Can we dial it down a notch in AskMe August 19, 2010 5:07 AM   Subscribe

How can we, as a community of individuals, learn to respond and behave better in AskMe threads like the one about the male colleague being "unwittingly pervy" at work?

The thread seems to have gotten nasty at times and even in it's cleaned up state, there's still a lot of black and white thinking going on, which says the guy is a complete asshole and unredeemable. Several comments are reading a lot into an unclear situation and assuming the worst about the poster. That doesn't do AskMe a lot of good and it may discourage others not to use it, for fear of the vitriol and judgmental attitude. While that thread is just the one example, it's something that can occur a lot in AskMe, particularly over sensitive subjects such as racism, sexism and/or relationships.

What I'm hoping to achieve with this thread: 1) some form of understanding from the various sides that others may have legitimate points and 2) that doesn't make them evil or bad 3) and a reminder that AskMe is for helping people, who often in delicate or difficult situations, not as a place to ride our personal high horses, however righteous we may think they are.

Perhaps if all of spent a little more time listening and reminding ourselves there's an actually human being seeking help, we could make AskMe less of a battle ground and in turn make it better for all. What do you think?
posted by nomadicink to Etiquette/Policy at 5:07 AM (434 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

You know, I saw that question and was about to click, but then I realised: You know, I just don't have a thing to say about this.
posted by atrazine at 5:10 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I totally do not understand the level of animosity that's being directed at him. He knows he did something wrong, and he's looking for advice on how to make it right. What good does it do to pile up on him?

I don't think what he did (even though I believe it was rude) is "dangerous". I mean, unless you're living in an Islamic country, there's going to be shades of gray when it comes to stuff like this. And isn't the belief that if a man looks at a woman sexually, then it's a logical conclusion that he's eventually going to violate her (or that he's violated her just by looking!), part of what has some cultures keeping women covered head-to-toe?
posted by cottonswab at 5:17 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


From the outset it always looked like one of those threads where people hauled some of their baggage in with them. On the other hand, what did the OP really expect people to say? The grey isn't exactly frat boy-central, so a fair share of "christ, what an asshole" responses was a near certainty.

I'm certainly interested which answer's going to get marked up as best, though.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:18 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm certainly interested which answer's going to get marked up as best, though.

It was an anon question, so not going to happen.
posted by nomadicink at 5:20 AM on August 19, 2010


Hey, remember that one anonymous question about the guy who was seeking help for his compulsive cleavage photography?

Good times.
posted by adipocere at 5:24 AM on August 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


a reminder that AskMe is for helping people, who often in delicate or difficult situations, not as a place to ride our personal high horses, however righteous we may think they are

This, exactly.

I also contemplated commenting, but then realized I had no *actual*, *personal* experience with this situation or one like it, so I refrained, knowing that people who had directly experienced such a thing would be able to comment as to the OP's original questions - namely, what his colleague thinks of him now, and what he should do from here on out. Also, I contemplated commenting - not necessarily answering.

Do I have opinions about the OP's behavior? Of course! But, at least in my case, they don't help the OP get any closer to the answers to his question.

The more morality-related the question is, the more reticent I am to answer. I can help you find cheaper train tickets. I can help you ID that song by that guy with that thing. I can even tell you how much water your basil plant needs.

But personal/moral/romantic questions are so individual - we all live different lives, we all come from different cultures, we all have very different ideas about things that other may just assume are "universal" or "received wisdom" - that I leave those questions unanswered.
posted by mdonley at 5:24 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I totally do not understand the level of animosity that's being directed at him.

It seems like a chance to vent by proxy against all the other jerks in people's lives that they can't complain about.
posted by smackfu at 5:30 AM on August 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


It was an anon question, so not going to happen

I DEMAND THAT HIS IDENTITY BE KNOWN!
posted by MuffinMan at 5:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The poster described his behavior as "blatant" and specifically asked women how they would react.

A lot of the answers were harsh, and Jessamyn deleted some stuff. But they were mostly helpful and fairly consistent.
posted by nangar at 5:35 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]




I'm an American woman, I've been in situations like the lookee in the US and elsewhere. I care deeply about gender issues.

But I just can't get worked up about this. The guy did something stupid. He's just asking a question at a place where you're supposed to be able to ask questions.

It might just be me, but it seems that lately, unless a good portion of the membership shares experiences/identifies with the asker, the asker is in for a drubbing.
posted by vincele at 5:41 AM on August 19, 2010 [29 favorites]


One the one hand, he says he was "unwittingly" pervy. On the other, he says he was caught looking, and he was caught because it was blatant. Which doesn't sound unwitting to me.

A glance is one thing, but blatantly staring - it's no wonder people are irritated (and more). I wouldn't want to work with the guy either.

But I didn't have anything useful to say that hadn't been said in the first ten or so comments, so I stayed out of it.
posted by rtha at 5:42 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments about the woman, how she shouldn't have been dressed so provocatively in the first place, the appropriateness of short skirts in the workplace, and speculating as to just how could he have seen up her skirt anyway, none of which was "answering the question or being helpful to the asker" as far as I could tell.
posted by Gator at 5:45 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I don't know. Personally I'm most indiscreet when I don't keep my wits abouts me. Unless the poster were the kind of asshole who wouldn't regret this behaviour in the first place, I'd expect the staring to be LESS blatant the more aware he was of it, and vice versa, as in this case.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:49 AM on August 19, 2010


When you're angry that someone wants to make amends in a way that isn't self-serving, what you're saying is that you want people to continue to act like jerks just so that you can maintain your stance against them. You become invested in men behaving badly -- as invested in it as the misogynists are. Way to change the world.
posted by vitabellosi at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2010 [22 favorites]


The only way the guy could be blatantly pervy would be if he had his head on the ground, was stroking himself, or had a leer on his face that would make John Waters proud. Being caught looking at a display can be embarrassing for everyone involved but does not put anyone on the level of Chester the Molester.

I have to say it is human nature which makes people stare at a nice pair of legs or for that matter, train wrecks - which is the same reason why the post is so well populated. Does that make all the people who stop, read, and reply equally perverted?
posted by JJ86 at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Without more specifics all anyone has is assumptions. If we all assume the very best of him the answers are all going to be geared towards that specific best-case scenario and would be unhelpful if the situation were actually worse.

For example, the appropriate answer to "I was in a meeting with an attractive female co-worker when I glanced down and noticed her skirt had ridden up, showing her underwear. She saw me looking and hurriedly excused herself, what do I do now?" is different to "I was in a meeting with an attractive female co-worker when I dropped my pen, as I bent down to pick it up, I couldn't help myself and looked up her skirt, she saw me doing this and hurriedly excused herself, what do I do now?"

Bear in mind these are the poster's own words and tags he used to describe the incident: busted, peeper, pervy,peek, upskirt, pervert. At no point did he say it was an accident or a wardrobe malfunction but he does add confusion by saying 'unwittingly' in the title but 'blatant' in the post.

My first impression when reading the post was 'how old are you?' (followed by creep, and if you have so little control over your urges you should get some help!) because on first read it did very much seem like he was intentionally looking up her skirt and got caught. But rereading the description of the incident without the follow-up questions, it becomes clear that we really don't know what happened at all
posted by missmagenta at 5:53 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Between the women who were over-the-top indignant about something that their dads do (though probably with more tact) and the men who were over-the-top "oh, I'm so sensitive and respectful to women":

That thread was HILARIOUS. Especially the people suggesting that he escalate the situation by apologizing. There should be one Ask Metafilter question like that per day.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:55 AM on August 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


I think the way the question was framed made the vitriol inevitable.

When I was seventeen, a female cousin told me, giggling, that the boys at school were tying small mirrors to their sneakers so they could look up the girls' skirts. And this is what the OP reminded me of when he said "blatantly looking up her skirt".

I am certain that that's not what the OP meant (unfeasible in an office environment). Apart from that, I have no idea what he meant. It could mean a number of misdemeanours of varying seriousness. But his framing put it into the sleazy frat boy section rather than the "her skirt rode up and I caught myself staring, but it was too late" fraction.

Having never experienced a truly sleazy frat boy type at work myself, I tend to believe in the goodness in people and that he did the latter, rather than the former. But I'm not surprised that others saw it differently.

Additionally, the way he put his post suggested he was more worried at being caught than sensitive to the sleaziness of blatant ogling. This was the reason quite a few posters gave for their negative interpretation.

I think in combination people felt that the question was "I did this really despicable thing, now tell me a quick hack so I won't get into trouble!", which (I feel) is not what AskMe should be for. People reacted accordingly.

There were way too many comments with a clear agenda not of being helpful but of telling the guy what a jerk he was and that it would serve him right to get fired. This is not what AskMe is for either.
posted by Omnomnom at 5:55 AM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


It might just be me, but it seems that lately, unless a good portion of the membership shares experiences/identifies with the asker, the asker is in for a drubbing.

It's something that I've noticed also and found it equally unproductive or help. It's troubling.

One the one hand, he says he was "unwittingly" pervy. On the other, he says he was caught looking, and he was caught because it was blatant. Which doesn't sound unwitting to me.

There's a lot of parsing of what exactly he means by "blatant" and the mechanics of how managed to see up her dress. Language, both communicating it and understan

At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments about the woman...

I disagree, there were several comments from women about the unprofessionalism of wearing skirt that one can look up. Calling them "crap comments" and painting them as attacks on the woman doesn't help the situation, IMO.
posted by nomadicink at 5:58 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I usually don't do meta talk but I have to agree. The only reason I chimed in on this question is because I am a woman and I kinda felt bad about the spanking he was getting. Between the camp calling for his head on a spike and the camp insinuating she was dressed like a hooker, the mods had their hands full. Lots of very visceral reactions, on both sides. And it doesn't really help.
posted by supercapitalist at 5:58 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments about the woman, how she shouldn't have been dressed so provocatively in the first place, the appropriateness of short skirts in the workplace, and speculating as to just how could he have seen up her skirt anyway, none of which was "answering the question or being helpful to the asker" as far as I could tell.

It was part of the process of figuring out wtf he OP was talking about specifically. Hey, if we're going to look at the worst possible interpretation we might as well look at the best one, too.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:00 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think in combination people felt that the question was "I did this really despicable thing, now tell me a quick hack so I won't get into trouble!"

Wow. Your definition of "really dispicable" is different from mine.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:03 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments ... speculating as to just how could he have seen up her skirt anyway, none of which was "answering the question or being helpful to the asker" as far as I could tell.

I fail to see what's wrong with those comments. They were trying to figure out what exactly the situation was, since the asker is anonymous, worded his question vaguely, and can't respond. Having a detailed understanding of the exact situation may very well be helpful to us in giving him a useful answer.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:05 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think you misinterpreted my comment, Mayor Curley.
There's an awful lot of misinterpreting going on in that thread and here, from all sides. It's all the vitriol getting in the way of parsing.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:05 AM on August 19, 2010


About the thread overall: the OP didn't do himself any favors in how he worded it. I don't approve of what he did. But we regularly see descriptions of much worse behavior on AskMe that don't elicit anything like the response he got (i.e. lots of angry comments letting him know what a jerk he is). More often, we have people being extra-careful to show how non-judgmental they are. I find it very interesting that, of all questions, this is the one that incites so much outrage.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


about something that their dads do

Heh.
posted by fourcheesemac at 6:09 AM on August 19, 2010


We need a practice Ask Mefi training that people need to pass before being allowed to answer questions. It should involve reading an array of infuriating questions and not being allowed to respond in any way. Once people can deal with that they can move up to practicing responses that answer the question. If they fail they get bumped back to level one.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 6:10 AM on August 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


This post was a giant stage that enabled users to demonstrate their fiercely held convictions at the expense of actually being helpful. Many interpretations are hinging on the interpretation of the word "blatant" which could just mean "it wasn't possible that I could be seen as looking at anything else" or it could mean "drool was running down my chin and I was saying homina-homina-homina." We don't know without clarification, though that hasn't stopped hordes of users from stridently drawing their own conclusions. To those suggesting that he should seek an employment lawyer immediately or that this is akin to assault -- that is preposterous and not helpful at all. I am curious what kind of world you live in. It's quite interesting to me that in AskMe it sometimes seems like living in a BDSM/Dom/Sub/Poly relationship is incredibly more common than it actually is while at the same time attitudes towards male-female interactions is puritanical to the point of absurdity. I look forward to the post that combines both -- "AskMe, I was riding two of my live-in subs to work and wearing my assless chaps because that's what you wear when you ride a sub to work. My boss stared at me while doing so. Is this assault?"
posted by proj at 6:11 AM on August 19, 2010 [73 favorites]


I have this priceless image in my head of Jess seeing this in the anonymous queue, going "Fuuuuuuuuu," taking a deep breath, approving the post and then sitting there perched over her keyboard in a WWII style tin helmet waiting for the incoming hate mortars to start landing around her mod trench.
posted by The Straightener at 6:12 AM on August 19, 2010 [96 favorites]


I just started reading askmefi obsessively and am sort of freaked out by some of the mean and judging and "I know exactly what kind of piece of shit person you are, buddy" responses to many of the questions. It seems like in a lot of threads the pattern is:

1. people pile on immediately with fairly hateful responses without trying to clarify anything or see the situation from any side but their own first, snap judgment.

2. eventually other people come in and say "wait a minute, let's not jump to conclusions here, we may not have enough info, you all are kind of harsh."

3. a meta talk is born!

Some of the people I've seen who seemingly GLEEFULLY rush to tell the person not "Your behavior was questionable" but "You are a bad person"; well, it colors how I think of their comments over in the blue. I think, "Sure this is a fun Friday flash game, but man, I bet he/she really made that anonymous poster feel like shit."
posted by staggering termagant at 6:16 AM on August 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


I've always disliked the tendency to make huge, unfounded assumptions about liability and legal issues in response to AskMe questions. This one was worse than most. I truly thought that the poster was being used as a straw-man for the first dozen posts from the truly outraged. The vitriol helped nothing.

"You better hope that wasn't HR or her lawyer she was calling." Really? Please get a grip.

No, he isn't going to be fired. Pretending that he is, is simply hyperbole and hand-wringing to make a political point. He's not a rapist and she's not an abused employee. It was a mistake, and he's looking for advice about how to make it better.

I appreciated the (obligitory "IANAL") legal feedback, late in the thread, which supported the "don't worry, stop doing that" frame of the incident.

Also, agreeing with Mayor Curley, this doesn't rise to the level of "despicable" for me. Stupid, yes, despicable, no.
posted by Invoke at 6:21 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


...am sort of freaked out by some of the mean and judging and "I know exactly what kind of piece of shit person you are, buddy" responses to many of the questions.

I agree, but I'm at lost as to how to encourage that to stop, be in through community efforts or mod efforts. Jessamyn made three friendly type three mod notes in the linked thread, before writing a much terser "knock it off". I'm sort of appealing here for everyone to take deep breaths and remember AskMe is supposed to be helpful, not judgegmental.

Everyone seems to agree the guy was wrong and not do that sort of thing in the future. But differences pop up as some want to cast him as evil jackass and others have a more laid back attitude. I suppose one could argue such actions are illustrative of the spectrum of real life reactions he could get, but that sort of tone seems to degrade Askme.
posted by nomadicink at 6:28 AM on August 19, 2010


It's the 'and yes, attractive' bit in the question that bugs me. There's a vibe like he doesn't want you to think he'd look up an ugly girl's skirt and that he just couldn't help himself, her being attractive and all.
posted by asockpuppet at 6:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hey, I don't think my version of what probably happened is despicable either.

But it was clear other people had a different version in their heads, and it was clear from their posts that they found it despicable indeed. This is the dynamic I have been trying to describe in my last posts, which is why I used the word. I'm finding the off the hip responses to single words in my posts singularly frustrating.
posted by Omnomnom at 6:30 AM on August 19, 2010


Further, I honestly cannot believe people are asking "are you sorry you did it or are you sorry you got caught?" Honestly? This is like the worst kind of preaching -- the question doesn't say "Tell me how I should feel about this and recommend different forms of penance depending on if my contrition is genuine or not." Judging someone's intentions, feelings, and ultimate moral character is hard enough from a conversation, much less a one-off anonymous question. I'd hate to get these people on a jury of peers.
posted by proj at 6:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


It's the 'and yes, attractive' bit in the question that bugs me.

Well, since he added a bland detail to make his question slightly more vivid, I guess that justifies having 50 comments telling him what a horrible person he is.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


There's a vibe like he doesn't want you to think he'd look up an ugly girl's skirt and that he just couldn't help himself, her being attractive and all

Honestly, I don't care what he thinks or likes. He asked a question. I answered it. He can do what he wants with the answer. His behavior has reflection or me or my life, so why get worked up about it?
posted by nomadicink at 6:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was trying to figure out the logistics of the whole thing. Back when I had an interest in looking up a girl's skirt they were way too careful about allowing that to happen. Then we all moved onto 3rd grade and they started wearing jeans like the boys.

What I hate is when I get busted for something I wasn't doing. I get bored watching progress bars and such and often space off into the void. Sometimes it's like a mini seizure or something because I will look wake up and now there is a person in my field of vision. Then I have to look away quickly and pretend like I don't feel like I just got caught doing something wrong. This happens to me on the bus every damn time.

The other day I was I was trying to puzzle out this shirt. It had something written across the chest. It was in a strange font and the dryer had eaten much of it. Five words faded and nearly unreadable. Took me entirely too long to read: "The cake is a lie." That dude had to totally think I was checking out his rack.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


It was definitely a thread filled with a lot more intense feelings than it was with concrete advice based in real world experience. There were a lot of suggestions of apologies, but not many people saying "when this happened to me, here's how the person apologized and made it better." I've never been in trouble for perving at work, but I've done other dumb things, and one thing you learn is that sometimes the right thing to do is apologize, and sometimes the right thing is to shut the fuck up and keep your head down.

The anon OP sounded kind of clueless, both ashamed and proud all at once; I just wish the responses could have provided less heat and more light.
posted by Forktine at 6:34 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I have this priceless image in my head of Jess seeing this in the anonymous queue, going "Fuuuuuuuuu," taking a deep breath, approving the post and then sitting there perched over her keyboard in a WWII style tin helmet waiting for the incoming hate mortars to start landing around her mod trench.

Welcome to my yesterday. Just a heads up that these threads going badly [anonymous AskMe questions that are not worded so great about a touchy issue] makes Team Mod much less likely to approve them in the future. If people think they may one day have a touchy question that might not go well, they should think about behaving in other people's threads.

The reason these threads are so awful from our perspective is that people from both sides get really het up about them and if we leave an intemperate comment from either side, someone from the other side will believe they have a right of reply and get peeved if we decide to delete their response to the slightly snarky comment. So to refresh, it looks like this

- touchy askme
- someone responds to touchy askme pointing out flaw in OPs reasoning or being less than charitable about their interpretation
- person replies to uncharitable comment being uncharitable and not answering the question
- pile-on
- I delete some comments
- person whose comment was the last one deleted complains that I agree with the person whose comment is the last pne standing
- I email explaining how AskMe works
- while I'm writing email, three more people argue with the last comment that's left
- repeat five times.

Sure, if I was writing that question, I would have done it differently. No it is not an option to contact the OP and rewrite it. Additional issues

- people asking argumentative questions of the OP, as if they're going to answer
- the general "how can you blame the victim" "peeking up someone's skirt is not assault" "what was she wearing" "it doesn't matter what she was wearing AT ALL" back and forth which, honestly, involves the same sets of people who seem to have a problem interacting with people who do not share their beliefs.
- people showing up to ov ergeneralize about men, women, AskMe, US/UK relations as if they've seen it all before

I have pretty much never had to write three notes in an AskMe thread before, and my feeling is that people are getting significantly less able to dial it back. Or, that the site is getting larger and fewer people understand the norms. We're definitely seeing more drive-by snark in MeFi by newer users, but the comments I removed were not mostly from new users in AskMe. I'm still thinking on it, but yeah it was one of the more disappointing threads I've dealt with here lately, and people who know me know that I do not say stuff like that lightly.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 6:39 AM on August 19, 2010 [31 favorites]


I was trying to figure out the logistics of the whole thing.

She could have been wearing a one piece skirt/suit that was buttoned down the front. As she sat down, facing him, the bottom part of the skirt/suit parts likes an upside V, suddenly revealing a lot of leg and almost panties. It would be someone hard not to notice.

Any skirt that has a slit down the side or is even somewhat short could seem suddenly revealing if she's sitting facing him with no desk between them. Eh, it happens.
posted by nomadicink at 6:39 AM on August 19, 2010


Just read through the thread, and honestly I don't see the hate-on that some readers do. The responses were pretty unambiguous in their disapproval, and they almost universally told the guy to take his lumps and accept that he'd lost face in front of his colleague, but there's a lot of exaggeration here:

'I don't think what he did (even though I believe it was rude) is "dangerous",' someone says. But no one in the thread had said that what he did was dangerous -- just that assuming men can't control their biological urges is a "dangerous path."

'There were way too many comments ... telling the guy ... that it would serve him right to get fired.' Except that there weren't -- one poster said that he could be 'rightfully' fired, two others said that if she made noise to HR he could get fired, and six chimed in to say that it would be overreacting.

It's a touchy subject, but honestly I don't see the responses that are actually up there as terribly antagonistic. Nobody's going out of their way to comfort him, but it's not exactly a rage-on, either. He stared up a colleague's skirt, and the people who replied are mostly women who don't like being blatantly ogled, or men who don't like people assuming that men can't help but ogle co-workers.
posted by verb at 6:41 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


What annoys me about these kinds of threads is when the first comment, inevitably some kind of pithy, bitchy judgement (one sentence long of course) gets favorited a million times, just because it's bitchy and pithy, and the first comment.
posted by bearette at 6:43 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


Jessamyn says that she can't remember a question going that poorly in recent memory, yet you don't see it as a rage-on. There is a seeming disconnect and I say this not to call you out but to underline that it seems that AskMe is increasingly a place for people to demonstrate their beliefs rather than answer questions.
posted by proj at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


I agree that the added comment re the woman's "attactiveness" adds to my disrespect of the OP. I'd be much more likely to dismiss the incident as described as more of a "train-wreck-I-couldn't-look-away" result, had that aside not been present.

He seems to be saying that if she had not been attractive, she could have lain on the office floor signaling incoming aircraft with her feet without once blipping his default-male crotch-centric radar. This paints him as even more of a douche.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 6:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


AskMe is not about how much you respect or disrespect the asker. It is about answering the question. Your personal distate is irrelevant. If you find yourself saying, "I would have answered one way if you had said X but instead answered this way because you said Y," I submit that you are doing it wrong.
posted by proj at 6:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [19 favorites]


He seems to be saying that if she had not been attractive, she could have lain on the office floor signaling incoming aircraft with her feet without once blipping his default-male crotch-centric radar. This paints him as even more of a douche.

Because he doesn't check out girls to whom he's not attracted? I never thought of it that way, but you're right. Hey anonymous, if you're going to leer at women, you must leer at every woman. It's more fair that way.
posted by Mayor Curley at 6:55 AM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


Some of the people I've seen who seemingly GLEEFULLY rush to tell the person not "Your behavior was questionable" but "You are a bad person"; well, it colors how I think of their comments over in the blue. I think, "Sure this is a fun Friday flash game, but man, I bet he/she really made that anonymous poster feel like shit."
posted by staggering termagant


Thank you for saying that. I wholeheartedly concur. proj has been right on too. Just my lowly opinion.
posted by futz at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2010


Just read through the thread, and honestly I don't see the hate-on that some readers do.

There were a LOT of deleted comments.

I know there was one comment that was like a few paragraphs of reasoned response and then at the end "stop being a fucking asshole" in bold.
posted by smackfu at 6:57 AM on August 19, 2010


Jessamyn says that she can't remember a question going that poorly in recent memory, yet you don't see it as a rage-on.

Well, none of us can see the shit that got deleted.
posted by rtha at 7:01 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


OK, MayorCurley, sarcasm noted; but if I can't say that stuff here, where CAN I say it? At least I didn't post that comment on the green. It was my reaction, and it was real.

I tried to think of a legitimate response to the guy but his language seemed to be specifically engineered to defend his actions as much as possible. So I didn't respond.

He wanted to know how to handle a very unfortunate situation- I get that- but even in the midst of that request, he could not restrain himself from revealing the depth of the nature that (IMO) caused the incident in the first place. That is textbook douchery.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 7:01 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Or what smackfu said.
posted by rtha at 7:01 AM on August 19, 2010


- the general "how can you blame the victim" "peeking up someone's skirt is not assault" "what was she wearing" "it doesn't matter what she was wearing AT ALL" back and forth which, honestly, involves the same sets of people who seem to have a problem interacting with people who do not share their beliefs.

Perhaps those people need a private talking to? If it's the same general cast of characters, it would seem like an ideal solution or maybe just a place to start.
posted by nomadicink at 7:06 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The only way the guy could be blatantly pervy would be if he had his head on the ground, was stroking himself, or had a leer on his face that would make John Waters proud.

Oh, if only.

Anyway (and I still don't understand the UK/US split some posters pointed out, but whatever) it's ;ess a question of avoiding getting fired than a question on how to make amends. Which is perfectly cromulent.
posted by mippy at 7:06 AM on August 19, 2010


The Straightener: I have this priceless image in my head of Jess seeing this in the anonymous queue, going "Fuuuuuuuuu," taking a deep breath, approving the post and then sitting there perched over her keyboard in a WWII style tin helmet waiting for the incoming hate mortars to start landing around her mod trench.

I misread this (it seems like I'm doing a lot of this lately), adding a 'u' to the name, so it came up with Jesus reading this question in AskMetafilter and having this response.

In other words, you think your image was priceless?
posted by MCMikeNamara at 7:07 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


supercapitalist: "The only reason I chimed in on this question is because I am a woman and I kinda felt bad about the spanking he was getting. Between the camp calling for his head on a spike and the camp insinuating she was dressed like a hooker, the mods had their hands full. Lots of very visceral reactions, on both sides. And it doesn't really help."

Yes, yes, yes! So many of the comments in this post and those made towards the OP's girlfriend in the "Should she go to London" post were just so over the top. I didn't have any revolutionary insight but felt compelled to comment because I didn't want the OP to feel that all of Metafilter thought he should be unemployed, friendless, homeless and probably in jail.

I actually considered making a Metatalk post about the London question because I got the impression that his girlfriend follows Metafilter and I thought it would be really horrible to be a part of the community and be ripped to shreds when you haven't even made the post. Welcome to Metafilter!
posted by victoriab at 7:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


He seems to be saying that if she had not been attractive, she could have lain on the office floor signaling incoming aircraft with her feet without once blipping his default-male crotch-centric radar. This paints him as even more of a douche.

Huh? If she had not been attractive, he would not have been interested in looking at her; therefore, he's a "douche"?

By definition, a woman who's "attractive" is someone he's going to be more interested in looking at than a woman who isn't. What he said was essentially a tautology. There's no call for that kind of insult based on his choice of adjective.

Along with many other problems with that thread, this site has a problem with men. Insults get directed at men in a way they would never be directed at women. The bar for when people consider it OK to heap moral condemnation on men is much lower than with women. Using anti-man words like "mansplain" is seen as a way to score points, which is impossible to imagine with any anti-woman word. The gender configuration of that question made the disproportionate amount of outrage practically a foregone conclusion.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:10 AM on August 19, 2010 [28 favorites]


OK, MayorCurley, sarcasm noted; but if I can't say that stuff here, where CAN I say it? At least I didn't post that comment on the green. It was my reaction, and it was real.

I think it's a pretty common reaction. It's just a funny thought that something he ostensibly shouldn't be doing at all becomes worse when he only does it to a subset of people that he likes. Like I said, I don't think you're alone in having that visceral reaction.
posted by Mayor Curley at 7:11 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


AskMe is not about how much you respect or disrespect the asker. It is about answering the question.

Unfortunately, part of the problem is that the OP specifically asked "Did you lose your respect for the peeper, or do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not?" and followed up with the killer: "Any advice would be valued."

I feel like we need to do that thing gmail does with attachments where if you include the phrase "is attached and don't add an attachment it reminds you.

"You seem to have asked for any advice. Are you aware that this is going to encourage people to tell you what they think about you, your life, your sex life, your internal monologue, your chpices, your identity, your family, your nutrition habits and your diction? Please consider this carefully."

Perhaps those people need a private talking to?

I have spoken to them, nearly all of them, at least once. However, there's only so many times you can email someone, someone who is already angry and say "You know that thing I asked you not to do? You're doing it again."

One of the general flaws to our guidelines and the way we implement them is that there's no really good way, other than MeTa censure, to really get people who are suboptimal axe grinders in AskMe to knock it off. I'm thinking of people who are decent people, but not so great at managing their own bad moods or their own pissed off reactions. Or who react exactly the same way to any question on a particular topic [for a value-neutral example, we may remember the guy whose response to any back pain question was "it's all in your head" and after a while you suspected he wasn't even reading the questions anymore] for whatever reason. Other people see this and it's like an open invitation to be like "why are YOU always like this" and it's the same rivalries. I guess we see it in MeFi too, but I avoid those threads and we've had more luck there telling the same old people to take their wrestling matches off-site.

It's labor intensive to send MeMail to people saying "Hey I know you're having a bad day, but ..." because we don't always have time to go back and forth with someone about this sort of thing. So, we wait to approve touchy questions until we're both around and I check the admin queue during dinner, but I'm thinking I may need to trust my "this is going to be a trainwreck" radar more than usual.

And for the record, I felt like Forktine, my read is this is a guy who all of the sudden realized he was possibly in really big trouble and is trying to figure out what the hell to do. The bravado and weird phrasing [she was attractive!] to me sounds like a young man adrift in a new situation. I'm a little sorry, if that's the case, that he got the set of responses that he got.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:19 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


but if I can't say that stuff here, where CAN I say it?

I remember one time I was keeping a distracting eye on two of my nephews. They were probably around five and three at the time. Younger one did something or other to anger the older one (I don't recall what. It undoubtedly involved messing with his Stuff. One's Stuff is highly important after all), and shrieking commenced to attempt to get physical as he started chasing his brother about, little clenched fist raised and waving around.

"Dude, chill out," I said. "There will be no violence in the system while Uncle Drastic is around. I don't want to deal with the paperwork."

"I'm going to hit him!" older boy attempting to get around me as I played goalie.

"No, you're not."

"But I HAVE to!" he yelled back, anguished.
posted by Drastic at 7:19 AM on August 19, 2010 [39 favorites]


I feel like we need to do that thing gmail does with attachments where if you include the phrase "is attached and don't add an attachment it reminds you.

"You seem to have asked for any advice. Are you aware that this is going to encourage people to tell you what they think about you, your life, your sex life, your internal monologue, your chpices, your identity, your family, your nutrition habits and your diction? Please consider this carefully."


Jessamyn, I believe you just leaked the ongoing development of MeFi Clippy!
posted by proj at 7:20 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Jessamyn, on the plus side - while you don't want to mod questions like that every day, I can't see a bloke venturing a question like it again particularly soon..
posted by MuffinMan at 7:22 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


As I read the question, the bit about being "attractive" was to emphasize that she must have assumed that it was intentional. So, no need to psychoanalyze this poor guy's writing style.

Also, I have to ask, to those of you who have "lost all respect" for someone because you caught them peeking - and have never informed that person of the same - are you sure they did it intentionally? Double sure? Triple sure? This kind of makes me nervous.
posted by Saucy Intruder at 7:24 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


proj, I just had this vision of Clippy morphing into a stylized Lil Alex, of A Clockwork Orange, saying, "Your question suggests you're going to going to get one in the yarbles, if ya have any yarbles, ya eunuch jelly-bell. Are you sure you would like to proceed?"

Then Clippy waves his cane menacingly and three droogies appear behind him. That being Pete, Georgie, and Dim.
posted by adipocere at 7:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


The bravado and weird phrasing [she was attractive!] to me sounds like a young man adrift in a new situation.

I agree, but I always approach AskMetafilter questions like scenarios during my ethics class. Our professor told us to take every given situation honestly and if you begin to pick apart things like "She was attractive," you're engaging in developing a character for a screenplay. Sure there are edge cases, but they are few and far between. I think this is really the only way to approach answering questions here.

A big problem is that people who axe grind also seem to get favorites, and quickly. There's no real solution to this, but there's a fairly strong positive-reinforcement loop going on here.

I asked an anonymous question a long time ago (when anonymous was a new thing). I remember getting a few, "You're a terrible person," responses that were ... almost as if they didn't read the question. So I don't think this is a new thing, though the volume might be.
posted by geoff. at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It looked like a lot of work for Jessamyn weighing what to delete, but I found it educational. That poor guy must be new at this. It only took me a couple years to learn once I walk onto the company premises my sex drive gets excommunicated into extragalactic space. Take heart good fellow. All humanity is not despicable; it's only around 38%.
posted by bukvich at 7:36 AM on August 19, 2010


mippy: the UK/US split some posters pointed out

Actually, AFAIK only one poster pointed it out (A189Nut), and that one-liner later got nuked by the mods. At the end of my post I agreed with him (but in small, because I recognised it was not really contributing to answering the OP's question, but thought it was an interesting point worth making).

The reason I agreed with A189Nut, and why I presumptiously presume he brought it up in the first place, was that the political and specifically gender-based correctness oozing out of most posts was at a far higher level than you'd normally experience in a UK/EU setting. That's not to say either A189Nut or I were complaining or criticising, just sayin'. But on reflection killing the post was probably justified as it didn't really address the OP's question, and my (now orphaned) reference to it must have slipped through the cracks. Or maybe Mods don't excise just part of a post.

Jessamyn: US/UK relations as if they've seen it all before

If it's snarky I can understand this being an issue for you. A lot of that happens, and I confess to doing it myself sometimes, usually as a joke. But not on a site which is US-based and populated by a majority of Americans - I would consider that an unwelcome joke in poor taste in this context. No snark was intended here (certainly not by me, and it didn't appear to be in the nuked post either, although of course I have no right to speak for A189Nut). But (as I admitted) it was a little OT.
posted by aqsakal at 7:38 AM on August 19, 2010

Jessamyn says that she can't remember a question going that poorly in recent memory, yet you don't see it as a rage-on. There is a seeming disconnect and I say this not to call you out but to underline that it seems that AskMe is increasingly a place for people to demonstrate their beliefs rather than answer questions.
As others have noted, I can't see the deleted comments. So, I'll assume that the stuff that's missing from the thread is really ugly and nasty. If that's the case, kudos to jessamyn and any other mods who were riding herd: the end result is not something I can see any problems with.

Assuming that the meat of this discussion is about the stuff that got deleted, which I didn't see, I'll just step out of the conversation now.
posted by verb at 7:40 AM on August 19, 2010


> At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments about the woman, how she shouldn't have been dressed
> so provocatively in the first place, the appropriateness of short skirts in the workplace, and speculating as to just how
> could he have seen up her skirt anyway, none of which was "answering the question or being helpful to the asker"
> as far as I could tell.
> posted by Gator at 8:45 AM on August 19 [+] [!]

"What you did was over the line but you were provoked way inappropriately and the other party has a responsibility not to provoke way inappropriately like that. You probably don't need to be as wrought-up and handwringy over this as you are."

To answer by presenting a different understanding of the situation from what the OP assumes may push the limit of the askme law, but that sort of response (if phrased without four-letter words, of which "asshole" is one) can legitimately answer the question and be helpful to the OP. Compare Q: Help, I was stung by a rabid jellyfish, what now? A: Jellyfish can't carry rabies, treat the sting and chill about the rabies exposure.
posted by jfuller at 7:45 AM on August 19, 2010


Also, I have to ask, to those of you who have "lost all respect" for someone because you caught them peeking - and have never informed that person of the same - are you sure they did it intentionally? Double sure? Triple sure? This kind of makes me nervous.

I cannot agree with you more. I think that people tend to overestimate the number of intentional looks/amount of leering they get from people out in the world. How on earth can you tell?

(Adult, US, female, because I think it matters in the context of this conversation)
posted by vincele at 7:45 AM on August 19, 2010


I misread this (it seems like I'm doing a lot of this lately), adding a 'u' to the name, so it came up with Jesus reading this question in AskMetafilter and having this response.

...I did too!

On the subject of attractive/unattractive - as an unattractive female I find that I'm significantly less bothered by that sort of attention, and less likely to interpret someone's actions as flirting/ogling because it doesn't happen very often. In general, I am able to go about my life and my work in peace, reading some of the comments here it seems some of the more attractive ladies have to deal with near daily harassment in one form or another either at work, walking down the street or just sitting quietly reading a book in a cafe. If that were happening to me I think I would be much more GRAR about it.

Along with many other problems with that thread, this site has a problem with men.
Western society in general has a problem with men, not just this site - equality is a balance that we're still trying to achieve. In particular the finding the balance between the"women should be able to wear whatever they want without being ogled" and "men ogle women, they just can't help themselves" camps is always going to be tricky.
posted by missmagenta at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


If it's snarky I can understand this being an issue for you.

If it's not an answer to the question, it's an issue for me. We see this specifically in certain threads in AskMe

- dating threads
- drinking threads
- my family is crazy threads

Where people's only contribution is something like "You're just reacting to this because you (are|are not) from a culture that (does|does not) have a strong reaction to $_TOPIC"

I can totally see how if someone is asking an "Am I an alcoholic?" question, it makes sense to say "Well Americans seem more likely to consider lower amounts of regular alcohol consumption a problem than people in Australia or the UK" but it's totally not okay to be like "Yep, Americans always telling people they're drunks!" The issue seems to be that people make these comments as drive-by asides with no attempt to help the original questioner, just to make a snotty-sounding assessment of the whole thing. And then people get offended and then we're off to the races again.

