Content note: After the jump I mention Rape Threats Dudes Have Sent Me for saying what I think about creepy dudes.
Over the past several years I’ve drifted to the periphery of a friend group where one member is a sexist creep. I immediately found him slimy and pushy and off-putting upon meeting him, but gave him the benefit of the doubt because he’s my friend’s brother — and then learned that he’s heavily into PUA bullshit and was pretty much being awful on purpose. It was a few years into my friendship his sister that he started hanging out with everyone, and as he’s spent more time with the group, I’ve spent much less. (Not just because of him, but he’s definitely one reason.) There’s only one friend I’ve explicitly discussed this with, and he’s sympathetic when we talk privately, but I don’t get the sense Mr. Plumed Fedora experiences much pushback at all from anyone in the group — including me, which is also something I’m really struggling with — when he casually complains about “feminazis,” creeps on every woman he encounters, etc.
Recently an opportunity came up to maybe spend more time with the group and I was kind of excited about it but… I truly loathe this guy and resent the amount of time I’ve already spent with him. Is there a good way to say “Your brother/friend is a misogynist and I don’t want to be around him, no offense”? Should I suck it up? Continue fading out? Finally learn to stop avoiding conflict?
Did you know that this post about what to do about the creepy cude in the friend group is the most-read, most-linked, most-discussed post here, ever, even six years later?
Did you know that men still email me about it sometimes to tell me I’m a horrible person who probably deserves to be raped, six years later? Like “if you think that’s what rapists act like or think everyone is probably a rapist you should probably get raped” x 1000, and it’s like, “Hey Rapey Robert/Death Threat Dave/Threatening Thomas/”Ethics In Gaming Journalism” Greg, nice Pepe the Frog avatar you’ve got there, thanks for the feedback. I definitely don’t think every man is a rapist, but is there any part of your email that isn’t proving my point about what potential rapists act like?”
(I don’t actually write back) (I used to get really scared by these emails but I don’t anymore)(I usually assume it’s happening because some woman in their friend group finally got fed up and finally told them “read this, because you are being this dude” and now the dude’s gotta find someone new to take it all out on because he can’t act like a butthole at Trivia Night anymore, so they choose me, in which case, KEEP ROCKING, AWESOME PEOPLE! If these assholes are feeling consequences for what they are like, you are doing something right.)
You’re doing just fine with “your brother/friend is a misogynist and I don’t want to be around him, no offense” script! I also laughed at your email subject line: “this is probably like three different Geek Social Fallacies” I think it hits all five, personally, and you’ve inspired me to define some more, so, well done, good work, thank you.
When the people in your social group inevitably say “He’s not that bad” or “But faaaaaamily!” or otherwise try to defend hanging out with him you can say “Maybe he’s not that bad…to you. If you still want to hang out with him, that’s okay, I’m not your boss, but I know I’ll be happier staying away from places he’s going to be. Let me know if you want to do something one-on-one, though, ’cause I really like you.”
One thing that can be empowering in You versus The Group (+ This Fucking Guy) situations is to take more initiative in spending time with the people you want to see. Be more of a planner, and invite people to hang out one-on-one, or in smaller groups. Mix a few of the cooler people with friends you know from other social circles. If you’re proactive and you’re controlling the invite list, you can have more fun at your events, and you can also push back on people who try to insist on including Creepy McGee. “When it’s your event you can invite anyone you want. X and I don’t get along/You know I find him creepy/I wanted a misogyny-free evening, so, nope!”
Sometimes you have to make it clear that it’s a smaller/more selective invite list, especially if the group has the “we all do everything together/all are welcome” vibe for their usual hangouts, so, be specific when you make the invitations. “I’d love to have a few people over for a dinner party, I’ve only got the 5 chairs so please RSVP, and sorry, no +1s this time.” Do the inviting off of Facebook or other social media, too, vs. creating events that anyone can see or add people to.
Ok, let’s talk about group situations where someone says something gross and nobody pushes back on it. Maybe there’s a really awkward silence for a second, but your friend is probably used to smoothing things over for her brother, and it doesn’t really register with the offensive person at all.
Creeps and misogynists (and racists, and other people you don’t want at your parties) don’t respond to hints. They operate under the assumption that everyone secretly agrees with them and is just “too triggered” or “too politically correct” or “too sensitive” (or whatever the code word that we are too much of is today) to “say what they’re really thinking.” Silence, hints, a strategically raised eyebrow, people quietly flashing side-eye around the circle, etc. just gives them a pool of plausible deniability to keep right on pooping into. And if the people around them are pretty conflict-averse, or (understandably) afraid of becoming a target or provoking them further, or (understandably) afraid that no one will stand up for them or (understandably) afraid that other people secretly agree with what the asshole is saying, or (understandably) are worried that everyone really likes the asshole and will side with them (cough…Chris Hardwick…cough) it just perpetuates the thing where The Asshole can say horrible things and not really get called on it, so he keeps saying asshole things to try to provoke a reaction and then sort of revel in his power when nobody stops him.
This is the wrong social feedback loop and sometimes you just gotta be the one who fixes it.
Even if it doesn’t convince the asshole. (It probably won’t).
Even if other people don’t stand up with you. (They might not).
Even if it’s scary and the night is “ruined” once you say something. (It was already ruined, for you.)
Even if you lose your temper or it comes out garbled or you shake or your voice shakes or you cry. (It might.)
Even if the people you like in the group are mad at you for not enabling the creep…and them…in putting up with misogyny. (It’s possible.)
I truly think in my heart of hearts that it will be good FOR YOU to have spoken up.
And I think there are some additional Geek Social Fallacies at play in the world, and we urgently need to find some ways to deal with them.
Edited to Add: If you’ve never heard of the Five Geek Social Fallacies before, read that link! It’s one of several extremely useful posts out there in the world about “Hey, why do people who we know behave badly still get to hang out in all our spaces and ruin all our parties and social groups?” Another great one one is The Missing Stair. [/edit]
GSF #6 “Calling out bad behavior makes you just as bad as the person who was doing the bad behavior.”
It takes many forms:
“I know Dave keeps grabbing your ass when you walk by, but you didn’t really need to yell at him like that! How is he supposed to learn if you can’t even be polite?”
“Punching Nazis might turn totally normal people who definitely didn’t have any problematic beliefs before this moment into Nazis!”
“I know Uncle Carl said some racist things at dinner, but how do you expect him to learn if you can’t sit silently while he does that? Don’t you want to be civil?”
“When you call creepy men creepy it hurts their feelings and makes them more likely to be creepy.”
There are so many versions and offshoots, like “People who believe and do evil shit aren’t evil deep down, and if you just patiently explained it to them for long enough they would stop being so evil!” or one that is starring in my inbox right now “Jennifer, when you use swear words don’t you know that you discredit your entire argument? I won’t be reading your blog any more (but I will send you a 1000-word email about your blog…the one that I don’t read and definitely won’t be reading anymore… at least once a week…for the rest of time…btw you should probably get raped)”
The people who indulge these GSF want you to fight bad behavior by….being quiet about it and letting it continue? What? That can’t be right.
In the most generous interpretation, people who indulge in this fallacy don’t know what to do about the awful (racist, misogynist, ableist, homophobic, transphobic, possibly violent, etc. etc.) sentiments and behavior, so they freeze. Maybe they feel bad and guilty for not saying something themselves. Less-generously-but-depressingly-possible, maybe they agree with the horrible things that were said and feel embarrassed about that, like, shhhhhhhhhh, don’t turn our dogwhistle into a regular whistle, it’s embarrassing!
Whatever their reasons, what GSF #6 Fallacy Holders do is to immediately silence what you are saying (“That was sexist, stop it”) and ignore what the other person was doing ([insert repulsive words and/or behaviors here]) in order to make “but you said it wrong!” the territory of the argument. They want the discomfort that the awful person introduced into the situation to stop, but they incorrectly locate the source of their discomfort in the person who resisted it, and then they try to pressure that person into being silent so everyone can go back to being comfortable.
Everyone except the person who was hurt by the asshole’s words or behavior, that is. They are fine with your discomfort (as long as you are quiet about it).
GSF #7: “I can tell if someone is A Good Person or not based on whether they’ve been nice…to me.”
From the serial killer who was “always a polite, quiet neighbor” to the abuser who can keep their temper just fine around friends, bosses, & strangers but “totally loses control!” only when it comes to their victims and only when it won’t have legal consequences or make them look bad to others, to the person who is probably a pillar of his church community, but won’t let a pregnant woman use the bathroom if she’s the wrong race, everyone needs to understand this and understand it quick:
People can selectively be nice to the people whose opinions they care about and who they don’t want to harm. And predators consciously groom and choose people around them to be their defenders and spokespeople, the exact same way they groom their victims.
A lot of what you personally experience as “kindness” or “he’s a great guy!” from a misogynist is really about power and what they can get away with.
For example, at my first post-college job, the creepy senior employee who ogled me all day, made up reasons to force me to have to come to his office, offered me rides home every day and (when I refused) followed me home in his car, driving slowly next to me while I walked, begging me to get in the whole time, and then parked across the street from my house for hours at a time, etc. was VERY friendly and gregarious in the office. He was a churchgoer with many framed Bible quotes in his office, he wore sweater-vests, he talked like Ned Flanders from the Simpsons. He often bought lunch for the whole office and brought baked goods from home. Nobody believed me about his weird behavior, they believed him when he said he was just concerned about my safety walking alone (in broad daylight, in Georgetown which if you don’t know is an extremely wealthy college neighborhood that is policed within an inch of its life), and they laughed at me for having “a crush” on him. Long after I quit, they finally believed he was not so nice when he embezzled a whole bunch of money, tried to frame a young Somali refugee who worked there for what he did, and disappeared without a trace with tons of their money, though! An expensive lesson, for everyone.
I think geeks/nerds are especially susceptible to GSF #7 because so many of us have been ostracized or bullied as kids. We hunger for kindness, so when One Of The Cool Kids shows us that kindness it’s even more precious and harder to let go of. If someone tells you someone who has always been nice to you is not actually that nice, consider for a second that you don’t know everything about them. What if we could learn expensive and uncomfortable lessons much earlier, by saying “I believe you, let me see what I can do” to the victim of the bad behavior and “Hey, I like you a lot, can you knock off doing that gross thing so I can keep liking you” to the perpetrator? If someone you like is behaving badly, you probably couldn’t have prevented it, but could you at least not become their flying monkey after the fact?
Could we reverse the current of social pressure that teaches victims not to speak up so that awkwardness flows toward perpetrators?
GSF #8: “If you show emotion about a topic, your argument is invalid.”
We could also state this one as “If you are personally affected by the thing that is up for debate, you are biased, and that is Somehow Bad.” Others have written about it in the context of South Park, where being a secret Nazi is hilarious but caring sincerely about something is the real problem, and deserving of ridicule.
What a crock of shit.
Fortunately, Melissa McEwan wrote about this double-bind so beautifully in her piece, The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck:
“There are the occasions that men—intellectual men, clever men, engaged men—insist on playing devil’s advocate, desirous of a debate on some aspect of feminist theory or reproductive rights or some other subject generally filed under the heading: Women’s Issues. These intellectual, clever, engaged men want to endlessly probe my argument for weaknesses, want to wrestle over details, want to argue just for fun—and they wonder, these intellectual, clever, engaged men, why my voice keeps raising and why my face is flushed and why, after an hour of fighting my corner, hot tears burn the corners of my eyes. Why do you have to take this stuff so personally? ask the intellectual, clever, and engaged men, who have never considered that the content of the abstract exercise that’s so much fun for them is the stuff of my life.
There is the perplexity at my fury that my life experience is not considered more relevant than the opinionated pronouncements of men who make a pastime of informal observation, like womanhood is an exotic locale which provides magnificent fodder for the amateur ethnographer. And there is the haughty dismissal of my assertion that being on the outside looking in doesn’t make one more objective; it merely provides a different perspective.”
I think about this “lady emotions are dumb, man logic is superior!” fallacy all the time as I watch thousands of young men who would describe themselves as Extremely Logical People become viscerally enraged at a Star Wars movie they didn’t like. It’s kinda funny, but when those same men harass female performers off social media because they didn’t like the movie, it’s suddenly not funny at all. Like, let’s sit with the absurdity of what they are doing for a second. As the primo target audience for Ocean’s 8, I personally think it should 100% have been directed by a woman and that the James Corden insurance investigator part should 100% have been played by Rene Russo in a reprise of her Thomas Crown Affair role (and also that character should be “Lou”/Cate Blanchett’s ex-lover) but I’m not suggesting”let’s all go tell Gary Ross & James Corden they should get raped every day until we have JUSTICE Lololo1!!!” (Like, I know I am joking about a terrible terrible thing so in all seriousness, please, please do not ever do that, it’s just a fucking movie. Go write some hot fan fiction where Cate and Renee do crime and borrow each other’s wardrobes and then email me the link to that fan fiction).
Feelings are just one kind of information. Experiences are extremely informed sources of information. They are not the only information, but they aren’t not-information, either? They have a part to play.
What if we acted like the the people most affected by something/who have the most at stake/who have the most to lose/who have been the most fucked over by the status quo are the center of where our caring should go and the primary experts on what would fix things, but on like, a national or even global level? And what if caring for them was way more important than our “objective” debates about what they need and deserve?
In the meantime, the idea that “your emotions and your experiences with a thing make you uninformed and unqualified to talk about it, but my emotions (that I have renamed ‘logic’) and my lack of experience with a thing make me more informed and qualified than you” is a brand of bullshit that I will be fighting until my dying day, one really really long blog post at a time.
Will you join me?
GSF #9: “The most important thing to think about when speaking up about injustice is what will *convince* the other person to be on your side.”
As in, when someone mistreats you or others, convincing them not to and converting them to thinking as you do and educating them endlessly, in real time, on demand, on their schedule (whether or not they even want to be convinced), with complete and selfless empathy for why they feel as they do and why they said what they said is your sole, immediate responsibility, more important than your own feelings, safety, ethics, the safety or comfort of anyone nearby or anyone in the world who may be affected by what they did, regardless of how much energy or will you have to do it or how likely they are to be convinced.
For GSF #9 holders, it’s not enough for you to say “Hey, knock it off there buddy,” or “If you’re going to say stuff like that, I need to be elsewhere, byeeee,” NO! You must convince them…OR NOTHING. (i.e. be silent). You must convince them, gently, kindly, with perfect grammar and spelling and no icky emotions like anger at what they did or fear for what they might do, you must make them feel GREAT and WELCOME in your space or else you are letting your whole side down and it will be YOUR FAULT when they do and say awful things.
I think there is enormous value in trying to change hearts and minds and that is the long game, the work that will never stop.
But it’s not the only thing I value. Sometimes what I value is making the bad thing stop and stop right fucking now. Sometimes what I value is making consequences for people who do or say the bad things – there are people who persuasion will never reach, but who might understand power or social disapproval or the risk of being disinvited if they behave badly. Sometimes what I value is protecting myself and other people from the harm that they do, and the hearts and minds of assholes can be their own fucking business.
Sometimes I’m just a human being whose supply of fucks to give runs low and I lose my temper. Oops?
When a gross dude in a literal or metaphorical fedora is like “Hey Sweet Tits want to come over and see my Ayn Rand tattoos? I can explain them all to you, at length and in detail” or “Your hysteria over the coming erosion of reproductive rights is just wasting everyone’s time with dumb ‘identity politics’, why don’t you calm down pay attention to the Really Important Stuff (i.e. stuff that I care about)” and you are like NO and also GROSS and also I WILL NOT CALM DOWN, SIR, I DO BITE MY THUMB AT THEE, PERFORCE, YOU ARE LUCKY I DO NOT MAKE YOU MEET ME WITH PISTOLS AT DAWN…
…and people are like “Calm down why are you being so mean/emotional/hysterical, you’re going to lose the argument unless you maintain perfect detachment at all times”
…those people are also sort of saying “I…I mean some people… are looking for an excuse to agree with your tormentor, please don’t give me…I mean them… one by having embarrassing tears or acting angry about what they are doing! If they aren’t convinced, and if I…I mean some people…end up joining their side, it will be all your fault when I/they do!”
…I don’t know…
…this may sound weird…
But maybe they were never really gonna be on your side, and what they think isn’t the most important thing in the world?
…And maybe it’s important that you say something back even if it isn’t going to be the one true magical thing that convinces someone not to be a misogynist anymore? That perfect thing that, don’t forget, you must somehow express with perfect politeness and grace?
Maybe it isn’t your job to convince that person, especially not right then in that moment. Maybe you are not their Basic Humanity Tutor. Maybe today isn’t your turn to be the Asshole Whisperer. Maybe speaking up is about something else entirely. Maybe it’s sufficient just to name their actions for what they are so that other people can recognize them, and it’s not your job to fix every asshole that you meet.
Maybe you’re doing it for YOU and as a way to remove plausible deniability that everyone agrees with them and to reassert POWER in the social spaces you occupy regardless of whether these people are ever convinced or even can be convinced. (Like maybe holidays don’t belong to your most racist and loudmouthed relative and you do not have to quietly retreat from having a family because he can’t shut the fuck up for one day (but you are expected to “behave yourself, Young Lady”).
Maybe it would be ok if you “made a scene” or whatever they’re using today as “the worst thing you could possibly do” in order to police your feelings and reactions down to a size that can let them stay comfortable with the unfairness of the world.
Maybe it’s just the right thing to do even if it isn’t easy or comfortable and even if it won’t convince one single soul. And, in the good words of my beloved ride-or-die Goat Lady, as pertains to some current political discussions:
“Yknow I get that some people are really uncomfortable with confrontation but ima need those folks to just go back inside and keep their heads down instead of pretending they have some kind of precious moral high ground because they don’t want offend fascists.”
If you can’t speak up, if you’re afraid to speak up, if you are uncomfortable speaking up, if you’ve never spoken up before and you don’t know how to start, okay? It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be still learning. Do what you have to do to survive from one moment to the next. But do not act like silence is something to strive for and like breaking it is the real faux pas when people’s survival is on the line. I see you.
So again, maybe someone’s horrendous and abusive views and whatever straw-man-dressed-in-red-flags strategy the people who wish you would just shut up already erroneously think will ultimately convince people to stop having those views is not even remotely the standard for measuring what you should do when they hurt people.
My lovely Letter Writer M’Lady Nay, how this translates practically to you and your specific letter (vs. me venting literally every internet argument I am currently having feelings about), is this:
It’s okay to not want to go to things where you know a misogynist creep will be coddled and apologized for. “I love playing Betrayal At House On The Hill, I hate being hit on by some creepo I’ve already told to leave me alone 17,000 times, gotta skip it” is a totally reasonable worldview.
And if you do end up at one of those things where this dude will be, and he says or does one of his awful things, it’s okay to say “Gross” or “Try that again with a little less misogyny this time” or “Nobody here wants to fuck you, just stop it and hang out like a person, or the best imitation of one you can pull off, ok?” or “DO NOT TOUCH ME” or “Well, that was a rape-y thing to say, time for one of us to leave. I vote that it’s you.” or “What the fuck, dude?” or “We put up with you because we like your sister. Behave yourself for her sake, or go the fuck home (for her sake), but DO NOT say that creepy shit to me again” or “Oh gee, look at the time, it’s creep-o’clock and I will turn into a pumpkin if I don’t get out of here.” Or “I don’t like what you said just now.” Or “Wow” or “That makes me really uncomfortable” or “Please desist at once, kind sir” or or or or or or or or or or or or.
And when someone says “Come on he was only joking” you say “But it wasn’t funny” and when someone says “Geez, you’re way too sensitive” you say “Yes, I’m very sensitive and I also hate rape jokes, thanks for noticing” and when someone says “God, grow a sense of humor already!” you say “Yes, I will grow a sense of humor and I will fertilize it with the ashes of unfunny men. TO THE BARRICADES, SISTERS! FOR THEMYSCIRA!”
Or you know, whatever comes to mind. My scripts are always gonna work better in your own words.
And when they come for his sister, or his sister feels pressure to defend him because she’s (understandably) afraid they’ll come for her, you say “You are lovely! But your brother is acting like a sexist jerk. If he’s uncomfortable when people don’t like that, maybe he should knock it off. You are not responsible for him and you do not have to defend him. By which I mean, stop defending him, it’s not your job when you didn’t do anything wrong.”
Your voice might shake. Your awesome comeback might come out garbled. You might get talked over by people who are afraid to do what you did. You might stand there alone, while all these people you want so bad to like and believe you let you down.
Maybe…say something anyway?
Say something especially if you have privilege relative to the people who are being targeted. Creepy men who automatically discount what women say listen more when their male friends say “Not cool, bro.” White people who say racist stuff desperately want the social approval and compliance of fellow white people, and when you refuse to give them your compliance and good opinion, it fucking shatters them. Good. Keep doing it.
Here is the secret, the cheat code, the truth: The people you know who are good at speaking up in tense situations probably didn’t start out that way. It is a habit and a skill that you can develop with time and practice. The more you do it, the more you feel like you can do it. And the more you do it, the people who can’t be trusted not to carry water for creeps and assholes will show themselves, making them easier to avoid in the future.
I’m not gonna lie, that can hurt real bad, it can cut you to the bone.
And there may be times you cannot safely speak up, without the threat of violence. In those cases, you are going to be the best judge of what you can safely do. Think of it as “living so you can fight another day” and don’t let it slow you down too much.
But also, the more you speak up, the more the other people in the room who don’t agree with the asshole will seek you out and back you up and start to find their own voices. Someone in that room has been waiting for someone to say “‘Feminazi?’ Really? Are you a time traveling Rush Limbaugh intern here to teach us about hackeysack and jam bands? Get the fuck out of here with that shit, man.”
Maybe they’ve been waiting for you the way you’ve been waiting for them, wondering “Is it just me?” And maybe today is the day you get together and start to fix it.
This hope is why I do what I do.
612 thoughts on “#1120: The Creepy Guy In The Friend Group, Revisited: Four More Geek Social Fallacies”
To the barricades, sisters! (And reliable brothers.)
So much truth. Dark times are here and we are all on the front lines. There is no Switzerland.
(And NB sibs!)
Absolutely! Not even in parentheses.
Neutrality is no longer an option, except in your gender identity and sexual preference. Also, neutrality is great for shoes. But in politics and society, nobody can be neutral now.
(For me personally, and I am nonbinary, when I duck in with parentheses [which I do often (to the point of needing nesting)] it is like, “I am whispering this to you because you forgot to say it; here, now you can say it out loud, minus parentheses, please remember next time so I don’t have to remind you” and my desired response is “You are correct, I’m sorry I left this out to begin with.” The parens do not mean “nonbinary people belong in parens,” they mean “you forgot this.”)
I totally love this comment — and especially appreciate that this is how I’ve used parentheses, too, only I couldn’t articulate it!
(That’s how I meant it!)
(I am cisgendered but I effing hate the gender binary.)
Moment of levity (please ignore if you’re not here for that):
Actually, I prefer my shoes to “pop.” Neutrality: not even for shoes any more!
“Dark times are here and we are all on the front lines. There is no Switzerland.” and “Neutrality is great for shoes. But in politics and society, nobody can be neutral now.”
Damn, those are some good lines. Would you mind terribly if I borrowed them? It’s such a good freaking phrase, I want to tweet it, FB post it, spray paint it across the front of my house, tattoo it on my hand and slap people with it. (Disclaimer: the likelihood of me ever slapping someone is very close to zero, and also my spouse is way too savvy to ever leave me unsupervised with a can of spray paint…)
It’s just the kind of thing I picture being said with the gravitas of an empress or a general, while thunder cracks in the background.
Take and share. I quote from this excellent commentariat regularly.
What will Nazis do if left alone, unimpeded? Ask Lidice. Oh, wait.
What will antifa do if left alone? They’ll eat Nutella and play video games.
If Antifa weren’t around, what do Nazis PROMISE to do? If nobody fights them, that is neutrality. Nazis kill whole groups of people. That’s what they want to do, that’s what they HAVE done.
It hasn’t even been a century since we last faced this fight.
Even in Switzerland! We’ve had the minaret ban, the rise of the SVP (a sort of tea party lite) and a vote to limit free movement of people between Switzerland and the EU. Everywhere, it feels like we reached the high tide of integration and tolerance and we’re going backwards.
Ha, I was living there when the UDC/SVP had that “let’s kick the black sheep out of Switzerland” advertising poster campaign. Like what the actual fuck (To those not familiar with it: https://qz.com/617050/switzerlands-largest-political-party-insists-on-depicting-foreigners-as-black-sheep/ )
Kudos to the random Swiss dude who built a minaret on his house to spite the ban though 🙂
Yeah, I was there for the black sheep initiative. You hear Swiss saying that the SVP are just like the German CSU, they’re just a bit conservative, the farmers’ party and all this stuff but they’re not, they’re the same anti immigrant populist/economic laissez-faire bullshit that everyone else seems to be falling for these days.
“Maybe you are not their Basic Humanity Tutor?”
So using this concept in the future.
So so good.
I am in fact a Basic Humanity Tutor!
My rates are very reasonable, would you prefer to pay by the minute or by the hour?
Back in the day I used to roleplay with a group of almost all dudes. One of the dudes used to hit me in the shoulder quite hard at least twice a game session – even after I asked him not to. One week I talked to my boyfriend at the time about it and asked why he didn’t think it was a problem (this behaviour was only aimed at me and not at any of the dudes in the group). He had nothing. The next time the dude hit me on the shoulder I said ‘that is assault, and if you do it again I am going to call the cops and report you for it. Please stop’. The other guys were shocked that I had been so rude, and I got some serious side eye. But after that session I never got punched on the shoulder again. It was totally worth it. I hope it is worth it for you too.
Listen, every time in my life I can point to that someone was harming or bullying me and they eventually stopped, it was not because I calmly reasoned with them. It’s because I went some version of apeshit – yelling, tears, swears, storming out, making a scene, making it a human resources problem, etc. – or because I removed their access to me (leaving the group, quitting the job, the block button). I finally spoke a language that they understood enough that they stopped. Did it change their minds? I don’t know. That’s not my job. My job was to save myself from what they were doing to me and to survive it. Let someone who a) likes them and b) isn’t being directly victimized by them jump in on that teachable moment.
SAME. My BIL was this creep. He creeped on everyone’s wife, including me, and everyone either ignored it or laughed it off. Finally I got fed up, and after reading a lot of the Captain’s advice, the next time he was creepy at a friend’s house (kept poking me and wouldn’t stop when I asked), I stood up and yelled “STOP FUCKING TOUCHING ME!!” It was in front of all our friends and felt so uncomfortable and yet SO DAMN GOOD. And his behavior towards me and the other women of the group changed significantly since then, which makes him a lot more pleasant to be around these days.
This. When I did the “ignore them” or “that hurts” nothing happened, and the shitty treatment continued. I had to lose my shit at them to get them to stop, or to at least drive home that what they were doing was Not Cool. And frankly, I didn’t care whether or not they learned, so long as they left me in peace.
You can do it quietly if you can convincingly pull off the Stone Cold Deadeye. I don’t mean resting bitch face, I mean “You will not walk away from this intact, if you can walk at all.”
It’s been a long time since I did martial arts or was in shape at all, but the rare times I had to say, “Step.Off.Now.” leave a sense-memory. It’s a good feeling to have in the vault.
Is a Death Glare the same thing? I’ve inherited something like that from my mother, who is tiny and can use it to terrify to great effect.
Thank you, either way; that’s really good advice! 😀
“My job was to save myself from what they were doing to me and to survive it. Let someone who a) likes them and b) isn’t being directly victimized by them jump in on that teachable moment.”
OMG, so much this! I couldn’t quite articulate to a work “friend” why I wasn’t sitting down with the woman who’d been bullying me (and getting away with it) for YEARS and explaining to her why she shouldn’t be doing it.
This is really good advice for basically any kind of bullying, I think. Ignoring it doesn’t work. You either have to escalate your reaction until it’s so disruptive and inconvenient for others that the bully gets reined in, or you have to get yourself away from the bully. It’s never the victim’s job to rehabilitate the bully or to let bystanders stay comfortable. The target’s only job is to maximize their own safety, in whatever way possible.
actually the removing access thing reminds me of another GSF, maybe it’s covered under one of the others but: By not engaging you’re admitting you’re scared/weak/wrong to debate. That when you see someone start to go off about Gamergate and go “nope not gonna do this” and leave you get called a coward or that you know you’re wrong and just won’t admit it. Instead of the other option which is that it’s just not worth the time or energy to fight a battle you know you’re not going to win. The fallacy is the assumption that everything needs to be debated or defended or dragged out and analyzed to death and by not doing it you’re somehow failing. Probably a combination of other fallacies if anything. on the topic of these fallacies I reccomend checking out a youtube series called “the alt right playbook” where the person making it examines the approaches of the alt right and how to counter their tactics.
and reading further I see you’ve brought up this exact thing. carry on then.
