Fear And Loathing

Read this article (it’s not long, and it’s what I’m talking about, so there’s not much point in you reading this blog if you’re not going to follow the link).

She makes a good point. I wouldn’t say I was afraid on the internet but then I realised I am more likely to adopt a pseudonym and so on out of fear of some kind of stalking/harassment resulting from that. Which is why I haven’t put my whole face on that photo post I did; rather than any of the reasons she lists for men adopting internet pseudonyms. In the case of Cloudlife, of course, there were plenty of other decent reasons for my anonymity that, well, probably still hold, but I can’t become anonymous again. None of those reasons, anyway, were about getting unwanted male or sexual attention.

Are we, as women, trained to fear men? As the author says,

‘And again: why would women fear this more than men? Random internet person develops some weird obsessive fixation on another random internet person, stalks and threatens him/her. I’ve seen this happen to both women and men. But guys don’t seem to fear it the way women do.’

She then goes on to say that men who wolf-whistle in the street, or do the same kind of thing online (I got a ‘hey there’ from a builder the other day) don’t do it to get a date or a phone number because they know they won’t be successful – they do it to instil fear in us. I’m not entirely sure I agree with that in its entirety. Sure, that kind of behaviour won’t get you dates, bared boobs or phone numbers, and obviously she isn’t claiming (I think) that it’s a conscious attempt to instil fear in women, but I’m not sure that that’s the subconscious reasoning behind that kind of behaviour anyway. Not that I have any answer for what is the reasoning behind that kind of behaviour – it tends to put me in a bad mood and make me walk quicker whilst also feeling slightly flattered (perhaps that’s it, perhaps it’s the flattery, perhaps that does work on some women. But who, pray? Thinking about it I did have a friend who used to work at a drive-thru McDonald’s and would give out her number to, well, every man that came through. But she’s a rare (and mental) case (we’re not friends any more)).

She also goes on to say that the safety advice women are given tends only to increase that fear. Yes, it’s sensible having a women’s bus run from the Union to any residence within two miles; yes, it’s a good idea to carry a personal alarm (I refuse to call them rape alarms), yes, it’s a good idea to never walk home alone (although I do it regularly as a sort of ‘fuck you’ to the rest of the world because I am not afraid). All those things are a good idea – so why don’t men do them too? Why isn’t there just a students’ bus from the Union for any student needing to get home safely? Why don’t men make sure they don’t walk home alone unless they have to? Why don’t men carry personal alarms?

Our women are afraid and our men are in danger but don’t realise it because culturally we completely sexualise violence. It’s not all about rape, about the power rush of subjugating a woman, because for crying out loud to go and rape a random stranger you have to be, frankly, sick. But to go out and mug someone you just have to be angry and poor and disadvantaged, your friends are doing it, whatever, but you’re not unbalanced. So it’s not all about sex – it is almost always just about getting that phone or that wallet or kicking the shit out of something, and that something just happens to be a person – statistically, probably a man.

I’m not being a crazy feminist here, I’m just being sensible. Basically, I’ll start taking taxis when I’d otherwise be walking home alone when you do the same. So there.

More importantly, what do you think about the theory that society these days as much or more than ever instils in women a fear of men and of that sort of assault?



Filed under Sex, Society, Thoughts, University, Women, World

12 responses to “Fear And Loathing

  1. I think the article grossly oversimplifies matters. Men aren’t necessarily “afraid” of walking home late at night, but you do make sure you’re paying attention of whats around you and perhaps change the route. It’s just common sense, cos anyone can get mugged.

    And on that theme, “Why isn’t there just a students’ bus from the Union for any student needing to get home safely?”
    Frankly I’m appalled if there are “women’s buses”…

  2. clare

    “but I’m not sure that that’s the subconscious reasoning behind that kind of behaviour anyway.”

    I think she’s not saying that it’s a subconscious or conscious motivation. What the jist of the article seems to be is that regardless of intention, the effect is that women become fearful.

    I also do a lot of walking about alone, although I freaked myself out royally the other day by going for a walk round the common in the pitch dark, and thus couldn’t tell if that shadow underneath the tree was a strange person standing under a tree or merely a shadow, or WOAH! a fuck-off massive dog… turned out to be the shadow. Mostly.

    And then I heard lots of heavy breathing so started walking faster, and the heavy breathing got louder and louder and closer and closer, and because College has spent the last 2 months telling women that their taxi fare home (£6 when it’s a 10min walk at MOST) will be subsidised so they don’t have to walk home alone, I started being afraid and thinking “Oh, I’m a woman on my own, this is dangerous”, when I knew, I sodding knew it would be (as it was) a harmless bloke out for a run, probably in the dark (as I would’ve been if it was me) because maybe he was a bit embarrassed, or was out because he’d just finished work and wanted some exercise. And yet I was totally afraid of shadows and unexpected breath even though I knew I didn’t need to be…

    So yeah. I don’t see why there shouldn’t be ‘student buses’, or why if someone walking home alone takes adequate precautions, they won’t be okay. [And if some stranger does jump out from behind a tree and ask where you’re going and if he can have your number it is probably a good idea to be a little bit cautious (I’m talking to myself here…) because you have to wonder why he’s behind a tree in the first place.]


  3. Jenny

    Clare. You should definitely, definitely *definitely* not go walking alone on the Common at night, and I would say that to you whoever you were. It’s just not sensible, however much you want a nice walk at that point.

