31 thoughts on “It’s not the shyness or the niceness.

  1. It boggles me how people can equate shyness with cornering someone since it is clearly an intimidation tactic–something I believe to be at odds with true timidity. I think those people are confusing ‘shy’ with ‘socially awkward’. :T

    1. Eh, we’re all socially awkward dorks, right? That’s why we hang out here.

      There is a level of obliviousness that is indistinguishable from ill-intent.

      1. And on the “don’t hit on the waitress” tip: http://www.king5.com/news/local/Fred-Meyer-employees-sue-over-customers-alleged-groping-125541473.html

        Fred Meyer Stores are being sued by employees who said a customer was sexually harassing them and the store did nothing to stop it.

        The plantiffs allege a man who visited the store almost daily since 2007 would “sit by the employee time clock in order to pull women onto his lap as they walked past to punch in. He would also rub up against female workers, giving unwanted hugs and groping their bodies.”

        The lawsuit claims managers told them nothing could be done unless a manager or loss prevention personnel directly witnessed the harassment.

        Ewww, and seriously fuck those managers if the claims are true.

        1. Is this like the thing where you need the testimony of many women to equal that of one man? I shudder.

  2. As I said on that post, a truly shy or awkward person would have left an out for both the people on the elevator. If he were truly shy or awkward, he most likely would have asked the question just as one of them was exiting the elevator. Then, if the response were a rejection, he wouldn’t have to keep standing in the elevator with her, all uncomfortable and embarrassed.

    1. Good point!

      The extreme hostility of this comment is not directed at you, it’s for the internet in general:

      I am done caring about whether this dude was shy, awkward, oblivious, or whatever. Who cares? We don’t know. I don’t care. I am done splitting hairs about what this dude could have been thinking or feeling. We only have a description of his actions and how they made the recipient of those actions feel (uncomfortable), in a very small, polite, helpful aside from her.

      The whole point is that I don’t have to diagnose the reasons of people who make me uncomfortable and pre-forgive them for that, just because I’m a lady – I just say “Hey, don’t do that please” and they go “Sorry, my bad” and don’t try to justify it. That’s the world I’d like to build.

      1. Word. Regardless of the fact that this man’s actions weren’t nice, the notion that women should give extra consideration to a would-be suitor because he’s “nice” is rather ludicrous. Being nice doesn’t make you good company or a good date. It’s more of a pre-qualification — a minimum requirement which must exist before the other traits that DO make someone desirable can matter. An attractive person is nice, but also knows when to be sarcastic, critical, forceful, etc. (not to mention give good spankings). If all you have to offer is “but I’m nice,” no wonder women are sick of your advances! They want to get chatted up by men who are sexy, hilarious, well-read, passionate and maybe into some of the same stuff they’re into.

        It’s also telling that some guys think being “nice” is such a difficult achievement, they put it at the top of their resume. No wonder the guys who have to brag about “I don’t kick puppies…not newborns, anyway” are the same ones perpetually pissed off at women.

        1. This, big time. I’m always baffled when people think calling someone nice is giving them a compliment. To me, being nice is like, not being an asshole. It shouldn’t even be worth saying. The only times I call people nice are when I find them so uninteresting that I can’t think of another word to describe them. So, maybe it’s true that women (or people in general) don’t like nice guys (or nice other people in general), because when people are nice and also sexy, hilarious, well-read, etc., you don’t call them nice. You call them sexy, hilarious, well-read, etc.

          1. Didn’t Justin Timberlake also rip off Janet Jackson’s top and expose her boobs to everyone? He’s a class act all the way.

          2. Bleurgh, that’s pretty gross. She’s a big famous celebrity — is she supposed to go on a date with every guy who finds her attractive? The guy was like “I feel bad for putting you on the spot,” but apologising for putting people on the spot only counts if you’re trying to make clear that you really, really don’t mind if they say no. “Sry to put you on the spot, but come on, you’re going to do it, right?” just isn’t cool.

        2. I agree 100% with this comment, including your extremely awesome description of what makes an attractive person. 🙂

      2. There was a really interesting comment exchange somewhere, either at Amanda Marcotte’s or in the comment section of someone she linked to, that went along the lines of, “Why is this argument the hill so many people want to die on? She didn’t accuse him of rape or give out his name, she just said it was kind of creepy.” To which someone replied, “The guys who are angry about this aren’t afraid they’ll ever commit rape. They’re afraid they’ll commit creepy.”

