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Don't be part of the problem

I've just seen yet another man, in a comment thread, say that the men who harass women at cons are 'clueless' and possibly on the Autistic Spectrum and, well, what can you do? He see it going on, but these poor guys don't know any better, it's a shame, what can you do?

I may be angry about this/

I remember fandom discovering the existence of Aspergers. I remember who self-diagnosed. I remember when it became part of the package thrown at women who said 'no', alongside 'but this is my safe space because I was bullied and you have to say yes because it's my safe space and you're spoooiling it and it's my safe space so you haaave to and you're a mean cow because it's all about me and how I missed out and you haaave to.' To these guys, I'm not a person, I'm an amenity at the con for their consumption.

I know people, adults and children, with genuine Aspergers and Autism. They don't, in general, treat me as an amenity. They understand 'no', usually. They don't manipulate and emotionally blackmail and bully me.

The 'he's clueless' defence is, quite simply, part of the problem. It enables the behaviour. It supports it. A lot of these creeps only listen to men -- women, after all, are of about the same status as chocolate machines. Every time a man shrugs and says, of another man he sees harassing a woman, 'oh, he's clueless', he contributes to the problem and continues to uphold the culture of harassment. Every time a man listens to a 'clueless' friend complain about a woman who has distanced herself or said no, and then goes to the woman and tells her to mend her ways (yes, this has happened to me) or passes on the idea that she's a mean bitch, he's part of the problem. Every time a man singles out a woman and lectures her about how she's doing being-safe-at-cons wrong and how she *should* behave and what she *should* do and how she's causing her own problems, he's part of the problem.

The woman's behaviour is NOT the problem. The problem is how the men behave. Pure and simple. The length of my shirt isn't an invitation. The colour of my hair isn't an invitation. Nor is my chest, or where I am, or who I am. Its not difficult. Women are people. Please treat accordingly.

And if you see another man making a woman uncomfortable, don't shrug and say 'He's clueless'. Don't be part of the problem.

Edit: this piece by Jared Axelrod is of interest here, too.

Comments

( 62 comments — Leave a comment )
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fjm
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:34 am (UTC)
The answer to "he's clueless" is "so tell him about the clues".

I had to do this on Saturday night.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:35 am (UTC)
Argh. I'm sorry you had to deal with that. But yes, precisely.
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mevennen
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:46 am (UTC)
Someone (male) has just posted a good article to which I do not have a link, but will look, pointing out that people on the autistic spectrum generally don't touch other people because they've learned how problematic it is. I have never felt harassed by anyone on the spectrum at a con.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:56 am (UTC)
I will hunt fort that, thank you.
And yes: the fannish 'aspergers' defence is usually fake and always hugely problematic, not least because it has the potential to cause harm to those who are genuinely on the autistic spectrum.
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Sean Wright
Jul. 3rd, 2013 10:07 am (UTC)
As someone who works with autistic kids I find guys proffering that particular excuse - diagnosing a condition that is broad and requires a specialist to identify without siad expertise beyond annoying.

The guys not autistic he's just an asshole who's never been called on his bad behavior.

la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 11:23 am (UTC)
It's a kind of appropriation, really. Aspergers and Autism are genuine conditions and those with them face a whole range of challenges. Using the label as an excuse for selfishness is just disgusting.
cmcmck
Jul. 3rd, 2013 10:46 am (UTC)
I worked for some years with young people on the autism spectrum and they were invariably well mannered and polite unless they felt themselves harrassed. I never felt harrassed by any of the young folks I worked with. If anyone overstepped, a brief explanation was always sufficient.

Guys, if 'he's clueless' give him a clue!
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 11:23 am (UTC)
Precisely.
penguineggs
Jul. 3rd, 2013 10:56 am (UTC)
This is the text of The Mental Health Act 1983.

I agree 100% with the argument that the "clueless and on the spectrum" line is offensive ablist bullshit, but I would further point out that in the absolutely vanishing remote contingency anyone is genuinely unable to understand the issues after it has been explained to them that behaviour which is "abnormally aggressive or seriously irresponsible" on their part is something that they should stop that they probably are a candidate for compulsory committal for assessment under the Mental Health Act and should therefore probably not be wandering unchecked around a convention, in their own best interests.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 11:26 am (UTC)
There have been incidents of that type at cons. I know of two. In both cases, the behaviour was such as to attract widespread concern.
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bugshaw
Jul. 3rd, 2013 11:04 am (UTC)
They're 'clueless' and possibly on the Autistic Spectrum and have plausible deniability, well, what can you do? You see it going on, but these poor guys don't know any better, they have plausible deniability, it's a shame, what can you do?
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 11:25 am (UTC)
That seems to be the excuse, doesn't it? I've never found it a very good one.
(Deleted comment)
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 12:36 pm (UTC)
Yes.
I remember that icon. It's a good one.
redbird
Jul. 3rd, 2013 03:06 pm (UTC)
Did anyone ask this schmuck why he isn't giving those men the clue that he says they lack?

