Would it kill you to be civil?

We’ve been talking about rape culture and myths about artistry (or, perhaps, artiste-ry) for the last few days, and god help us but it’s been depressing. I want to continue the conversation a bit but shift it to the somewhat less eye-gougingly bleak realm of the Nice Guy TM, specifically how it relates to geeky guys and girls.

I’m prompted by this post (on SP fave Sociological Images) about a recent xkcd strip. Now, xkcd has done some instant classic antisexist strips in the past, like this one and this one. In fact, xkcd even has a strip that handily illustrates Nice Guys TM. In other words, xkcd often serves as a kind of Feminism 101 for nerds, which is why it’s extra disappointing when the strip has its rare excursions into “woe is the geeky boy, who shall never get pussy” territory. The strip in question starts with a spot-on confrontation between a woman on a train and a strange man hitting on her, in which she firmly tells him that if she wanted his attention, she’d have shown it. It’s the conversation you always wish you would have with skeezy dudes on the train, if you weren’t worried that they’d retaliate in some way. The punchline of the strip is — haha! — the chick wanted it all along! She’s aching for some sweet sweet cock! If only men hadn’t been so paralyzed by feminist talk about rape culture and personal respect, she’d get hit on by more men, which is exactly what she wants on the train! (ETA: The mouseover is: “And I even got out my adorable new netbook!”) It’s funny because it’s true, and it’s EXTRA funny because she brought her cute netbook specifically so men would hit on her, just like when you wear a low-cut shirt it’s because you really want men to comment on your hot tits. Geeky girls are so hot! They’re so hot for you, geeky boy!

Look, I really love xkcd 95% of the time. But just as surviving violence doesn’t make it somehow totally cool to rape people, not meeting cultural standards of he-man masculinity doesn’t make it just fine to perpetuate rape culture. That’s what the Sociological Images post* gets at very clearly:

So this is the crux of the issue for me: nerds really are members of a subordinated masculinity, and from within that viewpoint it’s easy to dismiss anything which says that you are privileged and not downtrodden. Once you’re in that space, it’s really easy to start thinking in a certain way that says you’re not privileged just because you’re a man — and I think things like this XKCD strip can contribute to that way of thinking.

Of course, any man who falls farther from the pinnacle of hegemonic masculinity is less privileged than his more “masculine” counterparts, but he’s still a man. Nerd discourses sometimes let us forget that, and let us think we operate outside the system, because we’re not like those other, sexist guys — but it’s a fantasy. We can be better than that, but it means telling ourselves the truth, and not pretending that our interactions with women — even a simple conversation on a train — aren’t influenced and structured by the patriarchy.

This is how privilege works: you have less of it in some areas, and more of it in others. That’s how it works for everyone. This is why it’s important to think beyond yourself: not in some self-abnegating “I can never talk about my own problems” way, but in a way that understand that some forms of your own behavior contribute to a culture that hurts you too. (This is, for instance, why we don’t bash thin bodies to promote fat acceptance — because “fat acceptance” and “body acceptance” are really the same project.) So talking about geekery is actually one of those scenarios in which saying that patriarchy hurts men, too, is not a strategy to distract from women’s issues. But the xkcd strip is the fantasy of a Nice Guy TM: if only he weren’t so gosh-darn nice to women, he’d get some tail. The Nice Guy TM blames on feminism what is really the fault of sexism, thus imagining himself the True Victim of both.

I do think this particular comic may have worked fine if the same scenario were played out by known characters, instead of xkcd’s generic boy-and-girl stick figures. What’s so powerful about the “How It Works” strip is that very generic-ness: the joke is just that, that men are assumed to be individual human beings and women are not. But that’s also what’s happening in the male fantasy in the “Creepy” strip: the man is an (oppressed) agent of his own desires, while the woman is a mess of contradictions and unreadability.

All of which brings me to what is perhaps my favorite Nice Guy TM lament of all time, as well as the perfect cap to a post about geeks and rape and entitlement: Jonathan Coulton’s great song, “Skullcrusher Mountain,” about a mad scientist “in love.”

What I love so much about this song is that the creepiness builds from verse to verse (never disturbing the sweetness of the melody), so that what starts with “Welcome” ends with the most passive-aggressive murder threat ever:

You know it isn’t easy living here on Skullcrusher Mountain
Maybe you could cut me just a little slack
Would it kill you to be civil?
I’ve been patient, I’ve been gracious
And this mountain is covered with wolves
Hear them howling, my hungry children
Maybe you should stay and have another drink and think about me and you

Nice Guys TM, you see, pretend that we don’t live in a culture that systematically deprives women of power; they think (or rather, they pretend to think) that interacting with women is just a matter of being civil. I’m so nice, but women don’t like me! They say “think about me and you” as if we didn’t know that they could unleash the wolves at any second. They think women on the train are secretly doing everything — using a cute netbook, sitting there looking pretty — in order to snag their attention. They’re nice, not like those other guys — how dare you lump them in with the worst of their gender! You’re just like all the other girls.
*Note ableist metaphor in title. Hello there, privilege!

696 thoughts on “Would it kill you to be civil?

  1. The “Pix Plz” xkcd – I’m not sure what to think of that one either. The overall theme is fine, but the fact that it’s a man doing the telling-off, and a woman working for him, and the reasons hat man gives in the third panel, mean that it doesn’t quite seem to work. There’s very much a “knight” feel to his actions.

  2. Huh. That wasn’t my reading of that strip at all. I saw nerds in social discomfort, each afraid of being the asshole, and no sense she brought the notebook to be hit on. The first four pictures being his own fantasy/thought process (with those clouds) about what would happen if he were to strike up a conversation – which I assumed was hard for him mainly because he was a nerd, and gender adds an extra layer of complexity to already seemingly over-complex social world landscape.

    Being unsure of how to talk to a woman you find attractive because you don’t have a script you see as problem free doesn’t seem to me to be rape culture but the opposite – the acknowledgment that there are very few not poisoned dialogues out there. What I see is a wistfulness that it be easier to find a script that can connect authentically, and someone who’s more logical than social not quite sure how to write a new one.

  3. Hah, I have never been able to think Deep Thoughts about this song because every time I hear the line, “Maybe I used too many monkeys!” I have to stop whatever I’m doing and weep with laughter. YES, MISTER SCIENTIST, OBVIOUSLY THAT IS THE PROBLEM.

  4. I think the comic is intended as “both of them are attracted to the other and neither of them doing anything about it”, BUT, really, if that’s the case? They’d have both been whining in their blog. Or she’d have been imagining herself saying “Hi” and him saying, “If wanted to talk with you I’d have given some indication that I wanted to.”

    AKA continue to the parallel.

  5. Ah, I read the post, and I get what he’s saying now: even still, I think this is a bit of a Rorschach. I have loved Heartless-Bitches and their nice guy rant for years, because they defined a very real side to nerd culture, but here I’m seeing a wish for non-poisoned, genuine dialogue in a place where the attraction is genuine but culture is painful. So yeah, to me this is a “patriarchy hurts everyone” combined with “life as an introvert” (and/or neurological atypical) sort of thing, and the bittersweetness of that really resonates for me.

  6. I do very much love that the World of Warcraft-based music video for Skullcrusher Mountain ends with the “love interest” executing a very nice roguey backstab on the villain in question.

    XKCD gets it right a lot of the time, but everyone has their screwups. I’d like to think that a nice discussion can come of this, and that Randal Munroe would come away with an awareness of where he goofed and the importance and impact of his work… but I sure as hell don’t want to wade into the official forums and bring the topic up. I’m lacking both Sanity Watchers points, and I’m getting low on rum.

    It drives me bonkers that so many nerdy subcultures are so damned sexist and messed up. It also sets my teeth on edge when so many of these geek guys that get excited at the prospect of geek girls are really only excited at the prospect of conventionally pretty geek girls. Me and my 200+ pounds aren’t winning them over, in spite of my oldschool gamer cred and my computer skillz.

  7. Ah, I see the mouseover now. (I recently pooched my computer and my alts are broken.) Yes, okay, a bit. Except, hmmm, I have brought (insert tech gear) here to attract the attention of nerd boys, back in the day. Nerd boys talk to EVERYONE about gear, and if you have your gear with you, they might get around to noticing that you’re both single, eventually.
    The conversation that started the relationship that became my marriage was about the new system I’d just bought. Took him awhile to realize I was interested, though.

    So yes, I’m reading through a different lens.

  8. Except, hmmm, I have brought (insert tech gear) here to attract the attention of nerd boys, back in the day.

    Arwen, this is why I said I do think this particular comic may have worked fine if the same scenario were played out by known characters, instead of xkcd’s generic boy-and-girl stick figures. Yes, I’m sure there are women who think “Cute nerd! I’ll get out my gear” and that’s fine — just as I’m sure there are women who wear low-cut shirts because they like it when men look at their breasts. But the girl here is generic, and her only role in this comic is to demonstrate that women really want attention even when you think they don’t.

  9. You’re one of my favorite bloggers, but I think you’re missing it this time. Mightn’t he actually have just wanted to say, “Cute Netbook”? I’ve done that myself.

    This is one case where she could have been a he, and there would have been no substantial difference. (Well, he probably would have said “cool” instead of “cute”… is that substantial?)

  10. This is one case where she could have been a he, and there would have been no substantial difference.

    You really think the daydream about being made fun of for hitting on someone would have read the same if both characters were male? I strongly disagree.

  11. Arwen: Aah! The cool-gear-as-bait approach! One can also use things like volumes of manga, DVDs of geekish shows, and neat keychains or buttons for the same sort of purpose. (Although the exact nature of the geek interaction you’ll get as a result is wildly variable. I’ve run into several dudes that want to show that they’re soooo much cooler and smarter than you…)

    Hmm, now I’m imagining possible follow-up strips. Elaborations on the two characters! I do agree that the situation is simple enough (and stick figure-y enough) that it’s like an inkblot test. Room for interpretation. Though I’m leaning more towards Sweet Machine’s interpretation, for now.

  12. I do not, for one minute, understand why this comic annoys people.

    Look, I’m a woman (but not an American one, does that make a difference?) and I read it as; guy sparks up conversation with woman on a train (for whatever reason), she bites his head off (for no reason; if she didn’t want to talk there are other ways to say so, and she’s making a *huge* assumption, thinking he just wants to pick her up – she believes he should read her mind and know she doesn’t want to be disturbed) while, on the other hand, she wants another guy to *read her mind and pick her up* with no encouragement from her whatsoever.

    Perhaps it’s just me. But people often make conversation for the hell of it, rather than any overt sexual motive. Why is it considered rude to address another person these days? The fact it *is* by some people saddens me. And a connection to rape culture? I don’t see it.

  13. SM, this is exactly what I needed to read today, thank you, your timing is perfect. I went to take the bus this morning, hungry and sleep deprived, as any other school day, and the guy standing in front of me started looking at me. After staring at me for a good 10 minutes, I didn’t know any more ways to avoid eye contact by then, he said “is my looking at you bothering you?”, “yes, it’s awkward” “I’m sorry, you’re just so pretty” “thanks, it’s still awkward”. Of course I was forced to continue the conversation until the bus came because I was afraid I would look like a complete psycho if I told him to stop talking to me. Then he kept talking to me on the bus, until I found a sit and fell asleep. Of course, as our uncomfortable conversation had previously warned me, he was going to my college as well, and luckily he waited for me to get out of the bus to continue our chat! In the end he kept asking for my email, and I gave him one without an IM account and don’t plan on responding him. I wish I had said “no” more, but I didn’t want to argue at all, I just wanted to get to class. Why should I have to talk to people that think I’m pretty, why should I have to argue about not sharing my personal information with strangers, because they were “nice” to me? Argh that totally pissed me off this morning, because I acted like an idiot instead of just saying “no, quit talking to me”, I’m angry at myself.

    Anyway, thanks for today’s post, great reminder or how rape culture exists far outside the rapists themselves.

  14. Why is it considered rude to address another person these days? The fact it *is* by some people saddens me.

    I am going to repeat something I said in the post: this is blaming on feminism what is really the fault of sexism.

    And in response to this:
    she bites his head off (for no reason; if she didn’t want to talk there are other ways to say so, and she’s making a *huge* assumption, thinking he just wants to pick her up –

    I am going to quote Kate in an old post (already linked above) which I cannot recommend enough:

    Sometimes, feminist women do mess up and attribute sexist or threatening motivations to men who truly had none. If you’re the man on the receiving end of that mistake, I’m sure it feels fucking awful, just like it felt fucking awful for me to be called a racist. But this is exactly what people mean when they say “Check your privilege.” They mean it is far more likely this person got it wrong once but right the other 99 times out of 100 than it is that this person is hysterically overreacting to a wholly imagined problem. It means you don’t get to see the problem they’re reacting to, the blatant pattern, in your own daily life—so for you, this one experience feels huge and representative, while for the person who doesn’t share your privilege, it’s a drop in the fucking bucket. And if you can keep that in mind, you can probably reach out and fix things with that person, who is probably entirely reasonable underneath the veneer of defensiveness she’s developed with damned good reason.

    I understand that not everyone will agree with my interpretation of the xkcd comic; that’s fine. But I would appreciate it if commenters did not use the classic antifeminist chestnuts “you’re crazy to be offended by this” and “you’re reading too far” in response. Yes, this comic is about nerds and social awkwardness. I contend that it is also about nerds perpetuating rape culture, only it’s not self-aware about it. The two interpretations are not mutually exclusive.

  15. But Mary – what you experienced was harrassment. What the cartoon depicts is someone trying to start a conversation and being called a pervert. Not. The. Same. Thing.

  16. The killer part of the strip was the fact that, in the last panel, the Lady Nerd has her body turned away from the Gentleman Nerd. Her hair is all in her face and she’s blogging.

    As a woman, if I employed that body language, I would be desperately trying to communicate DON’T TALK TO ME DON’T TOUCH ME DON’T ASK ME WHAT I’M READING. I really really don’t think Munroe gets it at all. If he had drawn her with open, accepting body language, with a big smile (except his stick figures don’t have mouths), making repeated eye contact (except his stick figures don’t have eyes), THEN I’d understand the comic to be pro-assertiveness and not, well, pro-PUA bullshit.

  17. But Mary – what you experienced was harrassment. What the cartoon depicts is someone trying to start a conversation and being called a pervert. Not. The. Same. Thing.

    tanz33, could you please share with us your foolproof method of distinguishing harassers and non-harassers at first contact? It sounds useful.

  18. Ah, okay. My lightbulb’s on. I read XKCD as being the Nerd Universe. By, for, to, and populated by geeks of some form or another. It is different if it’s being played by Vin Diesel and Gweneth Paltrow, yeah.

    However, most of his stuff would look weird if not via nerd, wouldn’t it? I’ll have to go and start doing that. Unfocus a bit, make it a universal.

    But if SHE’S not a nerd, why do we assume HE is? She’s a pretty standard stick nerd figure; I suppose, to me, she is an identity, the platonic girl geek.

    If we’re stripping her nerd identity, then we should by all rights strip his. In which case, yes, this becomes a different comic. However, I find myself situated in the XKCD universe: this feels inclusive to me and not othering, if she is a nerd.

    Which, fine, carry on. He’s got a wider audience now, I suppose.

  19. Sweet Machine – Ok, I’m obviously missing it. What kind of ‘privilege’ is involved? It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons. I’m not trying to troll here, I am a feminist – I really don’t see how awful it is to try to strike up a conversation with someone? I’m not understanding why anyone would be upset because someone else spoke to them.

  20. Panel 1: The General Man strikes up conversation with The General Woman.
    Panel 2: Women lets man know that she’s not interested in talking to him.
    Panel 3: Woman humiliates man for talking to her.
    Panel 4: Turns out girl actual does want guy to talk to her and that the stuff before was supposed to be man’s unrealistic fear of what could happen if he talked to a woman on the metro.

    This comic reinforces several things:
    The General Woman actually does want the General Man to talk to her on public transportation when she is doing something (aka using her computer).
    The General Woman’s reaction that she does not want the General Man talking to her is about the humiliation of the General Man, not about how the General Woman might have been tired, had a bad day, or hey, just in general, for real DOESN’T want to talk to a stranger on a train.

    I guess what pisses me off about this comic is that we’re supposed to feel bad for the guy who is trying to talk to the girl on the metro, but loses his nerve. I don’t feel bad for him. It sucks to just be trying to go about your day on public transportation and have to either ignore people you don’t want to talk to, grit your teeth and talk to them, or come off as a bitch and just say, “hey I just want to sit here quietly.”

    The thing is, what happens in Panel 2, there’s a *real* possibility an individual woman does feel that way and it SHOULD make one stop and think whether this is the time and place to be bugging someone. But instead the conclusion that we’re supposed to draw is that the guy should have gone for it. I’ll start laughing the moment people stop *swearing a lot* at me for keeping my ipod headphones in rather than chat with them when I am just trying to have a restful commute home.

  21. @tanz33-how many women do you know that make a fuss over guys talking to her? I don’t know ANY that get the social support to do that. I don’t want to stop reading to talk to random men on the bus-my book is more interesting 100% of the time. but if I did what he feared(note that even in the comic this didn’t happen) I’d be the one getting strange looks. I’d be the one that most likely has to get off the bus for causing the disturbance. That fear DOESN’T HAPPEN.
    @SarahTx-exactly. there’s a difference in my interest level between smiling/looking at you vs. reading, random bus dude. learn it, respect it.

  22. It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.

    It isn’t?

  23. one more thing tanz33-yes, men are. I get asked directions by men about every other time I’ve been walking around town. I get talked to on the bus about 2-3 times a week. Never by women. it is as if men go around talking willy nilly because they can.

  24. It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons

    Wait, what? Are you kidding?

  25. This was touched on in the SocIm comment thread, but I’m not sure the comments were necessarily pieced together…

    A fair bit of critique seems to be hanging on the interpretation of his fears as based on unpredictable, bitchy women/feminists (he could be put up on facebook! just for being nice!). And now, having seen this, I can respect how that could be read into the comic.

    However, the way I originally read the comic (as these are my own fears), attributes the negative reaction not to the actions of crazy bitchy women, but to him actually being creepy. That is, not that the woman is some unknowable other, but that he realises that women get accosted by unwanted attention and fears that he could be a source.

    Would the latter interpretation (partially) negate the criticism, or am I missing part of/failing to understand the Nice Guy TM issue?

  26. Yeah, SarahTX – I try to sort of surround myself with my shit and get way engrossed in my reading on the train. It’s my “leave me alone” pose. Add earbuds pumping white noise directly into my head and I’m pretty well secluded and will only surface if another woman starts talking to me. It’s pretty amazing how angry some dudes will get when you don’t want to speak to them sight unseen about god-knows-what on the fucking subway, no matter how polite and direct I am about my desires, like saying, “That’s nice, but I want to keep reading now, thanks anyway,” is apparently way harsh and bitchy of me. Whatever. It’s not how the rejection is phrased – it’s the rejection itself that is so unfathomably wrong to these clueless apes – like women are just never ever allowed to say no to men about anything. Funny how all that works.

    And Mr.Luci was totally blasting this song out of his computer when I scrolled down and had a total weird moment about synchronicity.

  27. if she didn’t want to talk there are other ways to say so

    Such as? Make sure that the response you recommend will both UNFAILINGLY allow her to get back to what she was doing, as well as UNFAILINGLY allow her to still be seen by most people as a nice, appropriately-feminine person.

  28. Not at first contact; at continuing despite a negative response. Look, in the comic she over-reacts big time, I can’t see how anyone could see that differently, although I understand there may be a *reason* for it. In Mary’s case her lack of interest in a conversation, and his continuing regardless, makes *him* the arsehole.

  29. I guess the thing that bugs me most about this is that it would have been funny and cute if she had blogged, “Auughh! Brought android phone, DVD of Tron, and vols. 10-24 of [insert favorite manga here] and cute nerd boy on train still saying nothing!” You know, made it the sort of bait that would have been preposterously obvious to anyone but a particularly diffident type of nerd.

    But women having computers is like women having breasts: it is not a magical signal that they really do want geeky men to approach. It is a completely non-magical signal that they have something to do on the computer. Opening a computer on public transportation is not a signal to all available men to converge and strut. So I’m disturbed that xkcd is attributing a motive to the woman that basically doesn’t exist for the vast majority of computer-using women.

    I’m also seriously bothered that it condemns women for having the chutzpah to tell people who bother us in public spaces to take a flying leap. Women have the courage to do that all too seldom, and the consequences for our indoctrination of niceness can range from annoying to pretty damned serious. I have never met a woman who says “Fuck off” to a perfectly nice guy for a perfectly innocent comment just to make him squirm. I expect nice guys get that response to respectful overtures every once in a while, but I bet they don’t look around and say, “Wow, it’s two a.m. and this woman and I are the only people in the subway car. Maybe I’m freaking her out. Maybe I should back off.” No, they think, “I am a nice guy, I make an innocent comment, and she shoots me down!” Helloooo, privilege!

    Yeah, I like xkcd, and it took a few readthroughs for me to pin down what bugged me here. Essentially it is that the cartoon condemns something women do to protect themselves as an overreaction, while mourning the tragic fact that men sometimes fear humiliation. Sorry, but that’s a FAIL.

  30. Yeah. I didn’t see the alt text but I was really irritated by that strip. Thanks.

    I begin to think that just as adults approaching children in public need to be very very hands-off and non-threatening, so too do men approaching women – make it extra extra clear that one isn’t a threat, not by saying “Trust me!” but by actually acting non-threatening.

  31. Tanz, you misinterpreted the comic… the two guys are the same, and she doesn’t actually bite his head off, that’s what he’s afraid she will do if he talks to her. That’s what the thought bubbles indicated.

    I’ve been both the shy awkward girl wishing the cute boy on the train would talk to her, and the woman who really wishes that guy would just leave her the fuck alone. And part of the reason I’ve been the latter is because I’m not interested and therefore there’s no good way for me to respond. If I act cold or say I’m not interested in a conversation, I’m a bitch. If I act warm and friendly, I’m encouraging him, and then when I reject him I’m a bitch who sent him mixed signals. If we lived in a culture where I could say: “I’m not interested in chatting right now, thanks anyway” and have that accepted, or in a culture where I could have a chat with a male stranger on the train and not have it end with him trying to get my phone number and being annoyed when I won’t give it to him, I’d be a lot more receptive toward random train conversations.

    And I’d also like to echo the people who talk about body language – she has her back to him! Angling yourself away from someone is about as clear a signal as you can give that you’re not interested. Now if she’d been looking at him, or smiling, or if she’d said hi herself, or in the case of a shy awkward girl, she’d been stealing glances and playing nervously with her hair… then, it would be worth thinking she was maybe interested.

  32. It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.

    Oh, I get it — you’re engaging in satire!

  33. And now that I’ve scrolled up, what? There’s no social pressure for women and girls to be nice about unwanted advances?

    Are you new?

  34. side note: I actually did say “Why are you talking to me?” once, when some man I didn’t know tried to talk to me (well, yell at me, since he was in a car) while I was jogging. I said it with a genuinely curious tone — eyebrows half raised, flat expression with a raising of pitch at the end… sort of how someone might ask a park ranger how old the stalactites are. It worked pretty well. I got to FINISH MY JOG, which was what I wanted to do, as anyone who looked at me could have told.

  35. Tanz33 said:
    “It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.”

    Are you for real? What universe do you live in, because I’d really like to visit it.

    (I’d link to Shakesville but blogger appears to be down for now.)

    SM: “But the girl here is generic, and her only role in this comic is to demonstrate that women really want attention even when you think they don’t.”

    YES this is exactly what bugged me about it. The strip seems to function as a fantasy-fulfillment, that the geeky guy is just overthinking things, that women really DO want his attention, if ONLY oh if only he could get up the courage to talk to them. When, of course IRL, the real reaction, regardless of his intent, is more likely to be “GOE AWAY.”

  36. Essentially it is that the cartoon condemns something women do to protect themselves as an overreaction, while mourning the tragic fact that men sometimes fear humiliation.

    YES, thank you.

  37. My mind is exploding.

    I’ve had guys harrass me before: I told them where to go and I have not yet had a negative reaction to that. I have also had some amazing conversations with people, both men and women, who were strangers before they (or I) made a comment to one another. I didn’t realize I was only supposed to speak to women, and assume all guys who talk to me are exercising some kind of secret male-power, because I am just so damn awesome.

    And I object to it being made into a male/female thing when it’s really about manners. Harrasment is bad manners; so is calling someone a pervert (or whatever term the comic used) because they *dared* to address someone of the opposite sex in public.

  38. To be honest, while I can see where others might interpret that xkcd comic the way seen in Sociological Images and so forth, I didn’t read it that way at -all-. I think I didn’t because I, though female, am a lot like the guy on the train in that my overactive imagination tends to formulate entire fictional scenes based on one potential action, and in many cases those scenes simply don’t end well for me. (Which I think says something about me, d’oh.)

    After reading other interpretations, I just thought how it was a shame that there are people who really -would- be creepers inspiring (and deserving) an understandable reaction from the girl, and thus making it more difficult for someone who may just be interested in another person in a harmless (that is, “She seems neat/is cute, maybe I should say hi or something?”) way.

    To me it just seemed to mirror my own imagination, though for me, before I fell in love and got married, it was more like imagining a scene where I’d be rudely rebuffed and even mocked for expressing interest in a fellow, because I’m fat. I logically know the majority of men are not the sort to do so even if they aren’t interested in me, but the accounts regarding those few asshats resonated in my imagination. So I ended up being a bit more sympathetic to both parties in the comic, and thus a little bit saddened that both would be adversely affected by a relatively small percentage of the population.

  39. I understand your POV, but I’m with the previous posters who just aren’t getting that from this strip. I see it as two shy geeks with no rape, domination, or power game subtexts. He’s afraid of being rejected. She’s afraid to talk to him first. They both lose out. You could easily read it the other way and say that her thoughts imply that a woman can have any guy if only she has the right gadget and is willing to make the first move.

  40. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.

    Are you serious?

  41. assume all guys who talk to me are exercising some kind of secret male-power

    Right, that power is usually called male privilege, and if you don’t know about it then I think you might be using the word “feminist” in a manner with which most people here are unaccustomed. Does anyone have a 101 link?

  42. My mind is exploding.

    That happened when I encountered feminism for the first time, too.

    I wonder what you’ve been mistaking for it all this time?

  43. And I object to it being made into a male/female thing when it’s really about manners. Harrasment is bad manners; so is calling someone a pervert (or whatever term the comic used) because they *dared* to address someone of the opposite sex in public.

    Oh for fuck’s sake. We need Miss Conduct over here, stat.

    You know what would be good manners? If men stopped harassing women for being out in public.

  44. Also, tanz33, I’ve reread your comments several times and I am boggled by this but I think it’s true: you didn’t understand the strip. You seem to think the first encounter really happened, that she really yelled at someone, and then she wants a DIFFERENT guy to hit on her. That’s not the scenario; the man imagines her sticking up for her personal space, and does not invade it, and we then find out that in fact she wanted him to approach her and is annoyed that he’s being respectful instead. Does that help?

    ETA: Oh, Becky already made this point!

  45. You could easily read it the other way and say that her thoughts imply that a woman can have any guy if only she has the right gadget and is willing to make the first move.

    Again, this is actually *still sexist.*

  46. Resto, Cat, et al: It would be funny and cute if the comic showed a woman madly sending out signals that she’s very interested. But when the comic says, “This woman, who is sitting with her computer facing away from you, is really just dying for you to approach her and got out her computer as a way to attract your attention,” it’s doing a disservice to all of us who use precisely that stance to politely say Leave me alone.

  47. Oh jesus. Yes, fine, let’s just all laugh at the woman who dared to assert a boundary. And of fucking COURSE it’s possible to imagine the strip being written with the gender roles reversed and it would read EXACTLY the same way. Seriously?

