The Culture of Doing Nothing

Much as I thought I was done with discussion stemming from the “dirty old man” post, I was sent a comment posted at Nita Farahanny’s flavor which made me very sad, and compels me to discuss it one more (and hopefully last) time.

By a commenter who calls himself Nathan_M (and unfortunately, the WaPo lacks a means to link directly to a comment):

Wow, Scott Greenfield’s comment to the woman who was sexually assaulted at professional events is appalling.

If a client wanted advice on how to deal with a situation like that any competent lawyer  would provide something very similar to Kateality’s [sic] analysis. She has essentially nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose form making a public allegation, which is admittedly unfair but we deal with the world as it is and not as it ought to be.

I don’t think Scott Greenfield is intentionally malicious, but the level of cluelessness he, Judge Kopf, and others like that show is very difficult to excuse

The reference in the comment above is to this comment thread.  The commenter here, Katereality, wrote of how her butt was groped by a lawyer at a bar event.  The upshot is she did nothing, absolutely nothing, about it. Katereality explains why, with a cogent litany of reasons for her to remain silent and seethe about her treatment.  I neither dispute her story of what happened, or her reasoning for doing nothing.

But, my reaction to the fact that someone “sexually assaulted” her and she made the decision to do nothing was this:

Well, you kinda lost my sympathy a bit when you made the excuse not to respond to the jerks. First, I’m not buying. I would believe you, and I would never hold it against you. But if you’ve made an active decision to do nothing about it, then you can’t simultaneously complain.  As you note, it can be seen as “tacitly excusing, and thus perpetuating, the behavior of jerks.” Yes, it most certainly can.

Upon this foundation, Nathan_M concludes that my response is “appalling” and “clueless.”  How is it possible that we’ve raised a new generation of people, of men, of lawyers, who would rather join hands, commiserate over the unfairness of the world and sing Kumbaya when a woman is sexually assaulted?  Where the hell is your spine, you gutless coward?

It’s easy to rationalize doing nothing. It’s safe, and none of the potentially career damaging outcomes will happen if you stand by feeling badly about a woman being sexually assaulted.  After all, what’s a sexual assault when compared to the potential damage that could happen to a career, right?  Is the new feminist-ally answer to lay back and take it, because, you know, something unpleasant could happen if you do something?

Katereality offered her comments as examples of what is meant by rape culture.  Whether that’s accurate is unclear, as it’s just as easily an example of a guy sexually assaulting her.  There is no question that there are bad people out there doing bad things, but that’s not a culture and an example isn’t a definition.

I don’t so much blame Katereality for having made the choice she made. It was her butt, and her choice what to do about it.  My issue is with complaining about something that is sufficiently, after the fact, worthy of complaint, but not sufficiently worthy of doing something about for real.  Whining about it afterward is not doing something about it.

There was once a time, not too long ago, that people, both men and women, wouldn’t hesitate to make damn sure that someone sexually assaulting them or someone around them would not go unnoticed.  There may well be consequences, but everything we do in life has consequences. The point is that we would never tolerate crap like this.

If Nathan_M reflects the new breed of sensitive young men who “get” it, then we are doomed.  Anyone who thinks the solution to a woman being sexually assaulted is to wring his hands and bemoan rape culture, rather than confront the perpetrator any time, anywhere, is a disgraceful coward.

If there is such a thing as rape culture, then it is perpetuated by these wussy boys who lack the guts to take action against anyone who would do this to a woman.  Whining about it is no solution.  Deal with it.

I do not, however, believe that weasels like Nathan_M reflect the next generation of people, men or lawyers.   I believe that most men, and most women, would find such conduct intolerable and deal with it. Doing nothing is not a solution.

26 comments on “The Culture of Doing Nothing

  1. Gloria Wolk

    She is whining because she did nothing, said nothing–not even to the man who assaulted her.

    Apparently the “rape culture” theme needs an article about various ways to handle something like this, ways that do not put the victim’s career at risk. There are ways. She could have handled it person-to-person, by telling him, “Try that again and I will HURT you.” She would have felt better and also assured the same person would not try it again.

    By “hurt” I mean she could stick her elbow into his gut or step hard on his foot, something that startles him, makes him remember he as one who does not simply walk on.

    1. SHG Post author

      I don’t view Katereality as whining, but as using her experience as an example. That was fine, as far as it went, but failed to illuminate anything other than the fact that she made an active decision to do nothing and rationalize her conduct. Had she done something and suffered negative consequences for it, her story would be more compelling.

