The Lower Quote, As If You Didn't Know, Is By Richard Dawkins, Son.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Elevatorgateabeccapocalypse...Or Something

Since everyone else has been blogging about this and my post on the Flat Earthers isn't quite ready yet, I thought I'd throw my two cents into the fountain of feminism. I'll do my best to hit the subject from an angle that I haven't seen yet and see if I can't just break through to some of the fellas who might not "get it".

I love martial arts. Have since as far back as I can remember. From Bruce Lee movies, to the first brutal Ultimate Fighting Championship events, to my current fanboy existence watching GSP and Anderson Silva pound their opponents with skill and grace. This love of everything combative has taken me through loads of self defense course material and theory, all of it interesting and thought-provoking. In particular, the systems known as "The Fence" and "Model Mugging".

There is a system of colour coding that some people (myself included) use while going through their days. It goes like this: white, yellow, orange, red, black. In order they symbolize:

White: your most relaxed state. Think about being at home, the doors are locked, you know who's in the place, and you're watching TV. You're safe and secure.

Yellow: Your everyday walking around state. You notice things, general overview type of stuff, but you're not super concerned unless you see something of obvious interest or threat. Think of walking through a mall; if someone is walking too close to you on the side, you notice. A group of teenagers standing outside the bowling alley, you notice.

Orange: The elevation from yellow noting mostly a change of situation or location. Those teenagers are eyeballing you. Or you change from walking in the mall to walking in the parking garage. These situations would merit a change of alertness levels. No real threat yet, but you're definitely noticing that fella over there seeming to struggle to get into his car and you're walking around corners with five feet or so of space between you and the wall.

Red: A real perceived threat. The teens taunt or advance on you. The guy in the parking garage is staring at you and walking towards you, not talking. This is a situation where you are looking for a way out of there fast, or you're preparing to defend yourself, physically or mentally.

Black: You are in a physical confrontation and you are fighting for your life.

Now, most of the people in the world, male or female, have no idea about this system and go about their days living in "white"; no situational awareness and no idea about possible threats to their person. This is where the classic news quote comes from where you hear a victim say, "The attacker came from out of nowhere." Sadly, no one comes from nowhere.

This sounds like I'm blaming the victim: I'm not. There is never an excuse for someone being attacked and the fault always lies squarely at the feet of the attacker. What I'm saying is that many attacks could possibly be prevented by being aware of the situation and the surroundings.

Now, to get to the Irish Conference, ElevatorGateaBeccapocalypse kerfuffle. What I don't think a lot of men understand is the difference between self-defense for men and self-defense for women - and there is a huge difference. Let me give an example from a book I read on Model Mugging (MM). As a point of information, MM is a course that teaches women about self-defense techniques and mental preparation with the goal of using these moves full-force on a heavily padded instructor/assailant.

A male writer and self-defense expert wanted to get a taste of what it was like for women to learn about protecting themselves. He enrolled in a MM course and did the three-days with the 10 or so women. On the last day, the ladies (and the writer) were to use what they learned on instructors they didn't know. Strangers would be in the padded suit to up the intimidation factor. It worked very well as a strategy.

When it was time for the unknown instructors/assailants to come into the class, the instructor the class had been with for the three days saw the writer staring at the new guys and doing the standard guy, "Ok, motherfucker, let's go, let's do this" mental preparation that happens before fighting or sparring. The instructor walked over to the writer and looked in his face and said, "Stop that. You're supposed to be experiencing this as a woman dealing with a surprise attack, not like a man getting in a fight."

The writer didn't even realize that he had switched mental gears. It took him by surprise that he had drifted into being a man and ramping up for a physical confrontation, and he was rightfully called on it. It was very difficult for him to stay in the mental space of "being a woman" and defending himself against the attackers.

This was a guy who had the explicit purpose of understanding the female experience of living through a self-defense situation, and he mentally slipped out of the game. This is, I think, why a lot of men don't get why the Elevator Guy (UG) in Rebecca Watson's story is referred to as a "potential rapist". This is why a lot of men don't understand and take great offense at being called "potential rapists". I know where they're coming from, but it's a place of ignorance and it can be fixed, maybe.

