Thursday, June 30, 2016

Power and Harassment

From what I can tell, almost nobody in society writes about individual “power.” It seems to be a blind spot, as if it were a sordid subject to us. Perhaps because we think Jesus wouldn’t be “turned on” by having power. Neither would my father: Grandmother told me Dad was a very decent man. Not a coincidence.

I’ve only come across two sources regarding power: Philosopher Bertrand Russel wrote a book called Power, and an angry Mark Twain wrote a political tract after he was angry at the wide spread denial that folks in the Belgian Congo were having their hands chopped off. (This was well before the “Belgian atrocities” of World War I, where the English, safely across the channel, stockpiled hands for Belgian children, to give to them after the war was over) As Twain put it, too bad for the king of Belgium that someone had invented the Kodak camera. Photographs were included. Twain also sketched stick figuers of the big king and his little subjects, to show the king wondering why so many are so eager to be bowing down to him. The king sure liked his power.

Happily, I live in a new century.

It was Joss Whedon, maker of Buffy the Vampire Slayer who said, “Recognising power in another does not diminish your own.” My dad would agree. To me that goes for "equal rights" too. Too bad some males still think of “equal rights” as a fixed pie (or zero sum game) thinking that if you give equal rights to females then somehow males have less rights. No wonder that, according to one blogger, (link) it’s easier for him to rebuke racists than to correct men who wish to harass.

In my own time, when the women’s liberation movement started, I remember society was innocent about the general connection of male power to liberation issues. I remember very well how society had great difficulty making the specific connection that rape could be for power and violence, not simply lust and love. Back then, people were very surprised to hear that plain nuns in shapeless clothing would be raped. For power. Today I think we mostly know this, we mostly know that a rapist can hate women. But now I am wondering exactly how much we still have left to learn.

I wonder, because recently I found a piece on street harrasment. I already knew public harrassment existed: Back during my young “meaning of life” days my girlfriend told me how angry she was to be yelled at from passing cars so bloody often. I believed her, even though this was back in the 1970’s when women were still disbelieved if they claimed there was harrassment for ordinary “didn’t ask for it” women. I haven’t read much about harrassment down the years, but after finding that piece last week I can see that society in the 21st century still has a blind spot.

According to the writer, many men believe that their fellow males are being friendly, merely wanting a girlfriend, when they call out a supposed “compliment” or call, “Hey baby…”

As I understand it, the writer speculated that men don’t discourage such harrassment by fellow males because they think a poor over-confident harrasser is merely trying to find a girlfriend, that maybe he’s an unfortunate guy who lacks the social skills to go onto social media dating sites, or enter a singles bar, or get a membership with a hobby or club

Apparently, what men in our society don’t understand is that the harrasser isn’t trying to be friendly: If the woman does not ignore him, if she acts friendly back, then the harrassment escalates… always… escalates far past the point where any reasonable adult would ever want to be that guy’s friend. In other words, the harrasser is lying about wanting a perfect stranger to be his girlfriend. The secret sordid issue is power; the harrasser can’t feel “power over” the lady being harrassed until she stops being friendly.

If normal men don’t “get it” about their fellow males engaging in harrassment then I guess it’s because society still has a blind spot about indiviuals wanting power.

Sean Crawford

~Here’s a leftist cartoon that includes a man of innocence.

~To find pages of informative links on the web, I would recommend combining the search terms “Scalzi” and “Harassment,” as writer John Scalzi said he wouldn’t attend any science fiction convention that did not have an anti-harassment policy.

~Here’s a writer dealing with a fellow male. At first you may want to skim past the “being a writer” context-setting of the first several paragraphs, and just go down to the paragraph near the photo that begins, “I saw the heroine of our story sitting on the BART.”

~I managed to dig up the blog that prompted me to write today’s piece. It’s lengthy. Scroll down to the October 30th entry.

~At the risk of being disloyal to the U.S. war on terror, and “playing into the hands” of extremists against democracy...  I will note that at the Alexndra Writers Centre my teacher for Personal Essays, a gentle white-haired baby boomer, has a Saturday morning class for women to write about their personal experience of how the “equal rights movement” still hasn’t succeeded. 

If I didn’t join the class then it’s only because I don’t have enough experiences to write about. Her class is named after the 1970’s anti-brainwashing cartoon of a fish riding a bicycle. “A woman needs a man like a fish needs…”

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