        I think that’s why defenders are so obsessed with finding loopholes and alternate explanations of how Rebecca Watson just didn’t understaaaaaand what he really meant. It doesn’t matter what he meant. She said she didn’t want to be hit on, she was exhausted, she was going to bed. But God forbid this guy not get to have his ~one chance~ at talking her up in a situation where he would be more comfortable not having anyone see him be rejected, but she would also feel really uncomfortable having to turn him down. And it’s such a subtle but basic expectation of decency that I think it’s freaking a lot of the Nice Guy-types out. Instead of saying (to themselves, even, if no one else), “Oh. I had not thought of that before. Huh. Making her uncomfortable is kind of shitty and also isn’t going to work. Note to self next time,” they’re invested in maintaining a situation that’s about their comfort and not hers. And if not being able to corner outspokenly uninterested women in elevators means no guy ever gets laid again–I’m done with the idea I have to care about that.


          I don’t know if men seriously believe that feminists want them to engage in autocastration by default. I think that another level of entitlement is at play. Men resent having to consider rape culture. Not because of what it says about them personally, or even what it implies about their dating prospects, but because they don’t want to consider what life is like for the distaff side of the sexist equation.

          I brought this up on another thread, but one of the many things that bothers me about the “creepy” canard is that it touches on yet another aspect of rape culture that men tend not to understand. Women aren’t supposed to be mean when they’re attempting to protect themselves from rape. Part of their responsibility for rape culture is making sure that men never consider the idea that men might be creepy: that women sometimes suffer sexual violence. So a woman isn’t supposed to indicate that a man is being inappropriate or scary, even when he is. It’s not nice. It’s unkind. And that expectation sometimes coerces women into unwanted sexual contact.

          So when guys talk about how much it hurts their feelings when women don’t give strange men the benefit of the doubt (in elevators! at four in the morning!) I get kind of pissed off. Women should be less inclined to protect men from the consequences of mundane violence. They should feel less ashamed about telling unpleasant truths.

          1. Yeah, I think a lot of it has to do with people in a position of privilege not wanting to consider the ways that their privilege actually hurts other people. I see it all the time with people getting defensive about being allowed to tell offensive jokes, or people resenting any minor inconvenience they face when they have to accommodate someone else’s needs. It can uncomfortable to face the fact that your life is easier because something you do is making someone else’s life more difficult, so many people decide to ignore that and resent having it pointed out. I don’t know how to combat that side of the problem, other than with early early education about privilege and oppression. And maybe if more people could be vocal about things like rape culture, the people who benefit from it would be so uncomfortable that it would actually be easier for them to help dismantle it. So, yes, we should all continue to be shamelessly loud about creeps.

          2. Yeah, at this point I react to importunate men the way campers are supposed to react to bears.

  3. I can’t access the link on this computer, but is this the big atheist blowout with Dawkins and his sliding scale of applicable sexism? Or is this yet ANOTHER creepy and inappropriate elevator proposition for another woman?

    If so, can I say I am tired of playing this fucking game where women are expected to pretend they don’t know what men really want out of them in those situations, but they have to play nice or they’re accused of being bitches? Christ knows that if she had gone into that room and had been physically assualted, she would have been the one to blame for going into a room with a bunch of strangers, BUT GOD FORBID WOMEN EXERCISE CAUTION BECAUSE THAT HURTS MAN FEELINGS.

    It reminds me the coworker at my last job who ignored my polite refusal for dinner and then cornered me in the pharmacy office to give me his number anyway, holy shit. And then acted bitter about it every time we ran into each other. That was the experience that finally pissed me off enough to stop being polite in those confrontations.

    1. It is indeed the big atheist blowout.

      And yeah, your second paragraph = very true.

  4. I have to agree, this guy’s actions do not make him sound like a shy person. If he was shy and socially awkward, he would’ve barely been able to say a word, or just stammered out something unintelligible most likely. During my shy phase, I could barely work up the nerve to look at a woman I liked, let alone proposition her. I’d like to give this guy the benefit of the doubt (and believe that some of the attacks directed at him are overly mean/exaggerated, just like the ones against Rebecca Watson from the opposite camp), and think he was just oblivious to the fact that he was doing anything wrong, but he doesn’t fit the ‘shy, nerdy guy’ profile. This whole thing just blew up way out of proportion for what actually happened.

    1. I need to ask you: Why do you want to give the guy the benefit of the doubt? I understand wanting to think the best of people, and not wanting things to be icky, and it not seeming like a big deal – he didn’t actually attack her, she didn’t identify him or even really insult him or describe him, she just put a PSA out to say “Guys, don’t do that, because this is what it feels like to me.” I agree that the aftermath where people call her a huge castrating bitch who is ruining dating for all men ever IS a big overreaction, but she had what I’ll call “a reaction.” A pretty reasonable, trying-to-be-helpful reaction.

