unfortunate for you, though.

And you know what? That's enough to potentially cost you your social network, your job, the respect of your family, and so on and so on. The stigma attached to sex offences is so great that it often overrules rationality. Besides, my reading of this seems to indicate that all it takes to get you on the sex offenders register is a police caution. And that's your life as you know it destroyed.
posted by Dysk at 10:59 AM on August 28, 2009


Good thing there wasn't a Star Wars character called "Free Candy". At least until the prequels.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:01 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


That's enough to potentially cost you your social network, your job, the respect of your family, and so on and so on.

No. It's really not enough to do all that.
posted by Miko at 11:02 AM on August 28, 2009


"(b) nobody ever tried to rape any of us through the phone, etc."

The holes are too small.
posted by klangklangston at 11:05 AM on August 28, 2009


What I'm saying, Brother Dysk, is that if my life is somehow destroyed by such an improbable chain of circumstances, I'll end it, and maybe that would help change things for the better one day.
posted by breezeway at 11:06 AM on August 28, 2009


The holes are too small.

Not for some men I've met....
posted by bunnycup at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2009


brother dysk: Given society's hysterical hyperparanoia about sex offenders and pedophiles, it doesn't need to go further than that. If you're an even slightly creepy-looking guy, you'll probably get arrested so they can sort out what's what at the station, away from the hysterical pedo-stick wielding parents.

I think I can state without being too far off the mark that no, this is a highly improbable occurance.

On a side note... Brass Eye: Pedogeddon was funny (though the original series was funnier) but it's a satire, not an accurate account of what society is like.
posted by Kattullus at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2009


What I'm saying, Brother Dysk, is that if my life is somehow destroyed by such an improbable chain of circumstances, I'll end it, and maybe that would help change things for the better one day.

Child Rapist Hangs Self After Conviction: Film at 11
posted by electroboy at 11:07 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


breezeway: being a gay man, even one which is decidedly not attracted even to twenty-year-olds, makes your entire "specious trail" much more likely. Our society is so convinced that all of us want to diddle the little boys that, well, the last time I saw a kid in trouble, I left him standing there crying and walked up to another nearby adult and said, "that kid needs help" and walked away.
posted by hippybear at 11:08 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Miko - Maybe, yeah. I guess my assumption was that, even in the context of a pre-existing conversation with the parents, that level of interest from a male traveling alone on the bus would be a lot more likely to light up a false positive on someone's creep scanner. And like I said above, I'm aware this has more to do with my own many, many, many social hang-ups and malfunctions. The end result of my own terminal shyness and dread of being labeled "creep" means I engage strangers of any age or gender in conversation under only the rarest of circumstances and the briefest of intervals. And that I invariably ride the bus with a book handy.
posted by EatTheWeak at 11:08 AM on August 28, 2009


Child Rapist Hangs Self After Conviction: Film at 11

Teenager-Rapist(*) Teacher Asphyxiates Himself with a Gas Stove, Film at 11.

(*) NOT stated this way to imply for a moment that having deviant sexual conduct with a 14 year-old is any "less bad" than raping a child. Or that it's worse. Not making any judgment at all either way.
posted by bunnycup at 11:11 AM on August 28, 2009


I would rather they HAVE lives to spend as adults in therapy complaining

A life spent in fear and isolation isn't a life worth living. It isn't living. You are willing to sacrifice their lifetime of happiness, not to make them effectively safer, but just to make yourself feel better, against rational evidence. That seems incredibly selfish and short sighted. I'd put that in the bad parent book.
posted by nomisxid at 11:12 AM on August 28, 2009


It's annoying that parents are overprotective, but, at the same time, it's equally annoying to hear men complain about being oppressed. It's a bit like hearing rich people complain about being poor.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:12 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Child Rapist Hangs Self After Conviction: Film at 11

Thing is, you don't need to be convicted to go on the sex offenders register (here in the UK, at least) which will almost certainly cost you your job, and a huge chunk of your social capital.
posted by Dysk at 11:13 AM on August 28, 2009


Did somebody say Star Wars? Because I think I heard someone say Star Wars.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:14 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


A life spent in fear and isolation isn't a life worth living. It isn't living.

No. You know what ISN'T living? Being dead.

Read my comments upthread, please, where I specifically stated none of my intent is to bubble wrap my children and keep them indoors, avoiding all stimulus and life-enjoyment. Merely that I am LESS concerned about false-positives in too-quickly identifying stranger-men as harmful and MORE concerned about not having a second child die.
posted by bunnycup at 11:14 AM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie, being discriminated against is in no way, shape, or form the same thing as being oppressed. It just means that people prejudge you based on your membership of some group, nothing more, nothing less.
posted by Dysk at 11:14 AM on August 28, 2009


It just means that people prejudge you based on your membership of some group, nothing more, nothing less.

As a Jew, I think I can safely say that I am familiar with the concept.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:16 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who has it in for the Jews?
posted by Mister_A at 11:18 AM on August 28, 2009


For some reason, the more I know about an area, the less likely I am to be asked for directions. In the couple weeks after I moved to LA, I got stopped everywhere. While I was in Korea last month, people kept wanting to know how to get places that I couldn't even pronounce (protip—nearly every cab has a free translation service; use it). I can be in a totally foreign place and me, a 6'2" chubby beardo, gets asked everything from how to find highways to where there's a pet store.
posted by klangklangston at 11:18 AM on August 28, 2009


Yeah, hippybear, I totally get what you're saying there; like I said, I'm not telling anyone else to do what I do, just that this fear of being caught doing good isn't important to me. I was a Boy Scout, so I'm trained to respond, and I do, and I'm probably more confident doing so because of a variety of privileges from which I benefit -- I'm big, I look like a cop, I'm generally calm, and my sexual preferences aren't readily apparent.

But if I ever actually get in trouble for helping somebody out, I'll take what lumps I get. I'd take a bullet to help a stranger, even if that bullet came from my own gun.
posted by breezeway at 11:19 AM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie, good. I think most people are, really. I know I am, since I'm male, long-haired, and bearded. That doesn't mean I'm oppressed or anything - I'm not. But it doesn't make the discrimination faced any less real.

(It should go without saying [but this is the internet so I will say it anyway, in case somebody decides to misunderstand me] that being a victim of oppression or hatred is much worse than merely being discriminated against, and I do in no way wish to draw parallels between the two.)
posted by Dysk at 11:20 AM on August 28, 2009


Same thing happened to me in Paris, klang. People were speaking to me in English (mostly) really slowly because they were unsure of my nationality (yay!). It was funny. Also, I remember once giving somebody really awful directions because he or she was rude to me (in Philadelphia). That was fun, too.
posted by Mister_A at 11:22 AM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie, being discriminated against is in no way, shape, or form the same thing as being oppressed. It just means that people prejudge you based on your membership of some group, nothing more, nothing less.

"Discrimination", I'm sure you're aware, is a loaded, politically-charged word that carries with it invokations of civil rights being violated. And if you're not talking about oppression, why do you keep scaring up images of prison, angry mobs, the Pedo Stick and policemen? Parents glare at you on the street and pull their children away from you. Understood, and that sucks, but it's an anecdote fight. We get you're terrified of prison for talking to a child. I think the use of charged words like "discrimination" comes from this place.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


By the way, this discussion, as far as I can tell, has all the characteristics of a moral panic, rather than addressing an actual issue. There is no massive wave of arrests and unjust imprisonments going on in the United States because overprotective parents are freaking out at a strange man addressing their child. It's like the War on Christmas, except it's a nonexistent war on men, based on a few anecdotes and I don't know what else. If you're alone and you want to talk to another person's child, you might consider curbing that desire, in the same way you would curb the desire to pet a baby bear. There is no constitutional right that guarantees you unfettered access to other people's children.

If the child is in jeaporady, help them out and stop inventing scenarios in which you're going to get in trouble based on it. Comer on. Be an adult. If you do, by some bizarre roll of the dice, get in trouble for it -- well, helping a child is still the right thing to do. Sometimes you get struck by lightning. It doesn't mean there is a conspiracy by the weather to zap you.

If I am wrong and somebody can point out some germaine, non-anecdotal statistics that say there is indeed a wave of difficulties faced by men for their gender and based on them doing good and right things, I will retract my comments.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:23 AM on August 28, 2009 [17 favorites]


Who has it in for the Jews?

Other Jews, mostly.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:25 AM on August 28, 2009


I'll tell you what, no one has even produced an anecdote about a person suffering anything worse than glowering for attempting to help strange children.
posted by Mister_A at 11:26 AM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


and MORE concerned about not having a second child die.

This sums it up for me.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:28 AM on August 28, 2009


...and I don't mean that in a snarky sense, but in a sad, it's time to move on from this thread, kind of sense.
posted by mrmojoflying at 11:29 AM on August 28, 2009


A friend of a friend of a cousin of mine knew a guy once who got killed when he tried to help a strange child. Apparently, a lot of gang initiations now have children act like they're in distress, and to get in the gang, initiates have to kill whoever stops to help. True story.
posted by Drastic at 11:31 AM on August 28, 2009


This sums it up for me.

mrmojoflying, can I ask what you mean - because I can read that a couple of different ways (In part because I am so damn sensitive)...
posted by bunnycup at 11:31 AM on August 28, 2009


Ahh, thank you for the follow up.
posted by bunnycup at 11:32 AM on August 28, 2009


A life spent in fear and isolation isn't a life worth living. It isn't living. You are willing to sacrifice their lifetime of happiness, not to make them effectively safer, but just to make yourself feel better, against rational evidence. That seems incredibly selfish and short sighted. I'd put that in the bad parent book

I hardly think telling a child, "Should you ever get lost, look for another mommy to ask for help" equates to instilling a lifelong, debilitating fear of men into that child.
posted by The Gooch at 11:32 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I rate entitlement not to be murdered (or have my child kidnapped, etc.) over your right to not be treated like a potential murder, rapist, killer, whatever in a personal situation.

bunnycup, this is from your first comment. It doesn't seem to be limited to advising your child to seek out help from women rather than men, but rather that you choose to start all interactions with men from the assumption that they are violent criminals. Your later comments are more focused on specifically teaching your child, but re-reading your first comment, can you see where some of us might want to challenge it?

In other words, do you or do you not feel entitled to treat strange males as rapists and murderers by default? Besides teaching your kid not to approach men for help, how else does this fear manifest itself in the way you treat men personally? I don't expect you to answer this publicly if you do not wish, I'm just asking you consider if it has ever led you to treat somebody unfairly, and what implications that may have in your life and his ... whether or not you ultimately decide your actions were justified.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:33 AM on August 28, 2009


Drastic, not to be bitchy, but might you be able to cite, I don't know, an actual police report, or at least a news report that this epidemic is happening? Because the "friend of a friend of a cousin of mine" reeks of urban legend, and sounds far too much like the billion (always fake) stories that Snopes has about gangs doing some nefarious thing or another as an initiation tactic.

Or maybe you're just being snarky, and my snark meter be broke. It's Friday afternoon and I'm super-bored at the office, so that's just as likely an explanation as any.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:39 AM on August 28, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, I really think we just disagree about what connotations the word "discriminate" has. The main reason I'm using it is because "prejudge" sounds idiotic to my ears, and that's the grammatical sense in which I've been using the word. They're synonymous to me.

Then again, I'm a young European bloke who grew up in South-East Asia, so my grounding in the civil rights movement and the language used in that context is almost certainly poor. I'm almost tempted to put this disconnect between how we see the word down to cultural differences.
posted by Dysk at 11:39 AM on August 28, 2009


I am 100 percent certain Drastic was joking.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2009


I never thought I'd find myself saying this but, uh ... Marisa, the Pedo Stick is mine. It was meant as an analogue of the Pointing Bone. Oh, man, that does not sound good, either.

On a lighter note, I just found out that Stryper is coming to town, and I will probably have to go see them to redeem myself.
posted by adipocere at 11:41 AM on August 28, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: We get you're terrified of prison for talking to a child.

Actually, I'm not. I'm terrified by how low the bar of admission is to the sex offenders register in this country. Repair this (i.e. make it require conviction), and 98% of my concerns go away.
posted by Dysk at 11:42 AM on August 28, 2009


I don't think anyone is talking about leaving a kid who has fallen into the alligator pen because they don't want to be accused of being a pedophile. One time I saved a kid from drowing, and that was pretty cool since I can't swim. I'd do that again. I wouldn't take a scared little kid by the hand again (kids reach for my hand a surprising amount*) in the Barnes and Noble and find their parents again. I would alert a store clerk.

*I think kids are like cats. If they sense that you don't like them, they like you.
posted by spaltavian at 11:43 AM on August 28, 2009


I hardly think telling a child, "Should you ever get lost, look for another mommy to ask for help" equates to instilling a lifelong, debilitating fear of men into that child.

No more so than telling kinds not to talk to strangers instills a lifelong, debilitating fear of other people. While we sometimes seem to be a nation of people with chronic social anxiety, I have a hard time believing it was our parents instructions to steer clear of unfamiliar adults that caused this.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:44 AM on August 28, 2009


Do you know anyone who was arrested in a situation that could be interpreted as their trying to help a child?

Fitzroy Barnaby was convicted of a sexual offense because he grabbed a girl by the arm to tell her that playing in traffic wasn't a good idea, after she ran out into the street and he nearly killed her.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:45 AM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Thanks for that, AZ. As I said: bored + Friday + afternoon + 1 hour 15 left in the day = less-than-razor-sharp detection of wit.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:46 AM on August 28, 2009


Your later comments are more focused on specifically teaching your child, but re-reading your first comment, can you see where some of us might want to challenge it?

I see what you are saying, but I think also your conclusions about what that means for me as a PARENT are a little flawed. You will see the development of my opinion in further detail, particularly as it relates to reading and taking to heart advice (that I genuinely - rather than as a rhetorical device - asked for). I considered Miko's and headspace's comments about the ways they address the concern, and had a well-considered, thoughtful discussion with Cortex about the real-world significance of the statistics. I'm not sure whether you are intending to nail my ass to the wall and force me to admit (although I think comments are clear) that there has been development and fine-tuning of my opinions, but if that's what you want I am happy to do it.

Alternately, are you asking me whether I do indeed have a higher fear-meter for, say, strange men that approach me in bars than strange women? I'm comfortable admitting that I do, and that if that makes those men uncomfortable...well, it makes ME uncomfortable to be approached by strange men in certain circumstances. Would you like me to admit that when a man has seemed to be following me from the subway to hope at 2am, I have a faster trigger to fear than if it was a woman? Sure, I do.

On the other hand, I have a great husband, a phenomenal father and several brothers with whom I get along well and respect deeply (hiya furiousxgeorge!). I have had some good romantic relationships and some bad. My direct supervisor is male, we've worked together 9.5 years and have a great relationship. I don't perceive that I have any particular problems interacting with the opposite sex. That said, I do indeed highly value my safety and am willing to accept the fact that I will require distance from stranger-men who might have perfectly sane, or even friendly, reasons to approach. Again, will I run away from another parent who approaches me at a PTA meeting? No. Will I evade stranger-men at night on my own, in a bar, or whatever? Yes.

So, I'm not utterly sure what you are asking me, or what horrible life effects you perceive I will have a result.
posted by bunnycup at 11:48 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


The holes are too small.

Not for some men I've met....


Wait, you can tell the size of a man's penis by meeting them?
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:49 AM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So you're totally unaware of the civil rights connotations of "discrimination". OK.

Beside that point, you must be aware that you have repeatedly conjured up an image of oppression - e.g., helping a child crying on the sidewalk could land you on the sex offender registry - from what seems to be if not a completely imagined threat then at least a very exxaggerated one. I don't deny that your fear is real. I just think that it might be based more on things you're afraid might happen rather than on things that could.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:50 AM on August 28, 2009


Wait, you can tell the size of a man's penis by meeting them?