Absolutely to the apeshit.
The vast majority of people, if they harm you or overstep a boundary, will stop immediately upon hearing the words “please stop doing X” (hell, most will stop if you just show any signs of discomfort). Because most people are actually kind and respectful and care about your feelings.
But the small minority who do not respond to that first polite request… Yeah, there’s basically nothing in between the politeness and the STOP TOUCHING ME GODDAMMIT that’ll work. It’s good to start with politeness. It’s also good to recognize when that doesn’t work.
I also have tales of losing my shit. The first is as a big-ish kid. My uncle is generally a kind, helpful man who tends to forget that kids have boundaries, too. He liked picking us up and hauling us around. I did not like this. I asked him to stop. I yelled at him to stop. He continued. So I bit him hard. The Day That Well-behaved Pizkies Randomly Bit Uncle In The Back became a tale in the family that baffled everyone, but my uncle never picked me up again. All his other play-fighting also stopped that day, but that was an okay price to pay IMO.
The other take is as an adult. I have a colleague who, when drunk, will start jumping onto people’s backs, grab them from behind, give extended hugs, etc. No one is actually comfortable with this as far as I can tell, but I’m the only one who asked him to stop. And asked him to stop. And asked him to stop. Every time. Most times he would ignore me, though occasionally he would mumble “oh, yeah” and then keep on doing it. Until one day he came up and grabbed me from behind in a way that genuinely startled me. I flinched, and I remember that split second realization of “shit my arms are doing a no-good thing but also FUCK THIS GUY” and so I elbowed him in the throat. He hasn’t touched me since, and strangely no one around us seemed to take issue with my action, even after I pointedly did not apologise to Touchy Dude.
I’d like to learn to do the shit-losing with words instead of violence, but when in fight-or-flight mode, raising my voice is still the most unnatural thing in the world to me. And, honestly, I can’t feel too bad for not acting perfectly around people who blatantly ignore my stated boundaries.
The point is, I heartedly endorse the LW losing their shit selectively with this creepy dude. If you’re in a context where you can safely do that, it really does help.
Words are pretty late-stage, evolutionary wise, the ‘fight/flight/freeze’ part of the brain overwhelms the ‘speaking’ part. Speaking during a crisis is pretty unnatural for anyone, which is why emergency responders *train* – they’re teaching their brain to do unnatural things.
Straying away from the topic, but OMG, this happens to other people, too!? Because if I’m in a situation that’s sufficiently intense, whether it’s happy or scary or sad or whatever, the part of my brain that makes words just shuts off. It sucks.
You are my hero.
Has he ever done that grab from behind to another man?
FUCK THIS GUY” and so I elbowed him in the throat
I’ve noticed that with some people (exclusively men in my experience, but hell, probably women too) a physical response yields fewer bad reactions than a verbal one.
(Specifically aikido. Originally I’d tell the men who’d encroach on my space to move. They’d get sulky and mutter insults and wouldn’t move. Eventually I started throwing myself into their space and them. I bumped into a lot of them. They moved and didn’t complain.)
I have on the dance floor thrown an elbow that would put me in the penalty box in hockey. Dude, I wanted to dance with you, I’d be facing you.
I do this with White Dudes Who Won’t Share The Sidewalk. You know, the ones who walk two or three abreast, take up the entire damn pavement, and just assume everyone will get out of their way?
When I am approaching such a group, I make sure I’m all the way at the right edge of the sidewalk and make firm eye contact with the dude who’s headed straight at me. Sometimes he moves. Usually he doesn’t.
If there’s no one behind me, I sometimes just stop. As in, I stand in place and stare straight at him. He usually moves, often at the last possible minute. If there is someone behind me, or if I’m just feeling cantankerous, I keep walking and never break eye contact. Not a single one of the guys I’ve plowed into has ever complained, not even the one who took a shoulder to the solar plexus. Of course, that might be related to the fact that I just keep on walking.
Agreed. Sometimes I’m a little too hair-trigger on the opera-singer-has-bad-hearing-and-startles-easily-and-will-burst-your-goddamn-eardrums-if-you-sneak-up-on-her response, but if that happens then that’s what words are for. (With apologies to my old work-buddy who found this out the hard way when she hugged me from behind at the train station.) But boy can it be useful when bigots or jerks say dumb things and I forget where the volume control is. They’re usually too startled by the very loud WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?? coming out of the very small woman to keep talking. Puts the fight-or-flight response right back on the jerk in about 70% of cases.
Looking today at screen shots and then the video clip -of Andy Dick on Jimmy Kimmel show in 2007, grabbing Ivanka Trump. He still didn’t get it and said later that security carried him out “as a joke.” Jimmy Kimmel comes back after dragging Dick out and you can see the camera catching the audience standing and applauding. Jimmy being a decent human being right then brought tears to my eyes. Thank you Jimmy.
So much this.
It’s reminding me of a post by a woman on Reddit whose mother empowered her when she was a small child to pitch absolute screaming shit fits if anyone tried to overcome her “No.” And how paradoxically freeing and empowering that was for her. But it’s not paradoxical at all!
Basically she was a child who was allergic/sensitive to everything, many of the everythings being food items, and many of those items being things the *family hid in food and then convinced her to eat as a child.*
She knew to query the adults. She knew to ask them if the food had Thing or Things in it. What she didn’t have at age 5-6 was the ability to fight back against gaslighting and manipulation when the family members would say stuff like, “But it only has a little bit of Thing in it and a little won’t hurt you, and I’ll be so sad if you don’t eat this for me.” (Wanna punch an auntie or granny now? Me too.)
So she’d eat the food and end up vomiting everywhere. Which you’d think would be enough to convince malicious-oblivious-manipulative (evil?) people to quit their shit. But no.
Mother had more than explained it to the family multiple times. *And consequences to HER did not move them. Only consequences to themselves did.*
Therefore, her mother sat her down one holiday and said (paraphrasing), “If anyone gives you food besides me, I want you to not refuse it, and if they try to give you reasons, or tell you you’re wrong, or tell you they already asked me and said it was okay, or tell you anything else at all, I give you permission to throw the absolute most bawling, screaming, thrashing tantrum you can throw. You have an absolute get out of jail free card, from now to the end of time.”
And she did. And it worked. And she was writing about how permission to face down the gaslighters with bad behavior was empowering to her, when it’s not the message of safety and security you’re ‘supposed to’ communicate to young children.
But she wasn’t safe. She wasn’t secure. She knew it (we all know it), she just didn’t know what to do about it (almost none of us are taught).
Her mother did the right thing. *Her mother told her the truth. And her mother empowered her to tell the truth.* Physically if need be.
I found it incredibly inspiring, and as a new mother with a 7 month old at home, I will be using this.
Finally, piggybacking on using small-scale violence to preserve a boundary, I bit the absolute snot-screaming shit out of a boy who liked to dunk me in the pool. He was supposedly my little summer boyfriend. He supposedly liked me. But he was being an absolute asshole, sneaking up behind me to put his arm across my face and pull me down underwater. (Rapey much? Even at age 13?)
Probably the third time he did it, I bit the absolute hell out of his arm. Hard. He kicked a fit, bitched, and acted an ass. And I had zero fucks to give. Even at the insecure, boy-needy, vulnerable age of 13. I didn’t feel sorry for him then. None of his social pressure to act like I did something wrong mattered to me. He was fucking with me and he got BIT.
So yeah. I feel you on the bit-the-shit-out-of-them-when-you-have-to rule.
I used to have a similar reaction to being grabbed or, for a while, even just touched when I didn’t expect it, particularly by someone behind me and taller than me. It’s not as strong as it used to be (because we HEAL from bad things and that is AWESOME) but for a while there coming up behind me and putting your arms around me was a great way to get an elbow wherever it would hurt. And sometimes a fist after that.
I didn’t love doing it to people. I’m not particularly violent. People that cared about me didn’t have too hard a time, they just said something so they didn’t startle me – it’s not like I was a ball of rage or anything like that. I liked cuddles from loved ones when I knew they were coming and could say yes to them. I was just very reactive, and in that moment of trauma-induced panic, there isn’t a ton of thinking. Or any, really.
I think most of the people I did this to were men who at least vaguely deserved it. One of them was my high school physics teacher. He was kind of creepy, or at least we tended to see him that way – kind of flirtatious with female students, that sort of thing. He put his arm around me and I put my elbow in his stomach and he doubled over and I got in trouble. Sort of. Only when I got called in to get yelled at for assaulting a teacher, I just kept saying “if he was close enough for me to elbow him, he was way too close.” After a few repetitions, they let me leave.
The utter lack of remorse was pretty great.
This reaction is mostly gone now, thankfully. I don’t want to hurt people. But I always remember what it felt like to say “if I could do that, he was way too close to me,” and to feel so very solidly centered in my own truth, my own boundaries. I think that’s helped, over the years. I don’t hit people anymore but I am very good with a “what the fuck, asshole” or incredulous look or snide comment or whatever. It’s not always easy to speak up, but it definitely gets easier with practice and over time.
Also if a guy creepily gets too close to me and I yell at him, he’s getting off pretty easy, because I’m not punching him. I have actually said “What the hell, I didn’t hit you or anything, I just told you to go the fuck away, why are you so upset?” Because there’s a certain species of person #notallmen who will treat a “stop touching me” as though it’s a very personal targeted assault.
This all makes me sound so mean, and I’m really, really not. I just get very firm when threatened…
Not replying to any one person in this subthread, just tossing in something to the general audience, speaking more to the people who have had a friend lose their shit in the manner described to make bad things stop happen.
If you were there, and your friend had to lose their shit before you reacted, then you have failed as a friend. Not fatally, but you weren’t there for your friend when you were needed, and a little bit of “got your back” cred has been lost.
I’m an asshole. It’s how I’m wired. I’m brash and loud and don’t care very much about the rules of courtesy when they empower someone to be shitty to someone else due to lack of negative feedback. So when someone at the party is being creepy or ignoring communication to quit being a jackass to someone, I consider it my job to lose my shit before the target of their behavior has to.
“She asked you to stop. Stop. Now.”
“Seriously? How is that acceptable?”
“Tell me I’m pretty. Do you think I’m pretty?” (My personal favorite for dealing with homophobes.)
“You’ve come a long way on your negging. Still needs work, but good progress.” (I love negging PUAs.)
Frankly, hosts don’t care for it. Most would rather there be no disruptions to their gathering, no matter who has to suffer to keep the peace. I’ve been left off invite lists afterward, even lost a job over it once, but I’ve gotten enough backchannel thank yous to keep it up.
I’ve learned as I age that sometimes a well timed temper tantrum is exactly what’s needed. Right on!
There was a handsy guy in my friends circle who, by way of a lot of subtle, round-about, implication finally stopped creeping on me. But it was a Burden. He called me over to “talk” one time, and complained that a lot of the responses he got felt like a knee in the groin. I didn’t have the presence of mind at the time (this was mid ’80s, so I didn’t even have the words to think about this stuff effectively), but I really wish I’d thought to say something like, “If the reaction that you’re getting feels like a knee to the groin, consider that a lot of the behaviors I’m reacting to feel like rape.“
In my experience – I’ll tell you why that worked: because if he didn’t stop, you made clear there would be consequences TO HIM.
He didn’t stop before, when asked, because he didn’t care what you wanted; what he wanted was to hit you. Once his hitting = something he did not want (police presence), he changed his behavior. Make someone’s actions result in unpleasantness for him, he’ll change. And that’s another reason why ‘talking’ and ‘explaining’ and ‘edumacating’ don’t work.
Seen it dozens of times.
Exactly this. Nothing like good old fashioned consequences for bad behavior to kick someone into gear.
Very well said!
I knew a fella in a geek group who thought it was hilarious to jab me in the ribs with his knuckles if I stretched. From behind. It hurt quite a lot.
I told him to stop it. He did not stop it.
The next time he did it, I spun around, took him by the shoulders, and brought my knee up to his trouser fork. I did not make contact, because hurting people is wrong, and I didn’t want his crotchal cooties on my knee.
He shrieked, then realized he was unhurt.
“You’re not going to poke me again, are you?” I asked.
“No,” he said.
I don’t drink alcohol. Just don’t like it. I was out with friends who were drinking and one guy decided to order me a beer, after I told him not to. He thought I needed to loosen up. Then when I didn’t drink it, he tried to force me to by holding the glass to my mouth and sticking the side of his thumb between my lips and pushing them open. I moved his hand and told him if he did it again, I would bite him. He did, so I did.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
I’m glad you bit him! I hope you drew blood.
One time at a club this friend of a friend kept touching my face. He was drunk off his ass, so the first time I said nicely “Dude, stop it”. He did it again, and I stopped dancing, stopped smiling, pushed his hand away, looked him straight in the eye and said “Stop!”. Like I would to my dog. Guess he wasn’t as smart as my dog because he did it a third time, and like a drunk asshole he stuck his finger in my ear. So I grabbed his hand and crushed it, while yelling “I TOLD YOU TO STOP DUDE WHAT THE FUCK YOU HURT ME”.
It turns out, I am stronger than I look. I remember controlling the pressure not to break anything, but making sure it HURT. He then proceeded to spend the rest of the night nursing his hand and making kicked puppy eyes, while my friends side-eyed ME for hurting him. *sigh*
We really need a like button.
I’ve done the opposite. A male friend was very drunk and making out-of-character rape “jokes.” I know he doesn’t like to be touched. I gently laid my hand on his cheek. When he was like “WTF, stop,” my response was basically “But this way we both get to be uncomfortable.”
I accidentally broke someone’s fingers once— second-degree violence, he sneaked up on me and shoved his hand into my jeans and I kind of reflexively, I don’t know, did something to them? I try to feel bad, violence is never okay, physical abuse is never okay, but he is in prison for a minimum of seventeen years for sexual violence largely unrelated to me, and all I can feel is grateful that my body knew better than I what to tolerate and from whom. (He was, of course, deeply resentful and aggrieved that I was so mean to him when he just couldn’t help it and didn’t mean anything hurtful by it. It boggles my mind that people’s minds shy away from the idea that abusers and rapists misrepresent their intentions. It also took a couple of other incidents to get him to back off, if you can believe it!)
On a lighter note, when I worked as a bather at a groomer’s, the boss’s creepy husband used to sneak up behind us college- and high-school-aged women while we were bathing dogs, and “playfully” tickle us… until I jumped and, once again without conscious volition, turned the drying hose on him, blowing his awful hairpiece to the other end of the shop. The husband complained, the owner got the whole story, corroborated by other workers, and THAT was the end of that. I see that she’s divorced, twenty years later, and I really want to send her a congrats card.
OH MY GOD.
You did good. Real good.
EW EW EW WHY.
That dude needs to learn that if you stick your fingers into someone’s mouth without permission (wtf ugh EW), you do not deserve to get those fingers back.
I’m torn between saying “Don’t stick your fingers in my mouth, I don’t know where those have been!” and “Oh good god don’t stick your fingers in my mouth, I have a better idea than I would have liked to have as to where those have been and I Do Not Like It.”
(Honestly, how does someone reach adulthood still thinking it’s okay to stick their fingers in someone else without permission?)
My molars are so unnaturally sharp that a boyfriend declined blowjobs. Stick unwelcome bodyparts in my mouth at your peril.
Oh my. I just had a moment of realizing a moment I thought I was wrong I might have been right. In middle school I knew this girl (in the friend group, not my friend) who loved to pull on my pony tail, hard enough to really hurt. All the time. I would tell her to stop over and over again and she never listened. And everyone said it was just ‘playful’ and ignored it. Then it started to escalate with her touching me more and more, poking, holding me still so she could pull my pony tail when I tried to avoid her.
One day she reached around me so her arm (covered in some horrible wool sweater) was covering my face, blocking my mouth and noise and pulled my hair really hard and I just lost it and bit her. Her arm was right there, covering my mouth, horrible itchy sweater over my whole face, I couldn’t move or breath or get away and I just did it without thinking about it. She complained about it for a moment, but seemed fine, and most importantly she stopped, and didn’t pull on my hair for the rest of lunch and I thought ‘hey, maybe that worked, maybe we are done with this nonsense’.
Then later I get called to the principal’s office (for the first time ever) because she went and told on me. I almost got detention (again, would have been the first time) but he called my dad and felt that I would be punished enough at home. Dad made me feel bad (about this one instance of bad behavior at school in my entire childhood) for YEARS. He had bought me a present that day (a clay plate with a lady in purple on it) and gave me this massive lecture about how he had done that for me and I had turned around and did this to him. Then he hung it in my room anyway and for years and years whenever I looked at that clay plate I felt shitty and like a huge disappointment. It was the guilt art that haunted me until my mid-twenties when the room was finally converted to a guest room.
And only just now at this moment I am looking back and thinking ‘but she never pulled on my hair again! Maybe this thing that I have felt bad about for years was actually the right thing to do for my safety, and the only thing that got through to this girl not to bully me. Maybe there were no amount of right words in the world that could have fixed this.’ and it is kinda earth shattering.
Holeeeee – yes, biting can be a valid, needed defense.
This is why, when my laid-back kid came home with a note saying he’d bit a classmate in kindergarten, I spent some time asking my kid what happened. And found that the bitee had been ‘bugging’ my kid all year, including some poking and similar hands-on stuff. That my kid had tried to use his words, asking bitee to stop. That my kid had tried to tell his teacher. That it only happened at end of day, when they were at the cubbies next to each other.
I did not punish my kid, I gave him a ‘good for trying, you can bring it to me / dad sooner if it happens again, we’ll take it from here.’ I went to his teacher, explained the deal, and told her to move their cubbies away from each other. (I didn’t lecture the teacher about paying more attention; my kid was not very articulate, it took a lot of time to get a coherent story, and teachers in charge of 30ish kids including at least 5 special needs don’t have time for it; system’s fault, not the teachers’.) No more problems, and the bitee was super-friendly to my kid the next year.
Some people deserve to be bitten, and hugs if wanted for those whose people around them didn’t support them when they needed to bite to be safe.
You did the right thing.
I am a biter. I was a biter as a child, I am a biter as an adult. I am a small person without a lot of strength. If you keep touching me when I ask you to stop, I am going to bite you and it is going to hurt.
My 6th grader came home one day and said “So, I stabbed someone today.”
After a moment of “Holy shit; did you actually HURT someone in a serious manner” (because I would not put it past my child to shank someone who really really deserved it) it turned out that she had merely stabbed someone in the ribs with a pencil. Hard enough to hurt, but not hard enough to damage.
The kid who got stabbed had been escalating harassment of my kiddo for a while, and she finally reached her tolerance level. Aside from a discussion on “please don’t cause major injury to your classmates because we Can Not Ignore That,” I told her that she probably did the only thing that would have worked, and we moved on.
The kid never bothered my child again. And while I a) still think violence shouldn’t need to be the only solution, b) think that this kid probably had a troubled home life and c) could have seriously benefited from a professional counselor, that’s not something was going to happen. It’s my daughter’s responsibility to keep herself safe; it’s the job of the adults in the room to make sure she doesn’t need to. They failed, so she stepped up.
Which is to say, you probably did exactly the right thing for your safety and your father was wrong to make you feel guilty over it.
Your dad was an asshole and should have protected you, instead of punishing you. I’m sorry.
Yikes, that story has more bees than a honeycomb! Repeated and escalating assault, “friends” insisting you should be fine with repeated and escalating assault, the school principal rebuking YOU for defending yourself against repeated and escalating assault, you dad guilting you for defending yourself against repeated and escalating assault, and finally your dad insisting that you defending yourself against repeated and escalating assault was somehow something that you did to him. That’s horrible – I’m so sorry the adults in your life not only refused to protect you but actually participated in your victimization. I very much think that physical defense of your person was warranted once you exhausted the strategies (e.g. asking to stop, attempting avoidance – though the latter shouldn’t even be necessary, and in some cases where you have a right and especially a need to be somewhere, I think it’s reasonable to escalate to physical confrontation before attempting avoidance) that might work on a reasonable person acting in good faith.
I think you did everything right. As you were finding out- violence always escalates.
People like Hairy Sweater-Arm take silence as permission.
That sounds like assault to me. You are entirely justified in biting off his entire goddamn hand (I’m imagining you as a shark)
And I bet he wanted to get you drunk, too. Wonder why?
My thoughts too, ginmar. There were several kinds of “nope” going on in that interaction:
1) Pushing beer on you. Dude is saying “I want you to be less in control of yourself – and BTW I get to decide what goes into your body.”
2) Pushing his thumb in your mouth. Again, “I am the boss of your body – not you”. Also, you don’t need to be a psychoanalyst to see what that might signify.
OP, well done for biting him. He deserved it.
Wtf?!? That’s insane! Hope you left a scar
A group of kids, with the pastor of the church/principal of the school’s son as ringleader, beat me up every week during the teacher’s meeting. I told my parents, but they did nothing about it. I told the pastor/principal, and he laughed at me. So, the next time they did it, I bit the one who had his hand over my mouth so hard he almost needed stitches, and had a permanent scar. They never punched me again.
The adults should have protected you. I’m glad it worked.
A surprising number of people have this weird expectation that when you’re treated in an uncomfortable way in a social situation, you have to hold all of the discomfort quietly within yourself. (Shockingly–shock, I tell you–this expectation seems to be imposed on women, POC, and other marginalized groups far more often than on individuals with more social power.)
Here’s the secret: the net amount of problem in the room does not decrease just because it’s all on your shoulders. The discomfort and unpleasantness is there and real even when you’re the only one aware of it–and it ruining the event just for you still counts as ruining the event. Making a fuss isn’t ruining the event for everyone; it’s sharing the burden, so everyone in the room can feel some small percent of the discomfort instead of you being crushed under the whole of it. It’s kind of a redistribution of wealth, except on the emotional plane rather than the financial. And when it comes to feeling comfortable among friends, we all deserve an equal slice of the pie.
So much yes to your second paragraph.
Oh gosh, yes, all this second paragraph. Thank you for articulating it.
When I was about 12, my uncle used to tickle me all the time. I always told him to stop and he might for a while, but start it again soon. One time we were spending time with the entire family and he tickled me again. I was in a rotten mood, so I just told him that if he continued, I would bite him. He did. I bit his finger. Hard.
My grandparents were horrified by my childish and horrible behaviour. I probably got a talking to fron my parents. I remeber being really ashamed and writing about it into my diary, trying to figure out if I was the baddie or goodie in the situation.
I also remember, that my uncle never tickled me again.
God, I wish adults were better at validating kids’ boundaries. I’m glad you bit him – don’t you ever wish you could go back and annotate your childhood diary? (I mean, I guess nothing is really stopping us, but you know what I mean.) I’d love to read a diary that had an entry like that with a note from grown up onia that said, “I was definitely the goodie.”
I actually started doing that. It’s really interesting, especially when you start getting annotations on annotations. It’s like having conversations with your past and future selves.
So…I HATE being tickled. When I was 17 my mom’s best friend had a boyfriend who liked to pin me down and tickle me. You read that right. I was 17, he was in his late 30’s and he pinned me down to tickle me. In front of everyone. I hated it. I would cry. I would scream. It was like a nightmare scene from a movie. My mom’s response when I complained was that I too sensitive or that I didn’t have a sense of humor.
My mom scheduled a family vacation to Vermont the summer I graduated from high school. Unbeknownst to me, she’d invited her friend and her boyfriend. I was furious but decided that I was done being a “good girl” about it. The first night we were sitting outside at a campfire when this guy grabbed me for “tickle torture”. Before he was able to pin me down (he was a big guy and was easily triple the weight I was at the time) I managed to get a leg free and slammed his face with the heel of my foot. I broke his nose. I pretended it was an accident, but I had aimed for his face with that intention.
I also wrote about it in my diary. I just pulled it out to relive it from my 17 year old self’s point of view. I was NOT sorry about it all. There was a lot of glee in that writing. Like…A LOT of glee. According to what I wrote my mom did redeem herself a bit. It says “F—- got mad when I kicked him. He looked like he might hit me. Mom laughed at him and said ‘well F—- she did tell you she hates being tickled. Serves you right!’ He called us both bitches before he got in the car with J— to go to the ER. Well, I guess mom hates him forever now. She hates the word bitch.”
Your mom and my stepdad are cut from the same cloth.
When I was in seventh grade, a neighbor boy/school classmate hit me in the arm with a handful of bamboo (after I’d told him, when he brandished them at me as if he were going to hit me, that if he hit me, I would by god hit him back), so I clocked him on the left side of his forehead with a conveniently-located 2 x 4. His mom came to my house to complain to my parents, but my stepdad asked his mom what her son had done to me to provoke me into hitting him. She was forced to admit he’d hit me first. My stepdad said, “Well, he got what he deserved. Her mother and I aren’t raising her to take that type of bullshit!” and shut the door in her face.
The real prize I won is that I went all the way through twelfth grade in the same schools with that boy, and he would never look me in the eye again. We never had any classes together, but if we happened to pass each other in the hallways between classes, he would avert his gaze every fucking time.
So three cheers for parents who’ve got their kids’ backs!
Well, your parents deserve those cheers more, given that I’ll come up with a clever name later…maybe’s mother knew and didn’t intervene.
My ex used to tickle me until I had an asthma attack, then try to justify it by saying, “but you were laughing”. I was spasm breathing, you dumb dick
Just one reason he’s my ex.
I tend to literally warn people with whom I am intimate that I experience tickling as a form of attack because it turns off my ability to speak and then my ability to breathe. And when I can not breathe, I start hitting. When it’s put in those kinds of stark terms, it doesn’t seem to keep happening (though maybe that’s just because I generally choose well on my people to be intimate with decisions). Actually it also probably helps that if they accidentally tickle me, I’ll involuntarily flinch. (And it really is usually accidental because they’ll stop or shift their hand, just what works as a caress and what will be ticklish can be hard to spot.)
And I totally understand the joy of tickling people. It can be a lot of fun if they’re actually enjoying it. But, yeah. It’s really not cool to do when people have told you not to.
My younger son hated being tickled. One day I went to pick him up from a party, and the Mum pulled me aside to say that he’d kicked her husband hard. I was quite surprised as this didn’t seem like him. On further questioning I found out that that her husband had been tickling my son despite my son saying he didn’t like being tickled. I still remember how shocked she was that I was pissed at her husband and not at my son. (I fortunately have nothing more to do with this family for many, many reason in addition to this one)
My ex liked to hug me from behind quite often. I didn’t mind it mostly. But he also did it when I was in the kitchen cutting food. So, he knows that if I am hugged from behind I get startled. Come on, I even head-butted him once in the nose because of that. Still, he didn’t understand why I went ballistic when he suddenly hugged me while I was holding a sharp knive. Never mind that I could have CUT MYSELF: I know how sometimes I react and I had to explain him that one possible reaction was HITTING HIM WITH THE KNIVE.
Some people never learn.
One time in grad school I was with classmates at a bar and a guy decided to pick a fight with me about a crit we’d just had, a fight I had 0 interest in having. I started by calmly telling him I wasn’t interested in discussing it. I repeated that like a broken record for awhile as he got more and more insistent on having a full-on yelling fight, so I switched to, “Stop talking to me and leave me alone.” I had to repeat this at escalating volume until I was literally screaming it over and over again into his face before he left me alone and sought comfort from our other classmates about what a rude beotch I was (to their credit, nobody took his side).
It’s so unfathomable to me to hear “Stop talking to me and leave me alone” and decide to forge ahead for 20 more repetitions–were I to do this, I would be absolutely mortified, it would grate against every grain of my being–and yet we live among entire swaths of the population for whom this is normal and routine behavior.
I know! I’ve often thought this. It would go so deeply against the grain for me to continue to bother someone who had clearly asked me to stop that even if I were offered a million dollars to do so, say for a candid camera type deal, I’m just not sure I could.
And that is the intensity of the socialization (and temperament) that I have to overcome when speaking up against someone bullying me or saying something hateful. My higher brain obviously knows that being an asshole and defending against someone else being an asshole are not the same at all. However, at an instinctual level, an imperative of politeness, shyness and fear of conflict dominate in both scenarios.
I cannot love this post enough. This is absolutely vital and wonderful. Thank you, Captain.
Captain, I have been reading your work for some time and loving it. This is especially magnificent. Thank you so much.
Love all of this! I recently realized an acquaintance I thought was mostly harmless loudly set off my friend’s red flag predator warning system when they met at my bday. And when I looked at it again, I realized the set mine off too but I was in a more stable place so his moves would never work on me but that did not mean that he wasn’t trying…hard…to plausible deniably get into my pants, my sister’s pants, my married friend’s pants, my other friend’s pants a few years back…so I didn’t see it…but now that she called him on his shit in the moment and mentioned it, I’m completely over him as a potential friend.
