Feminism

Not Responding to Dangerous Road Rage Means the Trolls Won

Yesterday, I was driving home from a friend’s place around dusk. I approached a traffic light at which I was turning left. I had the green light but a car was approaching from the opposite direction, with no lights on or turn signals. I waited for them to go through the intersection, but at the last minute they turned right without using their turn signals.

When they started turning, I started taking my left. Suddenly, a man in a truck behind me started laying on his horn, apparently angry that I had waited a moment to verify that the car was in fact turning and not going through the light. He revved his engine and tried to pull around me to my left as I took the turn, but then had to fall back as there wasn’t enough room.

Once I had completed the turn, the man gunned past me on the left while laying on the horn, and as he passed me he quite purposely veered hard into my lane, causing his truck to tip violently before he veered back to the left, and causing me to hit the brakes and move into the right shoulder, which was thankfully clear. He then sped ahead of me, where he was forced to stop at a red light.

It was a bit scary, though my initial reaction was to laugh with disbelief that someone got that angry over waiting an extra 10 seconds at a light that he nearly killed us both. I slowed down so that I wouldn’t pull up right next to him at the light, since I had no idea what else he might do if he was willing to already go that far. I stopped at the light and took a photo of his truck, figuring that if he did escalate then I’d have some recourse with the police.

Luckily, when the light turned green, he sped off in another direction as I got on the highway, and I was able to continue home with no other problems.

When I got home, I decided to put the photo on Twitter, because fuck that guy:

I forgot that this was the perfect time for idiots on Twitter to tell me things. At first, I thought the worst would be advice that was simply useless:

Since I wasn’t driving when I took the photo (obvious from both the brake lights and the lack of motion blur), and I didn’t even Tweet it until I was home (obvious by the time stamp and the fact that the pic was clearly taken at sunset), and I had to take a photo if I wanted to document the person who had just committed an actual crime that could have resulted in my injury or worse, and even so taking and tweeting photos while driving is not at all equal to purposely trying to run someone off the road, this advice is merely the annoying and insulting result of someone who skipped over obvious facts in the rush to shame me for being a hypocrite.

That’s par for the course on Twitter, and I generally now just mute these types of “helpful” advice-givers and move on. (Update: he apologized.)

But then another man stepped up to prove that he could be even worse:

This is such terrible advice that I had to read it several times to figure out whether he was actually being sarcastic. To recap, a man in a truck tried to run me off the road, and this genius wants me to know that the best thing to do in the future is to pull up next to him and start a conversation.

kristen schaal what

This may be the all-time stupidest advice anyone has ever given me, and I say that as a person who gets unsolicited advice from man-babies pretty much every day.

And as I was typing up this quick post, he made it a thousand times better:

This is how the trolls beat me, you guys. This is how it happened. This is how I ended up here, cowering, by which I mean eating a sandwich while typing words on my popular website. Had I pulled up next to the person who had just tried to use a 2-ton vehicle to hurt me and politely told him, I don’t know, “Hey guy, don’t do that,” everything would have been great.

But no, I took the coward’s route by continuing to drive safely home, and thanks to that I have lost. The trolls have won. RIP feminism.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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55 Comments

  1. April 23, 2015 at 11:45 am —

    By cowering, I mean that you (others) “pull your punches”. You will point out the problems and dangers women face in society, which is great, but do not seem to come up with a way to address it head on.

    That would require confrontation.

    • April 23, 2015 at 11:53 am —

      troll

      • April 23, 2015 at 11:59 am —

        LOL

        • April 23, 2015 at 12:31 pm —

          I’ll take that hit. Well deserved. Sorry for being an ass (didn’t think you were stopped and yes bad advice)

          What do you think would be required to solve this, as a society, other that your overt sarcasm and sledge hammer wit?

          Something that your obvious intellectual prowess would do.

          Maybe a post on that.

          • April 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm

            Haahahahahahaha. “Sorry for being an ass, but let me continue to be an ass and continue to give circular advice that’s not really advice.”

          • April 23, 2015 at 12:38 pm

            Are we talking about road rage or sexism? Because there’s probably not a damn thing we can do about road rage as a societal thing. But if you really want to try, you can just not do it, and not do things to escalate it. And if someone tells you about something they did as if it was a good thing, you can say, geeze, that was kind of a dick move, it’s not cool to do things that might scare people or even cause accidents, that’s kind of an irresponsible way to operate a 350 horsepower, 3 ton hunk of steel. You can lobby for more police resources to focus on catching and prosecuting acts of road rage. You can use public transit and lobby for increased public transit infrastructure to reduce traffic congestion.

