Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Raping numbers. 23.04.14

"People with stronger social relationship have a 50% lower risk of mortality." ([1])

Numbers make us go stupid.  We swallow them unquestioningly, as if they were the unbiased bearers of a universal truth, imbued with innate authority.  We accept statistics that contradict everything we know (“the plural of anecdote is not data!”) and everything we think, because science.  If a number demonstrates it, then it must be true!  We forget that numbers are generated by people, who are often biased and untruthful and can bend them to their will.

Emotions make us go stupid too.  It’s very hard to think rationally about subjects that affect us emotionally.  In fact, it is considered offensive to do so.  If you try to be rational about emotional subjects, chances are that you will be verbally assaulted for being insensitive and uncaring[2]

Combine numbers and emotions and you can make people accept the most unrealistic concepts.  The numbers are proof!  The numbers are holy!  If they dare question the methodology behind the numbers, attack them with emotion.  How DARE you question our DATA!  How can you be so cold and calculating?  Whose side are you on?!?!

Some of the most appalling misuse of statistics I see routinely comes from the field of sexual and domestic violence against women.  Some of the figures that have now become part of the dogma quite simply don’t stand up; they are the victims of a number of critical errors in data collection, statistical analysis, semantics and just basic logic.

Our data collection is appalling.  We have allowed the definition of “rape” to have been extended to breaking point.  Someone can rape you by incapacitating, beating, forcing, intimidating, pressurizing, shaming, blackmailing, persuading, asking and even begging you to have sex.  It now includes anything from holding a gun to someone’s head to making puppy dog eyes and saying “but it’s my birthday!”  From a statistical point of view, there is no difference. 

We allow questionnaires with badly-worded yes/no questions that force people into giving truthful yet utterly incorrect answers.  I recently saw a rape questionnaire that asked “Have you been forcibly held down during intercourse?”  The available answers were yes = rape, and no = not rape.  The answer “yes, and it was grrrreat!” wasn’t available.  Bit of an oversight, that.  Another questionnaire asked “Have you ever had sex you later regretted?”  Hell, yes.  In hindsight, that would include most of the sex I have had with most of my exes.  But I sure wasn’t complaining at the time.  What wasn’t rape then can become rape retroactively.

Our data analysis is quite possibly even worse.  We extrapolate so badly we may as well pick numbers out of a hat.  Would you conduct a study of sexually transmitted diseases in a nunnery and extrapolate the results to represent the entire population?  Well, a whole chunk of the statistics thrown around regarding rape (for instance the “one in four American women is a victim”) came from studies conducted on University campuses.  At the risk of shocking and astonishing parents, I will make bold to suggest that the behaviour of people in their late teens and early twenties who have just recently discovered freedom from parental supervision and gained access to alcohol and drugs may not be representative of that of the rest of the population.

As if this wasn’t enough, we lump numbers around to suit our bidding.  For instance, we can lump together “victims of rape” and “victims of attempted rape” under “victims” in our final statistics.  Most people will not notice that and our totals will look immediately worse.  Alakazam!  Bear in mind that in order to be a “victim of attempted rape” these days you don’t need to have fought off a violent attacker; if someone wanted something out of you and you had to say no more than once, that counts.  (Incidentally, this trick also applies to the “one in four” number.)

If this is still not enough, we can descend to absurdity.  We can declare that “this many rapes go unreported”, even though the very fact that they are unreported should be a hint as to the fact that they can’t be quantified meaningfully.  We can work out how many people are “affected by” rape.  They don’t have to be affected directly, or even be close relative of friends.  They just need to have come into contact with someone who has been directly affected.  Potentially, that’s quite a little multiplying trick.  I don’t know about you, but I used to work in an open office of over 400 people.

Why would we be doing this?  Well, we can made an epidemic.  We can prove, with numbers, that we are a rotten, brutal society in which women are routinely victimised.  We can prove that most men are rapists or at least rape supporters.  We can, in fact, prove that a lot of women are rape supporters too.  We can prove that most rapists are serial rapists, and go unpunished.  Bravo!  We live in an awful world, comprising of monsters and victims.  I’ve got the statistics to prove it.

This scamming and fudging bothers me to distraction.  I am told my attitude is offensive, particularly “as a woman”.  “As a woman” I should support lies and tricks that support “my” agenda”, that defend “my gender”.  What’s wrong with me?  Am I a tool of the patriarchal hegemony?  Am I a rape supporter?  Shouldn’t I be glad of anything that encourages us to fight against the monsters and their aberrations?  Why am I trying to “muddy the waters”?