I also realize all the GSF and grooming behavior and creepos benefit from the theatre concept of improv and “yes, and” because that’s a conversational mode I tend to follow and that has lead to creep territory more than once. My friend is my hero now for breaking the conversational momentum bringing it to a screeching halt and applying the “Nope! How about that non sequitur.” while having a night on the town.
I listen to my red flag predator warning any time it flares up, even if I can’t put my finger on what or why set it off. Ex: my sister’s friend was dating a guy who made my skin crawl. Everyone loved him and acted like I was a crazy person. I didn’t know why I hated him – I just did and avoided any activity or event where I know he’d be and was really vocal about how he made me uncomfortable. A few years later it came out that he was a pedophile and he’d molested several children in my sister’s circle of friends. I don’t regret listening to my instincts, but I am sad that a few more people didn’t listen to me.
It is so weird to be the one going “This person is an untrustworthy creep” when everyone else is going “Isn’t he so CHARMING, and TALENTED!” There was a guy that a number of people in my friend circle liked. When I finally met him, my immediate instincts were “DANGER, DANGER WILL ROBINSON”. Yeah, he was charming- in a sociopathic calculating kind of way. Yeah, he was talented- but his biggest talents were self-promotion and inspiring people to work themselves to the bone. He was only a middling actor and director.
But no one else could see it. He kissed my unconscious friend while she was sleeping/ passed out (Oh, he was tired too, and your friend isn’t making a big deal/ everyone knows she had a crush on him so why are you still making it a big deal?) He dated one of his actors, who was about 7 years his junior when she was just starting out (Well, it’s a small acting community, there’s going to be a lot of overlap, and I mean, it’s not violating the half + 7 rule and she’s an adult – she, just starting out, him established in the community). He would be abusive and mean to people working 10 hour underpaid jobs for him (He just wants to make sure everything is going well! He’s passionate about the project!)
Eventually, after he pushed a bridge too far a couple too many times, they all figured out, “Hey, Guy is an asshole”. But it took a lot of “I”m not going to a party where Guy is going to be.” and “You know my feelings on Guy, and you know what I think you should do (not work with Guy anymore) so I think we need Guy-free conversations”. It hurt- I didn’t go to a lot of parties, and I don’t get invited to that many in the first place. I wasn’t willing to tell people that Guy’s talents justified Guy’s behaviors, and I felt like a shitty friend for not just shaking people and going “Guy is a BAD person! You should stay away from him and never talk to him again”. But at the end of the day, they were adults who had to make their own decisions about people, and come around at their own time. And I’m glad they eventually all did reach the “Guy’s an asshole” stage.
Gotta ask, what’s “yes, and” as a conversational pattern?
Ps captain thank you, thank you, THANK YOU so much for this post. Like, so so much. And oh god, the reference to melissa McCarthy ‘s piece is pure gold, and she must be a goddess and so are you. Keep up the good work.
Dunno if this helps, but…
“yes, and” is an improv technique where you never say “no.” In improv, saying no can stop a scene in it’s tracks; instead, when someone makes a wild statement/suggestion, you agree with them and build on it. Example: an actor runs into a room and points at someone, “OMG, it’s Meryl Streep!” you say “YES! And I’m here to steal all your awards!”
As a conversational pattern, I think it means never directly contradicting or disagreeing with someone… they say something outrageous or incorrect, and you say “yes, and I read/heard/think that [thing building on original statement]”.
“Yes and” is a technique from improv where you take what the other person said and build on it, rather than denying or contradicting it. For example, someone tells me I’m the Queen of Madeuplandia, and I say, “Why, yes, I am, and I’ve just discovered that you’re my long-lost princess!”
It works really well in improv because you’re both creating the story, and if you derail someone with “No, that’s wrong,” that can get boring to watch, and it’s also you taking away control of the scene when it should be shared.
And now I’m going to end up *literally* saying “How about that non sequitur” to someone.
I have in fact literally said, during a family party, “So, I was changing the subject the other day, and…” Fortunately everyone got it and laughed. (And because Awkward Moment was successfully gotten over, my family basically being pretty cool, I have now forgotten entirely what it was.)
A friend of mine refers to “using the euphemism”. 🙂
My favorite actual and regularly deployed transitional move is “Speaking of non sequiturs…”
My friend-group uses “so how about those dolphins”. It’s a signal for “we are dropping the topic and NO ONE IS TO PICK IT BACK UP.” Which is good because we’re also a group that’s got some neuroweird going on and without an explicit signal, sometimes people can…not realize that it isn’t just ‘everyone lost interest / got on a tangent’, it’s actually ‘at least one person found the topic very distressing, it is being dropped and put in the box of shit we don’t touch’.
A friend of mine changes the subject to Fiona the hippo any time someone brings up something that makes her uncomfortable. She’s very upfront (when not upset) that this is her tactic. So, if she mentions Fiona, we all kinda go, “hmm, did I say something upsetting, or is she actually excited about Fiona?”
As an improv performer, one thing to know with “Yes and” is that we’re supposed to be on the look out for what’s unusual.
If someone goes down a weird path, you switch to “If / Then”. If that’s true, how can I react. And “Nope” can a good reaction as you can plan a normal person to highlight how weird the other person’s idea. This pattern can be fun.
And if an idea is based on bullying or other bad behavior, we as performers want to show that we get that it’s not fun in the real world.
This is useful in real life conversation too. Because if someone is expressing racist, mysoginist, or even just lightly rude, triggering or uncomfortable behavior it’s a good signal. In that moment, practice switching modes and check our reactions to be clear and direct rather than accommodating.
One of your finest posts ever, Captain — BRAVO!!!
This is all very helpful, and we should all strive to stand up (when possible) to these kind of people. Because every time they get away with a comment, no matter how minor, it affirms to them it is acceptable.
Something that really cheeses me is when these chuckleheads say, “Oh it was a joke!” To which I think, “Are you sure? What was the funny part?” The minute someone tries to qualify the impact of a statement by ‘downgrading’ it to a joke – and not an assertion or an opinion – I want to explode. Humor is supposed to be (somewhat) universal and can help bind a group together. But when the ‘joke’ punches down or denigrates or etc., the bond becomes a creepy hateful one where the one telling the ‘jokes’ is the ringmaster and your once cool group is now bound in his crappy circus of crappy attitudes and silent acquiescence.
Sorry that was a little convoluted, but on the upside it probably didn’t make much sense.
Yes! The corollary of this is the ‘I meant it as a compliment!’
For example, i once had a super cute pair of red shoes. They were so cute, and very, very red. I was wearing them one day, feeling awesome about having cherry-red tootsies, when my entitled douchecanoe brother made a crack about them. I cheerfully told him to fuck off, and he got all shirty. “I meant it as a compliment!” he objected. “Well, then, you suck really hard at compliments. You should study up.” I was amazed how well that worked. A little pushback, well placed.
“It’s so weird, I always thought jokes and threats were two different things.” Unblinking stare.
I’m a big fan of just ignoring the justification – “okay, well regardless, don’t say that” and its variants have saved me from so many arguments about what is and isn’t funny. I don’t care, and I’m not interested in debating it with you! Please just shut it.
I’ve drilled it into my kids, jokes punch up!!!
This is a very moving post, Captain.
I recently had an old school teacher say to me, “It’s probably best not to mention the things we all know…”
Whereupon I said, “Perhaps things wouldn’t have happened had someone spoken up…” and she told me, “You were always difficult.”
I’m still sometimes reduced to a garbling, FUCK THE LOT OF THEM!!!
Keep being difficult please.
I think the obvious response to the teacher is, ::fist pump:: “YES!! THANK YOU!!”
“Something that really cheeses me is when these chuckleheads say, ‘Oh it was a joke!'”
I’ve been using this response for a while now: “Okay, then it was a sexist/racist/etc. joke rather than a sexist/racist/etc. regular statement; still not okay.”
Oooh, I am totally using this one!
My go-to is a sort of half-laughing, ultra-incredulous “….Really…?!”, with the possibility of a follow-up “…wow. Okay then.”.
My response is usually to say, “Well, I didn’t think it was funny at all. It’s still racist/sexist/etc., even if it was supposed to be a joke.”
Yes! I actually said a variation of that to a creep once, and it worked. I was trying to get closer to a group of locals in the city I had moved to for my PhD. I was at a Sunday morning brunch thing they did every week, and Creep was talking to me and another woman about… I don’t even remember what. But he employed the following analogy: TW FOR MISOGYNY:
“It’s like some slut you meet at the bar. You’ll fuck her, but you’re not going to take her home to Mom, you know?”
At that moment I wasn’t even sure I’d heard what I’d heard or how to respond. I didn’t say anything. Creep had a party the following weekend which I skipped, and that Sunday he asked where I’d been. I had had time to think about it and I brought it up then, asking him if he remembered saying it and if he could explain it further.
“It’s just a joke,” he said.
“Well I’m just the punchline,” I replied. “Can you just tell me why it’s funny?” I repeated.
He immediately started to talk about how he jokes that way about EVERYONE. He’ll make jokes about his race (he was one of the few POC in this group)! About sexuality (no he didn’t – not that I ever heard)! He’s the punchline, I’m the punchline, everyone’s the punchline!
I had planned to just let him run himself out. I just stared at him with a very neutral, stony expression, holding eye contact. I was going to just ask again, “But what makes it funny?” I’d rehearsed this!
But then the boyfriend of the other woman who’d been there spoke up from a few feet away, where I didn’t even know he’d been listening. “Yeah man, Girlfriend told me about that. That was fucked up. Why would you even say something like that?”
Creep shut right the hell up after that. He shook his head like maaaaannn none of you get me, but then he moved away. Boyfriend was a sort of an unwritten leader in the group. Everyone liked him. When he spoke up (and demonstrated that Girlfriend – also popular and known to be really easygoing, had been bothered enough to tell him about it later, that’s three people telling him he’d crossed a line, if anyone’s counting), Creep thought better of of his behavior. He’s ignored me happily ever after.
I was lucky in that an acknowledged Insider (a BOY insider!) had been there and lent his weight to my side. It could definitely have gone another way. But I do think that asking people what makes the nasty thing funny is an under-acknowledged way to deal with “it’s just a joke.” It doesn’t require much confrontation and if he doesn’t answer it (which I’m pretty sure he won’t), all you have to do is nod, or even pointedly turn away if he doesn’t answer. Let him flop around. Talk to other people in the group that’s been sitting there uncomfortably while this is going on about Literally Anything Else, or even just excuse yourself to go to the bathroom like you don’t even care if he talks about you the second you’re gone. It sort of lends a bravado, like you know you’re right and it’s not worth discussing.
Anyway. It’s my trick. I’ve used it a couple times since and the effect has not been as dramatic, but it’s worked to shut the person up in a fairly non-confrontational way.
Oh my God, “Well I’m the punchline” is SUCH A GREAT LINE. Can I please steal that?
The day I knew — REALLY knew — that my husband is a total keeper was the day when, early in our dating relationship, a friend of his was making transphobic jokes. I was super unhappy about it, but the group dynamics (his friends, their turf, and so on) we’re such that I didn’t feel like I had the power to do anything about it. His friend went to the bathroom, and I quietly told my then-boyfriend, now-husband that I was really not enjoying this thread of conversation. He nodded, said, “Understood,” and when his friend made another joke a minute later, then-boyfriend quietly, calmly, and evenly told him to cut it out. His friend stopped, the conversation changed, and life went on. It was so validating that my husband didn’t question my discomfort, didn’t excuse it as “just a joke,” didn’t ask me to explain what was wrong with the joke, etc. He was (and still is, to a extent) largely unfamiliar with the complexities of gender and sexuality, but he knew that the jokes were *unkind*, and that I was unhappy, and that was sufficient for him to step in when.
Also, holy typos, Batman. Oh well. Such is life with autocorrect.
that is *fantastic*. I had a similar moment of confirmation with Spouse just yesterday… it’s a great measure of a keeper! 😉
Best line of Downton Abbey, is when someone tries to use the “it’s a joke” argument and Lady Mary disdainfully replies “Oh. The bully’s defense.” and walks away.
oh, I like that one. I usually just go with, ‘but mean jokes aren’t funny’, but I like this one better.
OMG yes. when someone says, “[X] can’t take a joke,” I’m like… it’s impossible for anyone to take a joke b/c jokes are categorically not a thing ppl “take” but enjoy. At its worst a joke falls flat; at that point it has failed as a joke. Something said without even the intent of enjoyment is something else entirely.
Like if I asked 10 strangers to fill in the blank, “_____ is something that some people are able to endure with a smile and not others,” (taking “you can’t take a joke” at face value), I guarantee you no one would say “jokes with friends.” It would be like, “working in customer service,” “physical pain,” “a screaming baby on an airplane.”
And basically no comedian wants the feedback after their show to be, “well, I endured it because I’m tough.”
I think the rationale is something like “Jokes have to have a butt (actually false, but some of us are unimaginative enough to think so), so we all take turns being the butt (or at least we think/claim we do, though in practice we probably punch down more than we punch up), and so we all have to be ‘good sports’ about it when it’s our turn, and you’re violating the unspoken contract if you refuse to take your turn with good grace.”
Then again, that doesn’t quite explain the high school friend who played a prank on me and then told me I couldn’t take a joke when I tried to prank him right back. I guess in some (okay, maybe most) groups there isn’t actually a pretense that everyone takes turns being the butt of the joke, more that there are designated jokers and designated targets. But it still makes sense that the targets are supposed to endure the jokes without necessarily enjoying them, because there are plenty of other people in the group who get to do the actual enjoying. Like it’s a tradeoff for the “greater good” or something.
Absolutely. Of course usually the only reason the others in the group enjoy the joke is relief that they aren’t the one being picked on. The joke itself is rarely funny. When someone IS being teased about something that is genuinely funny, the whole “taking turns” thing flies right out the window.
Seems like people take turns being the subject of cruel jokes the same way people take turns investing in a pyramid scheme. One or two people at the top started it all because they wanted to, and then all the real scrambling for scraps happens in the bottom tiers. And no one wants to stop because they feel like they need to throw good money after bad. They’ve invested enough pride-swallowing and resentment that they need to earn it back I guess. And they always want to loop more people in on a lower tier. It’s a good way for people who are obsessed with hierarchy and dominance to get everyone around them to willingly organize themselves into a pecking order.
That prank guy sounds ridiculous! Ah, high school. It reminds me of something Penn & Teller wrote that I read when I was a little kid about how, if you play a trick on someone and they get pissed off, the fastest and surest way to win them back over is to get them to team up with you to play that trick on someone else. Seems like something prankers should know.
Yes, exactly. It’s the allegation of “poor sportsmanship.” As if we are all bully cricket players circa 1905 in our whites sipping tea after our invigorating match.
Poor sportsmanship is the idea that sometimes the player with the more elevated position (noblesse oblige) or who understands themselves to be in the right (you scored the point, you know you scored the point, and it’s a bad call) decides to “take one for the team” because they come from a position within this dynamic of having tons of political capital and social largess to spread around. It really (and here’s the key part) costs them nothing, while earning them the good will of their fellows and underlings.
In other words, it’s meant as a method for those on top to maintain humility, or at least the appearance of it. It’s NOT meant to police those without social capital and force them to come out of pocket in order to play. Which is all too often how it’s used by bullies.
No, it’s supposed to be a way for those with power to remind others with power not to be bullies. Not a way for bullies to bully the more vulnerable in the group transaction.
All of which is to say….(longwinded sorry)…”joke” red herrings are such bullshit.
Jokes punch up, not down, as has been said so well.
I often respond to “God, it was just a joke, lighten up!” with “Or you could try being funny.” Delivery varies between lightly-teasing-but-really-serious and stern teacher, but it moves the argument away from me not being able to take a joke to them not being able to make them. It throws a lot of them off their game and I find it very satisfying. (Every now and then one of them will try to explain the joke, which is just met with, “No, no, I get the premise. It’s just not funny.”)
Definitely gonna try to remember “Are you sure? What was the funny part?” for the next time this happens because I am CACKLING imagining it.
“It’s a jooooke”
“Really? I was under the impression jokes were supposed to be funny.”
yes! my default response has become, “Um, but jokes are supposed to be funny.” Ugh.
This. “Only joking” is the refuge of cowards. If you’re going to have shitty opinions at least own them.
I like asking them to explain the joke to me. “I don’t get it. No, really, please explain it to me.” They usually can’t get very far into explaining their “joke” before they’re too embarrassed to continue because it’s obvious that the “joke” wasn’t.
My favourite response to “Oh it was a joke!” is “Oh gosh, sorry! Maybe we could get you some sort of bell to ring so I know if you attempt another one?”
[stands at desk and gives the Captain a standing ovation]
Wow, just wow.
Also, LW, I am so sorry you are dealing with that, but as the Captain says, sounds like your instincts are all howling the correct instructions. Boundaries ahoy!
Saying The Thing works! It’s hard the first time. It gets easier.
I have a coworker who is A Guy. All the younger guys in my office want to be like him. He’s outgoing, loud, charismatic, a Manly Man, etc etc. I was on a committee with him a few years ago and he engaged in the stereotypical behaviour of his tribe, to wit: he would ignore what ladies said and then repeat it like it was his idea and bask in the glory of Having An Idea. (He does not do this to me, because it is a thing universally acknowledged that I am A Brain.) The ladies on the committee were clearly used to this.
So every time he did it, I’d stop the conversation and say “When Maggie said it it sounded silly, but now that A MAN has said it, I see what a great idea it is!” The first time he looked confused. The second time, he laughed. The third through eighteenth times, everyone else laughed and he got madder and madder. The nineteenth time that Maggie had an idea, the Manly Man engaged with it rather than trying to take credit. He has not done that thing again (at least around me).
That is wonderful, bravo!
It’s infuriating to me when -other women- follow this pattern of “dismiss what I say until a man says the same thing”.
Every spoonful of hearing each other is a spoonful of soothing balm. Thank you.
YES. SAME. I keep hoping our office’s Ms. Ask The Same Question But Only Listen When A Man Answers will stooooop.
It IS infuriating and depressing but it’s unfortunately common. Sexist (and racist, and so on) attitudes are pervasive, we all learn them, both the oppressed and the oppressor learn their roles. It usually takes real work to realize it and overcome them.
I hear overcoming the urge to mansplain is similar.
lol Nanani, nicely done!
Can’t find the like button!
I read somewhere that the women in the Obama White House had the same problem and started doing this exact thing when a man tried to take credit for a woman’s idea.
YES! “Amplification” is the term the women in the WH used for this strategy. I teach about it in my high school classes whenever I can fit it into a unit.
… women in the Obama White House had the same problem and started doing this exact thing when a man tried to take credit for a woman’s idea.
… “Amplification” is the term the women in the WH used for this strategy.
That was interesting enough to look for more info. Here:
I read that, too, and it filled me with despair. These women were good enough at what they did to work in the effing White House, and yet still couldn’t count on being heard?
I admire your fortitude and persistance. That is intimidating as hell.
I LOVE YOU WILL YOU BE MY FRIEND
I love you. This happens to me at work all the time. And I’m like, “DIDN’T I JUST SAY THAT 20 MINUTES AGO!?!?!?!? Why did we have to have 16 meetings to come to the same conclusion I made 3 weeks ago???” Come work with me, please. ❤
The latest episode of Mock the Week features Angela Barnes cracking a joke, and Ed Byrne making the same one a few minutes later. Dara O’Briain remains my hero for turning to Ed and deadpanning, “Like Angela said?”, and props to the editors for leaving it in.
whingedrinking, I was just. Thinking. Of that. And speaking of the GSFs, I like Ed and I’m struggling with really wanting to think Ed just didn’t hear her — although if he didn’t, it’s because he wasn’t listening to her! — rather than hearing her joke and deciding to repeat it. Dara is a legend and I love that his and Ed’s friendship includes calling each other out and telling embarrassing stories about each other on (inter)national television.
It’s the whole thing with microagressions. Like, is it *possible* that Ed just zoned out for a bit and wasn’t paying attention to anybody for a couple minutes, and it’s an unfortunate coincidence that it was Angela’s joke he missed/accidentally copied, rather than, say, Hugh’s? Sure! Maybe this happens constantly to everyone and they just edit it out because it’s usually not funny! I’ll buy that for a dollar!
And since it *could* have been an innocent accident, isn’t it a bit mean to jump all over the poor guy? Well…no, and not just because Angela shouting, “I bet his joke will make the edit, because he’s got a penis!” is comedy gold. The fact that each individual straw can be benefit-of-the-doubted away doesn’t change the fact that some of us are getting buried under awfully large haystacks.
PS I love your name.
I have a theory that this is exactly why men repeat women’s ideas. Because men see “a woman is talking” as time that’s safe to zone out. We couldn’t possibly be saying anything of value, so they stop actively listening. But our words are still there, and are seeping in on some level. Our ideas that they aren’t listening to percolate around in their heads until they realize that it’s a good idea. But they don’t know a woman said it because, not listening. So they think they came up with the idea all on their own. How clever of them to make good use of that dead time when a woman was talking.
@Darcy there’s an episode of American Dad about this exact thing. Stan (the Dad) and other men are depicted as literally hearing soothing whale song/white noise when a woman is talking. Stan gets it when he is turned into a woman with Cartoon Science Pills and is on the receiving end of this shit (discussing lengthy plans to improve an issue at work only for Male Boss to suddenly switch back on and say “oh I hate that issue, can’t we do something about it?”).
Woman speaking ideas = the Voice of the Muse.
Since women are categorically incapable of making anything other than babies, a female voice articulating new ideas creates cognitive dissonance. This dissonance is routinely resolved either by not hearing her words at all, or by re-casting her words as part of the listener’s internal monologue. Moments later, the listener articulates ‘his’ idea – and often the listener quite genuinely does not remember the original female voice speaking at all.
No intent, no malice. Still misogyny.
@whiingedrinking: I literally thought the exact same thing when I read the man-taking-credit story. I was so happy Dara said something, and to his credit Ed totally owned what he did. I was watching with my husband and a female friend and we actually discussed the whole ‘man didn’t listen when a woman said it.’ thing.
Dara O’Briain is a treasure (with an endless capacity for mocking Ed Byrne).
My son does that. He’s eight. I am teaching him better.
Is it funny stuff, or general statements/ideas? I think with kids if they’re repeating jokes or funny statements, it’s usually more that they’re trying to learn how to be funny, so they’re repeating things other people said that were funny in a way that hopefully is more modeling on than coopting from. Maybe some gentle encouragement to be more creative in his humour, if that’s what is going on, would be helpful for him.
If it’s general statements, though, good for you. Nip the mansplanation in the bud. 🙂
Lol, okay, so his little brother just had a birthday. The eight-year-old and I went to pick out some video games to give him. He saw one he liked, but I pointed out that it was too expensive. We found a few that sounded good, plus one we’d heard of but that might have been too advanced. I looked it up, and it seemed like it would be okay. We talked about the different games and narrowed it down to three, which might have been too much, but they were used games and on sale. As we were leaving, I told him he’d done a good job picking out some nice things for his brother. LITERALLY THREE MINUTES LATER, in the car driving home, he re-told the whole story, and I WASN’T IN IT. He started by saying, “I did a good job picking out those games,” and then he proceeded to describe everything in detail AS THOUGH I HADN’T BEEN THERE. He talked about how *he* had looked at all the games, said that *he* had noticed that one was too expensive and that *he* decided to put it back, and so on. It was very disorienting! I was like, “Omg, seriously?!” I gave him age-appropriate shit about it. I think he knows better now. It’s a process.
Holy cow! Yeah, that’s…a thing that happened. 😛
“When Maggie said it it sounded silly, but now that A MAN has said it, I see what a great idea it is!”
I used to have that cartoon, wish I could find it.
“Miss X had an excellent idea, would one of you men care to repeat it?”
Looks like it was in Punch:
yeeeeesssssss thank you
A similar punchline showed up in The New Yorker recently, IIRC. Maybe this concept is finally mainstreaming now.
Captain, this is so so brilliant. #8 feels essential for me right now. Thank you for all of it.
I bet there’s a decent number of women (and men) in the friend group who either 1) feel the same way [creepy dude is the price of admission to socializing with this group] or 2) drifted away from the group because of this dude but never really articulated that, suddenly being too busy with other friend groups or school or work or a significant other, etc.
I have dropped out of friend groups when I wasn’t backed up trying to rein in creepy dudes. At a certain point I decided that I not only didn’t want to be around the creepy dudes in question, I also didn’t want to be around their enablers.
I tend to be that outspoken person that confronts others when they say messed up shit. Coworkers, acquaintances, friends, whatever. And it sucks being that person. It sucks hearing that hollow ringing of silence as I (usually alone) tell them “No, that’s not ok”. My face turns red, my voice usually shakes, my pulse goes a mile a minute. It honestly never really gets easier. To make it easier, I remind myself of what my one and only intention is with speaking up: making sure the speaker doesn’t think I agree with them. It’s not my job to convince them they’re wrong. It’s not my job to worry about what other people think. It’s not my job to be good at it or to be coherent or to keep the peace. Literally, the only goal I have is for the speaker to know I don’t agree with whatever crap they’re dealing out. Because that’s what I need for my peace of mind, to not have my silence lump me in with the speaker’s terrible ideologies.
Here are the good things that (often) happens after:
1) Obnoxious person shuts up, at least for a little while. The majority of time, they’re so shocked to be called out on their BS that they don’t argue back.
2) I always have at least one person in the crowd thanking me later, saying that it meant a lot for someone else to call the speaker out on the BS. That they thought they were the only ones who felt that way. That they were scared to speak out. I always encourage them to speak up themselves, or at least back me up next time. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t, but it’s not my job to convince them to do it more often.
3) I feel good about myself. Even with the shaky nerves and thick tongue, I’m still proud to be one little thorn in the speaker’s side. The one person who won’t put up with their shit (even if they don’t realize that. I know it and that’s enough).
4) This might be good or bad, I’m not sure, but in my friend group, I’ve become the go to “confrontation” person. I’m the one that my friends trust (and often I’m directly asked) to help shut down sexist, racist, whatever-ist jerks. Like most powers, it comes with great responsibilities, but I try to only use this power for good.
Good luck! It might not be easy, but it will (often) be worth it.
Solidarity! It is so worth it.
Thank you for your work!
You are great!
I get the racing pulse, too. At first it used to rattle me, but then I started seeing it as my fight-or-fight response dumping adrenaline into my system to give me power. And that that power is mine to use. Maybe that’ll help you (or someone else), too?
I love that so much. I get a tremor and go red and my pulse races and it makes my body feel out of my control, and I hate it. But my body is giving me the power I need to deal with the bullshit.
This is a good reminder for me. You’re never going to be able come up with the perfect argument or phrase to convince someone that you’re just as human as they are, if they don’t already believe it. It’s best to just as keep as much distance from them as possible.
If I were you, OP, I would categorically refuse to be in the same room as this person ever again. Hang out with people one-on-one or in small groups, and if you end up accidentally at the same gathering as him, walk out. Good luck!
I teared up reading the last few paragraphs. Thank you!
A few weeks ago, I decided to be the Voice of Reason to an extremely misogynistic dude on the fringes of my LARP group. He was whinging about abortion, so I carefully, calmly explained pregnancy, potential medical complications of pregnancy, financial implications for the person who is pregnant, and that how no matter how supportive the sperm donor is he cannot physically be pregnant and so doesn’t get the most say in whether that pregnancy ends or not. I spent a couple of hours doing this with lots of facts and statistics. He appeared to agree with me, thanked me for “being respectful” and said I had given him a lot to think about.
Two days later I saw him online saying the same fucking bullshit to someone else. I didn’t change his mind, he just wasn’t equipped to argue with someone with a lot more medical knowledge than him and made soothing agreeable noises until the scary predator with the facts went away and left him alone.
Do I regret being the Asshole Whisperer for one night? Naw, it was interesting. But am I going to spend my time and energy being the Voice of Reason at the Center for the Willfully Ignorant on a regular basis? Nope.
tl;dr: All of those people telling you that magic would happen if you just “changed your tone” and “worked harder to educate the ignorant” are living in a fantasy world. It’s probably nice for them, but you don’t have to accept the invite.
It takes a long time for people to really change their minds about things they feel strongly about. Even if they processed what you said it will take time for it to really percolate. They may still never change, but you pretty much never find a person who will say “Oh my god you are so right I was wrong this whole time” even if they are convinced. It’s just not how human brains work.
Sorry, I meant to say, so even though it feels like your time was wasted, you never know! (Though obviously, you are IN NO WAY obligated to do this and I still totally support your decision to not keep doing it.)