      I ask this question because (story time) a woman was raped in the elevator of an office building where I used to work. A guy got in the elevator with her, stopped it, and took off her clothes, and raped her. Afterwards she described him and said he gave her a bad vibe right away, and the cops asked “Why didn’t you get off the elevator when you got a bad vibe?” and she said “Well, I didn’t want to offend him by getting out of the elevator as soon as he got on.” We also had a guy who used to bring signs and posters with extremely graphic pictures of dead fetuses on them. He would sneak into the elevator with women and corner them and scream at them about the Magic of Life! and how we were all evil women who murdered babies and were going to hell! I have been on the receiving end of that behavior, and it was extremely terrifying (he used to wear disguises so he could keep sneaking in, I don’t know why that particular building, maybe he did it all over downtown D.C.), and I think that it was way more about cornering and threatening women than about the miracle of life for him.

      What’s happening when this story gets told is that guys automatically put themselves in the shoes of the guy, like, “Oh man, it’s really hard to approach women sometimes, he probably meant well (just like all the times I’ve meant well), and hey, nothing bad happened, go easy on the poor dude (who is probably just a nerd like me).”

      If you feel this narrative forming in your brain, I need you to take a step back and put yourself in her shoes, like, yeah, probably he’s nice, but maybe he’s not nice, and maybe he’s really extremely not nice, and her discomfort is a good enough reason to not want to engage with him, and she doesn’t have to diagnose and pre-forgive his reasons for making her uncomfortable.

      There is a level of obliviousness that is indistinguishable from malice, and when I see guys defending Elevator Guy, like, “eh, he’s not that bad” it seems like they are defending their right to let obliviousness serve as a defense.

      1. Well, like you said, I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt because I like to think the best of people and because I could identify with him a little. I assigned him the most benign motivation, which is simply that he wasn’t aware of doing anything wrong.

        None of this, though, is in disagreement with what you said about putting myself in Watson’s shoes and how it created an uncomfortable situation for her. I had no issue with her reply either, more with some of her supporters who basically demonized this guy, created all sorts of fantasy scenarios where he stalked her and deliberately followed her onto the elevator, he probably would’ve raped her if she went with him, etc etc., none of which is supported by facts. All we know is that they met on the elevator, he said he enjoyed her talk, and asked her up to his room for coffee. He might’ve been tactless and inconsiderate, but that’s all. And Watson’s response was actually appropriate, she didn’t insult him, assign blame or even name him, she just said how she felt and that men shouldn’t do that. It’s the whole blowup that came after that shouldn’t have happened, and which was probably caused by a combination of use of the word “creepy”, a misreading of Watson’s statement as “How dare this loser try to hit on me!” and Richard Dawkins’ flippant response. Oh well, it’s the internet, I doubt if anyone will even remember this in a month.

        1. Well, I will. I’ll remember this as clearly as every other time we’ve flipped out over a woman pointing out that sexual violence is a problem.

          I’m a woman, and I get inappropriate attention from men all the time. It makes me really uncomfortable. What makes me even more uncomfortable–better to say frightened–is the knowledge that men get angry when I take sensible precautions. Not only am I in a pretty significant amount of danger, I’m not even allowed to protect myself.

          I think, too, that this is what the women were saying: not that he would have turned out to be a latter-day Crippen, but that he was a complete stranger and therefore a complete unknown. Women have every right to decide these things for themselves, but most women would feel leery in that situation, because those scenarios are not totally implausible. If a stranger had offered her (or even any dude) a ride in his van, would they seem so odd?

          1. This. I am so, so sick of thinking this way. The internal monologue of “that person looks like he might be dangerous AVOID AVOID AVOID except don’t make it look like I’m avoiding because then what if he notices he might get mad and then be more likely to be dangerous and ZOMG I do karate I can defend myself JUST YOU TRY SOMETHING MR. AND THEN WE’LL TALK AFTER I’VE BROKEN ALL YOUR FLOATING RIBS well actually I don’t want to hurt anyone but -ohshit he’s walking towards me *panic* *flees*” Except the rape culture as got us all socialized that if we aren’t constantly on the defensive and someone does attack us, well too bad sugar, you should have…what? Should have not been born with a vagina? Except men get raped too, so…What exactly should I have not been doing? HULK SMASH RAPE CULTURE EXPECTATIONS!

