Repost: How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men

Blast from the Past! (Well, 2007) I can’t believe I left this guide out of my “101 101” post. Sometimes I read it when I need to get calmed the fuck down. Here it is, in it’s entirety. Written by Chris Clarke.
In the recent discussion about Kathy Sierra and Markos’ febrile and clueless response to her, I see there are some kind, helpful men who are taking pains to make sure emotion doesn’t run rampant in the discussion, that unfair accusations of misogyny or characterizations of harassment statistics get spread in an understandable emotional response to a few very upsetting instances of harassment by piglike men who fall far outside the norm. Surely, these men reason, we mustn’t let these nasty experiences color our judgment of the actual events involved. Surely it helps no one to make wild and baseless charges without looking, in uber-dispassionate detachment, at the actual statistics and methodology and margin of error of the studies that show women get harassed more than men. Come, let us reason together calmly, they say. References to Salem and the McMartin pre-school and such come unbidden to their lips.

I’m a big fan of dispassionate, rational, fact-based discussion of the issues myself, and it is in that spirit that I offer, to my brethren who’ve taken it upon themselves to be a shining light of dispassion on this topic, these fraternal words of guidance:

Shut the fuck up.

Here are a few of the actual facts that prompt the above sage counsel:

– You are not saying anything the women you’re talking to haven’t heard a thousand times before. You are not saying anything the women you’re talking to haven’t told themselves a thousand times before. If you would actually stop your reflexive know-it-all yammering and pay attention to what women actually SAY about the offenses they suffer on the sexual harassment – rape continuum, you will note that almost to a woman they second-guess their own gut feelings about the putative offender far beyond the point where almost any man would.

– You are wrong. If you doubt that the nature of abuse and harassment women suffer, online or off, differs from that men experience, then you don’t know what you’re talking about. Oddly, the Internets offer a way for you to verify this fact for yourself. About a dozen years ago, at the urging of a feminist online acquaintance, I logged on to AOL using an obviously female but non-provocative handle. (“AliciaMN.”) Within five minutes of logging on I had sexually abusive IMs popping up from men I didn’t know. Didn’t matter which room I was in: general chat, politics, classical music. I kept up the experiment for I think four days, a couple hours a day, sometimes chatting with people about non-sexual topics, sometimes just lurking. Two of the men who IMed AliciaMN with blatantly and obnoxiously sexual messages – “Hey, I’m up in Alaska! How ’bout you thaw my dick out with your throat?” being an example I recall – responded to my NON-response by telling “Alicia” she deserved to get raped.

This is neither new nor surprising information to any woman here. I mention it because 1) maybe if a man says it it’ll be taken seriously and 2) it implies a suggestion that disbelievers find a venue equivalent to AOL in its heyday and repeat my experiment, in the spirit of dispassionate empiricism.

– If no woman in your life has ever talked to you about how she lives her life with an undercurrent of fear of men, consider the possibility that it may be because she sees you as one of those men she cannot really trust.

– Finally, let’s assume just for the sake of argument that you’re right. You aren’t. But just as a gedankenexperiment, let’s pretend you are, and that the women who are talking about the massive deadweight silence from men about the harassment they experience, and who are getting all upset and speaking in terms of “war zones” and “hate crimes” and such are just being emotional, hysterical even, and – like the people who forward that bogus email about the guy with the ropes and duct tape in hs trunk in the mall parking lot – just need to be set straight with a calm, measured dose of logic and fact-checking.

In most situations, that’s a fine impulse. There really is no reason to get upset about LSD in blue star tattoos, and Bill Gates really isn’t paying people who forward a chain email.

But this situation is qualitatively different. When the topic at hand is men not taking an issue seriously, suggesting that the issue might not really be all that serious is not being dispassionate. It is, in fact, taking a side. And the people on the side you’re taking, incidentally, include the gropers, the rapists, the sexual-favor-demanding bosses.

In short, if you’re interested in quibbling with the data or suggesting alternate interpretations of what Kos really meant when he called Kathy Sierra a lying “crying blogger,” and your goal is not to be a flaming asshole, shut the fuck up.

And when you shut the fuck up, two magical things happen:

1) You’re no longer actively contributing to the very problem you’re discussing;
2) It’s easier to listen to what the women are actually saying.

This can be found at My Left Wing.

4 thoughts on “Repost: How Not To Be An Asshole: A Guide For Men

  1. Wow. That piece is fanstastic. I like how blunt and angry it is. Perhaps I should share it with some of the men in my life.

    How about instead of blaming the women around you or telling them why they were/are treated a certain way, you do as the above author suggested and listen. You can learn from our stories. We can both heal, get outraged, do something by letting women speak for themselves in their own words.

    Often men seem to get frustrated and angry when discussing the above topics. Good! Get upset! But get upset because women shouldn’t be treated that way, because society shouldn’t support and encourage such treatment. Be upset that society sends such fucked up messages to men. Getting upset with the victims, however, does not benefit anyone.

    I think Chris Clarke expressed many of my own sentiments very well.

  2. Pingback: It’s Not My Fault « It's An Insane World Out There

  3. Pingback: Divatology » Blog Archive » Schrödinger’s Rapist.

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