I am the Sylvia Browne of penis-size. Shall I do a reading?
posted by bunnycup at 11:52 AM on August 28, 2009


Fitzroy Barnaby

That happened almost five years ago.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2009


ROU_Xenophobe, I'm quite sleep deprived at the moment, so I couldn't for the life of me work out what was happening in the story you were describing (it never occured to me that Fitzroy was the driver of the car) so I googled it, and it's batshitinsane that they convicted him of a sex offence when they accepted his side of the story.
posted by Dysk at 11:53 AM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


*I think kids are like cats. If they sense that you don't like them, they like you.

I have a loosely developed theory of interaction with kids that boils down to: people who are good with kids (in the sense that friends and family with kids like to happily inform you that you are) generally treat them like cats. Dig it: there's the immediate obvious parallels like avoiding sudden looming violent motions, and don't get grabby with them barring good reason.

But more subtly, domesticated and properly socialized cats generally like attention. It's just that they don't like attention in the dogs-liking-attention sense (and thus one of the great divides between pet owners in all human history). Overly bright cheery fixated attention will bother most cats, and likewise, most kids. The too-big-smile-aren't-you-precious beaming interrogation barrage of that creepy distant aunt is the equivalent of someone repeatedly shaking the string in the face of the cat who would really like to just laze in the sunbeam now, thankyouverymuchdamnhuman. But if you give off the impression of paying attention that's not hostile or fixated, that's perfectly content to let the cat or kid continue on continuing on, more likely than not you start escalating into their favorite guest listings.

There's also the parallel that gangs will often use strange cats in their initiations. That's also a true story.
posted by Drastic at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


Wait a second. It happened in 2002 -- the story is from 2005. Jesus. Do we have any newer stories? One guy getting unjustly slapped as a sex offender in the past seven years is hardly evidence of a crisis.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:55 AM on August 28, 2009


Drastic, do you have any proof about...

HAH! Ok, got it!
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:56 AM on August 28, 2009


There's also the parallel that gangs will often use strange cats in their initiations.

This is why I never talk to cats with bandanas. Can't be too safe.
posted by spaltavian at 12:00 PM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie, well, he wasn't put on the register until 2005, when the appeal ended.

Also, the statements of the court are just cold:

The appellate court agreed it was "unfair for [Barnaby] to suffer the stigmatization of being labeled a sex offender when his crime was not sexually motivated," however it sided with the state's attorney who argued it is "the proclivity of offenders who restrain children to also commit sex acts or other crimes against them."

Ah yes, it's unfair for Barnaby to suffer, but people who grab children might rape them or something, so we'd better be safe, eh?

"It is [Barnaby's] actions which have caused him to be stigmatized, not the courts," reads the decision.

Talk about blaming the victim...
posted by Dysk at 12:10 PM on August 28, 2009


The appellate court agreed it was "unfair for [Barnaby] to suffer the stigmatization of being labeled a sex offender when his crime was not sexually motivated," however it sided with the state's attorney who argued it is "the proclivity of offenders who restrain children to also commit sex acts or other crimes against them."

That sounds a little like charging someone who was arrested for using, say, meth or cocaine with assault or battery (or both), not because they committed the crime, but because they MIGHT have. Because people who are high on uppers have a proclivity to commit assault or battery.
posted by bunnycup at 12:15 PM on August 28, 2009


Yes. That case sounds absurd. I've dug around on the Web and it seems pretty unique too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on August 28, 2009



Certainly that does not mean you are all monsters, but it does mean that if you are a strange man acting weird around me, I will take action to either get me away from you or vice versa. And I'll teach my kids to do the same. And please don't come crying back about how god-awful unfair that is.


Do you do the same with black people?
posted by rodgerd at 12:19 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Talk about blaming the victim...

You sure you're not familiar with civil rights discussions round here?
posted by cashman at 12:21 PM on August 28, 2009


*head-desk*
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:22 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Do you do the same with black people?

You popped in right at the end and didn't read anything that came earlier, didn't you?
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2009 [10 favorites]


Brother Dysk: Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, I really think we just disagree about what connotations the word "discriminate" has. The main reason I'm using it is because "prejudge" sounds idiotic to my ears, and that's the grammatical sense in which I've been using the word. They're synonymous to me.

Then again, I'm a young European bloke who grew up in South-East Asia, so my grounding in the civil rights movement and the language used in that context is almost certainly poor. I'm almost tempted to put this disconnect between how we see the word down to cultural differences.


As a fellow Nordic living in an Anglophone country, let me just say that if a bunch of native-speakers tell you that your understanding of an English word is incorrect, they're almost certainly right and you're almost certainly wrong.
posted by Kattullus at 12:23 PM on August 28, 2009


Kattullus, you may have seen me mention that I grew up in South East Asia, yes? English is my first language, and the language I have used all my life.
posted by Dysk at 12:24 PM on August 28, 2009


Alright then... if your usage of a word clashes with the way that most people you are speaking to understand it, then you should probably alter your usage.
posted by Kattullus at 12:27 PM on August 28, 2009


Kattullus, I strongly suspect that this is more to do with which side of the Atlantic you're on. I mean, I do live in the UK, I am a politically active person, and I love a good arg... debate, so it's not like I've not been over these issues with people here before. Connotations to the Civil Rights movement are likely a primarily American thing.
posted by Dysk at 12:29 PM on August 28, 2009


I didn't realize that the UK had sex offender registries. I assumed that was yankee craziness.
posted by klangklangston at 12:48 PM on August 28, 2009


That's enough to potentially cost you your social network, your job, the respect of your family, and so on and so on.

No. It's really not enough to do all that.


If you think being arrested on suspicion of kiddy fiddling won't have serious social consequences irrespective of whether the police choose to proceed with a case, you are, I think, living in a reality inhabited by a considerably more generous slice of humanity than most of us.


Gooch:I hardly think telling a child, "Should you ever get lost, look for another mommy to ask for help" equates to instilling a lifelong, debilitating fear of men into that child.

Bunnycup: I rate entitlement not to be murdered (or have my child kidnapped, etc.) over your right to not be treated like a potential murder, rapist, killer, whatever in a personal situation. I am not saying there is not an element of prejudice in there, I certainly do not regularly check the statistics by race and gender and adjust my level of guard thereby.

Funny, you seem to putting words in bunnycup's mouth. She hates that. (And apparently does do race-based discrimination on 'statistics'.)
posted by rodgerd at 12:49 PM on August 28, 2009


The word "discrimination" has no political, civil rights-related connotations in the UK. Brits and Yanks alike take note.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2009


And apparently does do race-based discrimination on 'statistics'.

That's a pretty brazen accusation to make, given that I specifically said in the piece you quoted that I do NOT adjust my level of guard according to racial statistics.

Apparently, I am now a racist for failing to make judgments based on race. Noted!
posted by bunnycup at 12:58 PM on August 28, 2009


Last Friday or the one before I was outside my place loading the carpet cleaner in my truck. I look behind me and there's this tiny girl in the middle of the street. I figure based on my nieces and nephews she's on either side of 2 years old. She looks a bit worried but isn't crying. The street is busy enough, especially around 5-6 pm, that a 2 year old in the middle of the road won't have a good end. There's also woods surrounding the area, which again, would not be a good end. I talk to her a bit, or try to, and all I get is she doesn't know where her parents are. She's off the road at least at this point but I still dare not leave her. My cell phone, as luck would have it is in the house but I don't dare go get it because she might wander off. I don't dare bring her with me because of the general paranoia so I start talking to her. At this point 10 minutes have already passed and that's when the nosy neighbours come out. "Are you her dad?" I reply "No, she's lost". "Oh, I thought she might be, I saw her walking past my window but then I saw her talking to a man and I was worried".

That's nice ladies. You saw a kid obviously too young to be out on her own and you did jack shit except keep filling your stupid faces. Somebody stops to help her and then your stranger danger alarm goes off.

Finally in another 10 minutes or so I see a guy coming up the street. He's got a dog on a leash, a wagon, and a 3 year old kind of ambling behind him. I can tell by the girls eyes that she recognizes him when he gets close enough. He came from the park up the road and didn't know she went off. The parks over a half mile away and with those little girls legs it must've taken at least 1/2 an hour to get here. He's looking at me suspiciously because up to this point I was still the only one watching the little girl. The women are watching me, I'm watching the little girl, the little girls watching her dad, her dad's watching me. He doesn't say anything but just scoops her up and says "How'd you get all the way up here? I was worried"

It pisses me off that nobody was worried about the little girl until big bad man, and I'll admit that I'm on the wrong side of the "big and scary" equation, talked to her. The busy street didn't concern anybody. The woods didn't concern anybody.

I understand the concern but I don't understand why of all the things this was the biggest concern.
posted by substrate at 12:59 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


wow. i got to bed and wake up to a nearly 300 comment long metatalk that my comments were at least partially part of...

i still maintain that men do lose work or don't get the opportunities that women get in female dominated industries that deal with children. i still maintain that it's damaging to the children to give them a boogey man without explaining the whys and hows.

to do a little copying and pasting from the original thread:

instead of telling the children who to be afraid of, tell the child how to react if they are afraid. all strangers aren't bad and all friends and family are good. teaching them to deal with both of those situations is harder than saying "don't talk to strangers!" but in the long run it's far more useful. i fall on the side of teach children to treat humans as humans no matter race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation. again, if you teach them how to react to fear and how to figure out if they're in a dangerous situation instead of just setting up a scary monster, you'll get better results.
posted by nadawi at 12:59 PM on August 28, 2009


And before you ask how my child is to know if a woman has children, I specifically intended and should have said "a woman who has children with her".

Aha, but -- ! How do you *know* those children she has with her are *really hers,* and not merely previous victims of her cruel kidnapping ways?
posted by webmutant at 1:04 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


'Discrimination' seems to be another example of two countries separated by a common language. In the UK, discrimination doesn't require the history of oppression that it apparently has in the US.
posted by knapah at 1:04 PM on August 28, 2009


I'm losing track of my boogie-men here. Is it the pedo hiding behind every tree, or the cop waiting to arrest people for pedophilia on the flimiest pretext?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:05 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: The word "discrimination" has no political, civil rights-related connotations in the UK. Brits and Yanks alike take note.

Is this supposed to be sarcastic? My usage matches the dictionary definition almost exactly, for both British and American dictionaries, as well as my general experience in my many years living in the UK. And, to top that off, my Irish housemate agrees with me.

Seriously, there are cultural differences across the Atlantic. The term 'discrimination' is used effectively interchangably with 'prejudice' here.
posted by Dysk at 1:05 PM on August 28, 2009


As a fellow Nordic living in an Anglophone country, let me just say that if a bunch of native-speakers tell you that your understanding of an English word is incorrect, they're almost certainly right and you're almost certainly wrong.

I don't know, English seems pretty open to argument.
posted by spaltavian at 1:07 PM on August 28, 2009


Aha, but -- ! How do you *know* those children she has with her are *really hers,* and not merely previous victims of her cruel kidnapping ways?

Good point, I had also ruled out the options that they were unattractive dogs dressed in baby clothes, robots, pod people, aliens in disguise and so forth. I will have to consider these possibilities going forward.
posted by bunnycup at 1:08 PM on August 28, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing - you know exactly what i meant and pretending you don't isn't helpful to discourse.
posted by nadawi at 1:09 PM on August 28, 2009


It was more a joke than anything, BD, I'm willing to accept that there are different uses for the same words in different places. It's aside the point, anyway, as the imagery of oppression you evoke in this thread pretty much falls in line with the definition of discrimination as I know it.

And, to top that off, my Irish housemate agrees with me.

Jesus Christ we've gone from anecdote fighting to quoting housemates? Hang on, I'm going to pop next door and show my neighbor this thread. He's a painter and loves to drink, too. You'll be sorry! All of you!
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:10 PM on August 28, 2009


"'Discrimination' seems to be another example of two countries separated by a common language. In the UK, discrimination doesn't require the history of oppression that it apparently has in the US."

Also, lift means pram and pram means overcoat.
posted by klangklangston at 1:11 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing - you know exactly what i meant and pretending you don't isn't helpful to discourse.

I wasn't talking directly to you, nadawi. I'm talking about how we have two boogiemen in this thread - the potential pedos and the cops who will spring on you for talking to a crying child.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:12 PM on August 28, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, the housemate bit was tongue-in-cheek. Text is horrible for this sort of thing.
posted by Dysk at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2009


i still maintain that men do lose work or don't get the opportunities that women get in female dominated industries that deal with children. i still maintain that it's damaging to the children to give them a boogey man without explaining the whys and hows.

I'd be curious if you can back any of this up with actual evidence. After all, you're making th case that there is systematic discrimation against one specific gender in a specific field, and making a broader psychological assertion. There must be something to back this up besides a general sense of it happening, or one or two anecdotes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:13 PM on August 28, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, the housemate bit was tongue-in-cheek. Text is horrible for this sort of thing.

Oh it's too late now. I've already told my neighbor about this thread. His coming over now with a half-empty bottle of bourbon and a thesaurus. I hope you're proud of yourself.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:14 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I had also ruled out the options that they were... robots

Wait, wait. You don't follow robot saftey procedures? Do you want to get death-rayed?
posted by spaltavian at 1:17 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm losing track of my boogie-men here. Is it the pedo hiding behind every tree, or the cop waiting to arrest people for pedophilia on the flimiest pretext?

I think we're up to the discord between Mr. Oxford and Mr. Webster on certain key words at this point, aren't we?
posted by EatTheWeak at 1:20 PM on August 28, 2009


Wait, wait. You don't follow robot saftey procedures? Do you want to get death-rayed?

People spend this whole thread telling me I am being over-cautious and now you are critiquing my robot safety methods??

I will tell you that my robot-safety protocols have a 100% success rate in preventing death and maiming by robot. We've also synergized the robot-safety unit's interactions with the alien-assault prevention group, resulting in a net-zero abduction rate. In 3rd quarter 2009, we will be proud to announced the newly-formed Zombie and Sparkling Vampire Quarantine Program with which we hope to report complete success at preventing the spread of undead-ism and sparkling bloodthirst within the family.

Did you not get the Powerpoint we sent around for review last week?
posted by bunnycup at 1:23 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


astro zombie - it's not one or two anecdotes, but i don't have hard science to back me up either. i worked in a mall portrait studio for 10 years. i was a manager in charge of hiring/firing/setting up hours. i was responsible for 8 different studios during that time and i worked in 5 more. i did this job from arkansas to texas to washington state.

i have seen, heard of, and cleaned up after multiple instances where mothers wouldn't allow a male photographer and other instances where the children would burst into tears of actual fear upon meeting the male photographer. i have been told in no uncertain terms "we teach our children to not talk to men who are strangers, so she's scared of men". i've also had these same mothers tell me that little jenny/susie/jack/tom had to be transferred out of a male teacher's class and had to find a different pediatrician because they were afraid of men. due to this, as managers that run a business, i've been a part of many conversations that are about how, unless you can't avoid it, men can't be scheduled by themselves because the revenue loss is too high. because of this, the men got less hours and had to go find gainful employee elsewhere.

this is not one or two or even twenty isolated incidents. this is a story repeated hundreds of times and one that can be mimicked by any portrait studio manager that's being truthful.
posted by nadawi at 1:24 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


(in charge of 8, and ALSO worked in another 5 or so)
posted by nadawi at 1:25 PM on August 28, 2009


Also, lift means pram and pram means overcoat.