      My beef is with the “the mean old men don’t understand” approach. We all understand. Cowardice isn’t anything new. It’s just that it wasn’t something to be proud of or extol as a virtue.

      1. Robert Hine

        I did not read Katereality’s comment as whining either. I read it as an articulation of the cost benefit analysis she went through (probably in a split second or two) immediately after the unwanted physical contact which led to her decision not to publicize the assault. I think her analysis of the downsides to making a public issue out of being groped is likely correct. I would not have equated her decision with cowardice (if that is, indeed what Scott was doing).

        That said, is there not merit to explaining and complaining about the social pressures that create the downsides that Katereality was forced to consider when making her decision? I thought there was some illumination in her description of the power imbalance between groper and grope.

        1. SHG Post author

          I neither think Katereality was whining nor was a coward. I think she made a calculated decision, and that was her decision to make. But having made that decision, I’m reluctant to see it as a general condemnation of society. The world is filled with power imbalances and other good reasons to make cost/benefit analyses, and all of us, every day, make decisions based upon them and live with our choices. If we can’t, then we made the wrong decision. If Katereality’s cost/benefit analysis gave so little weight to a sexual assault that she chose to let it slide, then it cannot be sufficiently weighty to condemn society after the fact.

          Cowardice was attributed to Nathan_M, who argues that it’s “clueless” and “appalling” to think we should stand up to a sexual assault and we should let them happen to us and around us and do nothing more than complain about it afterward amongst friends. To him, there is no option but to suffer a sexual assault and whine about it later. Was my writing really that difficult to understand that this was unclear, or does this reflect your personal cost/benefit analysis?

          Let’s try a thought experiment to make the distinction even more clear: You’re walking down the street, dressed in your best suit on the way to court, and see someone raping a woman. The reasons to keep walking are obvious. You won’t muss your suit, be late for court or get hurt, possibly killed, by the rapist. Do you keep walking because you have perfectly good excuses to do nothing?

          1. Robert Hine

            Your writing is not particularly unclear. You coupled Katereality’s pseudonym with the phrase “whining about it afterward” and then attributed cowardice to Nathan_M. It might have been that, by analogy, you were also considering Katereality’s lack of direct challenge to being groped to be cowardice, but I see from your response you were not.

            Regarding your thought experiment – if you chose not to take direct action when you saw someone being raped, you would have the “excuse” that you are not legally required to put yourself at risk by physically intervening. Calling 911, on the other hand, would not cause you to be late or muss your suit. I think your “thought experiment” is sufficiently divorced from Katereality’s situation that it does little to illuminate your point.

            1. SHG Post author

              An awful lot of wiggling and deflection. So you’re the sort of guy who would rather let a woman be raped than his suit get mussed, but would call 911 so he felt as if he wasn’t a total loser. Got it. Thanks for clearing that up.

            2. Robert Hine

              I am not that sort of guy. Since I am posting under my own name, please do not make such unfounded ad hominem attacks. I was responding to a ridiculous hypothetical you posited. Neither your comment nor mine indicates how each of us would react were your hypothetical to be real.

              I wish you the best. May the next comments be more to your liking.

            3. SHG Post author

              So you don’t know what an ad hominem is either? Not surprising. Many people use words even though they are unfamiliar with their meaning. It’s quite common.

              If you don’t like the consequences of your position, then change your position. Don’t blame me. Like it or not, you decided to comment and your comment speaks for itself. I can’t make it any better or worse.

            4. Robert Hine

              Sigh. Were I ever to come upon a woman being raped, I believe I would physically intervene.

              What would you do, Scott? … and for that matter, how do you know? Have you ever been in the position you describe in your “thought experiment”?

              Now I am definitely done here. Since you control the comments, you get the last word. Any chance you’ll follow your own “rule” of to “keep it civil and respectful”?

            5. SHG Post author

              Then why didn’t you just say that in the first place? As for what I would do, I do know. And I have come to the aid of a people of both sexes faces with violence at personal risk. Not because I’m big or strong or tough, but because I could do no less. It’s that easy.

              And that’s why this post was written, because it easy to rationalize doing nothing, but anyone who believes that’s the “solution” is a coward. It’s a choice. It is not a solution.

              Now, you’ve promised to go three times already. Do you keep your promises?

            6. Mike

              Sorry, pal, but you’re just a pussy who doesn’t realize he’s a pussy. If you don’t want people to think you’re a pussy, then don’t be a pussy. Am I being clear enough for you?