So, people shouldmake fewer of those assessments. People should be more understanding when people do make them. And if you think your assessment is useful and important to the original asker, you should take care to contextualize it and desnarkify it so that the already-irritable people in the thread will not feel provoked by it.

I guess this is the main issue for me. If you see that a question is bumpy and you show up being fighty you are part of the problem. Case closed. Even if you are right. It would be great if people could aspire to both being right and not making the thread worse.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


I have pretty much never had to write three notes in an AskMe thread before, and my feeling is that people are getting significantly less able to dial it back. Or, that the site is getting larger and fewer people understand the norms.

Other folks have more experience with AskMe than me, but this sounds like the norm for as long back as I can remember reading the green. Which is why I will never go there for help with anything other than that song I can't remember, or where to get good Tibetan food.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 7:47 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


One the one hand, he says he was "unwittingly" pervy. On the other, he says he was caught looking, and he was caught because it was blatant. Which doesn't sound unwitting to me.

I thought it was a case of language fail, in which the OP thought the word "blatant" meant "obvious," but without the connotation of obvious intent in the actual definition ("without any attempt at concealment; completely obvious; "blatant disregard of the law"; "a blatant appeal to vanity"; "a blazing indiscretion"), which implies a disrespect that borders on contemptuous.

I thought he was saying that he carelessly (without deliberate intent) let his eyes get away from him and was caught staring.

And since nobody does that to me (I wear jeans, boots and polos to work), I had nothing constructive to say to the OP. But that's my interpretation of his ask.
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Metafilter really cool with "mainsplain"? Christ, that was insulting and hostile. And sexist.
posted by spaltavian at 7:54 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


I don't see how 'mansplain' is misandric, given that it clearly denotes a type of behaviour rather than a type of, well, man. It's a billion times less offensive than, say, feminazi.
posted by mippy at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Is Metafilter really cool with "mainsplain"?.

I think it's pretty obnoxious personally, but as a single word unlikely to get a comment deleted in a thread with much worse offenders. I'd be happy if people stopped using it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 7:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I thought it was a case of language fail, in which the OP thought the word "blatant" meant "obvious," but without the connotation of obvious intent in the actual definition

Ah, that makes sense. Okay. Thanks!
posted by rtha at 8:04 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


That thread was a trainwreck.

I didn't feel like the question was clear enough for me to give a useful answer. The adjectives and adverbs he used made it a stew of confusing contradictory stuff and which made any advice I could give tenuous. I've been in and witnessed incidents all along the continuum of offenses (from accidental viewing to premeditated lecherous voyeurism), and I couldn't figure out where his incident lay. In the absence of concrete detail, it was easy to read it through the prism of your own experiences, which is why we got the Cover Your Ass threaded advice, the conflicting apology advice, and a wide array of assumptions about what actually happened in the incident that muddied the waters.

Yes, I have "lost all respect" for a few individuals on the lecherous end of the continuum, and a few more towards the middle based on the ways they handled the situation subsequently. Having been on the receiving end of several poorly constructed "sorry for my bad workplace behavior in regards to your gender and/or possession of sexual organs" apologies, weasel apologies, or sheer weaseling, I know the apology can make it much worse if not couched appropriately.
posted by julen at 8:07 AM on August 19, 2010


Jessamyn: I guess this is the main issue for me.

Thanks for taking the trouble to spell this out. Perfectly clear now.
posted by aqsakal at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2010


I don't see how 'mansplain' is misandric, given that it clearly denotes a type of behaviour rather than a type of, well, man. It's a billion times less offensive than, say, feminazi.

I read "mansplain" as "a thing men do (frequently enough to be named after them) to excuse their boorish/boyish behavior (which happens frequently enough to have a damage control strategy named for them) in a self-serving way in an attempt to avoid responsibility." Yes, it's describing a behavior, but saying that it's so common to men, it's named after them. It's explaining, in a male way.

I fail to see a billion-degree difference between that and feminazi, to be honest.
posted by spaltavian at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


This is what I see going on: a lot of people who

a) Have a hard time understanding those who are different from them;
b) Are bringing in lots of baggage from hurt they've received in life; and
c) Have forgotten what they learned in Biology 101.

It's hard to be a woman in the workplace. (Not universally, but often.) When someone leers at you like that, it suggests that he's thinking of you as a piece of meat rather than as a colleague. It also carries with it a lot of social embarrassment. It means you have to be in a confined space with the person from then on, always suspecting that you're in his thoughts when he's masturbating at home. Since this obvious voyeurism is an urge most people are able to control, it also suggests the possibility that you're working with someone abnormal -- someone who might say or do something embarrassing in the future. Who wants any of that at work?

It's NOT true that men can't control their behavior. Here's what IS true: natural selection has programmed men to think of women as sexual objects. (Again, I'm generalizing: my gay friends would take issue.) Not ONLY as sexual objects. But those thoughts will occur to men and THAT'S what they can't control. Those thoughts come from the notorious "lizard brain," which has "tendrils" reaching up to the higher, more-rational areas. On the other hand, the higher, more-rational areas don't have tendrils reaching down into the lizard brain.

This means we (humans, not just men) can't stop our lizard brains. We can ignore it and fight against it. But we can't make it go away.

Those people, in the thread, who said, "I assume the men I work with are too busy thinking about making money to think about my body" are simply wrong. They are misunderstanding the human machine. Which is not to say that ALL the men at work are thinking about is the bodies of their co-workers. But the thoughts do come. I know this is a very, very, very uncomfortable thing for some people to hear, but if you are around other people in ANY environment, some of those people are thinking of you as a sexual object some of the time. Sorry, but people ARE animals, and selfish genes are selfish.

Which is, again, NOT an excuse for men leering at women. What it does mean is that if we have an OUNCE of compassion, we need to make it crystal clear that we're chastising ACTIONS and not THOUGHTS. We need to make it clear (to the OP and other men who might be reading the thread) that they're behaving badly if they do certain things but NOT if they have certain thoughts -- thoughts they really can't help having.

It also means this: since we have those thoughts, squelching them and not acting on them takes work. I don't mean arduous, backbreaking work (if I guy has to seriously strain to keep from leering at coworkers, he should see a psychiatrist), but work all the same. This work tends to get easier as men age, but it never (for most of us) entirely ceases to be work. It's work we should do; it's work we need to do; it's work others have every right to expect from us. But it's work. A differing amount for different men -- depending on lots of factors (age, sex drive, values, tiredness, etc.)

If someone lives a full life -- say 80 years -- and has to do this work all of his life, he is going to occasionally fail. That's The Law of Work. ANYTHING that you have to do and redo -- anything that you can't just do once and then be done with it -- is going to fail occasionally. Sometimes you ARE going to fuck up.

As compassionate humans, it's super important that we don't send people this message: "one strike and you're out." Because we're all going to have one strike. Saying "one strike and you're out" is like saying, "Sorry, but I don't give you permission to be human."

I am not talking about rules and laws here. Someone who makes a racial slur at work should probably be fired the FIRST time he does it. Someone who grabs a coworker's ass should definitely be fired. I'm talking about how we TALK to each other. That ass-grabber is reprehensible, but, who knows?, ten years later he may have worked through his problems. He may be sorry for what he did and try to make up for it. We don't need to tell him: "Based on what you've done, you're an irredeemable human being. Even Jesus can't save you."

I am exaggerating the response. No one in the thread said that. But there were many posts (maybe Jessamyn pruned some of them) that basically implied that they guy was irredeemable.

I believe that the super-angry responses are also lizard-brains talking. Any knee-jerk reaction is coming from the lizard brain. So, just like the OP needs to learn to control his inner iguana, many of the responders need to learn to control theirs. Otherwise we spiral into endless lizard wars -- which is fun in a SyFy movie, but not so fun in real life.

My life sucks right now, because I work in a toxic environment. My boss has never leered at me, but he does yell at me at least once a week for something I haven't done . He is nasty to me; he doesn't take what I say seriously; he makes unreasonable demands; etc. (Yes, I'm looking for a new job.) But you know what? If he said he was sorry, I would forgive him or at least try to. (I would still quit the job, but I'm talking person-to-person interaction here.) The fact that he -- a guy in his 30s -- is an asshole to me now does not necessarily mean he's doomed himself to be an asshole when he's 70.

TL;DR? Short version: try to be gentle with people -- including yourself.
posted by grumblebee at 8:12 AM on August 19, 2010 [39 favorites]


Between the women who were over-the-top indignant about something that their dads do (though probably with more tact)

Wait, so anything dads do is kosher? Cause, you know, there's lots of shitty things my dad did that I hope I never emulate. And I would heartily condemn anybody doing them.

Along with many other problems with that thread, this site has a problem with men. Insults get directed at men in a way they would never be directed at women. The bar for when people consider it OK to heap moral condemnation on men is much lower than with women. Using anti-man words like "mansplain" is seen as a way to score points, which is impossible to imagine with any anti-woman word. The gender configuration of that question made the disproportionate amount of outrage practically a foregone conclusion.

Oh lordy. Yes, us men have it soooo hard.

"What you did was over the line but you were provoked way inappropriately and the other party has a responsibility not to provoke way inappropriately like that.

Seriously?
posted by kmz at 8:13 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I don't see how 'mansplain' is misandric...

It's actually pretty hilarious, like barely even snotty, but I guess inserting it into the thread here is really just in keeping with Mefi's history of men making threads about bad male behavior eventually into threads about male victimhood.
posted by The Straightener at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2010 [32 favorites]


Being relatively new to this site (less than a year) I'm often a little nervous about questions like that one. If I have strong feelings that are directly relevant (in this case, having been asked pretty directly what I would have been thinking if I were the lady in that meeting with him) should I share them? How much should I soften them, if their strength is actually an important part of the answer?

And if other people in the thread are making statements that prompt further thoughts that seem relevant -- where to draw that line? What's helpful discussion, and what's fighting with people in the comments?

I'm sorry that this thread was so difficult to manage, Jessamyn. I hope I wasn't too much a part of the problem.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:18 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I guess inserting it into the thread here is really just in keeping with Mefi's history of men making threads about bad male behavior eventually into threads about male victimhood.

Wow.
posted by smackfu at 8:21 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Actually, The Straightener, this thread isn't about male bad behavior at all. Perhaps you should read the title again?

I never claimed to be a victim; I am not victimized by text. That doesn't mean it's not a shitty and sexist thing to say.
posted by spaltavian at 8:22 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Between the women who were over-the-top indignant about something that their dads do

Just wanted to say that I have never seen my Dad leer at another woman or ogle her breasts even when they were on display, let alone be looking up some woman's skirt. In fact, we were watching baywatch and Pamela Anderson was on, he asked what all the fuss was about - at 15 years old, I had to explain to my dad that people make a fuss about Pamela Anderson because of her enormous (fake) breasts.
posted by missmagenta at 8:26 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


So, we're agreed, we can all try a littler harder to be less full of GRAR in AskMe, yes?
posted by nomadicink at 8:30 AM on August 19, 2010


It appears that the usefulness of this MeTa is going to quickly decline now -- no offense to any posters above, but if this devolves into "My dad doesn't do that!" or about whether or not you feel that men are held to different standards on the site, this likely is just going to quickly turn into shouting and recipes.
posted by proj at 8:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


That said, having scrolled through the comments here...

It's interesting to me that there's talk here about how Metafilter is unfriendly and unfair to men, and that anti-man statements go unchallenged in a way that isn't fair.

I find this ironic, because I was just thinking that I have rarely seen such a concentration of "bio psychology" nonsense in which men explain over and over again that they've been programmed by evolution to objectify women and constantly think about them in a sexual way, and how I'm an ass/naive/unfair if I have a problem with that.

It's absurd.

You can come up with "evolutionary" reasons for all kinds of nonsense -- the kind of clannishness that results in disliking people who have a different skin tone, for instance, or the opinion that women are simply better suited for child rearing and therefore should do the majority of it. But we aren't hunter gatherers living on the plains. We're modern citizens who mostly live in incredibly dense urban and suburban sprawls of our own creation, and spend our lives saturated in the results of thousands of years of ever-evolving culture. It can be an interesting intellectual exercise to wonder about how much of our behavior has roots in our biology, but I can't see why that has any place in serious, practical conversations about how we behave in day-to-day life. And I'm frankly amazed at how often our "lizard brains" are trotted out in these conversations, usually by men and usually in a way that seeks to justify objectifying or demeaning behavior, on a site that generally has such a high level of discussion.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:35 AM on August 19, 2010 [36 favorites]


Rather than comment there and get deleted I'll ask here: do ya think he did the classic drop a pencil on the floor and retrieve move? Jeez.

Seriously, ladies, if you think your dad/uncle/grandfather/brother never ever did this you are deluding yourself. You are here, proof enough that dad checked out boobage.
posted by fixedgear at 8:37 AM on August 19, 2010


fixedgear, what's your point here? Your points seem wildly off topic about the matter at hand, so I'm confused as to what you're trying accomplish here.
posted by nomadicink at 8:39 AM on August 19, 2010


should I share them? How much should I soften them, if their strength is actually an important part of the answer?

You should soften them enough so that people who hear them are likely to take it to heart and listen to them. I am in no way saying that people should not have strong emotions or that those emotions are not valid. That said, people need to use good judgement and discretion when explaining those emotions to someone else to help them solve their problem. Examples

- "You are a total fucking asshole for acting that way shame on you, I am terribly offended."
- "Reading what you said made me feel that you're not being respectful of the woman whose skirt you were looking up and maybe don't understand how this might have made her feel, I would have been really offended for this reason..."

So, there's a real gap between explaining your emotions and simply acting out your emotions. I think generally acting out your emotions is not necessary on Ask MetaFilter. Explaining your emotions can be very very useful. You can say that you feel strongly about something without doing the allcaps, name-calling, eye-rolling commentary that some people seem to have a hard time setting aside.

And ask yourself "Is the person who I am trying to talk to likely to hear and understand me if I talk to them like this?" I know that for some people this is a level of abstraction that does not come naturally to them or that their emotions sometimes don't permit/ I'd argue that since all we are is words on a website to each other, if you don't have the ability to take a step back from what you are writing in order to be actually helpful and not just spleen-venting, then you should maybe wait for a time when you can be.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:40 AM on August 19, 2010 [10 favorites]


And I'm frankly amazed at how often our "lizard brains" are trotted out in these conversations, usually by men and usually in a way that seeks to justify objectifying or demeaning behavior, on a site that generally has such a high level of discussion.

Are you including me in the list of people you're criticizing, because I'm the person who most recently mentioned lizard brains before your post. I also said, twice, and once in bold, that "having a lizard brain is NOT an excuse for leering at women."

People REALLY want to simplify life. I sympathize with the urge. But, alas, life isn't simple. You are completely right that we're no longer hunter gatherers. Culture has a HUGE effect on us. We also DO have lizard brains. They also have a huge effect on us. No matter how many scientists say over and over again, "It's not nature OR nurture; it's nature AND nurture," people insist on this binary thinking.

If you deny the power of instinct, you're wrong. If you deny the power of culture, you're wrong.
posted by grumblebee at 8:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


I thought it was a case of language fail, in which the OP thought the word "blatant" meant "obvious," but without the connotation of obvious intent in the actual definition

Indeed, although I would say that 'blatant' is more and more commonly used to mean 'completely obvious' without any suggestion of intent.

Yet nobody [...] would say if Reyna will be disciplined for such a blatant mistake.

...his postjudgment motion was such a blatant error that Guyton did not need expert testimony...

However, given the atmosphere in the thread, it's not surprising that many chose to take the most uncharitable reading possible (even though that meant ignoring the word 'unwittingly') and assume that the OP had taken some action to enable him to look up the woman's skirt, rather than, say, catching an unintentional though undeniable view.

Like others in this thread, I have had past questions misinterpreted to suit the agenda of the answerer and, like others, it has made me less willing to use AskMe for anything other than purely factual enquiries. While I don't currently have any serious problems in my personal life, others do and may not be getting the help they need. Axe grinding and snark has a price.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 8:47 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


I don't see how 'mansplain' is misandric, given that it clearly denotes a type of behaviour rather than a type of, well, man.

Would you ever use this as an excuse for an anti-woman word, or an anti-black or anti-gay word -- that it only puts down some members of the group for being characteristic of the group?
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


Thanks, Narrative Priorities. I am so tired of this argument to explain anything that, yes, might be 'natural' but should not necessarily be seen as the way of things because of it.

I wish my workplace had lizard robots. Although I did get to play with Play-doh today. I made a puppy.
posted by mippy at 8:48 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


For example, an old-fashioned style of joke is to put down "women drivers." So, if a woman is driving badly, you can say: "Ha -- a woman driver!" This implies not just that women tend to be bad drivers, but that it's inherently comical to think of a woman trying to handle such a manly task. Now, that does leave open the possibility that some women are good drivers. But it's still sexist, isn't it?
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:51 AM on August 19, 2010


You know, I wonder what would happen if someone were to go through the AskMe archives and look for answers that contain statements of the form "You are a _____" or "He/she is a _____" -- where the blank is filled in with some negative type of person, e.g. "You're a jerk," or "He's a loser."

I'll bet over 90% of them would be directed at men. The word "mansplain" is just a microcosm of a much broader phenomenon: there's a different way of talking to and about men than to or about women on this site.

I would also suggest that if your main contribution to an AskMe question is to tell someone "You are a ______" or "He is a _______" or "She is a _______," you might want to reconsider your answer.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would you ever use this as an excuse for an anti-woman word, or an anti-black or anti-gay word -- that it only puts down some members of the group for being characteristic of the group?

We see people do this all the time. The big difference between the three groups that you're referring to and men-as-a-group is that all three have been subject to systematic and institutionalized oppression for centuries, both socially and legally, because of their characteristics. I'm aware that there is a huge discussion possible about this general topic and I'd prefer not to get into it here but we can if you'd like to. I also know that this is a subject that you care deeply about.

I'd like to suggest that if it's something that's important to you, you find a way to describe and discuss the actual troublesome aspects of this from either a personal or a societal perspective. Maybe find some other people who feel similarly and keep an eye on how it's being used on the site. If you don't like it because you think it's part of a bigger trend, make a case for it. If you don't like it because it hurts your feelings, make a case. If you don't like it because you'd like to see less of it on MeFi, excellent, we agree with you. However, it's not going to become a "we will always delete this word if we see it and it's okay to threadshit if you see it by lecturing people not to use it" word on the site because it's just not that sort of word. I find it mildly annoying because I think it's lazy shorthand for people's confirmation bias and it's dismissive. That said, it's also vaguely amusing to a lot of people and can capture a lot of nuance in a single word.

So, encouraging people to be better communicators and not using lazy shorthand generally is a great idea. Getting bent out of shape about the usage of a single word if you don't see it as part of a large trend that you can outline is unlikely to be a fulfilling path for you.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 8:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [18 favorites]


my thought process on reading that askme (just now, because it was linked here.):

-holy shit, that guy is a fucking asshole. I hope he loses his job. He shouldn't even have a job if that's how he treats people, what a fucking dick he intentionally looked up a coworker's skirt what the fuck?!
-that felt good. I feel better having gotten that out in my brain.
-ok, so since the guy knows he's done a Bad Thing, what the fuck now?
-well, does he? he doesn't even seem apologetic so much as sorry he got caught.
-but you know what, if he were all like "I know I am terrible and this was such a terrible thing to do" I'd think it was a hollow apology to soften the blow of what he'd done.
-whatever, maybe there's some answer that includes "I really hope you don't ever do something like that again and that you understand why it's such a terrible thing to do" and then also has a recommendation for how to handle the situation now.
-so, in answering the question, how does he handle the situation now?
-jesus christ, I have NO fucking idea. I think I would run out of the office screaming and light myself on fire.
-hehehe, I should put that as an answer. "run out of the office screaming and light yourself on fire."
-now now, me, let's not vandalize askme. have some self-control.
-awwww. don't wanna.
-ok ok, for real, though. what answer could we give?
-fuck if I know. for real, no idea.
-fuck it. I'm a go get a sandwich. I hope this guy figures out how not to fucking perv out all the time.
posted by shmegegge at 8:56 AM on August 19, 2010 [23 favorites]


I've always thought "mansplain" was that peculiar widelegged, use-up-all-the-space-like-I-own-it-or-my-bollocks-are-really-sore stance that somepeople take when they sit on the tube/metro.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:57 AM on August 19, 2010


No no, that's mansplayed.
posted by Drastic at 8:58 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


The word "mansplain" is just a microcosm of a much broader phenomenon: there's a different way of talking to and about men than to or about women on this site.

Would it be possible for you to take that to a separate MetaTalk post? It feels like you're hijacking this one to discuss what you feel is a very important issue. I'm not sure it has much to do with this MeTa.
posted by nomadicink at 8:59 AM on August 19, 2010


I regularly hear one of these evo-psych explanations from women -- on the subject of looking for a mate with a certain income profile (I have had a lot of single female friends though most of them have for the moment paired up). The non-creepy explanation proferred is always the "good provider" -- even if there is no intention of having kids. Wait, not always. One was honest enough to say she wants to take nice vacations and not have to pay for both of them. That's not what I usually hear, though.

I suspect that we don't hear these sorts of things from women more often not because they aren't believed, or adopted, but because those aren't the feet being put to the fire. When do we ever even get into a conversation about height preferences of women? Usually as some sort of defensive observation in a conversation about how terrible men are for having similar preferences about weight. It's a culture of blame.

I'm not going to append to this any ridiculous disclaimer about how women have it worse in all kinds of other ways, because I expect my fellow MeFites to be intelligent and mature enough to handle the fact that it's possible to be shitty to more than one group in different ways.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:00 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I don't know if it's a matter of men so much having more "lizard brain" tendencies than women... maybe it's just that men's lizard brains have more opportunities for provocation.

There is not one man in my office who has ever worn anything to work that was short enough or tight enough that any interesting part of his anatomy was visible. Yet several of the busty women here wear low-cut blouses, and there is one very attractive young woman who doesn't seem to own a single piece of clothing that doesn't tightly cling to her rear end or have half her breasts on display.

I didn't think anyone was saying that guys can't help being jerks, as in deliberately ogling, making remarks, touching, or heaven forbid, assaulting a woman who has skin showing. Just that sometimes their eyes are going to be drawn to that automatically if it's right in front of them, and even nice, non-creepy guys may not catch themselves doing it right away.

If the attractive guys in my office were wearing skin-tight pants that outlined their package, open necklines that showed off a hairy chest, bun-hugging jeans and fitted shirts that clung to a nicely-muscled torso then I'll bet women would find their eyes wandering just as much as men do.

(And if ugly guys were dressing that way we'd be looking in horror, but still, nevertheless, looking because goddamn.)
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:03 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I can't believe the answers saying he might (or should!) be fired, or who expect he's likely to engage in physical or verbal sexual harassment. Yes, ogling is wrong. But it's really a sin of omission in the sense that often not staring at a woman's naughty bits involves a constant control of where your gaze is going (rather than making the conscious decision to look at those bits). In other words, sometimes it takes an effort to keep your eyes on the other person's face only (I know this was the case for me in my 20s).* If I grope you, or say something inappropriate, or leer, or stare constantly without stopping, then sure that's active behavior that easily falls under the rubric of harassment. But the odd stare? No.

I realize it's uncomfortable for the woman, and that my discomfort from realizing I've just stared at a woman does not equal hers from being stared at. And it's unfortunate that this happens, and so I make an effort to not stare at women in such a manner (and thankfully it has gotten easier in the past few years; I'm not certain whether that is a result of my relationship/marriage or growing older or a combination of both).

But women who come into an AskMe to say that they don't understand how a man can possibly be so inhumane as to look at a woman: look, a lot of people responded to the "do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not" with "Of course they don't. That's not how adults/grown ups/decent humans behave." and I have to tell you that the truth is that guys look all the time. It's an instinctual process and although women do "check out" men from time to time I have to think this is one of those areas where there is a difference between the genders. Again, most men who are decent will try to not make a habit of this, but it will happen.

Also, think of it this way: the natural, pre-civilized state of humans is to be naked. However, our society favors clothed individuals. From what I've heard, young kids like being naked. I remember this was true for me as a young child of 2-4 (and there are a bunch of photos that attest to this, photos that will never ever see the light of day again if I have any say over it). We are socialized to put on clothes each day until the idea of taking the effort to purchase, clean, and then wear six or seven items every day seems like natural behavior.

In the same way, the human's natural state is to be sexual. From a biological standpoint, we are supposed to be evaluating humans of the opposite gender for their suitability as mates. Assuming we are adequately fed, sheltered, and safe from predators (an expectation that is pretty much guaranteed in modern society) our only other preoccupation would be procreation. But from a societal perspective, we are expected in most contexts to be asexual and to avoid these instincts in exactly the same way we are supposed to remain clothed. And yet, we are not really socialized to think this way in the same way we are socialized about clothing. We are constantly bombarded by images and messages in which woman are highly sexualized and where there is a direct emphasis put on the naughty bits we are expressly forbidden from ogling.

It goes like this: you're looking at her face, then you realize you're staring at her eyes for too long, you look away, your eyes flit down to her boobs for an instant, you realize you're looking at her boobs, your eyes go back to her eyes -- did she see you staring? Well, now you can't look into her eyes; you're sure she can read your thoughts! Oh no! Look at something else -- her nose? Maybe just stare off into space. Suddenly you realize you haven't heard anything she's said for the last 4-5 minutes.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:05 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


There is not one man in my office who has ever worn anything to work that was short enough or tight enough that any interesting part of his anatomy was visible.

It's really not necessary. Really. There's a woman here where I work who leers at me when I (am forced to) visit her office -- every. time. I. enter. *looks at face, looks down the body, pauses at crotch, returns to face*

Being a guy, I found this flattering at first, if disconcerting. Then annoying. Then disgust-provoking. Now I just find it tiresome and I find excuses not to interact with her at all. I readily admit that if I didn't find her attractive, that mental process would probably have sped by a lot quicker or skipped a few steps. That isn't enough, by a long shot, to keep it in "flattering" territory, though. But no, no skimpy clothing required.

I think women are just (usually) waaay more subtle than men is all.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:11 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I find it mildly annoying because I think it's lazy shorthand for people's confirmation bias and it's dismissive. That said, it's also vaguely amusing to a lot of people and can capture a lot of nuance in a single word.

See, that's why I kind of like the word 'mansplain' -- it not only captures a lot of nuance, but also a lot of shared cultural history and backstory and internetmemery all in 9 little letters. If you have spent any time reading some of the larger feminist blogs (something I've had to cut out in the past year or so, I just can't do it anymore, I get too stabby), the word really does sum up and instantly compare the current sentiment being expressed to the dozens, hundreds, thousands of comments that have preceded it. Nothing new under the sun, etc.

I like to think of it this way: is there a comparable female term? With the small exception of menstruation, childbirth and other bodily experiences which currently cannot be performed by men, can women really femsplain anything? There is generally not a sense of "here, let me tell you how to feel about this topic because I know better than you" when it comes to, say, describing the passage of an 8-lb baby through your nethers because it's a biological fact that men cannot ACTUALLY know how that feels.

Mansplaining presumes that the 'splainer not only knows more about the topic at hand but also that you need to have it explained TO you, since you cannot possibly understand. Personally, I think the word 'boyzone' is more annoying, all things considered, if we're discussing shorthand words that are irritating.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I agree with Mayor Curley. A classic of comedy overreaction and hypersensitivity, that thread.
posted by Decani at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think women are just (usually) waaay more subtle than men is all.

Could be. But that again it could be because the guys aren't providing anything particularly compelling to look at. Speaking from personal experience, I'm aware of which guys in my office have nice bodies and not just by reputation. I've looked. But I don't get that magnetic LOOK AT THAT urge like I do when I see something more obvious on display.

Of course women with crushes and strong attractions are going to look more, as are men. That wasn't really the point I was trying to make.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2010


With the small exception of menstruation, childbirth and other bodily experiences which currently cannot be performed by men, can women really femsplain anything? There is generally not a sense of "here, let me tell you how to feel about this topic because I know better than you"

Momsplain?
posted by Gator at 9:19 AM on August 19, 2010 [11 favorites]


Okay, here's the thing: the poster used seemingly conflicting language to describe the events, but didn't say what actually happened. Many are scolding because others didn't take the most charitable possible view... But what we do know is that the woman herself was upset enough to get up and walk out of the room.

He says, she caught me looking up her skirt (yes, it was blatant). He doesn't say "I inadvertently glanced up her skirt a moment." Perhaps he inadvertently glanced up her skirt for a moment, but that's not what he's told us. Without being specific about what he did, and whether he's done this sort of thing before, to her or other women in the office, all we know is that he describes himself as having been "caught" and "busted" at doing something blatant.

Answerers could take the most charitable view and assume that he's misstating himself, and that all he did was quickly glance without realizing, and we could say, "hey, no biggie; it happens to most of us." But would that be the best advice? It's the most charitable, for sure, but from what I can make of the incident, it wouldn't seem like very good guidance.

Anonymous questions are almost always a bit of a snakepit, because the poster can't clarify and refine, or answer questions. It would be much better if there were a way that anonymous posters to respond in their owns threads, but since there isn't, I'd encourage people to get a separate account to ask something anonymously, if possible, so that they can resolve anything that is unclear in their post.
posted by taz at 9:20 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


can women really femsplain anything?

I think the equivalent is a woman refusing to explain something to a man because he wouldn't understand. Fem-no-splain?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:22 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


If the attractive guys in my office were wearing skin-tight pants that outlined their package, open necklines that showed off a hairy chest, bun-hugging jeans and fitted shirts that clung to a nicely-muscled torso then I'll bet women would find their eyes wandering

I've worked with a guy who wore pants that accentuated his package and I definitely had a hard time not looking. Now, I did not go out of my way to engineer situations so I could be around him or get an even better view, but it definitely was a "oh god don't look at his crotch don't look at his crotch don't look at his crotch don't look at his crotch" type situation whenever he was around. And there were times when I glanced, not because I felt entitled to, but because the impulse came and went before I thought to stop it.
posted by cottonswab at 9:23 AM on August 19, 2010


Ha! good one, Gator. Space Coyote, the reason you get fem-no-splain has been adequately explained in many a thread here, I think. (This one comes to mind). Fem-no-splainin' is also biological in nature and exists solely to prevent women from pounding their heads on their desks crying out "OH GOD, NOT THIS AGAIN."
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mansplaining presumes that the 'splainer not only knows more about the topic at hand but also that you need to have it explained TO you, since you cannot possibly understand
I disagree - IMO the 'splainer thinks (s)he knows more about the topic at hand etc. IME it's a trait far more common in men and is kinda linked to the 'man answers' we get where a commenter, usually male but not exclusively, doesn't know the answer to a question but feels compelled to answer it anyway.
posted by missmagenta at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2010


The definition of "look" (et al) is getting narrowed down pretty dramatically but at different points of meaning here. People are arguing from different points in the context using the same words

A look can be a glance, a drifting of eyes down a body or across a chest or crotch.
It can be a drift and dwell action - where the eyes land on a chest/crotch for a few seconds and then the look is ripped away to look someplace else.
It can be a stare, where the eyes fix on like a tractor beam.
It can be an ogle, where the stare is accompanied by a shift of body position to get a better look and/or accompanying action (drooling/mouth action, gestures - including thumbs up, charades, etc, or verbal accompaniment)
It can be a leer, which is a ogle with more concentrated/obvious sexual elements
It can be lecherous jerkiness (when the intent is make the viewee uncomfortable and to establish dominance, usually sexual).

Somewhere in the stare/ogle region is where it can become a problem for me, but it depends on the context. I don't go around expecting people not to look at me, but I expect them to at least pretend I am not an object there for their entertainment. I suspect most women are like this or the "let's put blinders on everyone!" movement would be a lot more active.
posted by julen at 9:25 AM on August 19, 2010


See, that's why I kind of like the word 'mansplain'

It's seems kind of funny that you don't get why it's offensive and oppressive.

I could explain, but I'm not going to.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 9:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the equivalent is a woman refusing to explain something to a man because he wouldn't understand. Fem-no-splain?

Its not because you wouldn't understand, its because you're already supposed to know, we shouldn't have to explain it ;)
posted by missmagenta at 9:30 AM on August 19, 2010


Mansplaining presumes that the 'splainer not only knows more about the topic at hand but also that you need to have it explained TO you, since you cannot possibly understand. Personally, I think the word 'boyzone' is more annoying, all things considered, if we're discussing shorthand words that are irritating.

As a male irritated by 'mansplaining' (because it is used to reduce people's contributions here* to a square on a bingo card), I will take it under advisement that the bitter girl thinks my irritation is misplaced, but irritation to 'boyzone' is acceptable.

* Here at metafilter, specifically, so I don't feel that historical systematic and institutionalized oppression outside the community is especially relevant.

posted by and hosted from Uranus at 9:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Personally, I don't care how intentional or unintentional the "leering" is. "Leering" at me causes me to lose respect for you. At work, at a party, in the world. "Leering" at any woman or any guy in tight trousers (except in very very very constrained circumstances) causes me to lose respect for you.

Catching the accidental glimpse at work is not the issue. Casting an admiring glance in the world is not the issue. Viewing all women as basically there for your lingering visual pleasure in all circumstances or reacting as though you've gotten away with some awesome dirty deed when you get away with viewing a colleague as there for your lingering visual pleasure is dehumanizing.

I think, as many have noted, the wording of the question struck (what seemed to be a majority of) users as stating not an understandable social mishap, but stating a deliberate crossing of an unacceptable social line. This is the debate that belongs in meta, not in ask. Like noted above by Forktine, the anon OP sounded kind of clueless, both ashamed and proud all at once. It was hard not to react to that part of the question because that in part determines how women react to being oggled at work. A guy who comes off as thrilled to have gotten away with peeking at your panties is more likely to disgust you than a guy who appears as embarrassed as you that your skirt hiked up in a meeting. I apologize for not making that more clear in my answer.
posted by crush-onastick at 9:31 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Argh. I'm caught in a cycle of self-disclosure. I DO NOT wear tight-fitting pants. (not that anyone was responding particularly to my anecdote; carry on)

And there were times when I glanced, not because I felt entitled to, but because the impulse came and went before I thought to stop it.

At some point, exhibition becomes "attractive" for entirely different reasons. It's the Austin Powers "mole" joke all over again.

FWIW, I think there's a pretty big difference between engineering an opportunity to look up a woman's skirt, and sitting across from a seated woman wearing so short a skirt that there's something already on display that draws the same kind of look/don't look impulses being talked about here. The former is WAY over the line.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2010


Durn, I must introduce you to this particular employee at my favorite Mexican restaurant here. First time I met her, I thought, "Oh, I have finally done it. I have finally pissed my pants, in public, no less, due to dementia. Perhaps if I swiftly snatch a butterknife from the nearest table and jab it into my neck just so, I can simultaneously die of shame and the gouting blood will cover the crotchstain." that's how much she stared.

I still run to the bathroom right before I visit that place, every time.
posted by adipocere at 9:32 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Mansplaining presumes that the 'splainer not only knows more about the topic at hand but also that you need to have it explained TO you, since you cannot possibly understand

I disagree - IMO the 'splainer thinks (s)he knows more about the topic at hand etc. IME it's a trait far more common in men and is kinda linked to the 'man answers' we get where a commenter, usually male but not exclusively, doesn't know the answer to a question but feels compelled to answer it anyway.


IDK, I definitely see a difference between mansplaining and male answer syndrome. I think MAS is more based in a genuine need to be/feel helpful in some way, a kind of "well, I'm not totally sure but here's what I think, and we can discuss this further and maybe work it out together."

Mansplaining, on the other hand, is more dismissive of the mansplainee's ability to even comprehend such lofty ideas as the mansplainer regularly ponders within the vast depths of the mansplainer's magnificent, clever fact filled mind. The mansplainee is very clearly supposed to be in an intellectually subordinate position to the mansplainer, not an equal one.

oh look beans.
posted by elizardbits at 9:33 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Er, also - I'm not advocating the use of either phrase or saying one is less offensive than the other. I'm just describing what I see as the difference between them, without making any statements as to their relative value within the universe.
posted by elizardbits at 9:36 AM on August 19, 2010


Oh, elizardbits. *shakes head sadly* Those aren't beans. Those are peas. I know, I know. They're out of their pod! It's so confusing! I sympathize. I really do.

And adipocere: you go back? Must be awesome Mexican food.
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 9:36 AM on August 19, 2010


Tangentially, I knew this guy once who was unable to identify the majority of the western world's most common vegetables in their natural, just-picked form. When presented with peas in a pod, he was baffled beyond words, as the only peas with which he was familiar were the kind that came mushy and in tins.

His reaction to the first IRL artichoke he'd ever seen was most comical, especially when he was informed that it was an actual food and not some kind of bioweapon.
posted by elizardbits at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Its not because you wouldn't understand, its because you're already supposed to know, we shouldn't have to explain it ;)

Men receiving femsilence are supposed to have fempathy. I also theorize that both mansplaining and mansplaying are defensive reactions intended to show that the fellow defies any fear of being manspayed.

I'll stop now.
posted by Drastic at 9:39 AM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I disagree - IMO the 'splainer thinks (s)he knows more about the topic at hand etc.