If you're paying attention and you walk from the mall into the parking garage, guys, you should be changing from yellow to orange on our little homeland security chart, right? Let's say you see a guy standing between two cars on the route to your car. If you're honest, you should be thinking that that guy just might say something to you or start some shit or maybe, worst-case scenario, attack you. There's probably a 95% chance that absolutely nothing will happen, but you should at least notice the fella. He is, by definition, a "potential attacker."

Greg Laden, on his blog, mentioned that he crosses the street when he sees a woman approaching if it's at night and they're both alone. This is awareness of one's surroundings and being cognizant of the awareness of the other person. You remove yourself from the equation and show yourself not to be a threat. It's the right thing to do.

EG did not do this for whatever reason(s) and he followed Rebecca into the elevator. This would have, by the color chart you all know now, raised Watson's level from yellow to orange (whether she knows the system or not). When he asked her for coffee and she had to refuse (for a variety of reasons), the level could have stayed at orange or it could have very easily gone to red, which for anyone who has had that change happen, you know it is quite stressful to say the least.

Now, to all the guys reading this, imagine the guy is 60 pounds heavier than you - and not fat. If, unlikely, I know, but if Richard Dawkins reads this, I want you not to pretend that this guy is chewing gum, but that he's gay. And he really likes you. And he's a muscular professional fighter. Imagine that guy gets onto your elevator after you're inside. At four in the morning. And you're both least a bit. Then he asks you to come over for "coffee". You say no, politely, because you certainly don't want to offend the pitbull you're now talking to, but with a level of finality. Now you're in an elevator with a guy you just turned down, you're avoiding eye-contact, but you want to know where he is, and you have to get to the eleventh floor and the fucking number is only at five and...jesus christ can't this thing go faster?

See what I mean? Maybe the gay mixed martial artist is a super nice guy and nothing happens, but if he was a mean drunk and didn't want to take "no" for an answer, you couldn't do a damn thing about it. He likely wouldn't be any threat at all, but that's not how you saw it. Allow me to provide a visual: cheick_kongo
That's Cheick Kongo. He's not gay. But he's a heavyweight fighter in the UFC. Also, he's 6'4" and 234lbs of muscle. If he wanted to do anything to you, you would have, and I'm being very generous here, a zero chance of winning a fight against him. Now, drunk and at 4a.m. you amble into an elevator and just as the doors are about to slide shut and take you to your floor, he comes in too. Then the doors shut.

Is he a potential threat? Fuck, yes. Likely? No, but you are (or should be) intimidated enough that you will be happy when the ride is over and the doors slide open to show you the busily patterned carpet and somewhat tacky light of your floor's lobby.

Everyone's a potential threat. We must take care of ourselves and be aware of the perceived threat we present to others. That's all. If you're thinking of cornering someone to ask them out, don't. Cornering anything is going to make it nervous. Don't do it.

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12 Barbaric Yawps:

At 13/7/11 9:22 am, Blogger Kevin said...

I've been following this story, and I agree with absolutely everything you said in this post.

Nicely done,


At 13/7/11 9:28 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Thanks, Kevin.

At 13/7/11 2:10 pm, Anonymous Anna said...

Hello! Just passing through, but I'm absolutely baffled by the furore over this.

You obviously don't need this explaining - but what I wish some of the men who have blown this out of proportion (and Dawkins himself) would understand, is that this isn't personal, it's self-preservation.

If a moderate Muslim gets in a bunch that people are wary of them because of the actions of fundie extremists, we might say okay, you personally haven't done anything wrong - but those extremists are real and it's their fault people are afraid. Denounce them, not us.

Similarly, in this case - it's unfortunate that women are wary of strange men in isolated/enclosed spaces. Odds are that the guy isn't a rapist - but the risk is real enough that she has genuine reason to be cautious of this person who is capable of physically overpowering her (whether he intends to or not). These guys getting offended need to blame the actual rapists for this state of affairs, not the women for being wary.

What's irritating, though, is that if a woman had gone off with a man in this situation and was subsequently raped, the commentary would be along the lines of, she was naive, she should have been more careful, what did she expect, going off with a strange man she met in an elevator at 4AM?

At 13/7/11 2:32 pm, Anonymous Isaac said...

This seems like a really good analysis of the situation. Excellent post.

At 13/7/11 3:45 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Anna: Yes, I totally agree. Sadly, you're also correct about your final point and what a lot of people would say if the worst happened.

Isaac: Thanks very much.

