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JulianMorrison comments on LW Women- Minimizing the Inferential Distance - Less Wrong

58 [deleted] 25 November 2012 11:33PM

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Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 01:43:48AM 4 points [-]

Oh, I know there are people who would probably deliberately catcall just to annoy - I just assumed it was related to the idea that men enjoy humiliating and denigrating women just ... because we're men. It's surprisingly common once you start noticing it, and almost never challenged, so I make a point of speaking up about these things whenever possible. "Men's Rights" may attract misogynists, but that doesn't mean we should ignore stereotypes of men (not saying you're saying we should - it's just a common assumption and a pet peeve of mine.)

As for the catcalling thing ... I think everyone gets random people saying, basically, "hi". It can be weird when you don't know them, but I think it's distinct from catcalling - which seems to vary geographically, judging by other comments here.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 November 2012 01:55:20AM 1 point [-]

There's an element of "claiming ownership" in cat calling and in "how are you doing" and "smile baby" too. It means "I have the right to your time, I have the right to your attention, I have the right to have you be pretty for me by smiling" Replying politely only confirms that, they think they have you trapped in a conversation now. And witness how this "right" is backed by indignation "bitch, think you're all that" and gendered tear-down-confidence insults "slut" and "fat ugly cow" as soon as the man is refused. Which is why women learn counter strategies that don't throw back his claim in his face (as he rightly deserves).

Comment author: army1987 27 November 2012 02:46:45AM 5 points [-]

"I have the right to your time,

I've heard that argument (in a thread on a feminist blog about a particular xkcd issue), but it triggers my "not the true rejection" warning light. If Alice was asked for directions by another woman, I wouldn't anticipate Alice to resent that.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2012 12:51:42PM 3 points [-]

Asking for directions is a different case, because most people may be assumed to need directions from strangers at some time, so there's a degree of long term reciprocity.

I think street harassment is in a different category because it's an attention grab while not being part of a benevolent social net or giving anything back.

Comment author: evand 27 November 2012 02:37:16PM 3 points [-]

I think it's a different case, but not completely. When a stranger asks me for directions, I feel imposed upon and uncomfortable. In large part this is because I've learned that the frequency of the person using it as a pretext for panhandling is high. Which has a certain similarity to why the greetings make you uncomfortable, I think: both are used as pretexts to start a conversation we'd rather not be involved in.

Clearly there's some context dependency here: if the person is standing on a sidewalk, I feel far more uncomfortable than if they just rolled down their car window in a parking lot. I also recall a time a man on a bike asked me for directions, appeared genuinely thankful, made sure he'd got them right, and then asked me for money. When I refused, he was annoyed (though more polite than is common) and then left in the direction I had indicated.

Anyway, seeing as offering random greetings to strangers along the lines of "how are you doing" is something I (hetero male, in case you hadn't inferred that) do occasionally, I'm trying to ponder what contexts I do it in. I think I'm generally shy and awkward enough that I basically do it a context something like I made eye contact, and then some external cause means the other person isn't just leaving, and now I'm feeling awkward and like I should say something. I'm assuming this basically isn't the sort of context you're talking about? Actually, on further reflection, I suspect I do it in the situation described in the main article of when holding the door for someone, which is not something I had ever really thought of as potentially offensive before. (For the record, I don't follow it up with sexual remarks and slurs.)

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 November 2012 02:44:48PM 1 point [-]

When a stranger asks me for directions, I feel imposed upon and uncomfortable. In large part this is because I've learned that the frequency of the person using it as a pretext for panhandling is high.

Really? I've been asked directions a lot of times, and this hasn't happened to me even once.

I haven't had this happen at all in New York City, the place I've spent the most time where I would expect panhandlers, but it might be different elsewhere given that Manhattan is practically impossible to get lost in.