My very firm stance on changing other people’s minds is that I can’t. No one can change someone else’s mind. You can provide information or a differing perspective if you want, but do it because you feel like it, not because you expect it to have an effect.
What you CAN do is intimidate people into not saying horrible shit around you. So while I’m unlikely to ever have a calm reasoned debate with an asshole, I will make a scene until they get a nervous twitch every time they think about saying something racist, sexist, etc. And I think that the path to wisdom starts with a mature terror of setting me off.
And I think that the path to wisdom starts with a mature terror of setting me off.
Ahahaha I love this!
I want to be you when I grow up.
I think there is a kind of person who’s mind can be changed, but they’re probably the person with unexamined biases rather than the bigot who has worn the groove of their own biases deep through repeated examination and reinforcement.
(Which isn’t to say it’s an easy process or something everyone should volunteer to do.)
It really depends on who / where / what.
I was… hesitant about vaccinating Little Jules on the regular schedule, because I’d heard rumors of illnesses (above and beyond autism) and I am OCD and anxious and fearful about everything. But not solidly against, or casual in my assumptions, or convinced that I was right, just, unsure.
A friend pointed me to the critique of Wakefield’s research and I got to the cherry picking and got so mad that I made the vaccination appointments for the next 18mo. And then I read about the small sample size, the financial incentive, and the things they do to autistic kids (chelation for autism is evil).
I talked to someone who was in the ‘I want to be color blind!’ phase of racial consciousness, and I think I really got through about the power differential, with ‘if you treat people respectfully, you can be colorblind, but if you step outside of respect, you need to factor in the racist social environment in which we all swim.’
I’m working on pedestals with Little Jules.
Sometimes the best you can hope for someone is that they’ll shut up and keep their bigoted asshole thoughts to themselves instead of spreading them to others. Shaming people into silence is a valid and effective strategy for encouraging this behavior.
As far as behavior is concerned, all that’s ever worked for me was making decent behavior less painful for bigots than their bigotry. So yes, I’ve yelled. I’ve backhanded people who grabbed me. I’ve told people they weren’t funny and I didn’t care if they thought I was humorless.
(The only times I’ve changed anyone’s their opinions was with the argument “But I am a [type of person they were bigoted towards].” It didn’t often work.)
I have a couple of tattoos that most folks don’t know about, as they are on my upper arms and covered. I love when someone goes on a diatribe about the evils of tats and what kinds of people get them, and I just push up my shirt sleeves and ask, “you mean, like these? So, what kind of person am I, again?” Cue the stuttering and backpedaling. Bwahhahahahahahahaha
That’s brilliant 😁
“It didn’t often work.”
Thank you. I have read one too many times about how definitely you should come out because people are less likely to continue to be bigoted to lgbtq+ people if that includes someone they know. And I am tired of feeling vaguely guilty I haven’t come out to my mom even though she has made her opinions incredibly clear.
It has worked twice with me. I’ve been out for about 45 years.
You Are Not Doing You’re Life Right [tm] by Not Me.
I’m willing to bet that your time was well-spent. You might not have convinced the asshole, because assholes gonna asshole, but chances are there was someone silently following your conversation who did learn something.
On several atheist boards I follow, we explicitly state that when we engage with the apologists who regularly show up, it’s for the sake of the lurkers, not because we expect to convince the holy holies.
These people never learned social skills and see argument and baiting people on hot-button issues as the only way to get someone to engage with them.
Responses like yours are the reason I actually don’t find trolls as useless and toxic as they seem at first glance. I have learned so much from people who “feed the trolls.” Especially with facts and statistics, but sometimes even a sarcastic one-liner can articulate a perspective I hadn’t really considered. Trolls may themselves be sad little creatures that will never learn*, but in the attempt to teach them, you arm so many other people with knowledge and critical analysis. They may not speak up, but they’re nodding along.
*I remember back when I used to beat my head against the brick wall that is my mother’s impermeable fantasies (often on the topic of abortion, now that I think about it!). On the rare occasions that I actually won some grudging admission from her that there was maybe more to a particular situation than her black-and-white perspective had allowed for, I’d walk away feeling good about myself – only to watch her forget the entire conversation had ever happened and go back to what she had been saying before. Sometimes before that day was out. It’s a quirk of the human condition, I think, that our beliefs on a particular subject are sometimes about so much more than that topic that cutting ourselves off from them can feel like slicing through an artery. Easier to forget you were ever challenged to begin with, so you don’t have to concede anything at all.
I was the Voice of Reason to a protester at Planned Parenthood. She asked if I knew that Planned Parenthood performs the most abortions in the US. I said, “of course! They probably also perform the most PAP smears, STD tests, breast exams, and provide the most birth control. Kaiser probably comes in second. Those are the the two biggest health care providers to women nationwide.” She actually seemed interested and involved in the conversation, and said she had a lot to think about, not just “nod and appease,” but who knows.
LW, everything the Captain wrote is on point (not that that’s anything new!). The input I have to give is that I have only ever regretted not speaking up. Even when it was awkward and I stuttered or worse, cried, I don’t look back and wish I had not said anything. But those times when I stayed quiet? Those are the ones I relive and rewind in my head.*
Of course, even knowing that, it’s still hard. So, good luck. I hope your friends have your back, but if they don’t, know there are people out there who do.
(*Also, man do I still wish I had really let loose on a friend’s racist ex and the ex’s racist buddy several years ago. I was still growing a spine and only managed one angry “what the actual fuck that’s not funny” type comment before leaving early. It was a big deal for me then, but I still wish I had blistered their ears. Ugh.)
Your advice on this issue before inspired me to make a scene to get my creepy ass BIL to stop creeping on me. It was stressful and scary and uncomfortable, but it worked. Now I’m thinking of other guys in our group who aren’t creepy, but who do get their jollies poking fun at marginalized groups, and now I’m feeling more prepared to respond. Thank you as always, Captain!
One note on the whole changing minds thing – don’t think, that by choosing to not engage you aren’t contributing to changing people’s minds. Simply saying “I am not here for XYZ Bullshit.” And then following up on that, is pushing back. You don’t have to convince them that your point of view is the one they should have, you just have to convince them that there are people in the world who do not share their point of view and in fact find it reprehensible.
People don’t like that, we like to be around people we agree with, we like to have our beliefs validated. That’s pretty much why religion and most of the internet. Denying validation to someone’s point of view, and standing strong in your own can be the thing that starts them down a journey towards learning.
I used to be a pro life republican. And the people I remember who pushed me the most in the other direction were not people who told me how awful I was. They were just people who said “I find that really surprising and I disagree, but lets talk about something else.” I still remember those moments, because they didn’t give me an opportunity to justify my point of view to myself, they just left me to sit there and think “What do these people know, understand, that I don’t?”
It took me probably 4 years to change my mind about that. It takes a long time for people to really change their minds.
But not giving them space or validation for their complete bullshit opinions is a valid way to start them down that path. Even if it never works, at least they know that there are people out there who are not hitting like on their bullshit.
This is such a great and timely article Captain! Woot! I am going to have to read it like 3 more times.
I am pathologically incapable of leaving shit like this alone, I always get into arguments and conflict with guys like this. I am sitting here wondering if I have any advice on conflict for the conflict avoidant. But for me it is easier to say something than to stay quiet. SOMEONE IS WRONG AND THEY ARE INSIDE THE HOUSE!
Hi, ILU, and thanks so much for this comment because you are making me think about a nascent TENTH GEEK SOCIAL FALLACY, namely:
“If you won’t debate with me, you’re admitting you’re wrong!”
It’s closely related to…maybe what we could call GSF #11…”Don’t feed the trolls.” or “Just Ignore It And It Will Go Away” (esp. from people who are not being targeted by whatever it is).
Maybe a dash of “deeply held views must be RESPECTED even if they harm others.”
Are these their own or do they fit under the other 4 from today?
If I may kvetch about my inbox a tiny bit more I get “feedback” or “complaints” (shoutout to Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette Netflix special, which absolutely everyone must see if you can) where:
If I do not host some random man’s lengthy rebuttal of my point on my website, I am STIFLING FREE SPEECH. It takes many forms, like the many bullshit thinkpieces about how if Nazis can’t speak on every college campus apparently everyone will become Nazis in retaliation. Your friends back in your embarrassing views days did not owe you a full airing of your views. They were like “it is pointless to argue, let’s not get sucked in!” Smart. #NoPlatforming
But if I call attention to bad behavior on my site (like creeping) I am somehow feeding into the creeping by calling attention to it. Because in some venues and with some people, it’s worth naming what is happening even if it does give attention to people who are gonna do what they were always gonna do.
All the GSFs from today have the theme of “Unless you do this perfectly the way I would do it, other people’s bad behavior and terrible views are partly your fault, so you should probably just be quiet.”
You were a pro-life Republican, and the people who liked you in your social circles did a good thing by sort of side-stepping the bad stuff, like, there’s nothing we can do about it but we’re not going to give it our time and attention. But if you had been yelling at women outside a clinic, people would also have been right in saying “shut the fuck up, you’re being scary and abusive right now, that is not your body, go away.”
Sometimes giving people the argument they are spoiling for is the bad choice. Sometimes airing out and naming what they do is the right choice. Being quiet because you might not do it perfectly is not the solution.
There’s more to think on, here. Thank you.
“Being quiet because you might not do it perfectly is not the solution.” This. We’re always letting perfect be the enemy of good!
I can certainly respect a moratorium on discussing people’s deeply held beliefs. But that’s not the same as respecting their beliefs. And I think refusing to engage can be it’s own punishment.
For some people knowing that someone disagrees with them, strongly is enough to really bother them. I drove several co workers insane with the fact that I knew they were anti feminists, and I wouldn’t debate them, and also made them behave themselves without ever engaging them on the subject of feminism. And eventually I think they actually did change their minds.
I put a lot of thought into this topic since I spent about 35 years arguing with an immovable object who “just wants to understand my point of view” so he can tell me that it is wrong.
I had a coworker who tried to turn me calling him on his bullshit into a game. He’d say something all dog whistle-y and shit, then look at me and go, “I bet you think that’s racist (sexist, et al).” I’d return the direct eye contact and say “Yup.” Then he’d launch into a defense of why it’s Objective Truth and I’m just a squishy liberal who doesn’t understand How Things Are In The Real World trying to get me to become angry and my response would be very straightforward “Yup. I am liberal. And what you said is racist (et al).” After a while he’d peter out or go change the music to my least favorite genre just to get the last word, and then come back and we’d have a subject change where he was obviously trying to win my favor back and get me to be friendly with him again. So I’d ignore him a while, very pointedly only talking to him about work stuff, he’d drop it, and two days later we’d do the same “I’m not touching you I’m not touching you, don’t you want me The Man to like you, won’t you mold your ethics to match my sensibilities” shit all over again. Like a game of socio-political negging where instead of agreeing to have sex with him I was supposed to get all insecure and declare him Not A Racist (et al).
By the time I ended up being his peer and then superior in the workplace (by getting the promotion he wanted, hahahahahaha AHEM) rather than his close subordinate, he’d ended the game and basically didn’t talk to me any more. I highly doubt I changed his mind in the least but I did eventually wear his ass down by not caring one whit what he thought of me even though it seemed really important to him that I did care, and for that, I am glad.
I love agreeing with men when they call me something they think is negative. “oh you’re such a bitch / so strict / too opinionated” Me: Yup.
They don’t know what to do. Sometimes they’ll double down on the insults (which just gets an “Okay. Have a nice day.”)and sometimes they wander away completely baffled by a woman who doesn’t want their Manly Approval.
Although there was the one time a guy called me “Ruth Bader Ginsberg” as an insult. I don’t think he was expecting my howls of laughter.
It’s like the inverse of agreeing with a compliment from a dude, who then calls you a stuck-up bitch for being arrogant. There’s a subgroup of dudes who cannot grasp the possibility that any woman anywhere might think anything is more important than their approval.
Man, the agreeing with men who call you something negative thing. Yas.
I work with kids with severe trauma/behaviours/anger and I get a lot of verbal abuse in the workplace. My favourite response to hurled insults is a cheerful “Sometimes!” It works for almost everything while sidestepping the power struggling/conflict they’re looking to provoke.
Although the kids I’m out to, I LOVE responding to them calling me “gay” as insult with YES I TOTALLY AM YOU ARE CORRECT (even if I don’t understand what that has to do with you needing to wash dishes).
I really will never understand the dudes who think “opinionated” is an effective insult against women. Yes, I…think things about stuff. Oh, how…terrible.
This sounds like a guy whose job application screener I read at work – he was upset because a “female” had been promoted over him and was clearly less qualified. I think I’ll just pretend it is. (He got the form rejection letter and we hired a woman instead 😆).
His fave music genre: Country, or Death Metal?
Oh, country. But not just any country. Jingoistic pop country. Yay.
“I really will never understand the dudes who think “opinionated” is an effective insult against women.”
I grew up with “opinionated” and “independent” as insults.
From my mother among others ><
@whingedrinking – well see, our opinions are not about THEM so clearly they are Wrong Opinions. I’m just saying, I’ve never been called “opinionated” when I was vehemently agreeing with a guy.
I do text banking for Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Ted Cruz. There is a certain kind of troll who will keep asking questions, trying to make you think they’re undecided and you’re SO CLOSE to winning them over. Pro tip: actual undecided voters either get decided quickly after you tell them where Beto stands on their big issue, or agree to check out his website and think about it. They don’t have endless increasingly-specific hypotheticals about “would Beto support open carry for people escorting women to get abortions?”
Off topic, but THANK YOU for doing this.
How do you deal with this?
I so prefer this tactic in text-wall form, where you encounter reasonable statements at the beginning that sound somehow “off”, because you can just skip to the end to see what horrid point they’re leading you to in 3,000 words of baby steps (Starts off “we can all agree that females should be allowed enthusiastic agency right?” and ends up “…and that’s why the races cannot mix and alpha males must colonize Mars before it’s too late.”). Dealing with the baby steps in real time through spoken conversation is SO freaking tedious, even if their ultimate point were something I actually wanted to hear I still couldn’t stand it. I just want to scream, “SKIP to the END!!”
I have never heard the phrase ‘text banking’.
Ugh. “Just Asking Questions.” I refuse to engage with them. They can JAQ off on their own time.
“If you won’t debate with me, you’re admitting you’re wrong!”
Oh my gosh, yes. That’s a good one.
Isn’t it funny how “just ignore it, it’ll go away,” places the onus on women to fix a problem (often committed overwhelmingly by men against women) while men and society in general just get to sit back in the old recliner and change absolutely *nothing*? It’s like all those people who think that the solution to rape is arming women—–but believing them? Aw, hell naw! That’s crazy commie talk.
If you *stop* an assault, where’s the evidence? They don’t listen to us NOW, even when there’s video.
If you ignore it, the guy keeps going while you have to get abused and blamed by turn.
And if you *don’t* ignore it, people get mad at YOU. For provoking him or some crap. “Oh, you know how he is.”
But the offender is free to do whatever he wants to, while you are permitted only to respond or pretend to be oblivious. When women decide to act on their own first, putting men in the reactive position, it’s like the apocalypse or something.
And kids. Someone loudly insulting my intelligence to the entire room? Ignore it. Kids ganging up to make me cry? Ignore it. Getting physically assaulted? Ignore it. No matter what the adults said, I still got picked on. In time, I took “ignore it” to mean “f*ck off, can’t be bothered with you.”
That basically IS what it means.
I was relentlessly bullied as a kid, and that was what every adult would tell me. “Oh, just ignore them. It’s your own fault because you won’t ignore them.” And it Never. Bloody well. Worked. It was so infuriating and I grew up thinking that no adult on the planet cared. Certainly not my parents. Pushing back worked – the very thing that I wasn’t supposed to do because it wasn’t “ladylike” worked. Gosh, what a surprise.
I once got “they’re only teasing you because they like you” from a young, somewhat immature teacher (whom I loved for other reasons but she was WAY off base that day). I don’t think she expected my response of, “I’d be OK with them hating me as long as they left me alone.” It was that or “Why do people who like me make me feel like shit all the time?” and I decided to go with the statement rather than the question.
She meant well and I truly think, looking back, that the other students really didn’t mean to hurt me, but it took me quite some time before I felt OK as part of that group again.
Oh yeah. “Ignoring” ended up causing them to escalate until they DID finally get a reaction. And that’s the story of how I got a broken arm in 4th grade.
I read a quote or a tweet the other day that said the people who urge the loudest about ‘turning the other cheek’ are never the ones actually BEING struck!!
I got this too, from middle school to sophomore year of high school. In summer school prior to sophomore year, the teacher told me to ignore someone who’d decided she’d hated me for whatever reason (I hadn’t interacted with her at all, and suddenly she’s asking if she can strangle me).
All that did was build the tension like a pressure cooker until I couldn’t take it anymore (she’d gone straight to rape threats), and just grabbed my backpack and walked out of the classroom while the teacher was out. When the teacher saw me, she immediately tried to get me to go back, and that’s when I lost it at her, telling her that I wasn’t going to put up with the bully’s crap anymore. That’s what finally got her to do something, although there were only three days left of class, so it was kind of moot.
Yes! I hate the “you have to debate me when and where and how I say or you admit I’m right!” bullshit. Cliff Pervocracy has a delightful little tumblr post about that for anyone who hasn’t seen it: http://pervocracy.tumblr.com/post/171975803389/when-someone-disagrees-with-you-online-and-demands (content warning: there are mentions of potentially gross medical stuff and kink on that tumblr, maybe don’t browse it at work)
Personally, I’m not anyone’s dancing monkey. I’m not going to entertain some asshole on command, especially not when they’re not paying my consulting fee + asshole surcharge. If they want to be the pigeon (knocks over the pieces, shits all over the board, and struts around like it won anyway) in the argument, they can do that all they like after I block them.
I think those 3 new fallacies you mentioned are all different enough to be their own separate fallacies. Maybe you could group them together as the geek disagreement (internet or otherwise) fallacies?
Spot on with GSF 10 and other new ones — best addendum I’ve ever seen to the classic GSFs.
This is one I seem to encounter a lot; people who think that aggressive obstinancy in a position makes you perforce correct. If everyone else is too tired to have (or continue) a debate with you, you win!
We could call it argumentum ad nauseam.
I like the “if you won’t debate me, you’re conceding this argument” one, though I think a distinction must be made:
If you are unwilling to EVER debate or examine, then you are wrong, no matter what you believe it’s wrong if you are unwilling to debate it or examine it critically *ever*.
That is different than the view that you must be available on someone else’s demand to defend your beliefs and should you ever rest in your ceaseless duty then all is null and void. That they can force you to engage with them at their leisure and catch you in a double-bind because what they really want is your attention and they try to force you to engage by holding you captive to some standard that says you owe them your attention or you concede something.
I’ve found that saying something along the lines of “I don’t agree with you, but I don’t want to debate this. I’m gonna go get a soda” works pretty well. It’s hard to argue with someone that just walked away to get a snack.
Debate is a tool of persuasion, which has been greatly misapplied, especially on the internet, under a mask of “this is part of critical thinking!”
It’s not. I say this as someone who used to win debate trophies.
That’s just not what debate is for.
I tell them that I already have a hobby, and that if they want me to debate them about whatever it is (generally abortion) in a place and time not of my choosing, my fee is $100 per hour payable to NARAL Prochoice Virginia. And that they’re not going to enjoy it, because I have a whole line of argument about kidney transplants that’s backed up by court cases. And also forced c-sections, and I’ve been known to draw diagrams, and do they really want to get into this now?
I loved the Hannah Gadsby special on Netflix! So good. Everyone should watch it!
There was a point in time when “Don’t feed the trolls” was really good advice, for a very specific type of troll.
I don’t think I’ve seen that species since usenet.
The last time I saw that species was in the late 90s or early 2000s. It died out when “lolrandom” humour went out of style, I think.
I have used that “Grey Rock” technique on bullies in my apartment building. It worked on those bullies, who were trying to draw me into their alcoholic-fueled crap to justify escalating their abuse. I’ve made it plain that they are dead to me. I don’t make eye contact or return any greetings. When they dicked with my car or pound on my door I’ve texted the mgr or called the cops. It was the opposite of how I used to react to crap like this and I was pretty delighted with it. Also several have been evicted, and I am still here in the rent-controlled building.
But now I wonder why it’s working, because at other times I’ve fought back against other bullies and that’s also worked-?
I got on a bus that was standing room only, next to a guy who’d immediately started in with “Hey beautiful! How are you today ,gorgeous?!” I flatly said, “No” and everything out of him I said only “No” until he soon stopped and then I said “Have a nice day” to which he didn’t reply.
There were two young-adult women among my fellow straphangers and I could feel them listening to me and noting the dude’s response.
You can stand on a street corner debating all the live-long day that gravity is a myth, but it doesn’t make you a levitating wizard when no one wants to talk to engage with your bullshit.
Excellent point: essentially, you changed your own mind. You educated yourself. When we debate, or argue, we end up caring more about being right than about being correct – that is, winning the conversation is more important than understanding the other viewpoint. Just human nature. We feel criticised, we feel cornered. We don’t take it in. Your friends made it clear they disagreed, and let you be, which gave you the space to read around and make your own choices without having to be on the defence.
Here’s a thing that’s overlooked when talking about whether or not internet debates are worthwhile: everyone who quietly reads them, goes away and thinks about them. They very rarely change the minds of those actually involved in the debate, because a) defensiveness and b) they’re probably both REALLY sure of themselves to be no-holds-barred arguing about it in the first place, but internet arguments are very public and reach a large audience of people who aren’t sure. This is impossible to quantify, but you never know who your words are reaching.
Similarly, irl arguments with creeps and/or bigots aren’t necessarily about changing that specific person’s mind so much as letting everyone else around you know which side you’re on, what you consider to be unacceptable behaviour. Standards of acceptable behaviour are shaped by the group; too often they’re shaped by the assholes, because the assholes are loudest, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Basically framing things as attempts to change this specific bigot’s mind makes it feel impossible and exhausting, but being vocal about your beliefs (even if it’s just “ugh. Subject change!”) can change the culture and reach other people.
It’s worth remembering that in those settings where debate is normal and expected, like courtrooms or political candidate events, the debaters are never trying to convince EACH OTHER. Arguments are always directed at a third party, be it a crowd of voters or a judge.
There’s a reason legal arguments go “Your honour” and not “Dear opposing counsel”
So yeah, shitty people trying to debate shittiness with you? Not acting in good faith.
Debating them just gives a platform to their shit, which you are never obligated to provide.
Yep, this! Debates are for the spectators.
Which is also why they’re not the appropriate response to direct, immediate threats. Someone hurting me RIGHT NOW? The task is to stop that; not to convince someone watching that they should agree hurting me is bad.
Yes! Whenever I *do* have debates or arguments, I know the chances of changing that person’s mind are very slim, but I still engage because I know there are people that read who MIGHT be swayed.
I was also a conservative Republican in high school and the beginning of college, like S above. What changed for me was making LGBT friends and friends of color.
One friend (whose magnaminity is the stuff of legend) started sending me links to websites like Racialicious and Sociological Images and Jezebel, saying low-key stuff like “this is interesting” or “huh”. And I started reading, and clicking links, and doing more reading, and eventually having a lot of discussions (and yeah, fights) that would have never occurred to me to have before.
Yeah, you learn from reading other people fight with trolls. You learn from fighting with trolls yourself! (O God: there are websites I do not miss at all.)
But — an important addendum — people also learn from directed anger. Sometimes. I’ve all but blocked a horrible conversation I had with a particular friend in college from my mind, because I dealt with it in the worst possible way. He blew up at me for being an ignorant, racist little twit. Without getting into the details: sometimes you make a choice, and that choice is that you care more about the good opinion and respect of the smart, thoughtful people in your life than you do about getting to hold onto a belief system that hurts them.
I absolutely learned things by arguing with them! Information wise and by figuring out strategies for those arguments (and debates.) No one starts out knowing the best ways to debate. When I started, I was letting my anger get the best of me, especially if the conversation went on long enough, which really isn’t a good way to sway the person I was arguing with OR the people just watching it. Keeping calm and not throwing out insults is much more convincing than just blowing up.
“You don’t have to convince them that your point of view is the one they should have, you just have to convince them that there are people in the world who do not share their point of view and in fact find it reprehensible…But not giving them space or validation for their complete bullshit opinions is a valid way to start them down that path. Even if it never works, at least they know that there are people out there who are not hitting like on their bullshit.”
YES. I’ve been trying to figure out how to put this in words, and it looks like you did it for me. Recently I started going to a Meetup group with a woman who is vocally anti-feminist (and calls herself an anti-feminist anarchist???- I dunno, some weird variation on anti-feminist I guess). In any case, this woman really plays up the fact that she is SO against feminists, and talks about it apropos of nothing, clearly baiting others in the group to try and debate her. But her description of feminism is this: “Feminists just want SAFE SPACES and not to be TRIGGERED, but the world isn’t like that. They’re such snowflakes” I can’t decide if she literally thinks that the central tenets of feminism are around safe spaces and trigger words or that’s just what she is choosing to focus on.
In general, I’ve avoided taking the bait because it’s clear she’s already made up her mind. However, she did give me a great opening, as she baffingly said: “I could never be a feminist because I’m just too truthful and tell it like it is. Feminists always have to be nice and sweet.” (I was baffled because every other stereotype of feminists is that we’re man hating bitches, but… ok…) At that point, I locked eyes with her and quietly said: “Well, I’m a feminist and I am neither nice nor sweet. In fact, most feminists are extremely tough,” and then there was just silence for a beat.
She backed off pretty much immediately and we all moved on to a different topic. While I don’t have high hopes that she will ever actually change her viewpoint, I do think that my response threw her off guard, partially because most of the other women won’t engage with her, and partially because I probably don’t *seem* like a feminist to her. I generally like to engage in debates with the group but I pick and choose what I speak up for. I fully expect that the next time I see her she’ll find some way to try and challenge my feminist viewpoint, but I’ve already got a few scripts to help me sidestep it because it really *isn’t* worth debating with her.
From the few choice quotes you mentioned it just sounds like she’s regularly reading some red-pill internet hole and just familiar with misogynist reactions to feminists, but not with feminist content.
WHERE IS YOUR TED TALK?!?
I’m going to print this out and read it over and over until it’s seared into my brain. Look out, creeps and racists and jerks of all varieties – my voice is about to get effing LOUDER.
Ohhh, yes! +1
If CA was up for doing a TED talk I would definitely nominate her.
What the hell, sure, thank you!
Geek social fallacies needs to be a ted talk so hard. I can see the PowerPoint headers already.
Post more details as they become available! Eleventy!
I am doing the form but I think it would be worth getting someone you know in person to fill in a nomination so you can chat about the best links to put in it and what you would want to talk about. It would be amazing.
Yes bravo! Excellent post! I am the spectre at the feast receiving looks from groups waiting for me to go into action whenever a sexist/racist/homophobic etc etc comment rears its ugly head. Also I have been baited because of this in family situations. Not a good feeling, and I always feel sick to my stomach afterwards because years of putting up with shit to keep the peace is difficult to overcome. But once I learned how to perform icy responses, it felt a bit better, rather than the all out nuclear option that has characterised some of my responses in the past (not that this option is completely off the table). As other commentators have said, often other people will come to me later and say they were glad I said something. So, here’s to all of us who step up, and also to all of us who silently cheer us on.
Iciness works so well *on me* when I fuck up I can’t believe it took me until I was in my mid 30’s to utilize it myself.
Iciness is a great first response.
But don’t be afraid to ramp it up! (Looking at you, creepy guy who gives shoulder massages without asking even though I’ve been telling you I don’t like it for the last fifteen *years* because ‘everyone likes them’ who is totally going to get yelled at next time)
Cap, thank you so much for calling these behaviours out, it is SO helpful in being able to identify these unique (yet universally awful) ways of enabling horrible words/actions/people. And your scripts are amazing as always (and the humour helps so much). It’s also really reassuring and hella relatable to hear you say it’s okay if “you lose your temper or it comes out garbled or you shake or your voice shakes or you cry,” because I struggle with that so much in the moment, and it makes it hard to feel like I did a good job and want to try again as a result. That part really meant a lot.
What works for me is The Broken Record approach. Sporting a chilly smile or a frosty glare I keep repeating things like “what I just heard you say, I find it gross/insulting/sexist/racist etc. If people say things like o it was a joke, I didn’t mean it etc. I just keep repeating i heard you saying x and i find it gross/insulting etc. I practiced these kind of standard responses at home, until they come to me automatically. Then I can keep calm and use them in stressful social situations. And yes, often afterwards someone says thank you. Plus I notice people respect me more and sometimes even start helping. It may not work for everybody but for me it does.
