Skin … and the Thickness Thereof …

“carlie” over at Lousy Canuck made this comment on the post that I previously referenced (I’m trying to avoid having too many trackbacks to his posts for various reasons, so I won’t repeat it here. It’s comment 50):

I wonder why it is that women always need to grow a thicker skin to deal with unwanted advances, but men never need to grow a thicker skin to deal with being told their advances may well be unwanted.

Um, they do. Sometimes. Let’s take … ugh … Elevatorgate again. One of the reasons people weren’t all that sympathetic to Rebecca Watson was because by her account he took the rejection fairly well. He asked, she said no, he didn’t try to wheedle or cajole her, didn’t get angry, didn’t call her any names, didn’t storm off in a huff, but instead presumably simply accepted it — despite, one assumes, being disappointed — and moved on. If he had done any of those other things, he wouldn’t have had anywhere near the support he had. Most people would have been on Watson’s side.

The idea is, basically this: if people are getting upset over things that are considered reasonably normal, then they are told to grow a thicker skin. So if a little light flirting is met with outrage, people will claim that the person reacting with outrage grow a thicker skin. And if someone calls someone a frigid ***** because they politely turn down an invitation for a drink, then that person will be asked to grow a thicker skin. On the other hand, someone reacting with outrage to a comment like “I want to rape you” will generally not be told to grow a thicker skin, and someone reacting angrily to “I’d never go out with you because you’re a complete loser and are ugly” will again generally not be told to grow a thicker skin.

Where the lines are are, of course, not always obvious. But the statement of this as a universal rule is, in fact, just plain wrong.

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2 Responses to “Skin … and the Thickness Thereof …”

  1. aleph squared Says:

    someone reacting with outrage to a comment like “I want to rape you” will generally not be told to grow a thicker skin

    This is not true. Rape victims are routinely told in discussions about rape that they need to get over it and move on — and that they need to grow a thicker skin when, inevitably, the MRA trolls start threatening them with rape and the victims take it seriously.

    This isn’t just a rare occurence. Over the past five years, literally every feminist blogger I know has (a) been threatened with rape, and (b) when commenting on how terrible that is, instigates thousand-comment-long threads where she is told over and over by multiple different commenters to grow a thicker skin and get over it.

    The fact that you think that they won’t generally be told this is honestly indicative simply of the fact that you haven’t spent enough time in these communities/discussions.

    • verbosestoic Says:

      I think you need to consider the context. Surely you’d agree that if someone used that line as an advance, most people would consider acting with outrage to that reasonable. That was the context I was talking about, and I tried to pick them most extreme example possible to make that crystal clear.

      In the cases you talk about, generally the comments to “Grow a thicker skin” are reactions to a combination of factors: first, female bloggers who react to those comments as if they are indications of the attitudes of men in general and that they reflect an overarching misogyny in society, when the comments are by a minority of men, and second as a response to “Don’t fee the trolls”, meaning that the reason those comments are made is for no other reason than TO upset the person, and that the best way to stop those sorts of comments are to at least not show that it bothers you.

      For these sorts of Internet comments, there’s an underlying thought that these are people who aren’t making real threats, but are instead simply making insults and trying to bother the person. That might be wrong in some cases, and might need to be revisited. But it’s a bit of red herring for the comment I was responding to here.

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