37 thoughts on “Guys crossing the street, rabid dogs, and elevators

  1. i never talk to women they can scream rape and i get jailed and they do not need evidence where i live her words are enough

  2. Well said Greg – Somewhere in my 20s (which would put that in the 70’s) – I realized that I should cross the street and did so (and would still if I roamed the streets at night , which I don’t).

  3. Ya, it is kind of a shock to realize that you don’t do this street crossing thing anymore because you don’t wander around at night as much any more.

  4. Very good post. When I read

    “…the goal is not to hit some optimal median of reaction, because that would mean that half the time one under-reacts. That’s fine in Poker, in Horse Betting, in all sorts of activity. But, over a period of 20 or 30 years, the correct number of times to be molested or raped is not half the number of times it could have happened. No. It is zero. Just zero.”

    something in my nerdly brain went “click”. What an excellent way of putting it.

    In your last paragraph, “begging” should be “beginning”

  5. I like to run around our local streets, normally at about 8pm from September to about March (I live in Australia mind).

    But from March on it gets dark, and I don’t like to run in the dark because it scares me. Now I live in a very safe suburban area, the chances of being assaulted at 8pm even in the middle of winter dark are probably zero – but growing up I learnt that I have to keep an eye out for my safety and that probably zero is not the same as exactly zero.

    My husband says “Surely nothing would happen to you, you don’t need to be scared”. I know he understands that I am scared (sometimes he runs with me in the dark and then I am never scared), but he has never had to be scared like women have to be scared so he doesn’t really understand what that means. He says “apply your reason” and I do … but though I know the odds are probably zero – as Greg says, probably zero is not the same as exactly zero, and my reason knows this too!

    And thanks to all those men, my husband included, who do understand, who know that women know that they are not all rapists, but who understand that a strange man in the dark is something to be wary of and who take steps to help us feel safe!

  6. Thank you for this entry. It gives me hope. I can count only 3 men in my life who would even understand the issues you bring up. However I’m fairly sure even those 3 men still haven’t thought through the issue enough to act on it such as crossing to the other side of the street or taking the next elevator….

  7. I started crossing streets and trying to appear harmless in my early 20s (well, actually I was doing it in my early teens but at that time it was because I was the one afraid of people and was trying to avoid them–which probably is what gave me insight into how other people would feel when a tall fit looking guy was striding in their direction).

    On streets where I can’t cross I move well over early on so the woman knows I’m not blocking her path. At my age though I find I more likely remind young woman of their father, favorite uncle, or as happened two weeks ago when the young woman asked me a bus schedule question and started chatting freely, their grandfather (sigh).

    Good message, Greg. I wish bone-headed guys would just get it. It is scary being approached when you’re by yourself. Is it so hard to put yourself into other peoples’ shoes?

  8. Greg, I gather from your comments you have now stopped holding your breath waiting for Richard Dawkins to apologize for his crassness. Just as well you would probably be asphyxiated.

  9. I normally don’t approach women in the street, except when they look like they need assistance. I’ve started cars, changed tyres etc.
    If I saw a man and a women together, but she seemed uncomfortable, perhaps acting under duress, I’d call the Police.

  10. I do somehow understand the point made regarding stress.

    Probably American assessment of the issue is also somewhat different to Germany’s, where I live (although I assume that women’s liberation here in Germany basically is about similar to America).

    What I’m afraid of is something different (which also happened in America): Put in “scared old white man” instead of “women”, put in “black boy” instead of “man”, and you have a perfect excuse for the murder of Trayvon Martin:

    (see: “If the guy did what that guy did, […], I’d totally Freak.”
    “Yeah. […] said would punch him in the face.” “Me too.” “That guy’s gonna have a bloody nose. “)
    If such problems anywhere in the (democratic) world cannot be solved otherwise, every group arbitrarily defined has to stick to themselves… No other solution possible?

  11. The dog analogy might be a good one. Based on around a half century of distance running:
    – most dogs are nice
    – most dogs who aren’t nice can read body language and carefully ignore you
    – of the remainder, where there is an owner around, most (men and women alike) just don’t get it. “He was only playing!” Sure.

    So for men. Nasty dogs are relatively easy to deal with though.

  12. The link to “rebeccapocalypse” is 404. In the meantime, your Search facility is proving very helpful, thank you.

  13. Not Anonymous, i’m so glad you gave us that video of some guy telling us how from his and Dawkin’s POV Rebecca Watson needs perspective on being a woman.

    It will be taken under advisement.

  14. As they tell you in sexual harassment in the work place
    1. Never approach or be alone with strange children or women.
    2. Never touch other;s children or women you are not on a familar bases,

    I am not trying to disagree and as a uncle of a young woman like almost everything said except-
    Most of the people here are not familar with disability rights and integration so can I treat you like you treat Professor Dawkins because you have an able bodied mind set?

  15. While I can understand the sentiment here, I think your suggestion that men cross the street is insulting, both to men and women.
    It ignores the fact that men are also assaulted, both physically and sexually. Should a man then cross the street when approaching another man, too? You might argue that women are sexually assaulted by men more often, and your point is taken, but appealing to statistics in the same way, shouldn’t a black man cross the street when approaching someone at night since black men are more often perpetrators of assault? Certainly not, and I would never argue otherwise, because doing so would assume black men are assaults waiting to happen, just as this article assumes all men are assaults waiting to happen. Again, I understand the sentiment, but women are not fragile little dolls in need of protection against all worry. If a man can handle the fear of assault while walking at night, a woman can as well. I don’t think anyone, male or female, has a responsibility, if they are acting within the bounds of the law and common decency, to constantly worry if they are offending the people around them somehow.