Good point, missmagenta, (my bolding above), and more indicative of what I was actually thinking until I got all caught up in thinking about men not understanding childbirth and then remembering that horrible movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito where Arnold gets pregnant and oh god, pleasemakeitstop.

Any time your thought process gets interrupted by "yeah, well, except Arnold Schwarzenegger," you might want to quit while you're ahead.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:46 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Okay, here's the thing: the poster used seemingly conflicting language to describe the events, but didn't say what actually happened. Many are scolding because others didn't take the most charitable possible view... But what we do know is that the woman herself was upset enough to get up and walk out of the room.

This is what stood out for me too, and it's what made the whole thread too depressing to comment in.

The words the OP uses to describe his actions are unclear and contradictory, but the one thing that's clear is that the woman 1) noticed his actions and 2) was upset by them, enough that she had to leave the room. Some people are saying that commenters are jumping on the OP by ascribing to him the worst possible motives, calling him a terrible human being, etc. Maybe there's some of that. But I see an equal (if not greater than) amount of excusing the OP - assuming it was an accidental glance, that he was clearly provoked by the woman's lack of professional attire, etc.

I don't know what the hell really happened, and I don't much care. But I can't get that woman out of my mind. I don't expect that she'll ever read that particular thread and recognize herself, but I can imagine another young woman reading it - one who felt violated in the workplace by some unwanted ogling - and deciding that she needs to do what so many women have been unconsciously trained to do: not make a fuss because clearly she's at fault too in some way, and she doesn't want to appear unfriendly and puritanical and "militant", and she doesn't understand the way human bodies and brains work blah blah blah lizard brains evo-psych bullshit.

I'm not saying anyone needed to change their behavior or advice in that thread. It is what it is. It's just...depressing.
posted by Salieri at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


The Mexican food is good, but ... the best margarita I have ever had. They're what prompted my first AskMe question, as a matter of fact. Margaritas so good, I, uh ... bribed an ex-waitress for the formula recently (I have no shame). They're amazing. And I say this as having margaritas as my signature drink since I first began making drinks and the only mixed drink for which I will ask. They put anything I have ever done or have otherwise tasted to shame.

If this does turn out to be the correct formula, I may never return. Until then, I'll wear a big shiny bow on my crotch if it means I can have one of these margaritas. Stare away, and put salt on this one.
posted by adipocere at 9:50 AM on August 19, 2010

Mansplaining, on the other hand, is more dismissive of the mansplainee's ability to even comprehend such lofty ideas as the mansplainer regularly ponders within the vast depths of the mansplainer's magnificent, clever fact filled mind. The mansplainee is very clearly supposed to be in an intellectually subordinate position to the mansplainer, not an equal one.
I said I wouldn't talk in this thread, but this one stood out as interesting and i'll pretend that it's a different topic entirely. The perfect case of the mansplaining vibe, IMO, is the character Mr Meyerburg from the movie Cold Comfort Farm. He's a self-absorbed writer who insists the female protagonist of the film would love him if she weren't so sexually repressed, and starts out conversations with the thought-provoking question, "Do you believe that women... have souls?" He considers himself quite refined and modern because he believes that the answer is, in fact, yes.

It's especially awesome because he's played by Stephen Fry, who is awesome.
posted by verb at 9:51 AM on August 19, 2010


Also, I have to ask, to those of you who have "lost all respect" for someone because you caught them peeking - and have never informed that person of the same - are you sure they did it intentionally? Double sure? Triple sure? This kind of makes me nervous.

If a male I work with acts respectfully toward me and other female colleagues, doesn't display a contemptuous attitude towards females in his conversation, and doesn't go around leering at everybody, and the issue was a quick glance, I'd be briefly uncomfortable and possibly more watchful around the guy for a little while. I'd remember if it happened again, and I'd forget if it didn't.

If the guy was blatantly leering or lingering, and/or I'd caught him at leering at other women, and/or he'd done it more than once to me, yeah, it doesn't matter whether he's doing it intentionally or consciously. I've got no respect and no wish to be around him.
posted by moira at 10:04 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


but the one thing that's clear is that the woman 1) noticed his actions and 2) was upset by them, enough that she had to leave the room.

Neither I or you know is she was upset. She could have been frustrated, embarrassed, annoyed or having a bad day and just tired at that point or some combination of all the above.

We just don't know, but some would like to ascribe emotions to her.
posted by nomadicink at 10:09 AM on August 19, 2010


"...wearing my assless chaps..."

Chaps, by definition, are assless. Chaps with an ass are pants.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 10:18 AM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


> there's talk here about how Metafilter is unfriendly and unfair to men, and that anti-man statements go unchallenged in a way that isn't fair.

That talk comes from a few Proud Defenders of Imperiled Masculinity and can be safely ignored. It takes all kinds to make a Filter, and some are more annoying than others.
posted by languagehat at 10:21 AM on August 19, 2010 [5 favorites]


Just a heads up that these threads going badly [anonymous AskMe questions that are not worded so great about a touchy issue] makes Team Mod much less likely to approve them in the future

Well, that sucks. Seems to be a lot of "MetaFilter does not do this well" lately because some people refuse to behave or recuse themselves from topics they are incapable of showing restraint on. It makes the site a little worse for every subject that gets thrown in the auto-delete bin because it's a guaranteed shit-storm. A huge number of comments on that thread are out of line. How hard is it to just answer the question or move on? You don't have to like the asker.

Sure, it would help these go better if every question on a potentially contentious subject were carefully written with exhaustive detail to head off any possible misinterpretation, vetted for ambiguities, then proof-read 2-3 times to make sure there's no word or phrase that axe-grinders will fixate on as a launching point for their tired bullshit. But I think the nature of these situations is the people making them don't have the awareness of the topic to do so which is why they are in the situation to begin with. And more to the point, why should the asker be more responsible for these threads "going well" than the people breaking guidelines?

Unfortunately, part of the problem is that the OP specifically asked "Did you lose your respect for the peeper, or do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not?" and followed up with the killer: "Any advice would be valued."

It is possible to answer this without being an asshole. I read the thread top-to-bottom and a lot of people managed to do so. The problem is, even more failed spectacularly. That thread is seriously frustrating to read even after cleanup. There are people I disagree with strongly there that I would love to disagree with, but my understanding is this is unambiguously against the rules, and I don't even read AskMe as much as the blue. It is ridiculous that frequent contributors don't know better. I wish they would knock it off before nearly anything that people disagree on becomes verboten.
posted by cj_ at 10:27 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The post has me curious as to whether the U.S. is less "gawker tolerant" than other cultures. It seems at least in some European nations, while gawking (and I'm speaking strictly male on female here) isn't celebrated, it is certainly seen as a more common part of life, even in the work place.

Does this make the U.S. culture more advanced in terms of gender equality, or more backwards in terms sexual openness? Or is it just a whole different thing going on in Europe?

This is one of those questions I'd love to post on the green, but it seems too chatty, and probably unwelcome following the steps of the original post.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chaps with an ass are pants.

Or currently being worn.

*on languagehat, safely takes leave*
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2010


Many are scolding because others didn't take the most charitable possible view...

Here's my interpretation (admittedly based on nothing other than guesswork). He PURPOSEFULLY and CONSCIOUSLY looked up her skirt. I doubt he did anything premeditated like lie on the floor or put mirrors on his shoes. My guess is that it's something like she was sitting in a chair and didn't realize that her angle and skirt length gave people a potential view. Sometimes women sit across from me on the subway and I can see their panties. It happens.

(I PRAY that no one reads that last sentence and thinks I'm excising anything. The CORRECT thing for me to do when that happens is to look away. If I look up he dress, it's not her fault because her dress was too short or because she was sitting the wrong way.)

What you're SUPPOSED to do in those situations is look somewhere else. My guess is that he knows that and knew it at the time. But he made a bad decision, looked, and she saw him looking. Which is pretty much what he says. If I'd done that, I probably would have used the word "blatant," too.

I am saying all this, because I can see an assumption creeping into this thread that the people who are upset with the way they guy was treated are people who think the guy didn't do anything wrong. That's not necessarily true. I think he did something wrong. And it I don't think it's a minor offense, either. He made it hard for a coworker to be at work! Bad, bad, bad!

I am upset because I feel that he acted like a dick but is being treated as a war criminal. That's an overstatement, of course. I'm just describing my feelings. Those feelings are based on reading several people's posts (I'm not sure if they're still in the thread) that, in one form or another, say he's irredeemable.

It seems as if people think you either have to decide he didn't do anything wrong or you have to damn him to hell. Remember what Jesus said (and this is coming to you via an atheist): "Love thine enemy." Which doesn't mean "excuse thine enemy."

There is NO excuse for what he did. But that doesn't mean there's no excuse for HIM.
posted by grumblebee at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2010 [8 favorites]


it seems some of the more attractive ladies have to deal with near daily harassment in one form or another either at work, walking down the street or just sitting quietly reading a book in a cafe. If that were happening to me I think I would be much more GRAR about it.

I think this is it - like the oglee's attractiveness is an excuse to ogle, not just how she is dressed, and women do get sick of it and being expected to expect it.
posted by Pax at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree with most of that, grumblebee, and I also agree with Jess, when she says that you can speak your mind, but if you can't do it respectfully, you need to not be answering that question. If nothing else, if it's something you feel strongly about, then you serve your cause much better by making a reasoned response.
posted by taz at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2010


That thread and some of this one had some of what I see a fair bit: My opinion or experience = FACT and to say otherwise is absurd.

The thought of apologizing is more than reasonable, shows awareness, regret, etc.

Also, I have seen people go to HR for things along those lines or (allegedly) checking out a woman's chest or checking out her crotch while she was wearing jeans. I have seen people's contracts terminated for things along those lines. I have seen people go to HR over a complete misunderstanding -- thought they heard a word not "C" or "N" and they didn't.

Too, HILARIOUS? More like EMBARRASSMENT.
posted by ambient2 at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am upset because I feel that he acted like a dick but is being treated as a war criminal.

This.
posted by lalex at 11:01 AM on August 19, 2010




Chaps with an ass are pants.

Or currently being worn.

*on languagehat, safely takes leave*
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:29 PM on August 19


Eponystrerical.

(Yes, a 12 year old has no business reading this thread; don't tell my folks.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:17 AM on August 19, 2010


I am upset because I feel that he acted like a dick but is being treated as a war criminal.

I think part of the problem there is that he asked "did you lose your respect for the peeper," so there are tons of answers with people answering in the affirmative. When you read post after post of people saying that they wouldn't respect him, it's cumulatively very harsh. Yet it answers a specific question posed by anonymous.
posted by taz at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Many are scolding because others didn't take the most charitable possible view...

I don't see many people urging a single reading that absolves the OP entirely. I see criticism of certain replies in the AskMe thread which took a strongly uncharitable reading, focusing on the most damning interpretation of the most negative words and ignoring anything in the question that contradicted this view.

Certainty that the OP took a conscious action to gain a view up his colleague's skirt is misplaced and so is certainty that his eyes accidentally fell upon exposed flesh at just the wrong moment. I don't believe the former is being focussed on because of a desire to defend lechery, but because it was more prevalent in the original thread.

He says, she caught me looking up her skirt (yes, it was blatant). He doesn't say "I inadvertently glanced up her skirt a moment." Perhaps he inadvertently glanced up her skirt for a moment, but that's not what he's told us.

He used the word 'unwittingly', which implies an inadvertent act, although it qualifies an adjective rather the act itself. A range of interpretations seem possible and answers which don't acknowledge this are, all other things being equal, less helpful than those which do.

That's not to say every answer needs to cover all possible versions of the situation. However, prefacing even strongly-worded comments with "If you were trying to see up her skirt then...." or "If you didn't move your eyes away quickly enough..." would be very helpful to the OP.
posted by Busy Old Fool at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2010


At the same time, there were a bunch of crap comments about the woman, how she shouldn't have been dressed so provocatively in the first place, the appropriateness of short skirts in the workplace, and speculating as to just how could he have seen up her skirt anyway, none of which was "answering the question or being helpful to the asker" as far as I could tell.

The thread is not the place for that. Can there be dressing that is distracting in a professional setting? Yes. Sometimes its not sexual, sometimes it is. The problem for women is that there is a massive double standard. They are criticized if they don't look "pretty" but if they look too "sexual" its bad. (See Carly Fiorina's comments about Barbara Boxer).

But I have a therapist who dresses in a way that none of my orior female therapists dressed and it takes away from me focusing on what I'm working with to have to not look. I know it is my responsibility, and I discharge it faithfully, but it does distract me and make it harder to stay focused on the main thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:23 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


That thread and some of this one had some of what I see a fair bit: My opinion or experience = FACT and to say otherwise is absurd.

Actually, I think "a fair bit" is a major understatement.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:28 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


That talk comes from a few Proud Defenders of Imperiled Masculinity and can be safely ignored.

You know, I can't get on board with ignoring anyone. The fact that people don't like some of the things that people say does not mean they should be ignored.

The idea that somehow, there can be no room for improvement in society's view of men is as ignorant as believing that we don't have a long way to go in improving society's view of women. Nor is it a zero sum game as some advocate.

That's not to say that the asker wasn't an ass--but he knows he made a mistake and wants to find a way to apologize. Its the most basic of responses when someone does something wrong. Some of the responses in the thread might scare him off from doing the right thing, which is apologizing.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:30 AM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Important information mentioned only in the title of a post is frequently disregarded/ignored/missed on ask (particularly those that come via the front page where the title is not shown) so I don't think people are necessarily wilfully ignoring that part to further their own agenda.
posted by missmagenta at 11:35 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh my god. I can't believe this thread! Really? That question made people so uncomfortable? I actually find questions like these fascinating. They are mirrors. We bring to the table the event as we see it. No one will ever agree on what happened because it's all happening in our minds.
...
Here's a factor that I didn't like about his question, besides his use if the word "blatant." They were in a one-on-one meeting! Here we are, all alone in a room and in the middle of our working or a discussion, I've caught you looking up my skirt. Any number of emotions can come up but those can include discomfort, embarrassment and even intimidation.

And just to prove to you gentle men who are afeared of the feminazi in your midst I'll share a little anecdote from my life. Total unexpectedly, I was tasked one day to do some model making with a coworker (architecture) which involved hours of standing, leaning over the table cutting out little pieces of balsa and foamcore. My totally professional shirt that I was wearing is not revealing when sitting at my desk but in this situation there was no way that the guy wasn't going to be getting an eyeful of my bra. Nothing I could do about it. After catching him trying not to look, I said, "hey, really sorry about my shirt, I would have worn something different if I knew we were going to be doing this. Let's see if we can manage?" smile and ha-ha. He was all, uh, ha, no problem and continued go avoid ogling me. What a peach! He earned respect in that situation.

But, really, that has nothing to do with this guy's question! As a thinking person with lots of grown up experience in the world, I have pretty good radar for creeps. And I also give the poster the benefit of the doubt that he can read that thread and take what he needs from it. Frankly, I found the discussion as it was to be pretty interesting. I don't think any greater good is being served by it being softened.
posted by amanda at 11:39 AM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


The most interesting thing for me is the clear divide between apologise / don't apologise opinions. I wonder why, what it correlates with.
A brief glance suggests that those who have experienced it themselves advise against apologising, but I am probably wrong. I myself would appreciate a brief apology.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:41 AM on August 19, 2010


I miss the olden times when people would be all "Ooooh, 'Lost'!" and then the other people who would be all "'Lost' lost me after season one". Then Lady Gaga came to Metfilter and now we are going to hurt each other with Madonna.
posted by everichon at 11:44 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most interesting thing for me is the clear divide between apologise / don't apologise opinions. I wonder why, what it correlates with.
A brief glance suggests that those who have experienced it themselves advise against apologising, but I am probably wrong. I myself would appreciate a brief apology.


I think if he doesn't apologize it will only fester. It will likely be uncomfortable for the woman again, but it avoids a longer and worse situation. A lot of things in life work better when uncomfortable things are addressed, making things uncomfortable in the short term but much better in the long term.

Would love to see if he apologizes and how that works out long-term.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:46 AM on August 19, 2010


That's not to say that the asker wasn't an ass--but he knows he made a mistake and wants to find a way to apologize. Its the most basic of responses when someone does something wrong. Some of the responses in the thread might scare him off from doing the right thing, which is apologizing.

Okay. That's your take. Others expressed quite clearly why they thought an apology might make the situation worse. I think the poster is a big, smart boy who can probably read the responses, evaluate his own situation and do what he is most comfortable with. Isn't that the most we can hope for?
posted by amanda at 11:48 AM on August 19, 2010


I DEMAND THAT HIS IDENTITY BE KNOWN!

I am Spartacus!
posted by orthogonality at 11:57 AM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The most interesting thing for me is the clear divide between apologise / don't apologise opinions. I wonder why, what it correlates with. A brief glance suggests that those who have experienced it themselves advise against apologizing, but I am probably wrong. I myself would appreciate a brief apology.

The perfect advice would be to read her mind, see what sort of response she'd like, and do that. But it takes 40 years to develop psychic powers, and you also need a pointy hat, some eye-of-newt and an apprentice (preferably not Mickey Mouse).

Given imperfect information, in his shoes I would offer a short apology. "Hey, what I did the other day was out of line. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. I won't bring it up, again, because I don't want you to have to deal with my bullshit. But I'm available if you have anything you'd like to say to me." The end.

I realize it's possible that she might prefer no apology. Sometimes when people apologize to me, I wish they hadn't, because it can be uncomfortable. They already did [whatever] to me. Now I have to listen to their apology, too!

I understand that. But in the end, I really want to live in a world in which people apologize when they screw up. I think we should encourage people to do that. I think, in general, it's a good thing when it happens. And so I will put up with the discomfort if I have to.

Maybe she'd appreciate an apology. Maybe she wouldn't, but if all he says is what I wrote, above, it's not like he'll be subjecting her to hours of discomfort. (Granted, it will be unfortunate if he subjects her to even a few seconds of discomfort more than she's made her uncomfortable.)
posted by grumblebee at 11:59 AM on August 19, 2010


There is not one man in my office who has ever worn anything to work that was short enough or tight enough that any interesting part of his anatomy was visible.

You should be grateful you don't work in the office with the guy who thinks riding to work in white bike shorts with no undies is a great idea, as is walking around in them for a while.

See, that's why I kind of like the word 'mansplain' -- it not only captures a lot of nuance, but also a lot of shared cultural history and backstory and internetmemery all in 9 little letters.

Ahh, you ejnoy the razor-sharp stereotype which allows you to dismiss people you don't like.

Perhaps you could try "hysterical" to dismiss women you don't want to listen too.

can women really femsplain anything?

Sure. Anything, according to your forumla, that involves "being male". We get some great examples of it here on MeFi, where otherwise smart women posters show complete cluelessness about all manner of behavioural norms; I have some fond memories of advice that, in any part of the English-speaking world, would most likely end in a punch-up if you knew the first thing about male-male interaction.
posted by rodgerd at 12:07 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


can women really femsplain anything?

I think this is a question we need to work to answer definitively. It has many forms: can black people be racist? Can poor people be classist? Etc.

The answer is yes. Anything that one person can be, ALL people can be. (Obviously excluding things you need unusual talent for -- not everyone can be a grand master at chess.) A big part of being non racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. is believing that people are people. If you say women can't be sexist, that is a sexist remark. You are not seeing women as full people. Full people CAN be sexist. If black people can't be racist, then black people are not people.

I totally understand the urge to say that women can't be sexist. Women have, historically, suffered from sexism much more than men have. But that doesn't mean they can't be sexist. We need to banish ALL sexism. Sexism in any form is evil. Not just if it comes from men.

We need a zero-tolerance policy for sexism (racism), etc. We need to forbid disenfranchised groups from engaging in it to "balance the books." Historically, most prejudice starts or brews within disenfranchised groups, anyway (e.g. 1930s impoverished Germany). We need to redress the wrongs that men have done to women, but not by allowing "reverse" sexism (I hate that term. It's just sexism. It's not reverse anything.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:17 PM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


Wait, I got it! She was sitting in a beanbag chair!
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:29 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The answer is yes. Anything that one person can be, ALL people can be. (Obviously excluding things you need unusual talent for -- not everyone can be a grand master at chess.) A big part of being non racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. is believing that people are people. If you say women can't be sexist, that is a sexist remark. You are not seeing women as full people. Full people CAN be sexist. If black people can't be racist, then black people are not people.

At its core, acting in this way is about using a short-cut stereotype to categorize people. It has been more corrosive to disenfranchised groups becuase those who do it to them have their hands on the levers of power, which makes it hurt for huge swaths of people.

But everyone can do it, yes. And it should be something everyone should strive to avoid. What this guy did wrong was to interject sexuality into what should be a professional relationship. He's a scared person, he knows he's done wrong. Helping him is our task.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:33 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


can black people be racist? Can poor people be classist?

The argument is that no, they can't, because they lack the power to have be part of society, i.e. whites outnumber blacks by a large margin in America, so blacks can never really make racism of whites part of the fabric of society.
posted by nomadicink at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2010


Let that askme stand as a warning against the use of the word 'blatant' without consulting a dictionary.
posted by HFSH at 12:36 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


I think this is a question we need to work to answer definitively....We need a zero-tolerance policy for sexism (racism), etc. We need to forbid disenfranchised groups from engaging in it to "balance the books."

Who is the "we" in this situation?

Because, dude, I understand where you're coming from? But there's this tone here of the enfranchised telling the disenfranchised to behave a certain way (Because they know better? Because they're not "biased"? Because the disenfranchised are a bunch of petty whiners who are not speaking up against injustice but just taking every opportunity to "balance the books" because they're angry?), and that's incredibly off-putting.

I'm sure that's not how it's meant. I'm all for combating bigotry in all forms, including when used against groups that don't traditionally count amongst the disenfranchised. But words about "forbidding" disenfranchised groups from engaging in certain behaviors gives me heartburn.

(And I'm not trying to say anything about you personally, grumblebee, so I hope you don't take offense. It's just that reading stuff like this feels like a bit of a knife twist. I'm not even sure I can articulate what I mean.)
posted by Salieri at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Let that askme stand as a warning against the use of the word 'blatant' without consulting a dictionary.

Are you implying that the poster didn't mean what he wrote? Gee, what kind of idiot is this guy?!

kidding. I kid. But seriously. It's not an obscure word.
posted by amanda at 12:41 PM on August 19, 2010


"I have this priceless image in my head of Jess seeing this in the anonymous queue, going "Fuuuuuuuuu," taking a deep breath, approving the post and then sitting there perched over her keyboard in a WWII style tin helmet waiting for the incoming hate mortars to start landing around her mod trench."

Someone needs to draw this, please, and post it to imgur.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:45 PM on August 19, 2010


kidding. I kid. But seriously. It's not an obscure word.

I was an English major, and for me, blatant=obvious/unquestionable in modern common usage. I'm far from an authority on the subject but I'm not certain we should assume the original OP believed differently.
posted by Phyltre at 12:45 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The argument is that no, they can't, because they lack the power to have be part of society, i.e. whites outnumber blacks by a large margin in America, so blacks can never really make racism of whites part of the fabric of society.

That is a racist statement. (I don't seriously think you're a racist. I'm not chastising you.) I've had African American bosses with WAY more power than I have. Sure, in GENERAL black people have less power than white people. But there's no such thing as in-general racism. A racist remark or action has to come from a specific person. The color of that person's skin doesn't matter. It's a morally repulsive act.

The fact that my skin is white gives should me exactly ZERO privileges. ZERO. Same if my skin were black. Until we're all aboard with that, we're going to live in a racist world.

Also, racism aside. It is WRONG for me to hit someone. It's okay in self defense, but otherwise it's just wrong. It doesn't matter if the person I'm hitting has way more power than I do. If someone bullies me, I can hit him if I'm doing it to stop a bullying EVENT. But I can't just walk up to him and hit him because I'm pissed off at him. Even if I'm pissed off at him because he's hit me many times in the past. Hitting is just wrong. (Of course I mean "in my opinion" and "according to my values.")

Similarly, it's not okay for Denmark to invade the USA, just because the USA has more power. It's also not okay for Iraq to invade the USA, even though the USA has invaded Iraq in the recent past. Invading another country is wrong -- unless that country is posing clear and present danger to your country. (You could argue that the USA is doing that to Iraq right now, which muddies my point. Imagine a future in which the USA is no longer all wrapped up in Iraq.)
posted by grumblebee at 12:48 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


We need to redress the wrongs that men have done to women, but not by allowing "reverse" sexism (I hate that term. It's just sexism.)

Dude, seriously, why can't we just one time leave the focus of a thread about bad male behavior and constructive ways to address it on that and only that? Your convulting your sense of male victimhood in this roundabout way does not change the fact that you are participating in shifting the focus of this discussion into the ways in which women supposedly oppress men, as is every other dude in this thread who has determined that the real issue here is the word "mansplaining" and not a guy acting unprofessionally and violating a woman coworker's dignity.
posted by The Straightener at 12:56 PM on August 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


Who is the "we" in this situation?

Humans.


there's this tone here of the enfranchised telling the disenfranchised to behave


What makes you sure I'm enfranchised? Sure, I'm white and male. I'm also Jewish. Family members died in concentration camps. I was also bullied and beaten up for most on my childhood.

That gives me ZERO rights that you (if didn't go through that) have.

My father, who was was a small child during the Blitz in London, had three houses blown up, had to sleep in the subway for many nights, and who saw friends and loved ones killed -- and who suffered brutal antisemitism at school (e.g. in school assembly, the headmaster would say things like, "We will now bow our heads and pray. Except for the dirty Jewish boys, who may leave the room."), tends to say "racist" things about Germans.

I sympathize. But that's dreadful. There are plenty of good Germans in the world who never did anything to him. I understand why my dad acts that way, and I feel for him, but that God he's not in power. This stuff is like a snake biting its own tail. Racism begets racism begets racism. Which is why I say we need to put our foot down and say STOP. No special rules for anybody. S-T-O-P.
posted by grumblebee at 12:58 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Dude, seriously, why can't we just one time leave the focus of a thread about bad male behavior and constructive ways to address it on that and only that? Your convulting your sense of male victimhood

I'm sorry. I understand why you feel that way, but...

1. There's no such thing as male victim-hood, and so I don't have a sense of it.

2. There's no such thing as bad male behavior.

There's just bad behavior. This situation is a good example. If it had been a woman leering at a man, it would be just as bad.
posted by grumblebee at 1:01 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's just bad behavior.

Says the white man.
posted by OmieWise at 1:20 PM on August 19, 2010


I Google-find a nice definition of "blatant" as "tastelessly conspicuous".
That perhaps covers it, including the possible misconceptions about what he could have done better (being less tasteless while being conspicuous? Being less conspicuous while being tasteless? Checking a dictionary before asking a Meta-question?) The answers are, as we battle, hopefully forming in the head of the OP of that Ask thread, they're definitely not going to come out of the box-creating minds of victimizers and de-victimizers over here: we (uh...) have too little information.
posted by Namlit at 1:22 PM on August 19, 2010


Grumblebee, I see the point you're making regarding equality here, and I have no doubt that you have nothing but kindness and good intentions behind that point.

But we don't actually live in an egalitarian society in which men and women are held to the same standards or treated in the same way, not by even a generous stretch of the imagination. As a woman, I am regularly subjected to nonsense that most men rarely if ever have to experience -- including (as relates to the topic at hand) being made to feel like a belittled sexual object nearly every time I leave the house; having to listen to long explanations about biological imperatives for that behavior, which do absolutely nothing but make me feel dismissed; and having the way I dress be treated as metric for whether or not I was "asking for it" to begin with.

When I can walk down the street without having strange men comment on my appearance, or dress for an interview without worrying about whether or not I look too "girly" to be taken seriously, and no longer have to watch my male coworkers be better paid in terms of money and reputation for work I had an equal or greater part in, THEN I'd be happy to sit and talk about how "There's no such thing as bad male behavior. There's just bad behavior."

But for the meantime, that's a philosophical point that has little to do with the world I'm actually living in.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:27 PM on August 19, 2010 [16 favorites]


Says the white man.

Not that you're objectifying him or anything.

Because if you were to treat him as a person, you'd consider what he said and rebut that, if necessary. But since he's an object, there's no need to go to that tremendous length. Someone of his race and gender doesn't deserve that.

This enlightenment of yours, it sucks.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:27 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


Huh, I thought this MeTa might be an objection to the assertion of the alleged literally, physical inability of men to control their manly lustful eyeball-urges, as that sentiment is equally offensive to both women, and the men who are in fact capable of respectful behavior.
posted by desuetude at 1:33 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


While folks have mentioned biological imperative, the way women are dressed, and treatment of men, the statements have always been couched with plenty of "But people are still responsible for their actions" and "in many ways women have it way worse."

So Narrative Priorities, if you feel dismissed I'm sorry but that's not how I read the comments.
posted by anonymuk at 1:33 PM on August 19, 2010


He's not an object, (I'm presuming based on past discussion) he's a member of the structural class that benefits from eliding history in order to make these kinds of problems of oppression into problems of behavior. I'm not sure what you mean by enlightenment, but it's true that I'm not very interested in discussing this with people who refuse to take into account the political and social realities of Western societies that inform our history. It's tiresome to re-tread the ground that has been pretty fully developed elsewhere, especially when the people with whom one is interacting appear to be engaged in bad faith.
posted by OmieWise at 1:33 PM on August 19, 2010


It's tiresome to re-tread the ground that has been pretty fully developed elsewhere, especially when the people with whom one is interacting appear to be engaged in bad faith.

That's a funny point for you to make, considering that your entire rebuttal of his points was based on his gender and his race.

This site would be wholly improved if we acted and interacted as though the names we interact with are people first and members of whatever classes they might belong to some distant second.

I'm not saying this as a white dude who is beset and victimized on all sides by shame and inequity.

I'm saying this as a person who thinks we should all take greater efforts to not being willful assholes, and offering other people the consideration we wish they would extend us.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 1:43 PM on August 19, 2010 [12 favorites]


i would like to apologize for the part i played in making that thread worse. i don't think i knew just how absolutely angry i was until my husband and i tried to discuss it after things were deleted. now, we can discuss absolutely anything under the sun. we rarely argue, we never fight, and we talk about hot button issues a lot. but this topic right here is apparently one that makes me more furious than i realized. as he and i were talking about it i just had to stop him and say "apparently i can't discuss this rationally". had i realized that before i would have never waded in.

after thinking about it for 24 hours or so i think i've come to this - to me, the people saying "all men/people do it!" are arguing from a fleeting glance, oops, didn't mean to, half a second situation. to me, and a lot of other people, that is not even a little bit what was being described in the thread. as was pointed out here, it was at least blatant enough that she felt the need to leave the room. so to hear people i respect, like, and would trust their opinion say "well, her skirt was too short and all men do it, stop overreacting" - well, it's just sad and frustrating.

but that doesn't absolve my bad behavior and i know better. i could have written all my responses (both deleted and not) with more care, compassion, and an eye towards the rules here.

so - metafilter, mods (especially jessamyn), i am sorry.
posted by nadawi at 1:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


I am concerned with how much this thread has become about me and my concerns/feelings (I have no one to blame but myself for that), so I probably won't post much more, though I will read with interest and concern.

I will end by responding to this: "he's a member of the structural class that benefits from eliding history in order to make these kinds of problems of oppression into problems of behavior. I'm not sure what you mean by enlightenment, but it's true that I'm not very interested in discussing this with people who refuse to take into account the political and social realities of Western societies that inform our history."

Of course I'm going to disagree that this is what I'm doing. The main topic that interests me is history, and I read a lot of it. I believe history has taught us (or it should teach us) the folly of tolerating prejudice from ANY group.

For the record, I think the biggest, most horrible, most inexcusable crimes in recent American history are have been the treatment of black people, the treatment of women, and the treatment of homosexuals. I sometimes think the whole human race should be trashed just because we let those things happen. My views may be very wrongheaded, but I'm not someone who looks at those things and thinks, "Yeah. Well. White males have a tough time, too." I think the whole human races is pretty fucking vile.

If you feel there's a contradiction between someone who wrote what I wrote some of my above posts and someone who thinks that American history is full of disgusting examples of enfranchised people stamping down enfranchised people, I doubt I'll be able to convince you of the I'm not contradicting myself.

The good news is that I realize that, at core, we (in this thread) all want the same thing. The people currently berating me are doing so because they believe my privileges have made me prejudiced. Which means that they, like me, hate prejudice. We have different beliefs about how to combat it, and we have different beliefs about whether I'm being stupid or not. But we're on the same page that racism and other forms of prejudice are what make the world a crummy place.
posted by grumblebee at 1:47 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


If it had been a woman leering at a man, it would be just as bad.

I don't think so. It would be bad and wrong and disrespecctful and gross, but it doesn't have the same meaning - not exactly.

Because men are not judged (in both directions - whether we dress conservatively or revealingly, hair and makeup done or not) as much by their appearance. Men don't see leering as a possible prelude to more harassment or violence with the frequency that women have experienced. A woman physically cornering a man, or a woman walking alone at night is not the same in reverse.

We did this in the catcalling MeTa.
posted by Pax at 1:53 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Also, systematic racism does affect the powerful black CEO. There is general racism.
posted by Pax at 1:55 PM on August 19, 2010


nadawi, I'm sorry for snapping at you. Oddly, I think it is because you are one of the posters whose posts I recognise and generally admire, so I felt stung by your post that I thought misrepresented what I was saying, and then I got arguey.

I think you are right with your 24 hours later analysis.

I also apologise if I made the thread worse. Sorry MeFi!
posted by Omnomnom at 1:59 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


A whole bunch of you folk need to quit using AskMe. You are just not cut out for it.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2010 [9 favorites]


There's just bad behavior.

Says the white man.


That's racism. Seriously its dismissing the statement of a person and the value of the argument based on their race.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:04 PM on August 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


I've posted too much in this thread as it is, but one last thing I'd like to say:

While folks have mentioned biological imperative, the way women are dressed, and treatment of men, the statements have always been couched with plenty of "But people are still responsible for their actions"

This is true. But, upon reflection, I think the question I'm asking is: why we keep talking about "biological imperative" at all? If we all agree that it's no excuse for bad behavior, why is is so frequently a part of the conversation? If it's just a given aspect of how humans interact, then why do I need to have it repeatedly described to me?

I realize it's not intended this way, but it ends up coming across as an excuse.

Because I don't care what's going on in the private inner minds of the people around me unless they're very good friends of mine (and even then, there's plenty I don't want to be privy do.) All I care about is how they behave and how they treat me and everyone else.

Every conversation about racism doesn't devolve into a bunch of us white folks talking about how "well, for evolutionary reasons, every time I see a black person I just can't help but feel a little afraid, even though I of course don't act on it." Regardless of whether or not that statement is true, it doesn't actually contribute anything to the conversation. It just makes the black folks engaged in it feel like shit.

I would argue that this "my inner caveman wants to look at boobs" dialog that comes up over and over again ALSO doesn't contribute anything useful to the conversation.

I don't care about your inner "caveman," gentlemen, unless you're my husband. What I care about is your outer "member of modern society."
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:05 PM on August 19, 2010 [20 favorites]


A woman physically cornering a man, or a woman walking alone at night is not the same in reverse.

Depends on age and size. Elder and child abuse not included in this statement.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:05 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I DEMAND THAT HIS IDENTITY BE KNOWN!
It wasn't me; as someone raised in a household of 2 women, I'm careful to hide my leering behind mirrored sunglasses.
posted by coolguymichael at 2:06 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


It just makes the black folks engaged in it feel like shit.

I'm gonna say that if you referred to "us white folks" in your answer, you really don't know what the "black folks" engaged in it think.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:07 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


i should have been more clear, Omnomnom - and i don't know if you saw it before it got axed, but i wasn't directing that comment at you, but more in general at the thread for the line of questioning that kept coming up. i'm not even sure i saw your exact comment before i made mine.

my frustration with the skirt length question is that as a woman of a certain height and cup size, well, there are really very few clothes i can wear that won't get me gawked out. i'm not terribly pretty or hot or slim, but still - a past the knee skirt on me still has me followed around the store when i go grocery shopping. i started growing my chest at 8 years old and i hit my 5'9" before the 8th grade. what i didn't realize when going into the thread that the scars i've been building up in school, church, the workplace, walking down the street were all just sitting there. again, if i had realized i was lugging all that baggage in i would have just written in my journal or something.

i consider myself a fairly evolved woman. i'm much more likely to give men the benefit of the doubt in victim/victimizing conversations. i admit that as a female i have advantages that men don't have and that i can use my femininity to get into or out of things if i wish. i know that it's hard for some men to navigate the PC/empowered wave that's going on these days. i know that calm explanations go further than yelling.

apparently yesterday, what i felt deep down overshadowed what i know about all sorts of things. i'll watch that in the future.
posted by nadawi at 2:09 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm gonna say that if you referred to "us white folks" in your answer, you really don't know what the "black folks" engaged in it think.

My apologies for phrasing it that way, then. I was being flip.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:10 PM on August 19, 2010


I'm careful to hide my leering behind mirrored sunglasses.

Isn't that worse? If that were me you were leering at I'd think you were the T-1000 and run like the wind.

I read this entire thread and that was my contribution. I'm sorry.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:11 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is true. But, upon reflection, I think the question I'm asking is: why we keep talking about "biological imperative" at all? If we all agree that it's no excuse for bad behavior, why is is so frequently a part of the conversation?