“Here is the secret, the cheat code, the truth: The people you know who are good at speaking up in tense situations probably didn’t start out that way. It is a habit and a skill that you can develop with time and practice. The more you do it, the more you feel like you can do it. And the more you do it, the people who can’t be trusted not to carry water for creeps and assholes will show themselves, making them easier to avoid in the future.”
I didn’t know this until today, and it’s really helpful to know that this is something one can *learn.* Thank you, Captain. I’m still in the very nascent stages of trying to do this.
OMIGOD it takes SO MUCH PRACTICE and still sometimes doesn’t work.
That’s the other part of the secret, that sometimes you do things really awesomely well and it still doesn’t work out the way you would desire. That doesn’t mean you were wrong it just means the situation was too fucked up for you to fix, or maybe that a better strategy would have worked better, but anyway you didn’t cause the problem and you did your best to try to fix it so you’re awesome and the problem-causers are losers, end of story.
Yeah, isn’t that the truth? I’ve wondered if I’ve done something wrong for things not to work out (like my abusive relationship), but after therapy and some self-help books, there was absolutely nothing I could have done except preserve my own safety, emotional and physical.
100%. I am known as The Outspoken One, but I didn’t start out that way. I’ll tell you another secret: when you’re new to it, it takes more effort to speak up than it does to keep quiet. The more practice you get, the more that shifts. Eventually, you’ll find that holding your tongue is harder that speaking out. Keep fighting the good fight. You’ll get there.
Thanks so much! It means a lot to hear that from someone like you. I’ve spent time kicking myself when it doesn’t go perfectly, so it helps to hear you tell me that it’s really just practice. ❤
It really is ❤
Some of these new Geek Social Fallacies are also aspects of White Supremacy Culture, as listed in this article: http://www.cwsworkshop.org/PARC_site_B/dr-culture.html
The article lists “objectivity” as an aspect of white supremacy culture, in the sense that a person showing emotion about a topic invalidates their argument because they are no longer being objective; as in GSF #8.
Right to Comfort is another one — that a person with power’s right to emotional comfort is more important than an oppressed person’s physical safety. This is why calling out bad behavior makes you just as bad as the person who did the behavior (GSF #8). You’re impinging on their right to comfort.
This article blew my mind when I first read it, and I keep having to go back to it and relearn its lessons.
Thank you for this article, it is so useful and we’re clearly thinking along the same lines. I’ve read it three times already.
Just as a small note: reading this article about White Supremacy Culture, I’m reminded of Issendai’s rules about how to set up a sick system. There seems to be a LOT of overlap between the two.
Oh wow, I’m seeing a LOT of diet culture in this as well. Everything is connected!
Captain! I love you, I love your blog, you do important work.
BUT WE DO NOT PUNCH NAZIS.
We do not use physical violence to get our political will done, to get our point across, or to affect change. We are members of a civil society where we can VOTE, ORGANIZE, MARCH, we can be heard in many ways. Violence is a monopoly held by the state. You undermine not only your cause, but democracy itself, when you shortcut to fists. Violence is the last resort of the unheard or threatened.
Please, PLEASE, edit this. Please! Do not hit anybody! Not even Nazis!
Nazis want to kill me. But you’re right, we should never punch people who actively want to harm us. All we have to do is reason with them, right?
Yeah, I’m not for “civility” when all it’s done is make things worse, and when the parties in question don’t think I’m human.
If they menace you, threaten you, stalk you, ANYTHING to make you think you are in danger? Shoot the bastards. If they are SPEAKING? No. No hitting.
Are you a robot stuck on “kindergarten teacher”? Just repeating “no hitting” to everyone that disagrees with you isn’t really engagement, and is also super obnoxious IMO.
It’s a lesson you should have learned then. I’m struck by the amount of people here today who can’t see this basic fundamental truth. I’m choosing to blame a lack of civics education in schools these days, but who knows.
You know what’s funny, I actually tested out of civics (probably because I knew the difference between government restrictions on speech and individual consequences from speech) so I ended up taking more history classes.
Dopeameanie: If you check out real history of non-violent resistance, they only worked because there was a threat (or actual) violent resistance.
– Gandhi? The Brits didn’t want to deal with the pending civil war and used him as a good excuse to bow out (some history in my name link)
– MLK? Farrakhan and Malcolm X
– Mandela? The ANC had a violent arm
It’s not as simple as ‘no violence, violence destroys the roots of democracy!’. It’s actually *really* complex. One professor wrote a widely respected guide about when non-violent protest is likely to be effective, and the US is currently losing many of the tools that *make* non-violence effective, especially in the breakdown of political norms and rules, and the undermining of the free press.
You are free to practice non-violence. I’ll actually join you there, I am not willing to harm others except in defense against immediate harm. But the basis of your argument, that it undermines a free democracy, is factually incorrect, and you should not try to use that to persuade others. Find a different argument. Something that addresses the complexity of fighting to protect people whose lives are in danger against people who are willing to use violence at every level, from personal to the state.
I focus more on providing a positive alternative, ‘I prefer working with the rules through voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives on the day over violence, as I think they are more effective in the long term.’
“You know what’s funny, I actually tested out of civics (probably because I knew the difference between government restrictions on speech and individual consequences from speech)”
Oh SNAP!! I think I love you (in the totally admiringly, not-creepy kinda way 🙂 )
They are menacing us. To repeat: they want to see me, people I care about, and people like me and people I care about. They are menacing and dangerous by definition of being Nazis.
I also think you could stand to reread the very article you’re commenting on because the way you’re addressing people here is part of the fallacies mentioned.
the way you’re addressing people here is part of the fallacies mentioned.
Exactly. Instead of agreeing that Nazis are objectively FUCKING TERRIBLE you’re scolding people for not being sufficiently nice to them.
Would I, personally, punch a Nazi? I don’t know. But I’m not going to lecture people who feel directly and personally threatened by them as to the proper way to respond to that threat.
“You” referring to Dopameanie, if that’s not clear.
That depends. Are they trying to order a sandwich or are they trying to recruit more Nazis?
Nazis don’t get to have sandwiches. Unless it’s the knuckle- or shit-sandwich variety.
There is that aspect, no doubt.
My comment, which I should have made more clear, was an attempt to delineate between types of speech as a rebuttal of the idea that Nazis giving pro-Nazi talks is not hurting anyone. Ordering a sandwich is a kind of harmless speech. Nazis trying to recruit other Nazis on college campuses and media like TV is the opposite of speech that is harmless.
I can’t really agree.
Looking upthread I see an anecdote where someone DID have to use a threat of violence to get a guy to back off.
Sometimes, all we need is our words, and sometimes we need to make Nazis as afraid as they make everyone else.
I will absolutely punch, slap, or kick a Nazi.
Do alllll the violence to Nazis you need to. IF you are in danger of violence yourself. But if they are in their stupid hats doing a racist parade, do not hurt them. The glory of our political system is that everybody can talk. The bad and stupid need to be laughed and pointed at, not sucker punched during a tv interview.
The existence of Nazis is a threat of violence. The presence of Nazis is a threat to my safety.
Sorry, didn’t scroll down before commenting.
No. If they’re marching down the street in their fucking swastika armbands chanting “Jews will not replace us” that is intimidation and a threat. They deserve everything they get. They’ve mowed down counter protestors already AND KILLED ONE.
Right on my sibling.
Considering Nazis would love to see me, my family, and most of my friends dead, I think that it’s not a bad idea to punch them.
It is a TERRIBLE IDEA. It is the end of democracy. What is the difference between what you said and “I should bomb this abortion clinic to save innocent lives”
If you are not in immediate physical danger, and you hit someone who disagrees with you politically, you are in the wrong and a discredit to your country.
I am in danger. I am in danger from Nazis by them existing. They actively want me dead. If you cannot see the difference between defensively protecting myself against people who literally want me and everyone like me to die, then I cannot help you.
Welcome to living with the paradox of tolerance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paradox_of_tolerance).
That is a cruel thing to say to someone who’s said that they and their loved ones would be severely threatened by Nazis. Horribly, horribly cruel.
And let me guess. If someone does engage in violence out of fear for their life, you, Dopameanie, will Monday-night-quarterback whether or not they really were in “immediate physical danger.”
I mean, “these people want me dead so I’m OK with hitting them” = being a disgrace to your country? Are you kidding me here? My blood’s boiling.
The state? Currently supports Nazis. The state? Currently has said that the people who murdered a protestor are as bad as the protestors themselves. So excuse me if I am not willing to wait for the state to protect me from those who wish me harm. I have to actively live near prominent Nazis every day of my life. Do not deign to tell me how I should act around them when I know how they will act around me.
these people want me dead so I’m OK with hitting them” = being a disgrace to your country?
I believe the people saying that are the white moderates Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. warned us about.
Oh, I’ll bet. It’s why we have the “we have to be NICE” raging all over the news over the past two weeks.
I am quite a nice, mild-mannered person IRL, but I gotta admit, I’m kinda done with “civil,” or at least this white moderate version of it.
Abortion clinics aren’t Nazis…?
YEAH. MINE TOO! I SACRIFICED FOR THIS SYSTEM OF GOVERNMENT.
AND PEOPLE WHO HAVE NEVER SEEN THEIR ALTERNATIVES ARE ATTEMPTING TO BURN IT DOWN!
But I’m not going to find the next democratic socialist and hit them. Or the next communist. Or the next Nazi. See? Everyone gets to talk.
Bitch please, I lived and worked in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union between 1994 and 1998 and watched as they literally dismantled police states of the past, I was there when Czech Republic passed lustration laws that revealed who had been secret police informants, I worked with an organization of women from the former Yugoslavia who helped each other find their dead kinfolk across borders after the conflicts and genocide there, I took down oral histories of Holocaust survivors, you’re not the only one who has ever thought about these things or who wants there to be truth and reconciliation and fucking peace in the world. You’re not the only one who is terrified that we are holding onto democracy by the skin of our teeth.
Truth and reconciliation is for after the terror stops.
I’m not gonna punch you, either, even after the ways you’ve falsely equated Nazis with Democratic Socialists or Communists or clinics that provide necessary reproductive healthcare, but I am gonna kick your ass out of my comment section for the day. Stop. Now. Stop.
I realized my punctuation was VERY ambiguous here. Abortion clinics ARE NOT Nazis – the question mark was meant to imply that the point was so ludicrous I wasn’t sure I heard it right, not that there was any doubt in my mind. My sincere apologies for any confusion.
@Dopameanie: You don’t know me, goddammit. You think I haven’t seen the alternatives? My family fled their country in WWII TO ESCAPE SAID ALTERNATIVES AND EXPERIENCED IT GROWING UP.
I don’t care about Nazis getting to talk. I don’t WANT them to talk, not after what they’ve done, then and now.
You DO realize that the actual Nazis outlawed abortion, right?
So, Dopameanie, what constitutes “immediate physical danger,” and who gets to be the arbiter of this? Are you suggesting I wait until the knife is an inch away from my belly, or do I get to defend myself when dude walks into the room holding a knife and talking about how much he loves stabbing people? Because if you seriously think that nazis openly talking about their nazi hopes and dreams doesn’t constitute an immediate threat, then I’d wager you’re not very good at judging threats, and don’t have any business trying to council the rest of us on that matter.
Democracy is already dead in the US. I’m not being hyperbolic, and I’m not even talking about Trump. Just – with gerrymandering, voter suppression, and the blocking of supreme court nominations, you literally do not have a democracy right now. It is not seen as a democracy by the international community. (on that note ‘discredit to your country’ is a very weird thing to say, who cares about being a credit to their country? apart from nazis, obviously)
This isn’t even about punching Nazis (which I’m largely against, at least when they’re just walking around in public – mainly because I think the people who actually do punch them are not so much people who hate Nazis but people who love punching and will probably punch the women in their lives as well – I’ve had enough of celebrating violent men)
The abortion clinic argument doesn’t really hold water – the content (abortion vs nazism) actually does matter. It is fine to treat Nazis one way and abortion doctors a different way.
No one hear is suggesting bombing an abortion clinic, and the people who want to are going to do it anyway. not punching Nazis will not stop them bombing abortion clinics.
If you disagree with punching Nazis (which I think is a valid position for the reason I gave above) then you have to argue why it’s bad to punch Nazis, not why it;s bad to bomb abortion clinics
Nazis = end of democracy. Punching against oppression does not.
You think a God-Emperor ever woke up one day and said, “Wow, I feel so bad about oppressing and enslaving and murdering all these people; I should kindly bestow democracy and equality upon them!” and then peacefully gave it all up for the benefit of all humankind? You think the system of oppression and everyone in power around the Gode-Emperor ever let them, even if they wanted to?
Here in the UK, we got the Magna Carta *after* the Barons threatened to overthrow the King, and more moves to parliamentary democracy *after* other Kings were threatened or even killed and replaced. We got real parliamentary democracy *after* the French Revolution, when the French killed all their aristocrats. Working class men got the vote *after* the Russsian Revolution in 1917, when the Communists executed the entire royal family and most of their aristocrats. Women got the vote *after* suffragettes ran a really scarily successful *bombing and arson campaign*. We got things like the Race Relations Act or the repeal of the Poll Tax *after* street riots.
All of those decisions were only made – and this was acknowledged at the time – *after* threats and/or actual violence.
Democracy only exists because poor and oppressed people started using violence and demanding equality with menaces.
Mobs/rioters/terrorists/freedom fighters is literally how we got from absolute rulers, divine right of kings, slavery and colonialism to modern day democracy. Democracy relies on the social contract – aka people giving their consent to be ruled – and the constant threat that consent can be withdrawn.
The Republic of Ireland only exists in its current form – as an independent sovereign nation – because of a two year guerrilla war. The bulk of the original Irish Volunteer Force joined the British Army and fought in France and at Gallipoli during WWI to show we would still be good subjects even with a devolved government of our own. At Versailles our delegation was not allowed to speak because Britain said the issue of Irish independence was an internal issue, and America just sat there and agreed. I’ll take what happened afterwards over being beholden to racist and contrarian fucks who have dragged Scotland out of the EU against the will of its people.
If my country is ok with Nazis, my country deserves to be discredited.
I don’t know, Dopeameanie, maybe the difference is CONTEXT?
Cannot co-sign. If hitting a Nazi (or anyone else who needed it) flips someone to being a Nazi in response, that flipper is a terrible human being who should be ashamed of themselves.
Not the point. Political violence done to others-even those who really, REALLY deserve it is a mistake. Always. If you are threatened? Hit ‘em once for me once they are down. If they are just speaking? NOOOOOO
You know, there’s an old saying: “Don’t be so open minded that your brains fall out.”
By “we” you mean “you.” You do not punch Nazis, and that’s your right. Me, I’m like, really surprisingly ok with it.
Personally, I am short and fat and slow and I get better mileage out of ruthlessly mocking them. I probably watch the video of the Proud Boy who can’t tear the sign in half once a week. I also like shunning them completely from your family and social group.
But I refuse to host or give air to the argument that punching Nazis is what turns them into more Nazilike Nazis. Nazis advocate violence. They do violence. They want to murder people. The Nazis who descended on Charlottesville punched people and beat them up and murdered a lady by driving a car into her. In places where they have their rallies, they walk around in groups looking for lone gay or black or brown or Jewish people and they beat those people up. You can’t like, hug it out of them. All of the non-violent resistance stuff advocated by Gandhi and Martin Luther King doesn’t mean that there isn’t violence, it just means that you show up in numbers and let the violence happen to you over and over again until they do something bad enough to you that other people’s consciences eventually takes over. That moves people of conscience, eventually, sort of, but Nazis don’t really give a shit. Nazis only care about power.
What we’re learning from the brave acts of Antifa everywhere is that a lot of Nazis are physical cowards and they can be chased out of your town if they are scared they’ll get their asses beat. That requires numbers, and willingness to punch a Nazi, and other physical cowards like me who donate to the bail funds in case they get arrested. The “don’t punch them or you’ll just make more Nazis” people don’t help, like, at all, unless you’re volunteering to show up where they are and risk getting your ass beat so that someone more marginalized than you doesn’t have to that day.
Punch or don’t punch, as you will. I’d vastly prefer punching them now to the shooting war we’ll have if we can’t stop them pretty soon. And I will not be editing my post.
I’m not talking about changing minds. I’m not talking about Ghandi. I’m not even talking about handing your political foes an easy PR victory. I’m talking about democracy. If you can’t out-speak a Nazi, then donate money to someone who can.
If you are in danger, punch away. If you interrupt speech with fists, YOU ARE A PROBLEM
Dopameanie, you seem to think that speech can’t be dangerous. That’s a false assumption.
Speech can of course be dangerous. It can, for example, encourage people to punch Nazis, which is dangerous to democracy.
It can also, for example, be used to discourage people from defending themselves against abuse by gaslighting them into thinking that if they defend themselves they are the ones in the wrong.
You know, like you are doing now.
Ok, I’m the problem! Good talk.
Did you know that when Nazis speak “peacefully” on campuses, there are hate crimes against vulnerable students before and after the speeches? Like their “peaceful democratic free speech” results in actual violence against queer students and students of color? Did you know that some of them have done workshops on “how to call ICE” on undocumented students?
Did you know that when Nazis hung flyers all weekend in my neighborhood, they put razor blades behind the fliers so that people ripping them down would cut their hands?
Did you know that Nazis (like many predators, abusers, and other violent people) pervert democratic institutions to violent ends? And use other people’s love of debate and civility as a way to infiltrate and get their ideas mainstreamed? Did you know that they don’t give a shit about rules or norms?
You could keep commenting in this thread or you could go and find the closest white supremacist in your life (chances are there is at least one) and gently, kindly change their mind. One more you can convince, one less we have to punch!
Captain, I have actually done that. Did you know that your position is exactly the same as those who advocate the murder of nurses at abortion clinics? You are wrong about this, I am so sorry, you are just wrong. I know the other side does bad stuff, I know it hurts to watch innocents suffer, I know thinking about it feels really good, but this isn’t the way to handle it. You were gifted a maddening system of government that is flawed and confusing and is also the best damn thing that ever happened. Not because this problem is easy to fix, but because it can be fixed without violence.
Captain, please, I’ve been sent to countries where political will is determined by who has the most bullets. Please don’t advocate for their method of change.
I didn’t say ‘murder’ Nazis, I said punch them if you have to so they flee like the sad little bullies they are, while their numbers are small and they are still in the minority.
It is not “exactly the same,” though they would fucking jerk off in glee to the way you are making their bad arguments for them. “Don’t punch us, you’ll be just as bad as when we find a lone immigrant in your neighborhood and beat the shit out of him later.” Good fucking grief.
I am fucking done with your army of straw men today, Dopameanie. I will ban you if you can’t ban yourself for the day. I’d prefer not to? But I will.
If democracy requires us to submit to Nazis’ violence before we can stand up for ourselves, if it means being civil while the opponents of democracy tear down its institutions in favor of fascism and hatred, if it comprises nothing but “we go high” and “violence is the last refuge” platitudes, then democracy isn’t fucking worth saving.
But I think it is. And I think that a whole lot of people are taking a hard look at the second half of “enemies foreign and domestic” and realizing what is required if we are to save our country from the bigots and the theocrats and the oligarchs and plutocrats who would happily see us all burn as long as their 401(k)s are safe. And it’s not pretty and it’s not polite and it SURE as hell isn’t Marquis of Queensbury rules – but it’s time we played the same game on the same field as the people who want. us. DEAD.
Did you know that your position is exactly the same as those who advocate the murder of nurses at abortion clinics?
No. Just fucking NO. The people who advocate the murder of nurses at abortion clinics? THOSE are the Nazis. Not the nurses who stand up to them. Not the escorts who stand between them and those they wish harm on.
You are right now doing the equivalent of telling the escorts and nurses to shut up and stop being so darn RUDE to those misunderstood anti-abortion terrorists.
Seriously, this is FUCKED UP. Shame on you.
Dopameanie I think you are the problem here and I completely disagree with your repeated ‘we don’t hit’ commands.
I’m horrified and appalled that you continue to argue with the Captain and Awkwardeers, on this of all posts.
Although I guess you are giving me the opportunity to practice speaking up, so…
Right? “We don’t hit” is a great lesson for two year olds. Not for Nazis.
It’s Gandhi, not Ghandi.
Also: most of the times non-violence has been effective it’s been because there was a threat of violence. Iirc, only the anti-Vietnam War protests were effective based on ‘other people’s consciences’, and it was, like Gandhi in India, because the govt wanted a face-saver for doing what they really wanted to do (ie, get out).
Thank you for demonstrating GSFs #s 6 & 9, Dopameanie.
Thank you for bringing Proud Boy to my attention.
No, YOU don’t punch Nazis, and that’s a valid way for you to go.
Me? I punch Nazis if the occasion calls for it.
If you interrupt speech with violence, you give credence to the dark corner of society that thinks we can just hurt our way to social change. You are ripping away at the fabric of society.
If Nazis take away your right to speak or vote, I’ll join the revolution. We aren’t there yet.
They are taking away people’s ability to vote, have been for a while. With ID requirements, with voter roll purges, and with making votes count less through gerrymandering.
The time for revolution is now.
This. The voter roll purges were just last month, IIRC, and just yesterday I read about a naturalized US citizen being informed they weren’t a citizen when they tried to confirm their voter registration. The time to act is now.
codenameminali, was this Facebook post the one you are talking about?
It’s nightmare fuel.
Yes, that one. Thanks for bringing it up. It’s really fucking horrifying, isn’t it?
I live in NC. My voice has been nothing for the last seven years.
Will you join the revolution when they take away black people’s right to vote, and rural poor people’s right to vote?
If yes, good, you should be on the front lines already, because that’s ongoing Republican policy and practice, and how Trump won in Michigan. If not, why is my vote worth fighting for when other people’s aren’t?
When Nazis take away my right to speak and vote, it’ll be too fucking late to revolt. And you’ll do what you’re doing now, which is concern trolling me because I don’t think Nazis should get to Naz without consequences.
Go tell someone else the chocolate ration has increased. I know better.
Go tell someone else the chocolate ration has increased.
I don’t punch anyone because it makes my hand hurt.
I stomp on their insteps.
1. “Violence is the last resort of the unheard or threatened.” Nazism IS a threat. Punching Nazis is self-defense. Vote, organize, march, YES, but Nazis weren’t defeated by peaceable means in the 40s and I’m not waiting until (more) people start dying to see if that’s going to change now.
2. Apologies to the Captain if I’m speaking over or for her but this entire post is about not invalidating how other people resist because you’re uncomfortable with it so telling her “we don’t hit” like she’s three years old seems to be missing the point a bit.
Let’s talk about the “riots are the the language of the unheard” from Martin Luther King, that Dopameanie sort of quoting. In context it’s more of a “we’re doing our best to go another way, and I think that will be what wins the day in the end, but please don’t act like riots are worse than that terror and deprivation that the people who riot are living through” message than a “riots are wrong and nobody should do it” message.
It’s better, like everything, when he says it:
Quoting Martin Luther King in order to quell dissent or make it less dissent-y is always going to be fucking embarrassing, I do not know how to get my fellow white folks to stop doing it, but I sure will try.
Dissent away! Dissent loudly! No platform! Shout em down! Point and laugh at them!
When they menace you, shoot em! I’ll help!!
But when you see someone speaking hate, and have no answer to speech than violence, you are SPITTING on a flag I watched people bleed for. I served so YOU can say whatever the eff you wanna say.
Im begging you, reconsider this point.
Since we’re now playing the veteran card: I served 9y 7m and 1d and then I watched Nazis roll into Charlottesville just 50 miles south of me and commit brutal assaults and a murder, and here you sit to tell my DEMOCRATIC Socialist ass I’m as big a threat to democracy as they are and you should be punching me? Let me know when the DSA rolls into your community armed to the teeth. We’re not the ones showing up to commit terror, but we were damn sure among the victims on August 12, 2017, in Charlottesville. I served so that people didn’t have to deal with goddamned Nazis and the state isn’t doing its job on that front so I say punch away, friends.
Sorry to derail, but I find it bizarre to read your oh so cavalier words about shooting people. On the whole, someone can survive a punch… guns not so much.
Don’t play the damned veteran card. I’m a vet, the father of my children is a combat vet. Every generation of my family since we stepped foot on american soil has served.
We served and sacrificed, we bled and watched our friends die to keep what is in peril right now safe. We are supposed to be the protectors of the innocent, keepers of freedom. The time to act is now. If you cannot keep from coddling the damned nazis who are the true threat you are enabling them. We will be doing what we have always done – server and protect, from ALL enemies, foreign AND DOMESTIC.
I bled for that flag, and not all my friends came home. I will punch nazis when they try to bring their hate to my neighborhood.
And you are spitting on the memory of veterans like my dad, who lied about his age so at 15 he could fight in WWII. He was kind, compassionate, and non-violent, but still knew the nazis & those they allied with were evil and needed to be stopped. And I doubt he’d have issues with anyone punching a nazi today.
Fuck the flag. I’m concerned about the people the Nazis are targeting.
Allow me to quote someone else for you then:
“I disagree mightily with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
That quote comes from the French Enlightenment, an era that should actually be more famous for its sexism, racism (including slavery and slave trade), colonialism and more -isms. Like, Dopameanie, PLEASE stop.
No. You’re misusing that quote. Much like the First Amendment, the intent is to keep the GOVERNMENT from imposing penalties on you for the content of your speech. Anyone else – employers, friends, family, the public at large – can impose consequences left and right, as they should. It’s notable that Nazi hate speech is an allowable exception to this rule: even the government can legally quash their speech. (Even though, sadly, the current government is not doing so.) EVEN THE FIRST AMENDMENT ALLOWS NAZI SPEECH TO BE QUASHED. What is wrong with you, Dopameanie?
This quote is attributed to Voltaire, but it’s actually how his biographer described his philosophy in a forward. There’s no evidence Voltaire himself said it. The words were written more than 100 years after he died and probably don’t describe his philosophy at all.
This “civil society” of which we are members separates children from parents who are trying to save them, systematically disenfranchises people of color, enables rape culture, and continues to perpetrate atrocities on Native peoples.
Violence is manifestly not a monopoly held by the state.
But to yoink something I saw on Twitter and cannot now find, rest assured, if you are imprisoned unlawfully, beaten, denied legal counsel, and have your rights stripped away, be sure that I will be very polite to the people who did it to you.
And you know what? America SPOKE, and change happened. The Democratic Party didn’t roll up in tanks shouting FREE THE BABIEZ! We protested, we TALKED ABOUT IT.
Political volence is bad for America, period.
You should familiarize yourself with the American labor movement, which was FULL of political violence, top to bottom.
Don’t confuse them with actual facts. They might be forced to concern troll you some more.
Political violence got us the Civil Rights Act.
And women’s suffrage! Those ladies did not play.
No one is saying “stop protesting any other way, only punch Nazis.”
But are the babies actually freed yet? Did the change actually happen yet? We’re working on it, and we should keep working on it, but it’s not exactly the only thing happening in the world, and until every one of those kids AND their families are FREE and CARED FOR, we are not done.
In the meantime, Nazis are planning another giant fucking rally on the National Mall on the anniversary of Charlottesville, and our fuckass Nazi president is gonna pretend that they are “very fine people” and they are, mark my words, gonna try to murder some vulnerable people again. They are emboldened now, and you can’t fucking hug them out of it.
Again I will say:
Take all the energy that you are throwing at me right now, go find a white supremacist you know, and argue with them.
Go bug your member of Congress.
I literally do not have time for your shit today, Dopameanie. If that makes you hang out here less, OKAY. Knock it the fuck off in this thread. Go tell someone how uncivil I’m being (not my email, it’s full).
I’m sorry I didn’t see your request for me to stop posting earlier. I’ve read it now and I will stop posting on this thread. I respect that this is your firmly held belief, and am glad you have the ability to say it loudly and proudly with no fear of consequences from your government -including no platforming people you disagree with.
If you didn’t see it it’s because you’re not reading a fucking word of what I’m saying, I’ve been telling you to stop for literally an hour. Come by some other day, though, thank you.
Captain, I don’t believe you.
*google google google* Nazis rally on the National Mall
GOOGLE, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU.
Yes, folks, in this case Google must have gotten it wrong. Must have.
You do not punch Nazis. Good for you. But don’t tell me that I can’t use force if i need to: violence may be the “last resort” of the unheard and threatened, but it is also the first resort of the fascists, who aren’t going to listen if you go over there and politely tell them “We do not punch Jews” or “We do not attack black people” or “We do not beat up trans women.”
To put this bluntly: at what point in the downward spiral to oblivion would you accept fighting back? In the Warsaw ghetto? Is it acceptable to you for Roma who are being murdered by fascists this year in Europe to fight in defense of their lives, or have their not yet been enough deaths? Would it have been ethical for Matthew Shepard to fight for his life?