Now, if pointing out that the methodology behind your data is flawed is “muddying the water”, clearly we have a rather different approach to the scientific process.  There is far more behind my exasperation than my immoderate attachment to the concept of “fact”, though.  If you fuck around with truths long enough you can bend them and change them and make them do your bidding; push it too far, though, and you can break them.  The results may not be what you expected.

How would you feel if I took a class of young girls and told them that they don’t have to worry about rape?  That rape is, statistically, a non-violent crime?  That, statistically, they are likely to walk away from it with critically dented feelings, severe trust issues and the need for emotional or psychological support, but little or no actual physical damage?  That it is, statistically, mostly committed by someone they know and probably love?  That most rapes, statistically, happen simply because men don’t know “how not to rape” and can be stopped dead by clear, rational talking?

Do you think this would be absurd?  Well, wake up and smell the coffee, because this seems to be the new, statistically valid, dogmatically correct approach to the subject.  I found this last week in the comments section to the new Kitestring[3] app:
"Man, it's just so sad though that this is seen as rape "prevention"... the only way to prevent rape is to teach men not to rape. Not only that, but sexual assault tends to take place in one's own home with someone they know as the perpetrator (IE an intimate partner).
That's not to say doing things that risk reduction, such as Kitestring, are bad. If it makes a woman feel safer, she should do it. But it's fucked up that we place the responsibility on women to "not get raped," rather than teaching men and boys how to respect women and girls.
I understand that women and girls are socialized out of a very real threat of men's violence. In fact, as a rape prevention educator, I will ask grown women the first time they were taught any of the "rules" (such as "don't walk alone," "carry your keys in your hand," "always walk in well-lit areas") and it is as often as young as 4-5 years old. That's so fucked up.
Meanwhile, men and boys don't learn ANYTHING about sexual violence prevention unless they like, take a women's studies class in college. All the while sexual violence gets framed as a "women's issue" when in fact, 98% of perpetrators are men. If anything, that shows it's a MEN'S issue. And we men need to be doing better. MUCH better."

The above priceless piece is, may I reiterate, from a “rape prevention educator” and no, it’s not an aberration.  I’ve picked it because I found it particularly painful.  This is either what our kids are already being taught, or what campaigners want them to be taught.  This is the official dogma.  And it’s statistically valid.

Based on the official data, I can logically reach the conclusion that the only thing you need to protect against rape is the ability to explain to the men you are with that they are about to do something wrong.  As long as you have the appropriate verbiage, you can educate these clueless oafs.  They do not mean to hurt you, really; they are just ignorant.  And, you know, that would probably make most men beat a hasty retreat most of the time, because – imagine that! – most men do not want to be rapist.  They would be horrified at the thought.  Statistically, I’ve solved the problem the vast majority of the times.  Go on boldly and bravely, my child, because you are statistically safe.

That leaves us, however, with those inconvenient, statistically aberrant events perpetrated by the small minority of men who delight in evil.  They don’t care about your feelings.  They don’t care about your rights.  They don’t care about the dogma.  They want to hurt you.  And you can’t educate them out of it, because they know it’s evil and they LIKE it.  (And yes, the fact that they exist is scientifically demonstrated, with statistics and charts.  And they can’t be “educated” or “cured”, and they don’t have horns or fangs.  They look just like the rest of us.  We forgot about them, didn’t we.  Oops.)

I wish I could feel vindicated – I told ‘em that you mustn’t make lies out of truths, or they’ll come to bite you in the back, but no, they wouldn’t listen...  Actually, I feel petrified.  I had a stepdaughter, you see.  She is young now, but she'll grow up, and she'll have to live in the real world, full of teeth and sharp corners.  I keep picturing a young, na├»ve, innocent girl, alone in a dark place with a man, turning around to him and saying “if you push this any further it will be rape”.  I picture him smiling, because now that she’s called the game it’s going to be twice as fun.  And I picture his eyes, and I want to throw up.

(Not all statistics out there are lies.  Many are. Check the methodology, all the way from the source of the data (questionnaires, etc.) to how it's been analysed.  If you don't know enough statistics to do that, find someone who does and who doesn't have any vested interest in the data.  Some people who think they are "right with god" will do awful, nasty things to further their cause.  If a statistic is proven flawed and you can't tolerate it, then you may be one of them.)

