There has been quite a bit of talk about sexism and feminist issues and topics surrounding rape and topics like male white privilege on this blog lately. And every single time we write one of these posts or mention something related to them on facebook someone has to come in and tell us how we are completely wrong and how we should actually feel about the situation. I am sure that the majority of the people who tell us we are completely wrong and should not for a moment ever feel this way, are in fact men, is just a coincidence.

So here ya go.

Here is your chance to tell me how I should feel on a variety of topics.

Have at it.

How should I feel when walking home to my apartment in a city at night alone?

How should I feel when a car pulls up beside my car and honks and the man driving the other car is jacking off?

How should I feel when I catch a neighbor peeking in my window?

How should I feel about online stalkers who threaten to kill me?

How should I feel about men who whistle at me or tell me to smile while I am walking to the pharmacy to pick up asthma medicine?

How should I feel about what I am wearing? Should I feel differently if my skirt is short or long or if I am in pants?

How should I feel about the size of my breasts? And is it relevant to how I should be treated?

How should I feel about my weight?

How should I feel about my age?

How should I feel when I am asked out on a date even though I am clearly wearing a wedding ring?

How should I feel when I am called a bitch for turning down an offer for a date?

How should I feel when I am called a bitch for speaking my mind?

How should I feel when I am followed by a group of men I do not know down a side street?

How should I feel when when I am called a slut for showing “too much” skin?

How should I feel when I am told that I’m not dressed sexy enough?

How should I feel about being told that I am not pretty enough?

How should I feel about being physically forced to give a man a blow job?

How should I feel about having a gun held to my head?

How should I feel about being tied up with duct tape?

How should I feel about the potential for being raped?

How should I feel about being groped by strangers?

How should I feel about the fact that I carry pepper spray and lace my keys in my fist when I walk alone?

How should I feel about being told that I am “paranoid” or a “man-hater” because I err on the side of caution when I leave the house?

How should I feel about being told that I am not as sexually evolved as other women because I point out instances of sexism?

How should I feel about making less money than a man who does the same job?

How should I feel about people who say, “oh, that’s too bad” when I say I don’t have children?

How should I feel about people acting confused and scowling when I must explain that I didn’t change my name when I got married?

How should I feel about people saying I am cliquey because I write for a blog with other women?

How should I feel about being outnumbered by men at most skeptic, tech and science events?

How should I feel about being a woman?

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and writes about vegan food. She is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Women's Atheist and Agnostic Group: LAWAAG. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

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172 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Rose Schwartz
    June 28, 2011 at 3:06 pm —

    How ever you damn want to feel!

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      June 28, 2011 at 3:11 pm —

      Seconded!

      Awesome post, Amy.

      • Profile photo of Brian G
        June 28, 2011 at 3:15 pm —

        And thirded! You are great, Amy.

        • Profile photo of James Fox
          June 28, 2011 at 3:26 pm —

          And again.
          Telling other people how they should feel = a control problem.

        • Profile photo of Maki
          June 28, 2011 at 3:35 pm —

          Forft!

          Too many Scott Adams’ on the internet these days dictating what gender roles are and how we’re predisposed to act.

          Assholery is a conscious decision.

    • Profile photo of Cygore
      June 29, 2011 at 12:20 am —

      Amy, feel how you want to feel, just like Rose said. Someone can challenge your reasoning, but they can’t change how you feel about something.

  2. Profile photo of AdamVonWillis
    June 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm —

    Rose is only 100% correct. It truly disgusts me when I see how horribly sexist and vile men can be on the internet. We’re bad enough in real life… having anonymity makes it much worse.

    I’ve found that a good way to try and help men realize how destructive and chauvinistic a statement they have made is, is to have them replace the girl they are talking about with their sister or mother. Doesn’t always work, but it’s changed a few minds.

  3. Profile photo of Carl
    June 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm —

    I’ve rewritten this comment 10 or 15 times. I’ve concluded that there’s nothing I could ever say other than I’m truly sorry we live in a world where you even had to think about writing this. That and Rose is right! How you feel is how you feel!

  4. Profile photo of BeardofPants
    June 28, 2011 at 3:27 pm —

    Clearly you must have the statistical likelihood of being raped mansplained to you so that you can be awed by the logic & not let all these scary thoughts worry your little woman brain.

    • Profile photo of James Fox
      June 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm —

      Ha! You made me mansnort.

      • Profile photo of Elyse
        June 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm —

        I’m not laughing because she’s not joking. :(

        • Profile photo of BeardofPants
          June 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm —

          I’m really not. :(

          • Profile photo of ad_astra
            June 28, 2011 at 5:36 pm

            Seriously? You are not joking? My mind boggles. I would have to use 2 hands to count the number of women I personally know who have been raped at some point in their life (whether as children, teens, or adults.) You must live in an exceptionally safe or barren part of the world. I wish I would have grown up there.

          • Profile photo of Elyse
            June 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

            She’s not joking that those comments happen. Not that rape is a nonissue statistically.

          • Profile photo of ad_astra
            June 28, 2011 at 7:40 pm

            Geez I’m dense. My apologies. :(

        • Profile photo of James Fox
          June 28, 2011 at 5:59 pm —

          It had a laugh/snort at the sadly true but wonderfully descriptive coinage of mansplained. It’s a new one to me and hey, snorts happen!

          • Profile photo of pieterb
            June 29, 2011 at 1:32 pm

            “Mansplaining” has a bit of sexism in it, so I try to use “condesplaining” instead, because the practice is not confined to one sex.

          • Profile photo of James Fox
            June 30, 2011 at 11:06 am

            @pieterb
            “Mansplaining” has a bit of sexism in it, so I try to use “condesplaining” instead, because the practice is not confined to one sex.

            Love “condesplaining” and it will be used!

        • Profile photo of James K
          June 29, 2011 at 2:48 am —

          Sometimes one must laugh, so as to keep from weeping.

  5. Profile photo of Erlend Aakre
    June 28, 2011 at 3:31 pm —

    “How should I feel about having a gun held to my head?
    How should I feel about being tied up with duct tape?”

    I really really hope those are hypothetical situations, and not just another day at the office for you?

  6. Profile photo of grando
    June 28, 2011 at 3:33 pm —

    1. Depends. Lots of variables.
    2. Like barfing.
    3. Like barfing on him/her.
    4. Threatened and determined to take legal action.
    5. Like you’re surrounded by troglodytes.
    6a. Depends. Lots of variables.
    6b. Up to you.
    7a. Up to you.
    7b. Depends on by whom and in what context.
    8. Great!
    9. Powerless.
    10. Like you’re speaking to a moron or someone not into monogamy.
    11. Like you’re speaking to a moron troglodyte.
    12. See above.
    13. Like you’re in a spy movie.
    14. Superior to the name-caller.
    15. Who is telling you that and why?
    16. Like you’re speaking to a social fuckwit.
    17. Like you’ve been sexually assaulted.
    18. Scared.
    19. Lots of variables here, too.
    20. Sober.
    21. Pissed off/assaulted.
    22. Safer than you would otherwise?
    23. Above the namecalling.
    24. Like the phrase “sexually evolved” is a peculiar bit of nonsense.
    25. Pissed the fuck off.
    26. Like you’re talking to dim people whose judgment is probably unimportant to you.
    27. Like you’re talking to dim hermits.
    28. Like you’re talking to self-conscious worriers.
    29. Like you’re totally awesome.
    30. Like you’re totally super awesome.

  7. Profile photo of Elyse
    June 28, 2011 at 3:38 pm —

    I know I’m a woman, but can I answer all of those questions with scared, angry and a little jaded?

  8. Profile photo of Sc00ter
    June 28, 2011 at 3:42 pm —

    hrm..

    *looks at http://www.granitestateskeptics.org/2011/04/19/over-the-edge/

    *looks at “There are several women in our community that are leading the charge vocally and thank goodness they are there to tell me how to feel about it!”

    • Profile photo of Elyse
      June 28, 2011 at 4:09 pm —

      I’m going to pretend you didn’t just post a comment telling Amy to STFU.

      • Profile photo of Sc00ter
        June 28, 2011 at 4:18 pm —

        I don’t think that’s what I said in that comment. Especially considering I didn’t write that quote, or the blog post I linked back to. I was pointing out that women seem to feel that they’re being told how to think by other women.

        • Profile photo of Elyse
          June 28, 2011 at 4:29 pm —

          So what are you trying to say?
          Are you telling Amy she’s wrong?
          Are you calling her a hypocrite?

          It sounds to me like you’re saying that Amy has no room to talk. That Amy has no business being upset about this because one woman wrote a post about “some women”. Was the post you quoted specifically about Amy? Or do you think Amy is trying to tell other women how to feel by asking these questions?

          • Profile photo of Sc00ter
            June 28, 2011 at 4:33 pm

            I’m saying it’s kind of ironic that Amy would post this. Since when Dale posted her story she got attacked, and both Dale and I got blocked on FB and Twitter by Amy. But, that said, she did end up getting tons of support from others that felt the same as her.

            I would never tell anybody to shut up, or not voice their opinion.

            Granite State Skeptics meetings have been near parity when it comes to men/women attendance. Even our recent John Edward protest was 50/50 men/women.

            I’ll finish to add something somebody said to me when we were discussing this article. “How should I feel about being a man when women are accusing me of things I never did nor will do?”

          • Profile photo of Elyse
            June 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm

            Is Amy hypocrite because one woman and some other anonymous women who have never contacted Amy have felt like Amy, while voicing her opinion, was directing women on how to feel? And you think that’s the same as what Amy is saying here? And if Amy writes about what some men have said or done, it means she’s accusing all men, including you, of saying and doing those things? And somehow this involves something about not being your Twitter friend?

            I’m so confused.

          • Profile photo of Sc00ter
            June 28, 2011 at 4:50 pm

            Some were not anonymous, some commented on Dale’s blog post, some responded on twitter and some here on Skepchick. Some wanted to stay anonymous because they were worried about being attacked.

            But that’s all besides the point to this article. I just posted my first comment because I found it somewhat funny that Amy would post an article about being told how to feel, when many people feel that the skepchicks tell them how to feel all the time.

            I pointed out the blocking because there’s no better way to tell others to STFU (as you put it) than to block them entirely from having any more conversation with you, or being dismissive of a differing viewpoint, as some here had done to Dale’s blog post.

          • Profile photo of Masala Skeptic
            June 28, 2011 at 5:08 pm

            @Travis: I don’t know why she blocked you but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had little to do with a blog post and more to do with her not wanting to engage with you, personally. I had a similar experience. You made fairly awful accusations that you never provided any evidence for. At some point, it’s easier to not engage than to get involved in a discussion with a troll at best, liar at worst.

            *goes back to not engaging*

          • Profile photo of Elyse
            June 28, 2011 at 5:14 pm

            Ok… so your point is that if Amy voices her opinion, she’s telling other women what to think, and therefore it’s “somewhat funny” that she gets upset when people tell her that her fears about her safety and threats of rape are silly. I guess I probably have a different definition of “somewhat funny” than you do.

            Also, blocking someone on Twitter is not telling them to STFU anymore than turning off a channel on the TV is telling everyone on that channel to STFU. When someone blocks you, they’re not interested in what you say. They’re not stopping you from saying it.

          • Profile photo of Sc00ter
            June 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm

            @maria – nice attempt at ad hom attack. Way to show your “logical” side by trying to drag this down to an emotional argument.