Being asked for directions makes me uncomfortable, but only because I have the worst sense of direction of anyone I know, and hate feeling unhelpful.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 02:02:42AM 3 points [-]

There's an element of "claiming ownership" in cat calling

Source please.

and in "how are you doing" and "smile baby" too.

So ... male passersby are "claiming ownership" of me? Great, now I'll be even more uncomfortable. (I'm male & het, if that wasn't clear.)

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 November 2012 02:15:28AM *  -3 points [-]

Don't ask for a source of something that clearly is an interpretation of observation not a study. That's pretty clearly acting dismissively.

And you know what I mean about claiming ownership too. Those comments are said by men to women in a particular way that is more intrusive and different from the way they are said to you. You are being dismissive here too.

Comment author: evand 27 November 2012 02:09:01PM 2 points [-]

I find "source please" only somewhat dismissive, but I would find it similarly so if the claim was a more direct, less empirical one.

I read "source please" as a statement that your interpretive claim is too strong to be supported by the quantity of interpretation you have provided. There is no reason your source could not be an essay instead of a pile of data and statistics. Hopefully such an essay would make use of at least some quantity of data.

Non-obvious interpretations need justification for all the same reasons that non-obvious direct empirical claims do, and I don't think it's more or less dismissive in one case than the other to call for a source. Specifically, what I find dismissive is not the request for a source, but the failure to engage the claim otherwise. That said, I'm not sure I find it inappropriate here.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 02:25:23AM 1 point [-]

Don't ask for a source of something that clearly is an interpretation of observation not a study. That's pretty clearly acting dismissively.

I would like to know what evidence you have for your claims. Without evidence, yes, I'm going to dismiss them, because they fit a profile of stereotyping that, in my experience, is tied to factually wrong statements about my gender.

And you know what I mean about claiming ownership too.

I have my suspicions, but that doesn't address my point.

Those comments are said by men to women in a particular way that is more intrusive and different from the way they are said to you. You are being dismissive here too.

I was suggesting that sexual comments and greetings may have different causes. Since I receive greetings that sound similar to the ones described from people who are almost certainly not viewing me as a potential partner, it seems likely that they are received regardless of gender, unlike catcalls.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2012 12:44:25PM 2 points [-]

'Ownership' might be putting it too strongly, but it's definitely a claim on the other person's attention for something which is of no conceivable value to the person who's attention is being claimed.

Comment author: JulianMorrison 27 November 2012 02:32:07AM -1 points [-]

You don't have experience, and you turn away vicarious experience - the inferential distance is too large.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 02:43:05AM 5 points [-]

I have the experience of being a male and having other males make unsolicited greetings, which makes me uncomfortable and generally resembles what Nancy reported. Since I doubt the same phenomenon is responsible for the greetings I receive and the "catcalling"many women report, I suggested that Nancy's experiences had a different cause to regular, sexual catcalling. I may have made some sort of error, but if so I would prefer you point it out rather than baldly accuse me of a failure of empathy.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 27 November 2012 12:48:54PM 5 points [-]

For what it's worth, every stranger who's given me an unwanted "How are you doing?" has been male, and the incidence has dropped off strikingly as I've hit menopause.

I do think there's a sexual element, and for all I know, there was one in the unwanted greetings from men that you've gotten.

However, please note that I raised the question about whether the relatively mild "How are you doing?" should be counted among catcalls. The thing that people usually complain about is more overtly sexual and/or gendered, and frequently hostile to start with or becomes hostile if rejected.

Comment author: MugaSofer 27 November 2012 05:23:07PM 3 points [-]

I wasn't trying to make any claims about catcalling, merely supplying evidence that "how are you doing" is a different phenomenon.

... I have to say, the possibility that it's sexual is there - I have long hair, long enough that I've been mistaken for female (more so before I hit puberty, of course.) But my name is used fairly often, so I suspect I'm just more recognizable than skilled at recognizing others.

Comment author: TorqueDrifter 27 November 2012 05:29:19PM 3 points [-]

my name is used fairly often

This seems like an important detail.