            Funny, now I think of it, if you change a few words that all applies to sexism, too, except that I think a less sexist society is actually more attainable than less road rage.

      • April 23, 2015 at 9:49 pm —

        Will,

        Where did you get that?

        • April 24, 2015 at 12:25 am —

          Google images. I searched for “troll alert” and that was one of many options. ;)

          • April 24, 2015 at 1:53 am

            Will,

            Thanks. I didn’t know Google images included animated GIFs.

    • April 23, 2015 at 12:02 pm —

      Since this is apparently about more than the road rage incident, what would you suggest she do?

      Confront all the anti-feminists and trolls who bother her every single day? What the hell good would that do? Seriously, what is the likelyhood that if she told them they hurt her and asked them to stop that they would actually do so?

      And when she does confront people, such as telling men, “don’t do that,” meaning don’t accost women in elevators, what happened? Elevatorgate. Basically a bunch of men who think that she was overreacting and wanted to dismiss and gaslight her. So even when confronted, these men don’t listen anyway. What now?

      By the way, what are you doing to end sexism?

      • April 23, 2015 at 12:05 pm —

        His contribution would be a negative number.

      • April 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm —

        Obviously all the world’s problems will be solved by vigilante justice. We should all get in fist fights or shootouts with cat-callers, road rage drivers, rapists, trolls, hack comic artists, all of nChan, Reddit, and pitters. That should be productive :-/

      • April 23, 2015 at 12:18 pm —

        How do you confront the society that causes this type of behavior from men, including myself obviously (did not know she was stopped).

        “By the way, what are you doing to end sexism?”

        I am at a loss because I am never at the receiving end of it; going through this blind.

        Maybe point out where we need to go instead of where we are.

        • April 23, 2015 at 12:30 pm —

          Now you’re just saying words.

        • April 23, 2015 at 2:27 pm —

          Well, on the off chance that you really don’t know what to do, I have some reading for you. It’s a lot of reading, because you were not raised as a woman, and did not get this socializing, therefore, you need to catch up.

          Before you read though, you genuinely have to want to change your ideas on how the world works, and learn about yourself and your behavior towards women. If you don’t want to do that, don’t, I guess, and remain ignorant, but please, stop talking to feminists. You sound like a goddamn moron. Sorry for the insult, but it’s true.

          Now, go to this page: https://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/purpose/ and read it. Then, read the FAQs and read read read and learn. Don’t come back and reply to any comments on Skepchick until you’re done with the whole page of FAQs.

    • April 23, 2015 at 12:11 pm —

      Well, no one can say you’re not committed to this argument.

      http://i.imgur.com/7sB2w3P.png

    • April 23, 2015 at 12:14 pm —

      I always carry a picnic basket, a white whine spritzer and a bottle of grey poupon with me to ‘properly’ confront psychotic drivers after they cut me off.

      The ambulance crew seems to really appreciate it at least while they rush me to the hospital after being shot

  2. April 23, 2015 at 11:52 am —

    Yes, because yelling at (let’s face it, you have to yell to be heard, even if you use polite words) the guy in the truck is going to change his behavior in the future. Surely he won’t get defensive, he’ll really think about what you said, apologize, and never do it again. That’s a likely outcome.

    I mean really, we have the following possible outcomes (from most to least likely):
    1.) Guy in truck yells back, flips you off, drives away.
    2.) Guy in truck yells back, flips you off, drives away in a dangerous manner that results in someone getting in a wreck.
    3.) Guy in truck gets out and physically threatens you, but you drive off before anything happens.
    4.) Guy in truck yells back, flips you off, intentionally hits your car causing damage and possible injury.
    5.) Guy in truck gets out of truck/follows you/ otherwise physically assaults or shoots you.
    6.) Guy in truck learns his lesson and changes his ways.

    I’m a dude. I’m 6’4″. I still wouldn’t pull up and tell the guy off. It’s a high risk/low reward scenario. Although I do like to smile and wave politely like I’m a clueless idiot who doesn’t even understand that he’s angry.

  3. April 23, 2015 at 11:53 am —

    Not everyone is a danger, but certainly strangers who just dangerously used their vehicle to intimidate you are dangerous. Could that be any more obviously obvious?