            @Elyse – Yes, because out of that large list of items, lets focus on one, or a few items that have horrible consequences and make it like I’m saying they’re funny. Not what I’m actually saying, and that is that Amy seems to be annoyed that others are telling her how to feel about things, when she, and other Skepchicks have seemed to do this in the past.

            Rather than focus on the fact that some of these things could have happened to me as well. I’ve been threatened with death and torture online. I’m dealing with the police. My wife and I are child free and have gotten the “that’s to bad” when we mention we don’t have kids.

          • Profile photo of Dale Husband
            July 5, 2011 at 2:33 am

            Maybe I’m paranoid, but every time I see someone talking about “Dale” in a negative way, I worry it’s an attack against me. I’m sure every other person named Dale would appreciate some clarification here.

            That being said, I don’t think it’s anyone’s business to tell someone else what she should feel. That just looks like verbal abuse.

            However, I am otherwise quite happy to fight verbal slugfests and don’t see criticism as evil unless it is slander or libel. So I would advise everyone to don’t say anything unless and until you can back it up with facts or consistent logic.

      • Profile photo of sakurena
        June 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm —

        You know, a logical response would have pointed out that’s a form of a Tu Queque argument.

        Instead, you just went for the backhanded personal attack. Good form.

  9. Profile photo of NoAstronomer
    June 28, 2011 at 3:46 pm —

    In general : what Rose said.
    .
    Specifically…
    .
    “How should I feel about being outnumbered by men at most skeptic, tech and science events?”
    .
    I’d hope you would feel safe, secure, respected and able to speak your mind. One problem that I think many men have is that those of us who condemn misogyny are often blind to it. Either because we don’t feel personally affected by the offensive words and actions directed at woman. Or because we disbelieve that our buddies would be capable of it.
    .
    Here’s my question…
    .
    How should I feel if I’m walking across campus after dark and find I’m catching up to a girl walking alone?
    .
    Mike.

    • Profile photo of Gerg
      June 28, 2011 at 4:27 pm —

      Same thing you should feel when catching up on ANYONE in the dark:

      Cautious that this is a complete stranger who you don’t know and could have a gun. Take out your keys so you’re not “sneaking up” on the stranger. Maybe say “Good evening” as you pass and then go on your way. Then be cautious that this person isn’t following you or there aren’t muggers in front of you.

    • Profile photo of PrimevilKneivel
      June 28, 2011 at 4:47 pm —

      You should feel cautious that you might be inadvertently frightening someone. It’s not your fault that she might be concerned but it’s not her fault either and the concern is very real and justified.

      Then you should cross the street or take a different route to show that you are not following her and you are not a concern.

    • Profile photo of antihero42reborn
      June 28, 2011 at 7:04 pm —

      I think you ask a valid and thought/discussion provoking question. Should a person have to worry about every little thing they are doing that may possibly offend another, or that could make another person feel uncomfortable? An equally valid question (at least in my opinion), should a black man have to be worried if he is walking across campus(or another public area) in the dark and finds himself gaining on a white male? not exactly the same situation, but the point is that the white man could be made to feel uncomfortable in this situation. For those of you whose first response is “but that would be racist on the part of the white man for feeling uncomfortable in this situation” have to stop and ask yourself, “Isn’t it equally sexist for a woman to automatically feel uncomfortable in this situation?”

      • Profile photo of freemage
        July 2, 2011 at 11:54 pm —

        Not quite, antihero:

        1: Black-on-white crime is, statistically, far less an issue than man-on-woman crime. Frankly, it’s more sensible for a black man who sees another black man following him to be nervous–like violence against women, black-on-black crime is one of the most serious problems in this country.

        2: Even if the statistics were largely identical, there’s still the physical factors involved… with no weapon visible, a man has a decent chance of defending himself against another man–and race won’t affect that. On the flipside, if you select a random woman and random man from the population, and put them in a physical confrontation, the man will have the advantage.

        I’m neither a brave man nor a particularly capable one in a fight. But just because I AM male, I was able to face down a lone pickpocket–he couldn’t be sure he could physically overpower me, so he backed off (because of the level of activity in the general vicinity, I felt reasonably certain that he wouldn’t pull a gun). A woman in the same situation might have felt the need to back down, simply because she couldn’t be sure the attacker would do. She’d know that HE would perceive her as weaker (even though any woman who has been through a self-defense course could probably take me in a one-on-one confrontation), and thus that the danger to her was much greater, simply because of his likely attitude.

        • Profile photo of antihero42reborn
          July 3, 2011 at 11:55 am —

          In response to your first point, the statistics of either man-on-woman or black-on-white crime is irrelevant to the way a person feels in a given situation. That person is not thinking to themselves, “Self, you have no reason to fear in this ,l situation because black-on-white crime is only an X % problem compared to male-on-female crime.” No, a person either feels fear in a situation or they don’t and the majority of the time the statistical facts play no factor in their fear or lack thereof.

          In response to your second point, you make assumptions about the size of the people involved. There are plenty of tiny, scrawny men who couldn’t defend themselves against a stiff breeze, and there are plenty of physically fit women who can take care of themselves in a fight. You can’t automatically assume that a random man and a random woman, put in a physical confrontation, will give the man an automatic advantage. Either way, it is another irrelevant point, because it is not a question of can he/she defend themselves when a random person is coming up on them, it is a matter of the assumptions of the person feeling afraid of another person approaching them. Sure, whether you are a man or a woman, and whether the person approaching you is a man or a woman, Black or white can adjust the amount of fear or whether there is fear at all, but the question is, should we, in this “enlightened” day and age, automatically feel fear when a person is approaching you? If you don’t have the ability to defend yourself, and you would fear a person approaching you with evil/harmful intentions, should you be walking alone in the dark? Shouldn’t you prepare yourself for/in such a situation, whether that is arming yourself with pepperspray/mace, a rape whistle, or other kind of protective/defensive measure?

          The final point is that the question is how should the person approaching feel, not the person being approached. Should I have to worry about how every person I come across in the dark feels when I approach them? I am 6’6″ tall, and weigh 250 lbs. I am a big man with a big stride, and I approach and pass people all the time. Even to other men I can be an intimidating person, and my question is should I or others have to worry about how our presence or approach makes others feel?

          • Profile photo of Amy Roth
            July 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm

            “should I or others have to worry about how our presence or approach makes others feel?” If you would like to consider yourself a decent human being and you are the size you say you are, then yes, you absolutely should. I’m actually shocked that would even be a question. I had a boyfriend for 8 years who was a really big/tall guy and he realized that he was perceived as very intimidating to both sexes. He had to go out of his way not to intimidate people but it wasn’t an inconvenience to him because he was a nice guy.

    • Profile photo of Anne S
      June 28, 2011 at 10:15 pm —

      Mike, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about your question. As the gist of this post should make clear, no one can tell you what you “should feel,” in that situation or any. The best I can do is tell you, as a woman, what I would hope someone would do in that situation.
      .
      I would hope that you understand why I might see you as a potential threat, and that you wouldn’t take it personally.
      I would hope that you would not think that a good opportunity to try to introduce yourself and get to know me.
      I would hope that you might take a quick look around and become aware of the surroundings; walking across a dark campus alone at night isn’t necessarily safe for anyone.
      .
      The only thing I’d really want you to do is to leave me alone. If you catch up to me, pass me quickly and not too close. I might feel differently during the day, with more people around, but at night, alone in the dark, I just want to get to where I’m going.

  10. Profile photo of scribe999
    June 28, 2011 at 3:47 pm —

    I’d consult your femputer.

  11. Profile photo of revmatty
    June 28, 2011 at 4:17 pm —

    No one can tell you how to feel about any of this (and I’m well aware that this is all rhetorical, but I’m nearly incapable of not answering rhetorical questions). I won’t mansplain any of this either, suffice it to say that I feel depressed that we live in a society where those are not only real issues to worry about but ones that women have to worry about EVERY DAY.

    It’s not like “ooh, there’s a big festival I’m going to I might have to worry” or “It’s [random drinking holiday], I need to be extra careful”. It’s real, it’s daily, every damned day and it’s pathetic, disgusting, sad, and just plain wrong.

  12. Profile photo of sakurena
    June 28, 2011 at 4:25 pm —

    And today, we have the fallacy of ..loaded questions. While a few of those questions raise interesting answers, the context needed to process them is missing.

    So, the first response. Warning, some of it’s semisnarky.

    >How should I feel when walking home to my apartment in a city at night alone?

    Like you should have something comforting in your pocket. I suggest pepper spray.

    > How should I feel when a car pulls up beside my car and honks and the man driving the other car is jacking off?

    P.. If this happens to you, I suggest you just ignore him and reflect on the fact that he’s an idiot and likely to get into an accident. Variantly, disgusted.

    > How should I feel when I catch a neighbor peeking in my window?

    .. Calling the cops. Like you’re calling the cops.

    > How should I feel about online stalkers who threaten to kill me?

    See above.

    > How should I feel about men who whistle at me or tell me to smile while I am walking to the pharmacy to pick up asthma medicine?

    Like they’re dirt. I dunno, I find ignoring these people to beneficial to my continued low blood pressure.

    > How should I feel about what I am wearing? Should I feel differently if my skirt is short or long or if I am in pants?

    Maybe? I know I do. But then again, shouldn’t why your are wearing something dictate how you feel?

    > How should I feel about the size of my breasts? And is it relevant to how I should be treated?

    … You know, I know this is a sarcastic post that came out of people telling you how you should feel. But seriously, if you care what people tell you about this?

    > How should I feel about my weight?
    > How should I feel about my age?

    … *sigh* .. I dunno. How should you feel? I mean, as long as we’re asking loaded rhetorical questions because apparently how others think you should feel irritates you.

    > How should I feel when I am asked out on a date even though I am clearly wearing a wedding ring?

    Like the person asking you out is a creep.

    > How should I feel when I am called a bitch for turning down an offer for a date?

    Like the person asking you out is a creep.

    > How should I feel when I am called a bitch for speaking my mind?

    Like the person talking to you may have a point which should be considered before deciding that either way that’s got to be the worst way to put it.

    > How should I feel when I am followed by a group of men I do not know down a side street?

    Like you should call the police. And then make sure the pepper spray is in your hand. Possibly contemplate moving, see below.

    > How should I feel when when I am called a slut for showing “too much” skin?

    …. lik… Do you care? If you care, then you should probably factor it in. Otherwise, I recommend more indifference.

    > How should I feel when I am told that I’m not dressed sexy enough?

    See above.

    > How should I feel about being told that I am not pretty enough?

    See above.

    > How should I feel about being physically forced to give a man a blow job?

    … Having not had this event, I’d say horrified. And then consider moving.

    > How should I feel about having a gun held to my head?

    If this keeps happening, or is part of a pattern, I’d feel this urge to move. Annd horrified.

    > How should I feel about being tied up with duct tape?

    I assume this is non-consensual: horrified. Seems an low-chance event though…

    > How should I feel about the potential for being raped?

    … This definitely needs a bit more clarification.

    > How should I feel about being groped by strangers?
    … [LOADED QUESTION DETECTED.]
    Also, who the hell tells you how to feel about this (outside Japan, anyway..)?

    (alternatively, the police and management of the apartment complex in that case are now you’re new friends…)

    > How should I feel about the fact that I carry pepper spray and lace my keys in my fist when I walk alone?

    Like you should move.

