Warning: This blog is written for a rational audience that likes to have fun wrestling with unique or controversial points of view. It is written in a style that can easily be confused as advocacy for one sort of unpleasantness or another. It is not intended to change anyone’s beliefs or actions. If you quote from this post or link to it, which you are welcome to do, please take responsibility for whatever happens if you mismatch the audience and the content.
As regular readers know, I am a big fan of the feminist movement through history. A lot of brave people sacrificed and worked hard to move society toward greater equality. That was all good stuff. And the problem of sexism was so large a few decades ago that you really did need to approach it with a sledgehammer and not a scalpel.
But in 2014, sexism is not so much the “can’t vote” type of problem it once was. It’s more of the “Someone is making me uncomfortable” or “I think my gender played a role in a decision” or “I can’t tell if this is a business meeting or a date” sort of thing.
I pause here to make a clarification for any folks who might have wandered over here from Jezebel.com, HuffingtonPost.com, or Slate.com. I will try to type slowly so you understand this next part: Scott…is…saying…there…is… still …plenty… of …spousal abuse…job discrimination …sex crimes… and …other …horrors…perpetrated against…women. But in 2014 that stuff looks more like crime than sexism. All women and 98% of men are on the same side when it comes to the criminal stuff.
Okay, back to the smart readers.
So today we have pockets of sexism as opposed to universal sexism, at least in the United States. That is still bad, obviously, but the point is that in 2014 feminists need to use a scalpel instead of a sledgehammer. And to use a scalpel you need some feedback on how the cutting is going. I am here to help.
One of the huge obstacles to successful feminism today is that there is no useful feedback on how their message is doing with men. Men have been trained to keep their heads down when this topic comes up. And that is a great disservice to women who need to know whether they are being heard on this topic, and whether the message is effective.
So I thought we could help out here by giving some unfiltered reactions to one recent feminist story. You might have seen the shocking video in which a young women walks around New York City for ten hours (edited down to 2 minutes) while being filmed as men continually harass her. The point of the video is (I assume) to show men how uncomfortable it is to be a woman walking down the sidewalk in a public place. The video does a great job. You have to see it.
Okay, so the video is presumably aimed at men, given that women are already aware of the situation. So in order for this video to succeed, it needs to convince men that a problem exists and that the problem needs to be addressed. Did it succeed? I’ll give you my personal reaction. I’d like to see your reactions in the comments.
My first reaction is that editing ten hours down to two minutes is so overtly manipulative of the viewer that I had a bad reaction to it. I understand why they had to edit; no one watches ten hour videos. But while the video clearly states it is edited, the human brain still processes it as if it is in real time. My emotional reaction to the video is a reaction to a woman being harassed every five seconds, and that is not what happened.
So now I don’t trust the senders of the message. If they manipulated me in one way, can I trust anything else? I’ll call this a minor problem but it is worth calling out.
I assume the makers of the video intend me to watch it and conclude “Sexism is out of control! Women can’t even walk the streets unmolested! Something must be done!”
Here’s my actual reaction: “MOVE SOMEWHERE BETTER, YOU IDIOT!”
Do you want to know why my life is good today? It’s because I once lived in a place with no opportunity and many disadvantages but I cleverly fixed that problem by moving somewhere else. And so I reiterate.
MOVE!!! JUST FUCKING MOVE!!!
Okay, I know, your family lives in New York City and your job is there and….JUST FUCKING MOVE!!! MOVE!!! STOP MAKING IT MY PROBLEM!!!
I’m sure the women in my polite suburban town also get bothered too often on the sidewalk. But I don’t think it is anything like the neighborhoods in which the video is filmed.
So here’s my personal reaction, as a man who is the intended target of this educational video.
- The video is unintentionally racist as hell, and that doesn’t help feminism.
- The video editing feels manipulative and turns me off to the message.
- It makes women look like idiots for living in such a place voluntarily.
- Every man featured in the video is a creep. Isn’t that sexist?
- The harassment was mostly in the form of powerless men hurling compliments at a woman that probably has a better job and more education than nearly all of the men in the video. Remind me again who the victims are?
- The creepy stalker guys were just scary. MOVE!!! MOVE!!! MOVE!!!
Did the video move society in the right direction? I’m not sure. It spotlights a legitimate issue and it hits the emotional notes to cause action. But I don’t know how that gets the guys in the video to act differently. Are they seeing the video on BusinessInsider.com like I did?
I’m curious about your reaction to the video. Was it anything like mine?
Scott AdamsCo-founder of CalendarTree.com
Author of this book
Twitter Dilbert: @Dilbert_Daily