  5. Regarding the “creepy” comments, I think the mentality a lot of socially awkward guys have is that no matter how politely they’ll try to approach a woman, if they’re not good-looking enough or confident or popular or something, she’ll just be like “ewww, get away from me you creep!” and then laugh about him with all her friends. Not saying it’s true or I agree, but I’ve known a few of these guys on- and off-line, and they do make a big deal out of the ‘creep’ label. It’s like calling a woman fat, but worse in some ways.

    1. Yeah, I’ve seen that mentality too – in fact, people have argued (On Psychology Today, even, maybe? Not that that’s a reputable outlet) that if the guy was hotter she’d be all like “Let me tell you about the hot sexy elevator adventure I had!”

      Creepy isn’t about looks, it’s about manners and boundaries.

      I’ll unpack “fat” at some other time….probably more related to the “creepy” label is “bitch.”

      1. The difference is, some women use the word “bitch” to describe themselves, either by claiming to ‘take back the word’ or by assigning to it traits that they see as positive, such as strength, assertiveness, outspokenness, etc. I don’t know of any men who would willingly refer to themselves as ‘creeps’.

        And you’re right, I’ve seen a lot of people argue that if he’d been “hotter” there would have been no issue and she’d have accepted his advances. I don’t know her well enough to tell if that’s true or not (based on what she described of that evening, probably not). But even if it was, the fact that good-looking people get away with more in society shouldn’t surprise anyone. It still wouldn’t make her wrong, shallow maybe, but that’s her business.

        1. There is a huge difference in power dynamics between “bitch” and “creep.” Women “take back” the word based on the connotations of inferiority and depreciation that the word gains from its derogatory history in patriarchal cultures. Creep is certainly not a kind thing to call someone, but to suggest it’s on par with “bitch” is either a serious misunderstanding of how social power dynamics function within that context or, to be frank, a serious blind spot to the realities of male privilege. Creep cannot be “taken back” precisely because it doesn’t carry the kind of history bitch does, nor can it be compared because in the area of gender dynamics, men are subject to a more limited array of inequalities than woman. The term cannot be empowered because the group it’s generally aimed at already has power.
          Yes, yes, we can sit here and say that maybe this guy wasn’t that bad and maybe he’s just that socially incompetent, but the reality is that when you violate the boundaries of what is considered inappropriate behavior, you open yourself up to the kind of speculation as to just how far that disrespect for boundaries goes. It is not the responsibility of women to be concerned that shy men feel comfortable with their own shortcomings. Women generally aren’t given much space to feel comfortable with their own shortcomings. (If you think it’s difficult to be a shy man in the world of macho culture, try being a shy and insecure woman in a world where magazines, media, and beauty culture encourages discontent in order to drive a profit. That’s not even getting into the problems the alternative genders deal with. There are problems and challenges whatever you are.) The most that the sexes should be able to expect from each other is a healthy amount of respect for social boundaries.

          This issue is not pissing women off because it’s generally believed that the guy was a leering predator. It’s pissing women off because despite the fact that it was a woman who was made to feel uncomfortable and disrespected, the problem keeps being turned around to be all about the man and HIS feelings. Whether it’s Dawkins’ dismissive attitude or the bloggers implying it was merely a matter of aesthetics or the ones calling her a misandrist bitch, it’s coming back to the fact that somehow she is supposed to take responsibility for this situation and not him. Either she’s supposed to not care because other women have it harder, or she’s supposed to give him the benefit of the doubt, or just sit there and accept being told that she’s being oversensitive and overreacting no matter how reactionary and hypersensitive some of her detractors are – however way you want to argue it, we are saying that women are responsible for these situations and not the men who create them. She isn’t allowed to be bothered by this man’s indecent proposal and even consider the possibility of what could happen with him behind a locked door, but if she had gone in and wound up assaulted, she would be asked how stupid and slutty she must have been to go into a room with an unfamiliar man. It’s bullshit. It’s bullshit that women deal with all the time.

          I mean, we can sit here all day and talk about how unfair it is to speculate about how this guy could be a rapist when he could really just be tactless asshole, but we get back to that responsibility thing: a female blogger placed in an uncomfortable situation made a few very mild comments in an aside about appropriate behavior in a general setting, choosing not to publicly out the individual or give specific details. A very prominent, high publicized male academic writes an irrational, scathing reply that not only specifically singles out SkepChic but generally insults Western women and feminism as a whole (and frankly, Muslims everywhere – I’m baffled why that’s not getting more airtime) and causes an internet explosion. Now, who caused this problem again?

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