  2. Brett Middleton

    But the days-not-so-long-ago when people did something were the days when women were being oppressed by the patriarchy that insisted on treating them as delicate flowers needing protection. Surely you don’t mean to suggest a return to any of the standards of THOSE days? What are you, some kind of throwback chauvinist? Everyone nowadays knows that holding hands and singing kumbaya as loudly as possible generates magical waves of sensitivity that will penetrate the minds of men still consumed by aggression and turn them into guys that “get it” — without requiring hostile confrontations that might result in hurt feelings. We must spread the new non-rape culture to everyone, brother, rather than spreading blame to particular individuals!

    1. william doriss

      “…men still consumed by aggression and turn them into guys that “get it” — without requiring hostile confrontations that might result in hurt feelings.”

      @ Brett Middletown: Et tu Brute? I read the above as, … “gays that get it.” You do not fool me for one minute. Nothing against gays, but both “patriarchies” and gays exist in the natural world. (See relevant comment by me on related posting.) Is patriarchy to be banished from humankind? Is the word itself to be scorned? I don’t think so! So my question is, why should either one be banished from the world of humankind? My argument is, we can all get along if we try. If your fat little feminist butt gets pinched by some chauvinist pig, well then deal with it. It’s not the end of the world. Worse things have happened and are happening on a daily basis: people whose rights are violated w/out remedy (H/T: SHG, in multiple postings.)
      You disappoint me, and I’m wondering why esteemed host, in the words of Barleycorn, is taking so long to take you to the woodshed?
      If your objective is to turn men, including male lawyers, into snivelling, conniving women in this lifetime,… well, good luck.

      1. Brett Middleton

        Oh, dear me. My goal is actually to convince my fellow man to snivel and connive in sympathy with our enlightened sisters. Turning ourselves into women would require elective plastic surgery, and plastic surgeons are clearly tools of the patriarchy invented to denigrate women and give them unhealthy self images, so that would be way out of line.

        Sadly, sarcasm has been one of my major failings for decades now, and I’ve pegged out the sarcasm meters of many. Despite a GPA that entitled me to give a graduation address to my eighth-grade class, the school forbade it — without even allowing me to write a draft to submit for approval — because the faculty Feared my Mighty Sarcasm. (True story! I sure wish I could have been a fly on the wall at the meeting where that decision was reached.)

        1. SHG Post author

          Truly well done sarcasm can be hard to detect, especially on the interwebz when someone doesn’t have a feel for you.

  3. william doriss

    OK,… having slept on it and upon re-reading Brett’s comment, it appears I did get it wrong. (Missed the “sarcasm”.) Maybe I was drunk, maybe hearing voices, maybe in a baaad mood. Who knows? I just don’t want to get dragged, Emil-like, to the SJ Slaughterhouse. When someone does not have a “feel” for SJ, it can be a Venus Fly Trap. When an unsuspecting visitor steps into the SJ trap, SHG pounces. He is waiting for you. He has a mind like a steel trap, and real-world experience to boot. He spells it out ad nauseum for all the dumdums out there, on the interwebz.
    If he does not like what you say, he is not incapable of erasing your ignorant comment and re-writing it properly. Yes, he does, no charge. Instead of simpley erasing.
    So I’m not above apologizing. The question remains: Can/Will the Sovereign apologize to me for its
    violations? Apparently not,… another discussion.
    Finally, Judge Kopf is guilty of nothing other than “harmless error”. What’s good for the goose,… Would not mind appearing before him, but hope I never have to. Ha. Maybe we’ll send the sarcasim-o-meter out for a tune-up, or buy a new one.

    1. SHG Post author

      Now, you’re pissing me off. I didn’t beat you up for having inadvertently mistaken Brett’s sarcasm as serious. I merely noted that you missed it. Is this the sort of reaction I get for being kind to you? “Spells it out ad nauseum”? Untrue. I demand flowers in recompense.

      1. Brett Middleton

        Oh, man, usually my sarcasm only gets ME in trouble, not my innocent victims. Sorry, William. Wait, what was the topic again? Something about misinterpretation of phrases and the importance of choosing approaches to a topic that minimize the possibility?

  4. ShelbyC

    “There was once a time, not too long ago, that people, both men and women, wouldn’t hesitate to make damn sure that someone sexually assaulting them or someone around them would not go unnoticed.”

    Wanna go camping?

Comments are closed.