Someone who genuinely doesn't know that he shouldn't grope women without their permission, like someone who genuinely doesn't know that they shouldn't help themselves to your wallet or car, needs to be told. If it's genuine lack of clue, they can get it: "don't touch other people without explicit permission" isn't a complicated idea unless someone is trying not to understand it.

ETA: I'm not suggesting you should have asked this; rather, if anyone else asked him it would be interesting to see how, if at all, he responded.

Edited at 2013-07-03 03:19 pm (UTC)
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 03:41 pm (UTC)
I asked. Didn't get an answer, however.
joycemocha
Jul. 3rd, 2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
I know this has been addressed in the comments already, but still?

As a parent of an autistic (either high functioning or Asperger's, tl:dr-- they're all the same) male adult, and as a special education teacher--blaming creeping and weird behavior on autism is just damned bullshit. Period. It's based on a false perception of autism and does not admit that autists generally tend to be hyperreactive and hypersensitive to stimulation, either through vision, scent, sound, touch or proximity of too damn many people.

People need to realize that poor socialization and outright rudeness coupled with an overinflated estimate of one's power and authority based on gender does not equal autism.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 03:42 pm (UTC)
I had long suspected it was b/s and damaging b/s at that. Thank you.
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dorispossum
Jul. 3rd, 2013 04:36 pm (UTC)
Well said. In this, and other contexts, I get very tired of people hijacking medical labels to excuse bad manners. Something I've never experienced from people (eg students) with genuine Aspergers.

If somebody has poor social skills, they have an obligation to work very hard indeed to acquire better ones. And fandom cannot continue to promote itself as a gathering of the gifted, whilst advertising itself as a 'safe space' for behaviour that would embarrass a lobotomised slug.

Edited at 2013-07-03 04:45 pm (UTC)
al_zorra
Jul. 3rd, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC)
One of my high school day boyfriends has an autistic son, who still, of course, lives with them though he's in his forties now.

Like his non-austistic son, G and his wife, M, carefully taught J to always be polite and never pushy and demanding verbally or physically with girls or women. And they are polite, and not pushy, and excellent company, including J. (Fortunately J's obsession is television and movie actors and actresses and movies and television shows. As G says, "It could have been toilets, because it could be anything.") With help, J even has a job -- the help being taken to and picked up from the Metro going to and home from the job. What he cannot handle at all is any deviation in routine. Routine holds him together. It is really hard on his parents, circumscribing their lives to his in so many ways.

Love, C.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 06:24 pm (UTC)
I've seen this over and over: people with genuine Aspergers and Autism do not behave this way. The creeps harm them as well as the women they harass whenever they use this excuse.
watervole
Jul. 3rd, 2013 06:01 pm (UTC)
I have one con-going male friend who is Aspergic. His way of dealing with it is why he is a dear friend.

He knows he can't judge other people's feelings and emotions so he takes what women say at face value. Totally.

If I say I'm tired and want to go to my room, he will accept that at face value. He never assumes I am fed up of his company. He never asks to come with me. He simply believes what I say - and I respect that courtesy by always being clear and truthful with him.

If I say I'd like him to come to my room for a chat, he will happily come and we will chat. He's never made a pass at me, and never will unless I ask him to (and being happily married, I won't).

I find him very relaxing company. I also make sure that I tell him this - because he won't necessarily assume it.
miintikwa
Jul. 3rd, 2013 07:08 pm (UTC)
Beautiful. And I concur wholeheartedly.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you.
athenais
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:00 pm (UTC)
I have had it up to here with "Oh, he's just clueless." Is "he" an adult? Then it's his responsibility to get clued. "He's probably on the spectrum" does not fly with me at all. I am so tired of this fight.

Well said, all of it and the comments, too.
la_marquise_de_
Jul. 3rd, 2013 09:12 pm (UTC)
Yes, me too. We seem to have to say this over and over and over.
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controuble
Jul. 3rd, 2013 10:07 pm (UTC)
My son is ASD and spent several years in residential facilities. One of the very first things they spend time teaching these kids is boundaries. In other words, no touching other people unless they ask. Clues can be taught, even to autistics. He is 17 now and still socially awkward, but he does not run up and hug total strangers like he did when he was 5. He will ask a total stranger if he can look at something they have, but he will not take it out of their hand without asking.
were_gopher
Jul. 4th, 2013 08:36 am (UTC)
It's the same in my son's day school. The first few weeks after he transfered from mainstream education into the specialist system was spent on coping techniques to reduce his stress and social/boundry rules to help him fit in. The patience needed to keep calmly keep going over stuff like this so it sinks in is far more than any mainstream system can offer but the difference it makes, not just to the kids but their families as well, is invaluable.

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