Find another seat!
In other news, I think I done a good thing last week. Iíve found that thereís a lot of material firing across my crackbook feed lately, from decent poly folks in other places, with various axes to grind. To some extent I find the constant assault on old values, and possibly things which I grew up with to be a little tedious. But then I was also never a fan of Political Correctness...not ever. I generally figured that as soon as we change the terminology, the baggage just getís dumped on the new flavour of the week...I was never convinced that it would change the underlying issues. But then, as I think I mentioned at the early part of this blog, Iíve never been a fan of bandaid solutions for injuries that cut deep to the core.
Regardless, I have seen plenty of stuff about rape culture, slut shaming, and a dozen other little causes or social quirks stemming from our patriarchal society which have not been addressed yet...or at least have a long way to go. I find the extreme almost rabid emotion that is put into these kinds of posts to be very wearing, especially as Iím just scrolling down to see what Joe had for dinner last night, or if my wife has posted a new funny bumper sticker or something. In the middle of this are all these doom-and-gloom- how-horrible-our-society-is-to-[insert marg******** group here]-because-they-like-sex-or-whatever posts.
Now donít get me wrong...Iím not against what theyíre saying, Iím just not personally over excited about it. Mostly because I have a bit of a glimpse into how bad things are in other parts of the world, and how far things have come in my country in terms of personal liberty...and how much of it weíve still held on to. We still have forward momentum, and in many respects are light years ahead of most other places around the globe. So I donít see it as a world shattering affront to the human condition that a small minority of people with the wealth and luxury of thousands are still missing one or two little things. I mean really...we have womenís vote, and gay marriage, and a bunch of other stuff...what else do they want? They want it all, and they want it all NOW! <sigh> and thatís when I usually do a personal facepalm and carry on, saying nothing. They are passionate, and driven to make the world a better place, and if we have forward momentum, itís because people like that are excited enough to keep the inertia...and at the end of the day I love them for it.
And apparently, itís working.
So the last couple weeks I went out to Toronto-ish to take a course for work. Some of the other students and I got along great, staying up to the wee hours every day in a lounge down the hall from my room, chatting, drinking, and generally carrying on like fools. It got to be a very close knit group.
On the last such night, the party included a bunch of other people as well, who hadnít been around to bond as much as the rest of us. One of our gals, Iíll dub her Xena was sitting on a loveseat sized couch in the middle of the room. There was only about half a dozen of us left. This Xena was a lovely women, extremely intelligent and educated, and about knee high to a grasshopper...she was adored by others in the class, and very well respected. And so while sheís sitting there, some dude, later dubbed by the other girl in the room as Greasy Guy. GGuy is fairly young, visibly intoxicated, and plops himself down on the couch beside Xena to engage her in conversation. Not on the other end of the loveseat, right in the middle. Xena was very easy to talk to in general, so she had no trouble with talking, but then he got close. Really close. His arm went over the back of the couch, and he scotched up beside her, and leaned over so far as to hover overtop of her.
I thought she didnít look very comfortable, especially as she kept pulling away until she was practically pinned against the arm of the couch. I was getting uncomfortable even, even before she caught my eye with that look that said ďHelpĒ. I pointed at another seat and indicated that there was some single seats free where GGuy couldnít get so close. And thatís when the previous bludgeoning of FB posts about Rape Culture, etc. came back and slapped me roundly across the back of my head. Her moving to a single seat would have been an easy way to diffuse the situation...but why should SHE have to move?
She shook off the suggestion and instead told GGuy directly that he was in her space, and said she wanted him to back away. I gave it a few seconds, but it wasnít hard to tell that buddy wasnít going to move back yet. So thatís when I started to yell at him. Ok, the kids call it yelling, I call it speaking loudly enough to get some drunk imbecilesí attention, and I told HIM to go get a different seat.
If looks could kill, Iíd have been toast, but at least he had sat straight up to stare me down so Xena had room to breathe. So, GGuy is giving me the look of death, drunk, and probably looking for a fight, and all I can think is ďWTF, Why am I having to get involved in this? Why does it take a male yelling at this douche to back off, instead of just listening to the lady?Ē
Xena jumped in again to deescalate the situation, and spent the better part of the next hour or two trying to explain things to GGuy. Even going so far as to come over and sit close to me to demonstrate how she felt safe with me (huge compliment in my mind), but not necessarily with a new acquaintance. Eventually everyone got back to their rooms safe and sound for the night, although I had to stay till the bitter end as I would be damned if I was going to leave Xena and GGuy alone together in the room after that display. Good thing I donít believe in sleep.
These situations donít come up very often in my life. But they do happen sometimes. Indeed various conventions in the fandom world have been a buzz with similar types of harassing behaviour over the last year or so. For all the tediousness and annoyance, or general Meh I might greet a given post about the evils of my gender, itís apparently sinking in, because in the middle the scenario, all I could think was ďThis shouldnít even be happening. I shouldnít need to tell him this. He should be listening to her, so I donít need to speak. She shouldnít need to speak, he should KNOW to respect her distance until invited in...or FFS ask for consent to sit so closeÖbefore you move!Ē
However, the story also illustrates another thing...in that in situations like that, thereís no neutral, no bystander. Weíre given the choice to do nothing and watch, and become complicit accessories to such harassment; or we can choose to stand up and let people know that their behaviour is not acceptable in the community, in the room, or wherever. We can all sit around after the fact philosophizing to our hearts contact that we shouldnít HAVE to say anything. But that only matters if you take the action to keep the people around you safe to begin with! Itís YOUR RESPONSIBILTY to ACT!
And with that thought...I should probably go ban a troll thatís been making people around here feel unsafe...