It looks here like you’re responding to “this man assaulted me over and over, even when I told him to stop. Then I grabbed him, didn’t actually kick him even though he had hurt me dozens of times, and demanded he stop, and that worked” and instead of seeing that as an example of someone who wasn’t being heard when she didn’t fight back, you’re saying she should have accepted more physical abuse. If there was a “shortcut to fists” in that anecdote, it wasn’t taken by the person who told us about it, it was taken by the man who started hitting her for no reason except his own amusement.
Go preach pacifism to the Trump supporters–they’re the ones who need to hear it.
Nah, the VERY SECOND you are legally justified, shoot him. But not while he is on camera talking to a reporter, not bothering anyone.
As soon as you are threatened, violence is the correct response to defend yourself. Not before.
“Not bothering anyone.” By spreading Nazi hate speech on TV.
Dude, listen to yourself.
A Nazi’s very WORDS are bothering people. They are bothering anyone who is not straight, white, cis, and Christian. They are bothering us by being spread amongst others who wish us harm. If you think a Nazi talking about getting rid of anyone who doesn’t look like them “isn’t bothering anyone”, then it must be nice to have that privilege.
I’m confuse how you can be so adamantly against punching nazis in self defence, while simultaneously advocating deadly force “when legally justified.”
So you think we should let nazis make the laws? Because that’s what happens if you don’t resist.
You want to live in a place where all disagreement is gunfire? I don’t.
I think you just might be a nazi, Dope.
I 100% don’t think Dopameanie is a Nazi. And I’ve also temporarily disabled her commenting so she can’t defend herself, so, let’s not, please? Her posts have been rebutted, they were a hijack to the thread anyway, each person doesn’t have to respond to all of them. Have mercy on your moderator!
I do think she’s exhibiting some of the exact fallacies I was talking about in this post, i.e. defending civility at the expense of people who are in immediate danger, against people who openly mock and use civility as a weapon. It’s a very, very, very common and frustrating thing that is happening right now in all sorts of discourse. It is really, really hard to fight people who don’t fight fair, and you do lose something of yourself ethically in that exchange, and that’s part of why we have to fight them now, here, when they are small.
Falling prey to the fallacy doesn’t make people Nazis. But it does make it harder to fight them, and I think we need to say that at the risk of being seen as uncivil.
Sorry, came in after (or possibly during) the rebuttals.
Her weird arguments pinged some of my troll flags, too.
I will stop contributing to the derail.
sorry, didn’t see your post about backing off of Dopameanie until after I posted yesterday.
The repeated insistence here that punching is bad but escalating immediately from polite requests to SHOOTING with no middle ground is fine is… a little disturbing.
Yep, that had my red flags a-waving, too.
It is a LOT disturbing.
You can bet your ass that when I was a young bisexual out dancing with my queer and allied friends, that when the literal neo-Nazis came to the club steps looking for someone to single out and stomp into the fucking ground if not to death, we sounded the alarm and came out ready to fight. Real fight, not “you can beat up our friends today but we’re going to vote against that tomorrow!” fight, because a bunch of queer kids in the 1980’s didn’t have that kind of institutional power. It’s the only language they were willing to hear, so that’s what we came with. Thankfully Nazis are also cowards with a sense of self preservation and being outnumbered, they left, rather than lose a street fight to a bunch of pissed off gay boys and girls. (note: that was not what they called us, your brain can fill in the rest)
A year later, another neo-Nazi group associated with those very same guys killed an Ethiopian student in Portland, OR. That student did not have a large group of friends willing to put their lives on the line to save him.
Sometimes you do have to punch a Nazi, or at the very least make them believe you’re willing and able to.
We do though. Maybe you personally don’t, but the rest of us do.
“Violence is a monopoly held by the state.” Are you kidding me??? I know a hell of a lot of “states”, then.
That’s from International Relations 101. I think I still have my notes from that class. Once you get to the 300 and 400 level classes, you learn that most of what you were taught in 101 is so choked with caveats and addendums that it’s almost non-applicable except as a bouncing off point for REAL critical IR.
Ah, so it works the same way as economics courses, then. “Supply & Demand!”
Yes! I was actually thinking of my micro and macro economics courses when I wrote that. I had been told while taking those classes that they were really oversimplified, but didn’t think to apply the same reasoning to IR till just now.
And biology courses. I straight-up tell my students, “Look, this is an intro class. In the interest of teaching you the fundamental principles, we’re going to lie to you a lot.”
I learned it the other way round in 3L legal theory classes: a state is an entity that asserts a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. (Note “legitimate”.)
Thanks for the clarification. Still an irrelevant argument, I think (which I know wasn’t yours, FD!).
I’m fundamentally opposed to Nazi-punching as well, because I’m fundamentally opposed to all violence, even in many cases of self-defense.
But I think that’s a choice every oppressed person has the right to make for themselves: is violence a response to threats or actual violence, and when is the threat bad enough. Please don’t ask other people to choose to sacrifice their own safety for the value of nonviolence; that’s a choice you can only make for you.
Correction: please don’t *tell* people to make that choice, or ask people outside of the group you share oppressed identity with w/r/t their own oppressors. I ask white women to not hit mysogonists who aren’t groping someone all the time. I leave POC who want to punch Nazis alone, because they get to choose how to respond to that. I direct white men to resources from other pacifists who are POC and tell them they should be aware that there are many perspectives within the community they’re trying to help, and they should listen to the whole community before choosing their actions, and don’t tell or ask them to do anything else.
Nonviolence isn’t something that should ever be forced on anyone responding to a serious, existential threat to safety. And the white allies who have chosen to listen to POC who want physical protection from Nazis are making a valid choice.
Nope. Punch Nazis. Punch *anyone* who believes genocide is a solution. Punching Nazis is in fact the correct and moral way to handle Nazis.
Yeah hi I’m a Jew that grew up in Germany where there are not a lot of us for reasons everyone here knows. It would have been great if people had kindly reasoned with the Nazis but it would have been even better if they had violently resisted them.
Maybe I’d have more than half a family tree.
Nope. We punch Nazis.
No, honey. Refusing to stop these Nazis by any means necessary is how we get a Fourth Reich. Read your history, see how cowardly our American ancestors were about doing the right thing riiiight up until Pearl Harbor, and then strive to never be like that.
This is everything. I call it out every time at family gatherings, though it usually is just “Okay well this was fun, but that’s my cue to leave.” Everyone has learned that I am Not Fun. Oh well.
My parents are firmly in the “stay silent” camp, and I am trying to figure out how to explain to them that I am not the one making things uncomfortable… the person who said [racist thing] is, and they have made ME uncomfortable, so what my parents are asking is for me to just suck it up and be uncomfortable so the racist person does not have to be.
Also, I sometimes like to read the part of Harry Potter when Harry stands up to Umbridge in front of everyone, by telling the truth. Neville tells him that his standing up to Umbridge gave people courage, it was a powerful statement that inspired people. I have yet to inspire anyone by standing up for what’s right, probably because most of my family agrees with the racist comments, but it at least makes me feel better that I’m doing what Harry Potter would do 🙂
Very often, “you made everyone uncomfortable” means “you made ME uncomfortable (by saying the things I know I should have said and didn’t have the guts to)”. If those people want to be less uncomfortable, they should start saying the things they’re only thinking, like “That’s not OK” and “You’re being a bigot” and “Get the fuck out of my house and don’t come back until you learn how to live in civilized society.”
I decided I was officially Done with organized atheism when various prominent white male leaders started saying we couldn’t “deplatform” people just because they were saying hateful shit. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant, we need to point and laugh at these people,” blah blah blah. Okay, I could almost accept that in good faith, except…
For YEARS women and POC had been asking to be given more representation at conferences and events, and we’d been told over and over that while yes obviously that would be wonderful, there was limited space to be handed out, and you know we’re real sad about it but the famous (white) (cis male) (straight) (currently abled) speakers are the ones who are the real draw and bring people in. But don’t worry because they’re totally on your side against oppression anyway.
Now, I’m not saying these people making these decisions were Nazis. I’m sure if you asked them, they’d rush to assure you that, say, Milo Yiannopoulos is scum. But there’s a disconnect where they just don’t see that they worry about someone not getting room to speak only when that person looks like them, and why that might be a problem.
Pointing and laughing works when the opinions uttered are a) not violent, b) receiving a lot of immediate pushback from prominent members of the community, and c) occasional enough that they do not disrupt the group. (I’ve seen this work on usenet. Our trolls said ‘you suck’ and turned up maybe once a month.) But it’s impossible to point and laugh at ‘I know where you live. You deserve [threat redacted]’; it’s impossible to laugh when senior members of your community smile indulgently when threats are made at you (they have the attacker’s back. Not yours.); and it’s impossible to continue when you are constantly shoved into dogshit.
So, only 1% of comments are nasty? You can easily ignore them, can’t you? No.
A 1% shitposting rate means that – in a community like this – _every single post_ has at least two or three nasty comments (and then more comments dealing with the nastiness). Sometimes more. That gives you a 100% chance of encountering people who think [you oughtn’t exist/you ought to be put in your place/you need to shut up and who are willing to make you] every time you read the – otherwise awesome – comments, and if it continues unchecked, more people would feel empowered to spew their privilege all over you, and pretty soon it’s 5% nastiness … and a lot of people who are through with that shit and who don’t come to your community anymore because they’re sick and tired of being attacked.
If you want to shine sunlight on Nazis, ask (and pay) the awesome scholars and activists who debunk their arguments, who provide context, and who can give you tools to do further activist work yourself. Don’t pay the Nazis, either in money or in easy access to your group.
So….thinking about this….
I feel like there is a hierarchy of ethical responsibility to you and the world. I’m typing out loud here, so bear with me.
An Asshole is Having Opinions At You! What Do You Do?!
1. Primary responsibility: your safety.
Not only physical, mental too, ie – if this goes bad, are you gonna be a danger to yourself later? Will you be stranded two states away from home? Will you get jumped? If so, you do whatever you gotta do for you, screw everything following.
2. Secondary responsibility: your group, aka denial of solidarity.
If the only thing you think you can reasonably accomplish without jeopardizing your 1st responsibility is a lack of accommodation then let the group know you disagree without making it #aThing. Example: thanksgiving dinner. “Wow, Uncle, I didn’t know you felt that way about gay people. I disagree, but let’s agree on this pumpkin pie!
3. Third responsibility: your cause, aka Have The Debate
If you think you can change hearts and/or minds, go ahead and make it a thing. Commit to your position and have at it.
Imma have to think about and refine these declining levels of responsibility, but it feels…close? Anybody wanna help take a crack at it?
Dopameanie, you are missing the point of Nazi hate speech. It’s to get other people excited and incite them to violence. Sometimes it’s to incite black people or gays to hit them. More often it’s to incite people who think the same way they do to hit black people or gays. If you don’t believe me, go read their plans of action. They come right out and say it.
Hate speech is a violent attack in and of itself. Hitting Nazis is self defense. Nazis have, by their own actions, and by their words, lost the assumption of innocent intent. Please stop trying to give it back to them. You’ll end up killing someone. That’s not hyperbole.
“I truly think in my heart of hearts that it will good FOR YOU to have spoken up.”
I agree. Saying NO, NOPE, STOP IT NOW to things you don’t want makes it much more effective when you want to say YES to things you do want. Practicing the NO paves the way for welcoming into your life all kinds of wonderful things you wouldn’t think are even related to this situation.
I was half listening to the radio the other day and that “F R I E N D S” song was on (“Haven’t I made it obvious? Haven’t I made it clear? Want me to spell it out for you? F-R-I-E-N-D-S”) and it suddenly made me SO ANNOYED that there is a HIT POP SONG about this thing. It’s so common and relatable that a guy won’t take no for an answer that it is literally a HIT SONG on the radio. Jesus! Top 40 creeper culture.
Honestly, that FRIENDS song though – I *wish* I would have had it when I was a young kid. I think a lot of young men have no stupid clue about how damn (insert a spectrum between annoying to terrifying) they are. I LOVE that this song is in pop culture – it is so common and relatable AND DUDES should know that. (I work with The Youths. They are so much more savvy than us, and I’m looking forward to when they overthrow these narcissist boomers.)
That’s interesting. I like that she’s telling the guy to get bent, and is doing so in a clear firm way. That was my initial reaction. But then I got super annoyed that she had to tell him “four five six thousand times” because DUDE LISTEN when she tells you no. But I hear you, maybe I’m seeing it the wrong way…it’s good that this time when there’s something on the radio about this, it’s her saying no.
What has worked for me is to state, in one clear sentence, what the issue is. “I can’t be around you when you say racist/sexist/threatening things.” Then I leave. I go to the bathroom, or to the buffet table or to another event/venue/restaurant. The plan is to state my peace, then GTFO. It works in that I am safe and no longer listening to awful crap.
How do I unfollow comments? I wanted constructive, encouraging comments showing me how to stand up for myself and others despite years of being told to be quiet, not shouting about Nazis having the right to Nazi and the pros and cons of political violence.
Eek, I don’t know how to do that. Maybe something in here will help?
I…also…hoped for a constructive discussion today?
Dopameanie is done for the day and I will try to stop yelling at her in your email.
Nazis: They ruin everything.
Ah, that explains the vanishing comments (I had a notification that went poof). Thanks, Captain!
Very much appreciated! You are wonderful.
I practiced for a long time before I ever had the courage to say something in the moment. When I am worried I will be in a situation where something will be said that I can’t let pass, I will practice things to say. “If they say X, I will say Y, no wait, it’s funnier if I say Z instead. Right on! I will say Z!”
When it comes to people being jerks, if I don’t have anything nice to say, I say it nice and loud. Even if my voice shakes. 🙂
I took a course on dealing with difficult people, and the major takeaway was that it is important to plan and practice how you will respond in certain situations. So often when bad things happen people are stunned into silence and say or do nothing. Haven’t we all said to ourselves later “What I should have said was …”
Suddenly all the fictional arguments I’ve had in my shower feel more worthwhile. 😉
I used to do it on the elliptical. Better cardio if you’re also angry.
My therapist once suggested having them aloud while scrubbing the toilet for much the same reason.
This explains so well why it’s easy for me to pull out Teacher Voice on the drunk guy having a loud conversation at an Indigo Girls concert with the local symphony, but I totally froze when a colleague/officemate started touching a Black co-worker’s hair. (Colleague and I had A Conversation later about why You Do Not Do That, Ever.)
Oh yeah, practice definitely helps. I do the same thing, pacing around my apartment working out what I will say in a situation that worries me.
Sometimes, it’s even possible to practice during an encounter.
At Thanksgiving this past year, there was one friend of someone in the family who joined us, an older-end-of-middle-age white guy. He was seated on the other side of my spouse and reached across Spouse several several times to touch my hand or something. Spouse, being both the quintessential oblivious academic and jet-lagged to boot, did not notice, but I sure did, and started practicing in my head, “Don’t touch me,” “Don’t touch me,” “Stop touching me right now.” So after dinner when people were standing around and Old White Friend of the Family moved to sling an arm around my shoulders I managed to come out with “Please. Don’t. Touch. Me.” in a perfect dog trainer voice – just loud enough over regular conversational volume, dead level, and brooking no argument. He tried to chuckle at me, but I could see that he was really taken aback. And he left me alone for the rest of the evening.
(Spouse was really surprised when Old White Friend escalated to trying to put an arm around me and he was deeply apologetic for not realizing what was going earlier.)
That’s perfect. I might have said, “We don’t just reach for things in this family. What can I pass you?” in the moment, but I might equally likely have been so taken aback that I let it go until the same point you did.
I heard a fascinating discussion about ethics the other day. The scholar was discussing her work in which she examined peoples responses to ethical dilemmas in a workplace. She was trying to work out how to teach ethics in business in a meaningful way. She finally came the the conclusion that most people knew what was unethical, but the thing that made a difference in how people behaved (ie if they stood up for their beliefs or just justified/ignored poor behaviour) was if they had at some point in their life role played what they would do if they were in a situation like that. Had they ever had the discussion with a parent or a teacher or a mentor in which they imagined and practised what they would say if they were confronted with someone else doing something “wrong”.
I think this pacing around the apartment or practising whilst exercising or just scripting things out in our heads during the moment is an very powerful tool.
I’m sorry I cant recal the details of the program it was on the radio whilst I was driving
The Ethics Course in my office — and the Sexual Harassment focused on, for that matter — now includes role-playing scenarios. We are encouraged to take the course in a private room and say the words aloud.
This is also the logic behind the session I went to last year, on ways to respond (other than calling the police) if you see someone being harassed in public, including both sexual harassment and racist and other bigoted name-calling or attacks. The focus of that was on de-escalation, partly for the sake of the potential intervener and partly because it’s likely to be safest for the person you-the-bystander are trying to help. However, thinking about possible techniques ahead of time seems relevant in both cases.
I should get out what I wrote about that session at the time, as a refresher.
Because I can’t add anything about the content that others haven’t already said (Brava, Cap, this is another classic post I will reread often!), I do want to make this statement:
If CA ever writes a book, I think it should be called something along the lines of How to Deal with Creeps, Misogynists, Racists, and Other People You Don’t Want at Your Parties. Could also be the name of your TED talk, as others have suggested.
You have such a wonderful way with words! Thank you for all you do.
GSF #8 brings to mind the article that I like to cite THE MOST in the world. Essentially the author points out that people who experience discrimination/ oppression are much better at identifying that discrimination/ oppression than those who don’t. In other words, black people can spot racism better than white people. Women can identify sexism better than men. Trans folks can see transphobia where cis folks see nothing. So having experienced something makes you MORE OF AN EXPERT than not having experienced it.
McEwan’s quote really struck a chord for me. Going through law school exposed me to GSF #8 a lot — so many men saying I couldn’t be unbiased about sexism because I’m a woman!
Here’s the article: Russell K. Robinson, Perceptual Segregation. Eventually published in (I think) the Columbia Law Review. https://scholarship.law.berkeley.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1033&context=facpubs
Many years ago I lost a friend because he told me that as someone who had experienced sexual violence and child abuse, I was “too involved” to have a valid opinion on either. His opinion was the only valid one, because it was dispassionate and not spoilt by actual experience with the topic under discussion.
It’s been more than a decade and I’m still furious about that conversation, because he simply wouldn’t hear anyone telling him that his “dispassionate” opinion was actually an uninformed opinion, and maybe he should shut up and listen to people who knew more about things than he did.
That guy deserves to be shot into the cold depths of space without a spacesuit. If he’s not in full vacuum, how can he avoid being biased in his opinion about anything?
Also, is he my ex-fiance?
For your sake I really hope not. Ugh.
My ex-fiance never leveled up to spouse, for reasons that are obvious based on my question. Whenever I tried to talk to him about things in our relationship that upset me, he would say “I can’t trust anything you say right now because you are being emotional instead of rational.”
I think I just dislocated my jaw, it dropped so fast and so far. What a prick. I’m sorry that happened to you, and that that douchecanoe tried to invalidate you.
It’s amazing how expertise is vitally important until it’s coming from someone who is not a cis white dude, innit.
Oh well as a cis woman I hearby declare that getting kicked in the testicles doesn’t hurt and men who writhe and vomit after a nut-shot are just looking for attention.
Many people will say many supportive things about so much of the awesomeness you just laid out here, so I will be the (probably only) person to specifically cheer: A+++ use of hilarious Romeo and Juliet insult!!!
Thanks for noticing.
Yup, seconded! That was awesome
Definitely not the only one 🙂
GSF#9 was really useful to read. Today on Twitter some dude (a gamer with a checkmark) tweeted a long manifesto on what liberals need to do so he’ll not vote for Trump next time. “You’ve got to WANT me and make me feel welcome.” Among many other things, including silence ourselves. I was heartened by the vast ratio of people telling him “We DON’T want you, if that’s how you frame it.” Last I saw, he was whining about thousands of tweets of “hate” he got.
Whoops. This got misplaced, because I didn’t realize I hadn’t hit reply on this before I decided to respond to this.
What I was going to say was, I plan to start using “I do bite my thumb” whenever necessary.
We were talking about him on my twitter and I am 100% sure that he’s actually the dude in the comments to #703 who had a powerpoint ready to prove to his exgf how wrong she’d been to dump him. 😀
Soooo… that dude is basically saying that he’ll vote *against his own political leanings* if the opposing party is nice enough to him? Or that he *has* no political leanings, and just sort of floats around with the wind, like a fart?
I guess we’re all weird for thinking we should look at what each party says they’ll do (and tell them what we think they should do differently) then decide based on that. 😛
What he’s actually saying is, “I don’t like Trump but I can survive him if y’all don’t perform liberalism the way I want you to.” Privilege.
Me, I respect the hell out of anyone fighting this evil administration on any front, because I’ve done a spoon inventory and I just can’t, not without leaving myself far worse than I am now. Also privilege, of a different sort.
I left that comment about Powerpoint Guy and this is actually a different guy! I wish there were only one guy like that, I really do.
@slow lorist: DAMMIT! I really want there to be only one.
(Also I loved the image of that dude lovingly polishing the wankiest powerpoint on earth for decades just in case.)
@Drew: (We’re out of nesting here). As I’ve said to a few other people lately, you are not expendable. You are human, and thus part of what we are trying to preserve and defend.
I am trying to do some of this work, because it’s important, and because I have some available spoons, most weeks. I decided, on Saturday, that it was worth some hip pain to march against the separation of refugee families–that decision was based partly on my estimates of how bad the risk was, and partly on knowing that if I needed not to leave my apartment for a couple of days afterwards, I could do that and nobody would go unfed.
I believe I can reasonably ask people not to make things worse. Not to actively support fascism, racism, sexism, and all the other interconnected evils we’re trying to fight. And to listen if we’re told “you probably don’t know this, but X is sexist” or “organization Y is a front for white supremacists.” I can look at the information, and say either “thank you” or “I’m not sure about this, I googled and here’s what I found,” but not get defensive about “I’m not a racist” or “I was only trying to help.” Or even “there’s a tangle of conflicting websites on this, but you know what, I know of other places I do trust that can also use that donation.” It doesn’t require me to decide this is my highest priority.
@Vicki: Thank you. That’s very kind.
On the subject of ‘the creepy guy in the friend group’ and not punching Nazis right this second:
All my friends in my life, I have basically made through online RP. Meaning, when we got one of these guys in our last group (basically every kind of bad you can be–sexist, racist, transphobic, creeped on every girl character and sent every girl player weird random porn, extremely tasteless jokes and generally being an asshat to anyone who didn’t kiss his character’s feet) it ruined the place for so many people, basically all of whom were nonwhite and/or LGBT. Over the months the game went on, he did this stuff to literally everyone in the group. And for those months, basically everyone either tried to avoid him or thought they were being too sensitive, with the odd murmur of discontent that we sympathized about.
But at the exact second where I got fed up and announced to a smaller group that he wasn’t in, “Fuck that guy, am I right?”, literally everyone agreed with me and seemed horrified about all the stories everyone else was telling. We were all just sitting there and taking it because we figured everybody else wasn’t getting that or didn’t mind him. (I probably should have said that right to his face, but because of how the situation worked out, next time I will!) And he ended up getting booted from the group soon after, and now we kind of laugh about the amount of shit we put up with and how blatantly bad he was and none of us have to deal with him anymore.
Be the person that says “Fuck that guy!” It’s very rewarding, I swear!
Yes! We once voted a guy like this out of our RP group. It was very liberating.
Thank you, Captain. Your awesomeness makes me feel more hopeful, and a lot less alone.
M’lady Nay, your own script for dealing with the creeper us pretty good. I hope you get some backup from the rest of your group.
I had my own run-in with a creeper. He is the brother of a male (former) friend. He made lots of rapey comments, and leered at me a lot. I stayed overnight at another friend’s house, and woke up with Creepy looming over me. I complained about him, but no one ever cbacked me up. He got away with tons of illegal stuff because his mom was a deputy sheriff and she pulled strings for him.
I finally got fed up when Creepy brought some of his creepier friends to a party. I didn’t know he would be there, or I would have stayed home. He and his creep posse cornered me and told me they were planning to gang rape me. They were groping me and saying disgusting, rapey things. We were surrounded by other people, but no one said a word to stop them. I was terrified, and I freaked the fuck out. I just started screaming and punching him over and over. I am not recommending that behavior, that is just what I felt I had to do in that moment.
Everyone at the party knew the history between Creepy and me. Many of them saw the whole thing and heard what he & his friends were saying. Only one person took my side, and this friend and I got the hell out of there and went for pancakes. I was afraid to go home. My (former) best friend was at the party, and she said that she wouldn’t take sides because she was dating Creepy’s brother. I got a lot of calls from people who were judging me hard, but not judging Creepy at all. The consensus was that I should have smiled at Creepy and his pals, that I should have spoken to them quietly and sweetly and asked them politely if they would please stop groping me and making rapey comments. Apparently, Creepy and his friends were really scared of me, which was a bad thing? Oh, and lots of folks told me that he had just been kidding, and that I must not have a sense of humor.
In the end, I actually started to feel ashamed for defending myself. I stopped talking to most of that friend group. It sucked so much! But a few months later, one of the women at the party apologized. She asked what she should do about her abusive boyfriend. Then, another woman from the party told me that Creepy did the same thing to her a few months later. My former best friend called up and told me about another guy who had recently.behaved like Creepy, and had hurt her. Within a year or so, about half of my friends from that party had contacted me, many of them women with their own stories of abuse and harassment. That friend group never really recovered, but I think the more decent people from that group are better off. It seemed like my own Creepy Incident got people thinking. I just wasn’t there to see it.
M’lady Nay, I hope you can start that dialogue in your own friend group, whenever you can safely do that. Creepy will likely continue to creep on, but maybe some others in the group will feel empowered to speak up as well. Take care, and Jedi hugs!!!
I’m so sorry that happened to you, but I’m proud of you for sticking up for yourself and your friend for getting you out of there. If terrible creeps have to exist, I’m glad there’s a shadow-network of decent people reaching out to one another and inspiring each other.
Thanks. Yeah, I was really grateful to that one friend for leaving with me and staying with me until I was feeling safer. It was years ago, but still hard to talk about. Your comments are really kind. Thanks so much!
I am not recommending that behavior, that is just what I felt I had to do in that moment.
I strongly recommend that behaviour in that situation where it was necessary to physically defend yourself. You are 10000000000% in the right for physically defending yourself. I’m sorry that gross piece of shit forced you to use violence, but that’s absolutely all on him, not you.
Jesus fuck that must have been terrifying, I’m so glad you weren’t assaulted worse than you were.
Agreed. You should be so proud of yourself for doing what you needed to do to get yourself away from those rapey creeps. Following your instincts and reacting in the way you feel you need to react is exactly what recommended behavior *should* be.
I am feeling LW’s topic VERY STRONGLY.
In my case it is the (male, white)boss who goes on ranting sprees. I work in a small shop of * specialized trade* (unnamed). There are no longer college programs that teach this trade, so you must learn from someone who does this trade.
Extra twist: boss is a first generation immigrant from a communist country in Eastern Europe, with a heavy accent that is hard to understand. Except that the boss is like an old fashioned closet case. He constantly rants about how immigrants are spoiling this (North American country) ! And Muslims are bad. And those immigrants don’t want to work ! This was said constantly to the head worker, also a white immigrant from a different country, who was Muslim. Unsurprisingly, the head worker quit within the year. Male boss espouses extremely stupid opinions(heavy on the racism, too), gleaned from the right wing talk radio he prefers. He does not even know whether the country he lives in has a president or prime minister. The staff are his HOSTAGES to his ridiculous rants.
Last week his garage at home was broken into (or the thief entered through an unlocked door). Some trivial things were stolen. The next day the boss showed up at work in a black mood. My work station is at the back, so I am usually able to avoid the barrage of the rant, sometimes by turning my back as I am working on the thing at work. Boss ranted at the other worker – about how he is going to BUY A GUN to protect his stuff !!! Never mind that the boss is a volatile, irrational man with terrible eyesight, AND A KINDERGARTEN AGE CHILD. The child is used to being in the shop, and frequently picks up the tools in the workshop, some of which look similar to guns. What could go wrong with a scenario like this ? The second thing out of his mouth was about this community’s policy of becoming a sanctuary city. He did not see the thief, has no video footage of the thief, and no thief was caught in the area with his stuff. What do refugees have to do with his stolen items ?
Did I mention that the rants are always delivered in a shouting tone of voice ?
Other worker has extra complications in that the boss is also this person’s landlord. This worker is great at placation, and behaving agreeable despite their personal convictions. It’s not like there is a choice.
I cannot describe how difficult it was to bite my tongue throughout this testerical explosion. My jaw was sore at the end of the day my keeping my lips tightly closed together, lest they burst forth with my opinions.