    Look, it’s “funny” because the pretend woman dared to put conditions on how she was willing to be interacted with by strangers, which is supposed to make us laugh at what a rude bitch she is, and then laugh again when we realize, with a knowing glance at a contented sigh, that the real woman wanted to be talked to anyway! Which just proves what a rude bitch the fake woman is! Ha ha ha ha ha! Those women, with their rude boundary-asserting about their own space and willingness to talk! It’s funny when women want to have their own space and not be talked to! Because it’s usually MEN who have permission to do that! HILARIOUS!

  48. Ok, Tanz33, I’m going to tell a quick story to get this across to you, in a way I think will make sense and hope that 8,000 people haven’t already said it way better than me. Or actually I guess I do hope that happens, but anyway, on with the story.

    There is this 30 year old guy who won’t stop talking to me in my history class. He told me I look like Keri Russell, and tells jokes to me, and generally weirds me out a bit. It’s clear it’s flirting, but he’s not touching me. I’m still creeped out and uncomfortable. The other we were talking about our papers in the class, he did his over the Reign of Terror, I asked him what he put for his opinion on whether it was good or bad. I figured bad so I asked, “did you say the Reign of Terror was bad?” He responded “I said it was so bad it needed a spanking.”

    THAT WAS CREEPY AND WEIRD. I’m 19 and he’s 30. If I told him to leave me alone, people would call me insane, but it’s a night class, and I don’t want to meet him in the parking lot. So I have a choice keep putting up with it and being scared when I leave the building at 9:30 pm or lose the respect of my peers and the professors in my second major which is history. This fear is added to by the fact that all my professors are male.

    He never touched or attacked me, but I’m scared of him and PRESSURED into not speaking up.

    Do you get it yet?

  49. Nicely put, Starling, and I was going to say “nicely put, Starling” for your previous comment too, so nicely put x2.

  50. Heh, that’s it. I officially share bits of A Sarah’s and Sweet Machine’s brains, since I just deleted what I thought was a bit over-the-top snarky comment and contained much of what both just said.

    I can offer a decent design sense and 12 wasted years of musical training in exchange for the space I’m clearly renting in your respective brains.

    …All I wanna do is eat your brains / I’m not unreasonable / I’m not gonna eat your eyes…

  51. However, the way I originally read the comic (as these are my own fears), attributes the negative reaction not to the actions of crazy bitchy women, but to him actually being creepy. That is, not that the woman is some unknowable other, but that he realises that women get accosted by unwanted attention and fears that he could be a source.

    Would the latter interpretation (partially) negate the criticism, or am I missing part of/failing to understand the Nice Guy TM issue?

    Jake, that’s an interesting take on it, but then how do you explain the last panel and the mouseover, where it’s made clear that she really wanted him to talk to her?

  52. Of course I delurk over an xkcd strip.

    I guess I’ll start off by saying that I love xkcd, but I don’t think that Sweet Machine is wrong here. I do think that Munroe was trying to play off the same idea as this strip: http://xkcd.com/458/ He was trying to set up a little scenario where the guy talked himself out of approaching someone he was interested in when it turned out she would have been interested too. However, by setting this scenario up on a bus rather than at a party or something, he revealed a blind spot of his own. Women going about their normal days do not appreciate being hit on at any given time. He’s probably never experienced something like this himself, and obviously not from a woman’s point of view.

    I get the idea that he was going for, and I think it could make for a very cute strip, but he presented it in such a way that it reinforces a negative element in our culture. And with how many of his readers completely missed the point on the Nice Guy strip, I think Munroe does need to be careful about how he represents these kinds of interactions, since he does seem like a pretty feminist-minded guy.

  53. Come on, guys! You’re all SO HUMORLESS. Also:

    It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.

    Ditto the collective “bzuh?!” ‘Cause dayam, I wish that were true. I have stories. Creepy, creepy stories.

  54. @tanz33: It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.

    Actually, yeah, men do strike up unwanted conversations with women–pretty much at random, from what I’ve noticed and experienced–and there is plenty of social pressure, to not “be a stuck up bitch” for not responding to unwanted bids for attention.

    There’s also a bit of immediate fear that not responding nicely to an unwanted come-on will escalate into a scarier situation because the ultimate motivations of the man in question–who is a stranger in this scenario–aren’t clear.

    And if you’ve never been accosted by a man who starts out by saying hello and then after a few remarks about the weather follows you down the street telling you all sorts of explicit scatalogical things he was going to do to you just because you’ve told him you were already in a relationship, he was making you uncomfortable and that you were done with the conversation. . .

    Well, enjoy your privilege to not understand why I’m a little cautious about a strange man saying hello to me on the street.

  55. Why do I feel like this post is so very appropriate coming on the heels of last night’s Mad Men? If you don’t watch it, basically what happened is:

    Pete Campbell (the socially inept office punching bag) is left alone while his wife is on summer vacation. He encounters the neighbor’s Au Pair trying to get rid of a dress that she ruined and offers to help her by replacing the dress. She reluctantly accepts his help but turns him down when he–sleazebag that he is–tries to pick her up afterward. He then shows up at her door, drunk, bullies his way into the house and rapes her. At best you can call it 100% coerced consent, since she’s basically looking at physical violence or him raising hell and getting her fired. Her boss finds out anyway, due to the fact that his nanny is an emotional wreck, and it’s treated as a non-event (they have a conversation that’s basically, “dude, go rape someone else’s nanny…have you no decency?”)

    I guess the relevance I see is that accepting the attentions of men sometimes feels hugely fraught and hugely laden with expectations. You flat out don’t know where this is going to go or what he’s going to offer, and even though this is 2009, not 1963, there are plenty of men who feel that they are entitled to sex simply for being semi-decent human beings and who are willing to take their due. I have met these men at parties. I have met these men on the internet. I have discovered these men among groups of “friends.” So yeah, sometimes an entirely innocent guy might get his head bitten off and might not get laid by total strangers that he approaches on buses. Big fucking deal. That’s not the fault of feminism. That’s the fault of rape culture.

  56. tanz33, are you sure it was harassment? Because I’m not. Yes, he was staring at me, I’m guessing as a way to draw my attention, but after that he stopped and was very polite. He never once said anything rude, he tried to be nice and have a decent conversation, asking me about college and life in general, didn’t even ask the “do you have a boyfriend?” question. He was trying to pick me up, that’s for sure, but he wasn’t a creep at all, he seemed like a regular decent guy. Thing is, I didn’t want to be in that conversation, I wanted to take my bus quietly, think about my assignments and sleep, but I had no idea how to stop it. I didn’t want to be impolite, but had no interest in responding nicely to his come-ons either. Just like the guy in the comic is afraid of the back lash, so am I. I am afraid of hearing “crazy bitch, I was just talking to you”, of everyone else in line looking at me like some sort of psycho, or even of having to get into an argument I do not wish to have with a complete stranger about how he really is an okay guy and he just wants to talk because I seemed nice and cute and really he’s not trying to be a pain but if I can please tell him why I’m not interested please, because you know what? It’s Monday morning and I’m tired, and it’s just easier to play along.

  57. I think you’ve overreacted.

    This is satire too, right?

    Let’s just treat it as such. Nobody here is required to do 101, and at any rate there are already 101 links in here for the taking.

  58. I also had Jake’s reaction, obvy, and the fact that she explicitly wanted him to talk to her can be described if the XKCD stick female is, in fact, also nerd – if xkcd is exploring primarily nerd life in a nerd universe, and this is a discussion of both sides of the equation.

    What it doesn’t do is any sort of understanding of her own social fears: ie; why she doesn’t talk to him. I have found xkcd always inclusive (it wouldn’t occur to me to make her not a nerd as it might at Penny Arcade, two not-as-inclusive guys), but that doesn’t mean he necessarily deeply understands what the less privileged position looks like. So in this case, he’s seeing the dude’s inner dialogue but just her reaction.

    In a truly gender balanced comic, he’d have the dude doing his fear, and she’d be freaking out about beauty myth stuff or whether he only liked her gear; and yeah, she might also worry that he was going to be one of those pull-out-your-dick geeks, and try to one up her, or worse, install something…

  59. Heh. In a gender balanced comic, you’d have four frames of his thought process, the frame of the two of them on the train, and at least eight frames of hers.

    There’s privilege right there. *g*

  60. Incidentally, I wish I lived in xkcd world, where a woman can say “This man is harassing me” on the subway and have the rest of the riders jump in with “Leave her alone, creep.” Because here in the real world, most people avert their eyes and pretend they don’t notice.

  61. It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation.

    Seriously…this statement confused the shit out of me. Because, at least in my life, yes, it IS like men are going around willy-nilly accosting [me] and attempting to engage [me] in conversation.

    Often they are harmless and nice, I’m sure, but the problem is I have been assaulted before, starting with similar overtures, and I have no way of knowing who is a Nice Guy (for reals) and who is a Nice Guy ™ who is waiting to hurl epithets at and/or grab me because I decided I’d really rather not have sex with him right there on the spot.

    I wish I were exaggerating. But this is, indeed, the world I live in, and I know lots of other women, too. The small price of occasionally offending a random dude on the street who tries to talk to me is a totally worthwhile trade-off for defending myself from potential harm.

    And I don’t even go around snapping pictures or hollering back at my harassers or whatever. Yet, sometimes by their reactions, you’d think I had, just by not reesponding or politely requesting to be left in peace.

  62. Incidentally, I wish I lived in xkcd world, where a woman can say “This man is harassing me” on the subway and have the rest of the riders jump in with “Leave her alone, creep.” Because here in the real world, most people avert their eyes and pretend they don’t notice.

    And quoted for absolute truth.

  63. This is satire too, right?

    No, i was being sincere.

    I think fillyjonk’s reaction was nitpicking.

    I just think that the comic strip was well intentioned. I agree with Arwen’s point of view:

    I’m seeing a wish for non-poisoned, genuine dialogue in a place where the attraction is genuine but culture is painful. So yeah, to me this is a “patriarchy hurts everyone” combined with “life as an introvert” (and/or neurological atypical) sort of thing, and the bittersweetness of that really resonates for me.

    I don’t think they were trying to reinforce the patriachy.

  64. @ Sweet Machine

    Like Arwen mentioned, my initial reading assumed that they are *both* geeks, because that’s what xkcd is. The whole composition is obviously a bit inelegant (as evidenced by this entire debate and the multitude of different interpretations), but the message I took away from it was “hey, he’s socially awkward (but she is, too)”. Again, as someone who frequently has anxieties parallel the guy in this strip, part of the fear is based on the assumption that everyone else knows, understands, and abides by these social cues and rules that are elusive to you. I felt like the strip was gently making fun of that by pointing out that other people are making it up as they go, too.

    I mean, from my initial take, I can imagine the comic being structured in the reverse. Awkward Person A thinks about trying to signal hir interest in (not known to be geeky/awkward) Person B by displaying shiny technology, but decides against it because obviously Person B would be unimpressed or think it geeky or lame; meanwhile Person B is lamenting that zie’s got nothing to start a conversation with Person A over… I don’t see the fact that the girl happens to be the “punchline” (and thus handled more briefly) is necessary to the comic.

  65. Can I just say that I luuurrrv it that other feminsts & FA people are huge geeks who know xkcd, Penny Arcade, JoCo, etc.? Sometimes I feel alone out there amongst the many geek guys I have has friends, and although they are feminists, sometimes it’s cool to hang out with other female geeks. Even if it’s virtually.

  66. Well, goldnsilver, I would agree with you that I’m coming from a different lens, as are (obvy) you – but I don’t think anyone is overreacting or nitpicking. What they’re doing is seeing it from a different perspective.

    My only real issue with such a perspective is if it leaves him a geek and not her, because, dude, he believes in female scientists as if they were all real and smart and shit, and he loves whimsy and brains and has never drawn anyone in a short skirt and high heels while doing math.

    Otherwise, what you’re looking at is another valid interpretation of a woman and a man on a train based on a lifetime of experience.

  67. goldnsilver: 567Kate said it very well in a post above, and I quote:

    He was trying to set up a little scenario where the guy talked himself out of approaching someone he was interested in when it turned out she would have been interested too. However, by setting this scenario up on a bus rather than at a party or something, he revealed a blind spot of his own. Women going about their normal days do not appreciate being hit on at any given time. He’s probably never experienced something like this himself, and obviously not from a woman’s point of view.

    I get the idea that he was going for, and I think it could make for a very cute strip, but he presented it in such a way that it reinforces a negative element in our culture.

    I agree that the strip was well intentioned. The execution, however, fell short.

  68. Yeah, that’s the funny thing about reinforcing the status quo: you don’t actually have to try.

    You’re correct, however that doesn’t change the point that this post is all about nitpicking.

    Look, I’m a fan of the fugitivus website. She’s really opened my eyes to the rape culture and the conditioning of young girls.

    However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that the comic author’s intention is otherwise. Would you prefer that all media and literature was politically correct? That social commentry had harsh guidelines?

  69. I don’t see the fact that the girl happens to be the “punchline” (and thus handled more briefly) is necessary to the comic.

    So what I see you saying is that the same joke could have been made in a way that didn’t play on the idea that deep down women really want to be accosted… but it wasn’t?

    So… it doesn’t matter if something is sexist if it could easily not have been sexist?

    Because I kind of see it as the opposite. Fine, he almost certainly didn’t mean to play into patriarchy and rape culture — when it’s the default, it’s really easy to slip into that by accident. But I don’t think it’s good enough to not try to be harmful; you should actually try not to be.

  70. Again, as someone who frequently has anxieties parallel the guy in this strip, part of the fear is based on the assumption that everyone else knows, understands, and abides by these social cues and rules that are elusive to you. I felt like the strip was gently making fun of that by pointing out that other people are making it up as they go, too.

    Thank for clarifying, Jake, and I see what you’re getting at with this interpretation and your reframing of the scenario. My biggest objection to this *particular* scenario being used for that is that the rules that the Nerd Guy imagines are in fact the exact opposite of the ones that women are expected to live by. Since Munroe has shown some reasonably informed ideas about gender and sexism before in the strip, I have to think that he knows that. I think you’re probably right that if the Nerd Girl had equal air time, so to speak, it would have read very differently and much less Nice Guy-ish.

  71. However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that the comic author’s intention is otherwise. Would you prefer that all media and literature was politically correct? That social commentry had harsh guidelines?

    Oh hello there Straw Man! Perhaps you would like to read our Comments Policy, particularly rules 4 and 10.

  72. tanz33: Becky said so above, but you’re missing a key point. The girl didn’t scream or yell at him, and because of “nice, appropriately-feminine” response society prefers, she probably wouldn’t have. He thought about speaking to her, decided she would cause a scene, and chose not to begin the conversation.

    One thing that has bothered me about your comments, is that you’re applying your opinion that it’s fun to talk to random people on public transport to everyone. For me it’s not. I use that time to think about the day ahead, or to put that day behind me. I have my headphones in, I’m looking out the window; everything about my body language is telling others not to engage at that time. It is very rude when they choose to do otherwise.

  73. “However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that I was only trying to talk to you about how pretty you look in that dress. Would you prefer that I was never allowed to say anything nice about anyone ever, or only allowed to talk to other men? Maybe you want me put in a camp and castrated?”

  74. Sigh.

    “However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that the comic author’s intention is otherwise. Would you prefer that all media and literature was politically correct? That social commentry had harsh guidelines?”

    Goldn’silver, I think you need to do more 101-level reading. This stuff doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it doesn’t “not count” just because it’s a comic strip and there’s like, women really getting raped, and excuse me, but I value being “politically correct” because not harming people with my language is more important to me than getting to say whatever stupid bigoted shit I think up. And also, this is probably not the spot to get the vapors about being PC.

  75. @ Fillyjonk

    My point was that my interpretation of the comic, in context, was not/much less sexist than the way that other people have interpreted that. That the roles could have been reversed without changing my understanding and interpretation of the idea of the comic. I was trying to use the feasibility of that reversal to illustrate my interpretation. As I said, I do think it was a bit inelegantly handled (567Kate put it very well); the other (perfectly valid) interpretations that people have expressed would not be conserved in my hypothetical role reversal.

  76. Jake, yeah, I understand that, but to me the fact that it could have been just as effective without playing into rape culture means that, you know, maybe it shouldn’t have.

    Basically, there are two ways of setting up this comic, equally effective — you said so yourself.

    One has a woman secretly wanting to be accosted by a stranger on public transportation, and a man who’s scared to do it because he thinks she’ll act like a ball-busting feminazi. SM explains at length why this is problematic.

    The other doesn’t.

    Why do we defend the choice of the first? Just because it’s unintentional, i.e. thoughtless?

    Munroe’s a smart and aware guy. He can do better than “thoughtless.”

  77. Fourth rule: If you even fucking mention “free speech” with regard to my comments policy, you will be banned.

    I didn’t mention free speech in regards to your comments or comments policy. Read your own rules. I mentioned political correctness in the context of literature, media and texts.

    Tenth Rule: If you are tempted to begin an argument against something we’ve said here with, “God, stop being so PC!” just stop right there.

    You’ve got me on that one. I personally hate political correctness, but if that’s one of the rules of your blog then I’ll respectfully leave it out of the discussion.

    “However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that I was only trying to talk to you about how pretty you look in that dress. Would you prefer that I was never allowed to say anything nice about anyone ever, or only allowed to talk to other men? Maybe you want me put in a camp and castrated?”

    For fuck sake, that’s childish exaggeration and you know it. Does this mean that you guys can never be criticised, because my criticism is obvi0usly one step away from me supporting rapists?

  78. They’re debating and opening eyes, not nitpicking.

    Yeah, pretty much. It’s using a comic that did something worth pointing out, as a springboard for a larger conversation about a genuine issue! That’s a good thing, right?

  79. @Jake – the main problem is that the reaction of the female character, as it is, is almost but not quite universally discouraged in western society for most women. Aside from some very beautiful women in some very specific contexts. Whereas a man who was rebuffing a man, an older, fat, or “ugly” woman’s attention in such a similar way would be considered “normal”. He would only be not normal if he were rebuffing a non stereotypically beautiful woman. So the scenario of his fantasy is a reaction a woman might sometimes want to display but largely cannot access in the moment. She can usually only talk about it after the fact.

  80. Does this mean that you guys can never be criticised, because my criticism is obvi0usly one step away from me supporting rapists?

    Oh my god, you are PRECIOUS! I love how I call you out on your slippery slope fallacy and you set up a new one twice as fast. I can’t wait until you contravene the policy one more time and I get to ban you.

  81. “Yeah, pretty much. It’s using a comic that did something worth pointing out, as a springboard for a larger conversation about a genuine issue! That’s a good thing, right?”

    GASP — stop being so PC :D

  82. (Everyone besides goldnsilver understood the parallel and got why “why are you getting your panties in a twist, I/he didn’t mean anything by it” is not a valid argument in this space, right?)

  83. Ok sorry for my flippant commentary above, back to being serious.

    “For fuck sake, that’s childish exaggeration and you know it. Does this mean that you guys can never be criticised, because my criticism is obvi0usly one step away from me supporting rapists?”

    I think you seriously missed the point of the “exaggeration.” Also, just because it may be “childish exaggeration,” does that somehow automatically eliminate the point being made? Cause, see, this sounds an awful lot like a tone argument to me. So what was it, again, you were disagreeing with in that “childish exaggeration”?

  84. I didn’t create a slippery slope fallacy, I believe you did with this:

    “However, I think this kind of criticism is going a step too far, when it’s clear that I was only trying to talk to you about how pretty you look in that dress. Would you prefer that I was never allowed to say anything nice about anyone ever, or only allowed to talk to other men? Maybe you want me put in a camp and castrated?”

  85. I didn’t create a slippery slope fallacy, I believe you did with this:

    Oh, you’re so close to getting it. So close.

  86. I see both ways of reading this. Honestly, I’m not offended by it, in large part because I feel that Jake’s interpretation (that the guy is worried that he might be perceived as creepy by striking up a conversation even though it’s not his intent) has a lot of merit.

    At the same time, I think it’s naive to think that women don’t have cultural pressure to always be polite, even when men are harassing us. I’ve been whistled at, had kissy noises made at me, been offered rides up the hill to my apartment (one guy even circled the block and asked me again), I’ve been groped at clubs and had men make commentary about my breasts in public (yes, I know they’re big). And yet, if I make a commotion, I’m over reacting because they “didn’t mean anything by it.” I’m supposed to just act uncomfortable and ignore them. I don’t buy it.

  87. (Everyone besides goldnsilver understood the parallel and got why “why are you getting your panties in a twist, I/he didn’t mean anything by it” is not a valid argument in this space, right?)

    I guess that I just disagree with this. And I shouldn’t be banned for disagreeing.

  88. “I didn’t create a slippery slope fallacy, I believe you did with this:”

    Wait, I thought that was “childish exaggeration,” now it’s a slippery slope argument? I’m so confuzzled.

  89. GASP — stop being so PC :D

    I’ll be as PC as I want! ;D

    …but seriously, I define being Politically Correct as “not saying things that are insulting and rude to big groups of people.” People that lament about “wah, it sucks to be PC” often come across as jerks that don’t care to take into account that their right to say any darn thing that comes into their head doesn’t trump the right of other people to be comfortable in a discussion/place.

    People who go “stop being so PC!” when the discussion turns a bit feminist or progressive make my head get all desky.

  90. And I shouldn’t be banned for disagreeing.

    Nope, but luckily you’ve given me plenty of other reasons.

  91. I think SM has a point, but I also think that maybe anger at other things is bleeding into it (Polanski thing, which is totally justified) and xkcd is sort of the dog that gets kicked after a bad day of work.

    It’s problematic, but I don’t think it goes so far as to imply or encourage rape. And anyone who reads xkcd on a regular basis knows that the author is generally anti-sexist and tries to check his privilege. He slipped up, he is in fact not perfect, the cartoon he produces is not perfect.

  92. I *have* actually gone apeshit on men who try to chat me up at random before now. A few months back I was trying to find some friends in an extremely large park, with no mobile phone battery and no real idea of who they were. My feet hurt, I was hungry, I was thirsty and I was CROSS.

    As will surprise almost nobody who reads this, I was approached by no less than four men over the course of my 30-45 min trek to find the people I was looking for. One followed me for a good five minutes and thoroughly creeped me out before saying anything to me. Another sat down next to me when I paused at a bench to rest my feet (bloody heels) and started edging closer and closer as he made conversation. Another saw me with an unlit cigarette in my mouth digging through my handbag unable to find a light, so came up and offered me one. I gratefully accepted, thanked him, smiled and walked on – only for him to trot along aside me asking me if I had a boyfriend. Another popped up from behind me and tried to grab my arse.

    They all received a diatribe of bile, venom and feminist theory (condensed, with four letter words to help the message along) the like of which I haven’t spewed out since. It was extremely liberating – and rather good fun, actually – but I could never normally manage it. I am polite and well-mannered by nature, and besides it could well turn out to be a very dangerous thing to do.

  93. @Jake Too many negatives in my statement: a man might be considered abnormal if he rebuffed a beautiful woman, but has many examples of it being okay to mock and rebuff most women (those that often don’t “count” as women – the fat, old, plain, other-abled, etc.)
    Therefore, you can’t easy switch genders in a larger social context, and indeed can’t even in XKCD’s frictionless world, because the constraints are different. For example, I can wander around society commenting on people’s notebooks and as a fat mom with grey in my hair, have to work extra hard to be seen as sexual without being laughable. Whereas Steve Jobs can say “nice notebook” to a young woman and she will not only take his sexuality seriously but be required to see as present, so that she negotiates around it without ever sending “the wrong signals”.

  94. Lampdevil, I of course totally agree with you, I was just alleviating my frustration by making a dumb joke :)

    “I guess that I just disagree with this. And I shouldn’t be banned for disagreeing.”

    I just….gods. What, you disagree with the idea that we shouldn’t have to keep listening to asshats go “but I didn’t MEAN to offend you! Stop overreacting!” I think you missed the part where we hear this shit ALL. THE. TIME. Did you ever hear about the idea of “bingo” cards? The idea being that the arguments are so tired, we hear them so often, that we can literally play bingo with them. That’s why nobody wants to play with you, precious, not because you disagree.

  95. And anyone who reads xkcd on a regular basis knows that the author is generally anti-sexist and tries to check his privilege.

    That’s why we get to expect better of him.

  96. So, I’m kind of wondering if our different readings of this strip owe anything to different rulesets for public transportation culture in different regions.

    In New York, my experience is that you Do Not talk to other people on the subway unless you have a pressing need for information. And as a result of that culture, I tend to be really wary of anyone who talks to me on the subway, because they’re violating a social rule right from the beginning, which is a good indication that they might be too aggressive or too socially inept to understand that you Do Not talk to other people on the subway. Would not be surprised if that’s true in Boston as well. (I’ve only had two strangers strike up conversations with me on the subway. One sexually harassed me. The other saw me reading a Japanese book and wanted me to do some translations for him, for free. Haaaah no.)

    But that’s not necessarily true in other places where I’ve lived.

  97. goldnsilver: Intention is irrelevant. We’re pointing out that Munroe made a clumsy misstep which took a nice little joke about social insecurities (the one Jake and Arwen read) and ended up instead reinforcing a particularly noxious bit of rape culture that we’d like stamped out. That doesn’t mean Munroe is a bad person. It just means that he’s a bit tone-deaf in this matter.

    I claim my right to froth at the mouth as a Humorless Bitchy Feminist when the idea that all women secretly want men’s attention–whatever they appear to be saying or implying–is reinforced. Even by cool comic strips. Because the conceit that women’s statements and actions can be ignored in the face of men’s projections and assumptions is a foundational myth that allows men to rape women. That’s why this apparently harmless little comic strip is getting the Big Gun treatment. It would be a horrible overreaction–if we didn’t live in a world where women get raped and men successfully argue in court that the woman was saying no “seductively” and therefore didn’t really mean no (see Commonwealth v. Berkowitz.)

    Does this mean that Munroe is morally equivalent to a rapist? Fuck no. But it does mean that people who have an audience have to be careful that they aren’t inadvertently endorsing poisonous social myths, because the HBF brigade will call them out on it.

  98. No problemo, Ethyl. :D You just provided me with a springboard into something that I had been wanting to say!

    That’s why we get to expect better of him.

    Yup, yup, absolutely, totally. That’s what I’ve been seeing here. This isn’t a condemnation of the guy, so much as pointing out a mistake that he made. The act of pointing out a mistake isn’t the same as declaring the person to be bad and wrong for all eternity.

    I’d be totally happy if Mr. Munroe realized that he goofed a bit, and perhaps did a follow-up strip sometime. Hey! It could be a learning experience! (I’m in my happy optimistic place, please don’t pull me away from it.)

  99. Can you not say precious like that again guys? Not to be a nitpicker here, but that’s what men do when they want to make it clear we’re below them, it’s no better woman to woman. Otherwise I agree with everything you’ve said Fillyjonk and Ethyl.

  100. That’s why we get to expect better of him.

    Right, and why this doesn’t mean that I’m going to stop reading xkcd, try to stop others from reading it, starting Facebook groups called “XKCD IS SEXIST,” and so on. I wrote this post because I had been thinking about that comic and about the song for the last day, and how they handled the same problem (“why can’t I, geeky male, get this cute girl to talk to me”) with such different results. I like xkcd, and I do trust that its author has mostly got his heart and head in the right place; that’s why I was bothered by the strip, in fact.

    As Jay Smooth reminds us, calling people out is about what people do, not who they are deep down.

  101. Not to be a nitpicker here, but that’s what men do when they want to make it clear we’re below them, it’s no better woman to woman.

    Hm, is it? Or is this a personal trigger? Either way, no sweat, you won’t hear it again from me in this thread — but I call people “precious” all the time (usually in a fond way, but when I’m delighted by their naivete, as I was in a less-fond way with goldnsilver) and I’ve never had that association with it.

    ETA: Then again, now that I think of it, I’ve almost only said it to men, which has sort of absolved me of having to think too hard about the implications.