    > How should I feel about being told that I am “paranoid” or a “man-hater” because I err on the side of caution when I leave the house?

    I’d consider the degree of caution to verify paranoid. I recommend indifference to the charge of man-hater in this context.

    > How should I feel about being told that I am not as sexually evolved as other women because I point out instances of sexism?

    Consider what you’re pointing out, but generally speaking, I recommend indifference.

    > How should I feel about making less money than a man who does the same job?

    Assuming same payroll factors, I’d say outraged.

    > How should I feel about people who say, “oh, that’s too bad” when I say I don’t have children?

    Like they just said a useless piece of formulaic response generated by a societal expectation; i.e that it isnt’ anything major and just forget it and move on.

    > How should I feel about people acting confused and scowling when I must explain that I didn’t change my name when I got married?

    [snark]Well, if you didn’t buck the norm and have to explain that to people, I imagine you wouldn’t get confused looks [/snark]

    On a serious note, since changing the last name is overwhelmingly done to indicate this, it does throw people off.

    > How should I feel about people saying I am cliquey because I write for a blog with other women?

    I don’t think that’s the only reason….

    > How should I feel about being outnumbered by men at most skeptic, tech and science events?

    … Is that even important? Shouldn’t the context be how they act not who they are…?

    > How should I feel about being a woman?

    • Profile photo of faith
      June 28, 2011 at 4:34 pm —

      I hope you’re kidding…
      How should I feel about the fact that I carry pepper spray and lace my keys in my fist when I walk alone?
      Like you should move.

      NO! I don’t think you are getting the point of this entire exercise.

      • Profile photo of sakurena
        June 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm —

        I’m sorry, if that what I did every time I went out at night, I’d move. Something about liking low stress levels.
        (Assuming you live in bad neighborhood. I could come up with no real practical reason to lace your keys into your fist for a regular basis. I have no real problem with pepper spray, but!)

        • Profile photo of GeekGirlsRule
          June 28, 2011 at 7:27 pm —

          I’m sorry, if that what I did every time I went out at night, I’d move. Something about liking low stress levels.

          Are there as yet unannounced colonized planets we could move to where women DON’T have to do these things? Because if there are, I am unaware of such places.

          Which is my extra snotty way of saying, “Way to not get it.” She isn’t necessarily recounting her experiences specifically, but rather the general lived experiences of most women in this society.

        • Profile photo of GeekGirlsRule
          June 29, 2011 at 2:27 pm —

          Not to mention, not everyone can just afford to move to a “better neighborhood.”

          • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
            June 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

            But of course! The help can just pack up the house and you can always moves to a *sniff* nicer community if there’s too much riffraff in the area!

            /sarcasm

        • Profile photo of catcres
          July 11, 2011 at 10:23 pm —

          sakurena, maybe YOU feel safer depending on the place, time and circumstances. Some people don’t. I’m 52 and female, and I have been doing the key-lace thing since I first heard of it in the 70’s. It’s a way to be prepared, just in case. Moving to a different place doesn’t affect the key-thing, I do this whenever leaving a building and going to my car. It seems you were implying that her level of safety prevention would change if she moved. This could be seen as denying or belittling her feelings. THAT is the POINT of this whole article, that women are told HOW to feel because they feel vulnerable.

    • Profile photo of revmatty
      June 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm —

      cool story, bro.

    • Profile photo of pieterb
      June 29, 2011 at 12:40 pm —

      Do you honestly think that rape doesn’t happen in “nice” neighborhoods?

    • Profile photo of pieroxy
      July 1, 2011 at 3:17 pm —

      sakurena, congratulations. You have been making a fool of yourself.

      I’ll quote you on one: “You know, I know this is a sarcastic post that came out of people telling you how you should feel”

      If you think that was a sarcastic post, I think you should think again. By answering every one of her questions you failed big time. It’s the simple fact that she is being lectured on all of these questions that is the point.

      Amy, second time posting here (and newcomer). Congrats on this great great post. But obviously, some are too stubborn to understand such a plain post and still try to give you answers.

  13. Profile photo of jpeg
    June 28, 2011 at 4:28 pm —

    Is there a Blog Post of Awesomeness award? If there is, this one has to win the Blog Post of Awesomeness of the Year for 2011! If there isn’t, we must create one!

    If every blog post had this perfect combination of anger and honesty and snark, the interwebs would be a great place indeed! Oh, and surliness, can’t forget that!

  14. Profile photo of faith
    June 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm —

    I often think that the next time some man asks me why I’m not smiling, I’m going to say “Because was molested. Happy now?”

    • Profile photo of sakurena
      June 28, 2011 at 4:41 pm —

      Smooth. Be a jerk back. This cannot end but well.

      • Profile photo of faith
        June 28, 2011 at 10:34 pm —

        Yeah, because I should just keep sweet, right?

      • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
        June 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm —

        Yeah, how dare she not be all smiles and accommodation to sexist shitbags! Seriously, did you go through extensive training to miss the point this well, or does it come naturally?

    • Profile photo of TheEvidence
      June 28, 2011 at 4:45 pm —

      Geez, if someone asked me that, with the obvious implication that I should be, my retort would probably be “Because asshole keep talking to me while I’m trying to think.”

      Body language is communication. If I’m wearing a “bad mood” I would have thought it obvious that I don’t want someone’s big dumb face asking me stupid questions.

      Following the golden rule, unless there’s something I can do to help someone in that situation they’re getting left the hell alone. As I infer they would prefer.

  15. Profile photo of airbornemint
    June 28, 2011 at 4:43 pm —

    There’s one thing that rubs me wrong about this: it seems as if in some of these you are asking people to stop acting on unverified assumptions about you (e.g., whistling at you in the street) and in some you are openly inviting people to act on unverified assumptions about you (e.g., wearing a wedding ring).

    There is a lot of social signaling going on here, and I think that the most you can expect is for people to be respectful of your personal preferences and boundaries as they attempt to interpret your implicit and explicit signaling. Beyond that, I don’t think there’s a clear universal answer as to how either party should feel or act in situations you listed (in fact, several of them exist, as described, both in non-consensual sexist realm and in consensual kink realm).

  16. Profile photo of kimberlychapman
    June 28, 2011 at 5:03 pm —

    When I first read this, part of me wanted to crack a joke about how there’s probably some kind of manufacturer of some feminine product or other who will gladly answer all of those questions for you.

    Then I paused and wondered, “Why do I want to crack a joke about this?”

    And I realized: because it hurts so god-damned much that the only way I can not cry is to rely on ever-present cynicism, that shield of anger and snark that has worked really well over the years to help me distance myself from being a former rape victim (as in, I was raped, but I am trying to not persist as a “victim”).

    I seriously think that list of questions should be distributed to every teenage girl, not so she can answer, but so she can know exactly what sort of demands on her emotions society is about to make (and probably has made already).

    In fact, I’m capping and saving the text right now to put into a folder for my own daughter, who is only 5, to give to her later when she inevitably comes home in tears because of the bullshit the world is lining up to throw at her, especially as a smart, confident little girl. Oh yeah. They’re out there, waiting to knock her down into submissiveness, I know…

    So Amy, thank you. It hurts, but thank you. And thanks again about 5-7 years from now when my kid gets handed this so she can have a shield of self-worth and science before she’s made to need one of cynicism and pain.

  17. Profile photo of Ashlyn
    June 28, 2011 at 5:16 pm —

    This is a good post and you should feel good about posting it.

  18. Profile photo of TheNerd
    June 28, 2011 at 5:18 pm —

    Isn’t your name Surly Amy? I think we all know the most logical answer to your question. ;)

    I personally am tired of being told “but you can’t hold all men responsible for the actions of a few”. News flash: DUH! But if your reaction to me telling you about being harassed is to imply that I brought it upon myself by not “trying hard enough” to make it stop, then you are actually responsible for creating a world in which creeps are safe to continue being creeps.

    • Profile photo of revmatty
      June 28, 2011 at 5:24 pm —

      This. Exactly. Note to the men: When women address concerns about male behavior they are not necessarily referring to you specifically, only take it personally if you engage in the kinds of behavior they are describing.

      • Profile photo of Sasha Pixlee
        June 28, 2011 at 5:54 pm —

        I operate on the assumption that guys who tell women to calm down about creepy/harassing guys do so because at some level they realize that THEY are creepy/harassing guys.

        I have yet to be proved wrong.

        • Profile photo of TheNerd
          June 28, 2011 at 7:12 pm —

          Actions speak louder than words. I ignore any self-righteous proclamations and wait for them to do something. Works every time.

      • Profile photo of paalexan
        July 10, 2011 at 6:36 am —

        Then let’s just be egalitarian about this, eh? So, women, when men address concerns about female behavior they are not necessarily referring to you specifically. Only take it personally if you engage in the kinds of behavior they are describing.

        Huh. Suddenly it sounds like a thinly-veiled apologetic for male sexist douchebags.

  19. Profile photo of Fordi
    June 28, 2011 at 5:20 pm —

    I don’t know the rest, but I can tell you how any sane person would feel about when someone insists you /should/ feel one way or the other: like kicking them in the nuts.

  20. Profile photo of Amy Roth
    June 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm —

    @Sc00ter Travis, if there was a block button for real life I would use it now. I am under no obligation to give you access to my personal life or my social network. We were never real life friends to begin with. I tried to be nice to you and found you dismissive and argumentative. Having you in my social online network was disruptive to the running of my online business. I also find the fact that you insist upon linking again and again to a blog post written by your wife about me and your continuos talking about me to anyone who will listen quite creepy. So, thanks ONCE AGAIN for linking to the same blog post in our comments and for your obvious inability to get the point. Now please leave me alone.

    • Profile photo of sakurena
      June 28, 2011 at 5:35 pm —

      I’m sure that blocking someone who purchases stuff from you is also disruptive to your business. (I’d note that you are within your rights to do so. I just wouldn’t use that argument against them.)

      Anyway, that’s it for me.

    • Profile photo of Sc00ter
      June 28, 2011 at 5:41 pm —

      I’m sorry you feel that way, that was never my intent. Dale’s article wasn’t about you, it was about your article, just like your article wasn’t about Brian, it was about his cover art.

      To @sakurena’s point, I didn’t realize that getting custom surly’s done and buying a bunch at every conference I’ve seen you at disruptive to your business. I do find that a bit confusing.

      But this is the last you’ll hear from me, sorry to be creepy and annoying. I would have thought you could have mentioned that in person when we saw each other last.

  21. Profile photo of Sasha Pixlee
    June 28, 2011 at 5:34 pm —

    I dunno. I know how I feel about this post, though. I feel proud to call Amy my friend.

  22. Profile photo of rockatte
    June 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm —

    I never understood the point of a male stranger telling me to “smile.” What is that supposed to mean? Does he just want attention? Am I supposed to feel obligated to boost his self-esteem? If someone could enlighten me, that would be great. My visceral reaction to it is to feel irritated: my mood is not the business of a random stranger. Plus, I believe everyone is responsible for their own self-esteem.

    • Profile photo of Anne S
      June 28, 2011 at 6:02 pm —

      Ladies are prettier when they smile. And men have a right to look at pretty ladies. Therefore, we must smile in public. OBVIOUSLY.

  23. Profile photo of ad_astra
    June 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm —

    This blog is amazing, thanks for posting it and thanks for taking on an issue that brings a (surprising to me) backlash of intense vitriol. I have to say it’s really disheartening to read the number of smug and dismissive comments.