Don't lift your overcoat, you'll go to jail!
posted by InfidelZombie at 1:26 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really think that this problem will take care of itself as soon as men become fully equal partners in parenting to all the children they father and stop raping women and children.

In the mean time, statistically (ahem), there may be fewer males in certain fields but they're almost certainly being paid more.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:28 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Pfft, that may help if Robbie the Robot is feeling rapey. With just antiquated equipment, you might as well be getting groped by a Commodore 64.

I'm talking androids, Decepticons, Terminators. And don't tell me you're safe because you're on a Mac.
posted by spaltavian at 1:31 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


i have seen, heard of, and cleaned up after multiple instances where mothers wouldn't allow a male photographer and other instances where the children would burst into tears of actual fear upon meeting the male photographer.

Well, parents have a right to whatever photographer they prefer, and to the children bursting into tears -- some burst into tears on seeing Santa at department stores. My brother used to burst into tears upon seeing a vaccum cleaner. It sounds to me like you're extrapolating a very specific set of circumstances into something grander, and I would caution you that there are men who really, really feel like there is a movement afoot to oppress men for their gender, and you must be careful with how you use anecdotal data, and be sure that you're describing something quite common.

I don't know that it really matters that men will sometimes go mad and decide that they are an oppressed class, but, as I said earlier, it's a bit annoying.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:32 PM on August 28, 2009


I really think that this problem will take care of itself as soon as men become fully equal partners in parenting to all the children they father and stop raping women and children.

wow you didn't even bother with saying "some men" just, like, fuck it, they're all rapist deadbeat dads

seriously, good job: you finally found a sentence that offends me and is deeply hurtful even through my stony facade

and overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:33 PM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


Around 2000 or so, I was visiting an amusement park on my own and, on a train ride around the park, made the acquaintance of a very chatty 10-year-old girl sitting on the bench ahead of me. She was riding the train by herself, and turned around and just struck up a conversation with me. She happily told me all about the rides she had been on that day, how her little brother was too scared to ride the big roller coaster but she wasn't scared, and this was the first time she was able to run around on her own just like one of the big kids. I didn't say much except for "Mmm hmm, that's cool, yeah, I like that ride too."

I felt conflicted. On the one hand, I thought it was refreshing that a kid growing up in the age of helicopter parents was actually friendly and trusting. Nobody ever strikes up conversations with strangers any more and some part of me finds that sad, since sometimes it's the strangers who have the best conversation.

On the other hand, I was growing increasingly uncomfortable sitting there on my own bench talking to a 10-year-old girl on the other bench. What if her parents were waiting for her at the next stop? How would they react to seeing a stranger in his late 20s, alone in the park, talking to their daughter who was finally allowed to explore the park on her own? The kid didn't see any threat at all, that much was clear. But suddenly I became very aware of the fact that even though I wasn't a threat, I sure as hell could be perceived as one. Possibly by very protective parents.

While I'd been taught as a kid never to talk to strangers, accept stuff from strangers, get into unmarked, windowless vans with strangers, I never had the STRANGER DANGER feeling. I never looked at people I didn't know as potential kidnappers. I was never scared. I'm not sure how many kids are actively scared, but I know their parents sure can be. But now I was sure scared. Scared of The Stranger who was actually Me. Scared of myself. Scared of my self being accused of being The Stranger.

As we approached the next stop, the girl announced "I'm getting off here! Me and my dad are going to ride the looper coaster. Are you gonna ride it, too?"

Well, I had planned on riding the looper coaster. But this was a situation that was going to lead to nothing but tears, screaming and possible litigation. So I did the only thing I could do: I ditched the kid.

"I'm staying on the train," I said. "I'm going to meet my family for lunch. Have fun on the looper coaster!" And off she happily went, down the exit ramp and into the crowd. I sat on the train for a few go-rounds.

I think what I feel worst about is that we live in a culture where every stranger is a potential threat. We've lost a lot of innocence.
posted by Spatch at 1:33 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry to offend you Optimus Chyme. But I really think it's not enough if some men to become equal partners and some men to stop raping,etc. It may not be possible for all men to achieve this, but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority. I don't think it's something innate in men that's responsible for men mostly being auxiliary caretakers, or being sexually violent. I really think it's a cultural, societal thing, and it's possible for that to change.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm talking androids, Decepticons, Terminators. And don't tell me you're safe because you're on a Mac.

Hmm, now may be the time to make that retinal scanner purchase I've been considering for the foyer. If only it coordinated better with the Italian marble floors and the fountain...
posted by bunnycup at 1:36 PM on August 28, 2009


And just in case, because I really don't want to offend you and I know that (some) men are very sensitive to how women talk about men, I also don't think that all men are auxiliary caretakers or are sexually violent. But too many are.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:37 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - how many female dominated industries have you worked in that involve children? does it not matter that my anecdotal data supports (no matter how much i hate it) that i have denied rights in the workplace to men because it wasn't fiscally advantageous to protect them? that's not just me seeing something and deciding what it means. and it's not just me. it's a conversation i've had with many managers, district managers, and area managers.
posted by nadawi at 1:38 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


it's a bit annoying.

So now you are being oppressed, right? Because talking about things that affect you negatively is the same thing as claiming oppression.



Salamandrous, wow. I'm just going to assume that didn't come out the way you intended.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 1:39 PM on August 28, 2009


I really think it's not enough if some men to become equal partners and some men to stop raping,etc. It may not be possible for all men to achieve this, but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority.

You believe that the vast majority of men are either rapists or deadbeat dads? Am I really reading that?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I didn't read it that way you did, Optimus. I guess I didn't see an implied "all men" in the phrase "as soon as men become fully equal partners in parenting to all the children they father and stop raping women and children." It was an inexact turn of phrase, to be sure, and exactness would be preferable here, but I didn't see any reason to read into it that Salamandrous believes all men to be guilty of these things.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:40 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


So now you are being oppressed, right? Because talking about things that affect you negatively is the same thing as claiming oppression.

I'm not quite following you. But, no, I'm not being oppressed.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:41 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - how many female dominated industries have you worked in that involve children?

I worked as an educator in synagogues for seven years, in a few instances being the only man in the education department whow asn't clergy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:42 PM on August 28, 2009


Unfortunately, it doesn't require the vast majority of men to be rapists (or even a slight majority, or even a plurality) for the vast majority of women to have experienced sexual assault.

Also, there is a huge difference between being a deadbeat dad and not being a full partner in childrearing. But actually unfortunately it does seem to me that the majority of men are less likely to take time off after their children's birth, to do half the diapers and cleaning up, to stay home when a kid is sick, to arrange babysitting and daycare, to buy half the holiday presents, to know the kids' friends and dress sizes, etc. I think this is changing for the better, but I don't think we're there yet.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:44 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


astro zombie - forgive me if i don't feel that working in a male dominated religion as an educator qualifies. the clergy is the one in charge there.
posted by nadawi at 1:46 PM on August 28, 2009


and I would caution you that there are men who really, really feel like there is a movement afoot to oppress men for their gender

I hope you're not including me in this category, because that isn't what I've been trying to say. As a sex, men are still greatly advantaged over women, and this is something that needs addressing. I'm under no illusion that as a white, middle class male I'm hugely advantaged by society, and have practically no hurdles placed in my path through life. I have in no way intended to paint any "imagery of oppression", and do apologise if I have given that impression.

Marisa Stole the Precious Thing, I figured the quip was ridiculous enough to not be construed as anything other than a joke, especially with the exclamation mark terminating the sentence.
posted by Dysk at 1:46 PM on August 28, 2009


So now you are being oppressed, right? Because talking about things that affect you negatively is the same thing as claiming oppression.

Oh, now I think I understand what you mean. My comments were not directed at you, but instead at a group of men who maintain a fairly visible online presence and will regularly jump into discussions about things that adversely affect women to complain that it's actually men who are oppressed. You might run into some of those guys every so often online. They're not much fun.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:47 PM on August 28, 2009


I figured the quip was ridiculous enough to not be construed as anything other than a joke, especially with the exclamation mark terminating the sentence.

It was; I'm playing along. Except the part about my neighbor being a painter who likes to drink. He may or may not own a thesaurus.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 1:49 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - forgive me if i don't feel that working in a male dominated religion as an educator qualifies. the clergy is the one in charge there.

My direct supervisor, in one instance, was a female rabbi. There was one other male educator, a cantor, who whose role was quite limited.

But you're not correct. The clergy are not in charge of religious education in many synagogues, and are not the direct supervisors of the education department, which is often a fairly distinct unit with its own hierrachy and management. Not that it matters, as I have asked for something other than anecdotal evidence, and you have provided none, but to insist that I cannot know because I have not had your experiences. When I point out that I have worked in an area that is vaguely comparable, based on the conditions you set out, you have discounted it based on an incorrect supposition about who is in charge. That's not entirely cricket.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:51 PM on August 28, 2009


If you think being arrested on suspicion of kiddy fiddling won't have serious social consequences ...

I think we can all agree that kiddy fiddling must be stopped.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Can I ask that we leave the Suzuki method out of this?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:52 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry to offend you Optimus Chyme. But I really think it's not enough if some men to become equal partners and some men to stop raping,etc. It may not be possible for all men to achieve this, but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority. I don't think it's something innate in men that's responsible for men mostly being auxiliary caretakers, or being sexually violent. I really think it's a cultural, societal thing, and it's possible for that to change.

What the hell?

Not enough if some men become equal partners and stop raping? It's "possible for the vast majority"?

The vast majority of men are not rapists.

Bloody hell.
posted by knapah at 1:54 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Way to axe-grind, Salamandrous. Men might not also do half the cooking, half the cleaning; do women do half the income generation, half the yardwork, half of everything else? I'm not saying it's cool for men to affect helplessness in domestic chores or otherwise shift the burden off onto women but this political refereeing of personal domestic balances is one hell of a way to explain why X party, that doesn't fully participate in activity Y, might not be trusted around Z, who're members that activity Y is about. I'm not saying the mental jump is bizarre ("women don't drive tanks in our country, let's not trust their opinions on tank warfare") but it's bizarre and uncool as a justification.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 1:55 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh word I just wanted to drop in and tell you all that you are raising your children incorrectly. Additionally you worship the wrong god, your politics are backward, and your body type is unsatisfactory.
posted by Damn That Television at 1:55 PM on August 28, 2009 [9 favorites]


group of men who maintain a fairly visible online presence and will regularly jump into discussions about things that adversely affect women to complain that it's actually men who are oppressed.

Has there been much of that in this discussion? The "omg I'll be arrested if I lift a finger" stuff was over the top, but other than that I don't see many claims of oppression.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 1:56 PM on August 28, 2009


No, there has not been much of that in this discussion. My warning was about an online trend, not specific to this group.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:57 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh wow, I didn't properly account for reading comprehension here.

Let me clarify:

I think it is possible for the vast majority of men to NOT engage in nonconsensual sexual activity and to BE equal partners.

That does not mean that I think now the vast majority of men DO engage in, etc etc.

It's also not a question of individual men alone, sadly. Here's an example of how a man who may never (hopefully never) have engaged in non-consensual sexual activity in his life nevertheless became part of the problem.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:58 PM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie - i still don't find working within a religious structure that is dominated by men to be a female dominated industry, no matter who your direct supervisor was. but that's not really hither nor thither. you feel you've had experiences that are likened unto mine and drew different things from it.

i repeat: i have denied rights in the workplace to men because it wasn't fiscally advantageous to protect them. i am not the only one i've seen do this. i've seen every manager i've worked around in the industry do exactly the same thing. in fact, one of my first managers was a male and he wouldn't schedule himself alone at any time because of how men are seen by some parents and children. he eventually moved to the tech side of the business to mitigate this. he also made about 10% less than the average manager.

chock it all up to anecdotal and there for not relevant if you like, but don't tell me i'm making this shit up in my head because i see what i want to see. that's just not the case.
posted by nadawi at 1:59 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh word I just wanted to drop in and tell you all that you are raising your children incorrectly. Additionally you worship the wrong god, your politics are backward, and your body type is unsatisfactory.

Oh yeah? Well you give off the odor of an aroused Moose, your mother is corpulent and your father lacks distinction as a sexual partner.
posted by bunnycup at 1:59 PM on August 28, 2009


Astro Zombie - i still don't find working within a religious structure that is dominated by men to be a female dominated industry, no matter who your direct supervisor was. but that's not really hither nor thither. you feel you've had experiences that are likened unto mine and drew different things from it.

Yes. I am sorry for your experiences, and those whom you know, and if there is a trend toward men being passed over for women in a specific field, as you claim, it should be acted on. All I am suggesting is that it not be seen as being part of some larger trend without something to back that up.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:03 PM on August 28, 2009


I get what your saying, Salamandrous.

Unfortunately, Metafilter is still a little bit of a boyzone, where even the hint that there's some sort pattern of male privilege (and I mean that in the academic sense) gets some of the middle-to-upper-middle-class-white-men who make up the majority here upset.
posted by muddgirl at 2:05 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - i'm not going to watch my tongue because you know of a group of men on the internet who aren't part of this discussion who say things you find distasteful. keep fighting the good fight.
posted by nadawi at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2009


Could I trouble you to clarify just a little further, Salamandrous? - I think what I (and perhaps others) are getting hung up on is the "I think it is possible" clause - one could read this as you saying that "it is possible" for men to suppress the child-neglecting rapist that seethes within us all, that the vast majority of men does so, but could slip at any time. Surely I'm reading this wrong?
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:06 PM on August 28, 2009


It makes sense to me that if men did as much childwork as women, then the sight of a man alone with a child or children would be completely unremarkable, and a man's competence for taking care of children would not be taken less for granted (to whatever extent it shouldn't be) than a woman's.

Also, women, individually and collectively, have made vast efforts to increase our career options and our earning abilities. Some of these advances have also opened opportunities for men, like the possibility of taking paternity leave. But for some matters it really does come down to one person/couple at a time decisions.

On a global level, women do in fact do more work than men, have less leisure time, control less wealth, and own less property. I'm not sure how it stacks up in any individual country (although the leisure time thing has recently been studied and bears out across the 'developed' world as well) but I wouldn't make any assumptions.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:09 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - i'm not going to watch my tongue because you know of a group of men on the internet who aren't part of this discussion who say things you find distasteful.

I would hope you would watch your tongue because it is bad form to make claims about broad social trends without having anything other than limited and very specific anecdotal experiences, especially when those claims make huge leaps of logic about the reasons these anecdotal experiences are happening.

It is incidental that an undersired payoff to doing this is that it gives idiots ammunition for their idiocy.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:09 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - we'll have to agree to disagree.
posted by nadawi at 2:12 PM on August 28, 2009


EatTheWeak:
I think I was pretty clear in saying that I don't believe there is anything innate in me that propels them towards child neglecting and sexual violence, but rather, this is a cultural and societal thing. I said that here.

Because I don't think it's innate is why I have hope that the status quo isn't our destiny.

As for possible/impossible, that was mostly to account for the fact that I don't really believe that even in a really much more perfect world, we'll be able to completely eliminate crime and sociopathy. So really I'm saying that things don't have to be perfect, and but the situation could still be massively transformed.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:13 PM on August 28, 2009


My understanding was that "boyzone" applied to situations where there was disregard for how posts may make a woman uncomfortable or less included in the community. In muddgirl's usage, it apparenly means when men participate in a discussion on gender that doesn't line up with a particular woman's thoughts.
posted by spaltavian at 2:16 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think it is possible for the vast majority of men to NOT engage in nonconsensual sexual activity and to BE equal partners.

That does not mean that I think now the vast majority of men DO engage in, etc etc.


The vast majority of men are not rapists. Their status as equal partners, well, I don't know about that. But don't blame my reading comprehension for your failure to communicate your ideas correctly.