[1] In case you missed it: last I checked the mortality is 100% for all of us.  And it’s not a risk – it’s a certainty.  You, me, the dog, everyone you know, everyone you don’t know, we all will die.  This is from “, the science of happiness”.  If this is science, then I’m the Queen of Sheba.



Wednesday, 16 April 2014

There is no “should” in danger management. 15.04.14

Most people I know believe that everyone else drives like a dangerous moron and should not be allowed on the road.  I shan’t try and disprove that statement, as there is far too much evidence to support it.  The point is that when we drive we tend to be on the lookout for what could go wrong.  We know that the world is full of unnecessary hazards; the idiot at the junction could pull out; the cyclist could fall over; the weaving car is probably a drunk driver, and could do absolutely anything; the stray dog could walk into the road.

If something is both serious and likely to happen, it changes out attitude and behaviour.  For instance, if we are driving in front of a school at certain times of the day, we are probably more alert to the fact that there may be loose children.  If we see a tiny child running towards the road right in front of us, we will probably slam on the brakes.  Most of us are unlikely to think “Hey!  They should not be doing that!” and carry on smack into them.  We may have a couple of loud and pointed words to the parents about it afterwards, mind you.  The bottom line is that knowing that there is an increased danger makes us more alert; we react to what could and does happen, not to what should happen.

It’s not rocket science.  It's basic danger management, rooted in common sense.  There are three simple elements to this game:
  •          What is the hazard, the potential source of harm?
  •          What is the resulting risk, the chance of being harmed?
  •          How can we remove the hazard, reduce the risk, or both?

We can’t remove all hazards from the road, and we accept that.  We just can’t guarantee an accident- or at least incident-free trip; it is not within our powers.  That admission doesn’t make most of us give up driving.  It does, however, ensure that we take certain safety precautions.  We take those precautions based on what could happen, not what should happen.  I should not need a seat belt, as I don’t intend to drive into anything and nobody should drive into me.  However, this sort of thing could happen, so on goes the belt.  The point of the precautions is to minimise the damage we suffer if things do go wrong.  We have accepted the inherent hazards and risks of our chosen activity.  Now we’re basically doing damage limitation.

This process doesn’t just apply to driving.  We are constantly deciding what hazards we are facing, what their risks are, whether what we are doing is worth the danger it poses, and how to limit possible damage.  We all do this.  We may not approve of the conclusions other people come to, of course.  If we don’t enjoy horses, high speeds or heights we are unlikely to understand the choices of jockeys, racers and paragliders.  However, most of us are all not only perfectly able to run through this process, but also perfectly willing to admit that it’s an essential part of being a functional adult human.  It’s part of what keeps us safe in this world.  In fact, in some countries the inability to perceive the risk of physical dangers is considered a disability[1].

Can someone please kindly explain to me,
why the hell are we not able to do this when it comes to women self-defence?

Hazard identification, risk evaluation and damage limitation are a crucial aspect of self-defence.  If you don’t know what the hazards and risks are, what the hell are you self-defending against?  If you can’t work out how to remove hazards, reduce risks and/or minimise damage, how exactly are you self-defending?  We recognise this as a logical approach to crime prevention for a variety of issues, but when it comes to women self-defence it all seems to go out the window.

Let’s say you write an article about “ten ways to minimise your chances of internet fraud”.  Chances are that you will receive a mixed response.  Some people may point out mistakes or omissions.  Some people may thank you.  The inevitable trolls will be their usual pathetic little selves.  It is unlikely, however, that you will be subjected to virulent verbal assaults, complete with insults and accusations of iniquity because “internet fraud shouldn’t happen”.  We know that it could and does happen, and that’s enough for us.  The fact that you pointed out how to avoid it will not be seen as blaming those people who have already suffered from it, or justifying the people who are committing those crimes.  Chances are that you will be seen, and rightfully so, as someone who is trying to help people who may not be aware of certain issues.  You are trying to identify hazards, reduce risks and limit damage, and that will be accepted and generally appreciated.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you wrote about “ten ways to minimise your chances of getting raped”, you will get lynched.  How DARE you suggest that women[2] are responsible for their own assaults!  You are JUSTIFYING the rapists!  How DARE you upset past victims of this dreadful crime, who did not take those steps and may now feel awful about it!  Don’t you understand the possible emotional damage your words could have?  You, victim-blamer, rape-sympathiser, insensitive bastard!  You are as bad as a rapist, for causing this injury to victims’ minds!  Rape SHOULD NOT HAPPEN!  NEVER!  And that’s all there is to it!!!