  24. Profile photo of mrmisconception
    June 28, 2011 at 6:16 pm —

    Amy,
    I want to commend you for writing this.
    My first response was that some of these things are huge problems that need immediate attention and some of these things were simply people being jerks and the type of thing that everyone deals with on a daily basis.
    Between this and all of the arguing back and forth the past few days over who is sexist and who isn’t I’m tired, and it makes me not want to think about it any more.
    .
    That’s when it hit me, if I don’t want to think about this any more I don’t have to think about this any more; and that is precisely why I must think about it all the time.
    .
    Keep reminding us of that whenever we forget.
    I believe the world is safer for my daughter because of women like you.
    .
    Oh, and guys if a woman says that she feels threatened, or uncomfortable, or under attack; the correct response is not “well, that’s not me” but rather “right, and how can I help?” and accept the answer that is given even if it is to just listen.
    If she felt you were part of the problem she probably wouldn’t be talking to you about it so stop being so defensive.

    • Profile photo of Anne S
      June 28, 2011 at 10:02 pm —

      This this!

    • Profile photo of pieroxy
      July 1, 2011 at 4:01 pm —

      Your advice to guys is of the utmost importance. Way too often have I annoyed/angered my wife and when I saw her reaction I would just leave and hide in a dark corner. Out of shame.

      But the exact opposite would have been the good reaction! Taking her into my arms and listening. It took me years to get that. Couldn’t you tell me that before ???!!!??? ;-)

      How stubborn can a guy be, huh?

    • Profile photo of jenea
      July 6, 2011 at 7:50 pm —

      “If she felt you were part of the problem she probably wouldn’t be talking to you about it so stop being so defensive.”

      THIS!

    • Profile photo of catcres
      July 11, 2011 at 10:38 pm —

      Wow!! 1000 mature man points for you!! Every time I read a comment posted by a man who ‘gets it’ I think, ‘what a nice guy’ and ‘some men DO get it’ and ‘wow, the girl he’s with is LUCKY’. I have been surrounded by dismissiveness my whole life. Thanks for giving me hope.

  25. Profile photo of SadWhaleFamily
    June 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm —

    I read through the comments, both afraid of as well as looking for the comments from Those Who Do Not Get It.

    They are definitely in the minority, like car accidents are also a minority experience, but they also fucking suck.

  26. Profile photo of kittynh
    June 28, 2011 at 6:32 pm —

    well not all those issues are women issues…but they are still good issues. I know couples that have to face the “don’t have children” question a lot. Also the name change (trust me, if you think it’s bad now… get early editions of “MS” magazine….I considered them a life line when I started working). Peeking in window, I learned NEVER rent a first floor apartment. The creeper would tap on my window when I turned out my light at night. He couldn’t see in because I had put up black out curtians, but he could tell when I turned out the light …and wanted me to know he knew. I really felt weird when I called the cops and they went out and found an ax…he’d left it there with a bow for me. The worst part though was having my boyfriend stage a stake out with his friend and they beat the guy up… because the police really didn’t care. It was “no a guy has to solve this problem”. I also once was on the stand for the defense in a rape trial. I wasn’t raped, and I was spit on for testifying that the young men had not molested me. (they were guilty as sin and convicted, I could understand WHY the families these young men had attacked hated me. I hated myself for having to testify. But I also had to tell the truth, later finding out that one small thing I did had protected me…this was when I was walking to my car to go home after work at midnight. The only change from all this…women were then banned from working late, it was like women had to be punished because of those rapists…so women lost the extra pay of working overtime). Sorry, I think every woman can go on and on and on and on. With time there are more stories.

  27. Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
    June 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm —

    The first question is different from all the others (except the last), in that all the rest involve situations which shouldn’t be occurring in the first place, but walking home alone at night is something that you should feel as an enjoyable and invigorating experience, out in the cool fresh air after a long, hot LA day. The answer to the unasked question, how should you feel about the fact that it would range from risky denialism to outright insanity to feel that way, I don’t know, maybe scared and angry that you been robbed of a small pleasure everyone should have the right to.
    .
    All the others, yuck. Well, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Be strong!
    .
    Except the 3rd to last and last, feeling awesome is a viable option.
    .
    And the unasked final question, how should you feel about being a human being? How about pissed off that it isn’t as awesome as it ought to be, mostly because of other human beings?

  28. Profile photo of
    June 28, 2011 at 7:30 pm —

    I am, for the most part, in agreement with Rose on this: You should feel however it is you feel. No one but you/me can dictate how or what you/me should feel in any particular circumstance.
    .
    Some of the questions are clearly relevant to both women and men, so perhaps they should be in Buzz’s “human beings” question.
    .
    However, I am also to some degree in agreement with sakurena. These really are heavily loaded questions whose context, or actually lack thereof, gives the implicit suggestion that they all represent an equal degree of” badness” or “evilosity” or something. And that is simply not the case.
    .
    I understand what is being expressed in this post; however, I can’t help but wonder if it is to some degree a cultural or locational thing? What I mean is, is growing up and/or living in the United States a cause for so much fear and so much rhetorical and/or real and/or anticipated bad behaviour? I am under the impression that up here in Canada many of these questions would mostly be little more than rhetorical and are, for the most part, not very reflective of normalcy.
    .
    I’d like to comment/respond to a few of the hypotheticals.
    .
    “How should I feel when I am asked out on a date even though I am clearly wearing a wedding ring?”
    .
    I’ve noticed lately a ton of people, men and women, on Craigslist Personals specifically searching out married or otherwise engaged folks. It is seen by many people, good and bad, as a safe way to engage in sex without committment. And lots of people, men and women, like to engage in sex without committment. That doesn’t make them bad people. It is, perhaps, a slightly taboo variation on friends with benefits. Lot’s of men and women are highly arroused at the experience of sex with married folks. Some folks, men and women, even wear wedding rings specifically to attract such advances.
    .
    “How should I feel when walking home to my apartment in a city at night alone?”
    .
    Buzz got it right on this one. I also suspect that this is strongly relevant to location. I mean up here in Canada there are lots of places wherein most women feel safe walking home alone at night. Yes, we have the other too, but not, it would seem, to the degree that America does.
    .
    “How should I feel when a car pulls up beside my car and honks and the man driving the other car is jacking off?”
    .
    I would think this is pretty inconsequential, harmless, and ultimately laughable isn’t it?
    .
    “How should I feel about men who whistle at me or tell me to smile while I am walking to the pharmacy to pick up asthma medicine?”
    .
    Aside from the asthma part I get this one all the time. I’m a guy who’s normal relaxed look is somewhat of a frown. As for me, I’ve learned to let it go with only a smidge of irritation.
    .
    “How should I feel about what I am wearing? Should I feel differently if my skirt is short or long or if I am in pants? How should I feel about the size of my breasts? And is it relevant to how I should be treated? How should I feel about my weight? How should I feel about my age?”
    .
    I guess all of these ones depend on what sort of advertising you are most prone to — advertisers and marketers earn their living on telling us all, men and women, how to feel about these things.
    .
    “How should I feel when I am followed by a group of men I do not know down a side street?
    .
    I used to encounter this one a lot when I was in my teens living in a small rural town, with very long “hippy” hair, in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Sometimes they’d beat me up; sometimes they’d just intimidate me. Not fun at all.
    .
    “How should I feel about being physically forced to give a man a blow job?”
    .
    Surely any forced sexual act, for any gender, unless you’re a fan of B&D, is reprehensible — for any/everyone?
    .
    “How should I feel about being told that I am not as sexually evolved as other women because I point out instances of sexism?”
    .
    You should of course feel whatever it is you feel. But surely such a statement might be food for thought? Can any of us ever maintain certainty that we are always right? We all need to observe that the definition of all “isms” changes from generation to gneration.

    • Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
      June 28, 2011 at 8:44 pm —

      No, these questions are not “little more than rhetorical” in Canada if you are a woman.
      It’s interesting that it almost entirely people who didn’t get the point of the original post that show the least awareness of the realities of sexism and misogyny.
      The point (unless I too have missed it) was that no one should expect to be able to tell you how you should feel about any experience – but men (and women) who want to deny that there’s any problem (and thus to perpetuate it) feel so damn free to tell women they have no right to feel what they damn well feel.

    • Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
      June 28, 2011 at 9:02 pm —

      ““How should I feel when I am followed by a group of men I do not know down a side street?
      .
      I used to encounter this one a lot when I was in my teens living in a small rural town, with very long “hippy” hair, in the late 60?s and early 70?s. Sometimes they’d beat me up; sometimes they’d just intimidate me. Not fun at all.”

      And I completely understand the instinct to try to sympathize with someone else’s experience by equating it to one of your own, but your subconscious motive is not just to sympathize, but to claim ownership of the other’s experience without realizing how different yours was.
      And in this comment you clearly also feel that, since you haven’t experienced all of the listed situations, they can’t actually be all that common (at least not in Canada!).
      Instead maybe you could accept that you, as a man, have not had to experience the harassment that women have to deal with. So maybe you could try to understand without trying to insist you know better.

      • Profile photo of
        June 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm —

        Your perception, prescience, and presumptious assumption of my history, motives, and experience is … overwhelming.

        • Profile photo of Kaloikagathoi
          June 29, 2011 at 6:36 am —

          Hey, your motives were showing. It’s handy sometimes if an anonymous internet commenter can point that out for you, so you can reevaluate your assumptions – and maybe decide you’re still right, or maybe not.

    • Profile photo of Noadi
      June 28, 2011 at 10:47 pm —

      All things are situational. I’ve lived many places where I could walk alone at night safely but I recognize that it was because of the population density not because people were magically more trustworthy.

    • Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
      June 29, 2011 at 3:57 pm —

      Which Canada are you living in? Can I get directions? because I’ve been through almost all of that list, and I’ve only set foot outside Canada twice in my life, and for less than a day both times.

  29. Profile photo of Alterjess
    June 28, 2011 at 8:12 pm —

    You should feel extremely proud to have written this post.

    (Funny story – the last time I clearly remember being told by a random stranger to smile was about two weeks after my stillbirth. Sometimes folks, people look upset for a reason.)

    • Profile photo of kimberlychapman
      June 28, 2011 at 9:28 pm —

      Oh that’s awful on so many levels. There’s such a world of difference between a sympathetic and concerned, “Are you okay?” versus a directive to smile. One is compassionate, the other is dispassionate.

      I’m very and truly sorry for the loss of your child.

  30. Profile photo of gregladen
    June 28, 2011 at 8:31 pm —

    I’m a little weepy and applauding slowly. But loudly.

  31. Profile photo of Egillvs
    June 28, 2011 at 11:34 pm —

    I know I said I would not post again on skepchick but taking a leap of faith that some may have forgiven me my previous stupidity and let a few comments (from the devil’s advocate) slide from time to time.

    My gut reaction to a list such as that is to say
    “the same way any other man or woman should feel”
    given some scenarios are extremely unlikely to happen to men, but were they to happen the reaction should be similar.

    But then some of the lines posed describe a situation that is very different depending on your gender, reason for that is more often then not the fact that the potential for overpowering the other is in favor of most men, so even though in most situations most of the time for most people this doesn’t enter the equation, it does in a way factor into how we react to things like the 2nd question, if a woman did that to a man, he’d probably laugh or perhaps scowl at the inappropriate behavior, but he probably wouldn’t feel threatened or feel he’ll have to look where that car is going to make sure she won’t follow him home.

    but on the whole, I agree with Rose.

