Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A man and a woman walk into an elevator and...

There's a spat going on in the skeptic community concerning the reaction of Richard Dawkins to Rebecca Dawson's post about being propositioned in an elevator at four in the morning.

My 2c are:
  • It's 2011, it's inappropriate to ask a complete stranger a very awkward question with sexual overtones in a confined space, and if the recipient of such attention is female, one can understand, in the current climate, that she'd feel somewhat nervous about it.
  • But why is the climate like that? In 2011? Why should it be?
I understand that it is. That women are, generally, worried about being attacked in various unpleasant ways by men giving them unwanted attention. And I empathize with Ms Dawson and think Dawkins is being a dick.

But why, in 2011, are we still in a state where women are likely to feel vulnerable in this way? I ask this because... well, the violence statistics I've read suggest that women are relatively rarely the subject of any kind of violent attack - men are, by and large, much more likely to be physically assaulted.

Now, knowing this is true, you'd suppose that two men in an elevator would size one another up, and if one feels weaker than the other, for the weaker man to feel the danger in much the same way.

But I don't think that happens. It doesn't to me anyway. In fact, I put myself in positions frequently that women I know would never dare, despite not being, really, able to defend myself in any meaningful way. I don't carry weapons, and frankly, I don't know how to fight. I never did learn that on the playground. Got the shit beaten out of me every school day for years on end. That's not an exaggeration. And I still don't. But I'll be in a city, a real one I mean, with sidewalks and stuff, and it'll be one in the morning, and I'll think to myself "I should go for a walk."

And I'll go for a walk, and enjoy a city that's quiet and showing a side of itself you can't appreciate during the day.

You know what makes me nervous when I do that? When I see a cop. Because I get all paranoid and worry that he's going to wonder what I'm doing out at that time, and I'll get stopped, and arrested for some bullshit reason, even though it's never happened to me and no cop's going to make work for themselves if they don't have to.

If I got mugged, I wouldn't be able to defend myself. And yet I'm not nervous. I don't constrain my life with fear. I don't fear the guy walking towards me, even though he looks drunk and might be desperate for money or something.

And I think most men feel the same way. But a woman can't stand for a minute in an elevator with a lecherous drunk without being worried she's going to be assaulted.

My wife would never join me on that walk. In fact, if she has a say in it, she'll refuse to let me step out the door.

That's not right. We have to change that.

1 comment:

  1. It's a hard problem. If we were at plausible risk of rape instead of just a beating, perhaps those night walks would be less appealing.

    See also: http://www.google.com/search?q=rape+prevention+tips+whistle+elevator


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