Because we are talking about human beings, not paragons of perfection. The idea is that if a person like the OP makes a mistake and fails to check their biological imperative or whatever to look at a body that is sexually attractive to him in a setting that is inappropriate, we can both understand where his mistake came from and help him find a way to acknowledge his mistake in a way that moves things forward and allows them both to work together in the future with a minimum of tension. Its saying that as a human, I lost concentration and failed to do the right thing, but I don't want you to think that it is part of an overall lack of respect for you.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:13 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Dude, seriously, why can't we just one time leave the focus of a thread about bad male behavior and constructive ways to address it on that and only that?

I know you're being all sensitive man and showing off your badass feminist chops, but this is the second time you've totally misunderstood the purpose of this thread. Maybe you should read it before accusing people of derailing it, especially in such an insulting and supercilious manner.
posted by Snyder at 2:17 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


to me, the people saying "all men/people do it!" are arguing from a fleeting glance, oops, didn't mean to, half a second situation. to me, and a lot of other people, that is not even a little bit what was being described in the thread. as was pointed out here, it was at least blatant enough that she felt the need to leave the room. so to hear people i respect, like, and would trust their opinion say "well, her skirt was too short and all men do it, stop overreacting" - well, it's just sad and frustrating.

I'm with you, but none of us were there. It's not impossible that he was misrepresenting himself and is in fact a total creep who practically fell out of his chair looking up her skirt. It's also not impossible that she looked up, caught his eyes at exactly the wrong second, and overreacted to the situation of a trainwreck-style eye magnet thing. I'm guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle, but that's only a guess and only a good one because it's so vague.

And I'm almost certain that guys who have unintentionally let their eyes get stuck in the wrong place are immediately going to assume the latter situation, while women who are constantly on the receiving end of leering-creep behavior are going to assume the latter. That's a normal response because we use our own experiences to make inferences as part of our decision-making process. If we've already "been there", we immediately fall back on those experiences. I just wish we'd be more cognizant that anecdotes are't data and objectivity usually helps.
posted by Phyltre at 2:18 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


But, upon reflection, I think the question I'm asking is: why we keep talking about "biological imperative" at all? If we all agree that it's no excuse for bad behavior, why is is so frequently a part of the conversation?

Because while it may not be an excuse, it can help explain why it occurs at all. People often do evaluate each other on a sexual scale, it's hard wired into us and expecting it to just stop once we're in the work place may not be completely realistic, particularly for younger people.

Again, none of this is an excuse, but a framework for understanding why it occurs.
posted by nomadicink at 2:20 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


A woman physically cornering a man, or a woman walking alone at night is not the same in reverse.

But I will add this from my own experience that supports what you are trying to say: A woman far larger than me exposed her breasts to me, and said "do me" while playing with them. I did not feel threatened for a moment. It was, frankly, a surreal moment and the only time that I've ever heard of a woman exposing herself to a man. So there is a lot of truth to what you are saying there.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:21 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


pervy pileup
posted by cjorgensen at 2:23 PM on August 19, 2010


While we're off on tangents on racism and white-privilege and lots of other things that have nothing to do with this original post. I thought this was an interesting poll: What were you wearing when you were harassed? -- click "view results" to, um, view the results.
posted by amanda at 2:25 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just wish we'd be more cognizant that anecdotes are't data and objectivity usually helps.

I hear you on that, and we all tend to react based on our own experiences. But this MeTa seems to come at it from a specific perspective:

The thread seems to have gotten nasty at times and even in it's cleaned up state, there's still a lot of black and white thinking going on, which says the guy is a complete asshole and unredeemable. Several comments are reading a lot into an unclear situation and assuming the worst about the poster.

I just seems that only half the people in this conversation are the ones called on to be objective. Shouldn't it go both ways? I'd say the "black and white thinking" should include the people inclined to give the OP the benefit of the doubt based on their own experiences.
posted by Salieri at 2:28 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'd say the "black and white thinking" should include the people inclined to give the OP the benefit of the doubt based on their own experiences.

Speaking only for myself, I gave him the benefit of doubt because that's what you're supposed to do in AskMe and in life in general and because he's asking for help and insight on how to fix his mistake.
posted by nomadicink at 2:34 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


While we're off on tangents on racism and white-privilege and lots of other things that have nothing to do with this original post. I thought this was an interesting poll: What were you wearing when you were harassed? -- click "view results" to, um, view the results.

I was on a run, my shorts were pretty short and I had on a running tunic that covered my shoulders. However, I don't think it was a part of what this person was doing because I saw the behavior occuring from a long way off and I was like "what is that guy doing with his sweatshirt." When I got closer, I realized it was a woman and that's when she said "do me." I do not believe it was directed at me because of what I wore.

The thread seems to have gotten nasty at times and even in it's cleaned up state, there's still a lot of black and white thinking going on, which says the guy is a complete asshole and unredeemable. Several comments are reading a lot into an unclear situation and assuming the worst about the poster.

I just seems that only half the people in this conversation are the ones called on to be objective. Shouldn't it go both ways? I'd say the "black and white thinking" should include the people inclined to give the OP the benefit of the doubt based on their own experiences.


There is no point in just calling out a questioner on AskMe. That's not helping, which is the purpose of AskMe. Being mean to the person does not help them. It is venting.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:36 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


to me, the people saying "all men/people do it!" are arguing from a fleeting glance, oops, didn't mean to, half a second situation. to me, and a lot of other people, that is not even a little bit what was being described in the thread. as was pointed out here, it was at least blatant enough that she felt the need to leave the room. so to hear people i respect, like, and would trust their opinion say "well, her skirt was too short and all men do it, stop overreacting" - well, it's just sad and frustrating.

I'm with you, but none of us were there. It's not impossible that he was misrepresenting himself and is in fact a total creep who practically fell out of his chair looking up her skirt. It's also not impossible that she looked up, caught his eyes at exactly the wrong second, and overreacted to the situation of a trainwreck-style eye magnet thing. I'm guessing the truth is somewhere in the middle, but that's only a guess and only a good one because it's so vague.


I am concerned about his use of looking "up" her skirt. I've checked out women's legs in bars and at clubs and stuff (not in a professional setting), but I have never looked "up" a woman's skirt.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2010


But not everyone was being mean or calling him an asshole! I saw plenty of people answering the OP'S question directly, saying "Yes, I have experience of this, and I would indeed lose respect for you based on your description of what happened." Which is what he asked.
posted by Salieri at 2:39 PM on August 19, 2010


jessamyn, I am extremely grateful to you for your excellent, far beyond the call of duty moderation of that thread, because I find the result to be very rich and almost endlessly fascinating.

I see it as the Metafilter bandwidth contribution to the enormously broad and wide ranging international spectrum of debate about what women should and should not be be wearing in public and semi-public situations.

It's crystallized my previously inchoate and confused sense that there is a strong correlation between the level of freedom women have to dress as revealingly as they may wish to as they go about the ordinary business of their lives without fear of interference, and the level of freedom in that society in general-- I'm thinking here of the examples of Denmark and Sweden, where Osama Bin Laden would have attacked if he hated freedom, as he was kind enough to point out to us himself.

I now think that's not merely a correlation, but that there is a strong component of causation.
posted by jamjam at 2:42 PM on August 19, 2010


Sorry, I'm getting frustrated and I think I should step away from this thread.

I'm seeing two different meanings of "benefit of the doubt" here: 1) An assumption that the OP did something wrong and stupid but isn't some unrepentantly lecherous creep, and 2) an assumption that the OP was guilty of nothing more than an accidental glance and that this whole thing is being blown way out of proportion by a bunch of upset women. I have no problem with #1, but I'm seeing it conflated with #2.
posted by Salieri at 2:44 PM on August 19, 2010


But not everyone was being mean or calling him an asshole! I saw plenty of people answering the OP'S question directly, saying "Yes, I have experience of this, and I would indeed lose respect for you based on your description of what happened." Which is what he asked.

Those responses were not moderated out of the thread. I think those responses are fine.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:48 PM on August 19, 2010


Narrative Priorities: "Because I don't care what's going on in the private inner minds of the people around me unless they're very good friends of mine (and even then, there's plenty I don't want to be privy do.) All I care about is how they behave and how they treat me and everyone else."

I would agree with you completely if this were a thread about rape culture. But since we're addressing someone who wants to stop staring at women, it might be useful to explain why he's doing it in the first place.

(That said, I wish people would stop the what-women-wear discussion. It's one step away from victim blaming and a huge derail at that.)
posted by anonymuk at 2:53 PM on August 19, 2010


I went in there to answer and then I realized that it had been covered. He's probably at his first job, and isn't much different than the kids who come to work at my friend's Big 10 Consulting Firm who have to be taught how to dress for work. They literally have mannequins at the entrance to the cafeteria showing dos and dont's because managers got tired of sending Bob Frat home to change when he didn't understand why his bermuda shorts & sandals weren't proper business attire.

As for responses, I'm not seeing any terrible ones there. The question didn't give a lot of detail so you work with what you have.

If you don't want to get people's opinions, don't ask a question on the internet. It's not a vacuum, and you don't get to dictate what they are.
posted by micawber at 2:56 PM on August 19, 2010


That said, I wish people would stop the what-women-wear discussion. It's one step away from victim blaming and a huge derail at that.

It's not one step away. It's already there.
posted by kmz at 3:11 PM on August 19, 2010


kidding. I kid. But seriously. It's not an obscure word.

I was an English major, and for me, blatant=obvious/unquestionable in modern common usage. I'm far from an authority on the subject but I'm not certain we should assume the original OP believed differently.
posted by Phyltre at 3:45 PM on August 19 [+] [!]


See! See! Phyltre was an English major (as was I) and s/he knew about the "obvious" part of "blatant," but not about the "deliberate" part. And neither did I, until I looked it up.

For most people, words mean whatever people think they mean (for better or for worse). More than once, I've found myself halfway through administering a serious beat-down to someone who said something I thought was terrible, only to find out, with my adversary cowering tearfully at my feet, that when they called me "stultifying" they thought it meant "delicious."

Maybe the OP is an objectifying dick. But I don't think he's a rapist. "Unwittingly" and "blatant" just don't go together, and so it helps to figure out which word truly describes the crime of which the OP accuses himself.
posted by toodleydoodley at 3:20 PM on August 19, 2010


I'm seeing two different meanings of "benefit of the doubt" here: 1) An assumption that the OP did something wrong and stupid but isn't some unrepentantly lecherous creep, and 2) an assumption that the OP was guilty of nothing more than an accidental glance and that this whole thing is being blown way out of proportion by a bunch of upset women. I have no problem with #1, but I'm seeing it conflated with #2.

I'm not getting this either. The anonymous OP described and made no excuses for it. He simply said "it was blatant" and "I was busted" (plus "I'm still really mortified"). I don't understand why other people insist on making up excuses for it, though Phyltre's explanation makes a certain amount of sense.
posted by nangar at 3:28 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


How can we, as a community of individuals, learn to respond and behave better in AskMe threads like the one about the male colleague being "unwittingly pervy" at work

How can we, as a community of individuals, learn to remember what the word "individual" means, even when subsumed within the concept of "community"?
posted by Decani at 3:39 PM on August 19, 2010


I have to tell you that the truth is that guys look all the time. It's an instinctual process and although women do "check out" men from time to time I have to think this is one of those areas where there is a difference between the genders

I know intellectually that men look, but it still catches me off guard when they announce the results. The other day at the gym a guy walked up and congratulated me on my "progress" and told me "to keep it up" because I was "looking good."

First (v. brief) thought: Yeah Me! Second (lingering) thought: Oh ick. Am I on show here? Are other people evaluating me?

Duh. Of course they are, but I often let myself forget. It's more peaceful to pretend that men are not constantly evaluating me as a possible sexual partner. I'm not sure what is worse-- failing the test now because I am 52 or passing with flying colors back when I was 16.

As to the up-skirt looking incident, I would say tempest in a tea pot but maybe that's because I knew REAL sexual harassment in the work place back in the day. (For example the boss who would only schedule you hours if you let him rub up against you.) A look up a skirt isn't pleasant but I would not find it intimidating or scary. Also, as a big breasted woman I think I've just come to accept that men stare no matter what I'm wearing: cleavage/no cleavage, tight/ not tight. Annoying and irksome but not enough for me to get outraged or notify HR.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:40 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


In my not-an-English major understanding, "blatant" means obvious in reference to something negative: "blatantly wrong," "blatantly false," "a blatant violation," but not "blatantly good," or "blatantly delicious." The "blatant violation" usage makes perfect sense here. This argument seems almost as dumb as the one about what kind skirt the OP's co-worker might hypothetically have been wearing.
posted by nangar at 3:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]



See! See! Phyltre was an English major (as was I) and s/he knew about the "obvious" part of "blatant," but not about the "deliberate" part. And neither did I, until I looked it up.


The word "blatant" is so often paired with "disregard" that I've always thought the obvious part went hand in glove with the deliberate part: "You've shown a blatant disregard for my feelings."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 3:46 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Maybe the OP is an objectifying dick.
And maybe not. What issues have people who go to such lengths (hundreds of messages in 2 threads) to discuss how much of what kind of a dick someone really is who basically wrote: "I acted like a dick, help me out of this"... I still find it not fair, in view of the original question (which may be phrased in an incomplete way, but what does that prove?).

But I don't think he's a rapist.
Well that's two of us then.

"Unwittingly" and "blatant" just don't go together,
Oh but they do. This is one of the odd shifts of standpoint that (unwittingly. Ha) can happen to the amateur writer (the professional too. Man, the re-reading, the endless editing!). "Unwittingly" describes "before", "blatant" describes "after". It has to do with re-playing the scene in one's mind while writing.

and so it helps to figure out which word truly describes the crime of which the OP accuses himself.
And that, dear reader, remains the question one won't be able to answer without the OP's help. I'd call it a day.
posted by Namlit at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Chiming in late. Speaking as a woman though, I will say I am sorely disappointed with the anger the OP's thread provoked. Thank you but NO thank you, angry women of the world, for reinforcing to men that their feelings [of insecurity, confusion, fear, sexuality, etc.] ARE NOT appropriate for conversation. NO thank you for condemning a [presumably young] man whose main crime in Metafilter was the clumsy use of language to describe an emotionally charged situation. NO thank you for reinforcing the concept that it is NOT OKAY for men to ask questions about situations involving sex and women that make them uncomfortable. NO thank you for condemning those how-could-he-be-so-stupid-to-ask-a-question-like-that men back into stark silence, just as we've known. And NO thank you for letting men know that their feelings don't count, just as ours didn't, once upon a time.

However, I will thank you for reminding me how much more considerate I need to be with the young men I educate in academia. If anything, this question has heightened my awareness of the bizarre double standard that exists between the emotional expression of women vs. men. Particularly when men choose to use their words.

To all the angry OP-blaming responders out there, I am sincerely glad I do not work with you. I am sincerely glad that I do not get to experience or observe your lack of compassion for the other half of our grossly disempowered race.

I have seen you in action every time an emotional young man has dropped from post-secondary because he could not access the support he needed because he was born a stupid young man. I have seen you every time a woman has unleashed her biting rage at the young man who nervously could not find the words to best articulate his struggles, and so in his clumsiness, gave her the ammunition to justify verbally castrating him. This is a very real issue I strive to address in my work. Women's anger towards men is just as emotionally damaging as men's anger towards women. I also consider it more frightening, as the results as lost in the black box of emotions men come to accept as their "feelings". Particularly abused men.

To all the reluctant yet curious men out there with REAL AND HUMAN QUESTIONS, please keep asking questions. Please support each other in, "hey, I'm a dude and that's a legitimate question I might have in that situation, so please, let's give him a hand here." As controversial as your questions may appear, speaking up is still our best hope for improving communication and awareness across genders... even if one party is not emotionally-equipped to compassionately respond at this point in human civilization. Just as women have found with men, it's far and few between but steadily growing the amount of cross-gender compassion available in today's society. Whether men can "help it" or not, I still want to hear what you guys have to say, and I will do my best to listen with an open heart and open mind.
posted by human ecologist at 4:17 PM on August 19, 2010 [41 favorites]


The word "blatant" is so often paired with "disregard" that I've always thought the obvious part went hand in glove with the deliberate part: "You've shown a blatant disregard for my feelings."
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:46 PM on August 19 [+] [!]


Well, if they naturally go together, then how come you have to say both of them? I don't think everybody always knows all the connotations of the words they choose.

My only point, and now I'm done, is that the OP said "unwittingly," meaning "accidental," and "blatant," which means "contemptuously deliberate."

Since I don't think those two words go together in a description of intent, what I think the OP means is "I accidentally fucked up and let my eyes wander, and when she busted me I was obviously staring - no way to pass it off as anything else."

I don't think he deliberately, contemptuously, eyeball-raped her; I think he was shamefully, but humanly, careless with his gaze, and now he wants to know just what is the extent of the damage done.

Since the OP is anonymous and we won't get to hear from the offended party, I guess we'll never know.
posted by toodleydoodley at 4:38 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wish the guy would come back, as I do want to know how he looked up her skirt. Call me prurient.

And I don't get the comments from those who said no only would they lose all respect for him, they'd be afraid of him. I can tell I've not been working in an office for a long time.

And I've got a hunch that the OP wasn't the head of American Apparel.
posted by Ideefixe at 4:58 PM on August 19, 2010


Wow, human ecologist... can we hang out?
posted by Evangeline at 4:59 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm seeing two different meanings of "benefit of the doubt" here: 1) An assumption that the OP did something wrong and stupid but isn't some unrepentantly lecherous creep, and 2) an assumption that the OP was guilty of nothing more than an accidental glance and that this whole thing is being blown way out of proportion by a bunch of upset women. I have no problem with #1, but I'm seeing it conflated with #2.

To me, 1 and 2 are the same, he did something wrong and stupid and was looking when he shouldn't, but he probably isn't a creep and it probably is being blown out of proportion, though I hesitant to say just women, as I think several men chimed in with over the top comments.

This isn't man vs woman, imho. It's a matter of someone doing something stupid and dumb, seems contrite about it and looking for advice about how to forward or past and getting piled on for his actions. It's a dynamic that seems to me occurring a lot more in AskMe and I don't think it's good for the site and proposing to the community that we knock it off and soliciting suggestions on how to go about doing that.
posted by nomadicink at 5:07 PM on August 19, 2010


The most interesting thing for me is the clear divide between apologise / don't apologise opinions. I wonder why, what it correlates with. A brief glance suggests that those who have experienced it themselves advise against apologizing, but I am probably wrong. I myself would appreciate a brief apology.

I was one who said not to apologize (or, rather, that I wouldn't want an apology). I wish I had explained this better, but I was trying to keep my answer short in thread.

There can be a lot of social pressure involved in someone apologizing to you. First, you've got an intimate conversation -- for someone to say (whether earnestly or not) that they have treated you wrongly, it's necessarily intimate. They have to spill their guts to you insofar as they have to explain that they feel remorse. I wouldn't want to be in such an intimate conversation with someone who had noticeably ogled me. I'd want to be far away from them. Furthermore, it's not just any apology, but one specifically about the sexualized behavior. That makes it even worse. I find it uncomfortable, under any circumstances, to deal with a semi-stranger/colleague/non-close friend apologizing to me. But throw in inappropriate sexuality? And, even more, the reason it's an apology about inappropriate sexuality is because part of me was visible when I didn't want it to be. That's embarrassing. It's shameful (whether it should be or not, it is). It makes me feel horrifically violated, and stupid, and bad when I realize I've somehow failed to have the appearance I intended.

So, the conversation would be awkward and uncomfortable for me. But there's more.

An apology implies forgiveness, socially, the same way that "How are ya?" as a greeting implies "Fine, you?" even if you're not fine. Sure, you don't have to forgive someone who apologizes to you, but it's the polite, nice, and kind thing to do. It speeds the conversation up, so you can get out of it faster. Some people can get frustrated and upset if you don't accept an apology. Refusing to forgive someone is mean. And I, like many people (more stereotypically women, but men as well) find it extremely difficult to be mean.

You corner me, you put me in a very awkward and uncomfortable position, I'm going to smile and laugh and do whatever I can to make it end quickly and politely. If that awkward and uncomfortable position is being told how gosh darn sorry some guy is for looking up my skirt, I'm going to find myself, through anxiety and pressure, saying, "No, it's nothing, I know you didn't mean it, it's okay." I wouldn't feel it, I'd just be trying to get out of the conversation.

That's all my baggage. All I know is that my type of anxiety about being awkward and mean aren't that uncommon. It's not that I'm some wilting wallflower -- I'm in a profession that requires actively and loudly disagreeing with others in public places all the time, and I do fine in that context. It's just that situations involving apologies would make me hideously uncomfortable, and it would make me so uncomfortable that I would feel pressured to give forgiveness I didn't want to give.

That's my explanation. Again, my point isn't that the woman in question would feel the same way -- it's just why I personally wouldn't want an apology and wouldn't think it wise to give one unless the OP knew she would feel differently. I hope that makes a bit more sense to those who can't understand the no-apology viewpoint.
posted by meese at 5:19 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


tl;dr: Nasty, dirty, lecherous hetero male behaved like hetero male without adjusting for modern "liberal" sensibilities, felt rightfully guilty about it, asked for forgiveness, received RIGHTEOUS "LIBERAL" INDIGNATION GRAR, retired hurt and, in all likelihood, bitterly masturbated sorry self into coma with the aid of vicious, misogynistic porn.

Job done Metafilter! Duty now for the future!
posted by Decani at 5:29 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


meese: completely off-topic, but I have issues with receiving premature or unwanted apologies myself. I just can't bring myself to say "that's ok" when it's just not. So I've learned to simply say "thank you" when someone says they are sorry before I'm done being angry. It acknowledges their gesture without making me feel like I'm being forced to say something I don't mean in order to be polite.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 5:36 PM on August 19, 2010 [4 favorites]


Seriously, Decani, did you ask to come back to mefi just to look for opportunities to act like a jerk? You've been pulling this kind of thing constantly since we reactivate your account and it really sucks.
posted by cortex (staff) at 5:39 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


He's not an object, (I'm presuming based on past discussion) he's a member of the structural class that benefits from eliding history in order to make these kinds of problems of oppression into problems of behavior.
I kind of like the idea that I oppress people by ogling them, and I'm not just behaving badly. I feel powerful! Thank you for that.
posted by planet at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Because while it may not be an excuse, it can help explain why it occurs at all. People often do evaluate each other on a sexual scale, it's hard wired into us and expecting it to just stop once we're in the work place may not be completely realistic, particularly for younger people.

You can think whatever naughty thoughts you like about your co-workers. Let your inner need to evaluate other people sexually fly free in your mind for all I care. But I maintain that people really can control their behavior amongst their colleagues at work. To not do so is disrespectful and rude to your coworkers.

The reason that it's considered such a terribly unrealistic concept is because of a systemically-acceptable lack of respect for women in the workplace. I find younger co-workers to be much more careful; it's the more established men who have a comfortable measure of power who really don't give a damn. The legal definition of harassment is all well and good for actual clear-cut cases of sexual harassment, but that's useless against the quiet workaday sexism and moments of objectification.

It doesn't change until there are enforced social consequences for such behavior. An awful lot of men find it easier to not look at other women when their wives are close by, and that peek would earn them a few nights in the doghouse. Oh my god, a breakthrough in overcoming human nature!
posted by desuetude at 5:51 PM on August 19, 2010 [6 favorites]


NO thank you for reinforcing the concept that it is NOT OKAY for men to ask questions about situations involving sex and women that make them uncomfortable.

How was this a question about sex? It was a question about not treating a colleague with the respect they deserve, what to do about it, and if people would lose respect for the gawker in question. Blaming women who are [angry at men treating other women with disrespect] for the plight of sensitive young men not being able to ask sex questions or succeed in school seems to disregard 1) the agency of the young men in question, 2) the ogling men that make women angry 3) all the other reasons why men and women might have issues with not asking sexual questions, or graduating, or whatever. Never mind the fact that it is a gross generalization of various groups based on their gender, age, and emotional state.

It would be ludicrous of me to blame creepy men for sensitive young women being unable to ask questions about sex or succeed in the workplace. I'm not sure how your argument is different.
posted by oneirodynia at 6:32 PM on August 19, 2010 [7 favorites]


Furthermore, it's not just any apology, but one specifically about the sexualized behavior. That makes it even worse. I find it uncomfortable, under any circumstances, to deal with a semi-stranger/colleague/non-close friend apologizing to me. But throw in inappropriate sexuality? And, even more, the reason it's an apology about inappropriate sexuality is because part of me was visible when I didn't want it to be. That's embarrassing. It's shameful (whether it should be or not, it is). It makes me feel horrifically violated, and stupid, and bad when I realize I've somehow failed to have the appearance I intended.

Yep.

When I was about 13 or 14 I was attending some kind of workshop where we paired up and did those random theater workshop exercises. I got paired up with this poor girl who hadn't known that "theater workshop" really meant "rolling around on the floor with a random partner," so she was wearing a denim miniskirt. She tried to keep things covered but it was impossible; I knew I shouldn't be looking but was too young and clueless to know how not to and kept staring even though I could feel her getting more and more uncomfortable. I couldn't tell you who was more relieved when it was over; it was bad for both of us.

But then afterward I, equally cluelessly, was compelled to apologize for my staring. To this day I cringe at how I made her relive every second of it with my apology. Apologies can be great things, but sometimes they are the absolute worst way to make someone feel better.

I'm not the anon OP, so I don't know his situation. But my guess is that he is in a situation where one needs to show "getting it" not by an apology but rather by demonstrating good, sensitive, and appropriate behavior at every minute of every work day. An overnight transformation into a professional guy who looks women in the eye and isn't sneaking semi-covert glances down blouses and up skirts is going to go enormously further than one uncomfortable verbal apology.

And maybe I'm wrong and an apology is the right thing, I don't know. I can only reflect on my one experience with this, and I wish that I had not said a word but had instead used my discomfort to become a better person.
posted by Forktine at 6:42 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


As someone female who has been studying in a male dominated field and expect to be working in one, some of the comments here depress the fuck out of me.

The constant reference to "real" or "actual" sexual harassment seeks only to make something like this unreal. Unreal as in imaginary as in it didn't exist it didn't happen it's all in your head girlie. So that it just becomes one more annoying thing to bear because it's not real or important or concrete enough to talk it out and address it in a way that doesn't replicate the AskMe or this thread.

The acknowledgement of structural discrimination doesn't entail absolute guilt on the part of those who benefit from structural privilege. Responsibility, maybe. Responsibility not to be an asshole once you know that yes the way you leer is oppressive and that a workplace of leering coworkers creates a hostile one, which yes, does constitute sexual harassment. Responsibility to not ogle. Or the responsibility to not be an asshole talking about hunter-gatherers and the lizard-brain once someone calls you on it, but to apologize and move the fuck on with your professional life.

I seriously don't understand people gleefully commenting about the leering their fathers and grandfathers did. It's a strange thing to be proud of because I have one of those fathers and it is embarassing and humiliating for all parties involved. He also works in a male dominated field and I would hate to be an attractive woman who is also his colleague. In fact I would hate to be any and all of the attractive waitresses, flight attendants, doctors or any other women who has had to interact with him in a professional capacity. Because it's not like he tipped any better or anything.
posted by dustyasymptotes at 6:43 PM on August 19, 2010 [17 favorites]


human ecologist: I'm still thinking about your post but this sentence really jumped out at me:

I am sincerely glad that I do not get to experience or observe your lack of compassion for the other half of our grossly disempowered race.

I honestly have no idea what you mean by this. Humans, a race? Grossly disempowered, as compared to... what? Maybe it's a mistype? I'm truly puzzled.
posted by dogrose at 6:45 PM on August 19, 2010


How was this a question about sex? It was a question about not treating a colleague with the respect they deserve

I can't come up with a reading of the original question that makes it more about respect than about a situation involving sex and women. Whether or not I look at a woman sexually has nothing to do with respect and a good deal more to do with whether I find her attractive or not. To be clear, "look at sexually" does not equal "intentionally look up skirt or down shirt" as it did in this particular instance, but calling this question more about respect than sexuality flummoxes me.
posted by Phyltre at 6:47 PM on August 19, 2010


Dude, seriously, why can't we just one time leave the focus of a thread about bad male behavior and constructive ways to address it

Once again, this thread is not about bad male behavior. Read the title. Read the first post. Then read them again if you have to.
posted by spaltavian at 6:50 PM on August 19, 2010


Seriously, Decani, did you ask to come back to mefi just to look for opportunities to act like a jerk? You've been pulling this kind of thing constantly since we reactivate your account and it really sucks.
posted by cortex at 1:39 AM on August 20


Cortex, I was joking. I honestly think there was a huge overreaction to that AskMe, and on the MeTa thread it generated. I made this one comment letting that be known. and now, for the second time, you're calling me a jerk, which would seem to be in contravention of the MeFi guidelines on personal abuse. You get a pass on that I guess, do you? Nice. Droit de seigneur, and all that.

I reject your claim that I have been "pulling this kind of thing constantly" since I came back. That's bullshit, and the data are there to prove it's bullshit. You'd see, if you looked at every comment I've posted since I returned (rather than those which, I presume, have been flagged), that this sort of jokey sarcasm represents maybe 0.5% of the posts I've made since my return. You might also notice that in the very brief period since I've returned I seem to have received more favourites than I managed in the just-shy-of-two years I was here originally, back in 2005 and 2006. So it seems that some people here still have a sense of humour. Which is nice.

Here's what I'm noticing, cortex. I'm noticing that you, and to a lesser extent Jessamyn, seem to be right up my fucking arse for no good reason whatsoever. I'm noticing that people like Burhanistan can tell me to crawl back under a rock and you, cortex, say fuck all about that and let good old snarkmeister Burhanistan go on his merry way entirely unmolested. I'm noticing that I get shit from you, cortex, when zarq throws a hissy fit and leaves, even though zarq chose to take a non-personal remark of mine personally and choose to start a fight with me, which I really, really didn't get very fighty about at all.

I'm noticing that you don't seem to like the fact that I'm back and you're looking real hard to find an excuse to have a crack at me.

Would you like me to leave, cortex? Just say so, if that's the case, and I'll leave. If not, back off a piece. I'm not breaking any guidelines, I'm not personally abusing anyone and unless tongue-in-cheekery and sarcasm is now a MeFi no-no you, sir, are bang out of order.
posted by Decani at 7:04 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cortex, I was joking.

So that ironic aggression thing seems to be working out.
posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on August 19, 2010 [3 favorites]


Cortex, I was joking.

So that ironic aggression thing seems to be working out.
posted by rtha at 3:09 AM on August 20


Watch the sarcasm, rtha. You might get called a jerk. By those who are allowed to do so.
posted by Decani at 7:18 PM on August 19, 2010


Decani, your form of sarcasm seems designed to piss people off as much as possible so you can laugh at the results and is thus indestinguishable from trolling.

I don't think "he's said he's done talking, yet he's still talking. Yes? You see that?" counts as "really didn't get very fighty about at all."
posted by nangar at 7:35 PM on August 19, 2010


Dogrose: I honestly have no idea what you mean by this. Humans, a race? Grossly disempowered, as compared to... what? Maybe it's a mistype? I'm truly puzzled.

Yes, humans as a race, as in the human race.

Grossly disempowered by the fact that no matter our moral ideals, the conflicting biologies of our genders will long concede to haunt us, and disempower all parties in their respective attempts to be treated as "equals".

oneirodynia: How was this a question about sex?

NO thank you for reinforcing the concept that it is NOT OKAY for men to ask questions about situations involving sex and women that make them uncomfortable.

Is that better? I assumed glancing at a sexual area on another person was somehow related to sex, sexual urges, or whathaveyou.

Blaming women who are [angry at men treating other women with disrespect] for the plight of sensitive young men

Also my mistake. If there is blame it is reserved for the people in society. It is the bias of my own experience among female educators to have observed and erronously given the impression that women are the sole perpretrators of male oppression. Rape culture, the culture of violence, and so much more are at play here that lead to the profound emotional miseducation of today's men. This certainly does not exclude the treatment of men by other men.

I addressed women since it was overwhelming the responses of women (from what I understood among all the editing in that thread, thank you moderator jessamyn) that indicated their profound loss of respect and inability to forgive/absolve men of these social malfunctions even in light of a sincere apology. That somewhat cold and unforgiving position... I just cannot relate to. I have been profoundly hurt by men at times in my life, and then profoundly loved by men, as I'm sure we all have. IME with these people, they make mistakes, awkwardly seek answers in a culture that discourages them from expressing weaknesses and insecurities, and yet amid much of their stoic silence they find the resolve to BE MEN. As a woman, I'm happy to cast an appreciative glance of my own at that if, in this culture of mixed messages, that could possibly be perceived as flattering. If men are trying to figure out how to be men among women without f*cking up, I'll happily listen and try to answer their questions, even if my use of language comes across as clumsy.
posted by human ecologist at 8:27 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Here's what I'm noticing, cortex. I'm noticing that you, and to a lesser extent Jessamyn, seem to be right up my fucking arse for no good reason whatsoever.

You have come back to the site swinging. You have been aggressive and dismissive and jerkish on a regular basis in the short time since you've been back. I don't care if you feel like making some non-jerkish comments in between nullifies that—most people here aren't pulling any of that at all, that's the nominal behavior, and you don't really seem to be trying.

That after a long absence predicated by a timeout for crappy behavior you have come back and started engaging in crappy behavior again is the reason we've been keeping an eye on the whole thing. That it was bumpy at first was something we were hoping was just some rustiness or you getting some pent up old whatever out of your system; we were hoping it'd be self-repairing and you'd cut it out after a little bit. But that hasn't seemed to happen, and so at this point you've got our full attention as someone coming on strong with crappy behavior after a past history of same.

And I've talked about your behavior, not you. I don't know you, I don't assume you are yourself inherently a jerk or anything, I have no personal animus toward you, but you have been acting like one on a regular basis on Metafilter since your return and you need to cut it out. If you think other people have been acting like jerks too, I'm not even particularly disagreeing—it happens, and you're by far not the only person we've had to talk to about this stuff. But "they did it too" doesn't get you off the hook.

Would you like me to leave, cortex? Just say so, if that's the case, and I'll leave. If not, back off a piece. I'm not breaking any guidelines, I'm not personally abusing anyone and unless tongue-in-cheekery and sarcasm is now a MeFi no-no you, sir, are bang out of order.

I want you to cool it. I want to not have to have an opinion on the matter because you decide to lay off some of the aggro or dismissive stuff and it stops even being an issue. If you don't want to hear from us about this stuff, cut that shit out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:43 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Decani, you might do well to note the use of the sarcasm tag: {/} or adding "HAMBURGER" at the end of a comment. This will help people know that you're not trying to be a jerk, but just being sarcastic. It's easy for these things to get lost in plain type and it can lead to unintentional GRAR.
posted by stoneweaver at 8:44 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I got that he was joking.

bitterly masturbated sorry self into coma with the aid of vicious, misogynistic porn.


didn't strike me as an honest and realistic assessment of the asker once he was finished with the thread, so I considered other possibilities.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:13 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


I read the first half of the question and was so fixated on whether he is in a workplace where meetings are held on library ladders that I couldn't really get to the second half.

I was just so confused by the geometry of how one blatantly looks up someone else's skirt in a meeting that doesn't involve ladders or deliberate pen-dropping that I never got past that point.

I'm glad to know other people were confused as well.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:49 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why the living fuck are you people inserting yourselves into a spat between Decani and Cortex? STFU MYOB.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:58 PM on August 19, 2010


GRAR!
posted by five fresh fish at 10:00 PM on August 19, 2010

The constant reference to "real" or "actual" sexual harassment seeks only to make something like this unreal. Unreal as in imaginary as in it didn't exist it didn't happen it's all in your head girlie.
I think sometimes when people refer to sexual harassment as not being "real" or "actual", they just mean they don't care about it, not that it didn't happen. They consider themselves the sort of people who care about all sexual harassment, though, so the resolution is to exclude what's under discussion from the definition of the term.

The underlying attitude, though, is "go away, I don't care, and stop looking at me like you expect me to do something about it".
posted by planet at 10:03 PM on August 19, 2010


I think sometimes when people refer to sexual harassment as not being "real" or "actual", they just mean they don't care about it, not that it didn't happen. They consider themselves the sort of people who care about all sexual harassment, though, so the resolution is to exclude what's under discussion from the definition of the term.

The underlying attitude, though, is "go away, I don't care, and stop looking at me like you expect me to do something about it".


I think some people refer to something as just sexual harassment because they can't face that it's really the true horror of eye rape.

Here are some more unflattering imprecations I can make about people who disagree with me on a topic.
posted by Snyder at 10:22 PM on August 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have we not yet proven that human sexuality cannot be discussed on MeFi without it resulting in blood vendettas?
posted by Argyle at 10:29 PM on August 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


Here are some more unflattering imprecations I can make about people who disagree with me on a topic.
Disagree with me? I'm expressing my own attitudes, and yes, it is unflattering. I think that's why some people prefer to quibble about whether something is "sexual harassment".
posted by planet at 10:31 PM on August 19, 2010


Why the living fuck are you people inserting yourselves into a spat between Decani and Cortex? STFU MYOB.

But you favorited Decani's response to Cortex which, in its way, is just as much an endorsement as an affirming comment.