  32. Profile photo of DandyC
    June 29, 2011 at 1:07 am —

    Posts like this need to happen way more often. It’s absolutely amazing how little men know about what the actual lived experiences of women are…what we actually have to deal with on a daily basis. I’ve described the whole “smile!” thing to guys, and many of them have no idea it even happens, let alone that it’s a common thing. (And some, of course, don’t even get why it’s offensive, uncomfortable and demeaning). And it seems most guys seem to think catcalling only happens to especially pretty women, or women dressed especially provocatively, and is only done by especially rude men. But sadly, it’s extremely common, and is experienced by pretty much all women. It’s not about the men in question trying to hook-up… it’s a power thing. I’ve been trying hard to figure out some kind of way to react to it that would feel right, but no matter what, it feels like I lose… if I get indignant, or become visibly uncomfortable, they’re still getting exactly what they want: a sense of control.

    • Profile photo of Egillvs
      June 29, 2011 at 2:20 am —

      Not sure I’d agree with it being amazing that men don’t know what it’s like being a woman in these kinds of situations, for obvious reasons.
      You mention it’s about power, now given I’ve never asked anyone except my girlfriend to smile, but it’s because I find her smile lights up her face and I enjoy looking at beautiful things that light up, I guess I’m shallow like that. I sorta get why women don’t ask men as much to smile, most of us being like Hitchens says “fantastically unattractive”, and would probably just look creepy to strange women when asked to smile at them.

      just got a little bit of a straw-man vibe with the “you dont understand us, but i know why you do what you do”

      If you could explain it why it’s offensive/uncomfortable beyond the obvious which I think is to ask a stranger to do something unfitting to the scenario, like I wouldn’t ask a strange man/woman in a park to jump a couple of times and then spin around, just because I enjoyed it. But beyond it being weird to have a stranger ask something like that of you, I’m at a loss, thanks in advance if an explanation is forthcoming.

      • Profile photo of Amy Roth
        June 29, 2011 at 2:53 am —

        Asking someone you are friends with or someone you have a relationship with to smile is not the same thing as asking/telling a total stranger on the street. Asking a total stranger to smile is objectifying them by disregarding their feelings in order to gain your desired response in their appearance. Also, it’s demeaning because of the idea that women are supposed to pretty and non confrontational. It’s also a control issue. A strange man tells me how to act and I am supposed to do what he says? Why should I be expected to smile at someone I do not know? Smiling sends social signals of acceptance and pleasure. Perhaps I have had a bad day, or I do not want to be talked to. Best advice: you smile at the stranger. If they smile back you win. If they don’t, leave them alone. Pretty simple and you are not telling anyone what to do.

        • Profile photo of Egillvs
          June 29, 2011 at 3:25 am —

          I know perfectly well that it’s different when it’s someone you know, I just said that to underline that I have never asked strangers to smile.
          Smiling and hoping for a smile back is for sure the better option, if not the only good option.
          But that women are supposed to be pretty and non confrontational, that’s a societal problem for sure, but is asking anyone to smile be it a man asking a woman or vice versa the problem?
          Perhaps you’ve had a bad day, perhaps he’s had a horrible day, his parents both died and he desperately needed someone to smile at him to show him life goes on, perhaps perhaps, nobody can read minds so lets not put that into the equation.
          Wondering what if any societal tags men have, that we may not always live up to or want to live up to, we could feel offended when asked by strangers to fulfill.

          • Profile photo of Bookitty
            June 29, 2011 at 3:41 pm

            “Perhaps you’ve had a bad day, perhaps he’s had a horrible day, his parents both died and he desperately needed someone to smile at him to show him life goes on, perhaps perhaps, nobody can read minds so lets not put that into the equation.”

            Let’s say he’s had the worst day in the world – both parents and all pets dead, bank account at $3.24 and a wasting dick disease. He desperately needs someone to smile and tell him the world is ok.

            Who cares? A stranger has no responsibility for his happiness. The woman who caught his eye because she is pretty does not owe him a smile.

            And that’s the worst case scenario. Usually, it is a power-play. The man says something that sounds innocuous and complimentary “Smile, you’re prettier when you smile.” but in reality is saying “Do what I tell you so that I can better objectify you.” It is incredibly insulting. And, strangely enough, as a woman it makes me wish bad luck and dick-wasting disease on the man who says it.

      • Profile photo of DandyC
        July 1, 2011 at 9:50 pm —

        Neither me, nor Amy (I think), were talking about people we know, like partners or friends, asking us to smile. The thing in question is when strangers on the street tell us to do so, usually as an imperative, and usually with either a spoken or unspoken follow-up of “you’ll look prettier if you smile!”… this is very clearly objectifying, and makes it clear that our role is simply be pretty so that men can enjoy us as aesthetic or sexual objects. It makes it seem that our own moods or thoughts are irrelevant… our job is just to look cute. If we seem at all mopey, or if we react negatively to the demand that we oblige them and smile, all of a sudden we’re cast as being moody bitches or “obviously PMSing” or whatever.

        t should be extremely clear why it’s NOT okay to bark such orders as women. And yet, lots of guys don’t get it. I find that sad and troubling.

        If I’m having a bad day, or something horrible like my parents had just died, the absolute LAST F-ING THING I’d want is for some random dude to tell me to smile. My smile is my own, and it represents MY happiness, it’s not there to help me look cute for any guys who happen to look at me.

        Ultimately, the point is that it’s one example amongst many of the ways that guys constantly, casually assert their power and agency while shoving us into a subservient role as objects to please them.

  33. Profile photo of greenstone123
    June 29, 2011 at 1:28 am —

    I was reading the list and started answering the questions as how I would feel. Then I got to the question ‘How should I feel about being tied up with duct tape?’ And I have no idea how that would feel. Then I examined that in fact without someone else sharing how they feel, I really don’t know how someone else may *feel*. Intellectually I know this, but I found myself giving answers for Amy anyways. :( Not everyone feels the way I feel or the way I perceive they should feel. I have a light bulb moment coming on…Thanks for the article!

    • Profile photo of Quester
      June 30, 2011 at 2:40 am —

      Same here. Even though I thought I understood the point of the article, I could not read a question without thinking the answer… until “How should I feel about what I am wearing?” My inner voice just screeched to a halt at the sheer gall of trying to answer that one. By the time I got to the blow job question, the lightbulb was burning me. I was able to read the rest in inner silence, beyond a few, “Fuck, people *do* that?”‘s.

      Thanks for the wake-up call, Amy.

  34. Profile photo of daedalus2u
    June 29, 2011 at 8:30 am —

    I am coming to this discussion late, and it has gone in directions that I think are unfortunate and not terribly useful or helpful. I have Asperger’s, so my responses to questions about feelings are idiosyncratic (as are everyones), perhaps more literal and is colored (informed?) by my PTSD from childhood abuse, my decades of psychotherapy, my research into the physiology of stress responses, and my understanding of the physiology of trauma and near death stress responses (experiential and theoretical).

    One of the effects of near death physiological stress, trauma and PTSD is dissociation, so that one is able to act independent of feelings. That is a very important skill to have. It is most easily acquired during near death physiological stress which by its very nature is extremely dangerous. Acquiring the ability to dissociate during near death physiological stress is what the Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony is about. Being put in a near death physiological state from hyperthermia gives one experience in coping with that state, skills that can be tapped under conditions of less severe physiological stress. Many people are unable to act independent of their feelings, so if you manipulate their feelings, you manipulate the individual. This is what people are doing when they tell others what and how to feel.

    I am a man, but this is not mansplaining. If anyone thinks it is, they need to reexamine their privilege.

    To the question “what should I feel if xxx” there is only one answer, and it isn’t “however you want to feel”, the answer starts with another question, “what do you want your feelings to accomplish?” This question is much more complicated and the answer depends on the context that a particular person finds themselves in.

    Most of the answers here have not been terribly useful in answering the question, but the question was really a rhetorical question because people don’t have volitional control over their feelings. They have control over their actions, and feelings are one input to what they decide to do, but feelings only control actions in individuals with no ability to cognitively override their feelings.

    As skeptics, we take as axiomatic that our feelings (and everything else about us and our actions) are fundamentally based on reality and not wishful thinking. If you are in a dangerous situation, you should feel as if you are in a dangerous situation. To have any other type of feeling is to be delusional. If you are in a dangerous situation, more important than feeling the danger of the situation is taking actions appropriate to the severity of the dangerous situation. But those actions depend on what you want to accomplish.

    Our ANS and CNS evolved to cope with the stressors that our ancestors faced, not the stressors that are present today. Now there are different stressors and the stress responses of 10,000 or 100,000 or a million or ten million years ago might not be reliable guides to what actions we should take today.

    I know I haven’t answered the question of how someone should feel under any particular situation, but I hope I have outlined a heuristic for answer the question that involves finding out what the person wants to accomplish with those feelings.

    • Profile photo of catcres
      July 11, 2011 at 11:15 pm —

      daedalus2u, you gave a good response. You do know that this is about an earlier online encounter between Rebecca Watson and Richard Dawkins? Rebecca felt dismissed by Mr. Dawkins response to something she said on a vlog. The REAL issue here is that women often are told how the should feel by men, who really are trying to shut them up and diminish the woman’s sense of danger, panic or distress. It’s really an effort to keep her quiet so the man(or woman) won’t feel upset, or bothered by the request to do something.

      • Profile photo of Amy Roth
        July 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm —

        Just to clarify, this post was written prior to Dawkins making his comments. The fact that it is relevant to that topic is because we often discuss feminist issues on this blog.

  35. Profile photo of Mellow
    June 29, 2011 at 10:02 am —

    Damn well said, Amy.

  36. Profile photo of Malfeitor
    June 29, 2011 at 11:47 am —

    Great post Amy!

    Now I know why I seem to make so many more female friends than guys. I’m happy being who I am but, I often feel embarrassment over the actions of others of my gender.

    I’m not saying there are not guys out there who are cognizant of women’s issues but, it just seems at times, there are so very few of us. At least in the skeptical circles, while not perfect, my fellow man is more aware of the problems.

  37. Profile photo of GeekGirlsRule
    June 29, 2011 at 2:38 pm —

    I hate doing this, because I feel like an ass with any sort of self-promotion, but given the recent discussion on here surrounding what is creepy and sexist and all that fun shit, I’ve written a series of posts at one of my blogs on JUST THESE TOPICS.

    If this isn’t appropriate, feel free to delete this, Amy. I totally understand.

    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=201 – The word creep serves a purpose
    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=205 – The Crux of Creep is Unwanted Attention – Part 1
    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=209 – The Crux of Creep is Unwanted Attention Part 2
    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=216 – Part 3
    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=233 – Part 4
    http://www.polimicks.com/?p=219 – Part 5

    I’m just kind of tired of saying the same things over and over and over, so have some links.

  38. Profile photo of BeccaTheCyborg
    June 29, 2011 at 3:59 pm —

    This is an amazing post. Seriously amazing. (Even if the title has me singing Blue Monday)

  39. Profile photo of ragdish
    June 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm —

    Kudos to Amy for this post. But why is Skepchick so reluctant to point out the sexism of Christopher Hitchens? I have seen so many posts of songs and praises of his atheist activism but none about his misogyny. He has stated that women should not work and that they are not funny. Considering his critique of the women treated in Islamic societies it boggles my mind why this site which is dedicated to skepticism and feminism does not point out his blatant hypocrisy.