(If you’ve not witnessed this phenomenon before, no, I’m not exaggerating.  In fact, I’m being quite mild in my language choice.)

Rape should not happen.  Roger that.  The vast majority of us agree wholeheartedly.  But it can and sometimes it does and chances are that it always will.  It will continue happening while there is a proportion of the human population who has no empathy, or worse gets off on causing pain and suffering.  Until we can cull our own according to psychometric tests, there will be people out there with the potential to commit this terrible crime.  We cannot completely eliminate the hazard, but by our actions we may be able to reduce our risk.  Why is this so offensive?  Why is it considered to be pro-rape to try and teach women how to try and avoid it happening to them?

How does this make sense?  We don’t apply this line of thought to other violent crimes.  Muggings, robberies, stabbings and shootings should not happen.   Unfortunately we live in a world where some people are desperate or callous enough to be willing to use force against others.  We are happy with people suggesting measures by which we can reduce our chances of becoming victims of these crimes.  We are also happy with people suggesting measures by which we can limit the damage to ourselves if any of this happens to us.  Someone promulgating “home safety measures” is unlikely to get pilloried for being a “robbery sympathiser”.[3] 

Most of us modify our behaviour to avoid unnecessary danger without any qualms.  We may change what we do to minimise our risks (drug crime should not happen, but I’ll keep crossing the road to avoid walking in front of the crack house at the end of town).  We may avoid situations where the risks are disproportionate to our gain from the activity (fights should not happen, but I don’t like football/soccer that much so I’ll watch it on television instead).  Sometimes we carry on as we are, but are extra alert (drunk driving should not happen, but if I have to drive at bar closing time on a Friday or Saturday night I will be doubly on my guard). 

All these things are crimes.  All these things can hurt or kill us.  Things can still go wrong, and the fact that our precautions proved insufficient will not make the crime our fault.  Nothing can ever shift the blame onto us; the only person responsible for the crime is the criminal, always.  This doesn’t stop us taking precautions and encouraging the people we care for to do the same.  We are perfectly happy to accept that our shoulds and our coulds don’t always match.  We are happy to admit that, as individuals, we can only minimise our risks; we cannot remove the hazards.

As a society, we can and indeed do work together to reduce hazards.  Our legislative, police and legal system serve that purpose by creating and enforcing laws that keep us safe.  Chances are, however, that we may never be able to completely remove them.  We might reduce them to the point that they are an infinitesimal chance, but we may have to accept that, while people are people, certain hazards are here to stay.

I’m not saying people shouldn’t fight for their cause.  It is both important and worthwhile – plus, to tell you the truth, I am useless at that sort of thing, so I really appreciate people doing the hard work.  If you want to campaign against drunk driving, muggings, robberies, stabbings, shootings, rapes, go right ahead.  However, the moment you put your ideals and causes ahead of people’s safety you become a hindrance instead of a help.  By preventing access to useful information, you are now an obstacle to reducing risks.  Are you so blinded by the sanctity of your cause that you cannot admit firstly that you haven’t won yet, and secondly that you may in fact never do?  Should we ignore clear and present dangers, pretend that they are just not there because they shouldn’t be there?  While you’re fighting your crusade that may never be won, don’t we have the right to strive for safety?

It is possible to get so out of touch with reality that you are living in an imaginary world.  It seems to me that plenty of campaigners seem to have reached that point and kept right on going.  It’s entirely insane to say that because rape shouldn’t happen we should not be allowed to tell women how to reduce their risk of it happening to them.  It’s entirely insane to say that prevention programmes should be scrapped because they may cause psychological damage to past victims.  It’s entirely insane to say that suggesting ways to reduce risk or damage is somehow justifying rapists.  Now, if that is not work you want to involve yourself with, that's just fine; but could you please very kindly leave alone those who are trying to help in this way?  And if you truly believe that what should happen is more important than what could and does, well, how lovely for you; now can you please get off the subject of self-defence altogether, as clearly you completely fail to grasp the very basics of danger management?