CHECK MATE BOOYEAH
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:40 PM on August 19, 2010


THIS HOLE THREAD IS SO GRATE
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:04 AM on August 20, 2010


what if metatalk had emoticons? I'd use the one where it eats popcorn right now. Then maybe every thread should end with this one.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:19 AM on August 20, 2010


It wasn't me; as someone raised in a household of 2 women, I'm careful to hide my leering behind mirrored sunglasses.

Ah! So that's why people wear sunglasses on the Tube!

Now plz to be explaining those bizarre slatted ones. Is it to deflect the accidental effects of death stare?
posted by mippy at 2:03 AM on August 20, 2010


But I maintain that people really can control their behavior amongst their colleagues at work. To not do so is disrespectful and rude to your coworkers.

Oh, I totally agree with you, the above is the base line minimum standard for office environments. But people are people, things don't go perfectly and eventually somebody screws up. In this instance, that person appears sorrowful and is attempting to make amends in his post to AskMe. He's asking for help. As such, the community should help him without getting all GRARie (GRARy?) and pining completely negative attitudes/emotions/thoughts/whatever on him or turning the question into a some sort of background on an issue.
posted by nomadicink at 5:32 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


background=Battleground (1 hour edit window, where are you?!)
posted by nomadicink at 6:38 AM on August 20, 2010


he constant reference to "real" or "actual" sexual harassment seeks only to make something like this unreal. Unreal as in imaginary as in it didn't exist it didn't happen it's all in your head girlie.

I think sometimes when people refer to sexual harassment as not being "real" or "actual", they just mean they don't care about it, not that it didn't happen.


I made a reference to "real" sexual harassment. I didn't mean that looking up a skirt was imaginary, only-in-your head harassment, nor did I mean to say that I don't care. I do care, just not as much as other commenters. The kind of sexual harassment that I endured in the 70's and 80's involved bosses with the power to fire you or withhold a raise if you didn't please them. It involved actual touching, not looking. So a co-worker who makes you uncomfortable by using his eyes inappropriately would be a much less greater threat to me personally and one I could deal with easily. But I'm an old dinosaur and if you are a young woman and haven't had that background I can well imagine it would be a bigger deal to you.

Women's anger towards men is just as emotionally damaging as men's anger towards women. I also consider it more frightening, as the results as lost in the black box of emotions men come to accept as their "feelings". Particularly abused men.

I feel the exact opposite. Men's anger is much more frightening because they are usually physically stronger and more likely to use their physical advantage. Moreover I find women to be more easily wounded by words and men to be more quick to lose their temper. I can't prove this is the case, it's just my anecdotal evidence countering yours.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:53 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


And then this all reminded me of...

(original story here, previous link is blog archive from the VV)

(Nothing like getting fired because you're too pretty and distract people and your coworkers can't seem to deal with it).

And what's worse...

Claiming she's tarnishing the financial industry's reputation, ex-Citibanker Debrahlee Lorenzana's current employer, JPMorgan Chase, now threatens to fire her for speaking to the press, the Voice learned today.

So, you know, the banks in this country can pretty much give it their best shot at ruining the American economy and remain untarnished and pure, but one superpretty woman is capable of ruining the whole industry's reputation? Sigh.

(I sigh very loudly because I used to be one of 3 women brokers in an office of 55 when I worked for Salomon Smith Barney, and although I'm not as good looking as Debralee Lorenzana, I definitely experienced the clothing double standard at work. When I had a cast on that stretched from my armpit to my hand and could only get into sleeveless buttondown shirts, I got chastised. Male broker breaks his leg skiing and wears sweatpants to work for a month? No problem).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:28 AM on August 20, 2010


I also consider it more frightening ...

I feel the exact opposite. Men's anger is much more frightening ...

Secret Life of Gravy, I think human ecology meant that the social consequences of women's anger (in some contexts) is frightening because it reinforces the idea men aren't supposed to have emotions or vulnerabilities. (Not that men are more frightened by it.)

You're saying men's anger is more frightening to women because of the power imbalance.

I think both of these statements are true, and they're not contradictory. (I'm not sure about human ecology's "more frightening" though.)
posted by nangar at 7:52 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I know you're being all sensitive man and showing off your badass feminist chops, but this is the second time you've totally misunderstood the purpose of this thread. Maybe you should read it before accusing people of derailing it, especially in such an insulting and supercilious manner.

Sorry, Snyder, I didn't see your devastating Internet burn until this morning but I'll play.

From the first post:

What I'm hoping to achieve with this thread: 1) some form of understanding from the various sides that others may have legitimate points and 2) that doesn't make them evil or bad 3) and a reminder that AskMe is for helping people, who often in delicate or difficult situations, not as a place to ride our personal high horses, however righteous we may think they are.

From my post that you so wickedly snapped me on:

Dude, seriously, why can't we just one time leave the focus of a thread about bad male behavior and constructive ways to address it on that and only that?

If you don't think that a dude intentionally looking up a coworker's skirt right in front of her face in the middle of a work meeting does not constitute "bad male behavior" that's totally cool. If you think every single Meta-thread attempting to hash out sensitive gender issues on this site devolving into a bunch of heteromales talking about how fucked up all the awful things women do constitutes a constructive dialog, that's also cool. But I think accusing me of "showing off my feminist chops" because I think violating a woman coworker's dignity is not cool and allowing men to control the discussion of how the community deals with the issue by twisting it into a thread about male victimhood greivance airing (yet again) is not cool is a little assholish.

Or maybe you're just the one with the reading comprehension issue? It could be either, you tell me.
posted by The Straightener at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


intentionally

I see what you did there.
posted by Space Coyote at 8:18 AM on August 20, 2010


I think it's GRAR-y
posted by Namlit at 8:33 AM on August 20, 2010


But I maintain that people really can control their behavior amongst their colleagues at work. To not do so is disrespectful and rude to your coworkers.

Oh, I totally agree with you, the above is the base line minimum standard for office environments. But people are people, things don't go perfectly and eventually somebody screws up. In this instance, that person appears sorrowful and is attempting to make amends in his post to AskMe


I was specifically responding to the "men can't help it, it's just how we're wired!" comments. Making a mistake is fine, it happens. Qualifying it as really more of a "mistake" than a mistake is not cool.

The mistake is looking up her skirt. The mistake is not running afoul of the PC police who cruelly oppress men's nature by expecting them to prioritize the professional relationship with their female colleagues over how they feel about women in general.
posted by desuetude at 8:57 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


> I reject your claim that I have been "pulling this kind of thing constantly" since I came back. That's bullshit, and the data are there to prove it's bullshit. You'd see, if you looked at every comment I've posted since I returned [blah blah blah]

You have in fact been pulling this kind of thing constantly since you came back. Your proud demonstration that not every comment has been assholish is a childish attempt to play with the ambiguity of the word "constantly," as if it automatically meant "every single time." It doesn't; one of the definitions at Webster's is "continually occurring or recurring : regular <a constant annoyance>," and that exactly describes your assholishness. And believe me, it is not just the mods who notice and are pissed off by it.

> You might also notice that in the very brief period since I've returned I seem to have received more favourites than I managed in the just-shy-of-two years I was here originally, back in 2005 and 2006.

This is even more childish than your parsing of the word "constantly."

> Would you like me to leave, cortex?

I can't speak for him, but I certainly would, unless you can learn to behave in a civilized fashion.
posted by languagehat at 8:58 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Let's ask people to behave civilly by name calling!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:03 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


The mistake is looking up her skirt. The mistake is not running afoul of the PC police who cruelly oppress men's nature by expecting them to prioritize the professional relationship with their female colleagues over how they feel about women in general.

K, we're talking about two different things.
posted by nomadicink at 9:12 AM on August 20, 2010


What exactly does looking up someone's skirt mean? The preposition makes me think he's looking totally up there, not just checking out her legs.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:23 AM on August 20, 2010


If you don't think that a dude intentionally looking up a coworker's skirt right in front of her face in the middle of a work meeting does not constitute "bad male behavior" that's totally cool.

Pretty sure the asker of the question thought it was bad. Not sure anyone thinks its not. I think that when the thread started people were upset about the non-helping answers, which have been deleted from what I can see. So then the thread sort of went to why it was non-helping in the first place.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:25 AM on August 20, 2010


I wish we could add a warning to anonymous AskMes to the effect of "Try to use simple words. If you mean 'accidentally' or 'unplanned,' say that and not 'unwittingly.' If you mean 'obviously' or 'uncaringly,' say that and not 'blatantly.' Ambiguous words will be misunderstood by at least some of the readers of your question."
posted by tyllwin at 9:39 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


You might also notice that in the very brief period since I've returned I seem to have received more favourites than I managed in the just-shy-of-two years I was here originally, back in 2005 and 2006.

that's a pretty amazing "achievement" in light of the fact that favorites only existed for like a month before you left.
posted by lalex at 9:41 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


burn
posted by Justinian at 9:49 AM on August 20, 2010


You have in fact been pulling this kind of thing constantly since you came back.

I'm not sure if it's helpful but this has been my impression as well. That is to say, if you're trying to look like you're making a good faith effort to hang out here [as opposed to deliberately stirring up shit here] it's not coming across. I'm not sure if that's by accident or on purpose.

We'd like you to either make some sort of an effort to engage with the community more or less as it is [i.e. without the nearly constant aggressive obnoxiousness] either by toning it down or stepping away when things get you too pissed off. Your choice. The "don't be an asshole" bar is set pretty high, but you've been approaching it regularly and in a way that concerns us because it's been disruptive in a number of places.

So, up to you. We'd never tell anyone to leave. We don't want anyone to leave who wants to be here. That said, there are some pretty broad guidelines of "things you need to do if you stay" that might be problematic for you and it's up to you what you want to do about that.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:08 AM on August 20, 2010


I know intellectually that men look, but it still catches me off guard when they announce the results. The other day at the gym a guy walked up and congratulated me on my "progress" and told me "to keep it up" because I was "looking good."

First (v. brief) thought: Yeah Me! Second (lingering) thought: Oh ick. Am I on show here? Are other people evaluating me?

Duh. Of course they are, but I often let myself forget. It's more peaceful to pretend that men are not constantly evaluating me as a possible sexual partner. I'm not sure what is worse-- failing the test now because I am 52 or passing with flying colors back when I was 16.


This the kind of thing that drives me nuts about these discussions. If 52-old Mr. Fatty McBlob lost a hundred pounds I'd probably congratulate him on his progress and tell him to keep it up because he was "looking good," even if he still had a hundred pounds to lose but I can't say the same things to Mrs. McBlob if she lost the weight without being a gender oppressor?
posted by timeistight at 10:12 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Would you like me to leave, cortex? Just say so, if that's the case, and I'll leave. If not, back off a piece. I'm not breaking any guidelines, I'm not personally abusing anyone and unless tongue-in-cheekery and sarcasm is now a MeFi no-no you, sir, are bang out of order.

he said you've taken your reinstatement as an opportunity to act like a jerk and asked you to lay off. he's right, and you should. if your response is "I'm not breaking any guidelines!" then I, for one, would very much like you to leave. we don't need people trying to rules lawyer their way around basic civility.
posted by shmegegge at 10:17 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


> If 52-old Mr. Fatty McBlob lost a hundred pounds I'd probably congratulate him on his progress and tell him to keep it up because he was "looking good," even if he still had a hundred pounds to lose but I can't say the same things to Mrs. McBlob if she lost the weight without being a gender oppressor?

I suppose it's pointless to tell you your snappy response is embarrassingly superficial and demonstrates a lamentable ignorance of what sexism and gender issues are all about, because you presumably have no interest in remedying that ignorance. But if I'm wrong and you would like to learn more, there are a number of MeFi/MeTa threads that you might find illuminating.
posted by languagehat at 10:24 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've read those threads, LH. I still don't accept that one gym rat encouraging another gym rat's efforts becomes sexual harassment when the former is male and the latter is female.
posted by timeistight at 10:34 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


None so blind as those who will not see.
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I suppose it's pointless to tell you your snappy response is embarrassingly superficial and demonstrates a lamentable ignorance of what sexism and gender issues are all about, because you presumably have no interest in remedying that ignorance. But if I'm wrong and you would like to learn more, there are a number of MeFi/MeTa threads that you might find illuminating.

Talking down and not answering! Well done!
posted by Big_B at 10:42 AM on August 20, 2010 [10 favorites]


Oh, call him an asshole next!
posted by furiousxgeorge at 10:56 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Late to the party, but I wanted to take the thread back to "can't we be more civilized?".

A few years ago, I was on a few other sites and ended up leaving them because of pile-ons and flame wars. I didn't think I would ever join another online community after getting really burned a couple times.

Then I found Metafilter. I lurked for a while before I joined, just to make sure it was well-moderated.

I've been really happy here, and it disturbs me that lately it's been getting more GRAR-y and snarky.

I think the mods do a fantastic job, though, and the green is light-years less mean-spirited than any of the other sites I was once involved in. I've really come to value this community.

That said, if you can't engage in a little self-moderation before replying to an AskMe, just don't. Just because you can't see someone IRL doesn't mean there isn't a human being behind the question, one who's sincerely seeking help.

If all you want to do is flame and vent, there are plenty of sites around where you can do just that. But let's keep Metafilter a safe space.
posted by xenophile at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Hey, maybe a mod could call him a jerk!
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


>Oh, call him an asshole next!

>Hey, maybe a mod could call him a jerk!

I'm having trouble figuring those out. Who is "him"?
posted by timeistight at 11:06 AM on August 20, 2010


If all you want to do is flame and vent, there are plenty of sites around where you can do just that. But let's keep Metafilter a safe space.

Of course, the crux of many of these grar-y debates is what "safe space" means to different people.
posted by proj at 11:11 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


ut I can't say the same things to Mrs. McBlob if she lost the weight without being a gender oppressor?

I've read those threads, LH. I still don't accept that one gym rat encouraging another gym rat's efforts becomes sexual harassment when the former is male and the latter is female.


What a bizarre interpretation of my comment. At no point did I call it sexual harassment or even gender oppression. I just said it made me uncomfortable.

This will probably come as a surprise to those who only know me through MetaFilter, but in real life I am a very modest person-- I dress modestly and I most certainly don't flirt with men I don't know. I would prefer it strange men didn't share their thoughts on my figure, because in my experience it starts with a compliment, continues with an invitation, and then becomes anger when I explain how I am very happy and not looking to shop around. Is that really so hard to understand?
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 11:18 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It isn't hard to understand. I'm sorry what I'd have interpreted as supportive made you uncomfortable. The whole situation makes me sad, for you and for him.
posted by timeistight at 11:27 AM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


I know intellectually that men look, but it still catches me off guard when they announce the results. The other day at the gym a guy walked up and congratulated me on my "progress" and told me "to keep it up" because I was "looking good."

With all due respect to Secret Life of Gravy and to left-handers everywhere, that's not really sinister. It's the very definition of a left-handed compliment. We've been told repeatedly (well, I sure have) to ascribe the best possible motives to one and all. That's one gym rat verbally high-fiving another.
posted by fixedgear at 11:42 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]



I've read those threads, LH. I still don't accept that one gym rat encouraging another gym rat's efforts becomes sexual harassment when the former is male and the latter is female.


I think there's a distinction to be made between 'sexual harassment' and 'making someone feel uncomfortable' because you haven't thought through the situation in a sensitive enough way.

Since women (on average) generally suffer more ridicule or opprobrium for being overweight than men, it stands to reason that a random woman (on average) might be more likely to be sensitive about having a stranger draw attention to her body out of the blue than the average man would.

I don't think off-hand comments to a woman at the gym necessarily/automatically constitute sexual harassment (to so claim I think really cheapens what is an important and very real problem), but it does show a lack of sensitivity and empathy which reflects poorly on the commentator, even if it was made without the slightest bit of malicious intent.
posted by modernnomad at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2010


I'm a man. If another man who was a complete stranger to me came up to me complimented me for losing weight and told me I was "looking good." I would think it was a little weird - 'you've been monitoring me? Huh?' If it was from somebody I knew, it would be quite different.

If you say the same thing to a woman you don't know, you're adding sexual component, which makes it even creepier. Woman are likely to take "you're looking good" comments sexually because they are usually meant that way, and they know that from experience.

It doesn't reflect any kind of anti-male attitude for women to exercise basic common sense in interpreting other people's comments.
posted by nangar at 11:52 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you say the same thing to a woman you don't know, you're adding sexual component, which makes it even creepier.

Just popping back into the thread to say that it's not necessarily sexual ONLY if a man says it to a woman. It can be just as sexual if a man says it to another man. Depends on the man doing the saying.
posted by grumblebee at 11:56 AM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


If another man who was a complete stranger to me came up to me complimented me for losing weight and told me I was "looking good." I would think it was a little weird - 'you've been monitoring me? Huh?'

It's definitely a little weird to say it, and I would never feel comfortable doing so myself, but you do see the same people over and over at the gym and often can't help but notice their progress sometimes. It's not "monitoring" so much as sharing space with a distinct set of strangers.
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 12:08 PM on August 20, 2010


it does show a lack of sensitivity and empathy which reflects poorly on the commentator, even if it was made without the slightest bit of malicious intent.

Not really, it shows a lack of ability to guess someones reaction. Plenty of people enjoy compliments and feed off of encouragement, even from strangers. No amount of empathy or sensitiveness is going to give you the ability to guess what kind of person someone is if you don't know them.

I dislike attention, especially about my weight (good or bad) so I totally understand that part of it. I'm an introvert and I have social anxiety.

However, I don't want to live in a world where people are so afraid of the consequences of their words that they just stop giving compliments and interacting with strangers.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:15 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah, of course. Coming from a complete stranger, I would wonder if the guy was gay. If I knew they were, I'd probably interpret it sexually. A woman would be likely to take a "you're looking good" comment as expressing sexual interest because most guys are straight (unless she's knows the guy is gay, or she knows him well enough to know it's not meant that way).
posted by nangar at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2010


I would prefer it strange men didn't share their thoughts on my figure, because in my experience it starts with a compliment, continues with an invitation, and then becomes anger when I explain how I am very happy and not looking to shop around.

That's an awful situation, but the strange guys are the ones who won't care what you want and the decent guys are the ones who wouldn't mean anything by it. Your sentiments are perfectly understandable, but the people who need to listen are by definition the ones who wouldn't anyway. And I think that's why threads like these tend to be problematic, because the guys who are listening are the ones present to the discussion and held to the fire while the problem guys never hear any of it.
posted by Phyltre at 12:18 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Can people easily distinguish between a person who is actually sorry for something they did and someone who is merely sorry that they were caught? Of course. Is it okay to do so on metafilter? No. Metafilter expects more from people than that. Which is great and sets the site apart from most.

But, it seems that a person will usually get answers of about the same caliber/ quality/genuineness as that of their question. If earnestness is required, it should be required from not just the answers, but also from the questions.

To me (my personal take) there were elements of his question (the way he wrote it that day - maybe he would have worded it differently another day) that suggested he wasn't genuine in what he was seeking (forgiveness?).

You have humans asking questions and human giving answers. So he got responses that were a bit terse at times. I'm sorry, metafilter already has high standards: That same question would have gone nowhere fast anywhere else.

He got very good answers to his question. Very.

If metafilter were completely perfect/inhuman - I wouldn't read it anymore. It woudn't be real. Nor would I ever ask a question here if it became completely souless (aparently the goal of a few). Rules are rules. Yes. But I have to wonder how the person who posted the question feels?

Did he get his answer?

I think he did.
posted by marimeko at 12:28 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


The problem with big long controversial AskMe threads is you can end up with really good answers that tell you to do the exact opposite thing.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:31 PM on August 20, 2010


I blame Kurt Gödel for that one, furiousxgeorge.
posted by cortex (staff) at 12:44 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


Towards the end of his life, Kurt Gödel worked hard on a proof that it was impossible to blame Kurt Gödel for anything. Alas, the best he was able to come up with was "according to YOU!"
posted by grumblebee at 12:47 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


It's not "monitoring" so much as sharing space with a distinct set of strangers.

I know. I notice people in public places too. And I think we're all aware that other people see us. It helps, though, if you get to know another person a little bit first rather than starting off with creepy 'I've been watching you' comments.

We all know that other people see us and look at us, and we do the same, but social conventions about what we say to other people (especially strangers), how we look at others, what we pretend not to notice act as a second set of clothes and help us deal with interactions with large numbers of other people, most of whom we don't know very well or at all.

The original OP realized he'd violated one of these conventions, felt mortified, and asked for help dealing with it.
posted by nangar at 12:51 PM on August 20, 2010


Personally, I wouldn't interpret "looking good!" as a sexual advance in the context of one gym-goer talking to another. It's less "nice bod" and more "keep it up, I know what hard work you're putting in because I'm here, too!" Anyway, I think that guy at your gym would feel bad if he knew he'd intruded on your modesty.
posted by palliser at 1:00 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Secret Life of Gravy: I maintain that women's anger towards men is more frightening on the basis of how much misogynist pornography I've seen in my short lifetime. You cannot dump your anger on someone without expecting to see an outlet for that heavy, volatile emotion re-surface elsewhere.

As nangar explained, social consequences and physical consequences are two very different arenas of human interaction.
posted by human ecologist at 1:42 PM on August 20, 2010


Secret Life of Gravy: I find women to be more easily wounded by words and men to be more quick to lose their temper.

Also, you may find it enlightening to ask men about how they feel from time to time, particularly those who tend not to resort to violence as a means for conflict resolution.
posted by human ecologist at 1:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I maintain that women's anger towards men is more frightening on the basis of how much misogynist pornography I've seen in my short lifetime. You cannot dump your anger on someone without expecting to see an outlet for that heavy, volatile emotion re-surface elsewhere.

I've been trying to stay out of thus, but seriously...Are you really blaming women for misogyny? And for porn? If we were just nicer girls then the poor oppressed men wouldn't hate us?

Are you suggesting that misogynist porn didn't exist before feminism? Before women's lib? Before sufragettes? How well behaved do we have to be before they won't need to look at pictures of us being debased?
posted by hydropsyche at 1:58 PM on August 20, 2010 [11 favorites]


human ecologist, I don't think you can blame feminism for misogyny or misogynistic porn (if that's what you meant). I think they've been around longer than that. I suspect misogyny and misandry may have been around as long as people have had bad relationships with people of the opposite sex and had resentments about that.

I agreed with parts of what you said, and appreciated them, but not that.
posted by nangar at 2:12 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I also think it's a bit unfair to accuse Secrete Life of Gravy of not caring about how men feel.
posted by nangar at 2:19 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


hydropshyche: Are you really blaming women for misogyny?

Not at all. The people who create misogynistic pornography are the ones responsible for it. They are the adults who are responsible for their actions and behaviors, regardless of their feelings.

What I am trying to suggest: just as there are social consequences for men expressing their anger without tact, that there may also be social consequences for women expressing their anger without tact. That perhaps the clumsy expression of anger towards men could possibly have something to do with the aggressive anger some men direct towards women. The most obvious example that I can pull off the top of my head is graphically available pornography, which I believe most of us can agree, seems to vent some sort of anger towards women. Unless I am somehow misunderstanding that too.

No I am not suggesting that misogynistic porn did not exist before feminism.

How well behaved do we have to be before they won't need to look at pictures of us being debased?

I cannot answer that question without the input of those persons producing the debasing pictures in the first place. However, if I had to guess, I would expect that more tactful respect for the emotional struggles of these particular male people would be a start.
posted by human ecologist at 2:20 PM on August 20, 2010


nangar: I also think it's a bit unfair to accuse Secrete Life of Gravy of not caring about how men feel.

This is not what I said.
posted by human ecologist at 2:22 PM on August 20, 2010


As someone who posted (twice) on the thread, and have reread all the answers, actually I don't think it's that bad (although obviously I can't see the deleted posts).

A lot of focus has been given in this thread to the words "blatant" and "unwittingly" - can I add in "pervy", "busted", and "do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not?" for consideration? In context, "unwittingly" seemed the odd one out, and so I read "blatant" as meaning deliberate and obvious. I have to believe that the OP chose the words that he used in his post - had he used words like "accidental" and "glance", I would have assumed a different scenario. He always had the option of providing clarification via the mods.

The point is that all we have to go on are the OPs words. Assuming an accidental wardrobe malfunction is as bad as assuming a "pen drop" situation complete with lecherous drooling.

Jessamyn says that it's not possible to go back to anonymous posters and suggest that they reword their post - and I think that's right - the poster is asking AskMeFi for advice, not Jessamyn, and if the mods were to question the wording then they'd be effectively offering advice (in this case "a lot of people are likely to give you a rather negative response").

Having said that, the idea of an "Ask Jessamyn" page actually sounds like a rather good idea! (I always find Jessamyn's posts insightful)
posted by finding.perdita at 3:36 PM on August 20, 2010


"How well behaved do we have to be before they won't need to look at pictures of us being debased?

I cannot answer that question without the input of those persons producing the debasing pictures in the first place. However, if I had to guess, I would expect that more tactful respect for the emotional struggles of these particular male people would be a start."


scratches head until it bleeds
posted by stagewhisper at 4:17 PM on August 20, 2010


Rather than restrict the awkward questions of anonymous posters to the wisdom of the mods (and thus, leave the rest of us out of the discussion), could the mods instead agree on a standard reply for MeFi responders whose responses are out of line? Instead of having to respond to each inappropriate response individually, have a message agreed upon by the mods as appropriate for explaining how AskMe works in these situations? And then perhaps, include this action for disrespectful behavior in the FAQs as well as the introductory blurb users read when signing up?

An "Ask Jessamyn" page would still result in an increased workload for the mods, which is what Jessamyn expressed was so disappointing about these situations.

Secret Life of Gravy: I find women to be more easily wounded by words and men to be more quick to lose their temper.

Upon further reflection, I have a more appropriate response to this comment that does not imply you are insensitive to men. If you were insensitive, I don't imagine you would be here in the first place.

You do not even need to ask men about their feelings to hear where I'm coming from. You just need to be aware that anger and depression are two sides of the same coin. Women tend to deal with their frustrations more readily through depression, and men tend to deal with their frustrations more readily through anger. Whenever anger is expressed by any person, you will find it is always a thin veil for hurt every time. So in fact, when you do see men more quick to lose their temper, you are actually observing these men expressing their hurt. They are simply doing it in the way that is modeled and taught to them from a very early age.

nangar: I don't think you can blame feminism for misogyny or misogynistic porn (if that's what you meant). I think they've been around longer than that. I suspect misogyny and misandry may have been around as long as people have had bad relationships with people of the opposite sex and had resentments about that.

Agreed.

Also, to clarify... From the sounds of it and what I read of responses that were swiftly deleted, the sheer amount of HATE expressed for the OP, in all honesty, immediately drew my mind to the comparable SHEER HATE I have seen for women in misogynistic porn. In fact, Decani's comment actually illustrates a male response to female anger quite well.

I understand if some people are offended by my comparison of female anger to misogynistic porn. But ultimately, I do not accept that women are any less responsible for how they express their anger than men are.
posted by human ecologist at 4:18 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oops, Decani's comment here.
posted by human ecologist at 4:28 PM on August 20, 2010


The problem with using that example is there are a wide range of reasons why people look at porn that involves debasement, some of which are deeply unhealthy and some of which are benign, but they are significantly varied.

It's a complex issue with a minefield of discussion points so it isn't a great subject to use as an example.

I think if you had said, for example, that men drink to deal with their emotional pain you would be on to something people would understand better. (though there is as much complexity there it isn't as much of a hot button)
posted by furiousxgeorge at 4:33 PM on August 20, 2010


However, if I had to guess, I would expect that more tactful respect for the emotional struggles of these particular male people would be a start.

Sorry, but I can't see any other way to interpret what you are trying to get across than what has already been asked - are you honestly saying that angry women (hmmm, WHY are they angry at men again?) toning it down would help the plight of women, since men would want to treat them better?
posted by agregoli at 4:54 PM on August 20, 2010


I think she is saying individuals should treat each other with the same respect they expect others to treat them, because breakdowns in respect can have unintended consequences.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:00 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


could the mods instead agree on a standard reply for MeFi responders whose responses are out of line?

No. People know how AskMe works in most of these cases and usually they either "can't help themselves" or they think they need to respond to someone else's comment and they don't have the patience or ability to tone down their comments to be non-problematic in the thread.

If we send messages to everyone whose comments are removed [now 20+ comments in that thread, from about that many posters] at least some of them would respond to them with questions or grouchiness and we flat out don't care to open 20 conversations with people. Instead we have one place to have a big conversation if there are some people who need to talk to either the mods or the other people concerned about such things.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 5:04 PM on August 20, 2010


furiousxgeorge: I think if you had said, for example, that men drink to deal with their emotional pain you would be on to something people would understand better.

I hear what your saying, but I don't agree that drinking as effectively addresses the disproportionate aggression/hatred that the thread appeared to generate.

I think she is saying individuals should treat each other with the same respect they expect others to treat them, because breakdowns in respect can have unintended consequences.

Thank you.
posted by human ecologist at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2010


I generally keep away from AskMe because I'm one of those people who doesn't have the patience. I wish there were more people like me, because it'd cut down on the endless MeTa threads about AskMe dicks.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2010


breakdowns in respect can have unintended consequences.

What a nice euphemism, when the discussion is about something like violent pornography. For untold centuries, women have been dealing with those "unintended consequences" in the form of reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder. Because apparently a woman's anger is so vast and powerful that she deserves what she gets for voicing it if it makes some men uncomfortable. I guess it's good those consequences are unintended, huh? Can't have other people taking responsibility for their own actions and responses or anything.

Oh, but no one's REALLY saying women need to watch their tone or they get what's coming to them, right? It's just a big fucking coincidence that this sounds so much like the "sit down and speak nicely because you were warned."

We've come a long way, baby.

I thought I wasn't going to participate in this thread anymore, but...Jesus Christ.
posted by Salieri at 5:17 PM on August 20, 2010 [8 favorites]


The thing that's missing for me in the whole situation is why anybody would really care to take a secretive look up a woman's skirt in the first place? It's not as if there's anything much to see there.

If a colleague were sitting opposite me in (for the sake of argument) a miniskirt & with her legs splayed, my reaction, if anything, would be "Oh, huh. I wonder if she knows that her undies are showing when she sits like that?" rather than "phwoooooaaaaar!!!"

Or are there people out there with some kind of Japanese salaryman style of obsession with panties or something? Could it be that if you've always lived in a beachy, swimmy kind of environment that undies & upper legs lose their tee-hee-taboo-secret-women's-business kind of erotic status? Because personally, I just don't get the pervy appeal at all.

(obviously, others' mileages must be different, or we wouldn't even be having this discussion. and yeah, obviously the beach is different to the workplace, but all the same I'm just trying to describe my imagined reaction, or lack of it)
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:20 PM on August 20, 2010


agregoli: are you honestly saying that angry women (hmmm, WHY are they angry at men again?) toning it down would help the plight of women, since men would want to treat them better?

Perhaps, although it may be better to emphasize that having an eye-for-eye approach is more likely to make the whole world blind than it is to promote peace and understanding between genders... which is what we all ultimately want, right? For men to respect women, and women to respect men...? Maybe even people respecting people all around?
posted by human ecologist at 5:23 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


I generally keep away from AskMe because I'm one of those people who doesn't have the patience. I wish there were more people like me, because it'd cut down on the endless MeTa threads about AskMe dicks.
posted by five fresh fish


You know what? I know it is just my own observation...but you have been an my radar for being an ass lately. So glad to hear that you don't think that you are an AskMe dick. But you are truly a dick everywhere else. So thanks for staying out of AskMe, dick?
posted by futz at 5:24 PM on August 20, 2010


Salieri: It's just a big fucking coincidence that this sounds so much like the "sit down and speak nicely because you were warned."

So because I'm asking women to speak respectfully to men on Metafilter so that I can hear what they have to say, you are saying I must be condoning reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder, etc.? Is this correct?

Because really, I am asking to be able to hear what men have to say on Metafilter, and I would really appreciate if people who are angry at men could address their grievances over reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder, etc. in a more constructive way that does not result in disrespect for other people's feelings.
posted by human ecologist at 5:32 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


For untold centuries, women have been dealing with those "unintended consequences" in the form of reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder. Because apparently a woman's anger is so vast and powerful that she deserves what she gets for voicing it if it makes some men uncomfortable. I guess it's good those consequences are unintended, huh? Can't have other people taking responsibility for their own actions and responses or anything.

We are talking about human relations on the individual and small group level. When you are talking to a man who treats women with respect he does not deserve disrespect on the grounds that others do not do the same and it could be counter-productive.

Another example sure not to generate a derail and emotional responses:

Israel/Palestine. You can agree that one side is more in the right and another has inflicted more harm, but you can't condone the cycle of violence because after a certain amount of violence it doesn't matter who is more right.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:37 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


human ecologist, I think you are coming into this thread with some strong biases, and are misrepresenting a lot of what's going on. First, I don't think anyone in that thread was saying or even implying that it is "NOT OKAY" to ask questions or condemning the OP as "stupid" for doing so. (I've been following both the threads, but please correct me if I've missed any such comments.) There is his act (looking up a colleague's skirt, in the OP's own words), and there is his question -- those are two separate things; and while I've seen a bunch of commenters say that they would lose respect for a man who they caught looking up their skirt in a professional setting, that is exactly what the OP asked. You can take umbrage with women for being honest about how they would feel in a situation like that, but it would be best not to frame it as a chastisement for silencing, abusing, or "verbally castrating" (?!) the male in question.

You said: "That perhaps the clumsy expression of anger towards men could possibly have something to do with the aggressive anger some men direct towards women."

So you're saying that if a man looks up a woman's skirt, and she walks off and/or refuses to speak to him and/or loses respect for him and/or outright tells him he's a pig for doing so, this could possibly inform his feelings about women negatively in some way? This is the absolute kindest interpretation I personally can have of your sentence, and it's still all wrong. Because what this implies is that his feelings towards women are (or could be) women's fault.

They're not. If a man cannot tell women apart? He has a problem to begin with. If a man is conflating his abusive mother with his girlfriend or taking out his resentment about his overbearing female boss on his wife, that's not women's problem -- it is his. He needs to learn to distinguish between women as individuals, just as he would with men, or with any identity group. What he does not need is to get validation for his "natural" feelings and reactions (peeping or getting turned on etc) while women get chastised for theirs (being angered, being uncomfortable, losing respect). I suspect that I speak for a *lot of women* when I confess that this is what makes me the most uncomfortable about being objectified or peeped at or what have you: it makes me realize that to that particular man, I am just "a woman". At its worst, it's dehumanizing; but even at its most harmless, in a public place like the gym or the office, it's discomforting. So is your argument.

Because this is what power does: it "izes". It essentializes, it conflates, it reduces. It elides differences and installs categories. And when we think in those categories, as the OP did unwittingly, but as you are doing in most of your comments, we subscribe to and serve those systems of power.

I am also bothered that you jump so quickly to characterize a few emphatic words on an Ask thread -- the nicest, most well-moderated part of this site -- as angry, abusing and/or damaging to the OP's psyche. I mean MeTa is pretty brutal for me, and I'm as easily pained as they come, but I still would not in a million years consider this damaging to me -- although, yes, it has damaged my opinions about some people. (If it does start damaging me? I'll leave, just like that woman in the OP's office, but thankfully, unlike her, I won't have to come back.) But I'm cool with that and I'm cool with someone having a poor opinion of me based on what I say here, because we're all here of our own choice and we're all just talking our own truths, for the most part. As you said in your first comment, that's a good thing. And answering a direct question like "Did you lose your respect for the peeper, or do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not?" with Hell Yes! is still far less problematic, in my opinion, than labeling such answers as abusive or serving a "bizzare double standard".

But here's the part that made me finally participate in this thread:"I cannot answer that question without the input of those persons producing the debasing pictures in the first place. However, if I had to guess, I would expect that more tactful respect for the emotional struggles of these particular male people would be a start."

If you had to guess, you would guess that more tactful respect for the emotional struggles of these particular male people would be a start towards ending the general male need for misogynistic pornography? Which particular male people -- the ones producing those pictures or the one asking the question or the ones saying men are wired to peep? More respect from whom? The women in the pictures, the women on this thread or the women in the OP's office? From all women to all men?

It seems clear to me that the question you were answering ("How well behaved do we have to be before they won't need to look at pictures of us being debased?") was a rhetorical one, written to highlight that you're obliquely blaming women for pornography. Your answer not only ignores that, but goes much further in its women-blaming, not only legitimizing the producers of porn as having some sort of logic about why they debase and exploit women but also implying that if we just respected the "emotional struggles" of the men in our own lives, we'd make a dent in misogyny, and would be on the path to gender equality and goodness all around.

No. Just… no. I'm personally acquainted with three 'cultures' - Indian, American and Iranian. Hopefully you already know a little bit about all three, at least enough to agree with me that on the scale of gender equality, they'd be plotted (by most people) with Iran on the lower end of the scale, the US on the higher end; and India somewhere in the middle - closer to Iran or the US depending on who you ask.

Anyway here's what I've seen across the board: it is society that gives men the sanction to objectify, abuse and womanize females. To take the extreme example: women in Iran are woefully disenfranchized -- to the extent that I can't even type these words without feeling a little nauseous about what I've seen and heard and known -- and hey, guess what, they still have pornography, among other things. A man can get his wife legally executed for cheating on him; he can not only take several wives but even have "temporary wives" -- women who he can marry for the sake of fucking without granting her any legal rights that come with regular marriage -- hell, women get killed there for having been raped. What kind of a culture does this result in? One where women bend over backwards for their husbands and sons and brothers. Many of those women… all they do is care about what their husbands need and think and want and expect. Even you'd agree that's not the solution, or even the beginning of a solution, to anything.