  4. April 23, 2015 at 11:53 am —

    @Adam: What *exactly* would you have had her do? Because it sounds like you wanted her to stop and ‘confront’ at an angry man in a much larger vehicle who has already demonstrated that he’s not particularly rational and easily angered. That would *not* be good advice so I’m sure that’s not what you mean. Please clarify. Please be specific.

    • April 23, 2015 at 1:45 pm —

      I though from Watson’s first tweet that he was just swerving over into her lane or cutting her off (real men don’t use turn signals!); not trying to purposely run her off the road.

      I would avoid that type person as well.

    • April 23, 2015 at 1:54 pm —

      Plus I am doing this a work between breaks in the action (not an excuse at all) at work.

      I though he was just being a stupid driver. Thought Watson was driving while taking the pic and tweeting (was way wrong on that one); maybe the guy was doing the same (well tweeting anyway).

      I was saying Watson should pull up along side him (not get out) and tell him to pay attention. That before I realized he was trying to kill her.

  5. April 23, 2015 at 11:57 am —

    Oy! I bet you wouldn’t have gotten that “advice” from a woman. The man in the truck obviously had a violent temper and was reckless to the extreme. You were cooler than I would’ve been; I would’ve been terrified. As for the other Twitter idiot, it’s always the morons who want to sound superior. Fuck them all!

  6. April 23, 2015 at 12:07 pm —

    Derailed on the first post. Nice trolling!

  7. April 23, 2015 at 12:15 pm —

    Props to how you handled it. I usually have a long commute, up to 60 miles each way, and have had a lot of similar incidents. I finally broke down and put a dash cam in my car, but that’s expensive, and many people just can’t afford it. Especially mine, which is front and rear.

    Very often, it’s confrontations with contractors, which I believe is the case here looking at the truck, and it’s probably not their vehicle. Best outcome here is that whoever employs him sees the picts and cans his ass.

  8. April 23, 2015 at 12:16 pm —

    Because last time you said, “hey guys, don’t do that,” that ended soooo well.

    Also, I Lol’d at that dude’s first apology. In other words, “Further evidence has revealed that I was wrong, but you have to admit, I thought I was right.”

    • April 23, 2015 at 2:12 pm —

      Hey, I don’t know about you, but to me, politely asking people not to do something interpersonally inappropriate is a serious crime that automatically makes light of the suffering of Muslim women.

    • April 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm —

      Heh heh. I was going to say that first part. :)

  9. April 23, 2015 at 1:09 pm —

    Always engage with road ragers and escalate the situation. Isn’t that the advice everyone should follow?

  10. April 23, 2015 at 1:40 pm —

    I apologize (not expecting it to be I accepted) and accept the punishment I am getting for being a stupid fucking ass.

    Still learning and a long ways off from completely understanding.

  11. April 23, 2015 at 1:48 pm —

    Let’s try a different approach.

    “Boy, it sure would be nice if we had some grenades, don’t you think?”

  12. April 23, 2015 at 2:28 pm —

    I am also not good at when (not here obviously and this incident) and how in trying to get points across; not formally educated (it shows) and live in a male dominated industry; so I am around nothing but sexism and misogyny (again not an excuse).

    Plus the industry I am in trains one to make decisions on the fly (hence my flippant advice here and twitter). Thinking ahead (pretty much at all) is frowned upon; must be vigilant and aggressive to be efficient and profitable and that bleeds through into everything I confront and do (must be vigilant and aggressive to get change moving forward).

    I am a brutal and obviously ignorant asshole; but I am trying to learn not to be.

    Again I apologize.

    • April 23, 2015 at 3:05 pm —

      Hey, I was like that when I first came here years ago.

      If you want to learn stick around and listen mostly and add when you truly feel you have something to add, but don’t be surprised if you are told you are full of shit some times.

      I know I was, and they were usually right. Enlightening yourself isn’t always comfortable.

      • April 23, 2015 at 3:52 pm —

        Well being full of shit is, again, obvious.

        I do not expect comfort. This was a trip and tumble hard down the hill fuck-up.

        I’ll just learn from this and get back up.

        • April 24, 2015 at 10:26 am —

          Well done. I had you written off as a garden variety troll. I don’t think there’s anyone who hasn’t jumped to conclusions and doubled down a bit online. Rarer are those who realize it and apologize. Of course, your first mistake was trying to make an argument on Twitter, where no one has enough context ;-)

          • April 26, 2015 at 9:21 am

            “Of course, your first mistake was trying to make an argument on Twitter, where no one has enough context”

            And then continuing with that mistake here with a backhoe fueled by nitromethane.
            As “LizzardRumsfeld” reply showed: http://i.imgur.com/7sB2w3P.png

    • April 23, 2015 at 4:25 pm —

      What industry is that that rewards not thinking about the consequences of your actions? Law enforcement? Pro football? Telemarketing? (I’ve received 7 robocalls so far today, 3 of them on my cell. Both home and cell are on the DNC list, not that it makes a particle of difference.)