If you think I’m being unduly harsh then answer this: would you take the same approach to paedophilia?  Paedophilia should not exist.  Most of us consider it a monstrous crime, including many paedophiles!  The estimated number of paedophiles is much lower than the estimated number of rapists (although statistics are so shaky in this field that finding worthwhile data is almost impossible).  Following a number of huge scandals, the lives of most children these days are structured in ways that automatically reduce their chances of bumping into an unidentified monster.  We incarcerate and treat offenders like never before.  Yet, we still teach children to take reasonable precautions.  We still teach them what to look out for, what activities are too dangerous, and even what to do in case anything goes wrong and the worst happens.  Our efforts often increase dramatically following an incident, with clubs, schools, and even the media getting involved, regardless of the fact that the victim is surely psychologically scarred by the ordeal.  We consider children’s safety such a high priority that we breach this horrible subject, even though most of us find it about as unpalatable as can be.  And, thankfully, I’ve never seen anyone insane enough to try and accuse the people teaching children how to stay safe of “paedophilia sympathising”.

I’d love to see that, actually.  I’d love to see some of these campaigners change their focus, and try to lecture mothers and fathers about how wrong – or even evil – they are in trying to keep their children safe.  I’d love to see some of these campaigners trying to explain why it is perfectly acceptable to teach an underage girl how to try and stay safe against a paedophile, but the moment she grows up you cannot teach her how to try and stay safe against a rapist.  What is their cut-off line, anyway?  Twelve?  Fourteen?  Sixteen?  At what age do the safety and welfare of a female human become less important to them than their crusades and dogmas?  If possible, I would like that explanation in words rather than buzzwords, but I guess that would be asking too much.


[2] Yes, men get raped too, but in these circumstances the shouting always seems to be about the women.

[3] If at this point you’re thinking “but property crimes and non-sexual violence are just not comparable with such a heinous attack against a person!” may I suggest you make friends with a trauma surgeon.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The rise of the Patronising Hegemony. 13.04.14

Most bad parents I’ve bumped into can be classified under two broad groups.  You get the domineering parents, who try to control the children’s behaviour by using their superior force.  Some may intimidate children by raising their voice and posturing; some may actually hit them; many do a bit of both.  The underlying mechanism is the same: they are imposing their will by the threat of a horrid retribution.  The retribution doesn’t have to be physical: “If you go out wearing that makeup don’t bother coming back home” is a pretty serious threat to the average child, particularly if screamed by a larger, stronger person who is clearly close to exploding and has the means to carry the threat out.  It may not have the shock factor of “Go wash your face or I will slap that lipstick off you”, or of physical violence, but it is still a cause for serious concern.  If the children behave is not because they agree with their parents or respect them, but just because they are scared of them.  The control factor here is sheer fear.  These parents are bullies.

The other major style of bad parenting is those used by self-defined victims.  They are the parents who control their children’s behaviour by emotionally blackmailing them.  Instead of raising their voice, they grow meek and pathetic or withdraw altogether.  Their verbiage is usually highly emotive: “How can you treat me like this?”  “After all I’ve sacrificed for you…”  “You are killing me!”  If the children behave is, again, not because of agreement or respect.  They have been shamed into toeing the line.  Maybe they just cannot stomach yet another two-hour guilt-trip, with hysterics sprinkled on top if you’re lucky, or the hours or days of silent treatment.  Again, the particular style of emotional blackmailing and consequences varies between parents, but the underlying mechanism is the same: these parents are passive-aggressive, using blame, shame and withdrawal as control mechanisms.  If the passive-aggressive parent uses open threats, they are threats-by-proxy: “Wait until your father gets home!” is one of the sentences of choice.

What many people overlook is the fact that, although these approaches are completely different in their methodologies, they are identical in other ways.  Most importantly, negotiation is impossible.  You can’t meet these people half-way, make a rational case for your point of view, or discuss any issue they don’t want discussing.  Often any attempt to even mention any touchy subject results in screaming and insults on one side or hysterical tears on the other.  You either do what they want you to do, or suffer the consequences.

If one wanted to open a can of worms, one could say that there can be a gender split between the two parenting styles.  Fathers may have a tendency to scream and threaten where mothers may have a tendency to cry and shame.  However, this is essentially an untruth.  In fact, the main reason I know a fair bit about both styles is that my mom fits neatly into the passive-aggressive group, while my grandmother was a bully unto her dying day.  I have seen enough exceptions to the gender split in other families that I can’t buy it as a valid theory.  At any rate, pegging faults on the genders is not the point I am trying to make.