I have this very lovely friend who has only one parameter for judging interpersonal situations and actions. He asks, "is this opening up the conversation or ending it?" Because that's all there is between people, besides sex and violence and trade: conversation. But then again, he can afford to keep it that simple: he's a guy, and a strong and charismatic one at that. I do not think that dismissing the concerns and feelings of men is the path to gender equality, or that men's often legitimate problems with being misunderstood have no place in a discussion about gender dynamics. But here's my point, finally, and this is my take-away from the thread (and I'm echoing many other commenters here): conversation about gender has to be careful. It has to be precise. It has to be measured, and nuanced, and contextual. Sure, you can make all kinds of inferences based on the deletion of comments you don't even know the content of, but it does not, in my view, make for real or positive conversation about things we "as a community" don't do well.

No, I don't think comparing what's going on in this thread or that thread (or in that office) with abuse, let alone castration, is a good idea. I don't think even if women on that thread used 20 pt. font and actually wrote "GODDAMN YOU I HATE YOU, YOU FILTHY DISGUSTING MALE" it would still be anywhere near comparable to the hatred embedded in much of porn. I don't think blaming women is right - from the point of view of talking about it, or from a historical, contextual point of view. I think it takes conversation to a place where people either become defensive or become victims, and ultimately more, not less, gendered.

In my angsty girlhood I used to listen to Tori Amos, and I still recall this one thing she said in some interview after coming out about her rape (I'm wildly paraphrasing here): when you get hurt - really, deeply hurt - it's very hard to allow yourself to be vulnerable again. It's a primal thing, I think, it's a survival thing (something that nadawi alluded to above, in context of her angry comments on the original thread). So the OP writes about objectifying a woman, and women on this board empathize with the woman instinctively and emotionally because we know how that feels, and because we know that it could just as easily be any one of us as that woman, in that situation -- because it is about her woman-ness, and we share that with her.

And this is the *fact* of being a woman in India, in Iran -- and yes, very much so even in the US: we're all carrying our pain of being reduced every day in a multitude of ways by other people, by people who are, physically and socially, more powerful than us, by people who get heard and accepted and validated before and above us. If women come to a safe space like a web site -- where no one can jump out of the screen and give them a dirty look and where, thankfully, there is moderation to keep out the blatantly sexist stuff -- hell, let us not blame them for being loud or emphatic. Let us not read into deleted comments. Let us *not* conflate words on a website with abuse or use words like castration unthinkingly. No, this website is not the real world; in the real world, there aren't that many social consequences for men expressing their anger without tact, whereas women don't even have that many avenues to do it. Gender *is* the single best predictor of criminal behavior -- across cultures and time. But this is not about anatomy; it's about gendered opportunity, gendered independence and gendered marginalization. (And the threat of violence and harassment is what lurks under our discomfort with being reduced in that real world -- otherwise, really, I couldn't care less what the man in the gym thinks.)

And for god's sake, let us not misrepresent what women (or men for that matter) have said, or blame them for pornography or assign to them the task of fixing things that they are, in fact, damaged by and have no part in. Let us not use words like "HATE" as if they're objective and not figments of your own personal perspective. No, anger and depression are not two sides of the same coin - no matter how hard you bold it. No, I am not responsible for anyone's actions except my own, and I am not required to spend my life trying to understand people who see me as just "a woman", regardless of their gender or intent.

The OP has the luxury of being anonymous; so I think in general MeFi is being more than generous and accommodating.



Apologies for the length. Also, has anyone referenced Seinfeld yet?
posted by mondaygreens at 5:43 PM on August 20, 2010 [33 favorites]


So you're saying that if a man looks up a woman's skirt, and she walks off and/or refuses to speak to him and/or loses respect for him and/or outright tells him he's a pig for doing so, this could possibly inform his feelings about women negatively in some way? This is the absolute kindest interpretation I personally can have of your sentence, and it's still all wrong. Because what this implies is that his feelings towards women are (or could be) women's fault.

No, she is saying that if a man makes a mistake and is looking for advice on how to address it don't be a jerk about it.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 5:45 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, I too read human ecologist's first comment as saying precisely that, and heartily agreed with that. But having read their later comments, I honestly believe that's an unsufficient and maybe incorrect reading of their views. I am all for being respectful on Ask - FWIW, I quit that part of the site after I opened an ill-framed MeTa asking for exactly that: less judgment, more helping.

Anyway, we clearly have different views on what the commenter in question meant. In any case, I am sure that whatever they do mean, it's not malicious. Still, the first comment seems really quite as judgmental (and in several parts, unfounded) to me as anything on that thread, and the rest of their comments were... well, difficult for me to let go without a rebuttal.

Anyway, now I'm all talked out. :)
posted by mondaygreens at 6:06 PM on August 20, 2010


I've been following both threads and want to add the following to the discussion:

It's a shame we have so little from the original poster, and make a lot of inferences from his choice of words. Even if both threads have been challenging, it's a fascinating opportunity to get a small window into the fact that our minds and our thinking are much different in subtle ways as much as our bodies. The threads make for a fascinating dialog that cannot be matched by a traditional seminar or lecture and I love that aspect of this website and its philosophy.

Considerable queries have been devoted to our limited information on the encounter---"How were you in a position to look up this woman's skirt?" Many people inferred from the original statement that the woman's skirt was too short, that her legs were splayed, that it was natural for a man to do this, etc. There were a few coarse dropped pencil or mirror on the shoe jokes.

No one, so far as I can tell, has suggested that perhaps the two people in question were in different positions. The original poster makes no mention that they are sitting at the same level, only that they are conversing.

Let's imagine this scenario: What if the man were, say, part of the staff assigned to technical support, and he was called to look at the electronic cables connected to her computer. He is now in a position to look between her legs while fixing the cables that lie on the floor. The woman is talking to him while seated at her desk, assuming he is connecting cables. She glances down and sees that he's looking at her crotch.

This sort of scenario would explain some of his rather unflattering and remorseful description of his own behavior. It would explain why she was upset enough to leave the room, and why he is casting about for an apology. I find it interesting that after such a lengthy discussion on this encounter, no one has suggested an alternative position for the two people interacting, but rather that commented that the woman must be inappropriately dressed or that the man was acting without intentional inappropriateness, which does not fit his own description of his behavior.
posted by effluvia at 6:17 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, it is possible he really was an asshole pervert who did it on purpose. However, he describes his actions as something he did unwittingly, and for AskMe it's probably best to take the question at face value since the audience isn't just the author, but also people browsing for an answer to a question. Too much analysis of the question itself can get in the way of that.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 6:40 PM on August 20, 2010


Having strong opinions tends to piss some people off, futz. Welcome to the club.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:49 PM on August 20, 2010


Secret Life of Gravy: I maintain that women's anger towards men is more frightening on the basis of how much misogynist pornography I've seen in my short lifetime. You cannot dump your anger on someone without expecting to see an outlet for that heavy, volatile emotion re-surface elsewhere.

Wow. So you think:
woman gets angry at a man -----> misogynistic porn
is more frightening to you then
man gets angry at woman ---------> woman ends up raped, beaten up and/or dead?

Upon further reflection, I have a more appropriate response to this comment that does not imply you are insensitive to men. If you were insensitive, I don't imagine you would be here in the first place.

Oh swell. A perfect stranger who doesn't know me thinks I might not be insensitive to men.

You do not even need to ask men about their feelings to hear where I'm coming from. You just need to be aware that anger and depression are two sides of the same coin. Women tend to deal with their frustrations more readily through depression, and men tend to deal with their frustrations more readily through anger. Whenever anger is expressed by any person, you will find it is always a thin veil for hurt every time.

Really? every time? So when my uncle gives my aunt a black eye because she disobeyed him and sneaked a smoke he is really just hurt? I think he is really just angry because she challenged his authority.

And when my teenage nephew puts his fist through the wall because his mom tells him he can't take the car because she needs it, I don't think he is hurt, I think he is pissed off that his plans aren't working out.

So because I'm asking women to speak respectfully to men on Metafilter so that I can hear what they have to say, you are saying I must be condoning reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder, etc.?

So now you are claiming that you are only addressing women on MetaFilter? Because I went back and read this:
To all the angry OP-blaming responders out there, I am sincerely glad I do not work with you. I am sincerely glad that I do not get to experience or observe your lack of compassion for the other half of our grossly disempowered race.

I have seen you in action every time an emotional young man has dropped from post-secondary because he could not access the support he needed because he was born a stupid young man. I have seen you every time a woman has unleashed her biting rage at the young man who nervously could not find the words to best articulate his struggles, and so in his clumsiness, gave her the ammunition to justify verbally castrating him. This is a very real issue I strive to address in my work. Women's anger towards men is just as emotionally damaging as men's anger towards women. I also consider it more frightening, as the results as lost in the black box of emotions men come to accept as their "feelings". Particularly abused men.
and that sounds like you are addressing all women who get angry with men, whether it is unwarranted or justifiable.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 6:50 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having strong opinions tends to piss some people off, futz. Welcome to the club.
posted by five fresh fish


touché and right back at ya.
posted by futz at 7:17 PM on August 20, 2010


mondaygreen, that was brilliant. A thousand times favorited. Thank you.
posted by agregoli at 7:23 PM on August 20, 2010


mondaygreen, that was brilliant
I completely agree and I applaud you for the time and effort that you expended. One lousy favorite from me just doesn't seem like enough thanks.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:29 PM on August 20, 2010


Mondaygreens:

I agree with just about everything you said. But you end with

"The OP has the luxury of being anonymous; so I think in general MeFi is being more than generous and accommodating."

And earlier you were talking about someone else making inferences on deleted posts:

"Sure, you can make all kinds of inferences based on the deletion of comments you don't even know the content of, but it does not, in my view, make for real or positive conversation about things we "as a community" don't do well."

Well, the real and positive conversation about things we "as a community" don't do well has already been had. And Jessamyn (the person deleting all the stuff we shouldn't make inferences about) said

"I'm still thinking on it, but yeah it was one of the more disappointing threads I've dealt with here lately, and people who know me know that I do not say stuff like that lightly."

And frankly, reading that thread and some of the pre-deleted stuff, I agree with her. So, categorically, no, in all caps and bolded, in general MeFi was not "more than generous and accommodating." Someone who messed up and wanted to make things better was basically told he was irredeemable and undeserving of respect (or his job) more than once. It doesn't take much of that to make things seem hostile.

You say

"No, I am not responsible for anyone's actions except my own, and I am not required to spend my life trying to understand people who see me as just "a woman", regardless of their gender or intent."

How can that possibly square with your earlier statement

"So the OP writes about objectifying a woman, and women on this board empathize with the woman instinctively and emotionally because we know how that feels, and because we know that it could just as easily be any one of us as that woman, in that situation -- because it is about her woman-ness, and we share that with her."


You're admitting some of the female responses were one-sided and you're willing to explain that away. But you can't square that with a thread in which the OP's actions were taken in context of the actions of other men and "how that feels." Either he's not responsible for anyone's actions except his own, or (as happened) previous baggage and personal experiences are brought in negatively as subconscious proof against the OP. You specifically said

"If a man is conflating his abusive mother with his girlfriend or taking out his resentment about his overbearing female boss on his wife, that's not women's problem -- it is his."

yet you appear to have cleared existing responses in that thread as "generous and accommodating," though some of them are clearly conflating male behaviors and airing emotional baggage. You even admit that

"we're all carrying our pain of being reduced every day in a multitude of ways by other people, by people who are, physically and socially, more powerful than us, by people who get heard and accepted and validated before and above us"

but the main message of this meta thread (at least as I understand it) is that bringing that pain against the OP wasn't the best move, was unfair, introduced an air of hostility and negative assumptions, and erected the OP as a strawman against which previous grievances could be aired. I do not doubt sexism or its effects, and I do not doubt that pain such as that needs to be aired. But ask.mefi IS NOT the place for that, and the OP should not have been treated as he was using your own logic as stated.
posted by Phyltre at 8:57 PM on August 20, 2010 [9 favorites]


"Along with many other problems with that thread, this site has a problem with men. Insults get directed at men in a way they would never be directed at women. The bar for when people consider it OK to heap moral condemnation on men is much lower than with women. Using anti-man words like "mansplain" is seen as a way to score points, which is impossible to imagine with any anti-woman word. The gender configuration of that question made the disproportionate amount of outrage practically a foregone conclusion."

Ah yeah, another "But what about the matriarchy?" complaint.
posted by klangklangston at 9:02 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


but the main message of this meta thread (at least as I understand it) is that bringing that pain against the OP wasn't the best move, was unfair, introduced an air of hostility and negative assumptions, and erected the OP as a strawman against which previous grievances could be aired.

Yes, exactly.
posted by nomadicink at 9:03 PM on August 20, 2010


Whenever anger is expressed by any person, you will find it is always a thin veil for hurt every time.

Really? every time? And when my teenage nephew puts his fist through the wall because his mom tells him he can't take the car because she needs it, I don't think he is hurt, I think he is pissed off that his plans aren't working out.


The fact that you can't conceive that a teenage male could have anything deeper going on he might need to talk about when he punches a wall over something that is obviously minor just kind of cements home the point she is making.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 9:17 PM on August 20, 2010 [7 favorites]


furiousxgeorge, have you ever been a teenage male?
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 9:30 PM on August 20, 2010


bitter-girl.com: “I like to think of it this way: is there a comparable female term?”

Yes. "Feminine intuition." When a woman knows something, it's not because she's a rational, thinking human being; it's because she has "feminine intuition." When a man explains something, he's not giving a rational, thoughtful explanation; he's "mansplaining."

They both have about the same moral worth, as far as their usefulness in conversation goes.
posted by koeselitz at 9:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [2 favorites]


mondaygreens: I will not respond to every point in your lengthy rebuttal, but I will try to hit at least a few.

First, I don't think anyone in that thread was saying or even implying that it is "NOT OKAY" to ask questions or condemning the OP as "stupid" for doing so. (I've been following both the threads, but please correct me if I've missed any such comments.)

I believe you missed those comments as the moderator for that thread was keen to delete them. It was my understanding that colorful language such as "asshole" was being used to describe the OP.

You said: "That perhaps the clumsy expression of anger towards men could possibly have something to do with the aggressive anger some men direct towards women."

So you're saying that if a man looks up a woman's skirt, and she walks off and/or refuses to speak to him and/or loses respect for him and/or outright tells him he's a pig for doing so, this could possibly inform his feelings about women negatively in some way?


No, because the behavior of "unwittingly" looking up a woman's skirt does not = his feelings about women. Besides, feelings aren't right or wrong. They simply are, and whatever they happen to be, each adult person is responsible for how they deal with them.

Also, your response makes a generalization of all men. My statement attempts to restrict my discussion specifically to the subset of people who happen to be men who also engage in particularly angry expression towards women.

If a man is conflating his abusive mother with his girlfriend or taking out his resentment about his overbearing female boss on his wife, that's not women's problem -- it is his.

I can agree with that. Hence, I am happy to offer any advice he may be seeking in resolving such feelings.

And answering a direct question like "Did you lose your respect for the peeper, or do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not?" with Hell Yes! is still far less problematic, in my opinion, than labeling such answers as abusive or serving a "bizzare double standard".

Hell Yes! is a perfectly valid answer. Even my own answer told the OP I would personally be immediately offended. The bizarre double standard to which I am referring is the excessive backlash of deleted comments and controversy the OP generated for daring to post the question in the first place.

you're obliquely blaming women for pornography

No I am not, as mentioned here.

legitimizing the producers of porn as having some sort of logic about why they debase and exploit women

Well, since the producers of porn seem to be in such high demand, I would suspect there must be some logic at the base of it all that could hopefully be uprooted or debugged somehow.

I'm personally acquainted with three 'cultures' - Indian, American and Iranian. Hopefully you already know a little bit about all three

That is quite the culture set. I believe mine is bigger. Without going into too much detail, my heritage and culture are an interesting amalgamation of India-Indian, First Nations-Indian, Mennonite German, and Canadian. I have extensive experience with the first two cultures by virtue of my upbringing (raised among FN relatives who have many times over paid for the mistake the Canadian government made in forcing their parents into the residential school system, and lived for several years with Sikh roommates who to this day are my closest friends). I have listened closely to my one parent's reasons for abandoning the Hindu faith and culture since coming to Canada. In addition, I have worked at a Native Friendship Centre and volunteered 100+ hours of time as a crisis centre phone line volunteer. Though I cannot compete with your Iran claim, I can tell you I have also worked closely with a woman whose family was religiously persecuted in Iran. I did listen to her stories of living in Iran, and can sadly appreciate her sentiment that it is better for the women there not to know what life is like for women here in North America, because otherwise they would want to kill themselves. I have also had the distinct privilege as an ESL volunteer to work with men from Saudi Arabia, who come to Canada with the aim of integration without the total loss of their culture. I assure you, I do have a very well developed respect for cultural diversity.

A man can get his wife legally executed for cheating on him

Yes, I am aware of this. I have been following these types of situations on the news.

No, anger and depression are not two sides of the same coin

Please take the time to google the bolded terms as one phrase. This was a tidbit I picked up in my crisis volunteer training.
posted by human ecologist at 9:52 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't know about furiousgeorge, but I was a teenage male, and I punched plenty of walls. Sometimes it was over super minor stuff, and sometimes it was a reflection of very deep anger and unhappiness. I had very little ability to articulate how I felt, and when I did nothing ever changed, so yeah, punching walls happened. How that fits into anyone's point here, I don't know -- certainly it's a very male manifestation of anger and is (and is meant to be) threatening to those around. But equally, the only thing that ever got hurt was my hand, so it's not like it automatically turns into misogynistic porn or rape or other bad things.

Anecdote, thy home is online.
posted by Forktine at 9:53 PM on August 20, 2010 [3 favorites]


Secret Life of Gravy: some responses for you as well.

woman gets angry at a man -----> misogynistic porn
is more frightening to you then
man gets angry at woman ---------> woman ends up raped, beaten up and/or dead?


Yes, I do find careless anger towards men more frightening as I have personally experienced the repurcussions as recipient of such anger. As a child and among my FN cousins, we knew it didn't matter who started the fight or who prevoked it. It was certainly no different if mom/aunt/grandma took her anger out on dad/uncle/grandpa or if it was the other way around; either way, we frequently felt it. I can tell you firsthand that careless rage towards men does result in very real social and physical consequences, especially for silent minorities such as children and animals. Before I had my first period as a young woman - while I was still a little girl - I was the recipient of physical, sexual, emotional, and verbal abuse conveyed by both men and women (that is not to say I was sexually abused by both genders, but that each gender specialized in their preferred route of venting). If could weblink the court transcripts confirming at least the sexual abuse, I would. Of course, you would have to take my word at face value for the rest of it.

So yes, I do appreciate how scary the physical repercussions of men-towards-women anger can be, in addition to the more widely condoned women-towards-men anger. However, I make the choice not to let my bad experiences with some men cloud my perceptions of all men. Same for women.

I hope that will also account for my bias in how it does hurt me to watch a woman scream at a young man. That is the PTSD montague of my FN male cousins' lives going through the public school system. It is also typifies what I hear from young men today having survived both the reserve environment in addition to mainstream public schools. It is changing, but we still have a long way to go.

So when my uncle gives my aunt a black eye because she disobeyed him and sneaked a smoke he is really just hurt? I think he is really just angry because she challenged his authority.

It is possible, in the scenario you are describing, that we are both right.

I have already explained why I directed my original post in this thread towards women. Please correct me if I failed to catch any men also directing their anger towards the OP. This was a major assumption in my original post, and I am happy to see the evidence that would justify correcting it.

I have also tried to steer away from picking on all women and address the disrespectful responses of some people to the OP in my subsequent replies. Please have patience with me, as I do struggle with finding the right words to best articulate my points at times. I realize this is a touchy subject and will do my best to clarify my points.

Also, do note that nothing I have said has addressed the original issue of the OP looking up the woman's skirt. Everything I have said has been with the purpose of addressing the reactions of various MeFi users towards the OP.
posted by human ecologist at 10:04 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had very little ability to articulate how I felt, and when I did nothing ever changed, so yeah, punching walls happened

Forktine, I assure you it is very relevant. It supports the premise that young men have a harder time explaining themselves, particularly in an emotional context, and so require a certain amount of patience in understanding what they are trying to express. That was well worth sharing - thank you.
posted by human ecologist at 10:49 PM on August 20, 2010 [1 favorite]


Hrm.

I know that a lot of people here have expressed disappointment and general unhappiness with the way that thread went down. I understand that. But, to focus it a little: people here have talked about the bad things in that thread – and there were many, so many that it was overwhelming at times. People have not talked so much here about the good things that didn't happen in that thread; and it's more and more palpable to me the more I look at it. At the very least, there were precious few honest, careful responses that took into account what the question actually meant.

What did the question mean? We've argued about the few sticking points a bit here, "blatant" vs "unwittingly" chief among them. I think Mefites have more finely-tuned senses of what words might mean and how they're being used than most people, so it's understandable that we've talked here about the range of possibilities between those two things. But I think that, ultimately, that's an endgame that can distract us from the real significance of what was going on in the question, and it's worthwhile for us to skip over the debate about what actually happened – yes, I admit it's important, but not as important as the question itself. The question itself was actually fairly simple: what do I do? It did not, in fact, even ask if what the poster had done was wrong. It didn't wonder if maybe it wasn't a big deal, or maybe it was just something he shouldn't worry about. He said he was "mortified," and he wondered what he should do.

That's the significance of the question – and honestly, what an extraordinary opportunity that is! I mean, isn't it? I was disappointed because I felt that, because of incidentals, and because of the sad way the conversation progressed, everyone involved in the question (including myself) missed this fundamental chance we had. Seriously, women, try thinking about it this way: I know that you've probably experienced this terrible sort of thing, felt the obnoxious embarrassment of having someone staring at you like a piece of meat, and all the attendant sexism that happens in offices and other workplaces the world over. Now – imagine if a man came to you and said: 'I just realized that I participated in that system... and now I'm mortified that I did so, and want to know what I should do about it.' Yes, I know, he's just asking about this one instance, but still – he's a guy who realized he was being sexist, and he's asking what he should do about it.

Here we find the heart of the question. A man realized he'd treated a woman in a humiliating and demeaning way, and he asked us what to do about it.

One reason I think a whole lot of people felt the keenness of the struggle is because we all implicitly understood this in a certain way, even if we didn't realize it explicitly. I think we understood on some level the very significance of this: it's a moment, a question, and a choice that can determine a whole lifetime of action, looked at in a certain way. What should any man do when he realizes he's been caught, that he's done something despicable? Does he ignore it, hope it doesn't happen again, and try to forget about it? Does he try to dismiss the sense that he did something wrong by giving in to the guffaws of the every-present sexist 'average guys' who tell him it's not a big deal, that everybody peeks, that he shouldn't feel bad at all? Does he feel ashamed but aroused by what happened, and pursue a contradictorily sexualized path that almost certainly will end in unhappiness for him and others? Or – just maybe – does he start opening himself up to thinking about the effects his actions have on others, about the little humiliations and embarrassments the system of sexism deals to women every day, and about putting himself outside of that system by treating all human beings with dignity and respect?

So: the question was significant. Its answer was important, and had the potential to actually do some real good in the world. I don't think we gave a coherent answer, although I hope he takes some good from some of the relatively good responses he got there.

An important question in the wake of all this is: why did this happen? Why did we fail? There are a couple of reasons for that, I think. Obviously, the chief practical difficulty in the thread was the horde of men coming in to assure the poster that it wasn't a big deal, that what he did wasn't wrong at all, that she was probably asking for it, that he should be careful because she might try to get him fired; generally, that is, the 'men-are-the-victims-here' crowd. I don't think I need to say why that crowd is unhelpful, but we responded impractically to them because we let it get personal, and because we let them escalate our emotions. That's understandable; and particularly for women, who often have experienced the workplace humiliation the poster described and therefore already feel a certain amount of pain surrounding the whole thing – to have men saunter in and insist that it just wasn't a big deal is adding insult to real injury for those women. And it's hard not to take those insults personally. So I think a lot of women (and men, like myself) fired back, pointing out stridently that it was most certainly not okay for the poster to do what he did, and explaining in no uncertain terms precisely why it was very wrong. (Some of us, I gather, even got a bit insulting about it, and abusive toward the poster, although I don't think it's necessary to get into that; we know who we are if we did that, and hopefully we know why it was wrong.) And as jessamyn tried to carefully prune the discussion to lead it in the right direction, she (quite naturally) found herself cutting more of the "it's not so bad" sexist comments than she did of the "yes, yes it really is so bad" comments. (I don't think she had any other choice, really.) The net result, unfortunately, reads like a thread where some people think that what the poster did wasn't exactly as terrible as murder, but the majority of people are going out of their way to point out that it was a terrible thing to do. Again: both of those are fair points, but neither of them are answers to the question.

In general, the basic lesson here, I think, is: ignore the comments, particularly if you think they're offensive or otherwise deletion-worthy. Just answer the question, and do so by being as direct and personal with the poster himself as possible. That thread should've gotten a whole lot more direct, personal, immediate suggestions about what he should actually do, rather than a debate about something the asker himself took for granted – whether what he did was wrong. Yes, there were some, but I don't think any of them took into account what it really meant to have the asker asking that particular question of us.

I mean, sincerely, what a question, right? How awesome would it be if every guy who realized he'd done something sexist or hurtful or humiliating to a woman felt mortified about it and came here to ask us what he should do about it? I really believe that Metafilter has done some of the deepest thinking about what sexism – and freedom from sexism – can mean in the past generation; I wouldn't hesitate, in fact, to say that, of the whole internet, there is more insightful and interesting and thoughtful discussion about gender issues on Metafilter than anywhere else. Seriously, we can be a real force for good in the world. And one of the very best ways we can do that is by responding well to questions like this one.
posted by koeselitz at 11:17 PM on August 20, 2010 [5 favorites]


Oh gosh. Okay…

Phyltre, I see the knotty bit you're alluding to. Let me first agree that judging the OP is poor Ask form; it's specifically why I don't comment on or even follow most 'human relations' threads and probably would not have come across this one if there hadn't been a MeTa about it. I have all kinds of issues with the baggage people bring into those threads and the compulsive favoriting that goes on there -- and even though this particular thread was anonymous, I have MeMailed with 2-3 askers previously (when I was active on Ask) on threads that were not only judgey but downright counterproductive and destructive to the asker. (One of them actually requested that his question be deleted; another made a sock-puppet to come back and clarify his position, which helped rein in the thread some but was definitely no picnic for the asker.) On this MeTa too, I've mostly agreed with people like proj who emphatically differentiated what the OP was talking about from things like "assault" and pointed out the puritanism of some of the opinions on that thread. So for what it's worth, I was not arguing from a position of explaining "away" anyone's assholery on that thread, extant or deleted, from men or women. My issue was specifically with human ecologist's hyperbole and not only misrepresenting what happened in that thread (that people are condemning the OP for asking a stupid question), but also making what seemed to me problematic connections between what goes on here or "what women do" and the reasons for men's anger and need for pornography.

I have not read the deleted comments, but I've read a lot of undeleted vitriol on Ask and MeTa in general, so I know what you're talking about; and even if I didn't, Jessamyn commenting thrice in-thread is pretty telling. By saying "MeFi in general" being generous and accomodating, I meant that the anonymous option protects the asker from any fall-out as a participant. This is a good thing -- and it is generous and unique of MetaFilter to have that option. I certainly do not think that MeFites are generous or accommodating in general, or are anything in general, really; I wouldn't know. (I also mentioned, and appreciate, the moderation that goes on in such threads, and people's use of the flag option. I hope the OP didn't have to read through and suffer all of them; I'm definitely glad most of us, and all future readers, don't have to.)

But that's the utility of Ask: you ask a bunch of people for their opinions on something. The usefulness of relationship and interpersonal AskMes has been debated several times on MeTa, I think -- it's definitely a more problematic area than your general song-ID and eat-or-not stuff, but it's also the best moderated, and the guidelines are fairly clear: be helpful, be relevant, and don't get personal. Hopefully the deletions of bullshit comments will also send a clear signal to the OP that as a web site MeFi does not condone or agree with jerkishness. That this thread has nearly 350 comments is, to me, further proof of that, and I really am not trying to defend any deleted comments. Good riddance.

But what matters to the situation is how the woman in question feels about it, and as to that none of us have any real information to offer. The OP understands this, and asks: Men: Have you ever gotten busted this way? What did you do? Women: Have you ever been in this position? Did you lose your respect for the peeper, or do you generally assume that most dudes are trying to peek at you whether you notice or not? Any advice would be valued.

So yes, this is a gendered question to begin with, asked by someone who wants as much information (in this case, personal opinion) as they can get in order to make a measured, if not exactly informed, decision about how to proceed. This to me is someone who realizes that the action was about womanizing a female, or in other words objectifying a woman -- and it's not just that we're looking at it from our gendered perspectives but that the OP is specifically asking us to do so. (Again, I'm only talking about the legit responses here.) So in my opinion, women coming in and answering the question as women ("Yes, I'd lose respect for the peeper" or variations thereof) is not the same thing as a man -- irrelevant to that thread but mentioned by human ecologist -- conflating all women or worse, displacing his anger towards some women at other women, or women in general. And I was ultimately making a case for being precise in talking about things like this -- for the OP, yes, but much more so for human ecologist -- because, please, no one is being verbally castrated on MetaFilter, not even if someone calls them an asshole, and it is in no way comparable to the hatred in misogynist pornography. (I've seen porn on my college's file-share network; and it was just my bad luck that the bit I watched made me cry actual hot tears of rage. Jesus Christ, it's difficult for me to understand such things, let alone abide wanton comparisons to it.)

That said, I hope it's clear now that I absolutely agree with your closing comments. People -- men and women -- need to deal with their emotions better. Still, yes, we are *all* people, and we can give some credit, or at least some understanding, to those who've come back and apologized and contextualized their initial misplaced anger towards the OP. That's just what I was trying to flesh out with my comment; that it is hard to always do this, and precision and clarity from the side which institutes a claim about women or people or a situation would help the conversation as much as people keeping themselves in check while responding to it.

human ecologist, I am not sure what you're picking apart in my response there. I was trying to parse your statement -- which does generalize about men (yes, it acknowledges that it's a generalization by saying "some men", although I don't think that makes it any better; I think it makes it worse; which is why I ignored the italicization on your comment) -- by saying, okay, so an angry reaction by a woman to a situation which genders a woman to the point of making her leave the room or lose respect for the man in question is not acceptable, because the guy may have objectified her to begin with, but now she shouldn't react as a person or as a woman, because, to quote you: clumsy expression of anger towards men could possibly have something to do with the aggressive anger some men direct towards women?

It's not about some men or some women, see? It's about gendering in a given situation. The OP did that, and there are no grounds for faulting the woman in the situation (or the women on the thread, when they are being asked to imagine or recall being similarly gendered) if she is outraged by that, just because she is a woman and it might have a fallout for other women. First they're made to feel (or asked to recall feeling) objectified and reduced; then they're asked not to react "clumsily" (whatever that means) or with clumsy anger because it might make the man who objectified her get mad at women? Do you see the vicious circle you're boxing women into here? It's late and maybe I'm being inarticulate… we'll take this to me-mail if you want to argue it all the way down.

You said: Well, since the producers of porn seem to be in such high demand, I would suspect there must be some logic at the base of it all that could hopefully be uprooted or debugged somehow.

Yes, of course, the logic is that it is in demand; that it sells and can be produced and circulated easily; that women who participate in it, for whatever reason, have little legal or social recourse to fair treatment during or after the fact -- not that women make men repressed or angry and incapable of dealing with their feelings. The logic is that it exploits the misogyny that exists in society, and plays on the unarticulated feelings of young men; not that women give men reason to be mad at them. Anyway this is an odious line of reasoning for me; I've talked myself out on the subject of women's responsibility for porn and I'm going to beg off talking further about it.

And for what it's worth, I wasn't trying to show off my "culture set"; it all happened quite randomly and I certainly don't think it puts me in a better position than the women within those cultures or that having insight into more than one way of thinking means that one is automatically more enlightened. The only reason I brought it up was to highlight what I did highlight with it: that men's anger "towards women" is not one woman's or a thousand women's fault, even if any or all of them were personally mean, rude and destructive to the men in question. In societies where women are not allowed to do any of that, and where they spend much of their time and energy attracting and accommodating men, pornography and misogyny is not less but rather more prevalent. And yes, the same holds true for women's anger towards men, if they are generalizing or conflating or misplacing in the same way. Funny thing is, even though men invariably have the upper hand (broadly speaking) than women in most situations and have varying degrees of social sanctions to treat women as lesser beings, there's still a LOT more societal and cultural misogyny than misandry in the world, and both men and women are more guilty (broadly speaking) of the former than the latter. What this reveals, human ecologist, is that any men's anger "towards women" because they're women is not the result of a/any/another woman's behavior as much as it is the manifestation of that very power imbalance: men can hate women because they can hate women. Because they can do it and get away with it. I would rather not trot out any more personal anecdotes; in any case, I assure you, bringing up the US-India-Iran comparison was not to show off my culture chops or invite you to trot out yours.

Finally, again, I just want to stress that I am addressing specifically what you said in your comments, and misogyny or anger towards women is not, for me, relevant to the OP's question at all, let alone justified by women's responses to it, no matter how vicious or lacking in compassion they were before they got deleted. (Hence my call for precision.)

Feel free to me-mail if you want me to respond any further or to anything else… otherwise carry on.
posted by mondaygreens at 11:32 PM on August 20, 2010 [4 favorites]


[...] In societies where women are not allowed to do any of that, and where they spend much of their time and energy attracting and accommodating men, pornography and misogyny is not less but rather more prevalent.

I don't follow this. Pornography is categorically illegal in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Pakistan; these societies offer women only the narrowest, most legally circumscribed of roles. Pakistan and Bangladesh lead the world in acid attacks. Saudi Arabia still executes women for adultery, indecency, and witchcraft.

Meanwhile, as pornography has become increasingly available in Europe, data shows no correlating increase in sex crime. In fact, in Japan it coincides with an overall decrease in crime.

Despite the absence of evidence, the myth persists that an abundance of sexual explicit material invariably leads to an abundance of sexual activity and eventually rape (e.g., Liebert, Neale, & Davison, 1973). Indeed, the data we report and review suggests the opposite. Christensen (1990) argues that to prove that available pornography leads to sex crimes one must at least find a positive temporal correlation between the two. The absence of any positive correlation in our findings, and from results elsewhere, between an increase in available pornography and the incidence of rape or other sex crime, is prima facie evidence that no link exists. But objectivity requires that an additional question be asked: "Does pornography use and availability prevent or reduce sex crime?" Both questions lead to hypotheses that have, over prolonged periods, been tested in Denmark, Sweden, West Germany and now in Japan.

Indeed it appears from our data from Japan, as it was evident to Kutchinsky (1994), from research in Europe and Scandinavia, that a large increase in available sexually explicit materials, over many years, has not been correlated with an increase in rape or other sexual crimes. Instead, in Japan a marked decrease in sexual crimes has occurred.
Pornography, Rape, and Sex Crimes in Japan, International Journal of Law and Psychiatry 22(1): 1-22. 1999
posted by kid ichorous at 1:27 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Meanwhile, as pornography has become increasingly available in Europe, data shows no correlating increase in sex crime. In fact, in Japan it coincides with an overall decrease in crime.

kid ichorous: This is off on a tangent, and I don't have time this weekend to engage in the very interesting question about sex crime in Japan, but this study does not cite any of the recent feminist Japanese or English-language research on sex crime in Japan that shows quite persuasively that while reported sex crime is low, actual instances of rape and serious sex crime is off-the-charts high. Social pressures not to report to police rape, and police decisions not to record reports of rape account for appearance that there's little sex crime in Japan.

Catherine Burns, off the top of my head, has done some work on the issue using Japanese language sources. There are many Japanese feminists on this subject. These scholars seem to have a different research interest.

Thanks for bringing the study to our attention.
posted by vincele at 3:19 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


human ecologist, your posts are honestly making me feel ill. I cannot imagine being so terribly dismissive of women's lived experiences as the victim and the named reason for male violence.

If women are supposed to suck it up and be more forgiving and less expressive of anything at all, why aren't men asked to do the same? Why is violence suddenly a valid response to emotional pain when emotional pain is not a valid response to physical/mental/emotional abuse? Why does this cycle of violence apparently start with a woman not paying enough attention to a man's emotional pain? Why is her emotional pain non-existent?
posted by geek anachronism at 3:32 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just to clarify, I looked at their sources and saw that they were pretty lean when it came to Japan. I didn't read the study. But I do know that when it comes to Japan, "low sex crime rate" and "low divorce rate", like we are seeing now with "longevity", are matters of national pride engineered by bureaucrats, and have little to do with the reality of how people actually live their lives.

Enormous social pressures keep people from reporting sex crimes, and in the case of divorce and reporting deaths, both incentives and social pressures are at play. Studies like this one miss those nuances.
posted by vincele at 3:37 AM on August 21, 2010


Really? every time? And when my teenage nephew puts his fist through the wall because his mom tells him he can't take the car because she needs it, I don't think he is hurt, I think he is pissed off that his plans aren't working out.

The fact that you can't conceive that a teenage male could have anything deeper going on he might need to talk about when he punches a wall over something that is obviously minor just kind of cements home the point she is making.