  102. That is one of my favorite songs in the history of EVER. SO much love for it. And, of course, the rest of your post was spot on. Thank you for so fabulously articulating everything I didn’t know was bothering me about that particular strip.

  103. I think it might be a personal trigger thing, or maybe it’s a midwest thing? I don’t know, but I get it quite a bit. Thanks for understanding, I love this blog and how if you try to express things in a polite way and give a logical explaination people will respect you and listen to what you have to say. You guys just in general fucking rock. :)

  104. I love this blog and how if you try to express things in a polite way and give a logical explaination people will respect you and listen to what you have to say.

    No no, didn’t you hear? We’re PC militants who ban anyone who criticizes us ever!

  105. Some people aren’t getting that Derailing for Dummies is not literally an instruction manual.

    The whole “cute netbook” thing is bothering me. Women’s tech must always be cute, cute, cute! Function, power, performance, a woman craves not these things. Even if there were nothing else wrong with the comic, that alone would make me bang my head on my desk.

  106. FJ said:
    “…but I call people “precious” all the time (usually in a fond way, but when I’m delighted by their naivete, as I was in a less-fond way with goldnsilver) and I’ve never had that association with it…”

    I was mostly coming from the same place with it, and in my head at any rate I always hear it in a Gollum voice :) But, and not to be an asshole, no, I’m not going to stop using it. I will on this thread because it seems to be upsetting another poster, but this isn’t like asking someone not to say “lame.”

  107. You know, as a denizen of the nerd universe for pretty much as long as I’ve possessed awareness, I’m bewildered at the notion that nerd-girls in the nerd universe would somehow be exempt from all the crap the regular girls in the larger social universe get to wade through.

    Which is to say, even assuming an all-nerd population on the mass transit in that comic strip, it still fails in the ways Sweet Machine lays out.

  108. alibelle said:
    “…and how if you try to express things in a polite way and give a logical explaination people will respect you and listen to what you have to say.”

    I sure wish that was true :)

  109. May I suggest to new commentors, specially to those disagreeing with the views expressed in the posts, to first get acquainted with the terms we deal with on a regular basis, such as “male-white-thin-etc-privilege”, “rape culture” and “Nice Guy TM”. It will really make things easier for everyone, and in disagreement your chances of annoying people drop considerably if said people don’t have to point out the 101 stuff after every one of your comments.

  110. Women’s tech must always be cute, cute, cute! Function, power, performance, a woman craves not these things.

    I want my tech to be cute AND be awesome. I like that so many things come in pink these days. I like pink! I resent when the pinkness is the main selling point that’s thrown at me, though.

    I’ve been nerdin’ it up long enough that I remember when everything was beige, and when stuff that was BLACK was super-awesome. Heh. Again, going back to my hesitation to set out geek-bait for conversations, I wouldn’t try using my laptop Pinky (yes, my laptop has name) to get attention from geek guys. The ones I tend to run into are the ones that’d get dick-wavey about it. (I think I suffer from traumatic conformation bias, or something… guh.)

  111. I will on this thread because it seems to be upsetting another poster

    I think that is fair. I don’t plan to stop saying it to friends (especially male friends) who I know don’t find it triggering either, but it’s perfectly okay for alibelle to say “hey, I’m feeling a little raw about this, do you mind hanging up that particular term for the moment.”

  112. “I think that is fair. I don’t plan to stop saying it to friends (especially male friends) who I know don’t find it triggering either, but it’s perfectly okay for alibelle to say “hey, I’m feeling a little raw about this, do you mind hanging up that particular term for the moment.””

    ITA, I apologize if I came across more snarky, I might have carried over my frustration at this thread into a comment where it wasn’t warranted, sorry!

  113. Actually, a friend of mine met his wife on the train, in London. They had sort of noticed eachother for a while, and it wasn’t until she slipped a note into his pocket with her phone number that he actually worked up the courage to speak to her.

    I have to say, I disagree with the interpretation here. I can see how it can be interpreted that way, but I see it more as a continuation of these: http://xkcd.com/439/ , http://xkcd.com/584/, in which he has a recurring character with a runaway imagination.

    But most of all, I think its messed up how it seems from many of these comments that in most of the “first” world you can’t have a conversation with a stranger in public without fearing that you’re going to upset or offend someone. I live in Africa, and the thought that it is somehow wrong to speak to a man or woman, as either a man or woman, on public transport is insane to me. I totally understand avoiding unwanted attention, but I find it really hard to understand the sort of culture where its seems like everyone around you is something annoying to be ignored.

    If someone said “Hey, cute netbook” to me, i would say “thanks!” and get back to what i was doing if i didn’t want to be disturbed. Just like I might say to someone, “I love your shoes” – its not about the person, its about admiring the product/item. If he had said “hey, cute eyes”, or “hey, great legs”, thats a completely different situation – it is personal, and it is deserving of the imagined response in this comic.

    But maybe i just don’t understand this because i don’t share your social experiences… maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

  114. It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation.

    Actually, this one depends on where you live and how you get around. If your commute is walking to your house’s attached garage, getting in your car, driving to your work’s attached garage? Probably not. If that’s the only sort of commute you’ve had, then yes, confusion on this topic is understandable.

  115. As a nerd (and a guy), my initial reaction to this strip mirrored Jake’s. The comic struck me as commentary on both social awkwardness and the fact that a course of action that is generally correct (i.e. not striking up a random conversation on the bus) can occasionally result in an outcome that isn’t desired by either of the people involved.

    There’s a facet of this strip which I haven’t seen mentioned above that I found to be instructive: our societal dictum that “nice girls don’t tell creeps to get lost” is worse for _everyone_ involved. Guys that are conscious of this phenomenon have a dilemma: “I’m interested in this girl and would like to talk to her, but if she finds it creepy she can’t tell me, and it’s possible I will unintentionally harass for XX minutes. I don’t want to do this, so I’ll duck the issue and not talk to her at all.” Worse still, the creeps will not go through this thought process and thus the behavior becomes more and more closely associated with creep-dom (for the most part, they’re the only ones doing it). The conscious guys become acutely aware of this and end up imagining scenarios like the one depicted in the comic.

    These issues disappear if it’s socially acceptable for women to speak their mind to a guy who attempts to strike up a random conversation. Another reason to hope we end up there eventually!

  116. @ Fillyjonk – a man who’s scared to do it because he thinks she’ll act like a ball-busting feminazi.

    Part of my point is that this is exactly not what I think the guy’s fear is – he’s afraid he actually is creepy. I’m not necessarily defending the construction as written, I was trying to explain an alternate interpretation of what’s happening, because I think there’s a big difference between “Munroe thoughtlessly wrote a female character as a ball-busting feminazi stereotype” and “Munroe thoughtlessly constructed his comic so that it could be interpreted that the girl is being portrayed as a ball-busting feminazi”. It’s a failure of delivery, not a failure of message.

    @Arwen
    I’m sorry – “role reversal” wasn’t really accurate to what I was trying to describe (you’re absolutely right that a role reversal would not work out the same)… What I meant was perspective reversal – with the first four frames being about the geek girl trying to signal her interest with shiny technology. And again, I was just trying to use that to illustrate how I had originally interpreted the comic.

  117. I don’t actually know anyone offline who hears the word “precious” anymore without it coming out in the Gollum voice, TBH. (On that grounds alone, it’s creepy, though.)

    Also, what starling said: I’m also seriously bothered that it condemns women for having the chutzpah to tell people who bother us in public spaces to take a flying leap Ditto x100.

    DRST

  118. But that’s not necessarily true in other places where I’ve lived.

    I dunno…. even here in Texas, were it is considered Very Rude not to smile and maybe give a Hi! if you’re passing them on the street, the default Bus Behavior seems to be to read your own damned book or stare out the window.

    Randall Monroe himself lives just north of Boston, where I imagine he is very familiar with Boston public transportation.

  119. Arwen -

    I think in the gender balanced version, we’d see them both imaging the same sequence. Or they’d both be looking at each other and smiling and not able to think of a word to say.

  120. AAHHHH!
    FJ & SM, you totes had more patience than I might have in your shoes. Particularly on a Monday. Tone arguments, strawmen, and PC – oh my!

    To me, the most troublesome thing is the negation of the idea that women COMMUNICATE WHAT THEY WANT. Because if I am on a train or bus, typing away, with my body pointed away from you, paying attention to thing/things that are NOT you, that means I DON’T want to talk to you, whoever you are. No, in this strip, that was secret wimmenz code for “actually interested”. And of course that leads right into the trope that she says “No” she REALLY mean “Yes”.

    Errrgh.

  121. @Jake:

    “Part of my point is that this is exactly not what I think the guy’s fear is – he’s afraid he actually is creepy.”

    Exactly. In fact, those fears are totally justified since for the most part it *is* creepy to randomly accost people on the bus. Moreover, I never read the comic as implying that the guy believes that the “omg you’re a total creep lets make fun of you” reaction would be bitchy. He’s afraid of looking like a creep and being (justifiably) called out on it.

  122. @Emily H. People on the T in Boston don’t usually strike up conversations, but when they do, I’ve mostly just assumed that they’re not from here. Only once did someone end up harassing me.

  123. when men try to “put themselves in womens shoes” in these instances, they get it all wrong. because they think that to put themselves in our shoes means to reverse the genders: how would he feel if a woman approached him on a train/in the park/on the subway etc. it probably wouldnt bother most men to be approached by a woman, anywhere. not in the same kind of “am i going to be killed now?” kind of way.

    but reversing the genders is wrongheaded for the very reasons described above. for the Nice Guys who just dont get it, try this little trick, instead: its not a woman but a man that approaches you, hes twice your size and 10 times as hairy, and he WANTS SOMETHING FROM YOU. scared now? you should be.

  124. @ Fillyjonk

    I guess I feel a better format for this discussion might have been setting up an interview with him to discuss the strip. Because I would like to know the thought process behind it, since he has been such an ally in the past. It seems out of character for him.

    I guess, my main qualm is that the end of the second paragraph isn’t something I would put on an ally. It made me sort of discouraged as an xkcd fan.

  125. To me, the most troublesome thing is the negation of the idea that women COMMUNICATE WHAT THEY WANT

    Yes yes yes. This is the pithy version of my post.

    Or they’d both be looking at each other and smiling and not able to think of a word to say.

    Oh, this reminds me of my favorite New Yorker cover ever, by Adrian Tomine, in which the two commuters are reading the same book. Man, I love that picture.

  126. oh. and…mens number one fear in life is being laughed at. womens number one fear is BEING RAPED. our fear wins. leave us alone. you do NOT get to whine and be all sad and mopey because the womenz is mean.

  127. When I first read the comic I thought you guys were overreacting but after reading the comments I see where you guys are coming from and why I thought that.

    I think this comic is interesting because it seems to come off to us depending on how we already feel in our every day lives.

    I’m a girl and I never ever get hit on. Ever. I don’t think I’m ugly by any means, it just never happens and has hardly ever happened.

    I’m not sad by that by any means but that’s probably also why I didn’t read the same thing that everyone else seemed to read into it.

    When I read the comic I thought it was funny because I’m the girl and I’m the guy.

    I’m the girl who slumps on a bus and fumbles with her phone and hopes someoen will talk to her but won’t try to make eye contact because she’s afraid it’ll be perceived as creepy.

    I’m the guy (okay so, still girl, but bear with me) who wants to talk to strangers (any stranger!) but is afraid I’ll offend, come off as creepy, or threaten people by speaking with them. Which is kind of funny, I’m only 5’4″.

    But I guess when I think back, the last time a random stranger tried to engage me in conversation, I didn’t appreciate it.

    I was driving home, it was 3 a.m. I had been on the road for 14 hours and was only 4 hours away from my goal, I stopped at a gas station to pee and get an energy drink. The only people in the gas station were me and the guy behind the counter, when I went to pay the guy decided to converse with me.

    I’m not sure what inspired him, maybe he was lonely (I’m guessing he was) and maybe the fact that I try to be polite to a fault (okay that definitely helped inspire him) combined into inspiration for him. But suddenly I found myself facing a man who was imitating Hannah Barbara cartoon characters and telling me all about the Hannah Barbara spoof cartoon he was writing (that he’d never be able to make because the Hannah Barbara company definitely wouldn’t want a spoof about Scooby selling pot and cartoon orgies, if you just want a hint of what I listened to).

    I was just about to tear myself away after attempting to for 10 minutes when my boyfriend came to the rescue. So yeah, I can totally see where everyone is coming from on this one.

  128. Re-de-lurking for this thread. I, too, normally love XKCD and felt a bit…off…when I saw this one; thanks for helping me put my finger on WHY.

    I think that some of the ambiguity here from some of us geek-grrrlz who desperately want to cut the cartoonist some slack on this one (and I was one of them at first) feel is this:

    “Gosh, but I’m a geeky girl and sometimes I wonder if there are other nice geekboys out there who are intimidated by me, or otherwise are too shy to approach me.”

    Here’s one thing that nobody has pointed out yet, which settled my feelings on this as soon as I figured it out:

    The comic is in the THIRD PERSON. We observe it KNOWING that the male is a geekboy (that’s what XKCD is all about) and that the woman is a Geek Grrl (ditto). The third-person view, complete with basic mind reading, when we can see BOTH parties’ true thoughts and intentions, is what makes it funny.

    PROBLEM:

    In real life, this gets played out in only the first person. The guy may be a creep or a psycho. The woman may want to be left the fuck alone. And, in the absence of mind reading and an omnipotent third-person observer/interpreter, the risk/reward scenario is ALWAYS against the female in a “strange guy approaching a gal on public transportation” situation. Worst case scenario for the guy: Pretty much what the cartoon says, IF the gal has brass balls and the Best Boundary Training Ever. Worst case scenario for the woman: Harassment, physical violence, insult, rape, stalking, etc etc etc.

    THAT’S why the comic isn’t funny.

    It only deals with one side’s much-imbalanced worst possible case scenario, which pales in contrast to the other side’s.

    Got it, guys?

    PS–FWIW I sometimes do indeed ask folks on the subway if the book they’re reading is good, and had the same question asked of me. 99.999% of the time, the conversation has been strictly informational, the asking party was just thinking of getting said reading material. I have tourists ask me for directions every single day. Other than that, though, I’m pretty much left alone on the subway home and leave others alone, which is sort of a general rule in NYC.

  129. But maybe i just don’t understand this because i don’t share your social experiences… maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

    Yep.

    Look, this is not about “All men are creepy” or “No man should talk to a woman in public.” It’s instead, as many people here have already articulated, about a culture that says that women who are out in public are available for men’s (visual or physical) pleasure, and that any woman who rebuffs a man for any reason is a psycho bitch. Thus women get hit on or groped by strangers on the train every fucking day and are still expected to take it, because you are supposed to be “polite” to men.

    Here’s the thing: you don’t owe anyone your time or attention just because they talk to you. You get to refuse to engage with strangers, for any reason. You don’t have to be polite just like you don’t have to be pretty.

  130. Amy: maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

    It varies by location (and perhaps by person)–don’t assume that if you came to the US you’d be hit by skeezy guys on the moment you stepped off the plane, or anything–but unfortunately it’s far more pervasive than one would wish for.

  131. Also, I just saw a trackback to this post where someone thought I was hella stupid for not “getting” that the JoCo song is about a mad scientist.

    I actually think that’s my friend. *sheepish*

    I’ve been trying to both convince her that you didn’t misunderstand and are in fact using it as an example of how it points out how screwed up this idea is, and to convince people that the xkcd strip does have issues and isn’t just about geeky social awkwardness.

    I think I failed on both counts. *sigh*

    I agree with 567Kate that he was aiming for that and missed, but I think a lot of people feel criticizing Munroe is attacking one of their own.

  132. @jake: that may have been his intention. I think it could have been better excuted though if in panel 2 and 3 guy continues to talk to girl and girl nervously response with the thought bubble above her head “I wish this guy would just leave me alone.” I think that would have made it much clearer that the guy’s fear is being perceived as one of *those* creepy guys…But yes, I can see your interpretation.

    Also I agree with what many commentors have said above, the public transportation aspect really pushes some buttons, especially because the girl is depicted as doing something that I think women classically do as a maneuver to avoid having to talk to some dude trying to pick her up (use her computer…see also, read a book or listen to ipod).

  133. Can I just say, I don’t care about what Munroe’s intention was? I’m not, happily, tasked with answering the question, “Munroe a sexist? Yes or no!” I hope he has people in his life who do have that role. It seems like he does, or at least has, since he’s gotten it so right before. Even (genuine) nice guys, antisexist guys, screw up once in a while. I recently called my husband — the profeminist stay-at-home dad and antiracism trainer — to account when he accidentally said “girls’ college.” It happens. Since I know him, I can put the remark in context of his whole life and who he is now, guess at what was in his Heart of Hearts, and tailor my response accordingly… or, ideally, leave it up to other antisexist men sometimes, since it shouldn’t be the job of women to teach men how not to act in ways that only make sense if women aren’t quite as human as men are.

    But that’s not my relationship to Munroe.

    So I’m interested in the effect of this. And the effect – whether by accident, design, bad luck, whatevs – is that some/many dudes will read this have the message reinforced that it’s funny when women claim they have a right not to be talked to, because we all know that women aren’t really entitled to their own space. And when women say “Hey, that really sucks, and is a problem, and is called sexism,” those same dudes will have another little data point in their minds giving credence to the hypothesis, “Eh, she doesn’t really mean it.”

    We can draw attention to effects, and level a criticism based on those effects, while being totally agnostic on the question “What sort of fellow is Munroe? What did he mean by this?”

  134. This comic actually gave me sweaty palms when I read it, because I have had this interaction so many times, except I think maybe xkcd lost a few panels earlier (the first panel you see is around number 3 or 4.

    Panel 1: Young man and young woman on bus. Woman with laptop, turned away (toward empty back of bus).
    Young man: *creepy stare*
    Subtitle: Day 2

    Panel 2: Same couple on bus. Woman has shoulders around ears, is sporting brand new padded earphones.
    Young man: *creepy stare*
    Subtitle: Day 4

    Panel 3:
    Young man: So, nice weather, huh?
    Young woman: *unintelligible grunt*
    Subtitle: Day fucking 5

    Panel 4:
    Young man: Where you going?
    Young woman: *pretends to shuffle her iPod*

    Panel 5:
    Young man: Hey, cute notebook.
    Young woman: *takes deep breath and channels every moment of assertiveness training and emotional support she’s garnered over the last week* What.

    Shapely Prose ning readers might remember my incredibly anxious and apologetic post about essentially *this same thing* a few months ago. So I’m not really an objective viewer here. But I’ve basically run a sociology experiment on stranger approaches on the bus the last few months. And you know what? There are signals you can give if you don’t mind being approached, and signals you can make if you *want* to approach but aren’t sure if someone wants to talk.

    Like eye contact. If someone has the thousand mile stare, or are deep into her book/laptop, she probably doesn’t want to talk. Also if someone is driving the bus, which I notice has not stopped guys from trying to pick on the bus drivers. If I were trying to pick up a nerd, I would not be turned away from him, hunched over my laptop.

    (This is not to say women who make eye contact or, god forbid, smile on public transportation want to be hit on or talking to; just that there are some clear signs here she doesn’t. Also, I find people who sit right next to you on a bench when there are open seats available slightly farther away to be much more highly correlated with harassment than with those who abide by the unspoken rules of public transit spacing.)

  135. I’m not, happily, tasked with answering the question, “Munroe a sexist? Yes or no!”

    Right. Which is why the suggestion of me conducting an interview with him instead of writing a post about his comic really misses the point, though I’m sure we could have a very interesting conversation.

  136. I resent when the pinkness is the main selling point that’s thrown at me, though.

    I also resent it when I have to pay extra for pinkness. I mean, I like cute too, but given a choice between that bit extra going for cute or a little more power? Yeah. I’ll take basic black, please. (I name my computers too. My current laptop is Sparky.)

    What got me about this strip when I first read it, was that I didn’t register the last frame as the end. I thought – given what I expected of xkcd – that the frame with the punchline, whatever it was, must’ve been left off. For a moment I imagined that the woman was writing fic, and it would be something about that … but then I realized, erm, no. The punchline really *was* a woman sitting in an obvious keep-away posture, blogging about the cute geek guy who wouldn’t hit on her even though she’d brought out her ‘adorable new netbook’ as bait.

    Sigh. Big fail.

  137. I didn’t think the comic was bad, and still don’t after reading and understanding people’s criticism of it. (Though I agree that stick girl has go-away posture, which was a poor choice on the comic artist’s part.)

    Like Jake, I think it’s about a decent guy who is worried about being part of the problem. The girl likes him, but he doesn’t know that (and given her posture, he guesses how she would respond to his advances appropriately.) They’re interested in each other, and not speaking up, but the thing that keeps them apart isn’t how crazy women are, it’s rape culture, where women have to watch their backs all the fucking time.

    See, I disagree with you. But I don’t really need to convince you that there’s nothing wrong with the comic, or that my interpretation is RIGHT! and VALID! I think the strip is worth criticizing, because even if I don’t agree with the criticism, apparently plenty of people do, because they read it differently than I do. Because media is meant for an audience, the audience’s interpretation is valid, even if it wasn’t what the author intended. (I was writing all of this because of the “must everything be PC!?!” masterdebatery earlier.)

  138. Sweet Machine.

    You’re welcome.

    I wish I had something more relevant to comment, but I think everyone’s already hit all the points I would want to make.

    – intention beside the point? check
    – reinforcement of tropes best left unreinforced? check
    – there was a way to do this that got the “geeky miscommunication” point across without the problematic subtext? check

    So yeah, I gots nothing. (Now I’m just avoiding some editing I should be doing.)

  139. What the comic needs is a thought bubble around the whole comic, the thought bubble coming out of the head of the guy on the train/bus/subway.

    And a thought bubble coming out of the woman’s head about something completely unrelated to the guy, something she’s reading on her netbook.

  140. @Arwen –
    Sorry. Not feeling it.
    The guy’s FEARS OF REJECTION OMG are being privileged over everything else in the interaction, imo. But then, I am a Grumpy Geek Girl.

    Killer post, SM. But you probably already know that from the pileup rate of comments (and also from your gmail if you’ve had a chance to check it).
    x

  141. “They’re interested in each other, and not speaking up, but the thing that keeps them apart isn’t how crazy women are, it’s rape culture, where women have to watch their backs all the fucking time.”

    I think that’s *almost* a fair reading, except what we get is not the woman’s everpresent concern – in the comic, she’s not watching her back, she’s waiting to be approached – but the man’s unfounded concern about whether she might overreact (and it almost certainly is unfounded, regardless of whether he’s genuinely creepy). So rape culture doesn’t seem like the target to me: the message isn’t “and if women didn’t have to worry about this shit all the time, maybe they could engage in conversations they want when they want without worrying about the consequences,” its “and if men didn’t have to worry about women getting all uppity and embarrassing them in public, maybe they could engage in conversations when they want.”

    I think it’s worth talking about what *would* have gotten the point across better (whatever the point was). Body language, location, a different POV? This would read differently if it were from the woman’s perspective, but more of a “cute boy on the train still ignoring me – should I be grateful?” type predicament, where they each have genuinely legit reason to avoid contact. Without that, she’s being coy, so it’s her “fault” that the nerdy boy isn’t getting any. That’s uncomfortably close to Nice Guy ™ tropism for my taste.

  142. maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

    It’s pervasive outside the US, too, if my experiences in Ireland, Spain, and the Czech Republic have taught me anything. Maybe it was worse because of European assumptions about American women’s sexuality, but this isn’t just a problem in the US.

  143. It occurs to me that I need some sort of “really tired” indicator with my swearing. I kept reading this thread, thinking “I just want to post ‘Oh, fuck off,’” but couldn’t be bothered. And since an exhausted “Oh, fuck off,” is how I want to respond when people in the UK or Ireland bug me on public transport, I started thinking about having a little tape recording… maybe on my phone, as a ring tone? Of someone really, really tired just drawling “Oh, fuck off.”

    Of course, in an *actual* “Oh, fuck off,” situation, I’m too frightened to be that assertive.

  144. maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

    I’m going to assume this person hasn’t been to certain parts of the Middle East, or India, where women walking without a man, even in groups, can be assumed to be public property and therefore can be attacked, grabbed, and harassed without fear of reprisal or punishment by the men doing the attacking, grabbing, and harassing.

  145. Anita.

    I think different body language (as many have suggested) would have worked.

    I also think just going more the route of the New Yorker cover… First panel, him looking over with her not paying attention. Next panel, she looks over and he’s not paying attention. Duelling blog posts about how the cute person on the bus isn’t noticing. Still all about geeky shyness, and removes most of the problematic material.

    I do think, however, that Munroe being the writer, it will ALWAYS privilege the male perspective. He is writing about himself and things in his head and those of his friends. He is a male geek and has male geek hangups and so the whole “I played this scenario out in my mind” aspect is going to be from the male perspective every time, I suspect.

  146. Often they are harmless and nice, I’m sure, but the problem is I have been assaulted before, starting with similar overtures, and I have no way of knowing who is a Nice Guy (for reals) and who is a Nice Guy ™ who is waiting to hurl epithets at and/or grab me because I decided I’d really rather not have sex with him right there on the spot.

    And you know what? That doesn’t even really matter. Because even if a guy is a super genuinely 24 karat nice human being, he just has no right to assume another human being owes him social interaction.

    Which, of course, men do assume, practically non fucking stop, in every public, semi-public and private context that exists.

    I almost feel like there is a word for this phenomenon, some kind of term that describes it. Pa … patri … patri-something. I’ll remember eventually.

  147. Also: Whenever someone says they hate being PC or don’t approve of a discussion needing to be PC, I mentally substitute “PC” with “respectful”. It’s the same meaning, but way clearer.

  148. I’m not going to address the whole “is this comic sexist” because I’m too old for this crap. Also, I deal with painfully naive people professionally and work is over for the day. However, I’m wondering how many other people here have either fled public transportation ahead of their planned stop or taken a later bus/train because of some scary creep. I did this a lot when I was a student. I would try monosyllabic grunts and looking away first, but I was too terrified to try confronting them directly – with good reason, give my previous life experience.

  149. I can add parts of East Asia to the list of places where women in public are assumed to be accessible, at least for conversation. Uh, so . . . looks like the US is not the only place with straight patriarchial power issues. Weird, huh? I feel like we’re really onto something here.

    Hey, if only Virginia Woolf and Monique Wittig and Vandana Shiva and all those other chicks had figured this out earlier, they might have put together some theories about patterns of behavior and power that extend beyond the borders of the US. Too bad they didn’t. Then we could have, like, bodies of work from a wide range of feminists. It was nice of all those foreign women to write stuff about us, though. That’s kind of sweet.

  150. @Anita

    its “and if men didn’t have to worry about women getting all uppity and embarrassing them in public, maybe they could engage in conversations when they want.”

    While this is certainly an interpretation that would be valid with other authors and contexts, I really doubt this is what Munroe is shooting for (i.e. it’s not “the message”). The overwhelming feeling on this thread has been that in situations where men strike up conversations with women on public transportation the response they receive is *almost never* the one envisioned by the guy in the comic. The commenters (myself included) have bemoaned the fact that this is not considered an acceptable response in our society. In fact, given the deplorable paucity of examples of women “being uppity”, it’s really hard to imagine an impartial observer who would think the “feminazi” reaction is a legitimate worry about men in our society – it would require someone to be sexist.

    Say what you will about Munroe, he is most certainly *not* a misogynist (there’s plenty of examples in this thread of strips where he is overtly anti-misogynist), and definitely not misogynistic enough to intentionally write a “women need to be less bitchy if they want a man” comic. The fact that this comic is easily construed this way reflects an unfortunate oversight on Munroe’s part, one that would be pretty easy for him to make, given that he’s a man and that his audience is largely male (and socially awkward to boot).

