Sunday, April 27, 2008

Don't be That Guy

Via tekanji: synecdochic (whom I discovered through this post on being sex positive in the wake of the OSBP explosion), has a post about not being That Guy:

I thought: hey, good post. And then I stopped myself. Because fucking hell, those parameters -- though nicely stated and I'm really glad the guy has both figured them out so early and can articulate them so well -- shouldn't be something that's so rare. They should be standard default operating assumptions.

I particularly appreciated this bit of advice, which I hadn't thought of before:

And if you see a man and a woman having an interaction and the woman's displaying those signs -- backing up, pulling away, looking away, her mouth smiling politely but her eyes nowhere near the person she's talking with -- the way to gracefully stage a rescue is to step in from a distance (not in her space, not within touching distance of her) and distract the guy by striking up a conversation with him, not with her. That gives her the chance to slip away if she feels the need, with less of a chance of making her feel more threatened. (Not no chance, sadly. But less of one.)

I see this happen pretty often (especially riding the bus - women riding alone get singled out for being chatted up just about any time they're not actively avoiding it). The best response I could think of on my own was frown power, because I really didn't want to take it upon myself to interfere for fear of coming off as a "white knight," and I didn't trust myself to read the interaction right. Even now, I'm not sure what my intervention threshold in such a situation would be--especially given that the particular accoster I'm thinking of has in the past tried to start conversations with me when there wasn't a single woman to hit on, and wouldn't take "I'm sorry, I'd like to read my book" as a hint to back off - it's selfish, but I fear that if I do that I won't have a moment's peace again (then again, I'll be changing bus lines in a month when I move)--but it's nice to have more recourse than just saying "dude, that's not cool."


SunflowerP said...

Synecdochic is full of win - one of the things I've been really irked by is that so many of those dogpiling onto this are, basically, exercising nongeek privilege. They're clueless about the culture the OSBP took place in, they don't even realize there's a cultural difference, and when people from that culture try to explain it, we're told we're just pawns of the geekmale patriarchy. (Not in so many words, but that's the idea.)

Synecdochic knows geekdom, she provides her cred, and she backs it by analyzing the problem in context of the culture - result, she's saying most of the things I've been trying to figure out how to say. (Her POV isn't identical with mine, but it's from the same world.)

It makes me smile, and almost giggle, that you acknowledged your ignorance, or at any rate low specific experience... and proceeded to demonstrate that you were a cultural "insider".

(And once again I'm distracted from email by this thing. Tch.)


jfpbookworm said...

I think one of the big misunderstandings is that there are multiple types of geek culture (and multiple types of cons) being conflated in this discussion, and it's becoming increasingly evident that there's not as much overlap as people think.

The impression I get from a lot of the adamant "no way that belongs in a con!" folks is that most of them are coming from a "new-school geek" perspective. (Me? I'm consider myself to be between the two - I've been a solitary practitioner of old-school fandom since before I could reach the top of the library bookshelves, but I found my way to social fandom via new-school forums like MightyBigTV.) The distinction between the two crowds probably deserves its own post, but the short version is that the new-school geeks are probably thinking of this happening at something like Comic-Con, E3, or even SXSW, where they don't feel any particular bond of camaraderie toward all their fellow attendees, and their reaction is that they're there for the entertainment, not to *be* the entertainment.

Then again, there were so many issues with that original post it's hard to separate out what objections might be foremost in any one person's mind.

(And I guess I'll just have to try to write more distracting emails then.)

SunflowerP said...

I think you're right about an illusion of homogenized geekdom being one of the factors. It's more complicated than just old school/new school - each of the many geeky subcultures is subtly or not-so-subtly distinct from the others - but you've put your finger on something I think is significant here, the distinction between geeks entertaining themselves and each other, and geeks being entertained. (Which, :sigh:, makes it personal for me on yet another level; my local con has had conflicts between those who want to stick to the traditional fan-run-con model, and those who want it to be marketable entertainment.)

Yes, even a solitary practice can still be authentically old-school - I've noticed that before. Some people just read the stuff, and when they come to their first con (I'm talking fan-run cons that emphasize literary SF here, very specifically), they're not just con-virgins, they're neofans - and it may turn out that they don't really fit with the culture despite their tastes in reading. Others aren't neofans; they may be con-virgins but they're coming home to a culture they already carry within themselves.

(Emails that are more distracting? Ooh, my!)