Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Listen! 07.04.15

There's a conversation that drives me up the wall, and it goes something like this:

Me:   "There is something wrong with guy X."
Him: "What? No, X is an alright guy!"
Me:    "He gives me the creeps. He's always looking at me funny/standing 
            too close/trying to catch me alone/following me around/whatever."
Him:   "Naaaah, I've never seen that. You must be over-reacting."

Now, this is not an anti-men rant - I'm not saying they're all creeps, and I'm not saying they never listen. This is a rant about people who can't seem to comprehend that just because they are not at the receiving end of a behaviour, it doesn't mean that the behaviour doesn't happen or is not a problem. K, so it's not happening to you, or around you. So what? It's happening to me! Fucking listen!

I've seen this happen unpleasantly often with sexual predators who, lo and behold, don't show their predatory nature at or around people who don't meet their criteria for prey or could easily send them to the morgue. I'm an under-five-foot woman. The people who consider me a tasty snack may not feel the same about my 6-foot+, shaven-headed, weightlifter, Muay Thai fighter, now-ex-boyfriend. Yes, that happens. It's sexist and sizist and hairist and fightist and all manners of unfair, but it happens. I'm sure there are people out there who would gladly predate on us both, but, unless they plan their predation carefully, you can probably recognise them by the fact that they got their face smashed up so many times. So, if your friend is an alright guy when he's with you but an absolute bloody nightmare when he catches me on my own, that is not an unexplainable occurrence and it is a problem and no, I don't want him around the house. Fucking listen!

Sometimes people are so oblivious that it makes me wonder if they are doing it on purpose. My ex boss had 9 complaints from women on his desk - every single female under 30 in our department - and still wouldn't admit that one of our guys was a problem. It just hadn't occurred to him that the guy may be acting differently towards him - a burly, balding man in his 50s - and towards young women. He saw a friendly, cheery, helpful, somewhat silly fellow. What the women saw was an obsessive stalker. It took the entire female contingent saying that if that guy was going to be coming into work, then they wouldn't, for the boss to actually take steps. Until he was faced with consequences, he just wouldn't fucking listen.

This isn't peculiar to men. I routinely had that problem with my sainted mother, who likes to think the best of people. She's also roughly the size and shape of a guinea pig, dresses like a bag lady who discovered the bins of a convent, and is 34 years older than me. She just couldn't fit it in her head that those factors mattered, that there are people out there who may behave a certain way towards her, but completely differently towards her teenage daughter and her friends.  We all told her that we were having problems with certain people, but because she wasn't experiencing them herself, she just brushed them off as non-existent. She just wouldn't fucking listen.

This problem is not also exclusive to sexual predation. We probably all know someone who is a total ass-kisser with the management, but mean as hell to any underlings. The people on top and the people below see a completely different behaviour. This would not be a problem if the managers listened to the underlings' concerns, but most of them don't fucking listen.

So we end up stuck in the middle. One one side you have people who are treating us inappropriately, and whose behaviour we can't easily stop or control. On the other side we have people who could easily put a stop to the bad behaviour, but as they don't see it, they discount it. It makes as much sense as a rottweiler telling a mouse that the cat "is just a pussy." So we are left waiting for the other shoe to drop, waiting for something bad enough to happen, so that someone will finally pay attention. And much as that would give us the opportunity to say "I told you so!", it's not a cheery prospect.

So if someone comes to you with a problem you are not seeing, think about how you differ. They could be seeing things that are not there, but they could also be seeing things that are not there for you, but there for them. You may not be able (or willing) to do anything without evidence, but you can keep an eye out for developing problems, or put measures in place to prevent things from escalating. First and most of all, you can at least listen.

1 comment:

Jeffrey Deutsch said...

Excellent! A rare balanced perspective.

All too many folks who warn about creepiness seem to want anyone whom people feel uncomfortable around to immediately get the bum's rush. No questions asked.

And all too many folks who want to stop that rush to judgment do it by simply ignoring the problem on principle. Also sans questions.