  151. Oh, and somehow I completely forgot the man who very obviously groped my breasts on the street in Berlin. Huh.

  152. I’m wondering how many other people here have either fled public transportation ahead of their planned stop or taken a later bus/train because of some scary creep.

    Back when I still used public transportation? More times than I can remember individually. I’ve also a long-standing mistrust of taxis as a result of being harassed by one too many drivers.

  153. Sigh, some more.

    Haru, intent is not the issue. No, really, it isn’t. Please go back and read A Sara’s comment, especially this part:

    “So I’m interested in the effect of this. And the effect – whether by accident, design, bad luck, whatevs – is that some/many dudes will read this have the message reinforced that it’s funny when women claim they have a right not to be talked to, because we all know that women aren’t really entitled to their own space. And when women say “Hey, that really sucks, and is a problem, and is called sexism,” those same dudes will have another little data point in their minds giving credence to the hypothesis, “Eh, she doesn’t really mean it.”

    We can draw attention to effects, and level a criticism based on those effects, while being totally agnostic on the question “What sort of fellow is Munroe? What did he mean by this?””

    This is something that is common in all kinds of anti-discrimination dialogue. Intent doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter precisely because the oppression is SO prevalent. Someone can be sexist (or racist or transphobic etc) without ~meaning~ to because they’re steeped in an oppressive society. That’s why it’s such hard work to acknowledge your privilege, and to remember the society you’re in. Because you probably DON’T mean to be a part of the problem, but the shitty thing is, just by doing nothing (so it seems to you), you can be perpetuating oppressive systems.

    Nothing we do exists apart from the society we grew up in, were socialized in, and it doesn’t matter if we think we aren’t sexist, or we think “we don’t see color” (ugh), or “some of my best friends are gay.” We are, and if we don’t ~mean~ to be, we need to work really really hard to overcome that, and admit it when we’re (or people we like) are wrong, and listen hard and try to figure out how not to do it again.

  154. Augh . . . can’t . . . stop . . . posting . . . .

    So I just realized that this ties into something that has been eating at me this week. There’s this cultural belief that women are mysterious and hard to understand. Men are always trying to figure out What Women Want. How are they wired? What’s up with that crazy woman weirdness?

    I have the answer. If you shut up and listen very, very carefully, you will hear a strange thing. It is the sound of women actually expressing their wants, needs, and desires. Often using words! It is a thirteen-year-old saying, “I want you to take me home now.” It is women on blogs like these talking about how damned tired we are of dealing with men who just want to be, like, friendly when we don’t actually want to be friendly back. It is women saying, “No shit, Sherlock, we have sex because we are sometimes horny. Just like men.” It is a collection of actual people who have stories, backgrounds, desires, wants, and opinions.

    Figuring out what women want is as simple as doing us the courtesy of actually paying attention to what we are communicating. In this cartoon, Stick Woman is faced away from Stick Man, working on her laptop. She wants to be left alone. To attribute another super-mysterious secret womanly desire to her is to silence what she’s actually saying: Leave me alone. I don’t think this is Munroe’s intention, but that’s what this comic says–that what women say and what women want are two different things. Promulgating this myth, particularly to a bunch of socially inept guys, is a real mistake.

    /rant. Props to Sir Gawain and the Loathy Lady, boos and hisses to Mel Gibson.

  155. @Ethyl

    You’re misreading my message.

    I’m *not* saying that saying that the comic is ok because Munroe meant otherwise, and I’m not letting him off the hook because of his intentions. This comic almost certainly has the effect of reinforcing a number of nasty stereotypes about women, and will be used as fodder for sexists who are under the (mistaken) impression that women are just aching to be accosted by random weirdos.

    I wish Munroe had made his point using any of the scenarios suggested in this thread (or not written the comic at all).

    I was merely disagreeing with Avita’s characterization of “the message” of the strip (note that this totally distinct from how the comic will be read). Unless one contends that a comic’s message (“the message”) is how it’s construed by its readers, the fairest reading of “the message” is “the message that the author had in mind when writing it”.

    If Avita meant the former, then I don’t actually disagree with her.

    I repeat: I do not condone the comic, and I don’t think it’s ok because Munroe meant differently.

  156. @factcheckme –
    “oh. and…mens number one fear in life is being laughed at. womens number one fear is BEING RAPED”

    Actually, I think the quote is that women’s #1 fear is being killed.

    Which strikes me frequently as ironic since, in so many adventures – in which geeks* tend to indulge, in gaming – the object is to be killed, in pursuit of some noble quarry/quest-type thing.

    Which strikes me as a possible reason that men are never, ever, ever going to understand that fear of ours sufficiently to be able to empathize with it.

    Interestingly enough, when the fear of rape is recast as one of a man being molested by another man — which creates its own issues, obvs — they always turn green and get it. I have never cast it that way, however inappropriate it may be, w/my het privilege hanging all out, and had a man NOT get it.

    But the killing thing? They don’t get that one. Not so much.

    *I speak here of all geeks; I know women game also

  157. @GodlessHeathen –

    “Function, power, performance, a woman craves not these things.”
    I love you so much for this. I’m sure Mara Jade would too.
    Good gosh, my geeke is showing.

  158. Eucritta, you’re right – that wasn’t a good phrasing. What about “and if men *didn’t* worry about women . . .”? I think that’s sort of worse, actually. In that case, the young man brings loneliness on himself by worrying what a woman will do. Ha, ha! Or something.

    A more generous interpretation of this might be “and if people felt comfortable communicating their desires openly, they might have a chance of getting what they want” but I’m not feeling generous.

    And I don’t really care about intention. Okay, that’s a lie. I care about intention, in that I believe it would behoove Munroe to pay attention to this stuff, and what comes across in his art. It’s lovely that he’s not deliberately promoting rape culture, but so what? That makes him, personally, a better human being, and I’m all for having more of those around. This comic doesn’t make me any less likely to, say, talk to him at a party if we meet, or move out if I find he’s living next door. But that’s personal stuff, and this criticism isn’t personal. It’s not about him, it’s about his comic, and what it says (literally and figuratively). It’s there that there’s a big problem, and even if he didn’t “mean” it, he still put it out there.

    He’s responsible for educating himself on these issues, as well as on ways of making his comics read the way he wants. It’s not like there’s not a bucketload of comic conventions that would have helped with us reading it the way he wants. Sure, there’ll always be some people who aren’t literate in these conventions (see above the confusion about whether there were two men and two real events, or one man and one imagined event), or where there’s confusion, due to audience or medium or artist or just genuine different ways to read a message.

  159. Haru, I’m not. You said:

    “While this is certainly an interpretation that would be valid with other authors and contexts, I really doubt this is what Munroe is shooting for (i.e. it’s not “the message”).”

    Then you say:

    “I was merely disagreeing with Avita’s characterization of “the message” of the strip (note that this totally distinct from how the comic will be read). Unless one contends that a comic’s message (”the message”) is how it’s construed by its readers, the fairest reading of “the message” is “the message that the author had in mind when writing it”.”

    How is this NOT saying that the author’s intention somehow matters? Whether you agree with the rest of the analysis or not, which the rest of your comment seems to indicate that you do, you do really seem invested in reminding us that Munroe is not generally sexist, and that he probably didn’t mean to be this time around. My point is that his intention is totally, utterly, completely irrelevant to anything.

  160. Can’t … stop … posting …

    “You really think the daydream about being made fun of for hitting on someone would have read the same if both characters were male? I strongly disagree.”

    Actually, SM? It might have.
    But at that point IMHO we’re waaaaaay off topic (and also IMHO, Tom Geller has led us there).

  161. @living 400 lbs “Or they’d both be looking at each other and smiling and not able to think of a word to say.” this. there are better ways.

  162. Well, littlem, I think it would inevitably have brought an element of homophobia into the “hey, this guy’s hitting on me” angle, but you’re right, that’s a conversation for another time. :-)

  163. Arwen -

    I think in the gender balanced version, we’d see them both imaging the same sequence. Or they’d both be looking at each other and smiling and not able to think of a word to say.

    I would say in a gender balanced world, yeah. But I think that this is specifically reacting to the knowledge of sexism, so the “gender balanced” one here would have to have her thoughts on such interactions, but his might look exactly the way it does.

    (And hers might look similar with a spin. She says hi and he freaks out that she’s ugly (and running Vista), and starts mocking her to everyone else on the train. ‘Look at this ugly chick with her Vista machine making moo eyes at me! Let’s put her on facebook to laugh at her!’)

    In other words, I’m seeing the “everyone on train” laughing as a poignant fantasy of a common fear – that everyone will turn and point and laugh because you’re such a moron you can’t keep your shit together to say or do what you really mean.

    The question, is of course whether he’s simply afraid of humiliation (which is, indeed, a cartoon situated right in the Nice Guy universe), or whether he’s legitimately afraid of being an asshole but socially awkward enough that anything he says he figures will be asshole. One of my besties goes through a version of this every time she wishes to give a present, because she is aware of how a present both encapsulates view of someone and occasionally expectation, and it fucks her up similarly.

    So I’m reacting to a particular part of my universe I read into xkcd. My reaction, and Jake’s I believe, both rely on a sense of a body of work that situates the author as both having his spidey sense attuned to social injustice and being the sort that monitors his every social interaction for not being an asshole. That particular way of relating I do not particularly see as gendered.

    Of course, I do see the other argument.

  164. Starling.

    Not only do I give you kudos on the post and what you said, I give mad props for throwing in a Sir Gawain and the Loathly Lady nod.

  165. Even I, a social cues impaired person, would realize that turning my back on a cute person would result in that person thinking I was shutting him out. If she was really interested, but socially inept, she should at least be looking at him out of the corner of her eye. How the heck does she know the cute boy is ignoring her if she’s not even looking at him? Given her body language, I think he’s perfectly right to think she’d get angry at him for interupting her.

    Now, I also am interested in how people do not know how to tell other people to mind their own business. For the basically decent college guy on the bus, simply say that you are reviewing/studying/thinking about a class right now. It’s perfectly polite. I must have missed out on the social conditioning that says that I have to please men, because it makes no sense to me that anyone would feel pressure to continue an unwanted conversation simply because the other person is a man. (A relative or person in authority, I understand.) I have, in my younger years, turned around and asked a man loudly in public on a sidewalk, why he was following me. Had no problem with him. I have also told a man who asked me out, flat out that he was too old for me; we ended up having a nice dinner with boundaries clearly set at the friendship level. I do not have the problem with men hitting on me anymore, too old; but I even when younger never had a crazy guy who felt that I owed him a date or conversation experience. I wonder if I give off don’t mess with me vibes or if it’s because I’m a larger than average woman?

    For people who are worried about being rude by shutting down a conversation, that’s one of the things manners are for, learning how to do it politely. And, from reading Miss Manners, it is never rude to just ignore a man who accosts you. Well, unless he is asking you to call 911 because his house is on fire or something.

  166. I don’t have much to add to this conversation; I agree with most of the thesis points that have been laid out. Yes, the strip was reinforcing of rape culture; no, it probably wasn’t intentional; yes, it could have been funny/cute/sweet with a little tailoring; no, I’m not going to stop reading xkcd/throw rotten eggs at Davis Square.

    So I guess all I have to add is this little anecdote: The last convention I was at, I saw a t-shirt stand that had a shirt I thought was cute. It was a parody of MPAA style warnings, with the text “G: Girl Gamer: May not be suitable for you or other doods.”

    I liked that shirt because I am a girl who plays games; because I’m a member of a community with the journal title “Girl Gamers Unite!” and because I thought the misspelling of ‘doods’ was cute. I bought the shirt. I wore it home.

    On my way home, in the hotel, in the airport, on the subway, I was accosted by a record number of guys — mostly geek guys — who took the text on my t-shirt as an open invitation to come up and sit close to me, to strike up conversation, to ask me for my contact information, to ‘jokingly’ ask me A/S/L and quiz me on my gaming experience, then inform me that I wasn’t a *real* gamer because I hadn’t played (insert list of console games.) In other words, a social signal announcing that I was a female geek became an invitation for them to take out their epeen and wave it in my face.

    I haven’t worn that shirt in public since.

  167. Haru, your last post came while I was composing mine. I don’t think that “the message” of a work is an author’s intention. It’s certainly not when a large portion of the audience sees it as something else. At some level, the text speaks for itself. The author might try to supplement the text, but it doesn’t just mean whatever the author meant.

    I’m more of the camp that there’s a bunch of different messages, including ones that came subconsciously from the author, and teasing those out is hellish. What did the author “really” mean, anyway? What if they change their minds later? Is Fahrenheit 451 “really” about the evils of TV, and not, say, censorship? What if the author didn’t “mean” a message, but one came across anyway? We might be able to talk about an author’s message (maybe), but that doesn’t make it the message of the work – I think that’s something that comes from the text, the author, and the reader. (Honestly, mostly I think the text and the reader are the important bits.)

    Thus, when J.K. Rowling says “Dumbledore is a great mentor” in an interview, and I find him a nearly criminally incompetent teacher, that doesn’t necessarily make me wrong. I can give you an excellent recounting, from the text, of Dumbledore’s choices, speech, and action that support my theory – a message stemming directly from the text. Sure, I participated in putting that message together, but *all readers* do that. When a soldier at Abu Graib takes a photograph of torture because he thinks it’s nifty, that doesn’t mean the message of the pics is “torture is nifty!” whereas if a horrified soldier took the picture, the message would be “torture is terrible!”

  168. I find it really exhausting, really really really exhausting, to continually have to try to set boundaries and decide how to respond to the continuous unacceptable ways I get treated as a woman and a person every day and try and find it in me to be assertive enough to be treated like I matrer, and to just get through the day without having my self-worth torn to shreds, because somehow it is always, always my fault (and that’s how they get you). I am finding it particularly hard today. This comic and the shitty patriarchy-propogating commentators are not helping. I’m just saying,

    Having said that, thank you for this, Sweet Machine. As you may have seen on the SocIm post, I was really disappointed by that strip. Sometimes he really gets it, and sometimes he really doesn’t.

    I also had Jake’s reaction, obvy, and the fact that she explicitly wanted him to talk to her can be described if the XKCD stick female is, in fact, also nerd – if xkcd is exploring primarily nerd life in a nerd universe, and this is a discussion of both sides of the equation.

    Arwen, I get that xkcd is a nerd universe, because I am in fact a nerd and that’s why I read it. So are many other readers (including many of the people posting about it in this thread). There is no theoretical context that I’m (we’re) missing or not understanding. Her being a nerd or not being a nerd doesn’t change the central problem with this strip. It is still woman-blaming, privileged bullshit. And since the issues with nerd culture and sexism are pretty much exactly what we’re discussing here; they can’t be used to excuse the author of xkcd from considering the harmful message his strip is sending/reinforcing in the patriarchal culture we all live in.

    You know, as a denizen of the nerd universe for pretty much as long as I’ve possessed awareness, I’m bewildered at the notion that nerd-girls in the nerd universe would somehow be exempt from all the crap the regular girls in the larger social universe get to wade through.

    Which is to say, even assuming an all-nerd population on the mass transit in that comic strip, it still fails in the ways Sweet Machine lays out.

    Aye, that.

    Yeah, that’s the funny thing about reinforcing the status quo: you don’t actually have to try.

    Amen.

    and…mens number one fear in life is being laughed at. womens number one fear is BEING RAPED. our fear wins. leave us alone. you do NOT get to whine and be all sad and mopey because the womenz is mean.

    Yup.

    Also exactly what A Sarah said, and I wish I could figure out how to think like that. I am too tired today.

    It was nice of all those foreign women to write stuff about us, though. That’s kind of sweet.

    Hee. Well played.

  169. For people who are worried about being rude by shutting down a conversation, that’s one of the things manners are for, learning how to do it politely.

    But, no. It doesn’t work that way. Because when someone is assuming you should be available to socially interact with them, there is no polite way to shut down that interaction. Politely ending a conversation requires two things: 1, the knowledge of a socially acceptable cue to deploy and 2, the other person’s willingness to accept that cue.

    What usually happens is, when you deploy your socially acceptable cue (and let’s face it, often they’ve already ignored cues like you reading a book or staring out the window or listening to your ipod) , they get offended. What would have been a perfectly gracious way to end a conversation if they did, in fact, accept you as a human being, is very likely to become ugly or at least unnecessarily personalized and awkward.

    “Jeez, I was just trying to be nice.

    “Stuck up bitch!”

    “You’re a fat pig anyway.”

    Up to, and including, actual physical violence. Or have we already forgotten the woman who had the snot kicked out of her at Cracker Barrel for politely asking a man to watch out and not slam her kid in his car door?

  170. Oh, and I know a woman who has the Best Ever story about being groped on a train. She was living in Japan at the time, and as a not-Japanese woman was frequently molested. Finally she got tired of it and whacked the guy with her knitting bag. She was a cub scout leader and at the time the bag had two hammers, a hatchet, and a couple of heavy books in it. She felt rather guilty, because she’d gotten annoyed enough to forget it had the tools; but the stunned look on his face was apparently *very* satisfactory.

  171. @Ethyl

    I think we’re talking at cross points again. It appears you are construing “Munroe’s intent matters” to mean “Munroe’s intent has a meaningful influence on how people will read the comic, taken in a vacuum”. Of course it doesn’t! On that we’re in totally agreement. There’s no way in which Munroe’s intent infuses the comic with any special magic. It’s the same pixels on the screen irrespective on what his intent was.

    But that’s a lot different from saying Munroe’s intent doesn’t matter at all! (i.e. ” his intention is totally, utterly, completely irrelevant to anything.”) There’s a ton of questions where his intent is a prime consideration. For example: “How likely is Munroe to make more comics that come across as sexist?” or “How will Munroe respond to the criticism that has been leveled against him regarding this comic?”? If he intended this comic to illustrate that “women are too uppity” then it’s unlikely he will be receptive to constructive criticism. On the other hand, if he simply intended to comment on nerd behavior, then he’s likely to have a really different reaction (and I suspect he will).

  172. SM, you’re absolutely right.
    Framing my reading of your conversation with TomGeller, in my head both gentlemen were gay, and I don’t even know where my head got that from.

    “♪♫ I raaaaamble off toooopic … ♫♪”

    P.S. Did you get your gmail?

  173. @Anita

    Ah ok, we’re just working with different theories of meaning. We don’t disagree after all! Thanks for the clarification and sorry for the confusion!

  174. Kristinc, yes, when the other person doesn’t get the cue; then the shutdown doesn’t work; but *you* were still polite. So, the problem is no longer a fear of not being polite; then the problem is dealing with a rude person. And you have to take other actions then. I was trying to help people like the girl on the bus, who was dealing with a polite man; but was afraid that simply shutting down a conversation was rude, it’s not and there are rules to govern it between polite people.

    I hope that’s a little clearer.

  175. I must have missed out on the social conditioning that says that I have to please men, because it makes no sense to me that anyone would feel pressure to continue an unwanted conversation simply because the other person is a man.

    That’s…nice, but do you understand that it sounds like you’re blaming women who haven’t had the same experience you have, and who do feel that (extremely pervasive, and societally reinforced) pressure? It is not up to a woman to find a “polite” way of refusing unwanted attention — because let’s be honest, we’re not talking about men needing to stop unwatned harrassment from women, which is exactly the point. It is a gendered interaction in a patriarchal culture and blaming the woman — even subtly — is bullshit.

    For people who are worried about being rude by shutting down a conversation, that’s one of the things manners are for, learning how to do it politely.

    I actually don’t give a shit if a man thinks I’m rude for daring to assert boundaries over what communication I am willing to receive from him. I feel like we had a whole post about how the “woman being assertive=rude” paradigm feeds into rape culture just a little while ago. Possible because we did, and it does.

  176. I feel like we had a whole post about how the “woman being assertive=rude” paradigm feeds into rape culture just a little while ago.

    It is, in fact, linked in this very post. Amazing!

  177. Piffle, your last post come in while I was writing mine, and I feel like I was snarkier than I needed to be.

  178. “But that’s a lot different from saying Munroe’s intent doesn’t matter at all! (i.e. ” his intention is totally, utterly, completely irrelevant to anything.”) There’s a ton of questions where his intent is a prime consideration. For example: “How likely is Munroe to make more comics that come across as sexist?” or “How will Munroe respond to the criticism that has been leveled against him regarding this comic?”? If he intended this comic to illustrate that “women are too uppity” then it’s unlikely he will be receptive to constructive criticism. On the other hand, if he simply intended to comment on nerd behavior, then he’s likely to have a really different reaction (and I suspect he will).”

    Is is different, and that is exactly what I’m saying. Intent doesn’t matter. Effects matter. Munroe’s further actions might matter, but we’re not talking about those, or even trying to influence them. The effects of this comic were to perpetuate some sexist shit. It’s subtle sexist shit, and it’s not something people might have noticed, which is what we’re talking about. Whether he intended it, or whether he will remedy this in the future, is not the topic of conversation, and don’t matter with respect to whether or not this comic in particular is sexist.

    Look, maybe you’re not trying to say that the comic isn’t sexist because Munroe didn’t mean for it to be, but that’s something that we hear a LOT, and it’s sure what it sounded like you were saying. And trying to shift the goalposts to make the discussion be about what the author might do in the future is also kind of suspect.

    I know it’s hard to analyze this stuff when it’s someone you like, way harder than if, say, Tucker Max (sp?) wrote this comic. I understand really wanting to excuse Munroe, I love xkcd, and have for years. But that doesn’t excuse what he did here, and arguing that his intent may matter, or it may matter in the future, has the effect of letting him off the hook. As an ally in general, we can and should expect more, and not excuse him because he’s usually good.

  179. “It’s not like men are going around out there willy-nilly accosting women and engaging them in conversation. it’s not like there is some kind of social ‘pressure’ to respond nicely to unwanted come-ons.”

    Please tell me where you live, it might make a nice restful place to take a vacation.

    Either you’re trolling or you really, really haven’t thought this through. Just last week some guy called me a “fucking bitch” for not responding to his attempt at starting a conversation. His attempt at starting a conversation was to say “hey baby, where you going?” and try to walk in step with me, out of the blue. No one said or did anything to tell him off for just randomly swearing at a stranger in the street. We’re all so used to that kind of behavior most people hardly even notice it.

    So again, directions to your world please.

  180. Kristinc, yes, when the other person doesn’t get the cue; then the shutdown doesn’t work; but *you* were still polite.

    I really, really, really don’t think this is the worry most women have. I have a feeling most of us are more concerned about dealing with a “rude” (which is to say, potentially verbally abusive all the way to murderously violent) man, whose perception of us as needing to be punished for being uppity is totally supported by the culture around him.

    Just saying, I think for most people “this guy could follow me home, lacerate my face and break several of my bones” is a little more worrying than “I don’t want to be RUDE.” Because the sad fact is, that no matter how objectively polite we are in turning down someone’s attention, his perception can still be that we were inexcusably rude and out of line — and that perception, not ours, will inform what he does next.

  181. Mikke:

    1) Go ahead and throw eggs at Davis Square. That’s just fun to annoy the Poly/Burner/Gamer/Geek/Techie crowd. *grin*

    2) The “geek shirt” thing. Oddly, on the other thread I was discussing this on, a number of people were pointing out that they ostentatiously flashing your gear and wearing geek shirts are exactly that – cues to other geeks that you are a geek and should be talked to.

  182. it sounds like you’re blaming women who haven’t had the same experience you have, and who do feel that (extremely pervasive, and societally reinforced) pressure?

    You’re also very lucky that when you confronted the men in question, they stopped their bad behavior instead of, say, beating and kidnapping you. Not everyone is so fortunate.

  183. SM, next time you feel inclined to move away from the eye-gougingly bleak, let’s talk puppies or kittens or some such. Because this is depressing as hell.

  184. I do agree with most of the points expressed in this post, actually, but I do feel that you guys react very defensively whenever a commenter disagrees with you.

  185. However, by setting this scenario up on a bus rather than at a party or something, he revealed a blind spot of his own. Women going about their normal days do not appreciate being hit on at any given time. He’s probably never experienced something like this himself, and obviously not from a woman’s point of view.

    Other people have already quoted this, but I’m gonna do it one more time. A different setting would make it clearly a sweet, nerdy “Girl Afraid” scenario. What makes it so problematic is public transportation + laptop + back turned = girl really wants guy to talk to her. Because too many of us fucking live with the fallout of such assumptions every day, from dudes who are NOT sweet, harmless geeks too scared to talk to us.

    This very afternoon, I walked to the bank, 3 blocks from my apartment. I was focused on where I was going. I was wearing a hoodie and jeans, with wet hair fresh from the shower and no make-up. I looked like ass, quite frankly. And I had this “conversation” before I could get there:

    Dude: Hey there, Pretty.
    Me: [walks on]
    Dude: Why do you look so mean?
    Me: [walks on]
    Dude: Whatever you did, it’s not that bad!
    Me: [walks on -- but do you love how it's something I did that makes me "look so mean"?]
    Dude: And if it is, I can help you with it!
    Me: [walks on]
    Dude: Aw, come on!

    And then I was at the bank and walked inside, so it ended.

    That’s the shit I get if I walk a block from my apartment, solely because I am female. On public transportation, I can’t even get away from it until the next stop. So yeah, I’m not thrilled with the comic promoting the idea that a woman turned away from you and typing is secretly wishing you’d talk to her — even if I understand that that was not the intended message, which was actually rather sweet. I don’t think Munroe’s a bad guy or necessarily sexist, as a rule; I think he had a privilege fail, as we all do sometimes, and it’s worth talking about how that illustrates one aspect of male privilege and how rape culture is reinforced — hence its coverage on a blog called Sociological Images in the first place.

    ETA: Just in case anyone is still confused about why it’s “such a bad thing” to just say hello or pay someone a compliment, please see above. A whole lot of women have had exactly that experience of being called “pretty” and then told we look “mean” — or bitchy, or cunty, or slutty, or whorish or, in fact, ugly — ten seconds later if we don’t give the dude the attention he wants. I daresay most of us who live in cities have had it happen more times than we can count. Ergo, we have learned not to trust people who approach us that way. It’s a shame that’s ruined friendly conversation in passing for genuinely nice, non-aggressive people, but the blame doesn’t lie with overreacting feminists; it lies with the guys who do that every damned day. And why do those guys feel so entitled to the attention of any woman who goes out in public? Hmm, I think that might relate back to a certain discussion of privilege and culture…

    ETA again, because I’ve finally caught up with the thread: Wow, that was redundant of me. I started this comment, made dinner, watched some TV, and then finished it. Didn’t realize so many people were going to say all the same basic shit before I posted.

  186. I am completely confused by this suggestion that because xkcd is about nerds, the usual social rules don’t apply. It doesn’t make it less sexist for the characters in the comic to be socially awkward and like laptops. This is like basic geek social fallacies here, and Randal isn’t even IN your social circle IRL. And frankly, I don’t give a fuck about anyone’s intent unless they are already my friend. Strangers don’t get the benefit of the doubt when they put their foot in it; they get called on their shit and then have lots of room to apologize. And I’m very forgiving.

    Hanu, Anita’s point was not that anything was Munroe’s intent. It was that that’s the context of being in, you know, society or something. His intent isn’t part of the equation.

  187. Aaaand terrible sentence construction. My point remains–I really enjoy the feminism-centric posts on Shapely Prose, but the comments on this one made me a little uncomfortable.

  188. @lightcastle I know. Now. It blindsided me a bit that a shirt that I bought simply because I thought its message was funny and cute because a ‘provocative’ piece of clothing when I put it on. My social conditioning stops me from wearing low-cut shirts or push-up bras or short shorts (unless it’s REALLY hot, at which point I just put up with it) because I don’t want to deal with strange men who think I’m putting out a ‘go’ signal. I didn’t realize that the shirt I chose to wear would be a ‘go’ signal to geek men until after this experience.