Here is what you wrote: "But I really think it's not enough if some men to become equal partners and some men to stop raping,etc. It may not be possible for all men to achieve this, but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority."

Here is that sentence with the proper substitutions in: "It may not be possible for all men to achieve [becoming equal partners and stop raping], but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority."

What the hell did you expect?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:18 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


astro zombie - we'll have to agree to disagree

About what? That you have more than anecdotal evidence? I don't care of you talk about the specifics of your experience, and, of course, you're free to say whatever you want whenever, but extrapolating from an anecdote to a social trend is a pretty basic logical fallacy.

Of course, if you say that these are particular to your experience, then not only do we not disagree, but I have no reason to doubt you. I'm not sure you're correct as to the reason why this is happening, but, then, I don't know the specifics wither.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2009


I think I was pretty clear in saying that I don't believe there is anything innate in me[n] that propels them towards child neglecting and sexual violence, but rather, this is a cultural and societal thing.

You're just not getting it. Whatever the reasons you believe to be behind it, you *sound* like you're saying men generally neglect their children and rape people. I think you mean that the majority of people who do those things are male, but you keep saying over and over again that "men do this". No. Only a tiny portion of us do, especially rape part.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 2:20 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Bunnycup: Here's hoping the third time is the charm: I have managed to live 29 years on this planet through some pretty horrific circumstances without your personal advice, and I would be utterly pleased to continue on that way.

I'm confused--is he coming to your house to hector you? Is someone forcing you to keep reading here? One of the most useful things I have learned in my years on the internet is that, when an arguments starts going around and around like that, it really is possible to just stop participating in it.
posted by not that girl at 2:23 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Okay Optimus Chyme, let's rewrite my post.

What I want to convey is:

When a lot more men are active in childrearing and a lot fewer women/girls (and men/boys) have experienced sexual assault by men, the problem of glaring parents and rejected photographers will take care of itself.

This is a feasible goal because it's possible for men to increase the childrearing work they do and to decrease the rates of sexual assault. Because men are not innately less competent at childrearing or more geared towards sexual assault than women.

Better?
posted by Salamandrous at 2:23 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


"I really think that this problem will take care of itself as soon as men become fully equal partners in parenting to all the children they father and stop raping women and children."

Well, I've stopped raping women and children (didn't have time for it anymore), and don't have any children.

But I'm sure that problem will take care of itself as soon as women stop being cockteases and lying about being raped.
posted by klangklangston at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2009


I do agree, Salamandrous, that you sound like you are saying something wholly different. Please don't be super snippy to people, because I think you are getting benefit-of-the-doubt and requests for clarification rather than people jumping up to crucify you.

I'm not expressing any opinion on your thoughts, just agreeing that what you sound like you are saying and what you seem to actually be saying are very different.
posted by bunnycup at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2009


Jesus. I'd say that's an example of a lack of previewing causing kerosene to be added to a fire.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:25 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


not that girl - I didn't see Cortex's wise reminder to take it private until after I had posted. Once I saw that advice, I dropped it. But thanks for bringing it up again, though I'm not sure why you did...
posted by bunnycup at 2:26 PM on August 28, 2009


Not that girl: and your stoking that dying ember of a flame war accomplishes what, exactly?
posted by shiu mai baby at 2:27 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Salamandrous - Ah, yes. Thank you.

The difficulty I was having was that the "not innate" sentence came after this bit here:

But I really think it's not enough if some men to become equal partners and some men to stop raping,etc. It may not be possible for all men to achieve this, but I really do believe it's possible for the vast majority.

Which sounded to me like you considered "not being a rapist" as something a man had to achieve, that we all started from a child-neglecting rapist base-level and had to work to overcome that. Thanks for clarifying - I'm glad that isn't the case.

As for this point:

It makes sense to me that if men did as much childwork as women, then the sight of a man alone with a child or children would be completely unremarkable,

I actually think you might be on to something here. And yeah, I think we're gradually coming into such a world. Sure hope so, anyhow.
posted by EatTheWeak at 2:28 PM on August 28, 2009


Better?

Yes. To some degree, I agree. There is a circle - we don't respect men in childcare, so they don't participate, so their involvement becomes suspect, so they don't get involved, and so on. By encouraging rather than discouraging their participation, it becomes less suspect. As a result, more positive opposite-sex understandings are fostered between men and women, and the world becomes more likely to celebrate rather then denigrate men's attempts to nurture (commercially or within the home).
posted by bunnycup at 2:29 PM on August 28, 2009


Pardon me if this has been mentioned before - but my eyes are kind of crossed after attempting to read through both of these long posts. In this case and a few others that were similar (girls/women who are kidnapped and kept as sex slaves/pseudo wives -don't have time for the Google-fu right now) is that in many of the cases, both husband and wife performed the kidnap. Kind of throws the whole "stay away from men in vans" aspect out the window. Women can be and have been willing participants in this sort of crime, and just going by chromosome isn't necessarily going to keep you safe.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 2:29 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I stay away from vans in general. Sorry if that offends any van owners.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Yes, bad on me to not preview. Bad on Salamandrous and muddgirl to pretend that wasn't a fucking bullshit thing to say and that somehow calling bullshit on it was a question of privilege or reading comprehension or some such. It wasn't, because even if I agree with the underlying point, the way it was phrased was fucking bullshit.
posted by klangklangston at 2:31 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


Meh. I don't tend to fear dudes unless I get unwanted stares that are obviously not your typical 'survey your environment and see what fellow humans are sharing the space' glances.

I do occasionally raise my hackles around men - of any color - who are wearing what appears to be clothing that indicates they are possibly either from the rough section of town or gang-affiliated or perhaps a blinking blatant prejudiced asshole, but that doesn't mean I act frightened or rude. It just means I keep my wits about me.
posted by kldickson at 2:33 PM on August 28, 2009


By 'unwanted stares that are obviously not your typical 'survey your environment and see what fellow humans are sharing the space' glances', I mean the kind of leering, not-even-respectful, aggressive stare that makes you think they're going to drag you into a back alley and rape you.
posted by kldickson at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2009


On a global level, women do in fact do more work than men, have less leisure time, control less wealth, and own less property. I'm not sure how it stacks up in any individual country (although the leisure time thing has recently been studied and bears out across the 'developed' world as well) but I wouldn't make any assumptions.

I think you should stop doing that. You have made numerous wild assumptions.
posted by Big_B at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2009


Only a tiny portion of us do, especially rape part

I wish that were true but somehow I don't believe it's such a tiny fraction of men going around and sexually assaulting a quarter of all the women and children in the country. (Anecdotally a quarter sounds low to me). When you say that it's a tiny portion, you make it sound like any woman who worries about: how much she drinks and with whom, whose car she rides in, who she's alone with, which streets she walks on at which hours, etc etc, is being paranoid. Do you really think that's so?

I'm also not confident that only a tiny portion of men are not equal partners in childrearing. Even just looking at the rates of paternity leave, it's not a minority of men who don't take it, or who only take a couple of days.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:35 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh fine, bad on me.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:37 PM on August 28, 2009


Thank you all for the benefit of the doubt.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:37 PM on August 28, 2009


I stay away from vans in general.

I think I've played as you in Left 4 Dead.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:40 PM on August 28, 2009 [4 favorites]


Salamandrous, I don't think "very small percentage of men commit rapes" is equivalent to a viewpoint that "women who protect themselves are being paranoid".

I'm also not confident that only a tiny portion of men are not equal partners in childrearing.

It takes a lot of people to raise a kid, doing different things. My husband was a stay at home Dad, and I worked full time. It was critically important to rearing that child that someone work hard and long hours to pay the rent, the car payments, etc. I am fairly insulted that you refuse to view that as participation in child-rearing. My husband may have been the one changing diapers, but my employment activities were certainly participatory in ensuring the well-being of our daughter. Further, I was (as are many if not the vast majority of primarily-working parents, male or female) able to nurture my daughter despite my work schedule.
posted by bunnycup at 2:41 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


That was you?
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:42 PM on August 28, 2009


This is a feasible goal because it's possible for men to increase the childrearing work they do and to decrease the rates of sexual assault. Because men are not innately less competent at childrearing or more geared towards sexual assault than women.

This is a bit of a horrible way of putting it, at the very least. It's almost akin to asking the famous "have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?" question (paraphrased to be gender-neutral). It's not possible for "men" increase the childrearing work they do - some (very very few) men already do most or all of the rearing of their children (as single parents if nothing else). You can't thus make a blanket statement like "men can rape less and do more housework" because that's not true of all men - quite a few men can't rape any less than they do now.

I suspect that I'm nitpicking at wording here, rather than intended message, but the wording does so strongly imply that all men are rapists who are not equal partners in parenting, and that is just not true.
posted by Dysk at 2:43 PM on August 28, 2009


"... Unfortunately, Metafilter is still a little bit of a boyzone, where even the hint that there's some sort pattern of male privilege (and I mean that in the academic sense) gets some of the middle-to-upper-middle-class-white-men who make up the majority here upset."
posted by muddgirl at 5:05 PM on August 28

You can't make me cry!

No. You can't! I won't!

No matter how much you say "boyzone."
posted by paulsc at 2:44 PM on August 28, 2009


astro zombie - i should have written that out more - i meant we have to agree to disagree about me holding my tongue or not and the reasons for that.

i started this all out with admitting my evidence was anecdotal. i just don't happen to feel that all anecdotal evidence is created equal. there's an ocean's width of distance between "i heard from a guy who knew someone" and "i've worked in an industry for a decade over a large geographic area and i saw the same story play out over and over again". you don't like any anecdotal evidence it your discussions and i feel that well reasoned and supported anecdotes have their place when discussing things in an open forum. yet another thing we'll have to agree to disagree on.
posted by nadawi at 2:44 PM on August 28, 2009


When a lot more men are active in childrearing and a lot fewer women/girls (and men/boys) have experienced sexual assault by men, the problem of glaring parents and rejected photographers will take care of itself.

This is a feasible goal because it's possible for men to increase the childrearing work they do and to decrease the rates of sexual assault. Because men are not innately less competent at childrearing or more geared towards sexual assault than women.


Okay, that's a better rephrasing. Personally I think that saying men need to achieve these goals (decreasing sexual assault rates and balancing parenting responsibilities), is somewhat off the mark because obviously women can and do work toward those same goals as well. Just because the small percentage of the overall population that commit sexual assault happen to be mostly men, doesn't mean that we can't all work together to bring those rates down.

Your original comment could have been misinterpreted as "Hey you, random guy, do a better job of raising your kids and stop raping people," whereas the real message is "Hey everyone, let's raise societal expectations of male parenting and decrease sexual assault rates ."

I wish that were true but somehow I don't believe it's such a tiny fraction of men going around and sexually assaulting a quarter of all the women and children in the country.

I what the percentage is, and it would be very hard to know due to how under-repored sexual assault is, but I would say it's lower than you are suggesting here. Most people have been robbed at some point in their lives, but that doesn't mean that high percentages of people are robbers, it just means that the small percentage of robbers can commit their crimes over and over again. It only takes a small percentage of seriously screwed up people to do terrible things to a lot of people.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:44 PM on August 28, 2009


I don't know what, rather.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:45 PM on August 28, 2009


Well, I'm convinced that men are denied opportunities in your profession, and I think you should do something about it, or somebody should. The same laws that protect women against discrimination also protect men.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2009


Oy I'm not sure what to say any more.

We don't live in a perfect world where everyone can take paid mat/pat leave, and take it without consequence to their careers, where men and women are equally likely to be in career oriented jobs at equal pay, where reasonably priced good daycare is freely available, etc etc, and every individual has to make the best of it for themselves and their families. From a person perspective I didn't have any stay at home parents and somehow my diapers still got changed and I still got fed and nurtured and reared. I don't think anyone has to stay at home to parent a child and I think every parent is a full time parent, whether they do paid work outside the home or not.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:46 PM on August 28, 2009


burnmp3s: the real message is "Hey everyone, let's raise societal expectations of male parenting and decrease sexual assault rates ."

This is a message I can well and truly get behind.
posted by Dysk at 2:48 PM on August 28, 2009


So questioning someone implying that most men are rapists means this is a 'boyzone'? Bloody hell. Talk about devaluing real criticism.
posted by knapah at 2:49 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Not that girl: and your stoking that dying ember of a flame war accomplishes what, exactly?

Eh, nothing. Hadn't refreshed recently enough, the thread had advanced father then I realized when I posted that. I was on some virtual version of 10:30 in the morning, where WCMike and bunnycup were still fighting it out, while the rest of you had advanced to the mellow part of the afternoon, after lunch, when everybody felt better and was ready to move on.
posted by not that girl at 2:50 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I guess that's no more contentious than saying that women's behavior is directly responsible for the leading cause of developmental disabilities.
posted by electroboy at 2:50 PM on August 28, 2009


I dunno, I was more into "Hey you, random guy, do a better job of raising your kids and stop raping people".

I thought we could incorporate it well with the related campaign "Hey lady, stop making so many unfounded rape accusations and quit having extra kids just to milk the welfare system".
posted by bunnycup at 2:51 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


while the rest of you had advanced to the mellow part of the afternoon, after lunch, when everybody felt better and was ready to move on.

I skipped lunch to have a flame war. I have a little sign on my desk reminding me not to DO that anymore, but I ignored it once again...What a waste.
posted by bunnycup at 2:52 PM on August 28, 2009


cortex says I can't play in the pool, so I won't.

I'm close to being in the same boat as BitterOldPunk, but I;ve seen picture of him, and he is a bit creepier looking than me.

Now, I shave three or four times a year, pretty much don't own a comb, have a penchant for really ugly shirts, and cart around a junkyard in my car. But I live in Iowa. It gets cold here. Cars break down all the time. You know what? I always stop to help. I also tell my girfriend not to. She can use her cell and call the cops who are paid to take such risks.

I know, not for a fact, but from a vibe, that sometimes I've made people uncomfortable, or even had my help refused, mostly because of my gender. Oh well. I still feel better for having asked.

It would be pretty crappy if someone refused my help and then froze to death, but if a person wants to make the choice to accept confirmed danger in the face of perceived potential danger, who am I to argue? I'll even take your distrustful stares when I am around your kids if you agree to make them sit in their seats and behave when I'm at Perkin's. Deal?
posted by cjorgensen at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2009


Every prejudiced person thinks their prejudice is really, really sensible and justified and correct.

I think it takes us down the wrong road to defend the idea that it's right and proper to prejudge members of GROUP X because it's really true that members of that group are disproportionately responsibly for BAD THING Y. Because that's defending the idea of prejudice, and, sooner or later, and probably sooner, the same process is going to be used in a way more obviously objectionable. If we want to fight prejudice, there are better ways to do it than "oh, well, it's all right in this case." (And I'm not suggesting that this characterizes more than a small minority of contributions to that thread or this one.)

Yeah, I know lots of groups other than men have suffered (and continue to suffer) immensely, horribly more from specific instances of the above. I'm sick to death of oafs denying the existence of male privilege, white privilege, straight privilege, etc. I'm sick of myself for having been silently complicit in those privileges every time I was too lazy to get into Racism 101, or Sexism 101, etc. with said oafs. And I'm not trying to suggest that there aren't a hell of a lot more pressing specific issues in fighting for a just world. I'm just saying that we probably cannot simultaneously prepare for egalitarianism and prejudice.
posted by Zed at 2:57 PM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Oh, thought I'd let you know I'm doing my bit for Male-kind, I just did not rape a woman. I'm now going to go do the dishes. Hey, I didn't rape a woman again. Actually, come to think of it, I've been not raping women all my life. Or men for that matter. I've done my bit everyone.
posted by knapah at 2:58 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


I skipped lunch to have a flame war. I have a little sign on my desk reminding me not to DO that anymore, but I ignored it once again...What a waste.