    WRT wolf-whistling etc from builders or whatever, her actual words are: ‘1. Men who hassle women online (“hey baby,” “you stupid bitch”) or in real life (wolf whistles, etc.) are actively training women to be afraid. Whether or not they realize it, that’s what they’re doing. Which makes the answer to the question “why do guys do that? Do they think I’m going to say, “hey, daddy, let me give you my number?”–and we’ve all asked that, and laughed about it–suddenly clear. Of course they don’t do it to pick up women. No women has ever responded to that, and men know this. They do it to instill fear.’ – implying that she believes that that is the motivation behind this behaviour, I think – and I can see why on a subconscious level she may kind of be right, because it *is* all about power.

    I think there should be either no student safety bus at all, or one that caters for men *and* women – a taxi home would be five or six quid for me and the safety bus is £1.50. In all honesty if I wasn’t drunk (which I basically never am) I would probably just walk tbh. You are so lucky that your college would subsidise your travel, Clare, although again they really, really *should* say that to men too. Actually you’re lucky in general that living costs seem to be as low as they are for you!! Damn Cambridge students… 😛

    And “Men aren’t necessarily “afraid” of walking home late at night, but you do make sure you’re paying attention of whats around you and perhaps change the route. It’s just common sense, cos anyone can get mugged.” – that’s always been pretty much *my* attitude to walking home late at night, too. That and I usually have the cello which at the very least I can use as a sort of full body shield…!

  4. clare

    if whacking someone with an arm encased in plaster means they have to lie down moaning for a while, imagine the damage a blow with a cello might do…

    I might take one with me, as a safety precaution. or a cellist.


  5. http://needled.wordpress.com/2009/10/09/walking-in-philadelphia-1/

    Is it trying to make women scared? Or is it like telling a one-liner, or any other quick interaction that we have in the street, and it’s just eliciting a response, albeit more loudly than usual? Clearly there are some people online who are bullies, but honestly, I haven’t come across it much. Maybe I’ve just been in the wrong places. But I honestly think that the best thing you can do to a wolf-whistle is to grin back – it’s eliciting a response. It’s just that a lot of women are self-conscious. It’s just that being put on the spot like that sometimes makes some people scared – do you get scared when someone wolf-whistles you? I don’t believe it’s deliberately nasty in the majority of cases, and I absolutely refuse to consider the possibility that it’s training me to be scared. You can interpret anything in any way you like.

  6. Jenny

    I didn’t say I agreed with the author, merely taht it’s an interesting theory with perhaps a grain of truth to it!

    Meanwhile I love your link, is all I can say. And LA is *bizarre*. Not that I’ve ever spent more than 12 hours there. Not that I’ve been there more than once. But that was enough to know that it was *bizarre*.

    I wouldn’t say I get *scared*, more that I don’t like completely unsolicited and excessive attention of a sexual nature from total strangers or whatever, be that a man wolf-whistling from out of his van on the street, or a bloke in a bar or a club coming on to me (or clearly planning on it) when I don’t even know him. This makes me sound like a prude, but really, no. I’m just not about to go home with some guy I met at a bar, just like that, and I don’t want to feel like you’re imagining me naked while I’m trying to have a nice, *clothed* time with my friends. And, perhaps, it’s not so much the fear, but the fact taht then your’e slightly on your guard, out of your comfort zone, and wrong-footed. One step further to say that that is exactly what that kidn of behaviour is about – and I don’t think that’s a leap I really agree with as such.

    That said perhaps I only feel uncomfortable because it’s invariably the unattractive guys that do it. Is that because it’s only unattractive men who wolf-whistle at all, or becuase the ones I find attractive are way out of my league? ANd who knows, if I was wolf-whistled by an attractive guy, would I react any differently?

    Basically I’m talking shit and I don’t know what I’m saying any more and I just need *sleep*.


  7. Oddly enough, I had a rather lengthy discussion with one of my friends about inequality/sexism and whatnot last night and it reminded me of this post. It’s one of the few times where someone has changed my mind during the course of an argument, because she made a lot of good points that I hadn’t even considered or noticed before.

    So, I can kinda see more now what the person who wrote the post you linked to was saying. I still don’t think that men who wolf-whistle etc are trying to “instil fear” as such, but I can see the point that there are still lots of very subtle inequalities and sexist attitudes. Which I think is what she was trying to say, but in an incredibly hamfisted way.

  8. Jenny

    That’s the trouble with a lot of modern feminists. They can be *very* hamfisted. I’m glad your friend started to convince you, though – she’s right, there really isn’t a lot of equality about for women, even here in the UK. At least not compared to how things ought to be. I think sometimes feminists hamper themselves and their cause with their clumsy and lurid arguments and soapboxing behaviour, and I know I can be like that myself, or have been in the past. xxx

  9. Interesting, Dickie, yes, I think that’s the point. It’s all subtle, and I like to think that the vast majority of men wouldn’t deliberately go out to demean or actively scare women.

    In other news, “you’re lucky in general that living costs seem to be as low as they are for you” – since when has Cambridge been a particularly cheap place to live?! Or is that the point?

  10. Jenny

    it’s not, it’s more that being in college and being fed and stuff means that, well, your money gets spent differently. Or indeed not at all :P. I mean, Clare, does your food bill count as part of your rent? xxx

  11. Yeah, but if it’s anything like the Durham colleges, rent’s so expensive that you could go to the Caribbean on it!

  12. Pingback: People expecting the worst « de minimis

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