    Amy, you know very well how Hitchens would answer this question:

    How should I feel about making less money than a man who does the same job?

    Hitchens would respond that you should not be working to begin with.

  40. Profile photo of digger
    June 29, 2011 at 6:39 pm —

    Hitchens blows, plus his arguements don’t stand in debate.

    At anyrate we’re off topic…Great post. I’m a guy so I don’t know how you feel and therefore, not qualified to say squat.

  41. Profile photo of kittynh
    June 29, 2011 at 8:31 pm —

    OK just threw up a little. Because someone has just emailed me to tell my daughter to “watch out” at TAM for a certain person.
    Seems this person was at a recent big skeptic event and started putting downt the feminazis at Skepchick (including my recently retired skepchick daughter). Refered to one skepchick as a “total slut” because she played some game where you put a camera under a table and take a photograph…
    so then I come on here and read through the responses, and wow, guess who has posted something positive. And that’s another problem. Can you really ever trust a man that has posted that “I know how you feel, I’m in your corner…” when you are afraid that it may be just his way of being manipulative. Saying one thing, or what you think women want to hear, while expressing a different view at another…so trust and who to trust and when is always an issue and a sad one.

    • Profile photo of daedalus2u
      June 29, 2011 at 10:40 pm —

      This is a serious problem with relying on feelings for important stuff. Feelings can’t be analyzed the way that arguments can. Feelings integrated stuff that we pick up from the environment and then via a completely opaque process produce a feeling. With no way to analyze what went into that feeling (what kind of “facts” and “logic”), we have no way of knowing if the feelings are reliable.

      That is not to say that one should disregard their feelings, but when feelings are used to make very consequential decisions, they should be backed up with some skepticism (IMO). Sometimes that is easier said than done.

      Unless you really know yourself really well, it can be difficult to know where certain feelings come from and how to deal with them. I do a lot of research on stress responses and near death physiological stress pretty much always triggers euphoria. That is the euphoria of autoerotic asphyxiation, of the runner’s high, of drowning, of “going toward the light”, of solvent huffing and (I think) stimulant drugs of abuse. Near death physiology gives you the euphoria of the runner’s high to make you feel like you can run forever. You can’t, just until the bear catches you or you drop dead from exhaustion which are equivalent to forever in an evolutionary sense.

      That is where having some knowledge and some skepticism of your own feelings can save your life. Is that feeling you can run forever a reasonable feeling, or is it a delusion. Knowing that you have blind-spots in dealing with certain situations can help you avoid them or get someone else’s perspective.

      When you ask someone for help in analyzing your feelings, it is best to rely on a professional (i.e. a therapist) and not someone who plays a role in your life, and certainly not someone who has an incentive to manipulate you in a particular way.

    • Profile photo of Amy Roth
      June 30, 2011 at 12:30 am —

      First of all the term feminazi is really offensive. Second of all, what?

  42. Profile photo of
    June 30, 2011 at 1:48 am —

    I’m a little confused.
    .
    What is the purpose of this post? That men who tell women what to do shouldn’t tell women what to do?
    .
    To answer the questions would be to do exactly that. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

    • Profile photo of daedalus2u
      June 30, 2011 at 8:28 am —

      Claus, no, the problem is that anyone telling anyone else how they should feel is problematic. It is the framing of the problem as people being needed to be told how they should feel is the problem.

      I am a guy, so I may not be framing this correctly, but most males (90%+) are hard wired to project to essentially every female they come in contact with that what she should feel is that she would like to have sex with me. Much of this projection is subconscious and is automatic and many guys are completely oblivious as to the effect of this projection on the females around them. This is essentially what flirting is, the attempt by a guy to get a woman to feel that she would like to have sex with the guy.

      Because most of this communication is not explicit, there can always be plausible deniability and the communication can be construed to never be finished unless and until she says “yes”. Even when she verbally says “no”, males can interpret non-verbal communication as saying “yes”, even when this non-verbal communication is complete projection and delusion on the part of the male. The point isn’t accurate communication on the part of the male, the point is having sex with the female.

      This is where the “she was asking for it” meme comes from, from the male privilege that allows and compels males to project their self-serving interpretation onto anything and everything that females do so as to construe that behavior as an invitation to have sex. There is no behavior that cannot be construed as an invitation to have sex by someone. SMBC had a cartoon illustrating this:

      http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2289#comic

      which I paraphrase into “there is no behavior that some male won’t be able to construe into an invitation by a female to have sex with her”. This even extends to the extremely common idea of not fighting back strongly enough being construed as “she was asking for it”.

      To answer your question, the purpose of this post is to point out problems that a female experiences in a world dominated by males who construe her every action into an invitation to have sex with her.

      The problem that men who are feminists have is in how to interact with women to not trigger their defenses, defenses which are not needed with feminist men and which get in the way of accurate communication, but which defenses are indispensable with all non-feminist males.

      According to this framing, my definition of a creepy guy is any guy that a women doesn’t know well enough to be sure that he won’t misconstrue, misinterpret, ignore, or disregard her clear message that she doesn’t want to have sex with him. A scary guy is someone she knows will misconstrue, misinterpret, ignore, or disregard her clear message that she doesn’t want to have sex with him.

      According to this framing, every guy a woman doesn’t know is a creepy guy. Any guy who misconstrues, misinterprets, ignores, or disregards any message that she doesn’t want to interact with him has shown himself to be a scary guy.

      The problem for feminist men is how does someone who has not-so-good social skills show himself to be not a scary guy when the default is always being a creepy guy until you get to be well known? If you make a social flub while still in the creepy guy category you get put in the the scary guy category.

      Claus, to reiterate what is wrong with your comment, you have framed the question you are asking into one where no matter what a woman answers you can construe the meaning to be what ever you want it to be. You have construed this post to be asking the question “How should I feel”, which you are prepared to answer (I presume) with “like you want to have sex with me”, when that is really not at all what the post is about.

      Mansplaining is (or should be depending on the circumstances) sufficient to move someone from the creepy guy to the scary guy category. Mansplaining demonstrates the ability to misconstrue, misinterpret, ignore, or disregard a message that a woman has communicated.

      • Profile photo of
        June 30, 2011 at 8:53 am —

        Please do not presume to know my motives, especially when you are wrong. I have not “framed” my question in any way, nor am I construing the meaning to be whatever I want it to be.
        .
        I am asking what the purpose is, and if said purpose is to tell men who tell women what to do that they shouldn’t do it. By answering the list of questions, men would effectively be doing what this post is telling them not to do.
        .
        Is that not so?

        • Profile photo of tiberious
          June 30, 2011 at 11:01 am —

          Claus, this is not a debate, it’s baiting. Flushing out of the enemy. Thirst for man-blood. You are in grave danger.

      • Profile photo of daedalus2u
        June 30, 2011 at 11:10 am —

        Claus, what your question does is frame the issue in terms of an unanswerable question. Yes, you are damned if you do answer and damed if you don’t answer. That is the precise problem that women are in. No matter what they do, they will be interpreted by some males as giving consent to having sex.

        This is the problem that society is unwilling to face. Many men are unable to face it, or even recognize that it is a problem.

        The questions that were asked were rhetorical questions. They are not questions that anyone should have to answer; questions about how one should feel about circumstances that no one should ever be forced into, but women are forced into these circumstances every day. They don’t have a choice. They are forced against their will into circumstances where they do have to figure out how to feel about being in that situation. Of course they can always dissociate and feel nothing, that being a very common defense mechanism for trauma.

        That you tried to frame the rhetorical questions as serious questions is problematic. There is no acceptable answer to the question “how should I feel when I am being raped?” The only acceptable response is to prevent the rape in the first place.

        My presumption of your motivation was a very mild presumption. A presumption that is trivial compared to what many males presume about females. A presumption that just about every female has to have as her default for just about every male that she doesn’t know very well so as to activate her defenses to preempt being misconstrued about consenting to having sex with him. You reacted to my presumption with indignation. Is that real indignation, or is that response 24.3C, in a multi-step hierarchical process with branching to try and get some female to agree to have sex with you?

        In the ~ 3.5 billion females on this Earth, is there even one who might construe what you have said into a request for sex? There might be. Would you react to her with the same indignation that you reacted to me with? Or would you react by morphing your conversation more explicitly toward sex (if she was cute enough?)

        In the ~3.5 billion males, is there even one who might construe the original post into a request for sex? It is inconceivable that there are not thousands, or even millions. I imagine that there have already been emails and comments from males to that effect. I would be interested in a count of how many emails like that have been received and compare that to the number of page views.

        This asymmetry is the problem. It is a problem that has nothing to do with how women actually feel. It is a problem with society allowing males to put females in situations that females don’t want to be in and taking insufficient action to prevent it, or to mitigate the adverse effects after it has happened.

        I just saw a post over at Dispatches:

        http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2011/06/how_to_record_police_activity.php

        That might help. If women did have a cell phone that was set up to record and transmit her telling some guy to leave her alone, and if the cell phone screen flashed the message “leave me alone” and if guys realized that their face and the conversation was recorded in a secure place, then the number of sexual assaults might go down by a lot. At least there would be better evidence than he-said-she-said.

        • Profile photo of
          June 30, 2011 at 11:40 am —

          This is not a blog entry about the faceless nameless males around the world who think they can tell women what to think. This is a blog entry about the males who think they can tell women what to think and have done so, on Skepchick.
          .
          It might very well be the case that asking what the purpose of this blog entry is inevitably frames the issue in terms of an unanswerable question. But that would mean that this blog entry was intended as baiting.
          .
          I would hate to think that.

          • Profile photo of GeekGirlsRule
            June 30, 2011 at 12:48 pm

            The purpose of this blog entry was to hopefully get men to think about the world women live in every day. It’s a tactic used by Jackson Katz in his “Men can stop rape” seminars, and other people. It is a rhetorical device meant to get you thinking, “Wait, *I* don’t have to do or think about these things, but women do?”

            Seriously…

          • Profile photo of
            June 30, 2011 at 1:47 pm

            If it was a rhetorical tactic, then it need no answers. Yet, you responded to one of sakurena’s answers. Elyse didn’t think it was rhetorical, either. Nor did NoAstronomer, or others.
            .
            Did the purpose of the blog entry suddenly change? Hmmmm….perhaps a rhetorical question?

    • Profile photo of mikerattlesnake
      June 30, 2011 at 1:11 pm —

      yeah, you’ve got it all figured out claus. It’s not like someone could use rhetorical questions and sarcasm to make a point… nope, it’s a mantrap!

  43. Profile photo of Cabbageman
    June 30, 2011 at 2:52 am —

    I am too tired to write a longer passage on how much I agree with you, Amy. So what I’ll do instead is say “I agree with you” and say “hamster” to make things interesting.

    “Hamster.”

  44. Profile photo of nicoleljs
    June 30, 2011 at 11:14 am —

    Amy, you’re awesome. Thank you, and all the other Skepchicks, for continuing to post about feminist topics (skeptic and otherwise), in the face of ignorant comments and dismissive attitudes from others.

  45. Profile photo of mikerattlesnake
    June 30, 2011 at 1:10 pm —

    It shouldn’t amaze me still, but it does, that some men actually took the bait and TOLD YOU HOW YOU SHOULD FEEL. I guess these MRA doofuses are just that cluelessly self-unaware.