Oh no, bunnycup! You have my sympathies.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2009


Oh, thought I'd let you know I'm doing my bit for Male-kind, I just did not rape a woman. I'm now going to go do the dishes. Hey, I didn't rape a woman again. Actually, come to think of it, I've been not raping women all my life. Or men for that matter. I've done my bit everyone.

+5 int for that. You may now leer without causing threat.
posted by bunnycup at 3:00 PM on August 28, 2009


Thank you, I am now enjoying some pretzels with a fancy mustard made from Bar Harbor Real Ale, hoping not to spoil my dinner (which will be garlic pepper marinated London broil). Hopefully this time I learned my lesson....
posted by bunnycup at 3:02 PM on August 28, 2009


It's Friday people, go have some fun!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 3:04 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


One day I'll make the irrefutably reasoned comment that informs everyone that they are all racist and sexist and that it is ok. You need not mangle reason in defense of your actions as long as you are acting to prevent harm. All you need is not employ your isms to persecute for you to qualify as a good and decent human. You need not equate the magnitude of one bad with another to justify your acting to prevent harm. The motivation justifies itself.
I will make the case that when we contort ourselves and logic in an effort to justify our actions it may end being counterprductive. It holsters logic as a weapon to confront poor reasoning. It replaces the idea of a better world as something to be sought with the status of victimhood as something to be avoided. Opening the possibility that we may be made to swing at the end of our own rope.
I will tell you that you are racist, you are sexist, you are ageist. This is reasonable and prudent as long as they are employed in a situation of vulnerability in avoidance of harm. This is not reasonable if they are employed in a situation of no risk or of power at the expense of the less powerful. Embracing this will give you peace.

But I enjoy the fights more, so fuck all that.

Percentages are least misleading when comparing groups of equal size such as men and women. (Men hold X% of executive positions while women hold Y%. (I slay me.)) Likelihood and probability (not strictly interchangeable wiki says, I don't know why.) are more useful when comparing groups of different sizes, such as dogs vs tigers or when assessing risk. (The % of people who are fatally wounded when a tiger attacks is higher than the % of people who are fatally wounded when a dog attacks* but there aren't many tigers on the loose around here as compared to dogs which makes dogs the bigger risk.)

*This may not be true.
posted by vapidave at 3:05 PM on August 28, 2009


I've made people uncomfortable, or even had my help refused, mostly because of my gender

Is it the gender? If a woman who stopped to help me looked like she'd never combed her hair, had a car full of junk, and wore trashed shirts to tell the truth, I'd think twice, especially if she was bigger than me (and/or twitchy).
posted by small_ruminant at 3:16 PM on August 28, 2009


My understanding was that "boyzone" applied to situations where there was disregard for how posts may make a woman uncomfortable or less included in the community. In muddgirl's usage, it apparenly means when men participate in a discussion on gender that doesn't line up with a particular woman's thoughts.

What a neat way of dismissing what is clearly a minority viewpoint!
posted by muddgirl at 3:18 PM on August 28, 2009


"What a neat way of dismissing what is clearly a minority viewpoint!"

Oh, irony. Is there any disingenuous bullshit you can't support?
posted by klangklangston at 3:24 PM on August 28, 2009 [8 favorites]


so i think that means it's time for pie!
posted by nadawi at 3:44 PM on August 28, 2009


see, this is why I don't even bother going outside anymore.

I might wander into mefites who are in a huff about something.
posted by shmegegge at 4:26 PM on August 28, 2009


I am in a huff about you showing up without pie.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:35 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Now we have nothing to go with our bomb milk. :(
posted by elizardbits at 4:49 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Sometimes you discover something so great that instead of being happy you found it, you're sad about the time you've wasted in the past by not knowing about it before now. I had that happen three times today. Once was when I learned that there's a store in L.A. with 200 kinds of soda.

Then later on today, I found out that Iron Maiden actually kicks ass. Sometime in my adolescence I (unfairly, I now realize) I put them on the mental shelf next to the crappy hair metal bands and I never looked back. But man, was I wrong.

Third thing, someone I work with who's British used the exclamation "Jesus fuckery!," which I think is just swell. I'm not sure I can pull it off, but I'm going to give it a shot.

A pretty good Friday. Pass the pie.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:01 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Confession - haven't read each and every comment, still reading. But I felt this story might help.

My mom was a public school teacher for some 30+ years. At the end of her time - in 1999 or 2000ish - children being picked up from school at the end of the day by someone in a car had become a completely different worktime for teachers. Instead of staying in her classroom (always lots to grade, people to help still) or staying with her traffic patrol group - she was often one of a set of teachers who would see the children off to their parents. And mom knew those parents by sight - all of them, for all her kids. (Each teacher would do this for all the "picked up" kids in their class - by the end of the year a few teachers would know all parents by sight and fewer would have to do this - hellish logistics.) Because no one wanted to be the person who let the child go with "just a friend your parents sent" and then later the police show up - well, we all have heard stories right?

So when you hear the "beware the unknown male" story please please tell yourself 1) this is a different world than when I was a kid (and in many ways a panic-y illogical world) and 2) this ISN'T aimed at me even if I am male, so I shouldn't take offense.

Yes it sucks to be innocent and suspected. But then, that's been me, as a gothy teen, suspected of shoplifting tho innocent. It's unfair, but it happens. I totally understand getting angry about it - but don't take it personally. Everyone bumps into the "I fit the profile of a suspect" at one time or another in their lives, especially if they're unlucky.

And even though I got spanked for saying it before (I was told to go reread threads because I apparently am behind on my 200+ thread reads and am an improperly informed MeFite who doesn't read enough here) can we please 86 that boyzone thing? Because when I hear it I get all left out feeling, like that's age-ist and all. Because I still remember that being a band we laughed at, and (perhaps unfairly) dismissively called that fodder for the TigerBeat set. (But then I was for the Ramones then. Please don't ask me who they are. Humor the old geek, ok?) Isn't the word sexist less condescending and less "itchin for a fight?" Please girls, let's not make the boys more angsty. (See how condescending it is to call you girls? Someone called something girlzone I'd be irritated, if it were me.)

And for every comment that people call out for being boyzone? There's always plenty of other male MeFi's who not only are happy to poke the person for being sexist, are never that way themselves.

posted by batgrlHG at 5:11 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


Also I totally did that with Iron Maiden too!
posted by batgrlHG at 5:12 PM on August 28, 2009


Once again we are learning that it's ok to be prejudiced against men because some men commit horrible crimes. And we get the (fairly small this time) chorus of people being snarky and dismissive of the issue, because there are other people who have suffered bigger prejudices out there. Classy. I guess we men are just "butting in" as usual.

(Hint: when you blame some other group for your misfortunes (or for your relative lack of fortune compared to them) you are REINFORCING the idea in your own perceptions and into society as a whole. It is everyone's right to have whackadoo opinions, but please realize doing this just makes it worse for everyone.)
posted by gjc at 6:12 PM on August 28, 2009


Once again we are learning that it's ok to be prejudiced against men because some men commit horrible crimes.

That's not a particularly apt or charitable summary of this nearly 400 comment thread.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:15 PM on August 28, 2009 [6 favorites]


> Unfortunately, it doesn't require the vast majority of men to be rapists (or even a slight majority,
> or even a plurality) for the vast majority of women to have experienced sexual assault.

Nope. All it requires is to lower the criterion for sexual assualt down to the "I have a hangnail" level.
posted by jfuller at 6:16 PM on August 28, 2009


Someone called something girlzone I'd be irritated

Me too. I would in a panic reach for my non-existent (in fact never-existant, since my parents didn't permit that kind of frippery) Lisa Frank trapper-keeper to write a passionate plea to my mother for permission to get a perm (her insistent refusals nevertheless saved me from that mistake).
posted by bunnycup at 6:20 PM on August 28, 2009


Nope. All it requires is to lower the criterion for sexual assualt down to the "I have a hangnail" level.

I do not endorse this product and/or service.
posted by cortex (staff) at 6:21 PM on August 28, 2009 [3 favorites]


I would wear a t-shirt that looked like this.

(Also, I know that I should be able to do something like that in Illustrator in thirty seconds, but after forty-five minutes trying to figure out how to make objects fill—because I'm an idiot who never really uses Illustrator—I did it in Photoshop in thirty seconds and most of that was manually kerning.)
posted by klangklangston at 6:25 PM on August 28, 2009


Also, Iron Maiden is pretty sweet. I made a mix for Jessamyn with Rime of the Ancient Mariner on it—the song that is the epitome of EPIC METAL.
posted by klangklangston at 6:27 PM on August 28, 2009


when people say girlzone i think of tori wearing her dyke flag with lyrics like "i need big loan from the girl zone"
posted by nadawi at 6:28 PM on August 28, 2009


Salamandrous: I got what you were saying. I got it the first time you said it. Just wanted you to know.

somehow calling bullshit on it was a question of privilege or reading comprehension or some such

When a woman on Metafilter says she is offended by something she thinks is sexist, she's accused of being too light on the sexism trigger. When a man on Metafilter says he is offended by something he thinks is sexist against men, he's accused of same. That's how it goes here, pretty much every time. But men actually do possess male privilege.

Anyway, here we have some number of people who are overly cautious about their kids talking to strange men as opposed to strange women. Then we have another number of people saying something like "fine, if you're going to be overly cautious, then I'll be even more overly cautious and never help a child!" While these people are both wrong, the blame lies on 1. people who do commit the feared crimes, and 2. a culture without gender equality. We all have the power and responsibility to do what we can to change those things, particularly the latter.
posted by lampoil at 6:35 PM on August 28, 2009


In the entire history of humankind, has there been a significant example of sexism against men? I suppose the Amazonian tribe that Wonder Woman comes from might count, but, let's face it, she is superior to us in every way.
posted by Astro Zombie at 6:39 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wow, nothing like a thread about parenting to get people riled up.

This is a beat-up on both sides: kids are fine 99.99999% of the time. Men aren't pedo 99.999999% of the time. Men aren't going to jail 99.999999% mistakenly thought of as pedos by paranoid parents.

Chiming in with my own relevant experience:

i still maintain that men do lose work or don't get the opportunities that women get in female dominated industries that deal with children.

I dunno if Australia is more relaxed but I worked in childcare for five years in many different places, and I swear my male gender landed my jobs more often than not. Male carers here are a large - but definite - minority, and hirers would uniformly say, "Great! A good male carer/role model! It's so hard to find any boys!".

Let the record reflect: Parents had exactly the same reaction most of the time, and were uniformly overjoyed to see me with [their] kids clambering all over me, being picked up by me, sitting on my lap etc. etc. Never got a dirty look or even comment. Got many nut punches though. Oh, the kids just think nut-punches are champagne comedy (to be fair, they're probably right).

I miss working with kids every day, and thus I'm overjoyed at family gatherings with my girlfriend's Vietnamese family where the language barrier means kids are the only ones I can talk to, and we get to race around playing games. Their parents don't know me from a bar of soap either, and are always happy to have someone keeping the kids busy and relatively well behaved.

I think this concern is largely a manufactured one, and most parents are fine with male strangers around their kids, or producing reasons why that particular male of the day is okay, even if others aren't.
posted by smoke at 6:50 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]


"When a woman on Metafilter says she is offended by something she thinks is sexist, she's accused of being too light on the sexism trigger. When a man on Metafilter says he is offended by something he thinks is sexist against men, he's accused of same. That's how it goes here, pretty much every time. But men actually do possess male privilege."

Two things: First off, not every bias or privilege invalidates an observation or complaint. In fact, to argue that it does is to commit an ad hominem fallacy, arguing against the perceived interest rather than the actual argument. Further, that men possess male privilege is a non sequitor (for a reason I'll digress upon below*). Third, I object to your characterization—while many times people are accused of being too touchy, that doesn't mean that in any given example they are or are not being touchy, and while it may be a frequent rejoinder, that doesn't mean it's unchallenged. Retreating to that for rhetorical cover is lazy.

As to the initial comment, the analogy of race is all too clear: If black people want white people to stop being afraid of them, black people need to stop committing all that crime. For the vast, vast majority of black people, they're already not committing crime.

You could respond that the difference is that males are relatively privileged and thus different from blacks, but that again does not address what makes that statement offensive—the specter of collective blame. And to dismiss it with the idea that because men are privileged is to argue that because men do bad things, bad things are justified against all of them as a class—a broad and foolish tu quoque.

If after all that, you can't understand why pretty much any guy—especially a progressive, right-thinking guy—would tell you to fuck off, then I don't know what else I can tell you except that I have no interest in being your ally. You want to talk about male privilege? Retreating from the issue of how male power impacts sex crimes and female social fear is definitely a male privilege, but if you're going to call me a rapist, fuck you, I'm going to exercise that privilege. And if I explain that to you and you want to keep arguing that your statement was valid? Well, y'know, I'm sure there are plenty of times when you feel like I've said something offensive and defended it vociferously. How did you want me to act then?

*There are a couple arguments against the idea that neutralizing male privilege would fix the problem or the argument that male privilege is the problem. First off, it assumes that it's possible to remove all privilege, but I'm willing to grant that as a hypothetical. Second off, arguing that male aggression is privileged in a way that makes abducting children even tacitly approved is absurd, especially when neutralizing privilege means letting everyone enjoy the same benefits. Third, since we're dealing with mental illness, even neutralizing the privilege won't remove the small risk of abduction and rape, and since this thread has demonstrated that these aren't necessarily probability-based concerns, an infinitesimal risk will always be seen as dire by parents. All in all, arguments about privilege in this sphere are complex and not easily reduced to slogans, and pretending that raising them is the same as proving them is foolish.
posted by klangklangston at 7:39 PM on August 28, 2009 [7 favorites]


Misandry is alive and well on Metafilter.
posted by Effigy2000 at 7:46 PM on August 28, 2009 [1 favorite]


At age 5, I was molested by my female babysitter. At age 10, I was raped by one of my mother's boyfriends. I also experienced lots of other frightening situations involving various adults during my disjointed childhood. I grew up knowing that women are capable of being just as evil and dangerous as men can be. But, for some reason, I never universalized it. I was never afraid of people in general; I was afraid of people who made me feel afraid (by their words, or actions, or that indefineable "vibe" that causes our sixth sense to alert us).

As an adult, I was super paranoid after my first child (a daughter) was born, but I was determined not to transfer my fears to her. She wouldn't have stood for it anyway, because she was gregarious and assertive from the minute she was old enough to express herself.

What I did do was to teach my kids to be friendly and respectful with adults, but to have a healthy skepticism of people's motivations, a working knowledge of common red flags and warning signs, and a plan for extricating themselves from dangerous situations (similar to headspace's suggestion of "I'll go get my mom" if someone asks for help finding a puppy, etc.).

I didn't sit down in a one-off "big talk" type of conversation and magically give them the tools to protect themselves; it was just a running (and very matter-of-fact) casual topic of conversation at our house (with age-appropriate words and scenarios).
I feel good about the way I handed the issue, but the truth is, I got lucky with my children's safety (and so does almost everybody else). My daughter and son made it through their childhoods unscathed by the kinds of events I lived through. But, sometimes you can give children the absolute best tools in the world and a random event with throw it all to hell.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that all any of us can do is raise our kids to be healthy and safe, to have the savvy and self-worth and knowledge to protect themselves, and then send them out into the world and hope for the best.
posted by amyms at 8:09 PM on August 28, 2009 [11 favorites]


I got lucky with my children's safety (and so does almost everybody else).