    I pick my shirts with more care from now on, but I still am mildly irritated that I can’t wear what I want — I can’t even wear clothes that pertain to *my own interests,* for example this geek gamer shirt or my Warlock shirt, without being perceived as making myself available.

  189. Um, wow. It is unbelievably super awesome to see my post mentioned here at SP, and no less referencing the Jonathan Coulton song I’ve been thinking about in relation to these ideas for the last couple of days, having just been introduced to his music.

    I’m still making my way through all the commentary, but I just wanted to mention something. Sweet Machine, you called me on my ableism in the title of the post — someone else similarly called this out over at Sociological Images. I appreciate that, and I’m sorry to have used blindness as a metaphor in the first place. The title of the post has been changed at my blog to “Insensitivity to Privilege” at my blog but the original one remains up at SI.

  190. Annalynn: I think of this as good healthy bare-knuckles argument. The smackdown is really only administered to people who come in and say, “How can there be a problem? Because I don’t see a problem, and so your experiences of problems must not really exist.” Check out Arwen’s comments, or Jake’s, for people who disagree robustly and get a good dialogue going, or the untrammeled discussion between Haru and Ethyl.

    But to each her own. I was a little scared at first by the intensity, but I’ve adjusted nicely and now can’t shut up.

  191. @Caitlin: I really understand the argument, and I perhaps misspoke. Xkcd has been something representing me and mine in my head, (which is why I went with nerd as opposed to the more standard “geek”), but what I’m saying is to me, the stick girl is known. Call her NerdPartsofArwen. In fact, call him NerdPartsOfArwen, too, because I just put myself all over everything.

    So for me this said something else to me *about patriarchy* due to a different lens which is ME – what I’m reading in is something I also do.

    Just before a friend’s wedding she took us, her wedding party, to the beauty parlor for pedicures. Here’s me, white lady, in the chair with a Korean woman looking at my awful callouses, below me. At my feet. It was awful. The version of my thoughts pretty well perfectly matched what’s going on in that comic strip, although I didn’t think she was going to hollaback my feet or anything – I still read blogs of WOC and I could read my own fisking in that moment. I was fisking myself. And in doing so, utterly baffled as to how to relate to the person. In that moment I’m a white woman with power, and pretty much anything I do will be about being the white woman with power. There’s no outside the dynamic. And it breaks my heart. I’m awkward with no power imbalance, no language issues, and new people.

    And what if she thought we were interesting, coming in? What if she saw something in our group of girls coming in and goofing off and saw something that said we were like her? What if she wanted to climb outside the dynamic too? I can only vaguely imagine that, because mainly, I think those are the fantasies of a liberal White Woman. Probably, she’s got her peeps.

    Only that breaks my heart too, if she doesn’t, if she did, and I couldn’t reach through because I was up to my head in theory and introversion.

    Anyway: I’m not patriarchy apologist, nor am I an xkcd apologist. And if this is how people are reading it, the only reason I brought up otherwise is because I *identify* with the xkcd universe – I’m in there – and so to ME, this interpretable little bit of art said something different, something a bit more painful and bittersweet, about what it is to grow up and not know, anymore.

    Granted, in any place where it IS WOC or women or transgendered or fat folks coming to think about their structural positions, the folks with power usually try to make it about this not knowing when they should shut up an’ listen.

    My reading really is nothing more than that thing white people do on POC threads, or men do on feminist threads. What about the mens, indeed. Only I love some of those mens, y’know? And I am a white lady (what about the white ladies?)

    It hurts, is all. The world hurts.

  192. I am soooo untrammeled :)

    Kate Harding said:
    “So yeah, I’m not thrilled with the comic promoting the idea that a woman turned away from you and typing is secretly wishing you’d talk to her — even if I understand that that was not the intended message, which was actually rather sweet. I don’t think Munroe’s a bad guy or necessarily sexist, as a rule; I think he had a privilege fail, as we all do sometimes, and it’s worth talking about how that illustrates one aspect of male privilege and how rape culture is reinforced — hence its coverage on a blog called Sociological Images in the first place.”

    Yeah, and that’s what I was trying to get at, with a side order of “this sounds an ~awful lot~ like some stuff we hear a lot elsewhere.” See, this is why I’m not a big famous blogger, because I can’t write as clearly as that. Sigh AGAIN.

  193. That’s great, Annalynn, but the comments on this actually made me a LOT uncomfortable because they were so bizarrely anti-feminist I wondered if Iwas in the right place. If you have a problem with Kate, Fillyjonk, Sweet Machine and A Sarah (or anyone else) reacting “defensively” to anti-feminist comments on a feminist blog, I’m not sure we can help you with that.

    Plus, the fact that goldnsilver got to spout hir bullshit for as long as zie did, despite clearly neither getting it nor wanting to get it, is testiment to the fact that the mods and commentators were actually being far more patient than they had any reason to be. And see alibelle, FJ and Ethyl’s conversation if you want see an actual respectful commenter disagreement playing out.

    In conclusion: this sounds a lot like concern trolling. “Why do you guys have to be so harsh with people who deny that messages like this perpetuate rape culture, or that interactions between men and women or public transport have any problematic gendered components that we should take this opportunity to discuss?” I feel like the answer’s in the question.

  194. @Ethyl

    Look, maybe you’re not trying to say that the comic isn’t sexist because Munroe didn’t mean for it to be, but that’s something that we hear a LOT, and it’s sure what it sounded like you were saying. And trying to shift the goalposts to make the discussion be about what the author might do in the future is also kind of suspect.

    But that doesn’t excuse what he did here, and arguing that his intent may matter, or it may matter in the future, has the effect of letting him off the hook.

    I understand that you get comments that are superficially similar to the one I made, but I think I’ve already made it clear I am *not* arguing that Munroe should be excused because of his intent! In fact, the first sentence of my earlier reply to you addressed this explicitly (I even used the phrase “off the hook”)!

    I addressed his future actions not as a way of excusing him, but because it shows that intent has predictive value and thus points to a way that intent matters. Your comments explicitly asserted that intent never matters, and I presented this to show there are good reasons to believe that your assertion was incorrect!

    We clearly agree on the heart of the matter (Munroe messed up, and wrote a comic he shouldn’t have), and after Anita clarified her meaning, it’s clear I agree with her too. I don’t want to take up more space on this thread with this discussion as we’re getting waaaay off the beaten path. We can continue the conversation in another venue if you think it’s a worthwhile topic (i see you have a blog).

  195. Kristinc, the fear of danger is greater than the fear of rudeness, certainly; but the expressed fear of the poster, and many women, is of simply being rude, or thought to be rude. Fear of rudeness, while a lesser fear, is also a driving force in allowing boundaries to be violated. I probably overfocussed on it, because I lack innate social skills, and so worry that I’m being rude drives a lot more of my behavior than fear of physcial danger. When these lesser boundaries are broken because the woman is afraid of being rude, it’s still a feminist issue. When I saw another poster who didn’t know how to interact politely with someone who was not threatening, I tried to help. Knowing that there are polite ways to deal with people is empowering for those of us afraid of rudeness. Also, knowing where the boundaries of politeness ends and rudeness begins is a step in knowing when the greater fears should be listened too more closely.

    Apologies for my clumsiness, I’m certain it’s my fault, lack of a fine touch in communication is part of being a socially inept inadvertant jackass. I do not get offended or hurt when people call me on it, I know my problems.

  196. Not to be rude, Haru, but I really have no interest in continuing this conversation, at my blog or elsewhere. But IMO, the reason it’s off-topic is because of the goalpost shifting that ~you~ are doing:

    “I addressed his future actions not as a way of excusing him, but because it shows that intent has predictive value and thus points to a way that intent matters.”

    Matters for stuff that was not the original purpose of the post. That we weren’t talking about.

    “Your comments explicitly asserted that intent never matters, and I presented this to show there are good reasons to believe that your assertion was incorrect!”

    And yes, I did say intent never matters. I’d appreciate it if you could try to focus on something other than those couple of words and try to understand what I was saying about WHY it doesn’t matter, because I still have the feeling you aren’t getting it. The intent of the author as it pertains to some future actions of the author may matter ~to you,~ but it is not and was not the point of pointing out the sexism inherent in the comic.

  197. RE Jake’s comment way upthread – thing is, that fear of looking creepy? Is totally valid, even if your intentions aren’t creepy. Because women can’t read your mind. So even if the comic was trying to reassure shy geekboys that it’s OK to approach women because she won’t necessarily think you’re being creepy…well, actually she may well think you are being creepy, even if you just wanted to say hello. So even taking out the sexism, it’s still bad advice, because it’s based on a false assumption. Especially given that the body language of the female figure is classic “leave me alone”. A lot of the time, possibly most of the time, that body language really does mean “leave me alone”.

    Also re carrying around geek stuff as a display to attract other geeks…again we run into the problem of male privilege and an overly sexualised culture. I’m into some geek stuff, but not so much into dating classic stereotypical geekboys. So if someone was to see me carrying around, say, manga, or a Gibson novel, and take that as a signal to approach…I may well be happy to talk to him about mutual geeky interests, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I want to go out with him. And even if I had different attraction patterns I could be married, or already dating, or a lesbian. The assumption that being open to being approached by people one has something in common with = wanting to be approached in a sexual or romantic way is in itself problematic.

  198. The assumption that being open to being approached by people one has something in common with = wanting to be approached in a sexual or romantic way is in itself problematic.

    BUT WOMEN EXIST ONLY FOR SEXY TIMES. STOP WITH YOUR CRAZY TALK.

  199. I think when most women say “I don’t want to be rude” in this context, it’s shorthand for “I don’t want to be perceived as rude by a man because when men perceive me as being rude it puts me in danger.

    I also think it’s critical for women to realize that it’s impossible for us to be polite enough to be found “not-rude” by someone who doesn’t consider us human; that the game is rigged.

  200. I do agree with most of the points expressed in this post, actually, but I do feel that you guys react very defensively whenever a commenter disagrees with you.

    Annalynn, but that really goes to the heart of the issue, doesn’t it? We do indeed get to have a say in when we want to get talked to, and by whom, and about what. And we get to say the conversation’s over and have it be over.

    Now, we ESPECIALLY get to disengage from people like goldnsilver who show up and are all, “Oh, I don’t like the way you blog, you should blog how I would like” or “Oh, you’re too nitpicky/ hysterical /the PC thought police/[insert stereotype here]” or “Oh, I think it’s really important that your readers know that fat actually IS inherently bad and/or women really ARE evolved to be availble to random encroachment blahdeeblah…”

    I always want to ask such people: Really? What exactly was your goal there? Did you think we’d all just agree? That we’d just be persuaded by your assertion that critique is really just overreaction and nitpicking? Or say “YES! Our tone/language is unappealing (even though lots of readers don’t seem to mind it) and we should change and write the way you like best!”? Or, “Yes! NOTICING and CRITICIZING oppressive patterns of behavior really IS an endorsement for some kind of insidious fascist Bureau of Locution Approval!”

    If that’s the motivation, I find it fascinating. I would love to know how they concluded that the bloggers and most of the commenters here developed deeply-hend convictions but then inserted a clause that says, “…except when someone on the internet tells me I’m stupid or hysterical or shrill or mean for thinking what I think, in which case I shall change my mind immediately!”

    Or is that not what they’re expecting, and they’re just here to cause trouble? Or, a third possibility: is it that they just like to blurt their opinions whenever/wherever, because, hey, the world is their stage, right?

    Given those possibilities – and the fact, once again, people are allowed to check out of conversations when they find them unfruitful – it makes complete sense to me that the normal pattern with such folks is to engage in heated debate. At first. And then ban someone when they’ve done the things that have signalled – time and again and again and again and again and again, with near-comic regularity and predictability – that someone is not genuinely interested in anything that’s worth SP’s time. I know it can seem harsh.

    But, look, this community is sitting here on the subway, yes? Every so often, someone is going to come along – having not bothered to take notice of very basic things like FAQs and the comments policy; the visual cues, IOW — and tell us we’re pretty and it’s a shame we’re so mean, or tell us to “SMILE!”, or lecture at us in very pompous tones about the book they see us reading, or eavesdrop on a conversation we’re having with a friend and butt in to lecture us on how we’re overreacting. We get to say “Uh-uh. I’ve had this conversation before. And now it’s over.”

  201. Kristinc:
    “I think when most women say “I don’t want to be rude” in this context, it’s shorthand for “I don’t want to be perceived as rude by a man because when men perceive me as being rude it puts me in danger,”

    Well said!

  202. kristinc :
    Also: Whenever someone says they hate being PC or don’t approve of a discussion needing to be PC, I mentally substitute “PC” with “respectful”. It’s the same meaning, but way clearer.
    LOVE IT. I’m going to have to start doing this. “I’m not PC” is just another way of saying, “I don’t give a shit about you, your feelings, your experiences, or anything else that doesn’t fit my personal paradigm.” (See also: people who believe they have a god-given right to not think of a better word than “retarded” or “gay” or “lame” when referring to something bad.)

    Persephone Hazard :
    I *have* actually gone apeshit on men who try to chat me up at random before now.
    Awesome, good for you! I’ve done this too, but only once because it’s such a scary thing to do. I was on the train wearing a strapless dress (on my way to a party) and some waste of flesh who was sitting behind me decided to start MASSAGING MY SHOULDERS. I turned around and yelled, “get your filthy hands off me you piece of shit,” hit him in the face, and got off at the next stop. I’m lucky that he didn’t follow me off the train and do something worse, and it’s probably not a risk I’ll probably take again. But I was having such a terrible day already and I was so horrified at his sense of entitlement that I really couldn’t restrain myself.

    I suppose there are people who would say I should have turned around, made polite conversation, and then asked him (politely!) if he wouldn’t mind maybe thinking about not touching me if it wasn’t too much trouble, even though I had the nerve to sit there having a vagina at him.

    So yeah, FTR there are men with entitlement complexes all over the world, not just in the US. This particular incident happened in Canada.

  203. @ Annie McFly–Am I the only one who kind of wishes Angela Merkel had done that to the former prez when he went all shoulder-massage on her? Yeah, yeah, it wouldn’t have been a great moment for international diplomacy, but it would have been a message to the world’s Stealth Massagers.

  204. Am I the only one who kind of wishes Angela Merkel had done that to the former prez when he went all shoulder-massage on her?

    No, but if she had, the media would have been all, “Wow, Merkel is such a bitch! George was just being nice. He’s a tactile kind of guy. You can’t say this is sexist because he touches men inappropriately also!”

    Eyeroll sprain

  205. I always kinda hoped that being head of state gave you a pass on the bitch thing. Like Queen Elizabeth I or Margaret Thatcher, y’know? But I fear you’re right.

  206. Yes! NOTICING and CRITICIZING oppressive patterns of behavior really IS an endorsement for some kind of insidious fascist Bureau of Locution Approval!”
    I want to wurk ther. I can haz aplicayshun?

    We get to say “Uh-uh. I’ve had this conversation before. And now it’s over.”
    \O/

  207. Hey, Matt K! Great post! And thanks for your clarification about the post title. I actually read a post recently (can’t remember where at the moment) that pointed out that “privilege blindness” is a really common phrase/meme in particular, and how infuriating that could be for disability activists.

  208. I was also very uncomfortable by the comments on this post. While I don’t always necessarily agree with everything anyone posts in the comments, this is the first time I can remember seeing so much blatant antifeminism here.

    BTW – “I am a woman and I wasn’t offended so therefore it’s objectively not offensive” HAS to be a bingo square somewhere.

  209. littlem, you will be the Undersecretary of Jokes, Puns, and Double Entendres at the Bureau of Locution Approval.
    \o/\o/\o/
    And now to find an appropriate appointee to be SecretaryUnder.
    Perhaps one of the walking Double Entendres from the Spanish (American, French, Chilean, or Russian — I am flexible) Olympic Mens’ Tennis Teams.
    *digs joyfully into paperwork*

  210. This post did have a lot of — unaccustomed traffic.
    Perhaps some new fame fallout resulting from the multiple Polanski links?

    I can’t help but laud you all for putting a strict bannination policy in place in advance of the galloping hordes. Shows intuition and foresight.
    *nods sagely*

    (SM, did you get your gmail today?)

  211. Anybody who thinks that the response to this comic is an overreaction, allow me to spin you the following tale:

    I clearly remember the last time I ever rode the bus. I was eighteen.

    I was riding to my friend’s house, and a man, probably in his thirties, approached me and started trying to talk to me. Asked me my name, did I have a boyfriend, you know the drill. He was persistent and I was rather intimidated, and it was pretty clear that I wanted to be left alone…pretty clear to anyone with half a brain, that is. I answered his questions monosyllabic-ly and unenthusiastically, thinking my obvious displeasure would discourage him from continuing the conversation. It didn’t. I didn’t know how to get him to stop talking to me. He said something sexual (I can’t remember exactly what but I believe it involved my tits, or perhaps cans) that I found offensive so I finally just stopped speaking to him, turning away.

    I heard a clicking next to my shoulder. When I turned to see what it was, the man was striking a lighter and holding it just underneath my shirtsleeve.

    I screamed, hit the stop button and ran to the front of the bus. People barely looked up.

    As I leapt off the bus and ran down the sidewalk, four stops from my destination, I heard the guy shout after me, and I am not fucking making this up, “What’s wrong, I was only trying to talk to you!”

    So I kind of think that any time the culture of silencing women is perpetuated, no matter how insignificant it may seem, it needs to be addressed.

  212. Melena, I think it’s the combination of the lighter and the complete non-reaction of the people around you to your clearly distressed scream for help that freaks me out the most.
    I’m so sorry.

  213. Mikke and Cassandra.

    Actually, to be fair to my geek friends who brought it up, the women in that thread were saying it was an invite to talk. They also don’t think an invite to talk means an invite to ask out/be creepy. They think this because in their experience, that isn’t what happens. Arguing against people’s personal experience is always hard, and so they don’t see how it would result in a problem.

    (Mind you, the one who was most insistent about there being a special “geek signaling code” reads as male to me.)

  214. Usually I think you’re spot on, but this is really reaching.

    A male nerd is terrified of being accused of rude behavior because the shiny netbook he’s fascinated with happens to be owned by a female nerd and he’s what — a jerk who deserves the treatment he’s afraid he’ll get?

    A female nerd wants to strike up a conversation with a male nerd, and that means she’s aching for some cock?

    I’m insulted. For myself, and all the male nerds I know.

  215. You think it’s the *notebook* he’s interested in?
    . . . really?
    . . . “interested in” nudge nudge wink wink, or just interested in?
    What makes you come to this interpretation?

  216. Why do I get the feeling that the xkcd guy is under the impression that skeevy creeps who won’t take being ignored or even overtly told to go pound sand — such as those mentioned repeatedly in this thread and elsewhere — are freak exceptions, and that most guys who approach women on mass transit are much more like this scared little nerd?

    I don’t think most men know. Even the best of them are often shocked to their core when they find out just what we’ve had to experience going to the convenience store for milk, or riding home from work, let alone in actual “official socializing” situations. I almost never get that kind of attention now, in my 40s, but boy, did I ever have creepazoids tailing me when I was in my teens and 20s.

    And never, ever was I approached in an “officially non-socializing situation,” like on a subway or bus, by a nice, polite man. Never. Never. Never. I used to think there was something wrong with me because it seemed to be only the sleazoids out for a quick spooge who ever came up to me, and I was sure that “normal women” just effortlessly met great guys everywhere they went. But even if I’d wanted quick sex, which I did on occasion, I had to at least know the guy a little bit first and sense that he was not a sociopath. Never ever would I have gone home with some random d00d on the train. Does anyone actually do this? For free?

    I agree that it would have been different if these were characters we knew, instead of “generic man” and “generic woman.” If we knew from prior context that this woman actually liked Geek Boy but was radically shy, too shy even to look at him, that would be very different.

  217. My first reaction upon reading this, and many of the comments, was that a lot of people were over reacting. I felt that the situation needed to decide the response, and that the comic wasn’t to over reaching in what it tried to do.

    But then I stopped, and I started to think. In this day and age, the ‘good guys’ are few, and far between. And you never know if that guy talking to you on the train or even out in broad day light is really a good guy, no matter how nice he talks, or something else entirely. I started to go back over so many of the events of the female friends of my life, and it just…..I don’t know. It made me feel winded. Very sad. I don’t feel like it was the authors intent to offend anyone, but I can see how you would be offended.

  218. I’m insulted. For myself, and all the male nerds I know.

    Then feel free to read other blogs instead. Start your own, even!

    If you want to not get banned at this one, try reading the 250 comments’ worth of discussion prior to your remarks, wherein IT IS JUST POSSIBLE YOU WILL FIND YOUR ISSUES ALREADY COVERED.

    Jesus fucking Christ, people. I have not yet added “Don’t comment without reading the existing comments” to the comments policy, but it might just be coming soon. I realize these threads get long, but I am so sick of reading, “I haven’t had time to read the whole thread, but I just have say [point that's been made/question that's been asked and answered 75 times already].” Or comments that might as well announce that, even if they don’t explicitly.

    Don’t have time to read all the comments? Then maybe you should consider not commenting yourself, since comments are supposed to be a discussion, not a goddamned guestbook. It is incredibly rude to all of the other commenters who take the time to read and offer each other thoughtful responses, not to mention BORING AS ALL GET-OUT to come in here and be all, “Hi, I’m not really interested in engaging with any of you, I just think it’s terribly important that you all hear what I have to say!” That is supposed to be why people START blogs, not comment on them. LEARN TO FUCKING INTERNET.

    (Oh look, there I go being all combative and cussy again. Which means that right now, SOMEONE, SOMEWHERE IS NOT APPRECIATING THE IMPORTANT FEMINIST MESSAGE OF THIS BLOG, BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO EXPRESS MYSELF IN SUCH AN ABRASIVE WAY! I don’t know how I live with myself, really.)

  219. Yes, fine, let’s just all laugh at the woman who dared to assert a boundary.

    This is what is bothering the fuck out of me lately, in the real world. Next weekend I am *moving* (all my stuff, and permanently) about half a mile away from where I am currently living because my fucking landlord doesn’t believe I should have boundaries. Because he is a fucking piece of shit. (Yes, this will be profanity-laden.)

    It’s one thing to be harassed in public, but this fucking asshole guy has been coming into my *bedroom* both while I am in the room and while I am gone, and refusing to leave even when I explicitly say “you are freaking me out, get out of my room right now, we are *done* talking.” (To clarify, I have been renting a room in a house, so I’m only able to lock the door when I’m inside the room.)

    One time I went downstairs to microwave some food, and came back 5 minutes later to find him leaving my room. I will come back from a walk, or buying groceries, and find that a light I have left on is now off, or my laptop is shut when I left it open. He told me he had a photo of the inside of my room. Once he got drunk, and wandered in to talk to me at night — he asked me if I’d ever had a boyfriend, if I was a virgin (I’m about a decade younger than him, btw) and then he fucking picked up my bra off the bed and held it up to his chest, asking what size I was. I was terrified and embarrassed, and above all super-polite when I asked him to please put it down and leave — I didn’t want to be evicted, I had moved in only recently.

    The latest incident, and the one that made me decide I had to move, was when he got pissed off at me for leaving a few dirty plates in my room while I was dead-sick over the weekend. He came up to my room late in the evening, knocked and asked to talk to me, and then when I opened the door he started *yelling* at me. When I told him I was planning to do the dishes that night he kept yelling, and came toward where I was sitting at my desk, and started pawing around through the stuff on my desk. (I thought he was going to hit me, and I was scared ’cause I’m pretty small.) After a while he left, after I repeatedly told him to get out. I was furious and texted him (still politely) that it wasn’t appropriate for him to come into my room without my permission and yell at me, and that I would talk him the next day when he cooled off.

    An hour later I went to take a shower, and thank god the bathroom door locks ’cause the fucker came up and started yelling at me through the bathroom door, calling me “childish” and a “crazy bitch.” He wouldn’t leave for 10 minutes, even though I told him over and over “I won’t be yelled at. I said we will talk to tomorrow. I’m not going to talk to you” (I was trembling pretty hard but I think it wasn’t audible) until I turned the water on and pretended I couldn’t hear him. So he texted me, instead, more of the “childish” stuff,” telling me I was a psycho who clearly had been molested as a child because I “had issues.”

    The next day we “talked,” which meant I told him that if he ever did that again I was calling the police, and he told me that I had a bad attitude, I was a crazy bitch, I wasn’t allowed to tell him what to do, and that he was allowed to do whatever he wanted to whoever he wanted in his own house and if I didn’t like it I should get the fuck out. Again, he opined that I had been molested as a child, and should get counseling, because I was a crazy messed-up bitch.

    Now I stay in my room with the door locked, and I don’t feel safe going downstairs to cook. I lock the door on the bathroom even if I’m just putting in contacts. If he asks to talk to me again I’m putting pepper spray in my pocket before I open the door. And he still thinks he did nothing wrong, and he *genuinely* thinks I am crazy because I expected him to take me seriously when I said “no.” He thinks I am a bitch because I asked him to leave my room because he was scaring me. And since then the other roommates have been noticeably colder to me; clearly he has told them I’m a crazy bitch and they are willing to agree. Even the only other female roommate. I move out next weekend but this week has been painful already.

    So, sorry for the novel, but I take the boundaries thing *really fucking personally* right now, and if the fucking Mother Teresa of all geek guys tried to hit on me on a bus right now I would fucking tear him a new one. Women have problems that are way, WAY larger than the gentilia of geek guys, thanks muchly. We are fucking allowed to overreact about our boundaries because DOUCHEBAG GUYS overreact about our boundaries ALL THE FUCKING TIME. And currently the bus is probably the safest fucking space I have, sadly. So if I’m on my laptop on the bus, or I tell you I’m not interested, FUCK OFF. I don’t fucking care if you could have been my soulmate.

    So yeah, to rerail slightly: I’m really happy for the guys on here who are having a purely academic discussion about women’s feelings and women’s boundaries, and the pain of being harassed by a man who clearly thinks you are subhuman, or at least sub-adult, or sub-sane. It would be super awesome if this were academic for all the women you are talking to.

    (Sorry for the uber-bitter, ya’ll. I moved here recently and I’m hours away from any friends or family and it’s still really fresh.)

  220. Oh, the best part is that he spent half an hour when I first moved in going on about how he’s such a feminist, and how he used to volunteer at a women’s shelter. *spits on ground* Asshole.

  221. A male nerd is terrified of being accused of rude behavior because the shiny netbook he’s fascinated with happens to be owned by a female nerd and he’s what — a jerk who deserves the treatment he’s afraid he’ll get?

    Again, I ask for the magical device/method/x-ray vision/what have you that allows you to distinguish between “guy who is just FASCINATED with my netbook that I happen to be holding on my female body” and “guy who will try to set me on fire if I refuse to talk to him.”

    Dear men: get fucking real.

  222. Bagelsan, I am so, so sorry that your landlord is harassing you. Do you have a safe place you can stay in the week before you move out — a friend’s or relative’s or even a hotel?

  223. Bagelsan, your comment made me really, really scared for you. I’m so sorry. I really hope things get better. It was just 11:11 in my timezone a minute ago, so for my wish, I wished things would get better for you. No one should have to put up with that shit.

  224. I think I’m alright for another week; he hasn’t done anything to me physically and I think he does believe me that I’ll call the police if he tries any bullshit again. (I was *very* sincere when I said it.) But I’m not a happy camper, to say the least. It’s a bit of culture shock, really, ’cause I recently graduated from a women’s college and it would *never* have occurred to me that people actually *do* shit like this. I’m pretty sheltered, honestly, so maybe I’m overreacting (but still way better than underreacting, I think.)

    I’m just glad that I found a place so quickly — the shitty housing market has been very beneficial for me!

    If it gets bad again (right now he’s offended, I think, and ignoring me) I do have the ability to get a hotel room or something. So I’m not terribly off, or actually trapped, just upset and tired, and kind of waiting out the last few days in this crappy place.

