Tales from Urban Dilettantia


Further Dispatches from the Perth Geek Underground

(Heads up – This one is pretty triggery, particularly regarding rape. Consider yourself warned.)

Thank You; Yes You!

The response to my Resistance Is Useful essay, from both men and women, has been fabulous. I’ve had many enthusiastic discussions on Twitter, seen it reposted on LiveJournal and Tumbler and personal blogs, and had some great and challenging private conversations as a result. It seems that managing situations where an otherwise decent person accidentally or obliviously crosses boundaries is something that is of particular interest to many of you, and given the lack of tools our society gives us to deal with such situations, it’s understandable.

I truly believe that boldly talking about these issues – both of intentional and non-intentional transgression – instead of hiding them in dark corners is for the best, and it’s really lovely to see so many Perthites taking part in this. You are good people, you are responsible for the positive change that has already occurred, and you will be the catalyst for the positive change to come.

I Get Comments

I’m not keen to censor well-considered and constructive criticism, as I’m well aware that certain internet media propagate a disproportionate number of ‘I do agree’ responses. On the other hand, I’m not into approving comments from trolls. (A Very Special Hello to MikeUSA who posted a particularly vile comment and appears to post similarly abusive content all over the web. Thank you for severely testing my abilities to refrain from setting you on fire, Mike. Good times.)

However, I was unsure how to deal with one particular comment from the charming (for certain values of ‘charming’) Mark, a fellow Perthite. A friend suggested adopting an MST3K / Pharyngula ‘I Get Mail’ approach of sharing it and marking it up with my comments, rather than approving it. I appreciate that a number of you know this guy (that’s Perth for you) and it may be a little socially awkward for me to lay into him. But then, sucking up the social awkwardness and speaking out in spite of it is exactly what I’ve been talking about.

Welcome to the world. [Well hello there.] It is not a safe place and only children think it is. [It’s nice that you had that experience as a child. I didn’t.] You are now sufficiently paranoid that you can no longer be considered a child, congratulations. [Do I get Moët and a present for graduating? I hope so.] I, personally, am rather tired [Sorry to bore you.] of hearing about children of adult ages [From the context of the post upon which you are commenting, I can only guess this is an interesting and creative way of saying ‘women’.] who have not developed sufficient paranoia to avoid getting drunk at (or even entering) [I left the house. What was I thinking?] parties full of strangers without many friends. [It seems you exist in a glorious parallel universe where women are largely assaulted by strangers, rather than friends, family, colleagues and/or people they’ve known for a long time. Please tell me how I can travel there.] No, I am not being facetious or mocking [I know, you’re just unable to read for meaning.] I truly think that there is only one person who can be held responsible for my safety, and that’s me. [I appreciate you bringing your privilege to the table. It’s shiny. I feel so pleased for you to hear that your safety is a personal problem rather than a structural and cultural one; that must be feel good.] I apply the same policy to other people, trust no-one. [Thanks for all your hard work to make the world a better place and/or your unwavering dedication to quoting the X-Files.]

In short, thanks Mark, for posting rape apologism in response to a post about rape apologism. It’s sweet of you to play to my love for recursion and irony.

I’d like to mention here, for what it’s worth, that not a single friend of mine has informed me of being raped by a stranger, nor of having taken a sexual assault case to the police. But quite a number of my friends have been raped and assaulted nonetheless, and every one by someone they knew.  And this, this is why I wanted to share Mark’s comment rather than hiding it away – because we all know people who put forward this argument as if it were rational, but it’s full of embedded assumptions about how women are harmed by strangers, largely because of their own foolishness.  To make this argument is not only a failure to acknowledge reality, but also an irresponsible distraction from – and argument against – doing anything that may help mitigate the problem.  We are harmed by trusted fathers, brothers, lovers and friends.  We are harmed by the devil we know.

This blog will return to your regular menu of ‘Today I Ate Soup’ posts, local history (I have a great post about my cottage’s former residents in the works!) and banality shortly, but for a few more days, enjoy the love and rage.

Category: feminism, geeking it up

Tagged: , , , , ,

6 Responses

  1. Tom says:

    Straight out of the textbook: both the victim-blaming, and your high-calibre MSTing thereof.

  2. Helen says:

    @Tom Thank you very much for the suggestion; many people gave me opinions about whether I should approve or delete it, but I think yours was the most constructive suggestion. The comment is such a lovely illustration of the problem I was writing about in the first place!

  3. Eva says:

    You are full of awesome. Well said.

  4. Tom says:

    The insufferably self-satisfied tone of that comment made its public dismantling feel just, which was convenient for you as far as the practical ethics of the situation are concerned!

  5. KR says:

    This person’s comment makes me rage so much.
    Your response is fantastic and much more level-headed and well thought out than anything I could have produced whilst feeling so angry.
    I was harmed in my own home. I was an adult. I wasn’t drunk. The person who did it was a long-time friend who was very close and was very much trusted by myself and my partner. When I fell ill and my partner was unable to care for me for a few hours this person offered to look after me and my partner accepted.
    How could this ever be considered to be not taking responsibility for my own safety? How could someone say I hadn’t developed sufficient paranoia? That I somehow could have avoided being assaulted if I had?
    Trust no-one? I can’t imagine ever living a life where I trusted no one. I’d have no friends, no partner and no contact with my family. I should be able to trust people without fearing that they will take advantage of it. And if they do take advantage of it that will never, ever be *MY* fault.

  6. Helen says:

    @Eva Eva! I thought I lost you!
    @Tom For sure; if he’d argued the point respectfully, I would have just approved the comment and made some points in a reply. Given the demeaning ‘oh you irresponsible women’ tone, I felt justified in using it as an example.
    @Karma I’m so sorry to hear that you went through that experience. It breaks my heart that the people who hurt us are the ones who tell us we’re fantastic, that they love us, that they can’t live without us. (I’m feeling much less pissed off now I’ve posted about it; it helped when I sat down to write a response and realised the comment was logically flawed. My odd brain stops giving a crap about what someone thinks when I realise their arguments are logically invalid; they get dumped into the irrational-time-waster bucket.)

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