In a very interesting but highly trigger-warning’ed article about what causes parents to “forget” their children and leave them in cars, this bit jumped out at me, in a discussion of why other people can be incredibly vicious and hateful to the parents involved:
Hickling is a clinical psychologist from Albany, N.Y., who has studied the effects of fatal auto accidents on the drivers who survive them. He says these people are often judged with disproportionate harshness by the public, even when it was clearly an accident, and even when it was indisputably not their fault.
Humans, Hickling said, have a fundamental need to create and maintain a narrative for their lives in which the universe is not implacable and heartless, that terrible things do not happen at random, and that catastrophe can be avoided if you are vigilant and responsible.
In hyperthermia cases, he believes, the parents are demonized for much the same reasons. “We are vulnerable, but we don’t want to be reminded of that. We want to believe that the world is understandable and controllable and unthreatening, that if we follow the rules, we’ll be okay. So, when this kind of thing happens to other people, we need to put them in a different category from us. We don’t want to resemble them, and the fact that we might is too terrifying to deal with. So, they have to be monsters.”
It jumped out at me because this is just so true of basically everything which pisses me off in society.
We have rape culture and rape myths because the alternative is living every day with the knowledge that the nice young man could just rape you on a first date, or your local minister could just be abusing the children of the parish, or you could be attacked even when you’re out running and you haven’t showered and you’re in your trackpants and surely no one is looking at you.
We have fat hatred because the alternative is understanding that really, it’s a roll of the dice what body type you have, and you having one of the “beautiful” body types has very little to do with your own personal virtues.
And we have beneficiary bashing because it’s a lot easier to hate on poor people and judge their “choices” than acknowledge that the capitalist sword of Damocles is hanging over all our heads on a daily basis.
Because really, the universe IS pretty implacable and heartless a lot of the time.
Of course, if you don’t labour under any of these illusions, the world is a pretty fucked up place to live in. And then there’s nothing for it but to start up an angry sweary blog and nuke all that shit from orbit.
Over at The Standard, the “how should Worth’s alleged victim(s) have reacted?” debate continues with everyone’s favourite psychic, Cactus Kate.
The case as given by CK and others is that if a woman doesn’t* instantly and firmly react to all and any inappropriate behaviour with a strident “YOU CAN’T AFFORD ME, SWEETHEART, BACK OFF”** well then she has no one to blame but herself.
They then go on to say that, therefore, that all people like me who defend Witness A and attack Worth’s alleged behaviour are the real misogynists, because we think women are passive victims who can’t stand up for themselves.
Which is fantastically logical for people living in a world where sexual harassment goes along the following lines:
- Strange man approaches woman
- Strange man says “Hey, I’d like to hire you, maybe in return you could suck my cock?”
- Woman “stands up for herself”.
- Strange man immediately ceases all inappropriate behaviour.
Unfortunately, human interaction only ever goes like that in the movies and the inside of Cactus Kate’s head. But then, she also thinks people having coffee with a Minister of the Crown to discuss potential job opportunities should take a friend in case things turn nasty, and that victims of sexual harassment are suspect if they keep records – just like the Human Rights Commission advises them to.
I’d like everyone to please consider this: you’re at a cafe in Sylvia Park.*** Over at another table you see a well-dressed older man having coffee with a woman. You may even recognise this man as a former partner at Simpson Grierson Law, or as the Member of Parliament for Epsom, or as the Associate Minister for Justice.
Suddenly, the woman bolts to her feet and declaims, “HOW DARE YOU OFFER ME EMPLOYMENT IN THIS CRUMMY CAFE, SIR! DO NOT CONTACT ME AGAIN!” and storms out.
Now, how many of you are going to think, “What a fracking weirdo!” and how many of you are seriously going to think “You go girl, stand up for yourself to that pillar of the community offering you employment in a public space!”
Because that’s how it starts. A working lunch. A celebratory drink after work on a Friday. An email asking how your weekend went. And here’s the deal, folks. If you’re going to argue, “Oh no, she didn’t need to rebuff him then, I meant later on when things got inappropriate” you fail. There is no clear line between “professional meeting with utterly no sexual intentions whatsoever no sirree” and “oh, now I’m sexually harassing you.” If we’re going to accept Cactus Kate’s theorem that women should Stand Up For Themselves, it’s got to be right from the get-go.
It’s got to mean shooting down every man who wants to get you a coffee after you’ve done him a favour. It’s got to mean even bluntly refusing to do a coworker or superior a favour in the first place. It means never letting a guy be nice to you, never letting a guy buy you flowers on your birthday or after a big project winds up or when a close relative dies, because if you won’t say fuck no get away from me I have no sexual interest in you whatsoever at the slightest provocation, well, how is he meant to get the message?
Because after that first step – which to you is just coffee or flowers or a pat on the back – your lack of strident strong-independent-woman smackdown is giving him the wrong impression.
But hey, when you can’t get hired because you’ve developed a reputation as an insane overreacting bitch who can’t take a compliment without thinking it’s a come-on**** and you’re still getting dirty texts from your ex-boss because entitled harassing fucks will keep stalking you no matter how often you say no, be comforted with the fact that you stood up for yourself and you’ve made Cactus Kate proud.