  225. Thanks alibelle!

    (Sorry, didn’t want to derail or make this thread about me at all, just wanted to be really really clear that this isn’t just feminists arguing about stuff to pass the time but *actual* women getting affecting by guys who think they are “nice” but who don’t listen to “no” when it comes from a “girl.”)

  226. Bagelsan, I’m crossing my fingers that your move goes fast and easy, and you don’t have to deal with the asshole any more. That is way scary shit.

    Kate’s tale of going to the bank reminded me of a dude striking up a one-sided conversation in a bank line. Scene – I’m standing in line, paycheck in one hand, book in the other reading.

    Dude: Must be a good book!

    Me: It is. *goes back to reading*

    Dude: You’re really cute.

    Me: Thanks. *doesn’t even bother looking up this time*

    Dude: Can I have your phone number?

    Me: I’m married.

    Dude: I could take care of him for you. Come on, give me your number!

    I don’t know if he was serious or not, and I don’t care. We went from annoying, but superficially polite conversation, to hitting on me, to offering to kill my husband in less than three minutes. And I had to stand next to him for another five minutes, or not deposit the paycheck and have no groceries over the weekend. Being rude was not an option – dude had just offered to kill a random man he’d never even met; you think I was going to risk pissing him off at me?

  227. I realize these threads get long, but I am so sick of reading, “I haven’t had time to read the whole thread, but I just have say [point that's been made/question that's been asked and answered 75 times already].” Or comments that might as well announce that, even if they don’t explicitly.

    Know what Alan Sepinwall does on his blog (specifically for Mad Men posts because they get eight squillion comments each)? He has a rule that says “before posting, read prior comments up to the first 200, and after that do a word search on the comments on whatever it is you’re planning to post about, to make sure you’re not repeating something that’s already been posted here.” I’d do that on my own blog if I ever had comment threads that got that long.

  228. Dude: I could take care of him for you. Come on, give me your number!

    I don’t know if he was serious or not, and I don’t care.

    Stuff like this makes me roll my eyes at the “hey, it’s just a joke!” crowd. Yeah, maybe *this* guy was joking but sometimes the guy *isn’t* and how do you know? Joking or serious they sound exactly the same — because they, like Schrodinger’s douchebag, haven’t picked a state of joking or serious until they see how the people around them respond. They’re only joking about hating women around the ladies, but around the menfolk they actually mean it.

  229. Joking or serious they sound exactly the same — because they, like Schrodinger’s douchebag, haven’t picked a state of joking or serious until they see how the people around them respond.

    That’s the scariest part, isn’t it?

  230. And Bagelsan, I’m so sorry. I’ve been where you are twice, except both times it was a co-tenant rather than my landlord, and my landlord didn’t give a shit.

  231. Ech, you’re giving too much credit. The guy who doesn’t understand that no means no and that I don’t want to talk to you, please leave me alone also means no isn’t Schrodinger’s douchebag, he’s Schrodinger’s rapist.

  232. Gah. Bagelsan, I’m also crossing parts for your move to be quick and uneventful.

    So many excellent points regarding this, and I think most everything I wanted to say has been said. (I swear I read all of the comments.) My main issue with this one (as an xkcd fan) is based upon a personal peeve; along with everything else, it reinforces the idea that ‘no’ only counts when it’s loud and specific. I’ve had too many experiences where guys don’t get that obvious discomfort, avoidance, polite dismissal, etc. should be just as effective as screaming. Seriously, DO NOT WANT. If you think we might want you to go away, we probably do, even if we don’t embarrass you on a train. Really.

    Pardon my babbling if that made no sense; it’s way past my bedtime!

  233. And before anyone descends with a defense of the socially inept: I know. Not all guys who have no social clues are rapists or future rapists. But men who consider their sexual attraction to me and their desire to flirt more important than my comfort or interest in participation–well, we call that a “clue” to other potential behavioral problems.

  234. From the other blog. A guy said that punishing people for saying hello was destroying civilization or some such. (Social contact is society, so everyone should be able to say hello to whomever they want, basically.)

    I said that if he didn’t like it, he should call out the men who don’t respect boundaries.

    He said he does when he can, but really it is the woman’s responsibility to call the men out.

    I don’t mean send subtle signals. I mean saying, “I’m sorry, I would
    really like to read my book right now.”

    The counter I have heard is that women are afraid that the man might become incensed and violent. Indeed, this happens all the time, in the imaginations of feminists. In the real world, however, it is incredibly rare. It just doesn’t happen, and if a man did become violent in a public place, I guarantee that someone would step in to intervene.

    I’ve given up and am going to bed.
    These people live in a different world than I do.

  235. The comic was really, really, fail, particularly because it was so hard to work out what actually happened. But it was definitely fail in all kinds of ways.

    Re: the other comments. I’m a wierdo; I don’t share most of y’all’s experiences. I’m constantly reminded that I’m lucky– that my experiences have been either men who could easily be deflected or outright harrassers of the ‘proving I’m such a man that I’m not interested in fat chicks!’ type. In a way that’s another kind of privilege, and I suppose in a way it’s another kind of wierd victimhood. I’ve been insanely lucky in that even as a teen bus-rider I never met an interested creep I couldn’t get distance from, but then I always wonder how my choices are affected by the fact that I tend to assume a guy staring at me is repulsed and likely to launch a tide of abuse at any moment.

  236. Starling, I think we just said pretty much the same thing at the same time! I really don’t get the appeal of continuing to harass/attempt to coerce someone who is obviously not interested, yelling or no. But then…rape culture. Yeah.

  237. @KH –
    ““Hi, I’m not really interested in engaging with any of you, I just think it’s terribly important that you all hear what I have to say!” “
    The poisonous kernel at the very heart of Mansplaining.
    I can’t even tell you how many comments, on numerous blogs throughout numerous spheres, I see that start with “I haven’t had time to read the whole thread, but let me tell you what I think”, and what staggering percentage of those belong to non-feminist men.
    (Part of the cultural training, yes, but I still find it just … noxious. And the pattern, regardless of sub-sphere, almost creepy.)

    I’d also bet you if SP put in the comments policy that they actually have to *gasp* do the reading, you’d get a substantial dropoff in blowhards who stay to comment, b/c a lot of them aren’t willing to put the effort into actual thought, instead of just shooting the mouth/fingers off at will.

    @Bagelsan –
    I’m really happy for the guys on here who are having a purely academic discussion about women’s feelings and women’s boundaries, and the pain of being harassed by a man who clearly thinks you are subhuman, or at least sub-adult, or sub-sane. It would be super awesome if this were academic for all the women you are talking to.
    That. It’s not some theoretical academic bullshit. It’s our actual lives.

    Bagelsan, can I respectfully suggest that you
    - consider not telling your LL where you’re moving;
    - consider not telling your LL *that* you’re moving until after you’ve done it, depending on how formal a relationship you have;
    - alert the police *right now* that you’re concerned about being harassed, and (possibly, if you’re not concerned about retaliation) let them offer to let your LL know that you’ve contacted them and he’s being watched.
    Best of luck with your moving. Please take care of yourself.

  238. Oh, dear. A book. Boy, the spatial relationship between the writing comment box and the posted comment box is, um, interesting.
    *blushface*

  239. Indeed, this happens all the time, in the imaginations of feminists. In the real world, however, it is incredibly rare.

    Dude, I have had people SCREAM IN MY FACE for not answering their “Hey baybeeeee…” skeeze. It’s not a huge leap from there to imagine someone actually getting violent.

    It doesn’t matter if bystanders would intervene. The fact is that I shouldn’t have to consider an assault, or even an attempted assault, as a viable result when I’m trying to decide how to respond to some random douche who’s decided to grace me with the matchless privilege of his loving attentions.

  240. the fat nutritionist:

    Yeah. That he thinks this would be a rare exception is sort of amazing to me.

  241. “He said he does when he can, but really it is the woman’s responsibility to call the men out. “
    You’ll forgive my pejorative tone if I say that’s a box of crap.
    a) They’re not listening already, when we say “Please go away.”
    b) Why should we have to take the risk that they’re going to become violent?

    I’m so sick of hearing this. Lis had this discussion in her “Terrible Bargain” posts. (She said it much more gently and I think is actually getting a halfway decent positive response.) The times I’ve said it, I’ve been excoriated for daring to suggest that men can better stop men from acting out, even though there’s sociological in-group research to back up the proposition that a member of an in-group will “hear” a suggestion more quickly from another in-group member than s/he will from an “out-group” member.

    “In the real world, however, it is incredibly rare. It just doesn’t happen, and if a man did become violent in a public place, I guarantee that someone would step in to intervene.”
    Translation: I’ve never seen it happen, therefore it never happens.
    *headfloor*
    Also, pompous ass.

    /rant

  242. Yeah, rape culture. Where sexual aggressiveness in men is something for women to accommodate and encourage and consider a compliment. Right up until the man turns into a rapist and we’re supposed to have KNOWN FROM THE START not to get in a vehicle with him/accept a drink from him/wear a skirt around him. In fact, we should have called the cops the second he admired our netbooks, that damned rapist, because women have to be responsible for their personal safety in this day and age.

    But let us not permit this concern for our own safety cause us to commit the crime of dissing the rest of mankind. Those poor dears. They have it rough, what with that fear of irrational feminist pissiness when all they want is to talk to us, and all we want is to be left alone, which is clearly in violation of the fucking social contract and will cause the collapse of civilization as we know it.

    I am feeling the stabbing pain. I am CROSS. (Thanks very much, Persephone, I luuuv my new adjective.) I am going to bed. When I get up in the morning, I expect all the menz to be properly reeducated. If not, I will reconsider the collapse of civilization as we know it with a favorable eye.

  243. littlem – I am sure it will shock you entirely none to hear that when I mentioned I’d love to live in his world, his response was essentially “I have never seen it, please site [sic] an example to prove it really does.”

    *sigh*

  244. even though there’s sociological in-group research to back up the proposition that a member of an in-group will “hear” a suggestion more quickly from another in-group member than s/he will from an “out-group” member.

    littlem – I do think this is also where some of the defensiveness is coming from. Munroe is a nerd/geek hero, therefore they will circle the wagons to protect him. Even when the criticism is so terribly mild. It’s viewed as an in-group/out-group thing.

  245. Thanks, all. It’s genuinely really nice to hear I’m not crazy to think that his behavior is messed up; before I told people about it, when it was just me vs. him, it was easy to start thinking, “well, maybe I *am* crazy and overreacting…” because I’ve had very little experience with this sort of thing (thankfully.)

    It’s easy to do these analyses of other situations, comics, etc, but having to remind yourself that you’re *truly* not imaging it is super tough… >.< Much sympathy to other people who've put up with crap.

    littlem: *Definitely* not giving him a forwarding address! Did have to tell him I was moving out, though, 'cause I don't get my deposit back without 30 days notice and I had to pay rent for October. But he doesn't know it's as soon as next weekend, so I'm planning on being like "oh, here are the movers! Deposit back now, thanks, bye forever. *door slam*"

    As for the police, I'm not sure if they'll take me seriously… it's really just my word against his, and I have nothing concrete to offer. It was all verbal, and the other roommates have been ignoring it/think I deserve it/have been out of the house/I don't know what. Maybe if I call them just to ask to have it on record, but don't ask them to do anything in particular about it… I dunno. That might be a good idea. It's somewhat appealing.

  246. @lightcastle –
    Clearly it shocks me not at all.
    I think you should “site” him the example of this 200+ comment thread, and when he scoffs about anecdotal evidence, tell him, “You see? You’re doing exactly what those harassers do — you’re denying the experience of the women in front of you who tell you things are one way for them and you’re busy insisting they’re the opposite way. So since you’ve proved my point, you can shut up now. Kthxbai.”

    @Starling –
    “If not, I will reconsider the collapse of civilization as we know it with a favorable eye.”
    Kind of gives “♪♫It’s the end of the world as we know it — and I feel fine♫♪” a whole new read, doesn’t it?
    Sleep well; feel better.

  247. Bagelsan–
    E-mail yourself an account of what happened, which will give it a timestamp and verify that the problem is ongoing if he tries stuff again. Also consider contacting a victim’s advocate with the police department. If you and landlord live under the same roof, his behavior is a domestic violence issue (in most states), even if you have no other sort of personal connection. The beat cops will likely be unable to do squat except document, but the victim’s advocate may be able to help in a concrete way.

    . . . and thanks, littlem, I am actually off to bed now. REM will be playing in my dreams.

  248. @lightcastle –

    Re: ingroup/outgroup – I meant with respect to a man saying to another man, “Dude, stop harassing that woman, not cool” as opposed to a woman telling that same man, “Dude, stop harassing me, not cool”.

    But you’re right about your analysis as well, with the vitriol. Defend our geek brothers to the death!
    *eyeroll*

  249. It’s viewed as an in-group/out-group thing.

    But then, when they want to get laid, female geeks are suddenly “in-group” again and we owe them one. Funny how that works… 9.9

    littlem: Took your advice, gonna file a report. Just for peace of mind, and to have something on record. The worst thing that can happen is they say “there’s not enough to go on.” So yeah. *deep breath*

  250. littlem: Sorry, it’s late and I missed a transition in there. Yes, absolutely, I agree with your point. I was just adding that ingroup/outgroup “cred” and such also explains some other behaviour.

    Of course, as a men who has called out other men, I can tell you that what almost always happens is I get quickly recast as “other” so as to make my critique invalid.

  251. @Bagelsan –
    “The worst thing that can happen is they say “there’s not enough to go on.” So yeah. *deep breath*”
    I know. *sigh* Preventive protection is scarily like preventive medicine.
    You do want to prepare yourself for some possible condescension, but as Starling said, you then have a record of what happened for yourself if you need it. And if at any point you feel comfortable doing it and your LL has made you sufficiently uncomfortable, you can request from the police that they contact him and give him a warning. (Strategically, sometimes it’s better to get them to think it was their idea, but we work with what we have.)

    @lightcastle –

    Of course, as a men who has called out other men, I can tell you that what almost always happens is I get quickly recast as “other” so as to make my critique invalid.
    That’s … interesting. Insular protective sheepmaking bullying culture alive and well, I see, even within the ingroup. Worse than pledging sorority. (Not really though, IDT. But at least just as bad.)
    What happens if there are two, or three men, saying “Dude not cool”, instead of just one, so the one man doesn’t feel isolated?

  252. Re: point him here…

    I could. I’d kind of prefer to point him somewhere else. I mean, I know he’s just going to deny it or cite anecdotal evidence or what have you, but I’d like to pretend he might listen if it is detached from this particular comic.

  253. Wasn’t there some monster thread in the past year or so (yeah, my memory’s super great, thanks!) where women were talking about their experiences of street harassment? Might’ve even been here, or on one of the non-fatosphere feminist blogs?

  254. Yep, that’s the one. Anyone who believes this crap isn’t a problem in, you know, the real world should probably take a look at all the stories there before they continue running their mouth into the ground.

  255. You do want to prepare yourself for some possible condescension, but as Starling said, you then have a record of what happened for yourself if you need it.

    Welp, I did it. (I work quickly when I want to. :p) The guy I talked to was nice and pretty straightforward about it, thank goodness. He was upfront that the only thing I could really get my landlord on was the coming into my room bit (the rest is legal, if assholish). Apparently I’m not the first tenant to complain of this trespassing, interestingly. So, no real legal action to take, but a little more support for my complaint.

    HOWEVER he also asked how many other tenants there are, and whether there was a fire escape/alarm in my room –there isn’t– and whether my LL had a permit to run a boarding house… and I got the impression that my LL might be getting on the wrong side of some fire safety/housing peeps in the near future. (Not traceable back to me, the cop assured me.) So that’s kind of interesting… :p And scheudenfreud-licious. (I don’t really care, honestly, if he gets in trouble except that I don’t want other women getting suckered into renting from him.)

    And now everything’s on record. And maybe in the distant future my LL won’t be free to pull this crap with other people. So overall, a win I think. Thanks for the advice, littlem! ‘S good stuff! (Now to wait until Saturday when I move; then it will be a total, resounding win. ^^)

  256. goodbyemyboy: thanks!

    Sadly, I already know he’ll point out that this is “catcalling” and therefore completely different. Also, unless a woman is attacked violently for brushing off a conversation, it won’t count.

  257. Also, unless a woman is attacked violently for brushing off a conversation, it won’t count.

    I would, personally, count “nearly getting lit on fire” as violence, but maybe he is made of asbestos and would disagree. 9.9 Real Men ™ are not flammable.

  258. @ Bagelsan: Wow, totally not surprised that others have complained about your landlord! Here’s hoping things stay calm and you get out of this situation safely. Continue to document every interaction by emailing yourself.

    You probably will have to leave some sort of forwarding address, because most states’ laws allow a landlord a short grace period to refund your deposit. Maybe you can furnish a work address, or a PO box where he can send you a check? Find out about your state’s laws and set up that address now, because forewarned is forearmed. Be sure he knows that you know about the laws, too.

    Also, be sure to take date-stamped photos of the room before you leave, and get signed moveout paperwork detailing that you left it in the same/similar condition it was in when you moved in. Again, most states have laws that say a tenant cannot be charged for normal wear and tear on a rental unit. Wouldn’t put it past this douchewaffle to try to stick you with paying for trumped-up damages.

  259. Just to return to one of the subthreads above:

    …maybe the problem with creepy men hitting on women in public places is pervasive in the US?

    And maybe it’s also pervasive in NZ, Australia, England, Wales, France and Belgium. I would say pretty much every urban area in the world, and plenty of non-urban areas. While it doesn’t happen to me often – hello, I look like a big scary dyke – it still does happen to me, and I’ve witnessed it in every one of those countries I’ve mentioned.

  260. Bagelsan: Thank you for taking a stand!

    (I do thank women when they don’t lie down and take this shit, because my own history is of lying down and taking this shit, and I am grateful to the women who are making the world a better place for my daughters like I was too afraid to do).

    (I am also glad I won’t have to check this blog daily for a week to make sure Bagelsan hasn’t been murdered).

  261. So much to learn from these comments ( yes I read them all. :) ) Not because I wasn’t made uncomfortable by that comic, but because of the articulate way people here have expressed why it made me uncomfortable in a way that I couldn’t. I am so in awe of the SP commenters.

    I’ve mentioned this event here before, but for the guy who posted to the other thread saying it never happened and that people would step in: At the main train station in our Australian city, my sister was accosted by a man who deliberately slammed into her shoulder so hard as he passed that he hurt her, and she made the mistake of mildly saying, “Hey!” to him, and had him then walk backwards up the station in front of her screaming obscenities into her face.

    This went on and on despite the station being packed with other rush hour commuters, *not one* of whom moved to stop him in any way.

    There was a happy ending to this story, as she took out her phone, (still with the guy’s face pushed into hers screaming at her) rang her husband who happened to be a transit policeman and asked if he was at the main station, he was, and she told him to “come get this guy off me” (all the while being screamed at) and the next thing her assailant was ungently armlocked to the ground by her husband from behind. That was a million to one chance for help that most women don’t get, but who knows it might have put the guy off doing this another time. No surprises, he turned out to have a prior record for violently assaulting women. So no, people don’t always help you, not even when there are lots and lots of them around in broad daylight.

    And yes she was kicking herself for even so mildly remonstrating as to say, hey, and next time would probably take her pain and keep walking (as perhaps many women did before and after her) because she has learned her lesson (as so many of us have) and would be too afraid of the repercussions to open her mouth again in such circumstances. Yay.

  262. Well, I at least skimmed all the comments and I know this point has been touched on, or at least pretty near, but my biggest problem with the comic is the sense of “oh noes, if holla-back exists someone might use it to spread lies about an innocent man,” which I think bothers me in the same kind of way as “but some women lie about being raped.” But the other objections to the comic really clicked for me when it was phrased as “turning away from you and ignoring you and concentrating on her laptop means she really wants you to talk to her.”

  263. When I really lose my temper I can be pretty frightening. I’ve had men much bigger than me back down, usually mumbling something about how I was just a crazy bitch. They could easily see that, at that moment in time, I was angry enough not to give a shit what happened to me. Sure I would get a beat down or even get killed, but I was too enraged to care and the cost of “winning” against me would be expensive. I don’t say this to try to show what a badass I am, I’m just making the point that I’m not exactly intimidated by conflict. STILL I find myself trying my best to be cool but polite when approached by some guy who will not simply shut up and leave me alone.

    I don’t want to have to fly into a crazy rage just to back some idiot off. I don’t want the situation to escalate at all. I just want to be left the hell alone. Why is that not enough? And what exactly do these guys think is going to happen??? Do they really believe that if they keep yammering at me all of a sudden I’m going to stop being an ice queen and give it up? Do they think that if they are annoying enough that I’ll drop them a blow job just to get them to shut the everloving fuck up???

    If I’m interested in you buddy, you’ll know it. Otherwise keep your fabulousness to your damn self.

  264. Well here in japan I don’t get talked to often on the train but I have been groped 8 times in the past 4 years. “train groping” is an entire culture here. Just put
    train grope japan
    into google and feel the burning rage. I’m not bothered much if a male tries to talk to me on the train but the groping I find troublesome and usually I’m the one in the train station getting yelled at for “assault” for daring to fight the groper back.

  265. Re: Body language in the xkcd strip. Though I highly doubt the xkcd creator intentionally worked body language into the strip, I’m going to go with the idea for the sake of argument.

    Body language needs to be read in context. The girl is writing in her blog of her disappointment that the cute guy didn’t talk to her, so she is obviously open to him making some sort of move, so why the turned away posture?

    In a real life scenario I imagine the girl would originally have some sort of “open” body language towards the person she is interested in, but then turns away and has closed body language when she perceives no interest coming from the other person, so as not to be entering or pointing towards their their personal space any more…. and not because she is actually the one who isn’t interested.

    Simple.

  266. Lasties! (hah, I’m goofy.)

    Just wanted to say awesomely articulated post, with words and stuff that makes the issues easier to explain the next time someone tries to claim that I’d be flattered “if it was George Clooney following you instead of an ugly guy” (yes, I’ve gotten that, more than once – it’s a standard argument for some).

    Also, want to thank the people who are pointing out that just because a woman has not personally experienced the sense of terror that unwanted unstoppable harassment causes, that every woman who does is not “overreacting”. The more voices speak up, the more strength we have to push back. I love you all.

  267. You know, it occurs to me that the whole issue could have been avoided by just having them be classmates or friends-of-friends. I understand why her body language has to say “go away” if the joke is that she’s socially inept too — she’s hoping the netbook will make up for her awkwardness and antisocial vibes by providing an in for conversation. But it’s the fact that this takes place between complete strangers, on public transportation, the location of so much unwanted harassment from guys who say they “just want to talk” or are “just trying to be nice,” that strikes the wrong chord with me.

  268. I’m coming at this not as a regular reader of the strip, and not as somebody who identifies much as a geek, but as somebody who has indeed made comments to people (of both sexes) about their computers and computer equipment if it strikes my eye. Because I am somebody who talks to strangers, and I will sometimes comment that I like somebody’s computer, or sweater, or ask them how they are doing. I am not hitting on them, I’m not secretly fantasizing about raping them, I’m not wanting to do anything other than talk. Because I like people, I like to talk, and I don’t think there’s any reason why we all need to walk around with our iPods in our ears all day, living in self-contained little bubbles ignoring anybody we don’t already know.

    And, I have wondered, after the fact, if somebody has thought I was weird or creepy. Because, we do live in such an anti-social culture that sometimes normal friendliness (in which I would absolutely put “Cute netbook!”, no matter who said it) can be taken by people as weird.

    I once had an extra coupon for the laundromat. You could only use one at a time, and they were about to expire. So, I went up to the person (a woman in her 30s or 40s) nearest me in the laundromat, and offered my extra coupon to her, and she growled “Get away from me!” at me and turned away. I cried on the way home. I just could not believe that what I had intended as a small, kind gesture to another person was taken so badly. And, yes, the next time I considered doing something like that, I thought twice.

    So, I can see why somebody might read the context primarily as one about male/female power dynamics, but I think it could also be read in the context of a culture where many people seem to take offense (in a wide variety of ways) to normal friendliness, and the ways in which that causes many of us to think twice before we engage a stranger in any way. And, honestly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Yes, it would be nice if men didn’t hit on random women. But, I don’t think it would be nice if nobody ever talked to people they didn’t know.

  269. Omg, Schrodinger’s Rapist is the PERFECT term to capture the “why don’t women like it when strange men pay attention to them” issue. That might be another post in and of itself. I suggest we propagate this term through the feminist blogosphere.

  270. Wow, I would never in a million years have seen rape culture in this strip. It’s really interesting to hear that perspective.

    Like some others mentioned, I think it might be because I don’t read the characters as “generic man” and “generic woman”. I see them as “generic nerdy but fun grad student types”, which is what basically all xkcd characters are unless something else is made obvious. When I remove that filter – if it was just a random cartoon that I never read before – I absolutely understand what you mean.

  271. but I think it could also be read in the context of a culture where many people seem to take offense (in a wide variety of ways) to normal friendliness, and the ways in which that causes many of us to think twice before we engage a stranger in any way. And, honestly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Yes, it would be nice if men didn’t hit on random women. But, I don’t think it would be nice if nobody ever talked to people they didn’t know.

    Have you read the comments on this thread? Because many of us are reading this in the context of a culture where “normal friendliness” is used as a mask for predatory intent. Who the fuck is saying that nobody should talk to people they don’t know?

    But you know what, hell, I’m willing to go there. If we’re talking a choice between World Where No One Talks to Strangers On the Train Or Bus or Street and Thus Random Acts of Kindness Are Sadly Missed, and World Where Men Regularly Harass Women in Public With Impunity, yeah, I’ll fucking trade and consider it a bargain.

  272. I’m one of those people that other people talk to. I evidently have a face that just screams, “tell me the most intimate details of your life!” I find most people interesting and I try to be kind but… I mean dammit! Just because I am sitting there minding my own freaking business and not bothering a soul doesn’t mean I am dying for some stranger to tell me about their dog-aunt marge-rotten kids-wonderful husband. I am also one of those people who will randomly comment about something I like, I just don’t see why that has to lead to a long and boring exchange. Just because I mention that you have cute shoes or a great sweater, that doesn’t mean that I want to be life-long bestest buddies forever. I’m probably never even going to see you again. I wasn’t interested in YOU, I was interested in your SHOES. Briefly. Just for a half a moment.

    When I am waiting around or trying to get somewhere I am either:

    a) concentrating on something/a lot of things that I have to do or
    b) I have finished doing something/a lot of things and I just want to relax.

    Annoying chatter from someone I could give less than a shit about detracts from both of these processes.

    I’m sure you’re a lovely and terrific person, hugs and kisses and the best of wishes and all that, but you can keep your friendliness and random acts of kindness to yourself.

  273. I think it’s fairly easy to have nice conversations with strangers, or to say hello, or to hand over a coupon, unless the stranger we happen to approach is feeling triggered or threatened. (It sucks when people are, but that’s probably in the category of worse for them than for us.) Women have got it easy, but frankly men don’t have it so hard, either. The amazing little trick is to talk to other people, except for anyone who might misunderstand your approach. Of course, that excludes men approaching a woman alone, which eliminates all this plausibly deniable ulterior motive (helloooo, Nice Guy TM!), but that’s okay if what we’re talking about really is common civility.

    So: smile and say hi! Go ahead, do it! But do it to people in groups, or people of your own gender, or people in a safe and comfortable place who look willing to be approached. Do it while walking briskly, so that it’s a drive-by “Hello!” instead of a demand for entertainment/conversation/whatev. Don’t do it anywhere people can’t escape you (public transit) or anywhere they might feel threatened.

    I mean, fer cryin’ out loud, I do this in New York City.

    Oooh, I found a Kit Kat on my desk. [distracted]

  274. Re-reading my last post I realized that it sounded very harsh. I would like to say sorry for dumping my frustrations all over the place like that.