And even parents who are unlucky with their children's safety might have done everything by the book, been incredibly watchful and protective, and taught fear of strangers from the cradle. I don't think we can assume the behaviors we think of as protective really are protective, all the time. I think we often do them/teach them just because they fall within our area of control.
posted by Miko at 8:23 PM on August 28, 2009


And even parents who are unlucky with their children's safety might have done everything by the book...

Oh, absolutely, Miko. I didn't mean to imply otherwise. I was just trying to convey the sense of the randomness of the events that can potentially befall us (and our children) no matter how much we prepare.
posted by amyms at 8:37 PM on August 28, 2009


>> i still maintain that men do lose work or don't get the opportunities that women get in female dominated industries that deal with children.

> I dunno if Australia is more relaxed but I worked in childcare for five years in many different places, and I swear my male gender landed my jobs more often than not.

The Glass Escalator: Hidden Advantages for Men in the "Female" Professions:

In this paper, I examine men's under representation in four predominantly female occupations—nursing, librarianship, elementary school teaching, and social work.

Many of the men perceived their token status as males in predominantly female occupations as an advantage in hiring and promotions.

In several cases, the more female-dominated the specialty, the greater the apparent preference for men.

However, there were some exceptions to this preference for men in the most female-dominated specialties. In some cases, formal policies actually barred men from certain jobs. This was the case in some rural Texas school districts, which refused to hire men in the youngest grades (K-3). Some nurses also reported being excluded from positions in obstetrics and gynecology wards.

But often the pressures keeping men out of certain specialties were more subtle than this. Some men described being "tracked" into practice areas within their professions which were considered more legitimate for men. For example, one Texas man described how he was pushed into administration and planning in social work, even though "I'm not interested in writing policy; I'm much more interested in research and clinical stuff." A nurse who is interested in pursuing graduate study in family and child health in Boston said he was dissuaded from entering the program specialty in favor of a concentration in "adult nursing." A kindergarten teacher described the difficulty of finding a job in his specialty after graduation: "I was recruited immediately to start getting into a track to become an administrator. And it was men who recruited me. It was men that ran the system at that time, especially in Los Angeles."

Researchers have reported that many women encounter a "glass ceiling" in their efforts to scale organizational and professional hierarchies. In contrast to the "glass ceiling," many of the men I interviewed seem to encounter a "glass escalator." Often, despite their intentions, they face invisible pressures to move up in their professions. As if on a moving escalator, they must work to stay in place.

Of course, men's motivations also play a role in their advancement to higher professional positions. I do not mean to suggest that the men I talked to all resented the informal tracking they experienced. For many men, leaving the most female-identified areas of their professions helped them resolve internal conflicts involving their masculinity.

In each of the four professions I studied, men are overrepresented in administrative and managerial capacities, or, as in the case of nursing, their positions in the organizational hierarchy are governed by men.

The most compelling evidence of discrimination against men in these professions is related to their dealings with the public. Men often encounter negative stereotypes when they come into contact with clients or "outsiders"— people they meet outside of work. For instance, it is popularly assumed that male nurses are gay. Librarians encounter images of themselves as "wimpy" and asexual. Male social workers describe being type-cast as "feminine" and "passive." Elementary school teachers are often confronted by suspicions that they are pedophiles

Unlike women who enter traditionally male professions, men's movement into these jobs is perceived by the "outside world" as a step down in status. This particular form of discrimination may be most significant in explaining why men are underrepresented in these professions. Men who otherwise might show interest in and aptitudes for such careers are probably discouraged from pursuing them because of the negative popular stereotypes associated with the men who work in them. This is a crucial difference from the experience of women in nontraditional professions: "My daughter, the physician," resonates far more favorably in most people's ears than "My son,the nurse."

posted by nooneyouknow at 9:35 PM on August 28, 2009 [5 favorites]


Irrational fear of others is a very American thing.
posted by bardic at 11:53 PM on August 28, 2009


On the whole Stranger Danger thing - from chatting with my mom the teacher - one thing she impressed on me was that every year the school district had a new set of Things We Must Teach Our Kids Because Our Society Wants Us To. Mostly dependent on what the school board decided were Important Social Issues (often a personal thing for some of them). You know, along with all the stuff in the day that teachers already had to squeeze into the lessons. Juggling all that? Really, really tough. I know my mom always appreciated parents who'd taught their kids these sort of life lessons (simple ones like being kind to others, sharing, saying thank you, all that stuff, as well as the self protection ones) - or frankly spent any time with their kids. She had many parents who were too busy working to pay for rent, etc., and just didn't have time to spend with their kids.

So in the end I'm more heartened that people are spending the time talking with their kids - no matter if I agree with what that is or not. Besides when they're teens they stop listening to anyone over 30. Parents have to get those talks in when they can.

Dammit, I need to go call my mom and apologize for being an ass as a teen again.

Also while I can call up a host of memories of times I was harassed by guys in some scary situations - I think of those as anomalies, and not representative of the group as a whole. I guess that's why I always react like that when people are calling out a sweeping "all guys here are so sexist" - and wish people would speak specifically to the person and the words that made them feel that way. I guess because I've had instances myself when I could enlighten (or try to) someone who hadn't realized that because (for example) he never had any problems walking down the street at midnight from the metro after a baseball game in Boston that it might be different for a woman alone in the same situation. I always wonder if people will miss the message because the way it was expressed made them bristle and get defensive. Especially because I do find that in here there is a decent size population (of both genders) who are actually trying to listen to what others are saying. That's kind of rare on the net.
posted by batgrlHG at 1:32 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish that were true but somehow I don't believe it's such a tiny fraction of men going around and sexually assaulting a quarter of all the women and children in the country.

A quarter of all the women in the country? Come again? The 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey (Department of Justice) counts 1.8 rapes on a woman for every thousand women. How can that possibly turn into one quarter of all women being raped? By the way, the NCVS does count rapes which are not reported to the police.
posted by BigSky at 1:35 AM on August 29, 2009


"Misandry" is a movement as strong and as vibrant as the people forcing our kids to learn the metric system who want to outlaw Christmas and make restaurants put nutritional information on all their menus where's the birth certificate.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:54 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Astro Zombie: In the entire history of humankind, has there been a significant example of sexism against men? I suppose the Amazonian tribe that Wonder Woman comes from might count, but, let's face it, she is superior to us in every way.

What're you trying to say, that men should be paying reparations? I'm really sorry one half of our common ancestors oppressed the other half, but there really is very little I can do to change that.

bardic: Irrational fear of others is a very American thing.

No it isn't. I've never been to either of the American continents, and I was brought up with stranger danger (to the point where when I seperated from my parents at age 4 or 5 in Hong Kong, I ran away from anyone who approached me, the sobbing child. If you've ever been to Hong Kong, you can imagine just how fucking insane it is trying to run away from strangers there, and have some idea how traumatic it'd be for a kid being surrounded to that extent by dangerous strangers. If I had just stayed put or let someone help me, the situation would've been sorted in five minutes or less. Instead, it was only by sheer coincidence that I bumped into my dad HOURS later).

BigSky: A quarter of all the women in the country? Come again? The 2007 National Crime Victimization Survey (Department of Justice) counts 1.8 rapes on a woman for every thousand women. How can that possibly turn into one quarter of all women being raped? By the way, the NCVS does count rapes which are not reported to the police.

To be fair, sexual assault is a broader term that does not just include rape. Then there is also the fact of rape and other sexual assualt almost certainly being underreported to a significant extent. THAT being said, the figure of a quarter of all women AND CHILDREN is so utterly removed from reality. It gets saner if you remove the "and children" part, but is probably still a touch high (but we aren't talking orders of magnitude or anything).
posted by Dysk at 6:04 AM on August 29, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: "Misandry" is a movement as strong and as vibrant as the people forcing our kids to learn the metric system

Wow, no need to panic here - it's nothing like that ubiquitous here in Europe!
posted by Dysk at 6:05 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


I don't think anyone seriously says that women reporting being afraid to walk a boston street at midnight among drunken sports fans is a giant misandrist conspiracy. In fact it's exactly an example of male privilege.

The contrapositive of the statement "If there is misandry, then women will be scared alone" is "If women are not scared alone then there is no misandry"—totally absurd.

In fact in a lot of the world that is the default misogynistic stance! ("It's not safe for you to go, so you can't.")

Same with bunnycup's will I evade stranger-men at night on my own, in a bar, or whatever? You're allowed to feel however you feel. You don't owe anyone friendliness. Just don't assume they're douchebags out the gate is pretty much all one can ask for from a political point of view.

Am I going to come to some kind of wonderful realization about anything from hearing the umpteenth heartfelt, personal anecdote about the guy who tried to be nice but ended up getting--horror of horrors--a dirty look from a woman? No.

How many situations do you get into where people are sitting around telling you these stories? Anyway, this is the problem with mixing modes of analysis. If someone is like, I was trying to be friendly and the person was weirdly suspicious of me, throwing back "well here's your invisible knapsack" is weird. This is the problem with muddgirl's "deal with it" take—I don't expect women to be less sexually voracious. Now I'm the problem? What?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 6:12 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wow, no need to panic here - it's nothing like that ubiquitous here in Europe!

I know it sounds silly, but when Jimmy Carter was president and he gently, coaxingly tried to nudge America towards using the metric system, there was a huge backlash. I remember some people calling him a "commie" because of it.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:27 AM on August 29, 2009


Brother Dysk: What're you trying to say, that men should be paying reparations? I'm really sorry one half of our common ancestors oppressed the other half, but there really is very little I can do to change that.

Uh... I don't think anyone is saying that men should be paying reparation.

On the other hand, a lot oppression, misogyny and sexism is happening right now, in Western society. You can do quite a bit to change that.
posted by Kattullus at 6:33 AM on August 29, 2009


I would like to think that most children can pick up on danger. They're practically afraid of broccoli and the shadows under their bed, it shouldn't particularly strong signals to trigger fear when caution is not enough.

Yeah, but it doesn't work that way. A kid is afraid of broccoli, but will go and STAND IN THE MIDDLE OF THE STREET with his pants off because getting hit by a car is abstract, whereas that broccoli is weird and gross.

If kids actually had any sense of actual danger, my job would be 10,000x easier. As is, I'm practically on a loop of "Put that down before someone gets hurt!"

Also, anecdote: I'm a nanny. I am paid to care for other people's children, and return them at the end of the day. Note the "returning" children part of this.

I had a very close friend call off her entire friendship with me because she was afraid, on some primal level, that I was going to enter her house in the middle of the night and STEAL her child. Honestly. She told me so. Point blank.

Parents are afraid of wacky stuff, and I respect all parents their right to protect their children, but dude! I don't have a closet full of stolen babies, being as my getting paid is conditional upon the return of the child! I'm not going to go around supplementing my child interaction activities with stolen children as it is hardly a lucrative venture for me!

There is really no larger point to this comment, I just felt like sharing.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:40 AM on August 29, 2009


I had a very close friend call off her entire friendship with me because she was afraid, on some primal level, that I was going to enter her house in the middle of the night and STEAL her child. Honestly. She told me so. Point blank.

I. What? This represents whole new level of whackadoodle crazy to me. I regularly joke about eating my friends' fat little babies, often wondering aloud which sauce would best complement a nommy filet o'baby sammich, and they're still totally ok with occasionally leaving them in my care. Obvsly I need to explore new methods of baby-avoidance.
posted by elizardbits at 7:09 AM on August 29, 2009


klangklangston, I think you're either overreacting to what I said, or reading into it things that aren't there, or actually arguing with Salamandrous under the guise of arguing with me. But I don't disagree with most of what you said, except for a racial analogy being appropriate, that Salamandrous was laying collective blame on all men, and the parts where you tell me to fuck myself. Oh, and that anyone called you a rapist.

Misandry is alive and well on Metafilter.

If you're worried we'll forget that some folks think this is the case, no need.
posted by lampoil at 7:25 AM on August 29, 2009


Kattullus, then what do you think Astro Zombie was trying to imply, if not that we're supposed to compensate for history*?

*(I don't think we should. I do think, however, we should compensate for the present, which is plenty fucked up.)
posted by Dysk at 7:27 AM on August 29, 2009


BatgirlHG: I guess that's why I always react like that when people are calling out a sweeping "all guys here are so sexist" - and wish people would speak specifically to the person and the words that made them feel that way.

I've read all 421 comments in this thread, and don't recall seeing one person state or even imply that "all guys here are so sexist." Could you point out where you got that impression? Or were you speaking on a more esoteric, non-MeFi level?

I ask only because yeah, while the sexism discussions are historically fraught with spiky attitudes on both sides, and the "boyzone" thing isn't a completely mythical phenomenon, on the balance MetaFilter is one of the most thoughtful and progressive places I've ever encountered. Aside from couple of shit-stirring chuckleheads, it's my impression that the vast majority of the active male MeFi population doesn't even come close to darkening the gates of SexistVille, and, for me, anyway, that is something that is precious and rare online. And one of the big, big reasons why I love it here so damned much.

Furthermore, I think most female MeFites would agree with me on this point, but I might be wrong. Again, I'm interested to see how you got the impression that anyone was using the big red SEXIST stamp on this conversation, if that was indeed your implication.

BigSky: By the way, the NCVS does count rapes which are not reported to the police.

I'm really curious: if the rape isn't reported to the police, how is there a statistic to be counted? Is it just a blind survey? Relying on anonymous women to volunteer the information?
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:31 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


Yeah, whackadoodle crazy is about right. Also: babies are tastiest smothered in barbeque sauce.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 7:32 AM on August 29, 2009


"I like children -- fried."

--W.C. Fields
posted by shiu mai baby at 7:34 AM on August 29, 2009


I'm really curious: if the rape isn't reported to the police, how is there a statistic to be counted? Is it just a blind survey?

Yes. Publication is here; see pages 1-2 and 7-11.
posted by BigSky at 7:47 AM on August 29, 2009


BigSky, I retract my statements and apologise profusely. Not only is the study you cite not based on police statistics, the numbers from it you cite are for "rape/sexual assault", not just rape. I do still think it's important that we remember that not all sexual assault is rape.
posted by Dysk at 8:00 AM on August 29, 2009


If male privilege really exists, why aren't we getting a pass on this topic?

(I'll tell you why: male privilege only exists in the minds of the people who rationalize away the bad behavior of some male individuals as some unavoidable quality of maleness, and give them a pass because of that. It only exists because those people are creating it. And so, the privilege only exists to the extent it is given by others. They choose to, or not to, give it. And a privilege that can't be taken, only received when it is given, isn't really a privilege.)

(Secondly, if we assume that this rampant male privilege exists, trying to take it away is not a solution. Society does not progress when we tear down, only when we build up.)

(Thirdly, if we assume it exists, where's mine? I'm just a poor white boy from the wrong side of Western Avenue. I don't get paid any more than anyone else who does the same job as me. Society has given me nothing extra because I am a male. If people demure to my loudmouth ways, it's not because I'm a big, scary testosterone rape monster, it's because that's how they choose to react to me.)

That's not a particularly apt or charitable summary of this nearly 400 comment thread.

It's not meant to be charitable or a summary. It's just one of the many things people have shown that they believe.

To further explain myself: I'm not denying that there are legions of females who have been shat upon by males, and have not gotten a fair shake in life because of assumptions that others make about them. What I am denying is that this is because of some structure of a male-dominated society. The pockets of society where discrimination is the norm are dwindling. I firmly, absolutely believe that (American/Western) society has finally gotten to the point where we are for the most part, a meritocracy. Our laws, in all but the fewest exceptions, do not favor one sex/gender or another. In fact, they give special protection to people who believe they are being discriminated against to obtain justice. That's not to say it's easy; assembling facts and presenting them isn't easy.