      Sorry for the derail. (I know, I know, “guys don’t do that.”)

      2nd derail, but slightly more relevant: Turn signals in California. Once I was working in Garden Grove and needed to head home via LAX. The people I was working with sternly warned me not to use my turn signals on the highway, because people would deliberately cut me off. I scoffed, little did I know. At some point (couldn’t find it on Google maps, but this was about 20 years ago, lots of highway construction since but it might have been the 405/105 merge), I had to merge onto a 4-lane highway from the left and then take the next exit on the right, crossing 4 lanes to get there. I signal and tried to move right, one lane at a time. A little red station wagon behind and to my right pulled up next to me. I slowed down to let it pass. It slowed down. I sped up. It sped up. Slowed way down again (to about 40. It matched my speed. I sped up to about 75. It kept pace. Noticed a big truck in front of me. Used it to set a pick. I sped up to about 85, went left as if I was about to pass the truck. The red station wagon went right to pass the truck on the other side. I hit the brakes and went behind the truck and red station wagon, across the remaining lane, and straight down my exit ramp (just made it to the exit). Probably would have been smarter to miss my exit and my flight, but I’m a guy. Can’t do that, even though I was shaking afterwards. The worst part: the station wagon was being driven by a guy with a woman in the front seat next to him and two kids in the back. I wonder if any of them are still alive, and if the kids drive like their father.

      Like anti-vaxers, super aggressive drivers put their families at risk. But I wonder which group causes the most collateral damage to innocent bystanders.

      End of digression.

      tl;dr

      Rebecca, you’re reaping the rewards for being sane and adult and a woman. Please keep it up if you possibly can.

      • April 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm —

        Buzz, I have road rage just fucking READING your story.

      • April 24, 2015 at 1:09 am —

        I don’t drive in LA very often, but I haven’t seen very much of that, and certainly not that blatantly. The one time I did, I managed to move quick enough that he couldn’t cut me off, and threw him a finger. He pulled up along side me and just paced me and glared at me, and I just smiled back. When we got to heavier traffic, he tried to get in front of me, and I moved into traffic so he couldn’t, and figured I was done with him. But 15 minutes later, when the traffic lightened up, there he was again, and we repeated that about 4 times. Finally a pick up got between us and deliberately blocked him, which I wish he hadn’t done as he had his wife with him, until the dude took an off ramp.

        Frankly, I think he was a cop. Sure looked like one.

      • April 24, 2015 at 7:21 am —

        “What industry is that that rewards not thinking about the consequences of your actions?”

        Automotive repair and the flat-rate pay system. I am personally out of that pay system now (stress of being honest and working in that environment) , but it is prevalent in the auto industry.

        It is a combo of Ayn Rand Libertarianism and the angles from Dr. Who.
        Whatever you do, don’t blink.

        A short piece on that: http://www.autonerdz.com/cancer.htm

        • April 24, 2015 at 2:09 pm —

          Thanks for that. I’m not in that kind of rat race (which is a privilege, I’m sure), so it is hard to imagine that kind of situation as an outsider, but I bet it applies to lots of other industries as well, especially in high-volume consumer services industries (which are the growth industries in the modern economy.)

          • April 24, 2015 at 5:35 pm

            China

          • April 24, 2015 at 7:05 pm

            @Mr M: Does China use this method of paying workers, or are you saying China is the current center of growth? I meant, but didn’t make clear, the domestic growth industries in the US, which is where most post-recession new jobs in the US come from, AFAIK.

            Thank you former union president Ronnie.

          • April 24, 2015 at 7:35 pm

            Sorry, bad joke made nonsensical by misreading.

  13. April 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm —

    This is a good argument for carpooling. Whoever rides shotgun can take photos and tweet. (Though, yeah, in most states, texting while driving is a crime for a reason.)

    The worst road rage I ever saw was on the outskirts of town. I was in front of a Taco Bell when some asshole going at least 40 in the middle of the left turn lane jumped over onto the sidewalk, just inches behind me. (I should mention I was walking.) He left, went right back into the middle of the road, accelerated too fast, and kept at it.

