And … I’m Really Done.

This time, I mean it.

I was only paying any attention at all to Almost Diamonds because Stephanie Zvan had hinted that she was going to address something:

I was going to write something nice and reasonable answering a set of those stupid questions that keep coming up about those scary, scary anti-harassment policies …

Well, considering the context, I knew that she was going to address my comment, and likely was going to get it completely wrong, and she didn’t disappoint.

Figuring that if she was going to call me out — although not by name, but by comment — she’d surely have the intellectual honesty to allow me to defend myself, I posted this comment there:

Well, since you singled out my comment, I would hope you would give me the chance to clarify my position.

First, the comment I made was in response to Ben Zvan’s comment that the definition should be “If the person feels harassed, they were.” I read the policy a couple of times, and don’t see that in there, either explicitly or, in my view, implied. In fact, the main complaint I’d have about that policy as written is that it doesn’t say what the standard would be. Are you using intentionalist, where if the person didn’t mean to harass it wouldn’t be? Are you using Ben’s? Are you using a reasonable person standard? In general, this is probably not much of a concern but it can lead to inconsistencies.

Second, I never advocated against having an anti-harassment policy. In the very quote you provide here, I advocate for the “reasonable person” standard, which is the standard used by the Canadian Human Rights Commission. So, I have no issues with the policy, but again was just arguing that the definition Ben gave wasn’t clear enough or else ran into serious issues. I personally prefer the “intentionalist” standard — being an intentionalist when it comes to morality and thus moral responsibility — but I recognize the problems that can create, as outlined in gwen’s comment.

Third, I certainly never described women as lying, and it’s a bit of a stretch to my having described them as oversensitive considering that my main examples — which you didn’t quote — were about cases where I myself react differently to normal behaviour than most people would, and where I was implying that even though the general behaviour — invasion of personal space, touching — SHOULD be actionable, in my case I shouldn’t consider it harassment because I shouldn’t limit perfectly normal behaviour on the grounds of my personal peculiarities. Repeating the behaviour when told it makes someone uncomfortable DOES count as harassment, of course, as well as normal behaviour that a reasonable person should still consider harassment.

I hope this clears my position up, at least.

So, let me summarize:

1) She told me to go read the policy that, in the end, said nothing about what I was actually disagreeing with.
2) There was an implication that I didn’t want a policy, which since I suggested the reasonable person standard, was totally false.
3) I also wasn’t considering them oversensitve, just as potentially finding things uncomfortable or harassing that most other people didn’t. Again, I used myself as the example here, which she ignored.

And she couldn’t deign to allow it through … and she’s had plenty of opportunity. That’s not honest, or intellectually respectable. If you’re going to call someone out, do it in a way where they can easily defend themselves, not where they can’t. This, BTW, is exactly what got so many people mad at Rebecca Watson when she called out Stef McGraw’s criticism in an overly harsh manner where she would have to listen to it but not be able to defend herself. At least Zvan can claim that I listened to it myself.

So, yeah, I think I’ll start avoiding that site, but before I go let me take on some of the comments from that thread:


This is getting pathetic. It really isn’t that difficult to avoid inadvertently harassing another person. If you’re a heterosexual man, a good place to start is to ask yourself if you would behave a certain way towards another man. If the answer is no, you are not entitled to think it’s ok to behave that way towards a woman. If in doubt, it is generally better to err on the side of safety. I suspect that what a lot of these concern trolls really worry about is that protecting women from harassment will interfere with their attempts to get every woman they happen to find attractive in bed without bothering to get to know her first.

Well, see, I would agree with the first part, in general, but only because for the most part we don’t use “If they feel harassed, they are” but instead use something like the “reasonable person” standard. If, say, touching that makes someone uncomfortable is automatically harassment, then it would be quite easy for people to inadvertently harass me … which is why I don’t consider it such. As for the latter, I will treat women like men … except in the social, flirting, hitting on, trying to get a relationship cases. Which also, unfortunately, happen to be the cases that are causing the problems, cases where someone at least is looking for some kind of sexual relationship. But do remember that; it will be funny later. And finally, who says that people going to bed with each other when they don’t know each other is bad, anyway? That was, in some sense, McGraw’s challenge to Watson that Watson never answered, and does seem like an attempt to limit legitimate sexual interaction.

Personally, I do want to get to know them first and refuse to just go after sex, so that leaves me out, and when someone is quoting me it really helps if their hints about my motivations have some link to reality.

(I don’t actually disagree with the rest of that comment).


I think an important response to the “reasonable person” standard, which Stephanie perhaps thought too obvious, is to attempt to define precisely what exactly a “reasonable person” is. Because from where I’m sitting, most people think a “reasonable person” is synonymous with a white middle-class man. In which case, an anti-harassment policy simply becomes another tool of oppression along those axes, which is something of the opposite of its intent.

