When you approach me in public, you are Schrödinger’s Rapist. You may or may not be a man who would commit rape. I won’t know for sure unless you start sexually assaulting me. I can’t see inside your head, and I don’t know your intentions. If you expect me to trust you—to accept you at face value as a nice sort of guy—you are not only failing to respect my reasonable caution, you are being cavalier about my personal safety.
And a response on the mens rights site:
I want you to do me a favor and go re-read that link you posted, but when you read it, I’d like you to imagine it’s a police officer explaining to a black man why they get hassled a lot, or that it’s a TSA agent explaining to a Muslim why they get pulled out of line and searched a lot.
Imagine that instead of the title of the article being “Schrödinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced” it was “Schrödinger’s Felon: or a black male’s guide to walking down the street without being questioned by the police” or instead was “Schrödinger’s Terrorist: or a Muslim’s guide to going through airport security without getting strip searched”. Would those be articles you’d be proud to circulate?
Is there something morally OK with gender profiling that is not OK with racial profiling?
Since then I’ve been thinking about just that: is gender profiling of men fundamentally different than racial or religious profiling?
My immediate reaction is yes, it’s different: men are still, culturally and socially, primary holders of power in Western society. Not as much as they were fifty (or one hundred, or two hundred) years ago, but legal equality has not made men and women socially, financially, or sexually equal in America. (Yes, it’s helped. I’m not dismissing legal equality as unimportant.)
At the same time, Starling (the post’s author) is talking about how all men should modify their behavior, lest they be taken for a specific minority of men (rapists). I’d say that idea is patently offensive when applied to religious minorities, racial minorities, gender nonconforming individuals, whomever. I would be horribly offended if someone said “You know, you should really just try to look more like a woman, and give people a chance to see how great you are!”
Of course, not all rape is committed by men. I think it’s kind of unfortunate the post is directed at men because, in the end, I think the post is applicable to everyone. It shouldn’t be “A guys’ guy to approaching strange women without being maced” it should be “a guide to approaching strangers without being a douche.” The rules Starling lays out, with the gendered language stripped:
- Everyone is allowed to set their own risk tolerances
- You must be aware of what signals you are sending, and in what environment
- Learn to understand and respect nonverbal and verbal communication
- If you fail to respect what someone says, you label yourself a problem
- Don’t rape
These shouldn’t be about how men deal with women, they should be about how anyone deals with everyone. These are simple issues of respect that, yes, culturally seem more lost on men than women, for whatever the reason. Or, if not lost, more culturally charged when it comes to men interacting with women. But it doesn’t magically become OK for a man to ignore another man’s nonverbal signals, or a woman to ignore a man’s, or whomever to ignore whomever.
And, of course, don’t rape anyone.
So I do think the mens rights poster has a point: the post, as written, is problematic. But I don’t think the information contained is actually sexist, just written from a specific (again, somewhat problematic) point of view.