    It also blows my mind how often I see the “maybe it’s just where you live, I don’t see these things happen in [magic happy-land x]” while ignoring the single most obvious reason that they don’t see those things happening. Fecking christ.

    • Profile photo of
      June 30, 2011 at 1:48 pm —

      Women “took the bait”, too. Even a Skepchick.

      • Profile photo of daedalus2u
        July 1, 2011 at 7:26 am —

        Claus, so what were you baited or trapped or tricked into saying that you otherwise wouldn’t have?

        • Profile photo of
          July 1, 2011 at 8:06 am —

          I didn’t answer the long list of questions.

          • Profile photo of daedalus2u
            July 1, 2011 at 9:37 pm

            Claus, so you escaped the trap and are still “free”? What exactly are you “free” of?

          • Profile photo of
            July 2, 2011 at 1:13 am

            If you have a point, please make it.

          • Profile photo of daedalus2u
            July 2, 2011 at 11:49 am

            Claus, the point I am trying to make is that framing this, or any other communication as a fight, or a trap, or an adversarial interaction is to turn it into (at best) a win-lose proposition. If there already is a social power differential, as there is in the Patriarchy, and all other social power hierarchies, then some people entering the “communication as war” are at a disadvantage and are likely to lose (the “playing field” not being level).

            If your goal in communication is to win power over someone, why would anyone want to communicate with you? They can only lose because your goal is to make them lose, not have a win-win authentic exchange of honest information where everyone becomes better off. Your goal is for you to become better off at the expense of the person you are communicating with.

            Faux outrage is just another way to exert privilege and put your opponent at a disadvantage. The best faux outrage is outrage that the outraged person doesn’t even appreciate is faux. Being outraged that someone would make an assumption about you that is consistent with what has transpired is faux outrage.

            If you don’t want to communicate openly and be honest and straight with people, that is your decision, but then you can’t complain if they notice that and make default inferences based on what you have not been open about. If you want to hide behind a mask, go right ahead, but then you can’t get upset that people notice you are hiding stuff and make inferences based on what you are hiding. Especially when people hiding stuff often means they are up to no good and have bad intentions. Maybe you don’t, but when you hide your intentions, no one can know that.

          • Profile photo of
            July 2, 2011 at 3:43 pm

            “Claus, the point I am trying to make is that framing this, or any other communication as a fight, or a trap, or an adversarial interaction is to turn it into (at best) a win-lose proposition. If there already is a social power differential, as there is in the Patriarchy, and all other social power hierarchies, then some people entering the “communication as war” are at a disadvantage and are likely to lose (the “playing field” not being level).”
            .
            Who has been trying to frame this as a fight, or a trap, or an adversarial interaction? I know I haven’t. I *asked* if that was the point of this blog entry. If that is *framing*, then honest inquiry is seen as framing. That would be deplorable.
            .
            “If your goal in communication is to win power over someone”
            .
            It isn’t my goal.
            .
            “Faux outrage is just another way to exert privilege and put your opponent at a disadvantage. The best faux outrage is outrage that the outraged person doesn’t even appreciate is faux. Being outraged that someone would make an assumption about you that is consistent with what has transpired is faux outrage.”
            .
            I have no idea whose “faux outrage” you are referring to. I am not “outraged”, nor am I expressing anything “faux”.
            .
            “If you don’t want to communicate openly and be honest and straight with people, that is your decision, but then you can’t complain if they notice that and make default inferences based on what you have not been open about. If you want to hide behind a mask, go right ahead, but then you can’t get upset that people notice you are hiding stuff and make inferences based on what you are hiding. Especially when people hiding stuff often means they are up to no good and have bad intentions. Maybe you don’t, but when you hide your intentions, no one can know that.”

            OK, I understand now: You are using “you” in the generic sense, and not “you, Claus Larsen”, since I cannot possibly be hiding behind a mask whilst using my own name. My bad.
            .
            So, we are back to my question: What’s your point? What did you mean when you addressed me directly, and asked if I “escaped the trap” and am “still free”?

  46. Profile photo of TheWireMonkey
    June 30, 2011 at 3:24 pm —

    I was walking with my brother one time and explaining how certain parts of our neighborhood in Brooklyn made me uncomfortable because of the behavior of some local residents catcalling, etc. He said he’d never noticed it and he hangs out with women all the time. The next time we went out, I told him to walk on the other side of the street and just watch. He was shocked and amazed at the how the same dudes we passed the day had magically transformed from perfect gentlemen to snarling assholes. Of course he never noticed this behavior when walking with me or his various female friends as he resembles a cross between Vin Diesel and The Rock. His presence alone was a deterrent. I think this may account for a lot of men not “seeing” this sort of thing happen to women, even the women in their life and especially if they are not the type of men to engage in such behavior.

  47. Profile photo of AttorneyAdam
    June 30, 2011 at 4:17 pm —

    I would just like to say that I am a man and I find Skepchick’s coverage of feminism extremely valuable in rooting out my own privilege. Thank you for this post Amy!

    • Profile photo of Liokae
      July 1, 2011 at 2:22 am —

      Chalk up a second on that one- it’s taken reading here and at two other blogs (Jen’s and Greta’s) to really help it sink in that even when I am consciously on the side of women’s rights, I still need to think about the idea I’m putting out there to make sure I’m not letting privilege seep into it. And it really is a lot harder than it sounds, sometimes.

      • Profile photo of RobertL
        July 1, 2011 at 2:50 am —

        Absolutely agreed. Those of us with privilege struggle to see it.

        My most common dislike related to this list is the whole “walking home in the dark” business.

        What I don’t like is the fact that I see the fear in women when I walk along. I’m a large, bulky guy – but I’m just walking home.

        I know that these women are doing the right thing by being scared (or maybe just cautious) and I know that, whatever I feel, it’s much worse for them. But it makes me sad inside about the society we live in when my very presence causes so much concern.

        • Profile photo of Buzz Parsec
          July 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm —

          Yes, both the specific observation about walking in the dark and the general one about privilege.
          .
          It seems to me there are two somewhat contradictory points here. One is that to avoid objectifying other people, you need to try to see things from their perspective. But on the other hand, if you do this, you are quite likely to get it wrong, or to only get a small subset of what other people would see or feel because you can’t possibly know all their past experiences or thought processes which have influenced their thoughts and feelings. But this is still much better than ignoring their perspective, and if you communicate, it should be at least to some extent self-corrective. Then again, there are many situations (like in the elevator) that are not conducive to communications. In those cases, I guess the best thing to do is just to step back, say “sorry for intruding”, and hope maybe someday you get a chance to get enlightened.
          .
          P.S. I hope this doesn’t constitute “mansplaining”, since what I’m basically doing is admitting my own breathtaking lack of knowledge, and trying to find a path forward. To people implying this whole discussion (here and on other recent threads) isn’t really relevant to skepticism, isn’t this the basis of skepticism?

          • Profile photo of daedalus2u
            July 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm

            Buzz, I think this is exactly right. To me, the “true feminist” is someone who wants privilege over no one but themselves and who works to achieve this as best they can. A woman can subjugate herself to anyone she wants to, but unless she supports total and complete self-determination and equality under law for everyone else, then she is no feminist. That is the same for everyone.

            True feminists (of which I consider myself to be) don’t want to replace the Patriarchy with a Feminiarchy, or a Matriarchy or a Skeptiarchy, or any other kind of Kyriarchy with some people having privilege over other people. True feminists want no one to have any kind of privilege over anyone but themselves.

            Social power hierarchies are all zero-sum. You can only move up by moving other people down. There are no equals in a social power hierarchy. Everyone who is higher has more power, status, authority than everyone who is lower.

            When you correct someone for acting as if they have privilege, you can’t use that against them to pull them down, or you are using your privilege at having observed their privilege against them. But then they can’t use the fact that you were trying to use your anti-privilege privilege over them.

            I think this is where people have to be able to consciously step out of the privilege, anti-privilege, anti-anti-privilege social power conflict BS and start over as equals. This can only happen if both parties are acting in good faith (which is not always the case) and are able to communicate without triggering defensive mechanisms (this is not always the case either).

            When those defensive mechanisms trigger reciprocal defensive mechanisms it can lead into a vicious circle. This happened with me and my ex. When she would get angry it would trigger my “stuff” and I would withdraw. My withdrawal would trigger her “stuff” and she would get angry. Neither of us could stop the vicious circle. I could see it happening, I could feel it happening, I could articulate that it was happening (but not in the moment (but that was before my high NO experience, I think I could now)) but was powerless to stop it, it was all autonomic reflexive actions on my part, but that is what trauma does to people, it activates protective mechanisms that are extremely difficult to control. Near death trauma can trigger very powerful protective mechanisms that are hard to control. You can’t hold it against someone if they have such reflexes, you have to deal with them on their terms.

  48. Profile photo of scyldemort
    July 1, 2011 at 7:58 am —

    Super, thanks for asking?


    But yeah. It’s painful to see just how common mansplaining really is. And not ‘ironic mansplaining’ oreven ‘trollsplaining,’ either.

  49. Profile photo of Handbasketexpress
    July 3, 2011 at 1:23 pm —

    Thank you so much for posting this, Amy. I’m sorry so many people don’t get it. Don’t stop talking about it.

  50. Profile photo of anarchist
    July 4, 2011 at 9:41 pm —

    I hear a lot of people generalizing the problem of rape as being something that happens on the street. While this can and does happen, approximately 2/3 rapes are committed by someone known to the victim. 38% of rapes are by a friend or acquaintance. 73% of sexual assaults were perpetrated by a non-stranger. 28% of rapes/sexual assaults are an intimate.

    Also alarming, 60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police. 1 out of every 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime (14.8% completed rape; 2.8% attempted rape). The statistics only get worse in places like college. This issue is not something that happens to “someone else.” This happens to our mothers, our sisters, our friends and our co-workers. The women and girls you see everyday on the street and working at your grocery stores. It’s a cultural problem, something we teach and something we pass on with attitudes–like a lot of the attitudes I see here. I see a lot of privileged males skipping the acknowledgment of privilege, going straight into oft-bizarre hypothetical situations in which they construct a straw argument, based on equal power relationships. Well, society isn’t equal, however much it should be. It’s just not, that’s the empirical reality. So before you start getting defensive, fellow males, you need to take an honest inventory of your own attitudes and check with reality and empirical truth. It’s easy to deny. It takes work to recognize and acknowledge. It’s hard work, and it never ends; no one ever reaches the point to where they’ve perfected their awareness of privilege and their interactions. That’s the world we live in. Like evolution, there is no culminating, perfect form of being. It’s an ongoing process. That’s the beautiful struggle. Don’t settle for anything less. End rant. :)

    Statistics come from RAINN–http://www.rainn.org/statistics

    • Profile photo of anarchist
      July 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm —

      Oh and by the way, great article, thanks!
      –some privileged dude

  51. Profile photo of furiouslysleepy
    July 5, 2011 at 12:02 pm —

    I like this article because it’s genuinely helpful for someone who has (certain types of) privilege to become aware of it, but there’s nevertheless something a bit disturbing about it:

    A lot of commentators have said that no one can tell you how to feel, which clearly better than privileged people telling non-privileged people to accept power relations and expecting them to actually accept them, which is what happens quite often.