  16. Kransky, no, you don’t “understand” the sentiment at all.

    I’m not ignoring assault on men at all. I’m just not talking about it. It may well be true that a man should be considerate in relation to other men in the way you suggest.

    Regarding your question “shouldn’t a black man cross the street when approaching someone at night since black men are more often perpetrators of assault?” …. again, that is not the topic of this post; it is not being ignored, just not talked about here. There is one blogger who happens to be black who has taken up that issue and discussed it, and his answer to your question would be “yes, sometimes’ but again, that is not the topic here.

    This article does not assume all men are assaults waiting to happen. I do not say that, I do not imply that, I do not assume that, I do not believe that. That is something you have added into the conversation because you have misunderstood the point being made, or misread the post.

    My only question for you is this: Is your lack of understanding of both this post and of the overall situation due to having only glanced at the post, or due to your inability to understand the post, or is it willful? There is a lot of willful ignorance in this area and it is disgusting. I certainly hope you are not doing that here.

  17. I do not misunderstand the post or the situation. I understand both perfectly. However, though I do agree people should not actively make strangers uncomfortable, I do not agree that anyone has the duty to go out of their way to make strangers more comfortable. It’s not willful ignorance, it’s not a lack of understanding, it’s a disagreement, and I resent the implication made in the original post that there is something wrong with me as well as the implication in your last post that I am either ignorant or disgusting or both.
    I was not and am not trying to stir up trouble or advance some kind of misogynistic agenda, because I have none. In fact, I consider myself a feminist, though I’m sure that doesn’t mean anything to you in this context, nor should it, but don’t lump me in with the he-man woman-haters. I just think the idea smacks of old-fashioned notions of helpless women needing to be protected by chivalrous men.
    I only mentioned men because if men should do this for other men as well, then it’s not a gender issue, it’s a courtesy issue and should be framed as such. I’m not trying to minimize or trivialize assaults against women. I agree that approaching a woman in a deserted parking garage or in an elevator at night is at best creepy and at worst actively menacing, but going out of your way to cross the street is a bit much.

  18. The idea that this smacks of old fashioned notions of helpless women needing to be protected by chivalrous men is real, and that has to be taken into account, and if that is the idea someone has while being polite then they are doing it wrong; I totally agree with you there. How we behave with each other is not a simple set of rules (and I did not propose a simple rule here).

  19. Greg, it seems to me that you were needlessly insulting to Kransky, at 3:19 above (“his” presupposed “lack of understanding” being attributed to one of three errors by or inherent flaws in himself). As a woman, I’d appreciate the sensitivity of a young man or group of men who took the trouble to avoid me in a very remote area. On the other hand, I don’t think I can expect that every man will repeatedly cross the street as necessary to avoid me and any other women he might encounter. The extra time and steps could be a meaningful inconvenience in severe weather or if someone is in a hurry.

    I do keep a cautious eye on men on the street, but do not fear the proximity of those who appear to be sane and going about their own business. If I had ever been raped, maybe I would fear them. On the other hand, I might say to myself that it’s not beneficial to fear every man or dog you see, even if you’ve been bitten, and that regular exposure to harmless men and dogs helps us remember that most individuals of both species are just minding their own business. And if I were to accept the idea that many women can’t bear the stress of such exposure, I myself might wind up trotting back and forth to avoid other women. Because I have fairly short hair and used to count as tall, I have been mistaken for a guy in dim light, so do I too have a moral obligation to go out of my way to avoid passing other women on the sidewalk? Maybe I do, but I don’t believe the point is beyond argument.

  20. I have been needlessly cranky lately.

    I’m not suggesting that everybody has to cross the street all the time! But basically, yes, you make all good points, thanks for the comments.

  21. I’m a big, tall man and I’ve been going out of my way to make room for people so as not to intimidate them practically my whole life. I do it because I happen to be hyper sensitive to how people perceive me, so it’s really a temperament thing. I’m actually so sensitive to it that I sometimes can’t decide whether to cross the street because I worry that the person may get OFFENDED by my crossing the street. It’s a can of worms, I tells ya.

    But I would personally categorize things like crossing the street in an “extra consideration” bucket that I would not deem required of basic courtesy. It’s awesome to be extra considerate, but it’s fine to be just regular considerate (which might be not crossing the street but leaving lots of space and trying to not look too shady :).

  22. On the other hand, maybe you feel like you’ve been treated badly by some woman that day, so doing a spiteful thing like taking the opportunity of walking up close behind another woman later that night to possibly give her a jolt of fear is just part of the game, right? It’s not like you’re actually going to harm her in any way because you’re a trustworthy sort of bloke.

  23. I work with heterosexual men that have been convicted of partner abuse. One of the things I teach them about is their unearned male privilege. You may have seen lists of examples of male privilege relating to equal pay and so forth. While all of these examples are all valid, the men I see don’t always relate to them. (She has a job, not me. So she is the privileged one.) The question I ask them that best demonstrates male privilege is this: “How much time do you spend every day woryring about being raped?” The answer that I get back almost universally is “None.” This, my friends, is male privilege. Women do not have this privilege. Crossing the street as suggested is an acknowledgement of the awareness that I have such privilege and am choosing to use it to instill safe feelings rather than fear.

  24. I walk an Irish Wolfhound. Nobody would get past her. She has already seen off a pair of guys who open and entered the back patio door of the house while I was just out of the shower… and I live in a rural area, so that could have ended very badly.

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