Well, I would hope that Stephanie would not have used that response, because her main defense against my questions was that the policies were in place and so clearly worked, and so I needed to do research to see how they actually handled it. Since the “reasonable person” standard is also used, and used heavily, and used by organizations like the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to undercut that would undercut the only thing she had that looked like an actual argument. Besides that, there are ways you can indeed limit that, which is by, say, including minorities in the people who look at and interpret it. No matter what policy you use, this sort of problem can happen, but at least with the “reasonable person” standard you can, in fact, define it objectively and give a standard that one can argue over if required, meaning that someone can give reasons why they think the response is reasonable or unreasonable … unlike they “If they feel harassed, they are” because in those cases any attempt to appeal to reasons is, in fact, bringing it to a “reasonable person” standard, where you evaluate the reasons for how reasonable they are.

And speaking of that:


Most of these policies say something like “at the discretion of the event coordinators.” That seems reasonable…unless DJ Grothe is involved.

And one of my questions was indeed about how you would settle these situations without appealing to the “reasonable person” standard. Ben Zvan, here, basically concedes that it does, especially where he worries that Grothe won’t be reasonable. At this point, with having the originator of the standard essentially admit that I’m right, I think I can claim victory if I actually really cared about winning in this case.


If I say “I’m feeling harassed by your behaviour” there’s clearly only one person who can judge that and that’s me.
Now you can say that it was not your intention and just go away. After all, the goal is to make you stop the behaviour that makes me feel harassed. You might be seriously shocked at my accusation because you didn’t expect me to react like that, you didn’t think you were doing anything wrong.

Under the reasonable person standard, if you tell someone that something bothers you and they don’t stop, then that would automatically become harassment because any reasonable person should know at that point that it bothers you. Strangely, if you read the “accommodationist” debates you’ll see a lot of the New Atheists ignoring this and insisting that they have the right to insult people and use what language they want, even if it bothers them …

@32 and 33 – scenario gives this example:

I once asked a women that I worked with and had never spoken to before where she bought her earrings. I told her they were pretty and I’d like to buy a pair for my wife. She said I was harassing her. I apologized and never talked to her again. I never thought this was a typical harassment case. This was an obvious outlier on the curve. When I talked to the people near her, every one said she was crazy. I kind of felt sorry for her because if she was really harassed no one would believe her because she had accused half the men and a quarter of the women in the building of harassment already.

Giliell, not to be confused with The Borg replies:

Let’s look at it a bit in detail.
You asked a woman you’ve never talked to before a pretty intimate question.
You might be wondering why your question is intimate.
Look at three possible (and likely, except perhaps the last) answers:
-they were a present from my husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend.
-I inherited them from my grandma
-I bought them at Tiffany’s
Each one of those answers gives you some very intimate information about that woman, information, if asked for directly would clearly be way out of line.
But societal conventions and privilege have it that once you’ve asked this question that sneakily crosses several borders, she’s between a rock and a hard place:
-She can answer your question and thereby give you information that she doesn’t want to share with you and doesn’t want you to know. But that’s the response she’s been trained to give. Being polite to you is much more important than her boundaries.
-She can tell you to fuck off because it’s none of your business. This will immediately earn her the title of “bitch”.
-She can tell you you’re harassing her, earning the label “crazy”.

Can you see how she loses in each and every version of this story?

So, let’s return to @12, saying that you should start by treating women like men. And if, say, I saw a man with a really nice watch and wanted to know where they’d gotten it, I think we can all agree that I would and should have absolutely no qualms about asking that, even though it might also end up being a request for information that they’d rather I not have. So, oddly, here the solution is to not treat a woman like a man, but to treat her differently, in order to avoid inadvertently harassing someone. So, I’m a bit confused here.

Additionally, those aren’t her only options. She can be vague to avoid giving out information she doesn’t want to give out. She can lie or mislead, for example by saying that it was a gift and she doesn’t know. She can also be direct and say simply that it’s not something she’s comfortable talking about. All of these should work reasonably well, with no fuss or muss. That this was put into the false dichotomy of “Be polite and kind and totally accomodating” or “Be hostile!” is absolutely ludicrous.

Anyway, after this I’m done. And if this shows up as a trackback there, well, I’d really rather it didn’t … but I don’t know how to stop automatic trackbacks, but I know that Stephanie Zvan can delete them and so I do hope she does. Or doesn’t. It’s up to her, really.


One Response to “And … I’m Really Done.”

  1. Héctor Muñoz Says:

    Social interaction implies risk. There are super sensitive people who want to be treated with a ten yard stick most of the time and there are blunt people or even jerks who will make anyone feel uncomfortable, but it’s not a big deal unless they are actually hurting you.

    I see this fenomenon of social hyper sensitivity as a subtle manifestation of gender hostility justification by people who are resentful and find a way to be aggresive by victimizing themselves because otherwise they wouldn’t be able to consciously accept they want to hurt other people.

    There will always be emotionally sore people trying to find a way to justify their hostility and nowadays being super assertive to the point of aggresion to men is very popular amongst immature women. Just shake them off and keep going,

    You can’t go through life being a politically correct teddy bear and expect to achieve anything, this expectation of perfect social performance can’t be achieved.

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