At 13/7/11 4:24 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post, Mike. Your perspective is spot-on.

There's one other thing that I saw that a low of puzzled guys didn't seem to notice. EG didn't just ask Rebecca for coffe, he asked her to go to his hotel room.

As you say, that's a metaphor for sex. Rooms are also hugely popular venues for various crimes (against men as well, BTW) because they're nice and private and you can effectively restrain the victim.

A strange man asking a woman to go to his hotel room is asking her to put herself completely at his mercy. It moves the situation more towards the red, if it wasn't there already.

My advice to guys: don't mention the words "my room".

At 15/7/11 4:29 pm, Anonymous Yojimbo said...

I followed this for a while, too. though I got tired of the persistant cluelessness. I honestly don't get the guys that don't get this. They're intelligent people (well, some of them are), but they seem to have turned their brains off on this issue. Especially as Rebecca essentially just said EG's behavior was creepy (not that he was threatening her) - which it was.

At 28/7/11 12:12 am, Blogger E.M.Russell said...

"Now, most of the people in the world, male or female, have no idea about this system and go about their days living in "white"; no situational awareness and no idea about possible threats to their person." This part was a bit condescending - everything else great!

At 28/7/11 9:17 am, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

E.M. - Yeah, I can see how that could be taken as condescending. It wasn't meant in that way at all, just an acknowledgment that it is not a well-known system (I only happened upon it by chance) and that the majority of people seem not to be very aware of their surroundings and the potential threats it contains.

But yes, point taken. And thanks!

At 16/8/11 6:56 pm, Blogger Carry (aka Autumn Breeze) said...

Thank you. You have conveyed the on edge feeling that many of us carry with us every where we go.

As a victim of sexual assault, I am usually on higher alert. I was in my home when I was attacked. I knew my attacker. I trusted him.

Now, I have a hard time finding that white time. I tend to be hyper-vigilant. There is little I can do about that. I will go into a full blown panic attack if a stranger touches me from behind.

So many people don't understand that I can't trust them absolutely. That I will always put myself with my back against the wall with a clear path to the exit. It is not that I expect to be attacked is that I will damn well be prepared if it does ever happen.

It is exhausting being on the edge all the time. I wish that what happened to me hadn't. Wishes and rainbow and hopes and dream don't change the reality of the world. 1 in 3 women will be assaulted in her lifetime. Of the women who are raped, over 90% knew their perpetrator.

Yet complete strangers think that they should be trusted and treated like they are unlikely to do any harm. In someways they are right. However, once a person's trust of a friend or family member is violated, then trusting strangers is even more difficult.

Again. Thank you for putting it so clearly for non-victims to understand.

At 17/8/11 1:01 am, Anonymous Sherrym said...

I'm a female marital artist and a defense instructor. I really think this scenario is a bit extreme. You can be aware and take things in without being in DEFCON5 mode.

For example, I simply don't find a man walking down the street at night a threat.
Cross the street for me? How pandering! I also don't find a regular man the equal to a prize fighter!

We will be better if women stop thinking themselves as "potential victim" and helpless in a situation where someone if a little bigger then they are.

Also I'd like to politely say women are not some hive mind. I'm an individual who thinks and feels for herself. Watson, Dawkins, you, etc need to remember that you cannot say how women all apparently feel and think.

At 21/8/11 2:14 pm, Blogger Heathen Mike said...

Carry: Thanks for your comment, glad you liked the post.

SherryM: I never said you or anyone should be in "DEFCON5 mode", I made the point that there are levels of awareness that most people (not just women) don't use or perceive. You said, "I'm a female marital artist and a defense instructor", which would be why you then said, "I simply don't find a man walking down the street at night a threat." You seem to be a little overly-confident in your abilities. I know professional fighters who would raise their awareness in that situation and perceive at least a potential threat. Key word there.

And no, a regular man is not the equal to a prize-fighter, but I was comparing how a typical female (ie: not you) would feel in a situation like Watson's to a situation where a regular man might get the same feeling.

I find it ironic that you say, "Watson, Dawkins, you, etc need to remember that you cannot say how women all apparently feel and think" but you want me to not cross the street because I'm supposed to know that you're a self-defense instructor and don't find me threatening when Carry, who commented just above, would greatly appreciate the same gesture. You can't have it both ways.


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