Oh I can conceive of it, hell yes, I'm very good at imagining what goes on inside other peoples' heads. Sometimes teenagers (males and females) are frustrated, depressed, sad, and frightened about the future. Sometimes they are overwhelmed by the weight of approaching adulthood and school responsibilities and jobs and social lives. And sometimes they are just pissed off.

It isn't that my nephew has been hurt by women or that he is unable to articulate his feelings, he just likes to assert his maleness in front of his mom to show off that he is bigger than she is and she should remember that fact. He is deliberately posturing to display male aggression in order to instill fear.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:32 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


geek anachronism: If women are supposed to suck it up and be more forgiving and less expressive of anything at all, why aren't men asked to do the same?

They aren't? Unfortunately here I have to respond with little more than my personal observations. In a situation involving women expressing their anger towards men, it seems far more common in North America for men to be expected to "suck it up" than vica versa. A man who has an outburst of anger is more readily accused to needing "anger management" classes. However, a woman who has an outburst towards a man is not nearly as often required to follow up with comparable efforts towards emotional self-control. Because, afterall, *wasn't she such a brave little girl for standing up and expressing herself?* /sarcasm

Sure, it takes some marbles to stand up to men these days. My work in a male-dominated industry has illustrated this IME. I am aware of the emotional baggage and the HUGE history of female oppression we women come with. IMO because of that enormous baggage, the onus is on ME to manage it... not on men to serve as my whipping boys when they dare to ask any questions that haphazardly trigger the heavy emotions that accompany that baggage.

But to effectively answer your question, we need to hear from men.

Why is violence suddenly a valid response to emotional pain when emotional pain is not a valid response to physical/mental/emotional abuse?

Emotional pain is a valid response to physical/mental/emotional abuse. Please cite the statements I have made that you feel directly support otherwise.

Why does this cycle of violence apparently start with a woman not paying enough attention to a man's emotional pain?

Again, please cite. Nowhere have I said or pointed the finger at women for being the source of all evil. Asking an angry woman to speak in a respectful manner does not = violence is teh women's fault.

Why is her emotional pain non-existent?

Her emotional pain does exist. But it does not justify unfair rules or excessive anger towards others for asking awkward questions about how to get along with each other.

Now, enough of the black&white comparisons, please. This is not an all-or-nothing situation. I am not saying that women's pain only exists 100% or not at all.

I have not blamed women for misogynistic porn. But I do want to point out that women's clumsy anger does not as effectively to help alleviate the societal ills that come with pornography, child abuse, animal abuse, and so on, as cooperation and understanding do.

You can color my data point biased all you want, but the anger of my female guardian towards my male guardians was so existent in fact that it facilitated the abuse of SEVEN young children below the ages of eight by a single angry male perpetrator. Because her anger was more important than having the courtesy to protect [instead of yelling and smacking] her children into good behavior, SEVEN YOUNG CHILDREN were forever thrust into premature sexual awakenings that have had their own cascading effects (struggling to understand what is normal, entering human relationships as "damaged goods", drug use, suicidal ideation, and so on). As little adults by the age of ten, we all learned to "suck it up" because when MAN is angry the police might be called and our last hope of having any sense of family could be irreparably disrupted... so don't make dad angry. And "suck it up" because once WOMAN is angry, she no longer acts in our best interests. Instead she will rage about how having children ruined her life and leave us pretty much 100% emotionally abandoned... so don't make mom angry. I'm sorry if my perspective still cannot seem clear on this, but I really do find it unfair that expressing women's pain is more important than than setting aside that angry pain to make sure that everyone present is SAFE and COMFORTABLE.

Please note I am not saying the abuse is because a woman expressed her anger. But I am implying that the duration and extent of the abuse was certainly influenced by the aggressive expression of her anger, which she was certainly justified to feel... just not justified to use in careless excess.

Interestingly enough, the most proactive support I received during the darkest times of my coming to terms with my abuse, came from men... who consistently seem to sympathize with why I would choose to say nothing about the abuse in a way that I rarely experience with women. In fact, more often with women my guilt is further burdened because I have not raised my pitchfolk against all men to make them pay for those crimes that only one man in my childhood chose to single-handedly commit. One angry, misogynistic man who wanted us little girls to know how dirty, treacherous, bitter, spiteful, and awful we were going to be one day when we would become women.

Women frequently push me to be angry at men in a way that makes me uncomfortable... often I do not feel understood that no, I don't want to be angry about it anymore... I just want my pain to finally show without being told how to handle it, in hopes that it will find its resolution. There are times I want to be angry, yes, but not at all men or all women... Just angry at the mother fucker who blatantly groomed me as the the first of those seven children, sometimes angry at my parents for being so self-centered, and frequently angry at myself that, at the very least, I could have stopped it from happening to my sister, male cousins, and the girls next door.

No doubt a relic of my upbringing, to this day I have only been able to really cry in front of my male significant others. In a manner I imagine could be comparable to how men may feel, I have learned only to feel safe showing these raw emotions in front of a significant other. Never in front of a group. Only rarely and at opportunistic times in front of my female friends. I have felt camaraderie among men and women both, but I would venture to say that the camaraderie I have enjoyed among men is a relatively rare experience as a woman. And yet, consistently, even when I have opened up and shared with men my story, they have never made me feel guilty about it in the way that women do. They have been angry for me, but have never forced that anger upon me or suggested that I MUST do something about it or else I am failing women everywhere.

And of course, it's even worse among women, dare I try to understand what could have possibly drove my molester to doing what he did. What resources would have been necessary to prevent that from happening? In a situation where parents are failing to protect their children from exposure to these particular male people, what could have possibly been done or said to persuade him to seek help? Is it even possible? This was the same man who fathered one of my parents, so I do have to have some token gratitude that at least he raised that parent to adulthood, which in turn played its part in getting me to where I am today (alive and functional). What social malfunctions led him to believe that child molestation (not to mention racism and misogyny) were the best ways to deal with whatever he was feeling instead? When some of us acted out (thus, providing the huge red flags that SHOULD have tipped our guardians about the situation), the molester's as well as the female guardian's course of action was brutal physical discipline. Angry women, who could not challenge him directly, stood back with nodding approval and agreed that a flogging with belts (and in one very specific case, a horse whip on a male cousin who was tied to a post so that he would "take it like a man") was an appropriate disciplinary measure for childhood "crimes" such as swearing and smoking. And when allegations of sexual child abuse FINALLY came to light, both male and female guardians placed the onus on us, the children now just barely finishing elementary school, to account for this crime.

Note: Women asked us why we did not speak up. Women angrily demanded to know why we kept our mouths shut for so many years. Women blamed us, along with men. Women, the fairer sex, the supposed unconditional lovers of their children, absolved themselves of having any responsibility because it was more convenient for them to dump the blame on their children than admit their anger played any role in the duration and extent of the abuse.

So as a woman, with an educated voice of her own now, why does curiosity about WHY automatically = betrayal of ALL women? Is my choice in how to deal with my pain also non-existent?
posted by human ecologist at 6:04 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


Note: Women asked us why we did not speak up. Women angrily demanded to know why we kept our mouths shut for so many years. Women blamed us, along with men. Women, the fairer sex, the supposed unconditional lovers of their children, absolved themselves of having any responsibility because it was more convenient for them to dump the blame on their children than admit their anger played any role in the duration and extent of the abuse.

I'm sorry that you went through that experience. I'm surprised that you had such an unfortunate reaction from other women, I can only imagine that in their horror they reframed the situation in such a way as to protect themselves from the idea that this sort of thing can happen to anyone.

I was also raped as a child. I've never, ever received anything but heartfelt sympathy and support from other women. Men, on the other hand, have not always been so understanding. My first husband flat out refused to believe that it ever happened. He simply stated that a 5 year old's vagina was not big enough. End of story. I don't have a beef with all men because of that. My second husband is the most wonderful person in the world, and I love him more than I can possibly express.

I also grew up with a very angry household. My mother was hot tempered because she was in a very bad marriage and felt a lot of pressure to be the perfect mother, housekeeper, money manager, and sex object. My father was simply angry all the time. He was mad because he wanted to be single. He wanted to date lots of pretty women and keep his entire salary to spend on himself. He resented all of us for being obstacles in his path. My brother and I both swallowed our own anger on a daily basis and as a result both ended up with major stomach problems.

As a result of this very angry household I don't handle anger well. I, personally, cannot speak when I am very angry. I have to go somewhere and be by myself. If other people are angry at me, I simply dissolve in a puddle of tears-- even if their anger is completely unjustifiable.

I can tell you that I'm a little in awe of women who are able to express their anger. Sometimes it is necessary to stand up for yourself and call people out on their shit. I had a boyfriend back in college who announced one day (while we were in bed) that he was getting married that weekend "but don't worry, we can still fool around." I had no idea he was seeing someone else-- he hid it that well. You have no idea how many times I have wished I could go back in time and give him a royal chewing-out for being such a shit heel.
What did I do in reality? I cried. Then I got dressed and I never spoke to him again.

You, human ecologist, come across as a very wounded person with a major axe to grind. I'm sorry for your past, but you should watch that giant brush you are trying to tar all women with. I am completely opposed to this idea that women should stop showing their anger; sometimes a little bit of anger is preferable to hours of passive-aggression, sometimes it is necessary to get the message through someone's thick skull or thicker ego.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 7:00 AM on August 21, 2010 [9 favorites]



It isn't that my nephew has been hurt by women or that he is unable to articulate his feelings, he just likes to assert his maleness in front of his mom to show off that he is bigger than she is and she should remember that fact. He is deliberately posturing to display male aggression in order to instill fear.


This is what he told you when you asked him why he did it?

The fact that you can't conceive that a teenage male could have anything deeper going on he might need to talk about when he punches a wall over something that is obviously minor just kind of cements home the point she is making.


furiousxgeorge, have you ever been a teenage male?


Yes, I have. And it would have really helped me if someone would have tried to figure out what was really going on with me when I acted out instead of just figuring men get angry and punch stuff because they are men that's all it is.

Really, this kind of thinking is on a level with just telling a woman she is bitchy because of hormones.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:42 AM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


I have not blamed women for misogynistic porn. But I do want to point out that women's clumsy anger does not as effectively to help alleviate the societal ills that come with pornography, child abuse, animal abuse, and so on, as cooperation and understanding do.

I really want to understand your points, I do. But halfway into every post, you say something like this - which reads exactly like if women would only try to UNDERSTAND the poor men who are so troubled they would do things like make misogynistic porn (and perpetrate child abuse now?), then these things might ebb away. And this argument makes no sense to many of us, and is insulting besides.

I thank you for remaining calm and trying to explain your points, but you keep coming back to comments like this, hence my continuing puzzlement.
posted by agregoli at 7:47 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


She is saying that if someone hates women hating them back alone won't solve much compared to trying to understand where that hatred came from and addressing it, not that it was women's fault. To the extent she is blaming women, I read it only to mean in cases where that hating back is directed at someone who does not in fact hate women. You can blame that on men as a group, who give plenty of reasons as a group, but individuals can't answer for all of that and will feel offended.

I understand she is saying stuff in a controversial way but I think you guys are really searching for the worst interpretations, assume she isn't crazy.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 7:55 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


And I'm sorry for your past, and that really does go towards explaining your point of view. But I still take issue with some of your conclusions.

Women blamed us, along with men. Women, the fairer sex, the supposed unconditional lovers of their children, absolved themselves of having any responsibility because it was more convenient for them to dump the blame on their children than admit their anger played any role in the duration and extent of the abuse.

First of all, we all know that unconditional love of children is a myth. A pervasive myth, but one all the same. And yes, from what you're describing, all adults share responsibility in an abusive situation to get the children out of it - simply by it being adult's responsibility to protect children.

But I don't agree that it follows that women overall bear a responsibility to try to understand the mind of male abusers, so they can blame themselves for their "part" in making him that way. Maybe a male abuser is damaged because of a woman in his life - but that doesn't make it the job of all women to to fix that, or figure out how women have wronged him - that's the low end of victim blaming, to me, and to many here, which is why we've been belaboring these kinds of points.

And I also think, productive or not, it was only a matter of time before women began to show their anger. With increased rights comes increased agency, and why wouldn't women be showing anger against injustice towards them? While we can all wish that people showed anger appropriately, humans aren't neat and tidy like that.
posted by agregoli at 7:58 AM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


She is saying that if someone hates women hating them back alone won't solve much compared to trying to understand where that hatred came from and addressing it, not that it was women's fault.

It still puts the onus on women, who are also emotional human beings, to be the bigger person, if you will, which is a lot to ask, given what women as a group and women individually (sometimes) have been asked to endure and tolerate.

And I don't assume human ecologist is crazy at all - she's arguing very calmly and nicely.
posted by agregoli at 8:01 AM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


It still puts the onus on women, who are also emotional human beings, to be the bigger person

It's not really about what's fair. The whole situation is clearly unfair.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 8:05 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


It still puts the onus on women, who are also emotional human beings, to be the bigger person

See? And here's where I really don't understand, because isn't this exactly the same of what we ask of men?
posted by human ecologist at 8:51 AM on August 21, 2010


While we can all wish that people showed anger appropriately, humans aren't neat and tidy like that.

It's something we all need to work on. As Secret Gravy of Life has pointed out, myself included.
posted by human ecologist at 8:54 AM on August 21, 2010


sometimes a little bit of anger is preferable to hours of passive-aggression, sometimes it is necessary to get the message through someone's thick skull or thicker ego

On this point, I think many men might agree with you.
posted by human ecologist at 9:25 AM on August 21, 2010


And when my teenage nephew puts his fist through the wall because his mom tells him he can't take the car because she needs it, I don't think he is hurt, I think he is pissed off that his plans aren't working out.

...

It isn't that my nephew has been hurt by women or that he is unable to articulate his feelings, he just likes to assert his maleness in front of his mom to show off that he is bigger than she is and she should remember that fact. He is deliberately posturing to display male aggression in order to instill fear.


I don't have any interest in getting into the larger discussion here but this made me so angry that I have to respond, against my better judgement.

Of course he fucking wants to "show off that he is bigger than she is" because that is the one and only advantage he has against someone who overwhelmingly possesses more social, economic, and political power than he does and by whom he is outmatched in every single way except this one very specific one, the ability to directly engage in physical violence. Of course that is the means by which he is going to express resistance rather than by some other means which can't possibly succeed against his more powerful parents.

The nuclear family can be a monstrous place. To confine a child within it by exercise of your legal and social power to do so and then to blame him for using the one weapon he has available to him to try to get out is spiteful. To argue that the kid, who has no money, no legal right to leave, no right to work, vote, etc., is somehow the oppressor is to be blind to the massive amounts of privilege that his parents possess by virtue of being adults and his parents.
posted by enn at 9:31 AM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


A man who has an outburst of anger is more readily accused to needing "anger management" classes. However, a woman who has an outburst towards a man is not nearly as often required to follow up with comparable efforts towards emotional self-control. Because, afterall, *wasn't she such a brave little girl for standing up and expressing herself?* /sarcasm

I don't agree with this. Women expressing anger are typically told that they are over-emotional and even hysterical; it's characterized as weakness. Women are told to "get a hold of themselves" and "calm down" or they're chided to "not let things get to them so much."

Compare to men getting sent to anger management classes because it's recognized that they may need coaching to help them with their strong masculine GRAR.
posted by desuetude at 9:33 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, I don't believe we ask that of men the same - it's impossible to. I see what you're saying about men's emotional pain and how that is not encouraged to come out in our world - but I still see differences in the asking men to understand women's emotional pain that leads to anger and asking women to understand men's emotional pain that leads to anger, is I guess where the uncomfortableness arises. There's just a power difference between asking those two things.

I do not believe for a minute that women as a group need to work on their anger towards men MORE than men as a group need to work on their anger towards women. I do believe, as you do, that all genders should work on respecting each other, but it's not an equal playing field at the moment. I am NOT ignoring the very real disrespect that is prevalent towards men in many arenas - I find male-bashing annoying too - but it's not at the same level, and cannot be, because of the gender imbalance in darn near everything.

Also, I believe that a huge step towards lessening misogyny is to ensure that women everywhere are able to decide when and if they will have children. Because few things are worse for the start of a child's life than a woman unprepared or unwilling to care for that child. I've often wondered if the root of many men's misogyny is an abusive or hateful mother. Maybe I'm way off on that, and obviously, our disrespectful culture towards women and their bodies doesn't help one bit.

Thanks for keeping this discussion respectful, everyone.
posted by agregoli at 9:36 AM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


kidichorus, statistics in a lot of Asian and Middle Eastern countries don't mean fuckall -- honestly. I know that things are very different in the US, but I can say without qualification that in Iran, India and Pakistan (the countries I am familiar with), statistics about gendered violence cannot be taken at face value because the *majority* of crimes go unreported; a lot of this violence is not perpetrated by strangers but by people known to the victim; there is a great, great deal of stigma attached to a woman's sexuality which makes life afterwards very difficult, in myriad ways, for known victims; and in general there is not much of a public thrust towards or interest in examining these or other patterns through statistics, partly because they're very, very unreliable, and partly because that's just not an important part of our social or policy agenda.

Also, it is laughable that pornography is not available in Pakistan or Iran (or India); all these countries have deep and thriving black markets that are male dominions and commonly known and accepted. I could honestly find you child porn right now in Delhi; I know exactly where it is sold (it's not even very hidden or anything; not in your face but people who want to find it have no trouble) and often when I enter that area there's been a "raid" wherein the shopkeepers know in advance that it's going to happen, they clear out their stock and go through the charade of inspection with already bribed officers, and tell customers who come by in the interim to come back later in the evening or the next day. I'm not kidding you.

Gendered violence is pervasive in these countries. Even India, which as I said, would be middling on those statistics-based scales, has only *now*, in the 2000s, instituted somewhat toothy laws about domestic violence. Things like marital rape and incest, even when they are reported (which, I want to emphasize, is rare to begin with; I say this as part of a pair of sisters who grew up being abused in the same household without realizing it or opening up to even each other for several years -- our perpetrators were different but both known to us -- and as someone whose male *and* female young friends, nearly without exception when it comes to women but also a fair fraction of men, were sexually and/or physically abused as children and never reported) are not dealt with gracefully by the police or even necessarily the courts.

So yes: not only are sexual crimes unreported due to stigma and possible repercussions and a sweeping lack of faith in police and state apparatus, but also because they are really common and they go on all the time, in most households, to the extent that if you were actually able to study what's really going on (instead of having to rely on police reports et al), physical and sexual abuse would just seem like a part of growing up in these places. No, I have no citations on hand but I can dig some up if you like. Still, know that if this claim I just made were made on, say, a news channel or even a report or among friends, women, many men and most children would not be asking for citations because this is the reality and society we live in and because we are not taught in a "citation needed" type of education system, if at all.

To transpose Ani Difranco, we don't need a weatherman to look around and see the weather. But also: there are no reliable weathermen around. It is telling and vicious that we, at least in my native tongue, don't even have the words (other than some misogynist slang) to talk about much of this stuff, let alone have anywhere close to the kind of nuance and specificity that is possible in English or French. In fact, one of my biggest curiosities and worries growing up here was wondering how women who didn't know English talked with their husbands about sex: wanting it and not wanting it, and what they wanted and/or didn't. I'm in my mid-20s now, and I've lived here and spoken my language for most of my life -- by the standards of my community I am definitely marriageable age and I still don't know practically any actual sex words that aren't misogynistic or "dirty". My vocabulary certainly isn't anywhere near what I'd want it to be in order to feel (speaking for myself) comfortable having sex with someone who didn't speak English… and I'm one of the educated ones. I guess if I watched some native porn I'd have more insight (since you can forget about getting to see this stuff in movies or something) and I've tried, but I don't have the stomach for it.

This, for me, is gross epistemic violence that is not only beyond the scope of governmental statistics but is engendered, amplified and obscured by it.

/tangent
posted by mondaygreens at 9:47 AM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sorry about misspelling your name, kid ichorous.
posted by mondaygreens at 9:48 AM on August 21, 2010


> I'm sorry for your past, and that really does go towards explaining your point of view. But I still take issue with some of your conclusions.

Same here. Look, human ecologist, you clearly have been through a lot and thought about it a lot, and I don't want to condescend to you in any way. Like agregoli, I appreciate your consistent calm and reasonableness in the face of a lot of pushback. But I am quite sure you are letting your experiences blind you to the big picture, which is the overwhelming dominance of men in virtually every aspect of society; this dominance has been to some extent mitigated by the success of the feminist movement, but it will not vanish in our lifetimes or in the foreseeable future. It is simply not fair or sensible to ask women to pretend there is a level playing field, as if we were all just human beings working things out together. Of course that is the desired end result of the feminist movement, and of course in some contexts we can approach that desired goal; I am not in the least claiming that men and women are eternal enemies, or that women should treat all men as their enemies unless proven otherwise. I am saying that women, to survive and flourish in this unfair world, must be constantly aware of the the reality of male domination and of the strategies this requires of them. Sometimes it is productive to be understanding, even yielding; sometimes it is necessary to take care of oneself in other ways, even to be potentially unfair to the particular male in your vicinity because you do not know him (see the long and contentious MeFi thread about how men should behave around women on the street). I know you're not ignorant of any of this, but I think that you have decided for yourself that it's important to put everyone on the same footing and be fair/nice to men so that they will have less reason to be unfair/cruel to women, and your stubborn insistence on this does come across as blaming the victim. I'm glad you're part of this discussion and you've made some thought-provoking points, but I think you would help your own cause by being less dogmatic and taking on board some of the points others are making.
posted by languagehat at 10:07 AM on August 21, 2010 [5 favorites]


Also: mondaygreens, I am impressed as hell by your comments in this thread. Kudos.
posted by languagehat at 10:08 AM on August 21, 2010


Yes, I maintain that things like misogynistic porn and child abuse reflect some of the unintended consequences that breakdowns in respect can result in, as furiousxgeorge kindly helped me articulate.

No, I am not suggesting that women BY FAR are the sole drivers of emotional stress that lead men to engage in these extremely harmful behaviors, the social and physical consequences of which we are all clearly well aware of. But I would considerate it ignorant to completely disregard whatever role we [women] may have in it (being 50% of society and all).

Secret Gravy of Life, I do really appreciate that you took the time to match my description of your perspective. I am disappointed and sorry to hear not only of the original crime that victimized you, but also of the repurcussions that [some] men's ignorance has had on your emotional health.

You are right. I do have an axe to grind. It's why I responded to this thread in the first place. It's also why I have tried to be very careful about how I express that anger and pain.

Many of the central tenets of my argument (anger and pain = two sides of the same coin, anger reflects pain, women's anger has very real consequences, and so forth) you have adamantly disagreed with. And given your experiences, I can respect that.

But I am afraid we will have to agree to disagree at this point. Because now that I have given full disclosure, there is no way I can further assert any of those points without being accused of bias. Similarly, now that you have presented your own full disclosure, we are equally exposed in the bias we bring to any argument in this discussion.

I was not raped. My abuse was "gentler," involving active participation over a few years. Hence, the guilt and self-blame. The physical abuse I received was solely from my mother. Hearing a woman's anger certainly does tempt me to grind the axe, so to speak. And since, like any victim, I lack the conviction to stand up for myself, I channel it into standing up for men, because I have far less fright/flight responses triggered in their company. I can only imagine similar could be said for you, Secret Gravy of Life, in the company of women.

I do understand that how I presented my POV was very touchy and controversial. I can only imagine how many people resisted out of pure spite from replying, given the deep, personal pains my points have tapped. I appreciate the restraint, as frankly, I am really surprised that I am still here and have not had comments deleted. Nonetheless, I do hope that those who could restrain themselves have come to appreciate sticking out this discussion, as I can say it has been very helpful, as least for myself.

... in other words, I call QED on my argument. And now I really need to get out of the house...
posted by human ecologist at 10:09 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


By the way, furiousxgeorge, I noticed your profile says you sell beer. Sometimes I buy beer. Sounds like we have stuff in common.
posted by human ecologist at 10:11 AM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


but the anger of my female guardian towards my male guardians was so existent in fact that it facilitated the abuse of SEVEN young children below the ages of eight by a single angry male perpetrator. Because her anger was more important than having the courtesy to protect [instead of yelling and smacking] her children into good behavior,

Anger isn't like energy that cannot be destroyed, with some kind of violence as the only means of transmission. The way you phrased that, that her anger was more important than courtesy to her kids...is beautifully articulated but a terribly sad explanation. She could have been equally angry and not have abused you.

What really stands out to me is that you seem (from what you've shared) to have internalized an understanding of your female guardian's anger as women's anger, rather than a woman's anger, in a way that doesn't separate your personal experience from the whole of our gender. I hope that you see that there is a difference -- when we're talk about "women," we're not just necessarily discussing our personal experiences, there's a broader, inclusive perspective.
posted by desuetude at 10:53 AM on August 21, 2010 [4 favorites]


To transpose Ani Difranco, we don't need a weatherman to look around and see the weather.

Total derail, but you do know she was referencing someone else, right? (And, of course, those same lyrics provided the name for one of our very own homegrown radical groups.)
posted by Forktine at 10:57 AM on August 21, 2010


Ah Forktine, I didn't know that, even though I've heard the Dylan song so many times and watched a documentary about the Weathermen (crazy kids, crazy times). Didn't put those two together, although I did know Ani was quite influenced by Dylan and even opened for him early in her career. So yeah, makes sense.

Yay for Ani/Dylan derails!
posted by mondaygreens at 11:18 AM on August 21, 2010




By the way, furiousxgeorge, I noticed your profile says you sell beer. Sometimes I buy beer. Sounds like we have stuff in common.


Hmm, likes beer, BSG, WoW, Star Trek, Stewart/Colbert so far so good but....doesn't like Star Wars? HEATHEN.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 12:28 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


And I also think, productive or not, it was only a matter of time before women began to show their anger. With increased rights comes increased agency, and why wouldn't women be showing anger against injustice towards them?

I think the point she's making is that sometimes there is female abuse and anger misdirected at individual men for things that other men did and that expression of that anger and use of demeaning language and actions by women towards men is broadly socially acceptable in a way it should not be.

Frankly, Human Ecologist is so spot-on.

I grew up in an environment with a huge amount of verbal and physical abuse from my mother. I've been slapped, had a baseball thrown at my head (my cousin who saw the whole thing said "wow, your mom should pitch for the Yankees!"), and had a table hockey game (yes the entire 4 foot long game) thrown at my head as I walked up a set of stairs.

But that was the small stuff. The big stuff was this--sitting around the dinner table, everyone looking around wondering if mom was going to explode and scream and yell and be abusive all night. And that was every night. Add to that the 1200+ verbalized suicide threats directed at me starting when I was five and you get the picture. I've never said anything about any of this except to therapists until this thread.

Its been very, very hard recovering from that. I will be honest--I have a tremendously difficut time trusting women. I can know intellectually that it is not true, that most women can be trusted, and I am aware of that. But its like the proverbial hot stove. In the core of my being, I have never really trusted a woman. As a straight guy, its a terrible place to be.

And I must admit that when I see a lot of collective-bashing of men on MeFi, it hurts. Its like society's mores say its okay that my mom did that to me. Every time I see that, it does hurt. I can't help it. This is a feeling, not a truth. But there seems to be a collective idea that it is okay to say things to and about men that a man cannot say to a woman. That's plain wrong. When I see people engaging in that kind of talk, it activates a very shamed part of me. A part of me that has been the single worst thing in my entire existence.

And I'm not only talking about women. Frankly, its the MeFi men who just join in that chorus that infuriate me the most. Its like they are trying to win a prize for "most understanding male." But to say otherwise would be to admit something they never want to--that we are emotional vulnerable to women too.

I am amazed at the reactions I see when some suggest that maybe, just maybe, just like with feminism, some of the attitudes that women have towards men might need a little changing too. The idea that one gender has the moral high ground over another is just inexplicable to me. But it often feels like society wants everyone to believe that.

What really stands out to me is that you seem (from what you've shared) to have internalized an understanding of your female guardian's anger as women's anger, rather than a woman's anger, in a way that doesn't separate your personal experience from the whole of our gender. I hope that you see that there is a difference -- when we're talk about "women," we're not just necessarily discussing our personal experiences, there's a broader, inclusive perspective.

My understanding of Human Ecologist's point is this--she's talking about the broad-based acceptance in our society that it is okay for women to direct anger and demeaning comments towards men in general. It isn't the fact of the anger she's talking about. Its the idea that it is okay to be verbally abusive towards specific men and towards men in general.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:36 PM on August 21, 2010 [12 favorites]


Ironmouth, I am truly and horribly sorry to learn that happened to you. And I truly understand why you and she both are particularly wary of women's anger.

I have to say, though, that I think human ecologist is going too far. In my reading, she combines her request for respectful discourse, which is absolutely appropriate, with a request for women not to express their anger at all, for it will cause too much pain. I'm not sure if that's intentional but that's how I am reading her (thoughtful) explanations.

And, truly, both women and men *should* express their anger. BUT they need to do it in a respectful, thoughtful, non-abusive way. Men shouldn't be derided, and neither should women-- as a group. But, going back to the OP, I feel like it was reasonable for anyone (male or female) to feel that the question was less contrite and concerned with what he had done to the woman he had ogled, and more worried about himself. That alone was enough to set off some alarms for me, and for many who posted in the thread. Of course it was inappropriate to call him an asshole and accuse him of assault.

BUT there's nothing inherently wrong with being angry and saying "Look, you crossed a major line, and may have made that woman feel absolutely terrible. To answer your question, yes I would think a lot less of you for what you did." Etc.

That's what concerns me about what human ecology has said thus far-- she seems to imply that even the statements above shouldn't be made, for fear that that make the man feel badly about himself.

I acknowledge that due to some of the ambiguities in the language the OP used, it's hard to tell how he really feels about what happened. But requiring women to be inherently deferential to the best possible interpretation isn't fair to anyone.
posted by miss tea at 1:43 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


PS I am sorry for what's happened to everyone who has written here. Not just Ironmouth. The horrible experiences so many people I know have had, in real life and online, continue to shock me. I personally had a very difficult parent and grew up feeling like I was the only one... and was saddened to learn that what I experiences was, quite literally, practically nothing.
posted by miss tea at 2:00 PM on August 21, 2010


human ecologist: “You are right. I do have an axe to grind. It's why I responded to this thread in the first place. It's also why I have tried to be very careful about how I express that anger and pain.”

I've read through this thread more carefully since my initial response (which was more about the ask.metafilter thread than the stuff here) and I know you've dealt with a torrent of words here, so I don't want to overwhelm you further, but:

I want to suggest gently that languagehat is right when he says that you're sort of missing the big picture here. More to the point: I don't think you have a clear idea of what actually happened in the thread we're talking about. You seem to be under the impression that most of the deleted comments were comments that insulted the poster and called him a pig. I was watching the thread from the beginning, and while jessamyn obviously might be able to tell you more clearly exactly what was deleted, I'm fairly certain that wasn't the bulk of them.

Most of the comments that were deleted were comments that told the poster that he'd done nothing wrong. They were comments (from men) telling him that everybody peeks like that sometimes. that it was no big deal, that she should get over herself, and that she was probably wearing a skirt that was way too short if he was able to look up it. Those comments, because they were misogynist, were the first to be deleted; so obviously there's not much trace of that left in the thread, and that's a good thing.

The point is that most of the women who were upset in that thread weren't responding to the question. They were responding to the comments.

That's probably not what they should have done, and I said above that the solution here is for us to focus on the question rather than the discussion in ask.metafilter. But I think you need to take into account the fact that the "angry" women weren't responding to a guy who felt mortified that he'd peeked up a skirt – they were responding to several guys who thought that was no big deal, and figured it was probably the woman's fault. Isn't there a bit of a difference there?

(By the way, I appreciate and agree with your larger point that feminists in general might do well to take heed of the feelings and position of men. And I'd even say that there have been a few comments in this thread that really, really disappointed me – comments from women that I really respect saying things that hurt me and made me feel as though they really don't care much about the position of men at all, at least not at the moment. But – I believe that the ask.metafilter thread we're talking about wasn't animated by any feminist backlash, but by a misunderstanding of ask.metafilter method and by emotional thinking overriding rational response. And I believe that if you really think that metafilter in general has many feminists who don't care much about the plight of men, you're quite wrong. I don't want to be presumptuous in pointing out that you're relatively new, but I have to repeat what I said above: I think metafilter might be the greatest source of thoughtful discourse on sex and gender in a generation. Yes, I believe that. And I have been consistently astounded by the thoughtfulness and care that the women here have given to the subject, being incredibly even-handed and open to the feelings of men. I just wanted to put that out there – I really think that, though you may not realize it, you're preaching to the choir as far as asking for mutual respect goes.)
posted by koeselitz at 2:54 PM on August 21, 2010 [2 favorites]


My understanding of Human Ecologist's point is this--she's talking about the broad-based acceptance in our society that it is okay for women to direct anger and demeaning comments towards men in general. It isn't the fact of the anger she's talking about. Its the idea that it is okay to be verbally abusive towards specific men and towards men in general.

It's not okay for women to be verbally abusive towards men in general. It's okay for a woman to be verbally abusive to a man who attacks her.

It's okay for a woman to be angry about gender-based expectations and assumptions. It's not okay for her to take out that anger unfairly on individual men.
posted by desuetude at 2:56 PM on August 21, 2010 [3 favorites]


But I think you need to take into account the fact that the "angry" women weren't responding to a guy who felt mortified that he'd peeked up a skirt – they were responding to several guys who thought that was no big deal, and figured it was probably the woman's fault. Isn't there a bit of a difference there?

This is an excellent thing to point out... I hadn't realized that, and I was checking the thread pretty regularly as it progressed. I imagine probably a lot of people, including perhaps the OP, had absolutely no idea what had sparked such an outpouring of rage and disdain.

The poor guy quite possibly feels like total shit and because nobody can agree on how to interpret the wording of his question, we have no idea if he deserves to feel like shit or not. That's pretty fucked up. I hope he's following along here and maybe at least getting some perspective on what happened to his thread.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 3:07 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's not okay for women to be verbally abusive towards men in general. It's okay for a woman to be verbally abusive to a man who attacks her.

People should not be abusive, period. Abuse is wrong. It is OK for a woman to be angry at a man who attacks her. It is not OK for her to be abusive, verbally or otherwise.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:40 PM on August 21, 2010 [6 favorites]


It occurs to me that we are possibly not using the word "abusive" in the same way, Ironmouth.

I think that hurling personal insults is a self-defeating way to express anger. But I don't think it's an improper response for someone (of either gender) to yell and use harsh language in response to being attacked.
posted by desuetude at 4:25 PM on August 21, 2010


(Oh, for an edit window! It's not NECESSARILY an improper response.)
posted by desuetude at 4:27 PM on August 21, 2010


Abuse is, by definition, mistreatment. Would you agree with this formulation?:

It's okay for a man to be verbally abusive to a woman who attacks him.

I certainly do not.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:45 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


As Dirk sez in another thread, Presumption of innocence: the new offensive behaviour.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:26 PM on August 21, 2010


I'm late here, and I'll admit (sorry but) I've skipped some of this thread, but what I think is happening with AskMefi is that it's imagined to be service. I think they're even advertising it on NPR as such.

Given that, I would say that comments in that part of the site should be much more considered than elsewhere. "Does this comment I'm about to click "post" on help to answer the OP's question, or is it helpful otherwise?" might be a good final check.


Then come over here and rip the sexist bastard a new arsehole.
posted by Trochanter at 6:00 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Then come over here and rip the sexist bastard a new arsehole.

Please don't shit where I live.
posted by nomadicink at 6:32 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


desuetude: “I think that hurling personal insults is a self-defeating way to express anger. But I don't think it's necessarily an improper response for someone (of either gender) to yell and use harsh language in response to being attacked.”

I take your point, I think. But I'm pretty sure that propriety has very little to do with it. It doesn't matter if it's "improper" for someone to be cruel in response to threats. I don't think we're talking about whether women who are cruel in that way should be blamed. We're talking about whether that cruelty should be encouraged.

And I don't think it should – for the very reason you yourself give: because it's self-defeating. Look, I understand that constant attacks or abuse can make a person cruel. But that's not a good thing; and what we need to do is create a world where people can understand that that's unnecessary. The world is full of rah-rah "yeah, go get 'em!" encouragements to victims, which seem to tell us that the very best way to deal with abuse is to abuse back. One example is my least favorite song in the entire world, a song which makes me cringe so deeply that my knees hurt every time it comes on the radio: "Date Rape," by that band Sublime; it's a revenge fantasy about how a rapist himself gets raped in prison. See? Isn't that great? Ha! He got what was coming to him! But in the end, all it is is a song that takes pleasure and pride in the cruel rape of another human being. And anyone who knows anything about the human mind and soul knows well that no rape victim has ever dealt with her or his pain and become a healthy and whole human being by engaging in revenge fantasies or angry cruelty.

In fact, the interesting fact one notices is that that's actually the source of most of the systematically abusive people in the world: they were abused, early and often, enough to teach them on a deep level that cruelty is a proper response to the abuse of the world.

Now, I accept that a bit of rage and anger are part of dealing with abuse. But the important point to remember, I think, is that anger and cruelty are very, very different things, if approached correctly. So: I agree with Ironmouth; I think you misspoke, or were incorrect, when you said that 'abuse' was okay in certain circumstances.

