So it’s been a little less than four months since I swallowed my nervousness and made Seeing Is Understanding publicly accessible.
I’ve been blown away by its continued visibility. It’s a rare day that someone doesn’t view it here or over at LiveJournal. Between the two, it’s reached around 4000 views. And just when I think it’s finally trickling off, a sudden influx of viewers will come from a new Facebook or Tumblr link. Now I’m getting visitors from Google+. I have no idea how many people have read it at those other sources.
I’m blown away by that. (I know a great many folks wouldn’t blink at those stats, but I’m an unknown small fry, so the numbers surprise me.) I’d originally written this up for a double-handful of friends because I’d found the incident both interesting and unsettling. They urged me to give it a wider audience, and I’m glad I did. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
I’m also a little weirded out by the article’s reach. My website stats tell me folks come from all sorts of online places to see that post, reading from six continents, so I assume there is some conversation about it somewhere — but it’s not mine to participate in, or even know about. I just hope the conversations lead to better awareness on the part of men and women, and a greater ability to see the smaller manipulations that so often escape notice and acknowledgement.
Lastly, I can report I’ve not been subject to any backlash. Considering what has happened to others discussing harassment, that does surprise me. (I wonder if it’s because “Blair” is somewhat gender-ambiguous.)
Crossposted to These Certain Musings.
I’ve been blown away by the spread of, and positive response to, my last post. It freaked me out a little at first, seeing the views here and at BMB keep rising. My hope is the folks who read it will find not only something interesting, but reason to look ahead with positive hope.
As much as we (using “we” in the most general sense) like to believe we are empathetic creatures at heart, even the best of us have blind spots. It’s difficult to understand how one person’s experience feels on a visceral level unless we have a similar experience to which we can compare it.
By coincidence, researchers at UCLA recently released the results of their studies, “Bound to Lose: Physical Incapacitation Increases the Conceptualized Size of an Antagonist in Men.” Researchers found men tied to a chair or standing on an unsteady surface (a balance board) overestimated the antagonist’s size and underestimated their own size.
The results are utterly unsurprising, though I’m sure it’s abstractly a good thing that science has now confirmed the experiences of anyone who has been on the lower end of a power disparity.
If nothing else, it’s something to point as a means to explain why a person will read “threat” into a situation that, to an outsider, doesn’t look threatening. Where an observer might think, “That nice guy was just talking to her over there,” the woman in question might be thinking, “I can’t get out of this corner because the Huge Man is blocking me.”
Considering how balance affected perception, I’d be interested to see what would result from participants wearing stilettoes.
Many commenters on various forums have—predictably—stated how onerous it will be to monitor their own behavior toward women. How they simply can’t be expected to know the difference between flirtation and harassment, between friendliness and creepiness, between acceptable adult behavior and unacceptable juvenile conduct.
On another blog I read often, the discussion came up because a commenter wanted to know the best way to avoid being falsely accused. A very level-headed commenter answered with the following advice:
“Don’t put yourself into a situation where it’s just you and someone whose moral compass you aren’t sure of. Stay in a public or semi-public place. Maintain at least an arm’s length of distance when possible. Keep your hands away from the other person’s body — perhaps by holding a glass (at a party, say), a book, or a tablet. Be polite, but not intimate: don’t lean in to talk to them quietly, don’t go into personal topics.”
The next response deemed her advice “a large checklist,” and called it “overly sensitive.”
Questions: What part of that advice is particularly difficult? Is it a great burden to avoid touching another person? Is it unreasonable to avoid talking about intimate topics? Is avoiding being alone with a person of questionable character an extreme act?
Better questions: How many of you would have read the advice out of context and assumed it was standard advice given to women on how to avoid giving a man/woman the wrong signals? For heaven’s sake, how many of you know children who could follow those standards of behavior with ease?
As Elizabeth Bear wrote about the difference between harassment and flirtation: It’s not actually all that complicated.