What I absolutely AM saying is that two wrongs don't make a right. The fact that one group has a gripe against another group IN NO WAY makes it OK for the latter group to deny the former group anything. It's absolutely true that women are more likely to suffer from crimes committed by men. That does not make it OK to "balance the scales" by ignoring or trivializing wrongs against men.

If a just society is our goal, we should be trying to get that pendulum of justice to stop swinging back and forth at all, not continually pushing at it in opposite directions in the misguided belief that a balance of misjustices is the same thing as justice.
posted by gjc at 8:42 AM on August 29, 2009 [1 favorite]


And so, the privilege only exists to the extent it is given by others.

By this logic, the wealthy aren't really powerful so long as we're able to storm their homes and rob them.

Society does not progress when we tear down, only when we build up.

The word for what happens in progress is "replacement"; both tearing down and building up.

Thirdly, if we assume it exists, where's mine?

Your lack of a Man's Club Privelege check in your mailbox doesn't mean male privelege doesn't exist, and if you really think we live in a society where men are not advantaged over women in work, education and politics by virtue of being men, then I don't see how you're going to become convinced at the tail end of a 420+ comment thread.

The fact that one group has a gripe against another group IN NO WAY makes it OK for the latter group to deny the former group anything. It's absolutely true that women are more likely to suffer from crimes committed by men. That does not make it OK to "balance the scales" by ignoring or trivializing wrongs against men.

No one is trying to "deny" men anything, but getting glared at by skittish parents is trivial. Sorry.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:03 AM on August 29, 2009 [3 favorites]


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: By this logic, the wealthy aren't really powerful so long as we're able to storm their homes and rob them.

Now don't be taking this the wrong way, I don't agree with gjc AT ALL, and nor do I disagree with your post, except that this is a poor counter-argument. The wealthy DO only have power because we can't storm their homes and rob them. We have a set of laws and a police force to ensure just that.


(No, I'm not saying that's all that our laws and police force do, but it is one of their functions.)
posted by Dysk at 9:13 AM on August 29, 2009


The wealthy DO only have power because we can't storm their homes and rob them. We have a set of laws and a police force to ensure just that.

We can "take" priveleges away from the rich and powerful at any time but don't so for a number of reasons, including the aforementioned police and laws. This doesn't mean it's physically impossible to storm their homes, or that it would be simple to do so. To claim that priveleges that can be taken away don't really exist is false on its face, because all privelege can be taken away, with varying levels of difficulty.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:17 AM on August 29, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: To claim that priveleges that can be taken away don't really exist is false

I agree wholeheartedly.

I disagree, however, that we can take privileges away from the rich and powerful, unless you're defining "we" as society as a whole, which isn't a useful thing to do in this context, as that includes the rich and powerful, who have no interest in removing their own power.

Those of us who aren't rich and powerful (or part of the power structure itself - the police, lawmakers, etc) can't take that privilege away from those who are.
posted by Dysk at 9:28 AM on August 29, 2009


"klangklangston, I think you're either overreacting to what I said, or reading into it things that aren't there, or actually arguing with Salamandrous under the guise of arguing with me. But I don't disagree with most of what you said, except for a racial analogy being appropriate, that Salamandrous was laying collective blame on all men, and the parts where you tell me to fuck myself. Oh, and that anyone called you a rapist."

That's fair, I guess, except that it's condescending, you're wrong on every point, and obviously didn't even bother to give it a good faith reading. Have fun fucking yourself!
posted by klangklangston at 9:30 AM on August 29, 2009


I think now you're splitting hairs to microscopic thinness, to be honest, as the point was clear enough. It is physically possible to remove all privelege, and so to say that any privelege that isn't permanent and immovable isn't really a privelege is false.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:32 AM on August 29, 2009


Marisa Stole the Precious Thing: It is physically possible to remove all privelege

Yes, but in a more meaningful sense, it is only possible to disrupt temporarily the privilege of the wealthy.

I think now you're splitting hairs to microscopic thinness

Oh, absolutely, and I'll stop now.
posted by Dysk at 9:35 AM on August 29, 2009


A room full of people, all women or children or non-white males of the say 20-70 year range. A white male stranger walks into the room. The mood of the room changes ... or so I've been told. Something to do with deference. But I wouldn't really know because I'm that white male stranger. I'm even whiter than Obama.

This is privilege. Neither earned nor demanded. But there it is.
posted by philip-random at 9:43 AM on August 29, 2009


It's absolutely true that women are more likely to suffer from crimes committed by men.

THis isn't true as it is worded. Men are more likely than women to suffer from crimes period, especially by men. When women are the victims of crime it likely is also more likely by a man, but overall they are the victims of crime less often.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:35 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


This is privilege. Neither earned nor demanded. But there it is.

Doesn't seem like privilege to me. If you change the scenario to a room full of men and a woman walks in and the mood changes, the vast majority of people would call this sexism or misogyny. Room full of whites with a black entrant, it would be racism.

Same behavior, different group, different conclusion. That's pretty much the definition of discrimination. No matter who does it.

If you define this imaginary privilege as, "in the sum total of all interactions in society, males tend to end up with better results," I wouldn't know how to disagree with that. Might be true on the face of it. But it ignores all the noise and it doesn't account for so many other variables as to be meaningless. The aggregate isn't always reality. There was a major shift in party lines in the House and Senate a couple of years ago. Was this because that proportion of people changed their tunes? Of course not. It was a bunch of tiny moves that happened to correlate.

So if we take that unmeasurable assumption to be true, and take it as a negative for society, what do we do to fix it? We can't tell men to stop being so darned privileged, because, we are repeatedly told, there's nothing we can do to change it, it's not something the individual controls. Well, so then what? If a society is free, the individual should be able to act within the framework of the laws, ethics and decency to pursue the outcomes they desire. And all the other individuals out there do the same thing. If that means more women turn out to be nurses and more men turn out to be cops, where's the harm? Everyone acted freely and out of their best interest.
posted by gjc at 2:12 PM on August 29, 2009


It's really remarkable that you've turned the whole privilege concept into an equality of process vs equality of outcome concept. what on earth?
posted by Non Prosequitur at 2:59 PM on August 29, 2009


What're you trying to say, that men should be paying reparations? I'm really sorry one half of our common ancestors oppressed the other half, but there really is very little I can do to change that.

I'd be fascinated to hear the process by which you drew that out of what I wrote. You skipped some steps, and I can't figure out what they are on my own.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:29 PM on August 29, 2009


A room full of people, all women or children or non-white males of the say 20-70 year range. A white male stranger walks into the room. The mood of the room changes ... or so I've been told. Something to do with deference. But I wouldn't really know because I'm that white male stranger. I'm even whiter than Obama.

This is privilege. Neither earned nor demanded. But there it is.


Seriously? Deference? Privilege? Have you ever been the only white male in a place, like ever? What, you walked in the place and people were all buying you drinks and high-fiving you and crap?
posted by 23skidoo at 9:46 PM on August 29, 2009


Seriously? Deference? Privilege? Have you ever been the only white male in a place, like ever?

Yes, any number of times. I live in Vancouver which is very much a racially diverse city.

What, you walked in the place and people were all buying you drinks and high-fiving you and crap?

No. It's much subtler than that. The gist of my comment ("This is privilege. Neither earned nor demanded. But there it is.") comes from something a female friend said to me many years ago while we were arguing politics (sexual and otherwise). "Don't you fucking get it?" she said, "The balance of power shifts whenever you, a white male, walks into a room and YOU NEVER FUCKING NOTICE. Why should you? It serves you." Later, she put it a little differently. "It's like when a cop walks into bar. People take notice. Behavior changes. More subtle than with a cop ... but there is definitely a mood shift."
posted by philip-random at 10:18 PM on August 29, 2009


If privilege is so invisible to someone who has it that they deny even the possibility of it existing, or say that, if it exists, it must somehow be the fault of the people who don't have it ... well, I really don't know what to say. It's a bit like someone denying the existence of moon, or chocolate, or telephones, all while having a long phone conversation about how pretty the moon is while enjoying a Hersheys bar.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:32 PM on August 29, 2009 [2 favorites]


It makes sense to me that if men did as much childwork as women, then the sight of a man alone with a child or children would be completely unremarkable

Probably. What you may be missing is how much (male)strangerdanger is a cause, rather than an effect, of men raising children less.

Moms form a somewhat exclusive social network, revolving around elementary school in the U.S. It took me years to crack it and basically I was only able to because flexible scheduling at work has allowed me to hang out at the school playground chatting with the moms 2 or 3 days every week for the last 5 years (the days when I have custody), and volunteer, etc. Now I'm more or less in the playdate scene, but no one let their kids play with my daughters on my custody days for a couple of years. Working moms who are never there get the benefit of the doubt (though they can blow it by being socially odd, too.)

I can't speak to how this compares to various oppressions, which is a stupid discussion anyway IMHO. But it was definitely because of my gender, and it had very real, harmful effects on my daughters. Playing with friends is pretty much the funnest thing in the world for them.

Women have an incredibly raw deal in many, many ways. Most ways. But one privilege they do have is the presumption that they are the superior and natural child raisers, especially for small children. This was a written element of law until very recently in Oregon (the "Tender Years Doctrine") and may still be elsewhere. It is definitely a social convention.
posted by msalt at 2:22 AM on August 30, 2009 [3 favorites]


"Don't you fucking get it?" she said, "The balance of power shifts whenever you, a white male, walks into a room and YOU NEVER FUCKING NOTICE. Why should you? It serves you." Later, she put it a little differently. "It's like when a cop walks into bar. People take notice. Behavior changes. More subtle than with a cop ... but there is definitely a mood shift."

The notion that shit changes for the better for white men wherever they go is stupid. The world is not an Eddie Murphy SNL skit. Every time you walk into a room, the whole room notices and changes its mood because of your very presence? It could be that you don't notice it, or it could be because it's not happening at all. Not being able to notice something doesn't prove crap.

I'm not denying white male privilege, I'm saying it's not some kind of magic wand that makes every single aspect of a white male's life subtly better. Treating it like every male ever, in every situation ever, has some sort of reeeaaaallly subtle +1 life skill is a very dangerous idea.
posted by 23skidoo at 8:07 AM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


What you may be missing is how much (male)strangerdanger is a cause, rather than an effect, of men raising children less.

It can be both. It is both. It's a viscous circle, no question. Both need to change together. People on both sides of the equation need to work together to change it. And they are, I think, slowly. But stranger danger isn't the cause. It didn't begin with the insular moms. That women are seen as better at childcare may be an advantage in some situations, but it's not a privilege in the same sense as we usually use that word. It's an age-old vicious circle, and for all generations in history before really our mothers' at the earliest, women didn't have a choice about it. Stranger danger didn't come before men not participating much in child rearing in this chicken/egg situation, it can't have.

I'm saying it's not some kind of magic wand that makes every single aspect of a white male's life subtly better.

Actually it makes a while male's life subtly worse. All people would be better off without the complicated and damaging structure of privilege we hold over one another. It's just that without it, white (straight) men would be a little better off, and everyone else would be even more better off. Than they are now, I mean.
posted by lampoil at 8:36 AM on August 30, 2009


It could be that you don't notice it, or it could be because it's not happening at all. Not being able to notice something doesn't prove crap.

You seem so sure in your position. Have you ever been in that room, a non-white male, when a white male enters? More than once?

I'm not denying white male privilege, I'm saying it's not some kind of magic wand that makes every single aspect of a white male's life subtly better.

"better" is not the word I'd use, much as I'd argue that privilege does not make one's heart and soul better. Again, I'll take it back to the cop entering the bar. Yes, people defer to him/her ... but at what cost in terms of resentment, deception etc? (or, on preview, what lampoli just said)

Treating it like every male ever, in every situation ever, has some sort of reeeaaaallly subtle +1 life skill is a very dangerous idea.

Denying reality is dangerous. Not that I'm declaring this REALITY, just passing on an observation. But you're certainly not convincing me that isn't, just disagreeing really, calling my contribution to this discussion "stupid" etc.

For the record, I offered my observation in the context that this was a relatively heated discussion that felt like it was dividing itself more or less along gender lines. I have never thought of myself a feminist and yet I've often noticed that the feminist position does shed some light on how the world really works. So, yes white males (in particular) get a lot of breaks just because of their genes, some which are so subtle that they just take them for granted. Maybe the correct word for this isn't "privilege" but it's a piece of the puzzle, regardless, and as such the root of much anti-white male resentment.
posted by philip-random at 8:50 AM on August 30, 2009


You seem so sure in your position. Have you ever been in that room, a non-white male, when a white male enters? More than once?

This effect has been described, repeatedly, by women and minorities. Do you think they're lying?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:58 AM on August 30, 2009


Every time you walk into a room, the whole room notices and changes its mood because of your very presence?

Not to get fighty about this, but I think the argument is more that every time anyone walks into a room it causes a subtle shift in the mood of the room. The issue is what that shift is and who it preferences and etc. If you're a pretty woman and walk into a room, for example, you can notice people checking you out or other women walking closer to their dates or whatever.

If there's a roomfull of basically normal looking people and a few incredibly attractive looking people walk in, you can see the mood shift. It's just sort of a status thing that happens along fairly typical power lines. A lot of people don't see this sort of thing happening, and that's fine. But the fact that you may be seeing it happening doesn't mean you created it. At least I don't think so.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:08 PM on August 30, 2009 [5 favorites]


You seem so sure in your position. Have you ever been in that room, a non-white male, when a white male enters? More than once?

You seem just as sure of your position. Yes, I've been a mixed-race male in a room, and had a white guy walk into it. More than once! I noticed that he was there, but there was no subtle shift in the balance of power in the room. Seriously.

Denying reality is dangerous. Not that I'm declaring this REALITY, just passing on an observation. But you're certainly not convincing me that isn't, just disagreeing really, calling my contribution to this discussion "stupid" etc.

And you've certainly done nothing to convince me that there is a subtle shift in the balance of power every time a white guy enters a room. All you've done is said that this happens, because someone told you that it happens. Can you expand on this at all? How does the balance of power subtly shift in your favor when you enter any room that previously had no white dudes in it? Be specific. Don't just say it's subtle.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:36 PM on August 30, 2009 [1 favorite]


This effect has been described, repeatedly, by women and minorities. Do you think they're lying?

If there are any accounts of this on the web, I'd love to read them. I've honestly never heard anyone describe a tale of how a white guy walked in a room and the balance of power subtly shifted in his favor.
posted by 23skidoo at 1:42 PM on August 30, 2009


This effect has been described, repeatedly, by women and minorities. Do you think they're lying?

No. I think they change their behavior because they sense that a "different" has entered, just as any group dynamic changes when there are new participants added.

The mistake is in thinking that this is somehow indicative of anything beyond group dynamics; in thinking that their behavior change is somehow caused by societal structures subtly aligned against them.

It's the Uncle Leo effect (from Seinfeld). Bad things happened to him, and he blamed it on anti-Semitism. He had conditioned himself to chalk up all misfortunes to anti-Semitism, and failed to apply the rule of never attributing something to malice when it can be more easily explained as incompetence.

Denying reality is dangerous.

Of course it is. But no more dangerous than observing reality and drawing an incorrect conclusion that just happens to reinforce our beliefs at the expense of another group. Kinda like saying that the US has an anti-Christian bias because the guy you voted for didn't win.
posted by gjc at 1:59 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


So, I ditched this thread because it was getting a bit odd, but I'm back because I have an anecdote to share which happened just yesterday.