    I do realize that sometimes it is easier to talk to a stranger and I like to be that sympathetic ear when I can. I hate to think that I’m so busy that I can’t take a few minutes to offer a small slice of human contact to another being. However, I do get wound up about it sometimes because I also don’t see why I can’t have a few minutes to myself when I am travelling between the obligations of work and the obligations of home.

  275. Bagelsan, please get out, and get out now. If you have a friend with a couch, I want you to call them and impose and go. That’s almost exactly what a landlord did to me over the course of a couple months, and when a day or two after an especially bad incident he came by and nicely apologized, that was when he assaulted me. (Interestingly, I had graduated from a women’s college one year before.) He’s stalking you (that’s what the going into your room part is), he’s harrassing and manipulating you, and I really want you to leave. Tonight. And please call a friend so you don’t have to be alone there for even 10 minutes (and to help you get your stuff out of the house). If you have a deposit you want back, get a post office box somewhere innocuous so he can’t follow you (though I think for a lot of these in-house stalkers, following you takes more effort than it’s worth. Mine never tried).

  276. fillyjonk: Someone elsewhere linked to this. http://www.ericjacobsen.org/lab.gif
    IT strikes me as the same idea he was going for, without the problems.

    Sweet Machine: I was already intending to steal “Schrödinger’s Rapist” because it is kind of awesome.

    (It also occurs to me that the math/engineer types I often have the most trouble explaining these things to might even grok it that way.)

  277. This is such a cool thread, and Schroedinger’s Rapist is a wonderful phrase. I see it being extremely useful!

    I know I link to this all the bloody time, but there’s a lovely anecdote and conversation on a similar topic at Zuska’s blog. The replies from men who simply. do. not. understand that women’s clear verbal and nonverbal signals are routinely ignored, and the arsehole who consider a woman’s retaliatory rudeness in response to a rude man to be rather like stabbing him, are almost as illuminating as the post itself.

    And in response to the “just tell him you’re studying” way way upthread, in my experience this just encourages creeps by giving out a bit of personal information about you that allows for follow-up questions. What you studying for? So you’re a student then? What’s your subject? So you must be clever eh? (this last demands a simpering eyelash-fluttering oh-no-not-little-me response in order not to be a Stuck-Up Bitch Who Thinks She’s Too Good For Me) and on and on. It also means that if you’re regular commuters on the same bus he can get you NEXT time and ask how the test went and blah blah blah. Anything you say is either polite enough for this kind of creep to take as a come-on, or rude enough for this kind of creep to take offence, or both. It’s a perfect catch-22.

  278. These comments are pissing me off so much, mostly because they bring back memories of all the shit I put up with when I lived in apartments and used public transportation – two things I will never willingly do again. God, the creepy guys at the bus stop telling me to “smile!” The sinister dude hanging out near the apartment entrances. The laundry room stalker. The “nice guy” who just happened to be walking the same way. Not to mention the actual incidents of assault from strangers.

    In a way, I’ve imprisoned myself in my house and car (I almost never go out alone or after dark), but that’s a price I’m willing to pay for at least cutting down those moments of terror when I wonder if I’m being followed or if the guy who just got in my face is actually violent or just massively entitled.

    Fuck.

  279. @Lori:
    “…but I think it could also be read in the context of a culture where many people seem to take offense (in a wide variety of ways) to normal friendliness, and the ways in which that causes many of us to think twice before we engage a stranger in any way.”

    But the thing is, we’re NOT taking offense to normal friendliness, we’re protecting ourselves from harassment. We’re making this judgment based on years and years worth of harassment from people who appear to just be trying to be nice.

    It’s like Kate wrote in the “gratitude” post linked above:

    “They mean it is far more likely this person got it wrong once but right the other 99 times out of 100 than it is that this person is hysterically overreacting to a wholly imagined problem.”

    And I’m sorry the woman at the laundromat was mean to you, but, and I’m not trying to be mean here, that interaction wasn’t ~all about you.~ Maybe she’d been harassed a gazillion times between her apartment and the laundromat, like many of us here have been. Maybe it was just a bad day. The reason she was mean doesn’t matter, nobody is obligated to be nice to you, even if you are offering them a coupon. And that’s what this thread is all about — no woman is obligated to be nice to a man, even if he’s really really nice, even if he’s just asking us about our netbooks. But we HAVE to be, because we don’t know whether this particular man commenting on our looks, our shirt, our computer, etc is actually nice or is going to try to set us on fire.

  280. lightcastle, I think that comic works perfectly, and I agree that that’s what he’s going for. It has the same intended punchline without the baggage, and it examines both characters equally. It actually made me go “aww.”

  281. goodbyemyboy: You could even manage to keep it in public transportation, if you just have both of them writing on their netbooks, failing to talk to each other with a similar dynamic.

  282. Lightcastle & Goodbyemyboy, I liked the idea someone had above of the girl having, like, a ~ton~ of geek bait out, like a netbook, iPod, DVDs of some geeky show, manga, etc, and had open body language. Then what she’d be writing would say something like “I had this and that and the other and the geeky boy STILL isn’t talking to me!” Same comic, very slight tweaks, and not as creepy!

  283. Also, Lori, it would be nice if men didn’t hit on random women? really, you think this is just about not liking honestly positive attention? Have you read the comments? We’re talking about surviving harrassment, stalking, and assault. The sense of entitlement a man might feel that would lead him to flirt with a stranger in a setting where it’s not appropriate or normal to do so, when her body language was not encouraging or friendly, is the same sense of entitlement that allows other, equally clueless but more malicious men to feel free to harrass, assault, and rape. The woman at the laundromat was under no obligation to be nice to you, and you have no idea what else happened to her that day, or when she was approached by strangers at the laundromat in the past. It is seriously not about you.

    We are not living in some horrible world where no one trusts each other because people aren’t nice and polite enough. This is a society where women are routinely the victims of harrassment and violence, and yet they are still expected to be polite about it. What that woman was going through was far worse than how she made you feel.

  284. I get Jake’s point, but I also understand where the OP is coming from. My only comment is regarding the body language – as someone who is somewhat antisocial and physically awkward, I often don’t understand that the body language I am putting out (turning towards my laptop, allowing my hair to hide my face) discourages people from speaking to me. It’s something many of my other female geek friends also have an issue with. Because we are self-concious, we physically turn in on ourselves, even when we’re doing other things to try to attract attention – often with books, tech, or something similar – and don’t realise that it is counterproductive. If the artist for XCKD is typically around geeky ladies with the same problem, it could be possible he didn’t even catch the body language issue.

    I’m not saying I disagree with the OP, I am just kind of explaining how I saw it – as a geek like me feeling self conscious but trying to get attention, while putting off the wrong impression (that attention would produce a negative reaction).

  285. BrieCS, I think it’s still very important that people respond appropriately to body language, because it is far better to err on the side of caution than to make someone feel uncomfortable, targeted, or harrassed.

  286. LOL Maybe we should all wear those little signs that switch from “occupied” to “unoccupied”. That way if we are not interested in casual conversation everybody knows it regardless of body language and all the Chatty Cathy/Charlies can recognize each other. Even better, they can keep each other entertained so that the rest of us can be left alone.

    (sigh) Nice thought, but if I’m wearing my occupied sign I’d still get some guy who’s too thick to understand. “What are you so occupied with? I just want to talk to you. C’mon, flip the sign over.”

  287. Ok, I never, never, never post without reading all the comments first. But I’m doing it now. Because there are 300+ of them. I feel guilty. :)

    Sweet Machine, you say,
    The strip in question starts with a spot-on confrontation between a woman on a train and a strange man hitting on her, in which she firmly tells him that if she wanted his attention, she’d have shown it… The punchline of the strip is — haha! — the chick wanted it all along!

    I was wondering (not that it should necessarily change your viewpoint one whit), whether you realized that the first three panels take place entirely within the man’s imagination? To me, the strip as you read it is horrifying. And a strip in which no conversation between the two characters has actually taken place, it is not problematic to me that the woman character is interested in talking to the man but is not saying so. It don’t get the “She wanted it all along!” subtext to me, even with the hover-text.

    Which is not to say that the comic doesn’t reek of privilege (“I’m afraid of getting my head bitten off talking to women and isn’t that just so sad and tragic for me?!?”), but I’m not getting rape culture exactly.

    I could definitely see alternate-universe-gay-Randall Munroe making a comic with two men with the exact same language in the first and last panel, but the middle two would probably have the “main character” imagining a “Why are you talking to me, you zit-faced geek? Are you a fag?” attack. So there’s surely some sexist stuff and anti-feminist stuff to unpack there. The difference being that homophobia is something to be legitimately scared of (bodily harm, etc.), but women that are scared of you because you approached them on a train are not something to be scared of.

    I fear that I ramble. :/

  288. Rachel, this was addressed in the above comments; to sum up: the comic is problematic because it perpetuates the idea that women who have “leave me alone” body language, who are turned away, who don’t make eye contact, really do want to be talked to.

  289. I was wondering (not that it should necessarily change your viewpoint one whit), whether you realized that the first three panels take place entirely within the man’s imagination?

    Yes.

    It don’t get the “She wanted it all along!” subtext to me, even with the hover-text.

    This is a time where reading the 300+ comments will help you.

  290. @goodbymyboy @SweetMachine Thanks for the replies! Normally I do read all of the comments before posting here or anywhere. I appreciate your patience with me.

  291. Okay, as a habitual public transit chatter, these are my general rules. I make conversation with people on the bus fairly frequently, and have never had any problems, and no one has ever seemed super-creeped out by me. Maybe it helps that I’m a fairly unassuming, geeky-looking, short woman, but these are probably good rules for anyone, provided they want to try to make conversation with fellow commuters and don’t want to be creepy.

    1. Be aware of your bus. Are you in a sketchy part of town? People may not want to talk to you because they’re already wary. Also if it’s night.

    2. Don’t walk to the other end of the bus just to talk to someone. It’s creepy and looks like you’re a stalker.

    3. Don’t approach anyone who’s reading/working/has headphones on/is staring out the window/is staring at the floor/is staring into space. They don’t want to talk to you. They’re busy. Don’t be creepy.

    4. Open ended questions/statements are good because they can either be answered with one word or a lot of words. Example: “Cute hat!” One word answer = don’t talk to me. A couple sentences usually = sure, I will talk with you. If you complement someone’s hat and they just say “Thanks,” don’t keep talking. You’re being creepy.

    5. Don’t ask about significant others unless I mention one and we’re already having a decent conversation. This is very creepy and makes me think that you’re trying to pick me up.

    6. No touching. Ever. Under any circumstance. It’s creepy and may cause me to hit you, especially if you don’t move your hand when I ask.

    7. Don’t take it too personally if people are rude. You were probably being creepy. If you weren’t, they were probably just having a bad day. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.

    That may cover it.

    I have to say that, at first, I didn’t quite get what the fuss was about the comic, but looking at it closer, I can definitely see why it would be triggering for some people and was not the smartest move on R. Munroe’s part. It also made me think hard about when I try to wiggle out of a public transit conversation and when I continue it. The above rules were the brainchild of that thought process.

  292. I’ve read all the comments, and this has not been brought up directly, so I’m going to bring it up.

    It kind of creeps me out that this whole scenario of rejection is going on in stick man’s head, because I have the feeling that in the past, when I’ve politely said, “You know, don’t take this personally, but I really don’t want to talk right now,” what the man heard was, “If I was interested in you, I’d let you know–leave me alone, you creep!” (BTW, I’m not implying that it is wrong to say that, or that saying that would in anyway justify harassment.)

    My point is that, amongst all the other sexist stereotypes this comic unwittingly reinforces, it also reinforces the inaccurate perception that all women have the mission in life of shooting men down and making them feel inadequate. Which is, of course, not true. (And, of course, even if it WERE true, fear of being humiliated is in no way equal to fear of being raped, as has been said.)

  293. Shoshie, thank you for your eminently reasonable comment.

    Don’t take it too personally if people are rude. You were probably being creepy. If you weren’t, they were probably just having a bad day. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.

    This is another way of summing up my problem with the comic in the first place: this is telling dudes that, yes, actually, the whole world *did* revolve around you.

  294. Ethyl, I love the geekbait version.

    (“Day 6 – Heinlein gets no response. Am moving on to Cowboy Bebop screensaver…”)

    I’d find that hilarious, especially if she was looking at him all expectantly. (Again, the closed body language would be a problem, IMHO.)

  295. Bagelsan what volcanista said.Get out now. Don’t wait. Even with a report in with the cops, you need to remove yourself from this guy’s life as fast as possible. Go to a friend’s or a hotel or something, but do not give this asshole any more opportunities to harass you. If he’s done this before, it’s possible he will just escalate the situation to physical violence.

    Also bravo (brava?) to all the Shapelings fighting the good fight in this thread. It’s wearying but it makes my heart all warm and fuzzy to see so many people Getting It about the problem at the heart of this.

    Unfortunately I suspect the comments will continue. As someone else observed, this is a popular comic and people (many of them male) will feel compelled to Explain Things to Women by pointing out how “attacking” the cartoon is wrong for various reasons – akin to Melissa still getting trolls over the Fat Princess thread on Shakesville. *sigh*

    DRST

  296. As someone else observed, this is a popular comic and people (many of them male) will feel compelled to Explain Things to Women by pointing out how “attacking” the cartoon is wrong for various reasons

    The thing that really makes me roll my eyes about this is that (like I said in the original post, how about that) I am a huge fan of xkcd. I’m really not trying to “attack” anyone.

  297. I would just like to thank everyone for being so good at explaining that after having read all of the comments I can understand why you saw that, even if I still think the post was slightly angrier than was possibly warranted by the comic alone.

    (Bearing in mind that my first reaction was “wow this is why people think feminists are humourless bitches” and then “I guess I lose my feminist card now”, that’s a fair turnaround.)

    I may also have slight privilege bias because I haven’t had to use public transportation much and it’s nearly impossible to walk anywhere where I live, so I haven’t been exposed to this much. Eyes depressingly opened. (The guy with the lighter story utterly flabbergasted me. I mean holy hell insane people.)

    I’ll add to the chorus wishing Bagelsan luck and health and no further harassment, as well.

    (now I hope I didn’t shove my foot too far in my mouth and hit post)

  298. even if I still think the post was slightly angrier than was possibly warranted by the comic alone.

    1) This post and this thread are clearly not talking about the comic *alone.*
    2) How angry do you really find this post? The second paragraph, which uses some comic exaggeration and exclamation points, is the only part (IMO) that isn’t couched in fairly sedate, analytical language. I can’t help but feel that some readers’ reactions have to do with me not expressing a Dainty Little Bite of anger.
    2) You don’t get to decide how angry it’s appropriate for someone else gets to get, which is kinda my point about the comic in the first place.

    I want to make it clear that I really appreciate your comment about this conversation, and I’m not trying to single you out — your comment about anger just really jumped out at me.

  299. Slightly off topic, but has anyone ever read anything on the intersection of feminism and fat acceptance when it comes to street harassment? Because I have to admit that, on some level, when I read people’s stories my reaction is still “God, the reason I get to ride public transportation without getting harassed on a regular basis is that I’m a total troll. That’s depressing.” Which is obviously not a productive response on a personal or political level, but I would be interested to see if someone had done a more reasoned analysis of that dynamic.

  300. I know the anger isn’t about the comic alone – which is what I was trying to get across by saying the ‘the comic alone’ part :P I was a bit shell-shocked by the anger and hyperbole in the “oh look the girl just wants some cock” part, I think. It was several hours ago that I read it and my memory is a sieve with holes in it >_< (I resisted the urge to comment immediately even after reading all of the comments because I knew I'd just sound like an ass. Yay self-control?)

    And I know it's not my place to decide how angry someone gets to be, I was just really *surprised* by the level of anger. I'm not sure if I have any actual point to make about that, if I did I've forgotten it in the last ten seconds.

    I think it was because I usually find stuff here…. stuff that I really agree with? And I was going "kneejerk I likes the xkcd defeeeeeeeeend" and the anger wasn't something I could identify with or even (before reading over three hundred comments) understand, and it baffled me? Dunno, I'm tired and not good at analyzing my gut reactions. The anger jumped at me he way my comment did at you, maybe :P

    (Why am I so bad at getting myself to go to sleep when I'm tired? Sorry for the rambly. I have issues trying to sort the inside of my head out sometimes. Hope I made some kind of sense.)

  301. @Gail –

    ‘(sigh) Nice thought, but if I’m wearing my occupied sign I’d still get some guy who’s too thick to understand.self-involved to want to understand. “What are you so occupied with? I just want to talk to you. C’mon, flip the sign over.”’

    Fixed that for you. ;-)

  302. “volcanista:
    BrieCS, I think it’s still very important that people respond appropriately to body language, because it is far better to err on the side of caution than to make someone feel uncomfortable, targeted, or harrassed.”

    Oh, I totally agree. I was just kind of extrapolating on the reasons why the artist may have drawn it that way – it doesn’t excuse the impression the comic gives and I completely agree that the body language should be treated as an indicator to stay away.

    LilahMorgan:
    I have the same thing. I rarely if ever get propositioned or hit on – normally the type of harassment I have received is negative from the get go (“You’re ugly,” “fatass,” “retard,” “bitch”, etc.), and what few experiences I had of being hit on I appreciated, since it is so seldom I get anything like that (it took me months to realise when I was being sexually harassed at my old job that it was *actually sexual harassment* and that it should bother me and that it actualy DID bother me, mostly because of the odd two-pronged approach my superiors used).
    It’s a very interesting thing to look at!

  303. “So, I can see why somebody might read the context primarily as one about male/female power dynamics, but I think it could also be read in the context of a culture where many people seem to take offense (in a wide variety of ways) to normal friendliness, and the ways in which that causes many of us to think twice before we engage a stranger in any way. And, honestly, I don’t think that’s a good thing. Yes, it would be nice if men didn’t hit on random women. But, I don’t think it would be nice if nobody ever talked to people they didn’t know.”

    Ok, but see, I’ve had multiple encounters with men who seemed really nice, pleasant, respectful, interesting, etc. And some of them turned out to be genuinely nice. I’ve even given out my number to a couple of guys who I’ve met on public transportation, because they were pleasant, interesting, attractive, and they were careful not to intrude on my personal space or make inappropriate comments. But not all of them did – I’ve had several terrifying incidents with men on public transit who started off nice and then turned scary. I’ve been followed, screamed at, groped, and even chased down the street. So now when a dude on the bus who seems nice tries to strike up conversation, I don’t care that he might be a really cool person or that it’s isolating and unpleasant to live in a world where no one talks to one another. I don’t care, because I’m through with taking that risk. I have enough on my plate without wondering if this particular dude is going to be my soulmate or my murderer. I just find it easier to put out “leave me alone” vibes and leave the situation as soon as I can if I encounter someone who ignores my (obvious) body language.

    Also, I totally don’t care that some people aren’t as good at sensing subtle signals or reading body language. I have no way of knowing if that particular stranger who is crowding me on the bus and talking at me is unable or unwilling to read my cues. In either case, it’s a potential danger.

    Shoshie, I love your list of rules, particularly this one:
    “Don’t take it too personally if people are rude. You were probably being creepy. If you weren’t, they were probably just having a bad day. The world doesn’t revolve around you, you know.”

    I also just had a thought about the comic. What if she’s turned away from him not to appear closed off, but to try to get him to look over her shoulder and read the blog entry she’s typing about him. It’s entirely reasonable to me that a socially inept geek girl would think of that as a good way to prod him into talking to her (without actually putting herself “out there” too much. That said, it’s still a stretch. I’ve had men look over my shoulder on public transportation to see what I’m typing in a text message, and I always delete what I’ve written to say something like “I’m on the bus and this fucking creeper keeps looking at my phone, it sucks” or “STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER, DOUCHEBAG.”

  304. That should read: “…(without actually putting herself “out there” too much.) That said, it’s still a stretch for the average person. I’ve had men…”

  305. I’ve had men look over my shoulder on public transportation to see what I’m typing in a text message, and I always delete what I’ve written to say something like “I’m on the bus and this fucking creeper keeps looking at my phone, it sucks” or “STOP READING OVER MY SHOULDER, DOUCHEBAG.”

    A porn writer I know occasionally gets someone frankly reading his screen while he’s typing on the bus. He usually turns to them and says, “I’m about to get into graphic sex here, are you sure you want to be reading it?”

    But then he’s a guy.

  306. So I just went out to grab lunch with a female friend. And, naturally, on the way back I got holla-d. Although this was a fairly funny one: the guy silently sank to his knees and made obeisances. If only all men did that–among other things, it makes them less likely to grab you, and much much easier to kick.

    Not that I kicked him. But you see what I mean. Diminished physical threat level.

    Shiyiya and SM, that’s an interesting point. Because when I first read the post, I thought, “Hell on toast, SM is ripping Munroe a new one over something that looked pretty innocuous to me.” So I left it alone for a little bit and went to my quiet corner to mull on feminist theory. And the more I thought, the more pissed off I got. No, at first glance the cartoon doesn’t warrant Smackdown Def 8, which is what it got. But I’m pissed in the eights myself now, because the underlying message is really, really common and really, really toxic. I bet your casual readers do come over here and say, “What the hell?” But this is kind of a feminism 321 post, and the 101 students are in over their heads until there’s some background. It’s not like Whoopi’s rape-rape comment (I mean, dude, my DAD got that one.)

    So, SM, thanks for cranking the outrage. We should be outraged. And Shiyiya, you’re not alone in your initial WTF. And all the SP community, what a great place to actually be able to talk about this sort of thing on a higher level than standard.

  307. Hey, I was bored at lunch today so I “fixed” the comic to be more accurate for what happens to nerd women who dare to be a bit techie in public. You can see it here:

  308. Ha, love it Sarah TX. But here, I “fixed” your post to make it more accurate:

    “Hey, I was bored at lunch today so I “fixed” the comic to be more accurate for what happens to women who dare to be women in public.”

  309. Thank you for this post. My first reaction to the comic was definitely “oh, it’s another one of those crossed-geek-social-cues comics he does, ha ha”, but it actually is really problematic.

    And I’m now genuinely curious what privilege it is that I have that makes me more or less immune to bus-creeps. I don’t have a car; I’m on public transit an awful lot of my time, but the most I’ve had to deal with is the occasional person with obvious psychiatric problems who’s annoying the whole bus/subway car.

  310. Also, I’m also one of those “lucky trolls” who more-or-less dodges street harassment, although apparently my matronly looks (I’m 25, going on 46) make me look like an excellent mark for that particular species, residing primarily in San Francisco, who will try to get up a portable game of “Find the Queen” or “ball in a cup” and grift me out of a buck or two.

  311. On-bus harrassment, I could tell stories. I used to drive a bus, from the time I was 28 until I was 37. In my prime, in other words, and I got so much crap from random asshats it wasn’t even funny. Even though I was ostensibly “in charge” of the bus. Some of those late night trips were pretty scary.

    On the other hand, I’m now one tough, off-putting bitch. I can put off “Leave Me The Hell Alone” vibes like nobody you’ve ever seen.

  312. I said this in the comment thread at Shakesville about this strip, and I’ll say it here, because I don’t see it getting spelled out anywhere.

    In addition to the message this strip sends to men, there is a fucked up message it sends to women. It says, hey, women, if you complain when creepy dudes hit on you, it will scare away the ones you like. So shut your mouth and let any dude do whatever he wants to you or else you will never find love.

  313. So now when a dude on the bus who seems nice tries to strike up conversation, I don’t care that he might be a really cool person or that it’s isolating and unpleasant to live in a world where no one talks to one another. I don’t care, because I’m through with taking that risk.

    Exactly. It’s isolating and unpleasant to live in a world where no one talks to each other, BUT YOU’RE ALIVE.

    Those of us who end up dead, maimed, traumatized, are simply acceptable collateral damage for a world that places the highest priority on women remaining socially open and accommodating to men. When we reject our places as potential collateral damage, we threaten that priority and incur wrath. (Even wrath as mildly channeled as “I don’t understand why you can’t just be niiiiice to people” concern-trolling.)

  314. There’s a thread in here about random social interaction between people of unequal privilege that reminds me of something I experienced at my institution: when I first came here, lots of people smiled and said hi on the way in, so I happily made a point of doing the same. After a while I found I got less responses, and I eventually found that I only said hi to people of color, because they were primarily the only ones who didn’t look away/ignore me. And then I wondered if the people of color were feeling pressured to respond to my greeting because of privilege.

  315. There have been many incidents where I’ve been walking/taking the bus somewhere, and random older men will look at me and tell me to smile. During one such occurance, it was two men, and one of them said “Smile! You’re too pretty to have a smile on your face.” It creeped me out. A lot.

    Just the other day I was walking to the store that’s just down the street from my apartment, and I passed a house that had a front yard full of men and boys of varying ages. One of the older guys started yelling “Hey!”, and wouldn’t stop until I made eye contact with him. I was wearing sunglasses, so he couldn’t see the frightened/annoyed look on my face. I quickly walked away before he could say anything else.

    Being a single woman living by myself doesn’t bother me most of the time, until stuff like that happens. Then I find myself wishing I had a boyfriend or husband or some pepper spray.

  316. Out of nowhere, it suddenly occured to me why I was so damned excited to get big shiny high-tech decorative headphones as a gift from a friend. Because I ride the bus every day! And the bigger the headphones, the bigger the “fuck you, leave me alone” message! Earbuds, you can miss, but these babies are bright red and obvious!

    …and the day will still come when they fail to work. Sigh.

  317. Lampdevil: As expressed above, flaunting your cool geek tech means “I am a geek and so I am shy and so I have flashed this geek tech so that you will recognize me as geek and come and talk to me.”

    At least that is what I was told in the other thread.

  318. During one such occurance, it was two men, and one of them said “Smile! You’re too pretty to have a smile on your face.” It creeped me out. A lot.

    Oops. That should read “You’re too pretty to not have a smile on your face!”

    Typing fail.

  319. lightcastle: Oh great, now my “go away” headphones could be interpreted as me putting out “hit on me” signals to audiophiles! D: THERE IS NO ESCAPE.

  320. Great post but also really great comment thread. <3 to the SP community. So many really interesting thoughts from people about various ways of looking at the comic and the issues it brings up. Wish I could quote them all, but I lost track a long time ago of all the awesomeness. ;)

    For me, what keeps sticking out when I look at the comic is the unreasonableness of it all… it seems exceedingly unlikely that a woman on the subway would freak after one comment, when we've been socialized to "be nice" at all costs. And the fact that she actually wants him to approach her seems to put forth the idea that it's the fault of overreacting (hysterical?) women that we don't get as much attention from guys as we want.

    The message to guys is "be brave! Go for it! Maybe she really wants you (even when she doesn't look like she does)". The message that it's trying to send to women is probably the same, since it's a common geek issue (being too shy to approach the opposite sex, I'm guilty of it as well), but what I actually get from it is "be nice, don't act like the second panel, poor guys have it so tough", i.e. the same message I get everywhere else in society.

  321. I think that’s the point, Lampdevil.

    I just found out in another conversation that 1) “Sweet Machine assumes any guy trying to talk to her wants to stick his penis in her. This “guilty until proven innocent” is flawed. ”

    Us complaining about this and women being isolated on the bus is just causing more isolation and less community, you see. It won’t stop the jerks, but it scares away the nice guys.

    More interestingly, I have been told that criticizing and artist and trying to get them to not offend any groups through unintentional subtext will lead to a world where art no longer challenges people, which would be bad.

    Mind you, I don’t see how it is possible to bring up and discuss art and its messages without implicitly supporting stuff you like or expressing disapproval of things you don’t, so unless we ban all discussions of art I don’t see how to avoid this.

  322. Martini: Yes, but that’s not what he meant, or he did but that’s kind of true for geeks, or something, so therefore pointing out that it’s got problems is destroying human contact in society.

    I think.
    Something like that.

    *sigh*

  323. I have been told that criticizing and artist and trying to get them to not offend any groups through unintentional subtext will lead to a world where art no longer challenges people, which would be bad.