The thing is that if you want a not-so-shining example of an aggressive, domineering personality, the picture of a large, screaming father threatening his frightened children with awful retribution is one most of us can relate to.  If you want an example of someone who aims to control passive-aggressively, a crying mother telling her children how awful they are for making her suffer also fits.  Yes, they are broad generalisation, hence incorrect and deeply unfair to both genders, but most of us can relate to them.

What the hell does any of this have to do with self-defence, self-growth or whatever it is I normally waffle on about?  Have I finally lost the plot entirely and fancy myself a parenting expert?  Errrr, no.  I just used the example of parents partly because most of us have some experience of good and bad family dynamics, but mostly because it is often only within our family that we dare to go full throttle.  The same styles of interaction can be seen in any other social setting, but they are often muted by social conventions and regulations.  There are plenty of bullying bosses (and subordinates, policemen, teachers, doctors, nurses, etc. – the list goes on forever), but they are unlikely to show their fangs as openly as they do at home.  You may be scared of being late for work because of how you feel about your boss, but he’s unlikely to scream abuse at you, rip your trousers off and belt you repeatedly for lateness.  If he does, he is unlikely to get a chance to do it twice; he would be sacked and punished under the law.  The same social restrictions on behaviour apply to the self-defined victim.  Your colleague may get you to pick up all his slack by making you feel bad about how he is losing family time, but he is unlikely to get hysterical and tear his hair out in the middle of the office.  You may feel threatened by the one and guilt-tripped by the other, but chances are that the issues won’t be as obvious as anything you encounter in the privacy of a home.

So what?  Well, I grew up with the bogeyman of the Patriarchal Hegemony.   You see, in days only just gone by, women lived under male oppression.  As individuals, they were non-entities; they were merely chattels to be sold by fathers to husbands.  Men had all the control, provided they toed the line.  People were free to be and do anything they wanted, provided that it fitted within the incredibly strict parameters of the Patriarchal Hegemony.  If anyone stepped out of line, terrible retribution would follow.  As a minimum, they would be shamed or ostracised forever and ever. 

Please note that I said “bogeyman”.  I personally believe in the accuracy of above picture as much as I believe in the Tooth Fairy.  However, I was raised to believe in it, and I still know plenty of people who do.  Some believe that we have fought and won against the Patriarchal Oppressors; some are convinced that the fight is still on.[1]  I am more concerned about another issue: that of the rise of the Patronising Hegemony.

It started off as a malapropism.  I was talking too fast for my brain to keep up, as per usual and tripped over my own tongue.  However, the more I think about it, the more I believe it’s real and growing.  Like the Patriarchal Hegemony, the Patronising Hegemony controls society by pulling at the invisible threads that hold us together.  The Patronising Hegemony seeks to control people by passive-aggressive means.  Instead of threats or open violence, they use guilt-tripping and emotional blackmail.  This does not make them any less oppressive, just harder to identify and rise up against.

If you want to find a Patronising Hegemonist, all you need to do is post something on the internet along the lines of “to successfully reduce your weight you need to consume less calories than you are burning”, or “scantily-dressed women are increasing their risk of attracting the wrong sort of attention”.  Quicker than you can say “harpy”, they will swoop down on you.  You will be labelled a “fat-shamer” or “victim-blamer”.  You will, in fact, be shamed and blamed for allegedly shaming and blaming, even though you weren’t doing anything of the sort.  Your intentions won’t matter a fig – you might have hurt someone’s feelings with your utterances, however accurate or constructive they may have been, and that’s all that counts.  And god help you if you can be classed as having any of the “privileges”[2]; being “privileged” these days means that you no longer have any rights to have an opinion, let alone to participate in a discussion on the subject.

Both the Patriarchal and Patronising Hegemonies use appeals to authority in lieu of rational dialogue.  Where the Patriarchals will shut you down by saying that “it’s tradition!”, the Patronisers will try to convince you that you are simply ignorant of an issue.  It isn’t your fault, you poor thing, you just don’t know how the world really is and they do.  If you still don’t agree with them after you have researched the subject further, or – horror! – if you can demonstrate that their facts or arguments are flawed, then their attitude will shift to a harder line.  You are clearly incapable of understanding the subject because of some dreadful personal flaw, such as being born the wrong gender.  Any data or anecdotes you provide to support your claims will be poo-pooed.  They will seek to undermine your experiences, memory, perception, rational abilities and even sanity – which, incidentally, is a form of mental abuse known as “gaslighting”[3].  Of course, when they do it it isn’t abuse at all, because they are good people, just trying to show you the error of your ways.