Jeff (my housemate) and I went to Costco quite early on Saturday to beat the crowds, and the store was not crowded while we were doing our shopping. He's 5'8", maybe 200#, full beard, in his 50s. I'm 6'1", about 180#, full beard, in my 40s. We have the habit of leaving our cart at the outside end of the aisles and walking up one aisle and down the next collecting what we need in our hands, because of the nature of people and shopping carts and Costco.

We rounded the end of one aisle, and as we entered the next aisle, there was a woman with her basket parked right in the middle of the length of the aisle, and her young daughter, maybe old enough to be in school but barely, was doing that thing that kids do, hopping around on the floor, etc. She was a lot closer to the end of the aisle we were entering than she was to her mother.

As SOON as we turned the corner, her mother looked up and hissed quite loudly, "Sally (or whatever her name was), get OVER here! Don't wander off like that." And she came rushing up the aisle and grabbed the girl and dragged her with more force than seemed necessary back to the cart. (Like, what? We were going to drop the arm loads of merchandise we were carrying and grab the girl right out of the middle of a warehouse store?)

Having just read this thread, I turned to Jeff and said, fairly loudly as we continued down the aisle and walked past the woman and her daughter, "Ooo. Scary. Two men with beards are shopping in the same store and what is she thinking? That we're going to do something to her kid?"

I don't think she was pleased to have her transparent fears stated out loud in front of her but not to her. But it really REALLY just fit the entire everything this thread was about, and sort of pissed me off.
posted by hippybear at 7:13 PM on August 30, 2009 [2 favorites]


That women are seen as better at childcare may be an advantage in some situations, but it's not a privilege in the same sense as we usually use that word.

Who is this "we" that doesn't use privilege in that sense?

Women in the U.S. get the choice of how much parenting time they want with their children post-divorce in America. Dads get every other weekend, unless their ex-wife grants it to them. How is that not a privilege? Are you saying that time with one's children is not a good thing?

It's an age-old vicious circle, and for all generations in history before really our mothers' at the earliest, women didn't have a choice about it.

I'm not sure that's historically accurate, though I'm no expert. When did women ever not have the choice to walk away from raising their children after divorce? I've read that in the 1800s, men were legally presumed to be the natural and superior child raisers in cases of divorce. Not saying that's right either, but it's competely different, about 3 generations ago.
posted by msalt at 10:01 PM on August 30, 2009


what is she thinking? That we're going to do something to her kid?

Is is possible she just thought her daughter's flopping around would be in your way? I often let me kids go wild in an empty aisle, but reign them in when someone else enters the area, out of deference to other shopper rather than fear. (I'm not saying your interpretation was wrong -- you were there, I wasn't -- just wondering aloud.)

Unrelated to that....this is a dismissive ad hominem. ("Don't listen to them, Salamandrous. They're just a bunch of rich white males.") I don't see the relevance of privilege to this thread, but of course it rarely fails to capture the attention of any thread in which it's raised, so I guess muddgirl fished her wish.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 7:08 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is is possible she just thought her daughter's flopping around would be in your way?

Or for that matter, was just embarassed by kidflailing being observed. Force of grab and drag amplified by irritation and nearly ever-present sleep deprivation in any parent of young kids.

I think the last time I got glared at in a grocery store in the prototypical rounding-the-aisle sense is some time back to a father and older daughter (I don't know, eightish, tenish, I didn't get a chance to cut her in half and count the rings). Said kid was kidflailing around, and quite clearly wiseass-taunting her dad. "Uh oh, my eyes are closed! Oh no! Who knows what I'll run into!"

I think the glare was mostly because I moved past completely unable to contain my laughter, rather than fear for kid's sanctity, but I could be wrong about that.
posted by Drastic at 7:27 AM on August 31, 2009


Man, I was at Walmart on Saturday and it seemed like everyone was pissed at their kid.
posted by electroboy at 7:44 AM on August 31, 2009


Man, I was at Walmart on Saturday and it seemed like everyone was pissed at their kid.

This was back-to-school shopping weekend in the US, so I bet there was a lot of that going on.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:55 AM on August 31, 2009


I don't know, it didn't seem any more acute than any other time I've been to Walmart. Does explain why they were out of absolutely everything.
posted by electroboy at 8:18 AM on August 31, 2009


Man I used to love back-to-school shopping. Trapper Keeper binders, spiral notebooks, folders, and dividers were all cool, but I loved buying the pointless stuff on the list I knew I was never going to use, like reinforcements, protractors, compasses and miniature pencil sharpeners. Sure, the compass pierces a whole in the pencil holder and rips that thing open by the end of the second day, but you never knew when you were going to be required to draw a perfect circle.

Also, I distinctly remember being in the second grade and looking at my big pink eraser; specifically, the words "J. R. MOON COMPANY" stamped on it, and used to daydream about being the guy in the factory who stamps the words on the erasers. So just for fun, I tried looking them up recently, and discovered they changed their name to "Moon Products", and are today the world's largest maker of collectible pencils. Their Try-Rex pencils look pretty neat. It's a shame they don't have a website up and running yet (it seems they bought the domain moonproducts.com but haven't put any visible content on it yet) because I'd love to see what the inside of their pencil factory looks like. Any Mefites in or near Lewisburg, Tennessee who ever feel like swinging by there with a digital camera and asking for a tour will get my undying love.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:16 AM on August 31, 2009 [1 favorite]


Who is this "we" that doesn't use privilege in that sense?

Sorry, I didn't put that well. Of course, the word has different meanings. I just meant that it's not privilege in the same way that "white privilege" and "male privilege" and "straight privilege" is.

I guess I didn't realize how specifically you were talking about childcare post-divorce. I may be wrong, but I thought the original comment you quoted was speaking more generally, about how, if it were as common to see dads with kids as it is to see moms with kids, then, well, it would be less common for parents to be wary of men being around their kids.

I didn't mean specifically that women didn't have a choice post-divorce, but rather that prior to not that long ago, men called the shots. There may not have been physical barriers to a woman walking away from her kids in the olden days, but there certainly would be social, economic, and sometimes legal barriers. Whether a woman could get a divorce at all would be the decision of a man or men--depending on the circumstances, time, and place, either her husband, a judge, lawmakers, or some combination thereof. She may not have had a choice about getting married, or having kids in the first place, either. The current phenomenon of women being more likely to gain custody of their kids is real, and people are working to change it. But it wasn't imposed on men by women. It's not about a woman wanting or not wanting custody. She can say what she wants, so can a man, but a judge decides. Most judges are men. Thirty years ago and beyond, almost all judges were men. Once enough judges give custody to the woman, it begins to be taken as a given. Again, chicken and egg, to a certain extent, but still begins with male privilege, if any, not women's. Whether you think spending time with your kids is good isn't really relevant.
posted by lampoil at 12:43 PM on August 31, 2009


I guess I didn't realize how specifically you were talking about childcare post-divorce.

Well, both. But divorce clarifies the situation into clear legal terms. During marriage, the couple is theoretically working as a team. While women clearly do more child-raising as a generalization, every couple is different and fluid.

I just meant that it's not privilege in the same way that "white privilege" and "male privilege" and "straight privilege" is.

But how is it different? I realize that the people who talk most often of privilege (the "we" you referred to?) come from an ideological point of view that doesn't like to acknowledge that women may have privilege as well. But that doesn't make it true.

The current phenomenon of women being more likely to gain custody of their kids is real, and people are working to change it. But it wasn't imposed on men by women.

Very few social rules are imposed as nakedly as that. Show me any restriction on women and I'm certain I can find you many women supporting, justifying and enforcing it as God's way, or a natural right, from day one.
posted by msalt at 10:03 PM on August 31, 2009


A new UK study on sexual abuse: A third of teenage girls suffer sexual abuse in a relationship and a quarter experience violence at the hands of their boyfriends.

Stuff that happens during puberty and adolescence can have a powerful, formative effect, way beyond its immediate pain (more than a hangnail).
posted by Salamandrous at 11:47 AM on September 1, 2009


Show me any restriction on women and I'm certain I can find you many women supporting, justifying and enforcing it as God's way, or a natural right, from day one.

But just because a woman -- or even a group of women -- says that a woman's god-given purpose on this green earth is to birth a dozen babies and meekly submit to their husbands doesn't mean that it's accurate, or should be a societal standard. There are plenty of women in this world who think that FGM is a-ok, and yet most of the rest of society thinks the practice is horrific and should be banned.

Or, more succinctly: what's your point?

And also: while I am very genuinely in your opinions, msalt, I do hope that the conversation won't stray into the contentious territory men's rights in divorce. It's a perfectly valid topic for discussion, of course, but I'm not completely convinced it's totally relevant here.
posted by shiu mai baby at 12:12 PM on September 1, 2009


"A new UK study on sexual abuse: A third of teenage girls suffer sexual abuse in a relationship and a quarter experience violence at the hands of their boyfriends."

That's a pretty sensational misrepresentation of even what the article said (as I haven't read the underlying study). One in three girls said that their boyfriends had tried to pressure them into anything from kissing to intercourse. By labeling all of that as sexual abuse, you're using quite a lot of lazy thinking—trying to pressure someone into kissing you is only "abuse" at its broadest and least useful definition, even when compared to the obvious actually pressuring someone into kissing you.

This isn't necessarily to downplay the issue, and the conclusion that girls suffer the brunt of sexualized violence isn't really debatable, but rather to point out that making shocking claims that turn out to be hyperbolic undercuts the rest of your argument.

That a quarter of the girls and a fifth of the boys reported being victims of (essentially) domestic violence seems to indicate that teenage British dating is fucked up, but I'd also be wary of trying to generalize from abroad, otherwise you start having arguments about methodology and samples that are fairly intractable.
posted by klangklangston at 12:13 PM on September 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think (hope) that you missed *how* they were pressured: "their boyfriends had tried to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity by using physical force or by bullying them. "

Being bullied or physically coerced into sexual activity by your intimate partner, I don't know that that only constitutes abuse in its broadest and least useful definition. It sounds pretty awful to me, and I would be surprised if it didn't leave a legacy that played out in later relationships.
posted by Salamandrous at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2009


"I think (hope) that you missed *how* they were pressured: "their boyfriends had tried to pressure them into unwanted sexual activity by using physical force or by bullying them. "

Being bullied or physically coerced into sexual activity by your intimate partner, I don't know that that only constitutes abuse in its broadest and least useful definition.
"

I think you missed my objection, as shown by your two sentences that I've quoted. Having someone try to coerce you is not the same as having someone coerce you. Neither are good, obviously, but one is much, much worse.

Under your rubric, the following exchange:

—"Gimme a kiss or I'll hit you."
—"No. Fuck off. You're dumped."
(No hitting, no kissing.)

is scored the same as a scenario where someone is actually hit.

And arguing that early relationship behaviors leave a legacy is fine, but you're begging the question in assuming that's bad. The legacy can be learning to assert individual wants and needs in the face of pressure and being willing to walk away from a bad relationship.

If you'd like to argue that we'd all be better off without attempts to coerce others in relationships, and that there's a male/female power imbalance that leads to women disproportionately being disadvantaged, fine. I agree, but that seems fairly obvious and fairly uncontroversial as a claim. But that also seems a lot more narrow than what you're arguing.

(You'll also note that I've argued for a narrow construing of the false rape reporting studies that get trotted out here again and again on the other side of the issue regarding prevalence of sexual assault and reporting thereof.)
posted by klangklangston at 2:46 PM on September 1, 2009


SMB: just because a woman -- or even a group of women -- says that a woman's god-given purpose on this green earth is to birth a dozen babies and meekly submit to their husbands doesn't mean that it's accurate, or should be a societal standard.

Exactly. Lampoil was arguing that the privileged position of women as child raisers in the U.S. isn't really a privilege, because male judges order it. In both cases, the fact that you can find men supporting a woman's privilege, or vice versa, doesn't make it disappear.

"Male privilege" is often used to imply that a cabal of men oppress women by consciously imposing restrictions on them. Maybe in the Taliban, but not here. There is a complicated, heavily inertial but evolving negotiation supported by the majority of both men and women. Some privileges are given to men, some to women. Some think it's a fair division of labor, some fight fiercely to modernize, a lot of people muddle through without giving it a lot of thought.

Most Mefites -- including me -- are very supportive of questioning and changing gender traditions, especially those that clearly hold back women's choices in life. It rankles a bit though when the same people get all huffy about examining those traditions that favor women (such as being preferred childraisers). Let's renegotiate all of it, I say.
posted by msalt at 7:47 PM on September 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ah, got it. Thanks for the clarification.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:18 AM on September 2, 2009


Here's a great (imo) relevant blog post with a discussion that has some pretty striking parallels to how our discussion went here.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:33 AM on September 2, 2009


Interesting post, Salamandrous, but a bit orthogonal I think; more about dating (where obviously no man has a right to a positive reception) vs. the Good Samaritan situation discussed here.

Here's how I think this all ties together. If it's always seen as odd or potentially dangerous for men to hang around children, husbands naturally will do other things (work on the house, earn money), and those who do get directly involved (as I did) will continue to be discourages from their efforts. When divorce happens, judges naturally will give the kids to mom
while dad goes off to work. Guess who does better in their career, has more money, etc.?

Frankly, I think one of the biggest limits on women's careers in the U.S. anyway is that it's effectively taboo for a woman to let her husband be the primary caregiver for children after a divorce. (Curiously, it's much more acceptable in a marriage.) Any woman who gives up custody faces judgment as a "bad mom.". And in my experience, most of that judgment comes from other women.
posted by msalt at 9:48 AM on September 2, 2009


Msalt,

There was an article about that too: What kind of mother leaves her kids?

Reading it really brought home the different emotional reactions, including in me, to a mother versus her father who gives up custody, moves across the country, and sees her kids on school holidays.
posted by Salamandrous at 2:10 PM on September 2, 2009


What kind of mother leaves her kids?

I would think the answer to that question would be the same for either parent.
posted by electroboy at 2:21 PM on September 2, 2009


>What kind of mother leaves her kids?
I would think the answer to that question would be the same for either parent.


Seriously? I agree that it SHOULD be the same, but (in the USA) we're a million miles from there right now. In a dissolution, it's literally penciled in that dad has every other weekend, and mom the rest. Any attempt to challenge that on either side faces resistance and emotional charged questions, not to mention the social ostracism.
posted by msalt at 2:37 PM on September 2, 2009


There's a difference between not having primary custody and moving cross country and only seeing them on holidays.
posted by electroboy at 2:41 PM on September 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I honestly don't think the social pressure would be any less if the mom stayed locally. It might even be greater -- there's no excuse like you "had to" move for a job or relationship.
posted by msalt at 3:45 PM on September 2, 2009


msalt- thank you. You pointed something out that I was trying to say, but couldn't express effectively. Our emotions shape our perceptions and cloud reality.

And the difference between structural privilege and traditions. My argument with the structural privilege argument is that if something like that existed, it would have to be codified somewhere. It would have to be observable on the individual scale, and overtly difficult to overcome. Like say, Jim Crow laws. Clearly, obviously examples of white privilege at that time in those areas. There would be obvious sanctions for trying to break that privilege.

But yes, traditions can exist that seem to give evidence of favoritism. But those traditions are breakable by the participants, and that, to me, is the big difference. The tradition of tall, white males with good hair as CEOs exists, but there is nothing stopping anyone else from being hired as a CEO except the emotions of the people doing the hiring and the perception of trust that the candidates create.

Or, if privilege exists, it must by definition override pragmatism. It is not pragmatic to hire an incompetent male over a competent female, or to make a dark skinned person prove he's not black to drink at a certain water fountain, and rational people don't do it. There is no pressure from outside to encourage them to do it. In this time, in this society, the only thing beyond pragmatism that weighs on decisions is the participants acceding to tradition.
posted by gjc at 8:07 AM on September 3, 2009


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