    At the same time, “no one can tell you how to feel” is rather weird too. If no one can tell anyone how they should feel, then what’s the point of your post? Why should someone with privilege try to address the imbalance, to see things from your point of view, root out their own prejudices? That stuff takes time and effort, you know. Aren’t you telling people how they should feel about what you go through?

    I’m being facetious of course. Clearly, people should do all that because it’s the moral thing to do, and we as a society have to try to get people who don’t want to do that (out of different motivations or sociopathy) to do it anyway, because that’s the moral thing to do too. That is, we have to tell them how to feel.

    Soo… my point is, good post, I like it, it works well as a rhetorical device, but (the commenters’) the stance that no one can tell anyone how to feel is nonsensical. Pithy, but silly. Hey people tell me how to feel all the time, and I do the same.

  52. Profile photo of blissed
    July 5, 2011 at 4:42 pm —

    ¸.·´¯`·.´¯`·.¸¸.·´¯`·.¸> I think if we educate infants in sexual consent, and had a society where female sexual desire is valued, that may create an atmosphere where women are far less sexually pressured and more comfortable to express their sexuality. It’s lovely if you can enjoy your sexuality and enjoy the attention you want.

  53. Profile photo of BringerOfMorning
    July 6, 2011 at 10:59 am —

    Yes, well. I might react or think the same way as you on most of these. Probably not all though. If I do a risk assessment or irritation audit and come up with a different answer that doesn’t mean either of us are clueless, naive or wrong. It just means we are different people and so we should be. If we are telling other people “don’t tell me how to feel,” we should probably be extending that to include other people. No matter what we do, we are going to upset other people. I hated being asked if I had children, because we were struggling with fertility problems, so my view of it being a crassly invasive enquiry differed (maybe) from yours. I could take it in the spirit in which it was meant or get touchy every time someone mentioned anything to do with kids and flaunted their privileged fertility :-) I use my own name, never worry about my tits, age or sexuality, and am outnumbered every day at work in a very male dominated industry.None of these things matter much -to me- while the issue of getting paid less makes me furious. You can feel what you like, and good luck to you, but it doesn’t make either of us a better feminist. I have had a lot more power over my own life since I decided I’d fix things for myself. I am allowed to think that a man in a lift is not is a big issue- for me.

  54. Profile photo of Chad K Brown
    July 6, 2011 at 11:45 am —

    You should feel how you feel. The End.

  55. Profile photo of flarrgunstow
    July 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm —

    Here’s how you should feel:

  56. Profile photo of Ramji
    July 7, 2011 at 6:35 am —

    After reading this I’m nor sure how I should feel as a man.
    This is not to refute the things stated here … just how I feel.
    I’m now embarrassed to be a man … though I did nothing personally to deserve this.
    It’s hard enough trying to figure out my role as a man. Maybe my father’s fault.
    Most of my close friends are female, but now I’m concerned about how they perceive me. I thought they were comfortable around me. Maybe I should ask? Or is that weird?
    I’m basically a shy person … even around other men, but now I’m even more self conscious. … maybe even afraid… to speak to a woman I don’t know.
    I can’t wait to see my therapist.
    I think I’m going to be sick.

    • Profile photo of Jafafa Hots
      July 8, 2011 at 4:54 am —

      If they’re your close friends, why NOT ask?
      If your worst fears happen and they have complaints, you get to hear them from people you love and trust who will be supportive of your desire to self-analyze.

      If they don’t feel that you do any of these things, they’ll be glad you’re so thoughtful as to ask, I’m sure.

      You’ll maybe get into a conversation about these matters in a general sense not specifically applying to you, but that will strengthen your bond with your friends.

      It’s all good. Just ask in the right way of course. Non-confrontational, etc. but I don’t think I need to tell you that. Also, I’m a guy, so this is my best guess. I’m still working on myself too.

      Which is my general feeling about life – anybody who does not consider themselves to be a work-in-progress is likely to be contributing to some problem somewhere.

  57. Profile photo of Garbledina
    July 7, 2011 at 10:17 pm —

    No one, obviously, can tell you how you should feel. But I can tell you how I would feel (or, on the items I have asterisked, how I actually did or do feel in sadly non-hypothetical situations):

    How should I feel when walking home to my apartment in a city at night alone?
    *Constantly nervous, but acutely aware that I am probably being irrational and that I love my neighborhood, but then panicking again when someone parks their car too close to me.

    How should I feel when a car pulls up beside my car and honks and the man driving the other car is jacking off?
    *This happened to me when I was walking, and he asked for directions instead of honking. I began laughing uncontrollably, which was not the reaction he was looking for and he drove off in quite a hurry, too fast to get his plates. I was grateful it was me, and not a girl more skittish about penises, and then disgusted.

    How should I feel when I catch a neighbor peeking in my window?
    Ick. Like I should buy more locks. And then move.

    How should I feel about online stalkers who threaten to kill me?
    Litigious

    How should I feel about men who whistle at me or tell me to smile while I am walking to the pharmacy to pick up asthma medicine?
    *angry. indignant. intruded-upon.

    How should I feel about what I am wearing? Should I feel differently if my skirt is short or long or if I am in pants?
    *Pathologically unsure. Put on the skirt, feel sexy for a minute, then worry my thighs look fat, change, like that I can rock that low-cut shirt, worry about what kind of attention I am drawing, change, feel more comfortable, then feel frumpy and worry that as I get older I am de-sexualizing myself, worry how that will affect my relationship, feel like an idiot but try skirt again anyway, etc…

    How should I feel about the size of my breasts? And is it relevant to how I should be treated?
    *Because I am a DD I feel ridiculous and that they are too large. If they were smaller I would certainly fret that they weren’t bigger. Guh.

    How should I feel about my weight?
    *What day is it today?

    How should I feel about my age?
    *Grumblegrumblegrumble

    How should I feel when I am asked out on a date even though I am clearly wearing a wedding ring?
    *Baffled. Confused. Angry. Wondering if I put out signals I didn’t mean to. Ashamed. Awkward

    How should I feel when I am called a bitch for turning down an offer for a date?
    *Like I dodged a bullet

    How should I feel when I am called a bitch for speaking my mind?
    *Like the bitch-caller is an idiot and not worth my time. Then I spend the rest of the day wondering how I could have worded what I said different so no one got mad. Self-loathing and rage stew.

    How should I feel when I am followed by a group of men I do not know down a side street?
    *Terror

    How should I feel when when I am called a slut for showing “too much” skin?
    *Like you can’t tell me what I can and can’t do with my body and I don’t believe in your outdated sexual ethics anyway! Also shame.

    How should I feel when I am told that I’m not dressed sexy enough?
    *see above

    How should I feel about being told that I am not pretty enough?
    *I tell myself to shut the hell up!

    How should I feel about being physically forced to give a man a blow job?
    *Hollow and numb

    How should I feel about having a gun held to my head?
    I hope I never find out, but my best guess is: see above

    How should I feel about being tied up with duct tape?
    *Is being handcuffed to a radiator close enough? If so: scared, alone, and pathetically sorry.

    How should I feel about the potential for being raped?
    *Like I can’t spend all of my time thinking about it, and it’s not impossible but it’s unlikely, and that I think about it all the time.

    How should I feel about being groped by strangers?
    *Disgusted and ashamed and like I can’t speak up because no one will have my back. Because of those times I called guys out on it and everyone in the room told me to lighten up.

    How should I feel about the fact that I carry pepper spray and lace my keys in my fist when I walk alone?
    *Like you can’t let the terror control you and you need to assert some kind of control on your fear, even if it’s largely symbolic. I don’t think those things would actually save me if it came down to it. I am slow and weak. But you have to do something to feel brave.

    How should I feel about being told that I am “paranoid” or a “man-hater” because I err on the side of caution when I leave the house?
    *Like those people see these questions as abstract and hypothetical

    How should I feel about being told that I am not as sexually evolved as other women because I point out instances of sexism?
    *see above

    How should I feel about making less money than a man who does the same job?
    *tired of this shit

    How should I feel about people who say, “oh, that’s too bad” when I say I don’t have children?
    like they can’t understand people not wanting the things they want out of life.

    How should I feel about people acting confused and scowling when I must explain that I didn’t change my name when I got married?
    *Sorry for them (the explanation for this is too long for this post.)

    How should I feel about people saying I am cliquey because I write for a blog with other women?
    *Tired of this shit

    How should I feel about being outnumbered by men at most skeptic, tech and science events?
    *OK with it, because I am hopeful it is changing, because I am working to change it along with a lot of other kick-ass ladies.

    How should I feel about being a woman?
    *Like someday I will get to just be a person

    • Profile photo of Zytheran
      July 8, 2011 at 3:48 am —

      Thank you for this straight-forward reply, which might not match the desired input to this thread, but I found interesting.

  58. Profile photo of hkdharmon
    July 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm —

    Some of this is hard for me to believe this stuff happens often enough to be significant, not because I think you are lying, but because I simply cannot believe that anyone would do things like are described here.
    However, I am guilty of trying to get women to smile, although honestly it is not because I think it is improper for a woman to not smile, but rather because I thought she might be having a bad day. I had no idea that it would be improper. Though it is usually woman with whom I am actually interacting, not just someone I pass on the street. I think I do it to guys as well.
    I usually tell a joke. I don’t think I have ever just commanded a stranger to “Smile, varlet!”

    • Profile photo of Garbledina
      July 8, 2011 at 2:02 pm —

      I feel that it is condescending, but not because of my gender. I feel irritated because 99% of the time these are strangers who don’t know anything about me, or my life in general, or what kind of day I’ve had. It happens to me at work a lot (I become very deadpan when I focus, I guess, even when in a good mood, which is most of the time). People tell me to smile because either “I have such a pretty smile,” which is gender-related and feels demeaning, or else because “it can’t be that bad.” Really? Do you know that? We’ve never met! You know nothing about me! Maybe some people like being told to smile by strangers and it cheers them up, I feel like it presumes a familiarity we don’t have and it feels intrusive. For the record, because I have been on the internet lately: it bothers me when men OR women do it, I can’t read minds and cannot claim I know what people’s actual intent is, and I in no way claim to speak for all women.

  59. Profile photo of mikeb
    July 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm —

    I hate it when I make people, male or female, nervous. One of the nice things about getting old is that I less frequently hear car doors locking as I walk down the sidewalk.

    If I’m overtaking a woman alone and I fear I may be making her nervous I take out my cell phone and “chat” with someone. If someone is making me nervous I do the same thing. It erects a sort of barrier even if no body else is there.

    Reading some of the statements it occurs to me (not for the first time) that many people say they are atheists not because they have a sincere desire to be rational in all things. But because they are asses who want to attack people. I’m sure if we lived in country where 90% of the people were atheist they would be true believers, and hound the atheists. Not to say there are not plenty of true believer asses already.

    When somebody tells you to smile, say something like, “I would but my mother just died and I can’t do it.” Don’t let on that its not true, they’ll learn.

  60. Profile photo of blissed
    July 13, 2011 at 5:05 pm —

    All these people including Dawkins telling Rebecca how she should feel. She was there and has told us how she felt.

  61. Profile photo of tuliplilah
    July 14, 2011 at 9:54 am —

    How you feel depends on yourself. You can not change what other people has done, but you can change how you feel about it. By no means do I mean that we should just lie down and take what is handed to us. Rape is not a sexual act, it’s a control act. You decide who will be in control. You decide what you feel. You decide if you are a victim or a victrix

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