Actually, now, I have a hard time parsing what you said, which was that it's all right for a woman to be 'verbally abusive' towards someone who attacks her. I can't really picture that situation – I mean, I can picture a woman in a situation where she is being attacked hurling insults and fighting back in order to get away, but that isn't really 'abuse' to me, since 'abuse' seems to imply that there is a potential for the abuser to be cruel, and in that situation I don't think the woman is hurling insults to be cruel – she's simply trying to fend off an attack. So, yeah – maybe you mean something completely different by 'abuse.'
posted by koeselitz at 8:00 PM on August 21, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I was using "verbal abuse" in a much, much broader way than was right, particularly given the personal stories of abuse shared here. Ironmouth is right, "abuse" is by definition mistreatment. Apologies to all.

I dunno, what do you call hollering at someone who has wronged you? I don't want to call it aggression or combativeness, either, those words are too tied to violence. Do we have words for the act of verbally expressing anger but not spilling over into cruelty or abuse?
posted by desuetude at 9:11 PM on August 21, 2010


It doesn't matter if it's "improper" for someone to be cruel in response to threats. I don't think we're talking about whether women who are cruel in that way should be blamed. We're talking about whether that cruelty should be encouraged.

Actually, I think we are (or were?) talking about the utility of anger in an AskMe. I'm all for over the top anger when someone does something bad to you. The woman who was getting her skirt leered up could deservedly have jumped all over his ass, anything from yelling to going to HR to whatever.

I think it is much, much less useful when we bring that anger to an AskMe. The dude -- maybe a lech, or maybe just young and confused -- was asking for guidance and anecdotal experiences. The anger and weirdness (and I'm including the pseudo evolutionary biology stuff in this, among a lot of other stuff) that he received instead wasn't at all helpful.

So yeah, be angry when it happens to you, and be angry on her behalf when you read the question. But if you can't set that anger aside, or channel it into a really constructive answer, it's better to walk away.

All that said, I think it's also important to maintain some clarity about the difference between the extreme cases that are being described here (including childhood abuse) and the much more ambiguous description of the AskMe, where how bad it was depends entirely on how you parse out some clumsily-written sentences.
posted by Forktine at 9:28 PM on August 21, 2010


Re the use of “lizard brain”:

Look, I love the idea that a knowledge of human biology can help us understand why we are the way we are and why we act the way we act. I did a degree in psychology in which I studied physiological psych, and my most nursed obsession was evolutionary psych. I love the idea that we can understand ourselves through science. But let me relate two stories.

First story: my friend is in a band with his girlfriend. The girlfriend bails on a big because she “didn't feel like it / she was tired.” My friend is angry and is venting to me and another dude. This other dude says, and I paraphrase, “You have to expect that of her. She's a girl. Girls have different criteria for what constitutes an acceptable reason to do something. When I was in a band with three other dudes, we were planning a cross-country tour that I really didn't want to go on. But I had no legitimate reason not to, and, since I was a member of the band, I went on the tour. If I had've said 'I don't feel like it'—I just couldn't have, it would have been unthinkable, it's just not a reason not to do something. But girls don't work like that. If they don't want to do something, they'll just tell you they don't want to do it. They'll say 'I don't feel like it' and that's a valid reason for them. And there's no way you can argue with it!'”

Second story: I'm talking with my female friend about her boyfriend. She wants to move in with him. He doesn't seem very comfortable with the idea. My friend tells me he's been producing a lot of semi-coherent conjecturing on 'what happens when couples move in together' in a very general and abstract way, and sometimes basing it vaguely on what happened when he moved in with his ex-girlfriend he was with before her. My friend tells me she's finding it very difficult to talk to him about it, and furthermore, he's also been claiming “You've only been talking about your feelings. You have to give equal weight to my feelings.” Which she acknowledges she's somewhat guilty of, but the thing is that he hasn't actually told her what his feelings are, he's just been throwing a lot of obscure, general arguments at her.

Okay! What lesson is? Male culture demands “objective” reasons for doing things, and discounts feelings. As a result, if a man can make his point with only logic, without resorting to his own feelings, he'll feel like he's won twice: he's won the argument, and he's done so without having relinquished any power. Because if you get someone to do something by acknowledging that it's in your interests your them to do so, you've effectively asked of them a favour, and now you're beholden to them. However, if you demonstrate to them that it's the “objectively right” thing to do, you've gained your objective while simultaneously not asked them a favour, and so you owe them nothing, because they've only done what was in their best interest anyway.

(You can see this play out again and again, especially with 'smart' couples. However, it's my understanding that the female will often see through this 'objective' reasoning and grant the male his wish, acceding to his 'logic' because it's the path of least resistance—which causes problems when she feels like she's done him a favour while he doesn't see it that way, because it's in his interests to believe his own 'objective' logic. 'He's not a manipulator, he's just acting in both of their best interests.')

How this plays out on Metafilter? Someone will say “I don't care what's going on his his head, I care about his actions” so the “lizard brain” thing gets trotted out, because it's “objective” and isn't about “what's going on his his head.” Then someone will say “That's unsubstantiated bullshit,” which is basically true. But you can't have it both ways. Even though the lizard brain argument might not be wrong, in this kind of conversation, it's less important for men to “prove” that they're wired a certain way with reference to SCIENCE than it is for us to report our feelings, because our feelings are the real conditions we're faced with. However, it's riskier, both emotionally and rhetorically, to base an argument like this on our feelings. For example, it's much riskier to say
“I have some sympathy with this guy, because I understand that, for reasons I don't understand nor have control over, I also feel lust towards lots of women pretty much all day long, and for reasons I don't understand nor have control over, my eyes are, as if instinctively, drawn to cleavage and butts, and it takes a lot of work to not ogle women all day. However, I know it's my responsibility to not do that, and I condemn this guy's actions”
...than it is to say:
“Men evolved to have as many sex partners as possible, so it's natural that guys do this. However, I know it's my responsibility to not do it, and I condemn this guy's actions.”
The latter illuminates nothing for people who've all heard the lizard brain argument, reads like a justification, and can easily be “refuted.” The former, however, is untheoretical reporting of mental conditions and even though, while typing it, it triggers a lot of “I'm being a pig and I shouldn't be typing this” alarms, I think it's actually the most fruitful way to talk about this issue.

So two conclusions: first, in general, because of the logic of male argumentation I explained above, men are conditioned to reach for “objective” justifications for their actions, and so that's what we think of as having greater reality. We're not used to having our feelings be counted as legitimate bases for action, especially by other men. We should, though, because in some contexts feelings are the most relevant facts of the situation.

Second, in particular, as counter-intuitive as it may feel, you're not a sexist pig to be attracted to attractive women's bodies, or even to say you are. This is normal heterosexual male sexuality and it should be allowed to be talked about. It's like the “if guns are illegal only criminals will have guns thing”: if to talk about being attracted to women's bodies is being “edgy” or “pushing it” or being a “bad boy,” then the only conversations about heterosexual male sexuality will take place in “bad boy” discourse. And, surprise surprise, this is actually the case. Working towards being able to talk about the common facts of heterosexual male sexuality in an open way without fear of being painted as a dirty pig would go a long way towards alleviating the shame and guilt that I think makes a man have to be a little “bad” to be openly sexual, which in turn I think might, though I'm not sure (no sarcasm), contribute to the monopolization shitty “bro” culture has on the expression of mainstream heterosexual male sexuality.

Now, Metafilter may not turn out to be the place for this kind of open dialogue of men's sexuality. There are probably specialty forums. But the more it's pushed out of the light, so that it's only allowed to surface in risqué jokes, the poorer we all are, I submit.
posted by skwt at 9:59 PM on August 21, 2010 [30 favorites]


Yeah, it's always struck me that "lizard brain" is a particularly lame and halfhearted way to try to explain human behavior. I think people are drawn to it because it's an evocative phrase, and because it has an air of evolutionary biology to it, but in fact it says less about the actual human impulses that drive us than most psychological schema have ever said. Humans have known since the dawn of history that they have certain drives that can't be quelled; it's trivial to say a lot more about those drives (lust, anger, etc) than that they come from a 'lizard brain.'

This is all completely aside from the fact that 'lizard brains' are in general factually incorrect, and don't really exist. The Amygdala is vastly different from the popular conception of what the 'lizard brain' is supposed to be; it is less well-understood than people take it to be, and a major component of the difficulty (this is, of course, a layperson's understanding, albeit an informed one) is that the Amygdala seems to rely and be relied on by other major parts of the brain.

At the very least, I do also wish people would stop using the faulty and phony 'lizard brain' analogy. It's simply not a useful or even true way of seeing the issues at hand.
posted by koeselitz at 10:25 PM on August 21, 2010


Sqwt, that's possibly the best post ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:18 AM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Or skwt, even.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:19 AM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Second, in particular, as counter-intuitive as it may feel, you're not a sexist pig to be attracted to attractive women's bodies, or even to say you are.

It's not counter-intuitive. It's possible to recognize a woman is hot/attractive/has a great whatever and realize she is also a coworker/taken/intelligent person/whatever.

It's not or doesn't have to be an either/or situation.
posted by nomadicink at 10:00 AM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


fff, thanks!

nomadicink, I'm not sure I'm up to analyzing how I think we're talking about different things, because I think it's quite subtle, but note that I didn't say "as counter-intuitive as it may sound [to hear this], you're not a sexist pig to be attracted to attractive women's bodies, or even to say you are." I said "as counter-intuitive as it may feel, you're not a sexist pig to be attracted to attractive women's bodies, or even to say you are," and I used that word intentionally and had something quite specific in mind.

I was talking about how attraction feels in the moment it's happening, not what you know about it consciously. In terms of mental phenomena, I think there's a very large difference between "recognizing a woman is attractive" (your terminology), which could be more of a back-burner thing, and "being attracted to a woman" (mine), which is about the actual experience of being attracted to a woman in the moment. I agree with your point, but I think it's actually orthogonal to mine. Again, I'm not quite sure how to express it, but I was saying the experience of being being attracted to a woman, and the experience of expressing that (e.g. typing it), can make you feel like a sexist pig, despite the fact that on some level you may understand that being attracted to women is the baseline condition of male heterosexuality, and talking about it—in the right tone anyway—is sometimes appropriate and germane to a discussion.
posted by skwt at 11:22 AM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Again, I'm not quite sure how to express it, but I was saying the experience of being being attracted to a woman, and the experience of expressing that (e.g. typing it), can make you feel like a sexist pig...

Just pointing out that there's no particular reason why it should, unless you being a sexist pig when you're expressing it.
posted by nomadicink at 11:56 AM on August 22, 2010


desuetude: What really stands out to me is that you seem (from what you've shared) to have internalized an understanding of your female guardian's anger as women's anger, rather than a woman's anger, in a way that doesn't separate your personal experience from the whole of our gender.

I whole heartedly agree. I also believe if you were to rephrase this from a man's perspective, he might say:

What really stands out to me is that you seem... to have internalized an understanding of your male guardian/spouse/friend/stranger's anger as men's anger, rather than a man's anger, in a way that doesn't separate your personal experience from the whole of our gender. I hope that you see that there is a difference -- when we're talk about "men," we're not just necessarily discussing our personal experiences, there's a broader, inclusive perspective.
posted by human ecologist at 1:20 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: most of the women who were upset in that thread weren't responding to the question. They were responding to the comments

Ah, that's even worse then. That suggests they were willingly discouraging others from helping. There's a word for that: bullying

Reminds me of a time... that might also address this comment of yours: I have a hard time parsing what you said, which was that it's all right for a woman to be 'verbally abusive' towards someone who attacks her. I can't really picture that situation

I can offer this data point. When I supervised young adults as part of a job in a university residence, I had to manage three ~16 yo ladies and a young man. The young man had a CLEAR learning disability (all staff were aware to have extra-patience when it came to training him on the computer stuff). He was also socially awkward. None of us cared to work with him, but it never became an issue at work as he was clearly kind-hearted (just terribly, terribly awkward).

One day I sent the team off on a task, and came by to check on their progress later. No joke: I walked in on three young women cornering the young man with arms and voiced raised, hollering at him, and giving him no conversational window of opportunity to even defend himself. It broke up the moment I entered the room. I told the girls to continue working, and that I would be assigning the young man elsewhere for the afternoon (as he was clearly upset). He asked if he could pop up into his dorm room for something before moving on to the new assignment. I allowed it. Any man reading this story probably knows what I know: he needed to cry.

I shared the supervisor position on a rotating basis with two other very strong and independent women. We all agreed it was not fair and that particular team would not be assigned together again.

The follow-up. As you might imagine, the two other women and I got on very well, and it was no secret that sometimes we would have card nights. So that week we invited the awkward young man, played cards, and had a few drinks. The incident did not make us like him any more, to be perfectly honest, and we never invited him again :) but we wanted him to know that we didn't condone the abuse he received as a result of our management decisions. There was no further discussion about it; it simply wasn't in our best interest even as professionals to have his self-esteem destroyed as a result of a stupid summer job work assignment.

Unfair situation resulting in cruelty: QED.
posted by human ecologist at 1:36 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why were the three young ladies angry at the young man? What caused the anger?
posted by Orb at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2010


Whoops, my story derailed itself from addressing your comment.

Oh geez, and koeselitz's comment here... that's right, you don't get credit for my posts And maybe ignore the itlicized comment I suggested was relevant to the story. Really, I've pretty much debated myself to sleep at this point.

Attempted relevance: if we are not careful to catch cruelty, then we may inadvertently encourage it by condoning the cruel actions of others if we allow ourselves to accept culturally-encouraged archaic notions such as "men don't have feelings."
posted by human ecologist at 2:09 PM on August 22, 2010


The three young ladies did not like him. They could not see past his awkwardness or respect his learning disability. They chose to get angry with him (not to mention let the anger escalate) when he could not fit in with them as part of a tightly-communicating unit. And by tightly-communicating, you can bet your ass I mean gossiping.

The circumstance: we were under a tight deadline with more work dumped on us that day, after a couple weeks of an incredibly difficult transition to a new boss. Stress was already HIGH. We all knew it, and we all knew to SUCK IT UP that week and get the job done. IMO, rather than handle the stress like adults, they chose to take advantage of the stressful environment and use the young man as a whipping boy, e.g. "We're not getting enough done because YOU'RE slowing us down," instead of, "Hey, it looks like you're having a hard time with that. Is there any way I can help?" You could feel the hostility from several meters down the hall. (that is, hear the screaming) You could also hear the young man struggling to defend his socially awkward, overweight, unattractive self to three attractive and tightly-unifying "ladies".

In that situation, I was able to correct the error. But the reality is someone else might have handled it very differently, and that young man might have heard instead, "suck it up" or, "sorry, but you're not cutting it here".
posted by human ecologist at 2:22 PM on August 22, 2010


Also, FWIW, that was the only time that particular group had ever been assigned together. Given the meeting earlier that day, it seemed pretty clear [to me] that the assignment was temporary but necessary to accomplish our objectives that week. So I did [erroneously] have the expectation that they would work with the young man without compromising their grace.
posted by human ecologist at 2:31 PM on August 22, 2010


miss tea: That's what concerns me about what human ecology has said thus far-- she seems to imply that even the statements above shouldn't be made, for fear that that make the man feel badly about himself.

Yes, I am implying in situations where a man is seeking help those statements should not be made. In fact, I am requesting it.
posted by human ecologist at 3:00 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Again, I'm not quite sure how to express it, but I was saying the experience of being being attracted to a woman, and the experience of expressing that (e.g. typing it), can make you feel like a sexist pig...

Just pointing out that there's no particular reason why it should, unless you being a sexist pig when you're expressing it.
posted by nomadicink at 1:56 PM on August 22 [+] [!]


I don't want to belabour this too much, because I suppose we agree with each other, but I know there's no particular reason why the feeling of and expressing of attraction should bring with it feelings of guilt, but my point is that these experiences are bound up in an absolute shit-ton of cultural baggage, and so saying it "shouldn't" trigger feelings of guilt is like telling a rape victim that it wasn't her fault and she shouldn't feel bad about it. It's like, hey, thanks for the insight Dr Logic, but there's an entire fabric of society that makes it a little bit hard to feel totally comfortable with it. In the case of being attracted to women, I think it probably has something to do with the fact that when heterosexual men's sexuality is discussed outside of what I've called "bad boy discourse," by reasonable, intelligent people, for instance on Metafilter, it's almost always discussed as a problem; and when it's represented in popular culture, it's almost always represented problematically. So there aren't a lot of vectors zipping around that affirm to a feminist man that his heterosexual sexuality is okay. And I suppose I was trying to be one of those vectors.
posted by skwt at 3:18 PM on August 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


human ecologist, I don't see how that's an example of it being considered okay for women to verbally abuse men. It was very assuredly not okay, and I don't see the relevance of the gender of the perpetrators.

I think it would unlikely that a young man with an obvious learning disability would have been told to suck it up and be a man when being bullied.
posted by desuetude at 3:37 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I don't see how that's an example of it being considered okay for women to verbally abuse men. It was very assuredly not okay, and I don't see the relevance of the gender of the perpetrators.

No, in retrospect, it's not as strongly relevant as I had been aiming. It's a situation where women were verbally abusing men, that's all. And had I been a different supervisor who figured this dumb unpleasant guy probably deserved it for being so slow and dumb and just flat out unattractive to deal with, it could have become a situation where a supervisor's blind eye would have made it okay.

It was no secret to the girls that I thought their actions were horrible. A different person, perhaps let's say an angrier woman... who might also happen to have a lot of anger for men... might have let it be okay. And I have certainly known some women who might fit that bill. I'm just saying...

I think it would unlikely that a young man with an obvious learning disability would have been told to suck it up and be a man when being bullied.

Thanks to advances in HR today. But think even ten years ago, or in the context of a less employee-empowered environment, when/where his learning disability might not only be less likely to be reported to staff but also unidentified/unrecognized.
posted by human ecologist at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2010


Oops. It's a situation where women were verbally abusing men a man, that's all.
posted by human ecologist at 3:46 PM on August 22, 2010


A different person, perhaps let's say an angrier woman... who might also happen to have a lot of anger for men... might have let it be okay.

You think that an adult woman spitefully allowing three teenage women to verbally abuse a disabled teenage man is a scenario that would be plausible and even considered an understandable female point of view? This would be batshitinsane behavior. "I'm angry at men" would not be an acceptable excuse.
posted by desuetude at 4:07 PM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


agregoli: I would like to re-word your first comment as some food for thought: No, I don't believe we ask that of men the same...

Possibly from a man's perspective, in response to women discussing unfair treatment of women by men: I see what you're saying about women's emotional pain and how that is not encouraged to come out in our world - but I still see differences in the asking women to understand men's emotional pain that leads to anger and asking men to understand women's emotional pain that leads to anger, is I guess where the uncomfortableness arises. There's just [an emotional] power difference between asking those two things.

Also: I believe that a huge step towards lessening misogyny is to ensure that women everywhere are able to decide when and if they will have children.

I whole heartedly agree.
posted by human ecologist at 4:15 PM on August 22, 2010


"I'm angry at men" would not be an acceptable excuse.

It sure wouldn't be, because if [she] decided to walk away, or avoid addressing the issue by holding back until the screaming died down, then it would not come up. Who would be around to catch a person who willfully decides to condone bullying on the basis of [her] personal bias by looking the other way?
posted by human ecologist at 4:18 PM on August 22, 2010


It sure wouldn't be, because if [she] decided to walk away, or avoid addressing the issue by holding back until the screaming died down, then it would not come up. Who would be around to catch a person who willfully decides to condone bullying on the basis of [her] personal bias by looking the other way?

Then how is this indicative of an acceptance that women can verbally abuse men? Acceptance by whom? The teenage girls are preying on someone who is weak, I don't see how gender is a strong factor. The hypothetical adult who turns away from her responsibility due to some sort of gender-based grudge against men isn't sharing her personal SCUM Manifesto, and thus her crazypants bias is not reveled as gendered.

This scenario may demonstrate to those particular four teenagers that that particular adult will ignore bullying, but I think it's a leap to propose that this incident demonstrates that abuse of men by women is generally accepted, either to the teenagers or as a broader example. It's just not typically gendered-enough behavior.

If you had not been there, there are plenty of other non-gender-inspired reasons why someone would interfere. Annoyed by the noise, or felt sorry for the kid getting abused, because they were bullied themselves, or because they want the kids to get back to work, or because they consider leadership their duty.

Any man reading this story probably knows what I know: he needed to cry.

I missed this before. I'm totally flummoxed as to why you casually characterize this as specifically male knowledge.
posted by desuetude at 7:48 PM on August 22, 2010


"by reasonable, intelligent people, for instance on Metafilter, it's almost always discussed as a problem; and when it's represented in popular culture, it's almost always represented problematically."

Except that it's not generally depicted, rather just assumed. Unless you're arguing the meta issue of "male gaze" is problematic (which is a totally legit position), I'm going to say that you don't notice the vast, vast majority of representations are banal and assume that the viewer will identify with the man. Critiques must always be understood in context, and the context is the frequent presentations of male sexuality which fuck up both men and women.

Further, it's weird to look to others on Metafilter for vindication of your sexual behavior? I mean, that's not really the kind of friends that I am with most people here, and seeking that validation is what leads to the Ladies, I Sure Love Cunnilingus thing. I'm not saying that's what you're doing, but rather that this means that conversation is going to naturally skew toward critique (unless you're on Ask, where straight dudes get told all sorts of totally prosaic, non-judgmental things all the time about using more lube or how to get tied up).

It can get frustrating and tedious, I know. My mom and I have a joke about going to art shows, where we ask where all the art is for people who already get it. ("Yes, rape is bad. Very bad"). But, man, just imagine being on the outside of that, where you'd always be a party to male sexuality but never be shown having any agency in determining how. From what I've heard, that's a lot more frustrating and tedious, and I tend to believe that.
posted by klangklangston at 7:54 PM on August 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


me: “most of the women who were upset in that thread weren't responding to the question. They were responding to the comments”

human ecologist: “Ah, that's even worse then. That suggests they were willingly discouraging others from helping. There's a word for that: bullying”

Geez, did you even read what I said? Nobody in that thread was trying to help the poster. Nobody. And the women who were pissed off were pissed off at comments that were frankly incredibly sexist, and wildly offensive. I was pointing that out because those comments don't exist any more; they were rightly deleted. I guess you can take any tack you want with that, but while I feel like it might be nice to deal with a question like this differently in the future, I'm not in any rush to blame anybody; any I think the anger of any woman in that thread was understandable, and had nothing whatsoever to do with whatever cultural hatred feminists in general may harbor toward men, no matter what you may think.

human ecologist: “Unfair situation resulting in cruelty: QED.”

Pardon me for saying so, but I don't thing there's any quod that's erat demonstrandum here at all. And excuse me for finding your whole example pretty damned insulting. All respect to your disabled fellow (was he really, I wonder? - you make it sound like this was just understood by staff, without it actually being necessarily true) but I'm fine with disagreement. And I can handle it if people think I'm full of crap. In fact, if anybody – male or female – sees me spouting sexist bullshit like the stuff guys were saying in that thread, I hope they tell me in no uncertain terms that I'm completely full of shit. That won't be cruelty, and it won't be abuse – it'll just be the truth.

Can you please try to understand this for a moment? There was very, very little actual abuse in that thread. Generally, women were just angry; and it's understandable why they were angry: because there was a lot of misogynist bullshit flying there. But like I said above, there's a difference between anger and abuse. And in fact, while I'm not happy for the poster of the question, I'm pretty sure that he knows the difference between anger and person abuse, too.

At a certain point, this whole line of argument just gets patronizing. No, I'm pretty sure the poster didn't have to go cry after that thread; it's not a terrible thing if he did, but does every woman have to go cry every time she sees a male get angry in public? Yeesh. And the worst part is your horrible story. Honestly, if I was the guy in that story, I'd want to leave; since everyone there apparently either bullied him or treated him as an ineffectual idiot to be coddled. In fact, I'd rather be bullied. At least the bullies granted him some dignity and respect and free agency.
posted by koeselitz at 8:22 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


human ecologist: “Any man reading this story probably knows what I know: he needed to cry.”

Ugh. The more I read this sentence, the more repulsive it is to me, and I keep trying to formulate why. Honestly, human ecologist – I mean no insult to you personally, but there's something about what you've said here that really bothers me.

I think it's the fact that you're trying to turn 'the male experience' around and own it. I understand that you feel like you're defending men, but there's a fine line between defending and patronizing. I know that there was a time when this was accentuated far too much, and I know that it's important for women to be allow to rediscover who they are and take control of that, but at the same time, in a quiet way at least, men still own the experience of being men – it just seems so deeply presumptuous for you to be telling us how we feel. Yeah, we did it to women all those years, and I think that's a terrible thing – I spend a good amount of my time trying to fight it – but our punishment is to be patronized like this?
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 PM on August 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any man reading this story probably knows what I know: he needed to cry.

koeselitz: I missed this before. I'm totally flummoxed as to why you casually characterize this as specifically male knowledge.

It's for the benefit of the doubt that some women reading this story may not recognize this little tidbit. It was so [some] women didn't have to feel stupid when the obvious was pointed out.

No I am not trying to own the male experience. I am attempting to understand it, and I apologize if I came off as patronizing.
posted by human ecologist at 8:56 PM on August 22, 2010


If you had not been there, there are plenty of other non-gender-inspired reasons why someone would interfere.

Except that no one else would have been there, because this team was assigned to work alone in a residence building for the rest of the afternoon (midsummer, no students, no guests). They did not know I would be checking up on them after giving them the assignment. Those ladies knew it was very unlikely that they were going to be caught. That's probably why the behavior immediately stopped when I entered the room.
posted by human ecologist at 9:08 PM on August 22, 2010


Men seem to do a lot of things (leering, grabbing their crotches in public, etc) because they think they have some sort of invisibility shield that covers them when they're doing these things. I wish they'd realize there's no such invisibility shield and more often than not, WE CAN SEE YOU.

As for whether women are just more subtle when looking, that's probably true, but I also think that more men hide their light under a bushel and don't dress well, or don't care to dress well, or think dressing well somehow makes them gay, so there's often just not much to look at. Unfortunately.
posted by FlyByDay at 9:09 PM on August 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


koeselitz: All respect to your disabled fellow (was he really, I wonder? - you make it sound like this was just understood by staff, without it actually being necessarily true)

I never saw his file, but I do remember my [male] boss specifically sitting me and the other two rotating supervisors down to address the young man's dyslexia, and how we would be expected to show support for him at the front counter (and prevent irate customers from lashing out at him if/when he made mistakes at the computer). I also know that this particular young man was a regular client of the university's disability services. At the end of the summer, he asked if any of us were looking for extra cash as tutors because he could put in a good word for us there.
posted by human ecologist at 9:23 PM on August 22, 2010


It was no secret to the girls that I thought their actions were horrible. A different person, perhaps let's say an angrier woman... who might also happen to have a lot of anger for men... might have let it be okay. And I have certainly known some women who might fit that bill. I'm just saying...

so... the whole point of that story is that because he was male, some other imaginary woman supervisor might have ignored the situation because she didn't like men? Someone somewhere might have done or not done something? In your imagination? That's the lesson?

I feel very strongly that this imaginary person is a creep. In fact, I just sent a swarm of imaginary bees to bother her.

The girls were behaving horribly, but is this an example of sexism? If he were female, they would have been nicer to him? Because if not, I'm really struggling to figure out what all these real and imaginary people have to do with anything.

As far as it goes though, any decent person would have put a stop to that situation; it didn't require any particular sensitivity or insight toward men to do not only what is so clearly and obviously the right thing, but is also simply a function of the job as a supervisor. Someone else might have thought, "oh, I'm just not up to handling this today; I think I'll go read a comic book in the broom closet instead," and that person would just be a crappy employee and sub-par human, but not a man-hater. Someone else might have loaned the young man her invisible jet and rounded up the girls with her lasso of truth and demanded that they explain themselves.

Despite my sarcasm, I think it's a very good thing that you make it a point to be sensitive to the feelings of men, but you yourself say you are biased, and even though I didn't really want to enter this conversation (you all are doing great; I don't need to add anything), it really bothered me that you presented this anecdote to support your conclusions, when the teaching point seems to be that maybe someone else would have behaved badly.
posted by taz at 11:45 PM on August 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


taz: Someone somewhere might have done or not done something? In your imagination? That's the lesson?

All righty. I suppose because I am not a man nor am I insensitive to men (so to speak), I am not qualified to illustrate situations in which I am trying to suggest unfair treatment of a man could have easily been condoned at the cost of his emotional well being.

simply a function of the job as a supervisor

I absolutely agree. But the reality is that job was a summer student position. Any one of those girls, had they been hired at the same time as me, would have been charged with supervisor authority. I was 19 when I held this position. And it wasn't actually given the title 'supervisor', it was 'team leader'. To me, the consequences for that young man (who was also the only male on the team) seemed very real, as I kept on imagining over and over that day how that would have played out, had one of those girls actually been in charge instead of me. Can't help but thinking if those girls never had the idea that it was okay to yell at him in the first place... ah, but that's just me...

Someone else might have loaned the young man her invisible jet and rounded up the girls with her lasso of truth and demanded that they explain themselves.

Ugh. Wonder Woman has nothing on what Catwoman would have done.

but you yourself say you are biased... it really bothered me that you presented this anecdote to support your conclusions

Of course I'm biased; I'm a human being doing the best she can to present her POV as objectively as possible. Now that you know the truth, we're never going to get away from it, are we?

But while we're on the subject of my bias, let me throw my other bias card down. FWIW, believe me when I say men get off no easier with me than women do. My alcoholic absentee father (with a lung and a half in his chest because he won't quit smoking and the full expectation that because he put a roof over our heads we should be sacrificing our lives to take care of him now, don't get me started on how *he* failed to protect us...) gets no less blame and anger from me than my physically abusive mother. I hold BOTH accountable for what happened.

As I have already said, I am not trying to own the male experience. I want to understand it. I want to be able to explain it back to women. I also want to be able to explain women back to men. For some reason, if I do it well enough, I think both sides might be willing to listen to me... some day.

But both [genders, based on MeFites willing to speak up so far] can now invariably accuse me of bias. By explaining my perspective, I have had to compromise the element of objectivity. Those who have not bared their soul here have all the power over me to tear any further comments of mine apart. Which is fine, since I still got to use my voice. But that also means that any new arguments I have to offer will be easily dismantled from hereon in. As objective as I try to be, you can all color this data point biased all you want. Go ahead and picture a little Canadian "indian" holding two BIG axes, angrily grinding them both. Because believe me, I do hold two big axes - one for stupid men, and one for stupid women. And I am more than eager to show them off because, quite frankly, since I have found my voice in society, I quite often don't like what I hear from either of you.

Since I am unable to really argue any further without the obvious derailment of bias, I will cease. I will refrain from further generating discussion. If you men don't like some of the things I have said, or have better examples, THEN SPEAK UP. If you women don't like what the men have to say, THEN LISTEN BEFORE YOU SPEAK. I will not interrupt. Because really, I am still asking to be able to hear what men people have to say on Metafilter, and I would really appreciate if people who are angry at men [some] people could address their grievances over reduced political rights, misogynistic porn, physical abuse, rape and murder, etc. in a more constructive way that does not result in disrespect for other people's feelings. I leave the floor open to you, ladies and gentlemen.





You know, most days I like to think I'm a 'batman' crusading for justice, in my own way. But I have to admit, this thread has made me feel more like a 'joker'... ;D
posted by human ecologist at 6:04 AM on August 23, 2010


It's frustrating that your eventual goal is to be some sort of mediator/interpreter between identity groups. There is no position opening for this role that you want to have, because these are huge, diverse groups of people whose experiences differ. I feel patronized that you want the ability to translate for me. I certainly find your parsing of disability issues problematic.

Perhaps it's different in Canada--though my friends studying in Ontario say it's similar in that province, and activists I've met from Ontario have noted similar legal protections--and perhaps you anonymized the nature of his particular disability, but in academia in the US the amount of detail you've placed on a website w/r/t a young (especially a minor?) employee's disability and confidential details of his situation and discussions with supervisors and learning about his use of disability services that you had access to as part of your employment would get you in a lot of trouble, especially since it's pretty clear you're sharing these details and your access to information about them without his permission. He is not an anecdote, and sharing his personnel/student information that you only had access to through work seems an ethically questionable way to shore up your credentials and understanding of his situation.

You are welcome to say that I'm missing your point, but if you really believe you want to become a cross-cultural interpreter between identity groups in a social hierarchy, well, you need to look at how you just used this young man's identity and experience.
posted by Uniformitarianism Now! at 7:38 AM on August 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'm not from Ontario. I'm from BC. Again, this situation happened at a summer job when I was 19. I assure you that not only would I NOT currently have ANY access to this young man's personal information today, but I am also older than 19 today.
posted by human ecologist at 8:17 AM on August 23, 2010


> Because really, I am still asking to be able to hear what men people have to say on Metafilter

What a... strange thing to say. Like most of the people who have responded to you with puzzlement/annoyance, I appreciate your good intentions, and you seem like a good person, but you also sound kind of like an alien observer. People, both men and women, talk incessantly on MetaFilter, and all you have to do to "be able to hear what they say" is read their words. And, as Uniformitarianism Now! says, we can read each other's words and understand them for ourselves, with whatever mix of experience and empathy we bring to the table; we do not need your help as an interpreter. I don't want to make you feel put down or disrespected, but you seem a little full of yourself. You've clearly experienced a lot of difficult stuff and learned from it, but you might want to give the rest of us credit for having our own experiences from which we have learned.
posted by languagehat at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I missed this before. I'm totally flummoxed as to why you casually characterize this as specifically male knowledge.

It's for the benefit of the doubt that some women reading this story may not recognize this little tidbit. It was so [some] women didn't have to feel stupid when the obvious was pointed out.


You didn't explain why you thought that understanding that the kid probably wanted to cry was something that men would see more readily than women. Especially as this assertion is actually somewhat opposite to the gender stereotype.

Your followup is kinda just a bizarre insult. Oh women, always hanging around feeling stupid until someone points out the obvious bits of how humans behave.
posted by desuetude at 11:08 AM on August 23, 2010


My read, desuetude, was women wouldn't understand it because of the stereotype that boys don't cry, but that men would understand because we have cried ourselves. (No comment on the merit of the point, just how I understood it.)
posted by and hosted from Uranus at 11:31 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Any man reading this story probably knows what I know: he needed to cry.

It's for the benefit of the doubt that some women reading this story may not recognize this little tidbit. It was so [some] women didn't have to feel stupid when the obvious was pointed out.

posted by human ecologist at 8:56 PM on August 22 [+] [!]


Why is it relevant that the kid was going to cry? He was being harassed and wanted to go to his dorm room. Without your "tidbit", my first thought wouldn't have been "to go cry" as much as it would be "to go somewhere safe" as well as specifically his in order to collect himself and recover. I think the desire to withdraw to a familiar "safe" space when emotionally hurt to recuperate is a human impulse, not male or female, regardless of whether crying is involved.

I'm also unsure what it was supposed to add to the story except to put you forth as more of an authority (you know things that most/all men know and some women don't). I'm also unconvinced of your claim that "any man" reading this story would come to the "to go cry" conclusion, and I work with some pretty perceptive and sensitive men. Also your word choice doesn't do much to undercut the impression of you "talking down" to others participating in this discussion.
posted by miss-lapin at 3:13 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


Men AND women have the ability to say a lot on Metafilter - and women, especially, have found a great voice here, one where we can express our experience and not be shouted down - which is special on the internet. And to imply that men on Metafilter don't have a voice strikes me as very odd. What does not have a voice? Misogynistic comments like, "It's not your fault, she probably had too short a skirt on."
posted by agregoli at 4:34 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Because really, I am still asking to be able to hear what men people have to say on Metafilter,"

This may help.
posted by klangklangston at 7:43 PM on August 23, 2010


languagehat: you might want to give the rest of us credit for having our own experiences from which we have learned

Then by all means, contribute some experiences.

miss-lapin: Why is it relevant that the kid was going to cry?

Because he has feelings too, and they deserve recognition. In order to set the wrong right, his pain (whether he actually cried or not) needed to be addressed.

and hosted from Uranus, thank you, although I might have re-worded it: My read... was [some] women wouldn't understand it because of the stereotype that boys don't cry, but that men would understand because we have cried ourselves.

posted by human ecologist at 3:31 PM on August 24, 2010


You didn't explain why you thought that understanding that the kid probably wanted to cry was something that men would see more readily than women.

That's because his feelings were hurt.

But he's not allowed to cry in front of women according to the gender stereotype, or really, to have feelings at all.

I was discussing this issue with a very good female friend. She related a story where a female friend of hers was basically stringing along a guy becasue she liked the attention. My female friend pointed out to her that she might not be acting ethically and that the guy may have his feelings hurt. The other woman told my friend, literally, that she did not realize that guys really had feelings because they had hurt her in the past and that therefore she figured they didn't have "real feelings." The woman making the statement was in her mid-thirties.

I do think there is a blind spot for male feelings in American female culture. It shows up in interpersonal relationships. It shows up on some of the attitudes of the posters here. The idea that the culture of one sex is, in every intepersonal situation, blameless and incapable of group think or stereotyping is beyond me.

None of this is to say that the job of dealing with the problems of male culture stereotyping women is anywhere near done. But we do no service to anyone when we do not also point out issue that really exist. There is no zero-sum game when it comes to learning to avoid stereotypes in either culture.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:19 PM on August 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


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