This trade is not especially uncommon, so there are other local shops. The area has a somewhat high unemploymant rate, so I might be looking for work for some time when I quit.
In my boss, I see many characteristics that are similar to my abusive (male) ex, particularly a suspected personality disorder and a whopping case of male entitlement. From dealing with my ex, I know that there is nothing I could have said that would have budged his fortress of stupid, uneducated opinions or behaviours – and believe me – I spent YEARS of my life trying to explain to him how a particular behavior was hurtful, etc. and how decent people usually behave in relationships.
Sorry – needed to vent about this. These stupid racists – they are everywhere – and are also usually also misogynists, homophobes, etc. There perhaps a few that can be redeemed – but most can’t/won’t be. What would I gain by telling my moronic boss how ill-informed he is ?
I will make a police report if he buys that gun though – as I fear for his wife/children’s safety as he is such a hot-headed dummy.
Ugh, that sounds really unpleasant. I hope you’re able to find a better alternative soon.
“testerical” – – > what a great word! May I steal it?
I’m sorry you’re having to deal with yhe stupid rants of your boss, and well done you for recognising where you wanted to put your energy in the moment. All the best with finding another job!
My family of origin is really big on these new social fallacies.
For a small example, my uncle was once talking about a man he had worked with, recounting his flaws. Uncle’s daughter, who had also worked with him, said “I always thought he was kind of sexist, he always made me bring coffee for meetings” and Uncle, who had just been dissing this very person, said “well, I never saw anything like that,” as if to dial down the intensity of the (pretty light!) criticism. Like, 1) you *wouldn’t* see it, and 2) she’s literally telling you it happened? HIS OWN DAUGHTER. I had to leave the room.
As a larger example, see: that time my mother’s stepfather hit on her in the months following her mother’s/his wife’s death, and when she told him to stop, her sister helped the stepfather draft a searing, abusive response letter, then maintained a friendship with him until his death fifteen years later. (We only speak to her to exchange condolences when a cat dies. It’s about all the sincere emotion we can muster up for one another.)
It’s really very validating to see these fallacies written out. I had to piece them together myself, in a hard and confusing way, and I hope they help some lost people who need them. Sometimes you know something is wrong but don’t have the vocabulary to define it, so you worry that it’s you.
[Moderator Hat On]
I am a human being and I need to step away from the computer for the rest of the evening to do Life Stuff.
What that means is that some comments might get caught in the spam trap or moderation and not released until tomorrow.
Can this thread not be a total dumpster fire when I come back? I appreciate the many awesome insights and links here, and I think it’s very important to talk about the ways people try to silence conflict when it makes them uncomfortable. So I would like to not close comments?
I think we’ve got the punching Nazi stuff well covered. Remember, there are no class participation points and you do not have to respond to every single comment.
Please and thank you.
P.S. Watch Nanette.
YES EVERYONE WATCH NANETTE.
And then watch it again. (Cough.)
Uh, it’s great, but it’s *incredibly* triggering. I don’t think ‘everyone’ should watch it.
Thank you for this post. And that recommendation. ❤
Thank you for all your wise and lovely ideas and words, and for the work you put in around those to keep this place trash and fire free. ❤
Captain et al, I had actually this morning composed an email draft very similar to this one about a creepy guy in my friend group and what do I do. I’ve just been slowly spending less time with the group and have been sad about it and also wondering why everyone else seems to be okay with him (and with him around their kids) when obviously he’s a sexist jerk. But thank you for this post. I didn’t say anything either, just hid mostly, so they could’ve said the same of me. I feel so weary reading this, like why can’t people be decent, respectful people, and I’ll never know why. But you’re all absolutely right, to be silent or demand silence from others just allows this to go on. I’m really sick of it and will try my best to stick up for myself and others. Because he’s the one making it weird and creepy and uncomfortable. Not me.
With our creepy guy, it’s that we like his wife and kids and don’t want her to be totally isolated, and that he’s toned it down some over the years due to constant, regular, ‘that’s not ok’ feedback. Sigh.
Wolfie, just sending supportive thoughts your way for the next time you’re in a situation where you feel the need to stick up for yourself and what you believe – you can do it!
Also wanted to second the “it will be good for you to have spoken up, even if it’s not perfect and people don’t react the way you’d like” idea.
My experience of sticking up for myself and my needs is that the first time you do it is very hard and scary but also downright transformational. Different situation that is not quite relevant here so I won’t go into detail, but I suspect the process is similar. The feeling after I’d spoken up for myself is something I couldn’t have imagined before doing it, and well worth pushing through the fear/nerves for. (assuming you’ve judged it’s safe to say something–as often said on this site, there is no obligation to speak up against racists, creepers, etc, if it would jeopardise your safety)
The advice in the post and comments about practicing, and being prepared for it not to go perfectly, is good.
Thank you so much for this one, Captain. It’s your best yet. And that’s saying something!
This was amazing and fantastic, and I will happily read your “venting literally every internet argument I am currently having feelings about” posts forever. Please keep them up. 😀
“Even if it doesn’t convince the asshole. (It probably won’t).
Even if other people don’t stand up with you. (They might not).
Even if it’s scary and the night is “ruined” once you say something. (It was already ruined, for you.)
Even if you lose your temper or it comes out garbled or you shake or your voice shakes or you cry. (It might.)
Even if the people you like in the group are mad at you for not enabling the creep…and them…in putting up with misogyny. (It’s possible.)
I truly think in my heart of hearts that it will be good FOR YOU to have spoken up.”
Douche at work going on about how to rate women on a numbering scale re: suitability for marriage. There were categories and whatnot (such as “being supportive of you” and “being mentally and emotionally stable”). I listened, progressively getting angrier and angrier but minding my own business. Finally snapped, stood up and screamed at him. In the office. In front of male coworkers. I was shaking. I was possibly incoherent. He tried to brush it off as a joke and keep going. I think I started cursing. He finally stopped and came over and apologized and I just told him to get away from me over and over until he went away.
Did I wish I was smooth and calm and cool? Yep. Was I sorry I did it? HELL, NO! Next time, I will be a little less shaky and a little more snarky and a little less screamy. Maybe. But I won’t be silent.
It occurred to me while reading all this that “Geez, you’re way too sensitive” and its ilk can be good candidates for “If it bothers you, you’re welcome to leave.”
I love that script!
What works for me in these situations is the flat “Wow.” and the “We don’t do that here.” I haven’t had the opportunity to use the latter but I did use the former when my abusive sister tried to tell me that I couldn’t wear a blue scarf on a black suit because “then you’ll look like you’re being abused.” It stopped the conversation dead and my relatives quickly switched the topic. I particularly like the Geek Social Fallacy list and I just lived through the “Try to pick an argument to justify your idea and if you don’t respond then I win” tonight when my mom and sister tried to argue with me that models did not deserve the Einstein visa because they don’t contribute to anything.
OP, I’m chiming in to say that it does get easier to call out gross behavior. Depending on the situation I can be anything from verge-of-tears+ stuttering to icy enough to freeze a mammoth. In my friend group I’m known as the one who doesn’t take shit. I wouldn’t say it gets easier because some situations are harder than others to handle, but if anyone reacts badly to you asserting yourself then they’re showing their true colors so at least you’ll know they’re not on your side.
My response to “It’s just a joke” is “Which is Asshole for ‘I’m not sorry'”
Oh #8 is the bane of my online existence.
There are many, many moments where being angry is a logical reaction. Ditto being sad, happy, whatever.
Logic and emotion are not polar opposites that cannot co-exist. They are not baking soda and vinegar.
I also notice a lot bullies will project anger/hurt/sadness onto ALL responses.
“Lol u mad”
“stop crying it’s just a joke”
These responses ALWAYS appear. Even when you respond with complete detachment.
That tells us everything we need to know
Me: “That’s factually incorrect because [reasons].”
Bully: “OMG calm down!!!”
100% this. Was accused of assuming the worst of them when I called them out. Or that I was “upset” when I wasn’t.
Another of Melissa McEwan’s classic lines is “I’m not offended; I’m contemptuous.” LOVE.
I’m reminded of the time I made a post about a creep who I used to know, and someone who was a complete stranger to both of us saw fit to accuse me of “creep shaming”. Gotta say, I think creeps SHOULD be ashamed.
I think I’ve that around though not in a while.
It sounds like the creeps trying to appropriate lefty camouflage.
“If slut shaming and fat shaming are bad then SURELY I can make them stop shaming be for ACTUALLY BEING BAD” <- creeps
I actually laughed out loud at that! They keep using the word shaming, I don’t think they know what it means
I love your articulation of these social fallacies, but I think they need a new category. The whole time I was reading them, I kept saying to myself, “This isn’t a geek social fallacy, this is a misogynist social fallacy.” The geek social fallacies are so named because they (can crop up anywhere but) appear disproportionately in geek social groups, and the fallacies you have identified (can crop up anywhere but) are disproportionately enforced on women.
This. These fallacies appear A LOT in my experience. Sometimes in geek social groups, often not. Always involving men.
I don’t think this is true. I think they are disproportionately enforced on folks of comparatively more marginalised experience. The can include but is by no means exclusive to women, and many (particularly white) women more than do their part reinforcing them.
Yes, this. Think about how common ‘angry black man’ is.
I don’t think these are geek fallacies anymore, in that I don’t think they show up disproportionately in geek social groups. I think they’re plain Social Fallacies, but more powerful because of that.
They are definitely fallacies. That could be called Abuser Logic. Or bully apologism. They apply to all instances of hierarchical power dynamics and assholes targeting designated victims, whether by general demographics (eg, race, gender, sexuality) or specific context (eg, family scapegoat). It’s always bullshit. I salute the Captain for calling out these fallacies and encouraging all of us to call out the behaviors.
There was a creepy delivery guy at an old job that was always touching younger female employees. Once about 12 of us, men & women, were having a meeting in the middle of the large hardware store about setting up new displays and he came up behind me and tried to rub my shoulders. I said “don’t touch me”, he said “you seem tense”, I said “because you’re touching me, cut it out”, he kept trying to rub my shoulders so I yelled “GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF ME NOW!” Everyone turned around to look at us including a few customers and the manager said “you should do what she said.” He slunk off and was spoken to by management.
A few days later the creeper cornered me in the receiving dock “to apologize” and was all hurt that I yelled at him, said he didn’t mean anything by it and that I had gotten him in trouble with the store manager! I told him that he got himself in trouble by being a creeper and not listening when women told him to leave them alone. He said “what women, who else said something” and was SHOCKED when I said all of the women in the store wanted him to leave them alone but were afraid to say anything. Women from all departments were coming up to me and saying they were glad I said something. He kept trying to turn it around so I would apologize for hurting his feelings and I finally told him that he just needed to get away from me and keep his hands to himself.
A Christmas party was held at work for employees and family, so a lot of people brought their kids. The creeper was talking to a young girl of about 5 when she suddenly yelled “GET AWAY FROM ME MISTER OR I’M GOING TO KICK YOU IN THE JUNK!” It was dead silent for a minute and then we all started laughing except for creeper. Turns out the girl’s dad had told her to yell if an adult made her really uncomfortable and then kick him in the junk if he tried anything. Even the 5 year old could tell he was a creeper!
It took about 2 years from the first incident for him to get fired, and it took a customer complaining that she felt unsafe with him in her home during a delivery to be the last straw. The company had to document everything and make a clear case that it was an ongoing problem so he wouldn’t have grounds for a lawsuit for unfair dismissal. This was over 20 years ago, I had kind of forgotten about it until the whole #metoo movement.
Ugh, it’s terrible that it took so long for him to get fired but brava to you, and brava to the little girl too!
This story is great! But also such a frustrating perfect illustration of how much work has to be done by so many people to collectively just get him out of his job. Not even pressing charges. Anyone who uses weird straw-man arguments like…”he worked there for x years” or “was never charged with anything” should read these stories and understand the lengths and burden of proof demanded of anyone daring to claim a guy is a chronic creeper.
I love that little girl and her parents for arming her with a way to protect herself when she felt uncomfortable.
I do, too!
A+ parenting and I hope the girl grew up to be a person who still yells at creepers to get away before she kicks them in the junk.
FYI, if you’re in the US, the company was almost certainly lying when it claimed it couldn’t fire the guy for two years.
“…and was all hurt that I yelled at him”
ah, my favorite!
You: “I don’t like that.”
Them: “LOL, you don’t mean it.”
You: “No, please stop that.”
Them: “Aw, you’re not really mad.”
You: “CUT IT THE FUCK OUT!”
Them: “Geez, you don’t have to get mean about it!”
A favorite line of mine for these situations is “then don’t make it necessary.”
“Coworker, I don’t like that you threw out my tupperware full of moldy food after 2 warnings that it would be thrown away.” “Then don’t make it necessary.”
“Roommate, I don’t like that you ruined my get-together with friends by telling them that they can’t smoke inside and making them put out their cigarettes and leave (even though this is a non-smoking house.” “Then don’t make it necessary.”
“I don’t like that you cc’d my boss after I ignored 3 follow up emails.” “Then don’t make it necessary.”
Don’t feel bad about it. When someone eliminates all the nice ways of telling them to cut something out, the not-nice ways are, by default, the only options left.
“Then don’t make it necessary” is a fabulous response (and so versatile!!), I will have to remember that one.
Re: Geek Social Fallacy No. 9, I don’t speak up for the benefit of the aggressors; I speak up for the benefit of the bystanders and victims. The endgame isn’t to convince the aggressor; it’s to build consensus and turn the room against them. Assholery can’t put down roots in that soil.
Exactly. You never know who in the room is gay, or struggling with mental illness, or starting to date someone of a different race, or descended from people of a different religious group… All I know is that when someone says something assholeish, I want anyone who might be in the room to know that at least one person doesn’t feel that way.
I was the person who always said something at family gatherings and on Facebook posts by relatives. And then my cousin came out, and I was really glad I always spoke up; even though I didn’t know I was actually standing up for anyone in the room, I was.
So the first time I remember being That Person Who Points Out Unpleasant Stuff was in grade school. Someone made a “dumb Polack” joke and I objected to it, being half-Polish myself. Another girl told me I was being overdramatic, since *she* was Polish and it didn’t bother *her*. Sigh.
Safe to say, I am fairly used to being That Person, but I still struggle with it, especially at work. Thankfully, I’m now nearing 50 and am pretty secure in my job and my career, which is a big advantage. I also find that the more deadpan/neutral you can be, the better in most cases. Dude says something gross that he tries to pass off as a joke, just stare in confusion. Don’t laugh awkwardly with everyone else. “I don’t understand.” Make him explain. Yes, it makes things weird, but it sends a message that you’re not going to provide cover for the unpleasant person to think everyone agrees with them.
LW if all else fails, remember “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows”:
“Blimey, Neville,” said Ron, “there’s a time and a place for getting a smart mouth.”
“You didn’t hear her,” said Neville. “You wouldn’t have stood it either. The thing is, it helps when people stand up to them, it gives everyone hope. I used to notice that when you did it, Harry.”
Who doesn’t want to be like Neville? Or Harry Potter?
“I also find that the more deadpan/neutral you can be, the better in most cases. Dude says something gross that he tries to pass off as a joke, just stare in confusion. Don’t laugh awkwardly with everyone else. “I don’t understand.” Make him explain. Yes, it makes things weird, but it sends a message that you’re not going to provide cover for the unpleasant person to think everyone agrees with them.”
10/10 can absolutely recommend this tactic. A friend of mine and I use it and frequently the person who made the “joke” is so embarrassed they never want to open their mouths again. It makes them look incredibly foolish and honestly, they deserve that shame.
“I don’t understand why that is funny. Please explain the humor so I can get the joke.”
Very powerful for shutting down “just a joke.”
Remember Cedric. Remember, if the time should come when you have to make a choice between what is right and what is easy, remember what happened to a boy who was good, and kind, and brave, because he strayed across the path of Lord Voldemort. Remember Cedric Diggory.
It’s also important I think to mention that the more you call people out, the more comfortable you get with doing it. Think of it as gaining muscle memory for justice
This is another offshoot of punching Nazis, but…
I have this secret hope that if I ever walk by a Klansman in real life in public, I’ll have a cup of coffee and be brave enough to be all “Hello, fellow white person… surprise coffee attack!” They would just look so mockable in that white outfit with a huge coffee stain down the front. Like I said, secret hope. Maybe they would punch me… There would have to be witnesses, though.
In real life, I’ve had good luck with “Co-worker, you know that I’m just not going to find jokes about X funny.” I usually draw out the “yoooouuu knooooow”. One co-worker is on his third trans joke with me, and he’s getting increasingly worried by my non-amused response. It’s been a couple months, now, he might even be done!
I saw this happen once when I was a clinic escort at an abortion clinic. Someone walked by and dumped a full cup of coffee on the very loud priest leading the chanting antis. I hid my glee well but it was very satisfying. I wish it had made a difference but honestly his response was to intone, “They spit on Jesus, too” and just keep on. That was a memorable day.
I think spilling it down the back might be even more effective…
About a foot below the waist?
I’m trying to think of other kinds of stains that would render a klansman ridiculous. Like a grape jelly smiley face on the back, or a cheeto dust handprint on their ass.
This just shocked me into a flashback 3 years ago in my 1st year of grad school. Basically, when I started grad school, I was shocked to meet some of the most unpleasant group of people in my life, and that’s including my middle and high school years (which weren’t that bad socially now that I think about it.) Without going into too much detail, a bunch of these people decided they Did Not Like Me (I honestly don’t know what I did/said…I didn’t even really talk to some of them) and were really petty and passive aggressive. One of the guys in this group, though, was a creeper and would inappropriately flirt with and touch me, even when I would physically retreat from him when he did this and made very obvious nonverbal displays of disinterest. He was popular among the group, who used my behavior as further evidence as to why I was a snooty bitch.
Also wanted to rant that I Just Don’t Understand how society has come to a point where people will go totally out of their way to find justifications for men’s abysmal behavior (“I know he grabbed a woman’s boob, but he’s actually really shy and also a good dad and also a good friend…”), but women get ostracized and called a bitch for defending their own personal boundaries and/or reporting an actual breach on their safety?? Just what
I think Society hasn’t “gotten” that way, it’s always been that way and we’re just learning to see it more clearly.
This. I remember being creeped on by men old enough to be my grandfather from about age 12 on. It was just Part Of Being A Girl, and you just had to put up with it because the poor things can’t help it, don’t you know?
I know exactly how society “got” that way: Women stopped being a man’s wife, a man’s mother, a man’s sister, and became Herself.
Well, women who were Herself and not protected by A Man have always been treated this way. Theres’s just more of Herself running around now, astonished that she’s being mistreated.
Women are also being A Soldier’s Wife, A Soldier’s Mother, A Soldier’s Sister, A Soldier’s Daughter… and A Soldier Herself – although you’d never know it, listening to some political speeches, looking at the VA, grumblegrumblegrumble sorry about the derail…
No, it’s ALWAYS been like this. Just worse, and in many many cases, still terrible. Look up couverture. Look up honor killings. Look up marital rape laws. Look up the gender gap in China and India due to sex-selective abortions/murder/abandonment. Women have never mattered as much as men. It sucks.
“It’s a depressingly masculine world, Dolores.”
Simple. It suits (cis) (straight) men to make excuses for each other’s grabby hands while shutting down women who protest because it lets them get away with groping women.
Oh, I’ve had this experience. I was glad I spoke up, but it actually made me LOSE respect for everyone else involved.
MANY years ago, the health insurance costs at my workplace skyrocketed. All employees got a annual 2% raise (any more than that was subject to your department head’s whim), and this steep rise in employee contributions was more than wiping out many raises for the junior staff. Senior staff wasn’t happy, either, but they were still getting more money, so…
Anyway, feelings were running VERY high, and our department chairman felt it necessary to tell us in a meeting that we needed to watch our language, that the discussions were getting too heated… Basically, I was hearing, “You need to behave,” which I’ve heard ALL MY LIFE and just led to getting shit on even more.
So I, the absolute lowest peon in the pecking order, said, “Excuse me? I have to watch my tone? When I’m going to be working harder for less money? A 2 percent raise sounds fair in the abstract, but 2 percent of my salary is not 2 percent of your salary. Is your raise wiped out? Are you getting less money next year?”
It got REAL quiet.
And then EVERYONE ELSE started giving the chairman holy hell about it. And the were all higher ranked, but couldn’t be bothered to say anything until the person with the most to lose called bullshit.
So, yeah, i was pissed at everyone in my department for being total cowards. But thrilled that the administration was forced to pay attention to serious employee dissatisfaction…
Brava to you!
Yay for the newest GSFs! In fact, these are extremely timely for me, as I’ve had a few people here and there lately that seem to infuriatingly fall under these. #8 probably is the most infuriating to me, with #7 close behind. Just because you show emotion about a topic doesn’t automatically make it invalid (or more invalid than someone who is not showing emotion). Just because a person has been nice to you doesn’t mean that person is nice to all people everywhere OR that you have to be ok with them because they are nice to you but not others.
In any case, I had a bit of a victory when the creeper in our office came over to bother me and tried to make fun of me for having boundaries by saying: “Oh! Oops! Don’t want to get in your bubble!” I just looked at him and said: “That’s right! I have a big bubble!” He left me alone after that. I love it when they shut themselves down.
I will say that strategic silence *CAN* work under the right circumstances. (I recognize there is a place for speaking out as well). A woman I know started into a rant about how a homeless guy was always on the same corner and would change his sign daily to list different diagnoses that were “causing” him to be homeless and clearly he was lying, etc. I and the other woman in the car just sat in uncomfortable silence until she realized we didn’t agree and then started back-pedaling about how #notallhomeless and how he probably had a mental health issue and then finally changed the subject. (Not a perfect win, but a progress nonetheless).
I didn’t hear the “joke” itself, but I did once hear a student (7th grade) say with enormous frustration, “Stop it, that’s not funny.” And another kid said, “What? It’s just a joke!” The first kid responded, “No. Jokes are supposed to be funny. That wasn’t funny.”
It was SO PERFECT and I was SO PROUD.
That kid will go far.
I also highly recommend, as an example, the scene in GOING POSTAL (the film, with a Charles Dance as Vetinari) where he responds to Moist’s it-was-a joke with a long, menacing, uncomfortable pause and “ah, I hadn’t realized. Do let me know if you feel obliged to make another.”
Best Book Ever.
Quick trigger warning for violence and assault on the Nanette rec. Also, there’s a part re: anger that pissed me off, but it comes at the end and most of the special is amazing.
Also, 1) you do not have to continue a conversation or negotiation or any two-way interaction in which one party is operating in bad faith, which is what a lot of these fallacies are, 2) it is really funny to watch the ~objectivism is life/have you heard the good news about Ayn Rand~ folks get really upset when you say you don’t believe they are operating in good faith and 3) to CA’s point about people saying that being oppressed means your opinion is too biased, that’s true of them too. The oppressors HAVE A STAKE in silencing the oppressed. They are literally biased toward the status which allows them power, so no one should ever entertain the notion that the arguments people engage in have nothing to do with them personally.
Thanks for the warning 🙂
If you’re inclined to share more, what was it with regards to the anger stuff in Nanette that bothered you?
The best response I ever heard to a variation of “can’t you take a joke?” . . .
We had a colleague (female) who liked to make vulgar jokes at work. Invariably no one would laugh so she would look around the stony-faced table and say “doesn’t anyone have a sense of humor?”
One day another woman replied “Yes, but clearly you don’t. If people don’t laugh it means that you are the problem, not your audience.”
The vulgar one looked around, realized that no one was going to support her, and stormed out of the room.
When I complimented the other woman later she divulged that she had been practicing that line for weeks.
Civil resistance has to be rehearsed. The Freedom Riders, as well as the brave women and men who sat down to integrate lunch counters, had practice sessions where other people attacked and insulted them.
Resistance isn’t futile, but it does take practice!
There is not a pillow in all the world large enough to cross-stitch all the awesomeness that is this post.
May God grant me the courage to be the person you think I can be.
Re: our discussions here on dealing with hate groups, here is a brilliant episode of ‘With Friends Like These’ where the host interviews Christian Picciciolini, an ex Nazi gang leader. She asks him whether people should be friends with Nazis or engage then in kindly liberal chat. And he acknowledges that while that is a nice gesture that can reach a minority of Nazis, Nazis are dangerous and no one at risk has any obligation to be ‘nice.’ Also, he points out how when compassionate folks began to reach out to him, he was undeserving and ungrateful, he was still in the Nazi gang scene. The podcast episode really helped me see why we need to stop engaging Nazis in debates, stop using their preferred language (say White Supremecist, not Alt Right, make it obvious we are talking about hate groups vs palatable code words Nazis like) in an attempt to be seen as fair.
He also talks about what internal changes took place for him to take responsibility for his actions.
Wow this list all the hearts and stars
I read this as “all the hearts and scars,” and Lord knows that’s true as well.
O Captain, my Captain, I salute you! It would be an honor to join you on the barricades.
This post deserves nothing short of a standing ovation. I’ve posted it to my FB and intend to quote from it till we’ve won this war (i.e. probably for the foreseeable future). Thank you so much for your insights and the blazing brilliance of your words.
I note that the creepy guys, almost without exception, never post in the comments here, they always email you direct. Probably because they think they can take on One Uppity Little Lady Blogger, but they know they will be torn to pieces by an entire pack of us. They’re wrong, of course: you are more than capable of eviscerating each of these knuckledraggers yourself, but should you ever decide to post their emails we would be happy to critique their grammar, manners, pseudonym, life choices, and general all-round demeanor.
I’m guessing a lot of them don’t make it past the mod filter.
I get the impulse, but that would turn this forum into so many others. What’s extraordinary about the comment threads here is the thoughtfulness, compassion, and insight of the community. And that didn’t happen by accident. That was the Captain steering this ship AWAY from the treacherous waters of the Well-Deserved Pile On. That takes work – and a clear vision of what she wants her forums to look like – but mostly hours and hours of work. And not very fun work, I imagine. If that work weren’t getting done, if she let us raid a weaker vessel and we got a taste for it, it wouldn’t be long before any unpopular opinion resulted in similar behavior. I wouldn’t post here if that happened.
Agree. Also, shit attracts flies. If one creeper gets to post here, all his fellow creepers will be along very quickly.
Thank you for this whole post. Thank you for continuing to fight through good fight, original poster and Captain Awkward.
OMG THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU
Speaking up comfortably does take time and practice. My husband is really good at this. He was probably the only person who stood up to a sneaky sexist asshole at a regular gaming event we attended and called SSA out on his shit. I admired my husband’s cool demeanor and felt bad that I didn’t have that myself. But y’know what…it’s okay. I’m not there yet but I’m practicing. I’m grateful to have someone like my husband around that can support me when I speak up, even when I don’t do it “perfectly” or whatever. I may not be taken as seriously as him all the time (because he’s a dude, and he’s got a pretty fierce lewk with his Celtic raider beard going on), but the more I practice, the more I can own my confidence. And even if you don’t have anyone right now who you can lean on for support, know that this group of internet strangers is with you. So be kind to yourself and do what you need to do to take care of yourself!
If you have a memory of a time you did speak up – even if it was something as simple as saying, “What do you mean by that?” to a bigoted comment – hold onto it and summon it when you need some courage. That helps me when I feel like I need to speak up about something. Also starting small – with the same comment as above – is a good method. I pull that question out a lot, particularly with people who talk about “bad neighborhoods” and “not the right sort of people around here.” It kicks all the awkwardness back to them and they will typically leave me alone after bumbling around for a response.
Cap, this whole post and your comment section comments are all incredibly fantastically good, enough so that I feel like it’s missing the forest for that one funny tree over there to say so, but I still feel it deserves mention – “a pool of plausible deniability to keep right on pooping into” is sheer genius!
I laughed out loud at that line…I heartily agree…soo soo perfect.
I adore everything about this post,and heartily co-sign that giving no fucks is a learnable skill.
Also? Those “logical” assholes turn into shrieky little tantrum-babies right quick when they’re losing an argument. Most of them have a pretty superficial collection of rhetorical tricks they rely on, and when those run out, they become anxious and infuriated. BUT I AM LOGICMAN OF SMUGSHIRE, THE SCRIPT IS THAT I WIN ARGUMENTS, WHY AREN’T YOU SAYING YOUR LINES?!?!
LOGICMAN OF SMUGSHIRE ftw!!!! I love this
Longtime reader/first time commenter here EXCLUSIVELY to say that I ALSO WISHED JAMES CORDEN’S CHARACTER HAD BEEN A REPRISAL OF RENE RUSSO’S IN THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR
Oh Captain my Captain,
I needed this today. I am a long-time lurker, first-time poster and I needed this so.much.today. I’ve had one of those experiences today where a clever man thinks he can manipulate you (woman) out of your righteous anger by adding insult to injury AND talking through a third (male) person instead of actually addressing it with you whom it concerns. I may even, now that this threshold is crossed, write to you about it. Or maybe not, maybe it is enough to see this wonderful community come together and fucking GET it. It sometimes feels so lonely to care about the state of the world in general and about how people treat each other, including oneself.