    To say the least, I was shaken.

  14. April 23, 2015 at 5:03 pm —

    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.”, GC.

    Could be a good idea to install a dashboard camera like they do in Russia.
    “Why Almost Everyone in Russia Has a Dash Cam”
    http://www.wired.com/2013/02/russian-dash-cams/

  15. April 23, 2015 at 5:31 pm —

    Last summer I was driving behind a road rage guy in an old pickup who was really mad at Prius guy in front of him. I was behind them for a few miles on a narrow winding two lane road and it appeared Prius guy going the speed limit was the main issue for truck guy. When Prius guy was turning off the road pickup guy stopped partly in front of him and they both got out of their vehicles. After a few words Pickup guy went back to his truck and pulled a club of some kind went back over to Prius guy making threating motions with the weapon. I was stopped about thirty feet behind them and thought I was going to witness a serious beating or worse. I was also videoing the whole confrontation from when they both opened their doors. It was tough deciding to keep filming instead of calling 911 when the weapon came out, but many other cars were stopped and their drivers were probably already calling 911 by that time. I figured the video may be important and I’d already decided to stay in my car and honk and point at my phone if it looked like someone was going to get hurt. Eventually I did start honking and angry truck guy left after making threatening gestures with his club and with much drama and spinning of tires. I called 911 when I got home and uploaded my video to google drive and gave a police officer who contacted me later that day access. A couple months later I found out that due to my video they were able to charge angry truck guy with felony threats involving a weapon and he later pled guilty. I’ve thought about posting this video but in the end decided not to because the victim was as identifiable as angry truck guy, including close-ups of license plates, and Prius guy didn’t deserve any more grief.

    • April 23, 2015 at 8:15 pm —

      Good on you!

      One important thing is that driving in a dangerous manner, blocking another car and getting out of your car to threaten a trapped driver with a club are all clearly illegal actions, so bystanders with ubiquitous cameras can do some good.

      Harassing and bullying people online or in person isn’t as clear cut (legally), so I think it is extra important that people witnessing such document it and make it known to the perpetrators that this isn’t tolerable. I don’t know if we can or should make it illegal, but we surely can make it socially unacceptable. For that to work, everyone needs to contribute, and not just shut their eyes and ignore it.

  16. April 23, 2015 at 9:21 pm —

    You had the gear, and the calm, to take a picture. I don’t know if Law Enforcement can be encouraged to act on the basis of a still photograph.

    I find that in high stress moments like that, I don’t remember even to note licence numbers until its too late…

    I don’t/can’t drive, and every time I ride a car, or observe drivers, I’m boggled at the stupidity, lunacy and rage that explode in mooks behind wheels.

  17. April 23, 2015 at 9:48 pm —

    Rebecca Watson,

    “Open tweet to this guy: purposely swerving into my lane to scare me doesn’t actually make you the cooler driver.”

    It also means that you’re not thinking much about anyone’s safety, including your own.

  18. April 25, 2015 at 1:28 pm —
  19. April 25, 2015 at 4:45 pm —

    Beginning of this very week, the kids and I stopped at a crosswalk for some pedestrians, as is the law. Apparently the driver of an older model white pickup didn’t like that, so he careened around us on the right– which meant he had to use parking spaces as a driving lane, because it is only a two lane road– going considerably faster than the 20 MPH limit. There was a line of cars behind him, going nearly as fast, who couldn’t see us in our stopped car until the truck driver whipped to the right. We were very nearly rear ended.

    A few weeks before, we saw some guys in a fancy pickup (there’s a theme here) nearly run over pedestrians in a parking lot, then cut off two cars, then drive out the wrong side of the entrance, making a right turn ahead of me while cutting off cars trying to enter as well as cars trying to leave, directly into the path of a semi, driver of which blared his horn and got the bird plus laughter in response.

    Few years back, kids and I (another theme!) had a guy tailgating us down a no-pass residential street. He was too close for me to even see his hood. I couldn’t pull over because there was no shoulder, no parking, just road abutting sidewalk, and I wasn’t going to go more than 5 MPH over the speed limit. Tapping my brakes pissed him off enough that he laid on his horn, passed us in a double yellow while screaming obscenities out his window, pulled in front of us, and slammed on his brakes. Then sped up, then did it again, then, when he was unsuccessful in getting me to hit his car with mine, finished his trek down the street at less than 10 miles an hour. Still screaming obscenities.

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