If you persist in disagreeing with their view on a topic, you will be accused of agreeing with the opposite view.  For instance, if you believe that the rape statistics they are using are miscalculated or misapplied, then you are clearly pro-rape.  From a logical point of view, this makes no sense whatsoever: “if you are not an apple, then you’re an aardvark” is a statement that most people would laugh at.  However, the same sort of “logic” with a side dish of foul accusations, hysterics and emotional appeals can be very hard to fight against.

Instead of threatening you, they shame you.  When things get out of control, they have their own brand of insults: “racist”, “sexist”, “oppressive”, “any-kinda-phobic”, “privileged” and so on.  Some insults, if turned upside up, would be considered a form of hate speech[4].  However, because they are used by “the weak” against “the oppressors”, they become magically kosher.

The Patriarchal Oppressors may say that you must do what they tell you because they are stronger than you.  The Patronising Oppressors say that you must do what they tell you because you are stronger than them, and if you dare go against them then you are an oppressor and a bully.  Don’t underestimate them, though: they are just as controlling, unyielding and unwilling to accept negotiation or compromise.

When you reach the very end of their argument, if you don’t agree with everything they say and do, then you are clearly a cruel monster.  You are guilty of all the crimes every real monster carries out – bullying, rapes, child abuse, domestic violence, you name it.  It’s all on YOUR shoulders now, because if you CARED then you wouldn’t disagree with them, you wouldn’t muddy the waters, you wouldn’t interfere with the cause.  You wouldn’t argue with the good people!  You would just do…as…they…say. 

The scary thing is, a lot of us are buying into this.  Most of us do not like hurting or even just upsetting people, even people we don’t really know or care for.  Hysterics, even by a stranger, stop most of us in our tracks.  We are also so invested in being “good people” that we back the hell down the moment someone accuses us of being in favour of something awful, or of being awful people ourselves.  As a result, a lot of half-truths and not a small amount of total nonsense is being promulgated, and a lot of very valuable, knowledgeable voices are being shut down.  I’m sorry, but if you tell anyone who has the misfortune of being heterosexual, white, healthy, middle-class or male that they are so privileged that they no longer have the right to talk, then you are losing an awful lot of useful contributors to any debate.

I am lucky.  I grew up with this shit.  If you have to resort to gaslighting, shaming, blaming, name-calling and hysterics to defend your argument, then I KNOW that it’s invalid.  If you had a valid point of view, supported by valid facts, you wouldn’t have to descend to these tactics.  We could discuss the issue calmly, rationally and openly.  What is it that you are scared of?  What are you hiding?  Is the emperor naked?

It’s remarkably easy to point out their logical fallacies[5], factual inaccuracies and morally bankrupt methods. Once you cut through the emotional strategies, the flaws are there in plain sight.  Of course, if you do that it’s going to cost you.   As standing up against a bully puts one in danger, so does standing up against a passive-aggressive harpy.  A whole heap of verbal abuse is going to be heading your way.  However, what’s the alternative?  Let them win every argument because they are willing to fight dirty?  And anyway, once you’ve fought against one passive-aggressive Patronising Oppressor, you know them all.  Their mechanisms are remarkably similar, and you can only be called a “victim blamer”, “rape sympathiser” or “tool of the patriarchal hegemony” so many times before it becomes a joke.

So here is my call to arms.  I don’t do this sort of thing as a rule, so it’s going to come out clumsy.  But come onnnnnn, people; we need to do something about this.  This control mechanism is spreading and will keep on spreading while we’re allowing it to work.  Things can only get worse unless we are willing to stand up for ourselves and for decision-making that is based on facts and rational, informed dialogue to which anyone should be allowed to participate.

[4] I was recently publicly shamed for being a “cishet” (as in, cis-gendered and heterosexual).  Yes, because of my “privileges” it is ok to shame me for my sexual orientation.
[5] Here’s a free link to a very good book on logical fallacies.  It’s written in short chapters, so it makes a perfect toilet read.  You’ve got NO excuse.