I just realised in re-reading that the “thank you” that I THOUGHT I had put in right after “Oh Captain my Captain” ISN’T THERE.
Thank you for this post, Captain.
Note to self: proofread before posting, or go back to lurking.
Jedi hugs to you Charlie. The Captain is a life-changer.
Man, I really needed this thread today.
Last weekend I went to my partner’s family reunion and brought our lovely new rescue dog, the Goodest of the Good Girls. When we arrived, some family members were playing cornhole, and my dog believes (which makes sense from a dog perspective) that ball-like objects flying through the air are for her to catch and bring back to you, so she snagged a beanbag and brought it back to the thrower.
My partner’s uncle then threatened to shoot my dog.
Yes. To shoot my dog, because she brought something back that was thrown. It was literally the first thing he said to me.
I stood there and GLARED at him with hatred until he noticed and got really uncomfortable. Then I avoided him the rest of the evening.
A few hours later he came up and tried to put his arm around me and said that he was sorry – he was just joking, and he wouldn’t shoot her. He’d break her legs instead.
That’s right. He said that.
I told him that if he came near me or my dog, I knew where the rat poison was kept and I’d make sure he got some that weekend.
My partner tried to pass it off later as being ‘just the way Tom is’ and I calmly reminded him that he’d threatened to shoot my dog and break her legs, and that as her dad, I expected my partner to protect her and to protect me, and that if Tom got near us that weekend I’d pack up the car and head home without him.
My partner did later acknowledge that Tom is, in fact, an asshole, which he is, and I’m sure I came across as the Bitch of No Funnington, but slowly repeating what he said to me seemed to, in the sober light of day, work in emphasizing how horrific and not-funny that “joke” is.
I am tired of being bullied by men. I’m tired of things being ruined by bullies like him.
Internet hugs if you want them. Tom is an asshole, and a bully, and it sucks to have to deal with them.
I’m tired of my country (and state; city and county aren’t too bad) being ruined by bullies like him.
I am tired of being bullied by men. I’m tired of things being ruined by bullies
I’m going to stitch this on a pillow!
Basically. When I think of how many events or parties or whatever got totally ruined by some dickwad dickwadding it up all over the place, I’m like……..just stahp.
‘Just the way Tom is,” is being an asshole. You (or anyone else in that family) doesn’t have to tolerate it just because he’s related to you.
ugh that’s awful :C i’m glad you were able to stand up to him about being an utterly horrible person. your dog saw a game and decided to join in because it looked like fun! it’s not her fault she doesn’t know the rules! she’s a very good dog. tom is a Very Bad Man. give her a pet for me and play a game of actual fun fetch with her c:
Yeah, it completely soured what was otherwise an ok weekend, and it sucks because his family has otherwise been (despite some cultural differences) really welcoming. It was also literally the first interaction I had when we stepped out of the car.
Fortunately I don’t have to see that particular asshole more than once or twice a year, if that, at large gatherings where we can avoid them. I still will not allow Tom anywhere near me or my dog.
Also? It’s fucking cornhole, not the final throw of the SuperBowl.. My dog was just doing what dogs do, which is catch stuff you throw and bring it back to you.
Your dog catches things AND THEN BRINGS THEM BACK TO YOU? She IS the Goodest of the Good Girls! Please give her many pets from me. ❤ ❤ ❤
Yes. many pets from me too. She’s such a good girl, yes she is!
She is the most amazing darling cuddlebug, and she LOVES to fetch and bring back stuff and then play pretend keepaway and then drop it “accidentally” so you can grab it and throw it again. It’s hilarious and I love her. My boyfriend chucks in the newspaper in the morning and she grabs it and brings it to me.
13/10 good dog!
If your awesome dog did that at one of our family parties everyone would have laughed & said what a good dog she is. Then we would get the giant bag of tennis balls & have the kids play with the dog until they all got tired and needed water. So sorry you had to deal with that jerk.
yup, that sounds like a plan! my younger dog luna is a big fan of fetch and has numerous toys we throw for her, which she can catch in midair. playing with the dog sounds like a much better party than Very Serious Cornhole For Jerks.
Oh my God. I’m not entirely comfortable with this for reasons but while injustices against humans make me angry and heartbroken I can still be strategic, mistreatment or threats against animals send me straight to I AM RIPPING YOUR THROAT OUT NOW SO YOUR REBUTTAL WILL NEED TO BE IN WRITING. Which is to say, I commend your self-control. Any response that doesn’t have you in a florist’s today trying to decide whether chrysanthemums or lilies best express SORRY BUT SORRY counts as self-control in my book.
Definitely impressed with how well CommanderBanana handled it. My hubby would have had our back but most likely would have returned the threats and escalated things to the point of ugly. Don’t even want to type out the many ways that could go wrong.
Same. I think it’s because animals are so defenseless and to me, picking on an animal is the height of horrible cruelty. Animals can’t even tell someone else what happened.
Jesus H. Christ, what an asshole.
I think jokes (“jokes”) about violence should only be made in scenarios where you are intimately familiar with the parties involved and are 10,000% certain that there’s no chance whatsoever of that joke being interpreted as a literal threat. And even so! You better be ready to PULL BACK if that joke doesn’t land!
When I was a wee babe (literally), I spent the entirety of one day screaming, such that my mother had a terrible no-good awful very bad day. When my dad got home, she joked, “I COULD JUST THROW THIS TERRIBLE BABY IN THE TRASH CAN.”
My mom is tiny, gentle human being who is good with babies and was definitely not at risk of throwing me in the trash can! But curiously enough, my dad still did not find this joke funny AT ALL. My mom never made that joke, or any joke like it, again! AND THAT IS OKAY, because peeps get to be sensitive about the small critters who are dependent on them.
I still laugh about the time I was talking on the phone with my sister and when her kids didn’t lower the noise level after be asked to a few times, she exclaimed in a voice of exquisite exasperation, “Do I have to *beat* you?!” I am pleased to say the kids laughed all the louder, but then toned it down. They are great kids and she’s a great mother.
My mom had a little dog (5 lbs) that was usually sweet. HOWEVER, she had a jacket that made her feel so special that the first time that my mom put it on her each year, she would act out – peeing on something or tearing something up and then prancing around the house because she was so proud of what she had done. One year, the item that got destroyed was a project my mom was working on using really nice fabric that she got on “holy crap, it’s NEVER marked down this low” sale. She called me and burst out with, “DO YOU NEED A FUR COLLAR FOR ANYTHING?!?!?!!?” and then told me what happened after I said, “Uh…NO.”
I’m so sorry Uncle Tom threatened your dog twice last weekend. I hope your partner realizes that he needs to step up in future, and that he will be amenable if you want to never be at a gathering with Uncle Tom ever again.
My favorite response to any and all “That’s just the way ___ is” nonsense is “And this is just the way I am–I don’t tolerate that behavior, no matter who it’s coming from.” If you’re OK with them ‘just being’ a jerk, then I see no reason that you can’t accept me reacting to their assholery in whatever way I want.
Why is it that people think, “That’s just how they are” is ever a good reason to keep someone around? If it were, “they’ve got poor impulse control but they’re working on it and we’re trying to help them be better”, THAT would be a justification for letting them hang; “they’re completely incorrigible and will never stop sucking” seems like a solid gold reason to kick them out.
“That’s just how they are” means “I don’t want to take the emotional risk of confronting them and we all treat them like a missing stair.”
I’m guessing Partner here, being related to Tom, is very used to a family that arranges itself to avoid making a fuss.
My favorite response to “That’s just how they are” is a very straightforward “And this is just how I am–I don’t tolerate that kind of behavior, and I will make a fuss if it happens around me.” People mostly say it as an excuse to avoid a fuss. Well, there’s going to be a fuss either way; you can either get your butt on the side of righteous anger and support me, or be a coward and have a fuss on your hands anyways, your choice.
Holy shit. What an asshole. If you ever need an alibi, let me know.
Someone once made a crack like that about my dog and without thinking I said “and I will fucking kill you” in a tone that indicated that although I might not be successful, I’d certainly try. He tried the “I’m only joking” retreat. “I’m not.” It kind of freaked me out to realize I was at Defcon 1. I had to leave soon after, because I couldn’t stop shaking, much less have fun.
“Why yes, I am a psycho-bitch when my dog is threatened, thank you for noticing.”
So yeah, I’ll help.
I cannot fault you. I honestly believe that people who make these kind of jokes aren’t joking that much. It might not be this specific kind of violence that they are willing to enact on this specific kind of living being, but I certainly assume they would do something to someone.
That’s what makes it creepy.
What an arsehole. And good on you for saying you’ll remove yourself (and the dog) from the situation.
Extra scritchies for your dog, and all the beanbags she can catch.
I can accomplish a lot with a comment about how the red hair is not a joke and/or a strategically raised eyebrow. But sometimes you just have to Bring The Noise when situations are unconscionable for yourself or others. Why yes, I can be emotional AND utilize my $20 words appropriately at the same time…
Thank you, this is exactly what I needed to read today.
I never print things, but I am printing this response out so I can read it whenever i feel discouraged or angry about bad actors in my social groups.
Whenever I join a group of friends that has guys in it I eventually end up leaving because one or two of the men are creepy or awful and everyone except me is too much of a coward to address it. I successfully petitioned to have a rude misogynist 86’d from a group I’m in on Discord. He was posting violent misogynist memes, talking over women in the group, and being rude to everyone. The person who invited him didn’t want to kick him (he was “too anxious” and “felt too bad for inviting the jerk” and “the jerk was kind of nice sometimes.” boo fucking hoo). After the jerk was banned a bunch of people in the original group created another Discord so they could hang out with him there – and all of these people had previously acknowledged that he was horrible! So I’m done with all of them.
The world is full of Crabbes and Goyles who get a thrill out of being handmaids to awful people because “he says what he’s thinking” or “he’s pretty funny sometimes”.
Chiming in to remind that volume is our friend. I think many women (not just in America, in many cultures) are socialized that it is unfeminine/unladylike to be LOUD, completely disregarding (intentionally disregarding?) that the best way to be HEARD is to be LOUD. I don’t have the guts to engage directly in a way that calls out creepy behavior. (“J’accuse, Creeper!”) BUT I am a loud girl and I can choose to be loud in a way that makes the Creeper the center of attention he may not want. “OW!” “STOP TOUCHING ME.” “LEAVE ME ALONE.” You don’t have to be hysterical, you don’t have to be profane, though you can be if you want. Just be loud. You are there; you are in your space and you are entitled to the boundaries of your space and you are entitled to NAME WHAT YOU NEED.
Has anyone seen the show Designing Women? Dixie Carter’s character, Julia Sugarbaker, was known for going off on people. In one episode, a “friend” of hers is saying AIDs is punishment for sinning, Julia’s response is, “I’m going to have to ask you to move your car. Because you’re leaving.” There’s more. It’s pretty epic. TW: homophobia
I also want to make a plug for preemptively saying something! Having scripts for when he says something is great, but sometimes badly behaving friends can go for hours without saying or doing something awful, or they’ve figured out that they should try to avoid you, and you’re waiting for an opportunity for your great call out moment but they said the thing in another room or you only heard about it after the fact or (if you’re me) it takes you a long time to process what they just did, and now you’re afraid to go back and address it. And in the meantime you’re stuck in this constant hyper-vigilance, waiting for him to Say The Thing, and you can’t enjoy the party or the other guests because you’re on your guard waiting for Comeback Time.
So I wanted to make the case for saying something at the beginning of the party: “Hey, I wanted to let you know that I really don’t appreciate your [sexist jokes] or [the way you stare at x female friend] or [insert behavior here], and it would be great if you could try not to do that tonight.” If you have specific instances of when he’s done that in the past, great. If it’s a general sort of weirdness, maybe say something about that too.
This happened to me at my job, with a catering lead who was very friendly except for the fact that he was big into casual touching. Side hugs as greetings, shoulder touches when we’re talking, a hand on your arm for whatever reason. And he did it to all my staff (I work at the venue). I waited for him to do it to me again so I could say something, and by the time that had happened he’d “casually” touched everyone else on my team, and they’d told me it made them feel uncomfortable. So I pulled him aside and asked him to stop touching us, and he was mortified and stopped immediately! You don’t always need to wait for The Moment to say “this! This is what you’re doing that is bad!” Chances are he knows what he did. If your dude is particularly badly behaved, sure, he might deny it. But if the rest of the group hears you make this request, then you suddenly have a room full of people who are looking for that behavior instead of just you, and maybe they’ll call him out on it when they see it.
I was at a lovely coffee Meetup when an absolute horror of a man showed up. He plays video games so he can kill the b*tches first, he “jokingly” did a Nazi salute, I don’t want to go on.
Across from me was a lovely man that I want to thank the universe was there and he was such a good example of how I want to speak up. Every time the awful man said something awful, the good man would stop mid-sentence, wait til everybody noticed the silence, and then say “Well that was f*cked up. So anyways, back to what we were discussing.”
I think it was really the way that he stopped, forced EVERYONE to stop, forced everyone to notice the awkward before he commented on the awful. It was such a great use of awkward for good.
I should add, I love the response guy not the horror of a man doing gross things.
That sounds such a good way of dealing with it. No allowing it to become him arguing with one person, but making the disruption of the group overt.
Yes this everything all of you omg.
I personally have gotten alot of mileage out if the dry, deadpan, “ah-heh-heh-heh.”
You say it in the tone you would use for “There appears to be goose shit on my foot.”
Then you change the subject pointedly.
It’s surprisingly effective. Most bullies have rarely if ever been made to feel shame or embarrassment and they have few defenses against it.
Bonus: it’s easier to get out intact than many longer replies, especially if you’re nervous, and offers no obvious point for attack as it contains no overt statements of your opinions. They tried to be funny, they were extremely unfunny, you pointed it out unmissably, you moved on without them.
I think the opposite, that bullies have grown up completely surrounded by shame and embarrassment, and have conditioned themselves to hurt others before they are asked to make themselves vulnerable with empathy.
That’s possibly true as well, but in my experience whatever they have going on inside they’re not used to getting it tossed back by their targets.
I support people, including bullies, working through both what’s been done to them AND what they’ve done, but that’s therapy and people get paid for doing it.
My experience with bullies is very much to the contrary, but regardless of whatever wellspring of hatred and/or pain causes their dreadful behaviour, I AM NOT THE ASSHOLE WHISPERER, so fuck those assholes.
It is really depressing, as a child of an abusive dysfunctional family, to see the same “you know what he’s like”/”don’t make him angry” enabling bullshit being pulled by, you know, normal people. I mean I expect this stuff from my family but my hope was that people generally were better than this. I guess there is no big red line between normal and dysfunctional, or between family dysfunction and societal dysfunction. And it’s time to take CA’s “let it be awkward” out of the personal and into the political realm.
TW for, well, assault….
My brother—-thirteen years older and a good eight inches taller—-got so enraged at me one day for knocking on the bathroom door that when he came out he threw me to the ground and choked me till I blacked out. I was fifteen. I was a ballet dancer at the time, so I was teeny. He would wind up and slap me across the face—-and nobody did shit. He was very careful who was around, but this kind of thing had no name. Everybody blamed me “because you know what he’s like.” What was I supposed to do? Wifebeating was called “life” back then. Who wouldn’t hit your teenaged sister, amirite? Because teenage girls….I don’t have enough sarcasm in my body right now to finish that sentence.
It was EVERYWHERE. Boys in class would commit outright sexual assault…..and teachers suddenly became blind. Unless you hit back.
FWIW, I think it’s gotten a teensy bit better. Acts have names now, and once that happens you have to look at the facts, though I’ll never understand why there’s weight classes in things like boxing but not when a guy attacks a woman or girl. That’s the only time some of these…..people…..see equality.
Bloody hell, that’s awful, I’m really sorry. You know the thing that occurs to me reading your post, is that all it would have taken to keep you safe was for any of the adults in your life to act like an adult, you know? IDK. I definitely agree that these things are named more and tolerated less than say 20 years ago, but still, I suspect that all those teachers and enabling parents who looked the other way knew exactly that what was going on was wrong.
I always wonder what would have happened. It was RIGHT when things were changing. I was the surprise baby that my parents weren’t expecting. There was a large age gap between myself and my sisters. Later on, I realized that there was this process of “breaking” little girls, teen girls, even adult women—-so they never got their hopes too high, never valued themselves too much, never rebelled. I’m not sure how conscious it was, but there was NOTHING like the feeling of betrayal you felt when the Cool Teacher turned out to be cool only for boys. There was no rebellion for girls—-unless it was sexual, in which case it benefited boys, who’d “use” a girl and then gloat. There was a class system. Poor girls were fair game.
Girls weren’t allowed to wear pants in school, in Northern Minnesota, in winter. You had to be either/or—–you couldn’t like both girly and boy things. Girls were forbidden from taking shop, for example. (That meant they had to rely on men.) Most of all, you were NOT allowed to fight back. You got told, “He must like you,” if he grabbed you, groped you, insulted you—-anything. And then people sneer at women liking stuff like “Fifty Shades”—-did they think boys didn’t hear that, too?
Hell, I remember trying desperately to find books that didn’t end the heroine’s story with marriage, while guys got to have endless adventures, or, later, weren’t about how men found women to be stupid, dull, boring, etc., etc.,
The pretenses have changed, sure. You don’t have to have a husband to buy a house or get credit. I joined the Army. But teachers are STILL serving as the first line in stifling girls’ spirits, girls’ clothes are still blamed for “distracting” boys—–why aren’t the boys given blindfolds or goggles?—–and we still let men falsely accuse women with impunity and real force. On an individual basis, women are fighting this, but there’s too many men shrugging it all off on the sidelines, not changing.
A line I deployed recently: “Wow, you just said that out loud.” The crowd thought it was pretty funny.
I gripe about GSF #6 all the time. I think what it comes down to is, “Well, it wasn’t a problem for ME.” It’s easy to turn a blind eye to Creepy McGroperson getting all up in somebody’s business so long as that somebody cringes quietly. But as soon as that somebody says “Keep your goddamn hands to yourself, how did you not learn that lesson in kindergarten” it’s harder to ignore.
I love that comment!
Gotta say, I really appreciate encouraging more people to speak up and to back up others who are already standing up for themselves/others. I’m the designated “person who always speaks up” and often wish others would share the burden rather than feel relief that it doesnt ever have to be them. Similarly, I highly recommend hosting your own parties and having it be known that additional guests must be vetted and will be removed if they act like an ass no matter who they are (yes even your mom. Yes even my mom.). I wish more people had this rule, so I could comfortably go to a party I didnt have to host!
Just because someone is comfortable speaking up or does so more readily does not mean it is fun for them, either, so we can only be helped by more people learning to do it.
LW you could consider an intervention. Or a coordinated boundary setting really. Lihe when he says offensive thing x you could have a plan with others to call him out. In the periphery of our weekly pub grp is an older guy who occasionally says stuff that’s over the line. Not nearly as bad as your creep. But I spoke about it with the gfs and we made a plan to alert each other when he does this so we could have each other’s backs and he couldn’t get away with it. Has resulted in 1. My stress levels markedly falling bc I no longer dread the interaction as I know I won’t have to be frustrated and helpless. 2. Bc I know I won’t get shit down when I stand up to the misogyny and creepy sexual overtones.
“GSF #8: “If you show emotion about a topic, your argument is invalid.””
My favorite counter to that one is the simple line my Mom handed me when she caught me doing that again (because yeah, I’m totally soaking in every single Geek Social Fallacy listed here and on the other site, dammit!)
“Calm and Reasonable are NOT synonyms!”
Er, I should clarify what I mean by “soaking”… I mean I’ve been in Fandom since I was at least 9, and grew up with all these fallacies in full force. I’ve spent a large portion of my adult life trying to navigate my way OUT of them, and I know the work is far from done on this front for me personally, much less my communities.
Thank you, by the way, for illuminating and enumerating this next set! I definitely want to see them all in a single list somewhere someday…
“Calm and Reasonable are NOT synonyms!”
ALL OF THIS FOREVER. Thank you! That is very handy and useful.
Oh Captain thank you so much for this. My small group of friends has a That Guy who occasionally says truly horrible things about trans and nonbinary people, Romani travellers, poor people and other groups. My (all male except me) friends kind of just ignore him when he does. But yesterday this happened:
Friend: [reference to a sketch performed by two disabled actors]
That Guy: Oh, is that the one with the pair of retards?
Me: No. Dude, it is NOT COOL to use that word about disabled people and I don’t want to see it again, thanks.
That Guy: OK, not cool for you, I’ll bear that in mind.
Me: Not “for me.” This is not about me.
That Guy: Well it is really, because I don’t give a fuck.
And that is where I lost my shit.
For which I now feel vindicated.
Why are the dudes in your friends group enabling assholes?
This, this, this, a thousand times over. The center that *will* hold. I needed this today. Thank you. I will rally under your banner any day, CA.
Thank you Captain A.
I’m a Jewish girl who graduated from UVA. I have some PTSD that can take the form of obsessing about the perspective of anti-semites in a stockholm syndrome-ish kind of way or imagining myself in their role instead of my own.
I think this feeds partly into the “but what about THE OPPRESSOR’S PERSPECTIVE” phenomena. It is less frightening to fantasize that one can ‘control’ the victimizer somehow (either by cartoonish violence or by flattery/’empathy’) than to admit to any kind of powerlessness or deficiency in power to defend oneself or others. It takes more courage and honesty to recognize a sadder but more realistic perspective on the situation.
Here’s some bonus Erich Fromm on disobedeince:
“pick-up artist.” Guys who share (and worship) methods of approaching women in order to sleep with them, including hassling, harassing, “negging” (i.e. insulting), and various other manipulative, aggressive and boundary-crossing behavior. Those circles are heavy on the misogyny. That’s what “fedora” refers to, too.
Go to Google and type PUA in and behold the results.
It’s a bunch of men who think the right way to get dates is to insult women they find attractive (no, really, I am not making this up) and encourage other men to do the same. One of the slimy areas of online misogyny.
The blog Dr. Nerdlove deconstructs a lot of “Pickup Artist” (PUA) rhetoric, if you’re wanting to read about it in a basically nontoxic forum.
I wouldn’t exactly call it a nontoxic forum. I mean, the blog itself is fine, but IIRC the comments are just as bad as any random place on the net.
This was so very fine.
If, in the best case scenario possible, you get an actual apology from this person when you stand up to them, there’s one more hoop to jump through. A lot of us nice, non-confrontational people tend to respond to an apology with “it’s ok!” or “don’t worry about it,” etc etc. The apology is uncomfortable for us because the whole issue gets revisited again, and the pressure is somehow on us to accept it gracefully.
I have had to learn to resist this urge to make things “nice” again after the apology. Accepting an apology does not have to mean agreeing to forgive and forget, it does not mean that now you have to accept this person in your life all the time without further proof of change, it doesn’t make what they did before okay. Apologies are a wonderful social repair, and they can mean a lot if sincere, but they don’t necessarily erase all previous behavior with one simple swipe.
I used to wonder why I felt so crummy after I got an apology from someone who I had to confront about their inappropriate behavior, but then I realized it’s because the expectation was to then get over it and move on like things were fine, even if what happened was NOT fine. Now I have trained myself to thank the person for the apology, but nothing more. You can appreciate the gesture and leave things open for further improvement in your relationship in the future, but you do not have to shove your feelings down and smile at the person like everything is just fine. It’s not your job to do the emotional labor to make things smooth for everyone again, it’s the job of the person who had to apologize to make things comfortable for everyone by consistently demonstrating improved behavior.
Example: Had a family member of a patient of mine who was just AWFUL to all the staff who cared for his mom for a whole week. We understand that people with sick relatives are under stress, but it was a level of verbal abuse way beyond that. The last day she was there, he came up to the nurses station and said he wanted to apologize for how he treated me. I had to bite back the urge to say “It’s ok! You’re stressed!” (which he was clearly expecting) and just said “Thank You.” I was polite, showed I accepted and appreciated the apology, but I did not absolve or excuse any of his previous behavior. It was uncomfortable, but it felt so much more authentic.
Yup. I have noticed with some people, especieally creeper dudes, is that they will throw a sorry your way and then do the same shit all over again, except now you HAVE to accept it.
“But I apologized!”
“But you said we were cool!”
“I thought we were over this!”
It was especially true in Doctor Nerdlove’s recent Post Mortem “Textual Harassment”, where a dude apologized WHILE STILL making creepy messages to his coworker and still gave her shit and a shitty apology when her boss was notified.
So I want to make a new slogan, and people can steal it: “Sorry is NOT a reset button”.
No dudes, this isn’t a dating sim. You can’t expect (or be entitled) to just “try again” when you fucked up an interaction THIS BADLY. If I find you a disgusting cretin, I don’t want you to make a shitty applogy and expect me to drop my panties for you.
Most recently when a guy apologized for offending me ( but not for being offensive ) I answered with a brief “apology accepted” and reiterated for the 3rd time that I wanted to drop the subject. When he wouldn’t drop the subject, I had nothing more to do with him– which was what I’d been building up to all along. No one can accuse me of not being forgiving. That felt more satisfying to me than getting into the meaning of true repentance and forgiveness.
Just found the Dr. Nerdlove article and YES.
Accepting an apology forgives the *past.* It is not permission for the future. When a bank forgives a loan, it means they won’t make you pay it back. It does not mean they’ll give you another loan.
My toxic family member thinks I am being mean because I still won’t have anything to do with her “even though she’s apologized over and over.” Apologies are worthless if there is no change in behavior.
Right? Forgiving is not the same thing as forgetting.
Captain, I LOVE THIS POST. Thank you. Best of luck and strength and joy to the letter writer.
Oh wow! Oh wow oh wow! I am *so* *GLAD* you posted several of these links. I’ve read them in the past, and they’ve become touchstones in my daily navigations. But I’d lost track of some of the originals, and my search-engine technique just wasn’t cutting it.
I’m especially grateful for the McEwan piece, The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck. I couldn’t find that one at all, and … argh!! I’ve now gone to those links and made sure I could find these things again.
(I’m thinking of this collection as a kind of “commonplace book” – seems like a thing that needs to be revived, if the bullet journals aren’t getting any closer to it than they have so far…)
Also, spot-on with the newly formulated additional GSFs. Food for thought, ammo for dealing with my own local situations.
(Another thankful reader.)
Thank you, CA. My SO and I have been discussing these new fallacies a lot lately due to the political climate. When I saw this, I read it to my SO like it is a textbook – you articulated it so well.
Thank you again!
GSF #7: “I can tell if someone is A Good Person or not based on whether they’ve been nice…to me.”
I had a lot of trouble with that when I was younger because of the widespread dude belief of: “That guy who gets any kind of positive attention from any pretty girl I resent the hell out of and I’m sure he must be a jerk because *I* want that attention and I’m pissy and jealous.”
So I have heard, “Why do you hang around with that jerk?” more times than I can count in my life. Most of the time it means, “You’re pretty and I automatically resent that you don’t reserve your prettiness for me only.” Which is easy to treat with all the respect that it deserves.
But every once in a while there is an actual jerk problem with the guy I think is my friend. The best example I can think of was a guy who wasn’t really a jerk yet when we first became friends, and he had a lot to recommend him. For example, when I said I was eschewing dating until the end of my latest Big Thing I Was Working On, he accepted it and his interest and attention immediately became purely platonic, which was one hell of a rarity, sadly. And then he proceeded to be there for me and really have my back in a number of situations over the years when I had no one else in my corner. So yeah, friend. A good one.
So when he decided what he really wanted to be was some cynical morose guy with bad/bigoted attitudes about women, I didn’t spot it right away. He wasn’t like that around me. He hadn’t used to be like that around anybody. Around me he was still the friend who had fought my corner when no one else would/could, and did so again, so that wasn’t just loyalty to past memories on my part.
Some male friends started complaining that I was “hanging around with that jerk”, but they were the same ones who were dancing around me hinting at their attraction to me at the time and hoping I would manage it for them somehow, so I figured it was just the usual, “You’re hanging around someone else when *I* want your attention,” and shrugged it off at first. I did try asking what they meant, but they’d just say the same vague things like, “he’s a jerk,” that guys say when they’re just jealous. So I said, “He isn’t a jerk to me,” a lot.
I did figure it out eventually, and I did resign myself to no longer being friends with the guy who was now becoming Mr. Bigot.
I realize that’s not the same as if they’d said, “He says bigoted things about women,” and I’d responded with, “He doesn’t say those things around me, so whatever.”
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