    Whereas a world in which women live in fear and a child rapist is deemed “the real victim” is just fucking fine.

    Fumes

  324. I have been told that criticizing and artist and trying to get them to not offend any groups through unintentional subtext will lead to a world where art no longer challenges people, which would be bad.

    Yes, I can certainly see how discussing art damages the cause of art. In an ideal world, everyone would be “challenged,” but no one would mention it.

    Jesus Christ. CRITICISM IS NOT CENSORSHIP, DIPSHITS.

  325. Schrodinger’s rapist is the best-put term I’ve seen in a long time. Well played.

    Bagelsan, I’m with volcanista and DRST. What’s happening to you is ringing so many alarm bells. This man has no respect for you or your boundaries or your feelings of personal safety, and he actually cannot see why his (fucking terrifying) behaviour up to this point is problematic. He is, he seriously, seriously is a potential rapist and you need to not be under the same roof as him. None of this is okay. Isn’t there somewhere you can go until you move out, just to be better safe than sorry? I realise this is intrusive and rude coming from a complete stranger, but seriously, this reads like the first part in a horrible, horrible story and I don’t want anything to happen to you. He lives under the same roof as you. You need to get out now, and remove his chance to harm you before you can move.

    Indeed, this happens all the time, in the imaginations of feminists. In the real world, however, it is incredibly rare.

    “As a man, I know more about what happens to women than they do. I also get to define what constitutes ‘the real world’, which is of course the world as I experience it.”

    if a man did become violent in a public place, I guarantee that someone would step in to intervene

    Lying sack of shit.

    I do think this is also where some of the defensiveness is coming from. Munroe is a nerd/geek hero, therefore they will circle the wagons to protect him

    Which is why that is making me so angry, because I AM A NERD/GEEK TOO. That mindset only works if you consider female nerds/geeks less than human. Which is almost THE POINT WE’RE FUCKING MAKING.

    I see them as “generic nerdy but fun grad student types”, which is what basically all xkcd characters are unless something else is made obvious. When I remove that filter – if it was just a random cartoon that I never read before – I absolutely understand what you mean.

    Mia, see above. I have that filter — I’ve read xkcd for years — and it is still an extremely problematic strip. I am sick of people talking about this like people who really understand xkcd or whatever wouldn’t read it this way. I do and I AM and the constant implications otherwise are patronising and tiresome, even if that’s not what you meant to communicate.

    The thing that really makes me roll my eyes about this is that (like I said in the original post, how about that) I am a huge fan of xkcd.

    But Sweet Machine, if you read xkcd regularly you’d know that he’s a geek and she’s a geek, so their interaction is magically void of all problematic gendered context and could not possibly ever be sexist or harmful! Here, let me explain it again until you get it.

    And I know it’s not my place to decide how angry someone gets to be, I was just really *surprised* by the level of anger

    Okay, but Shiyaya, now you’ve read the comments here, with all the stories of women who have been harrassed, assaulted and had people try to set them on fire because in a situation that looked exactly like the one in the strip what they did actually want was TO BE LEFT ALONE and some man had decided what he wanted was more important. Can you see now where that anger is coming from? As someone pointed out upthread, this isn’t academic, it is people’s actual lives. And there is frankly no level of anger that’s unwarranted when thinking about what happens to women (on public transport and in any other public space) in this society.

    So now when a dude on the bus who seems nice tries to strike up conversation, I don’t care that he might be a really cool person or that it’s isolating and unpleasant to live in a world where no one talks to one another. I don’t care, because I’m through with taking that risk

    Yes. Also, a creepy older guy at work today told me “You look very hot today”. Apparently he felt he had the right to comment on my appearance because I had been friendly and talkative when taking his order — you know, as I am FORCED TO BE as a condition of my job. It was creepy as fuck and I was so surprised by it & still in customer service mode that I actually said “Thanks.” If it happens again I will not be fucking saying thanks, I can tell you.

  326. I’m thankful for the couple of folks upthread who brought up the location issue, because it’s helped me to understand why I respond differently to this comic (it doesn’t bother me, although I respect the right of others to interpret it in the light of their own experiences, of course).

    I now live in Bigsullenandrude city, Canada, whereas I grew up in Smallerandfriendly city, Canada. I’m a very shy and introverted person, but nevertheless chat casually with strangers a lot, because where I’m from That’s What You Do. Whereas, where I live now, people sometimes react at first like they’re not sure what to do when I speak to them, because, apparently, That’s Not What You Do here. I’m not giving up completely, though, because it pains me to see the effects (on myself as well as on others) of the isolated lives that people live here, and I’m experiencing more and more the connection between the shallowness which comes from lack of connection to our fellow human beings and the systemic marginalization of people based on superficial characteristics (size, gender, race, etc).

    While I (occasionally) and other women (likely more often) have and do get ‘hit on’ in either of these cities, there is a different default assumption about the motives of someone starting up a conversation with a stranger. I’m willing to bet that a number of the commentators who also were not bothered by the comic are from places similar to my own hometown. It hurts me to see that this society forces people to choose between living in meaningful community and living in a place with adequate public transit, work opportunities, and cultural amenities.

    Interestingly, now that I’ve over 30 (and, of course, fat), the only strangers in Bigsullenandrude who tend to speak to me spontaneously (and always respectfully) are faculty members at my university, esp. middle-aged men. This post and the comments have made me curious about what percentage of those gentlemen are also originally from places outside of Bigsullenandrude, where friendly and open interaction tends to be the norm. (Granted, we Canadians also having the advantage of not usually needing to worry that our fellow stranger-citizens may be toting firearms.)

  327. @Lampdevil –
    This is me being my usual Big Meanie self, but I’m not sure I would wear the headphones once you exit public transport. It nullifies your ability to listen for a possible attacker coming up behind you.

    @lightcastle
    “It won’t stop the jerks, but it scares away the nice guys.”
    Please tell me you’re being sarcastic.

    I won’t even get into SM, or Lis, or any other blogger’s alleged “failure”to discuss this with only Dainty Little Bites of anger. A Sarah handled that already, on this very blog.

  328. littlem: Sorry, I was paraphrasing the other person’s argument.

    Me Too: Dual citizen Canadian/American. While friendlier than the US, I’m not sure it is too huge a difference. I don’t think anyone is saying “you should never talk to people” – it is insisting on talking when the person signals they aren’t interested in a conversation.

    Kate Harding and Sniper: I was a little shocked at the art criticism approach, actually. It’s like an almost deliberate refusal to admit there can be layers of intent and text and subtext.

    Caitlin: Yeah, the whole “If only you understood xkcd” thing is kind of infuriating. I’m encountering a lot of “you’re just bringing that interpretation in” because it obviously wasn’t what Munroe meant. (See earlier comments on Intent not being the issue.)

  329. @MeToo
    “I’m willing to bet that a number of the commentators who also were not bothered by the comic are from places similar to my own hometown.”
    You might lose that bet.
    I was also raised in SmallandpurportedlyfriendlyCollegeTown, but it took relocating to some of the Biggest, Baddest and Rudest – DC, NYC – to help me understand viscerally that if I was going to survive, I’d better adapt, because the men approaching me here, irrespective of whether they were raised in Smallandpurportedlyfriendly or not, were going to take all the liberties of approaching women that male privilege afforded them in Big, Bad and Rude — because their families didn’t know my family and so they weren’t going to have to account for their encroachment on my space to anyone.

    “This post and the comments have made me curious about what percentage of those gentlemen are also originally from places outside of Bigsullenandrude”
    See above. I don’t think it really matters where they were from, because once they actually inhabit Big Bad and Rude, they decide to stretch the male privilege society affords them to the hilt. Often, especially if they felt constrained in any way from acting on it before.

    But as I said upthread, I am a Big Meanie, and so you may find my analysis harsh.

  330. littlem: I’ve been trying not to directly compare any of this to RaceFail ’09. Sadly, many of the tactics are the same in any derailing discussion.

  331. You know, I really don’t want to come across as mean and jaded, MeToo, but you’ve repeated this idea that a couple of people have stated, that folk in the big city are just so isolated and folks from the small towns are friendly and oh it’s such a shame how isolated we are etc etc etc. And besides the obvious problems that we’ve already discussed regarding the fact that lots of times, people just want to be left alone regardless of your motives and get harassed all the time by people who feel entitled to their attention, there’s this other thing that’s bugging me.

    It’s the idea that us isolated big city folk have such barren and desolate lives that we need to welcome random strangers talking to us on public transportation. I’m sorry, but I have friends and family and a boyfriend and coworkers and a whole LIFE outside of riding public transport, and I don’t really appreciate people intruding on me because I am just missing the exquisite pleasure of their company. I really neither need nor want random people invading my personal space. I’m sure you’re all really nice folks, but really, my life is perfectly connected and non-isolated and non-jaded. I don’t really need to make friends on the bus.

    Which is all kind of off topic, but it’s been bugging me.

  332. “I don’t think anyone is saying “you should never talk to people” – it is insisting on talking when the person signals they aren’t interested in a conversation.”

    Yes, I agree, of course. But I disagree that the comic is actually suggesting that. I’m pretty sure that the moment we glimpse in the final panel is a return to her blog after a failed attempt (and maybe a poor attempt at that, if she’s a socially awkward geek-girl) to signal attention to the male character, the latter being both unrealistically panicked about her response and so distracted by his own imaginings of that situation that he failed to notice, part of the irony of the situation depicted. Of course, here again, I’m reading through my own set of social experiences.

  333. @lightcaste –
    I’ve been trying not to compare directly as well (in part b/c I don’t believe various forms of oppression compare directly) which is why I leave links so people can click on them or not.

    You are absolutely right, however, that so many of the derailing tactics are spookily similar — which is why I also thought I would leave the link so anyone who is bewildered as to why or how that tactic was being used would at least have a usable beginning framework, at least, for deflecting/dismissing the tactic if they felt they needed it.

    Also, if someone was dumbfounded and scratching his/her head thinking “Do people really go there, or am I the crazy one?” — which women are prone to do since we do tend to receive such constant assault on our reality; see, c.f., discussion of “Oh she really does want to talk to me” anywhere in this thread — there would be an outline of a completely different situation to affirm that yes, when challenges are made to their own concepts of societal power (or even just some egregious crap they’ve done), some people really will go that far/stoop that low.

  334. “I have friends and family and a boyfriend and coworkers and a whole LIFE outside of riding public transport, and I don’t really appreciate people intruding on me because I am just missing the exquisite pleasure of their company.”

    We probably have different standards as to what constitutes ‘intrusion’, I guess.

    And I didn’t mean to suggest that people in big cities have no important personal connections in their life. Rather, I’m thinking from the perspective of my faith tradition, which enjoins us to seek to recognize and acknowledge all people (all beings, really) as manifestations of the Divine, and to live that reality in all of our everyday encounters. That’s part of the reason that, on occasions where I’ve actually had men start conversations with me that we romantically or sexually motivated, I initially felt true confusion (oddly, rarely fear; I often don’t realise the real intent until I can think over it later), and then pity. I just can’t understand how human beings can look at each other and think ‘Hey, sex!’ It’s like they’ve missed the entire point of human existence.

  335. @MeToo –
    “I’m pretty sure that the moment we glimpse in the final panel is a return to her blog after a failed attempt (and maybe a poor attempt at that, if she’s a socially awkward geek-girl) to signal attention to the male character”

    But Munroe didn’t draw it like that.
    There’s no body language, on behalf of the girl, indicating that.
    It would certainly have been more poignant if he had included such body language.
    And he could have.
    But he didn’t.

  336. Completely off-topic, but I love MeToo’s cat picture. :)

    Bagelsan, whatevernumbering get out of there now. If possible come back with several other people, to get your stuff ASAP, because who knows what that LL will think appropriate to do with your stuff. If possible get some big scary friends to hover around too.

    I’ve read that in Japan they have women only trains now. I wonder if they are more comfortable now. Not sure women only public transport would work in the US.

    Also, I wonder if there been any studies done on if the level of politeness required and the level of patriarchy in a culture have any relation?

    I stuck “study harassment violence public transit” into a search engine and found a blog specifically about the issue of women being harassed: http://streetharassment.wordpress.com/
    I haven’t looked at it in depth. There are a bunch of other links that look interesting too, it’s clearly a subject where a little research or googling will get you lots of information on the subject. So when someone clueless says these things don’t happen in the real world, tell them to use some google-fu.

  337. Wow, MeToo, that’s super condescending. And you’re moving the goalposts – you did actually say that the city life where people don’t feel comfortable talking to strangers is shallow and disconnected from other human beings, and that’s to blame for, I don’t know, violence or something. I call complete bullshit on that. Harrassment and violence happen outside of cold, unfriendly cities. Women feel threatened when approached by strange men in friendly country towns.

  338. I’ve been revisiting this comment thread over the past two days and had all this on the brain (count me in the “But I love xkcd and when I read this one I didn’t notice anything wro–ohhhhhh. Um, point. Shutting the fuck up now” camp) (and yes, part of the ohhhh is the “wait, love for the series has fuck-all to do with whether this one’s a fail” factor).

    At any rate, I was starting to go “hey, I’m practically living on this thread, I’m probably totally distorting the scope of this kind of problem as a result” and then I walked to my corner grocery a few hours ago and the 40-ish (to my mid-20s) guy behind the counter gave me his number with my receipt. Because I’d been making polite conversation. And I just took it and slipped it in my bag and left, as if I hadn’t spent the last two days more or less immersed in this question of dealing with unwanted attention. And I felt slightly ashamed for taking it and saying nothing. And slightly worried that I was giving the wrong impression and it’ll be weird the next time I’m there. And slightly worried that the lounging-around-working-from-home tank top was too low-cut. And all sorts of shit I should *never have to think about.*

    No violence, no setting on fire, but still, dude! Sell me groceries! Make conversation with me if I seem amenable. But unless I show up every day, don’t buy anything and ask you if you have a girlfriend, I am not flirting with you.

    Grrrrrrrrrrrr. Just thought I’d vent and share, in the spirit of, “Every 0.5 seconds, a woman deals with some bullshit.”

  339. Rather, I’m thinking from the perspective of my faith tradition, which enjoins us to seek to recognize and acknowledge all people (all beings, really) as manifestations of the Divine, and to live that reality in all of our everyday encounters

    MeToo – that’s a nice sentiment, but does your perception of me as a manifestation of the Divine also mean I don’t have the right to sit on the subway and stare out the window and not talk to you? I’m just curious if this respect of others your proposing also includes the right to privacy and being left alone in public spaces? Or so I have some sort of obligation to respond to you if you make an overture otherwise *I* am not “living in that reality in all my everyday encounters”?

    My point is, it’s very important to recognize that your justifications for bothering someone in a public space don’t count for the other person, who has a right to not want to deal with you in any way, shape or form. And you having this mindset of it being part of your faith disturbs me a little. It could easily be used to judge others like me who only want what privacy is available in public because that’s what I want, and your intentions shouldn’t matter in that case. Since I don’t know you from Eve, I haven’t the foggiest if you would ever actually do such a thing, but your approach to this issue as a part of faith strikes me as overbearing.

    DRST

  340. Harrassment and violence happen outside of cold, unfriendly cities. Women feel threatened when approached by strange men in friendly country towns.

    Seriously. It’s kind of a cross between naïve and delusional to think that all cities are cold and all country towns are friendly. Did anyone see I Spit On Your Grave?

    In my own experience living in the city, there are way more men per day that I encounter in my commutes on public transportation who will pull the “I just want to talk to you” bullshit than there might be in the country. However, the times I have been in the country, there have been less frequent occurrences but greater concentrations of that type of man- think a group of truckers drinking right outside my hotel room door and watching me go inside, think groups of guys at the bar who deliberately stand on either side of me or around me to talk to me, that kind of group wolf-pack intimidation deal- and in those situations, I’ve actually felt far more unsafe than I’ve ever felt in the city.

    As an aside, I’m so glad that this conversation is taking place, no matter what the comic is implying. Sometimes I feel like I’m nuts until I read these comment threads.

  341. littlem: Yeah. In my post about it I mentioned obliquely a recent brouhaha among some friends of mine concerning the casting of a play. (It actually got some play at Shakeseville since the director took the criticism well and issued an apology.) I was hoping people might note the similarity – that it isn’t an attack on Munroe, it is a byproduct of what was actually put out in the piece.

    I don’t think people noticed.

  342. Caitlin, that was sort of my point – I was kind of shocked by the post and didn’t get where it was coming from and then I read three hundred comments and got it better. When the original post’s anger surprised me I was looking at it in context of the comic only, which after reading alllllll of the comments I realised wasn’t the actual context of the post. Does that make more sense?

    And I’ll say again that I really didn’t mean that people should be less angry, just that I didn’t get where the anger was coming from at first so it surprised me. And now I do get where it’s coming from, because I read comment threads! I really really didn’t mean to imply that people should tone down their anger and I’m sorry it came out that way.

  343. I just can’t understand how human beings can look at each other and think ‘Hey, sex!’ It’s like they’ve missed the entire point of human existence.

    Erm. As someone who once had a very strong libido – back when I was young and reasonably healthy – there’ve been times when I reckoned ‘Hey, sex!’ was a perfectly good reason for human existence. That still didn’t mean I wanted to be, or deserved to be, harassed by strangers on the bus … or indeed anywhere.

  344. Wow, that was a long read. Yes, I read everything, then even reloaded the page to read the comments posted after I was done reading, since it took a while. :)

    I started out with some confusion myself, because the first time I read the comic I thought the first panels actually happened. That made the final panel just odd. Then I realized the first part was all in his head, and compared to my first interpretation, it wasn’t nearly as offensive. So I thought that maybe others were offended by the first interpretation… but then after reading more commentary, realized most people weren’t misinterpreting the comic as I had.

    I wondered why people were offended. I wondered what I was missing. I’m a female and felt somehow “left out” that I didn’t “get” why it was still offensive.

    Then I realized that I haven’t experienced the kind of harassment that many other women here have had to deal with. I am not classically “appealing” to men and so I usually have to deal with insults rather than pickup lines. To me, “Nice laptop” is a step up from “Fat bitch, eat too many cheeseburgers?”

    But I also have the advantage of feeling powerful because of my weight. Most men couldn’t overpower me and drag me off. Fat people are harder to kidnap, in other words.

    So oddly enough, although I’m female, I learned a lot from reading this post and the comments. I now understand why people are offended by this cartoon. Thank you all for expanding my mind. :)

  345. @MeToo, then too, sexual harassment isn’t actually about sex, let alone anything so cheerful as ‘Hey, sex!.’ It’s about the exercise of power.

  346. Thank you, Ethyl!

    I’m a very introverted person who lives with a houseful of talkative people, with several extroverted friends. My lack of desire to talk to strangers on public transit , or on the street, or standing in a bank line is not because I lack human connection, but rather because there’s already more damned connection in my life then I’m comfortable with. Being among strangers I can safely ignore is a relief.

    And if forced to spend that time in conversation, I’m very likely upon coming home to *not* call and catch up with my more introverted friends, because all my energy for talking to people has already been eaten by inconsiderate extroverts/guys trying to hit on me/whathaveyou.

  347. DRST, volcanista, et. al: Thanks for you rconcern (really, it’s good to hear.) I don’t feel imminently threatened because it’s been a week since the most recent event and he hasn’t said a word to me (nor have I even seen him since paying the rent). I don’t honestly think it’ll get physical and I’m moving out in just 4 days anyways, so I’m just kind of waiting it out. And I’m pretty much in my room with my door locked whenever I’m home and I’ve got pepper spray and all that.

    Hopefully it doesn’t sound like I’m delusional (hopefully I’m not!) but I don’t think I’m in danger at the moment. But I promise that if he even *glances* at me wrong or I just feel *slightly* less comfortable than I am right now at any point I am out of here (and/or calling the cops.) Seriously. And I’m definitely keeping all y’all’s advice in mind.

  348. Also, volcanista: I’m so sorry about what happened to you. I’m definitely not going to ignore that kind of possibility, I just am really reluctant to go through all that hassle right at the moment if I don’t feel particularly threatened right now. (And maybe that’s dumb. Hopefully not. But I don’t really know anyone in the area that well yet, and classes just started last week for grad school, and it seems easier to keep the door locked than up and move out right this very second. Sigh.)

  349. Katie:
    Maybe I read it wrong, but I thought that XKCD strip was about the guy’s paranoid fears about rejection…not about rape?

    …Seriously? Try reading the comments. Or better yet, start here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_culture

    Seekrit hint: rape CULTURE is not the same as RAPE. But the two concepts are connected.

  350. What Lucy said. The most frightening encounters with men I’ve ever had haven’ t been in big cold cities – never had anything bad happen in London, and I was running around all over the city in the middle of the night in clubwear while still in my teens. The creepy wolfpack thing though? Let’s see, I’ve encountered that in small towns in Scotland, England, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Germany, Italy, Cyprus, America…

    Just because people in big cities are often distant in public spaces that doesn’t mean men there are meaner and scarier. In fact, the not getting in people’s faces in big cities is mostly courtesy in my experience – it would be incredibly wearing to be expected to give a hello, how’s your job going and how is your granny’s angina doing? to everyone you meet on any given day in a big city, and also you don’t know most of those people so there isn’t the history and web of contacts that influences social behavior in small towns. Assuming that the lack of that web of contacts means people are living souless miserable existances is…well, a bit snotty, honestly. How do you know that’s how people feel? Have you asked them?

    And again, I don’t see very many people on this thread suggesting that no one should ever talk to other people in public. I talk to people all the time – yesterday I had a chat with an old lady on the bus, some women in the bathroom at a concert, and some dude who was standing around waiting for his band to load their gear into their van afterwards. Didn’t know any of those people before. Oh, and I went there with a friend who I only know because she randomly started talking to me at another concert last year, and I have guy friends who I met in similar ways. I ALSO (yesterday) had a sketchy dude stare fixedly at me on the train and try to ask me where I was going and if he could come with me. Him I was not so friendly to. Are you seeing the difference in these situations? Because honestly, it’s not that hard to suss out. Rude and overly intrusive approach with clear sexual subtext – go away, pushy asshole. Random conversation with random people because both parties were feeling friendly and looking approachable? Totally fine.

  351. @Bagelsan – Glad to hear that you’re out of there in a few days, and sad that you need to be on red alert in the meantime, but still, it’s good that you are watching out for yourself. Do us a favor and post back here when you’re all moved out so everyone who’s worried will know you’re OK? Because the landlord really does sound like a scary bastard. I hope the cops do manage to get him on something.

  352. to Piffle:

    The problems with the “women’s only” cars here in Japan are thus:

    1) they are only very very specific hours (say first train to 9 am or maybe 6-9 pm).
    2) Only 1/3 of train lines I have been on actually offer them
    3) There is little monitoring of the cars. I would say 1 out of ever 4 times I’ve ridden the women’s only car during the designated times there has been a male in the car. I can remember one time during the evening train, a man got on and sat down then vomited on the seat next to him and passed out. A few of us on the car finally were able to frantically flag down a station employee on the platform during one of the stops who called ahead to the next station whereupon the man was taken from the train. This was the one before last stop on the trainline. More often than not I’m the only woman willing to tell the man “Excuse me, this is the women’s only car” and then get ::sneer:: back along with often some racial slurs in my direction.

  353. Do us a favor and post back here when you’re all moved out so everyone who’s worried will know you’re OK?

    Fer sures, I’ll be around and I’ll keep you guys posted. ^^ And yeah, I certainly don’t want to get involved but I would *not* mind at all if his room renting shenanigans got shut down by the cops. Just so no one else has to be creeped-on by him.

  354. And again, I don’t see very many people on this thread suggesting that no one should ever talk to other people in public.

    This. It seems like people here are mostly saying that women should be allowed to decide with whom/when/where they want to talk, and that men should be encouraged to respect those decisions. And anyone who finds that unreasonable… should maybe engage in a little soul-searching about why they think that. It really isn’t asking much.

  355. @Eucritta – Yeah, I occasionally look at people and think “hey, sex!” to this day and I’m not seeing why that’s such a terrible thing. Now what I don’t do is then grab that person’s ass, follow them down the street telling them how much I want to sex them up in explicit detail, and swear angrily at them when they then look a little uncomfortable. Which would be the whole point here, yes? The fact that people want sex isn’t the problem.

  356. “This. It seems like people here are mostly saying that women should be allowed to decide with whom/when/where they want to talk, and that men should be encouraged to respect those decisions. And anyone who finds that unreasonable… should maybe engage in a little soul-searching about why they think that. It really isn’t asking much.”

    Second, yes. One of the most common responses I’ve gotten is “so what, (us) guys should never talk to gurlz?!” Which, you know, is not really the point at all, but I guess it’s pretty easy to read it that way if you have an interest in not interrogating your privilege or being considerate of anyone other than yourself in public places.

  357. I saw an advert on TV last night for Sainsbury’s (British supermarket chain) that had a woman going around the supermarket with a teenage son in tow. He finds a CD that he likes, and as he picks it up, he catches the eye of a female store employee, who smiles politely at him. “She fancies me,” he says to himself. And goes back to his mother with the CD (she tells him he can’t have it, but discovers she has so many loyalty points by the time she’s reached the checkout that he can after all).

    I think what bothered me about the cartoon was that it was obvious the girl in the last frame (“Cute boy still ignoring me”) was clearly also in the boy’s imagination…. As nearly everyone here has pointed out, the girl in the last frame doesn’t seem interested at all. I think it might have worked if the last frame was in another thought bubble, as if the character was weighing the ideas up in his mind and not knowing which was best. Or even if both characters were thinking about talking to the other one but imagining the rebuttal they might receive if they tried such a thing.

    I’m inclined to be gentle with Randall Munroe though, because I really like xkcd and he usually gets it right, sometimes to the extent that I’ve thought “Wait, is this really written by a man?” In fact perhaps it illustrates precisely why I wouldn’t straight away call out a guy for being creepy while telling me my netbook was cute (although “cute”? wtf?)… because I know there are enough guys, ones like Randall Munroe, who are well-meaning enough and very probably don’t intend anything horrible.

    That said, I was in Paris recently and had a bit of a nasty experience with a creepy guy. I went back to the hostel where I was staying, and talked to some of the other women in my room about it… and as it turns out, they could all name a very recent experience with a creepy guy. It made me feel better and worse.

  358. Chiming in with another fix for the comic: His fantasy/fears could have involved social anxiety straight out of high school (or high school movies, at any rate), to the tune of the girl telling him he’s a loser and all the bystanders pointing and laughing at the nerd getting shot down. That way, everything in the comic that currently suggests rape culture and anti-feminist idiocy would read instead as the commentary on shyness and nerd interaction that I think the author meant it to be.

  359. littlem: I think I’ve got a pretty good assessment of my walking-and-transporting circumstances, and my headphones aren’t a disadvantage to me when I do most of my walking. I’m striding around in broad daylight on one of the busiest streets in my city, for the most part. And I’ve got a very good sense of spatial awareness, as well as some self-defense training. Some douchebag tries sneaking up on me then, and he’s getting deflected into the rush hour traffic, I’m just sayin’. If I’m strolling around at night, headphones are off. And I’ve likely hauled a few friends along with me.

    The concern is appreciated, but I’m still sorta bristling at it. I’ve taken precautions, darn it! Precautions!

    I’m in Anothersmallfriendlycity in Canada, and yeah, a lot of us are prone to strike up conversations when we’re out and about. I’ve done it. I’ve had nice conversations with people. But there’s a world of difference between harmless yakking about the weather to another person who’s just killing time waiting in line, and some dude who keeps pressing you for conversation. (Yeah, we still get those in Anothersmallfriendlycity. Entitled dudes are EVERYWHERE.) Whoever upthread gave the list-o-chitchat-rules that involved “know when to shut up and leave the other person alone” knows where it’s at. Whatever your views on our isolating big-city society may be, if someone doesn’t want to talk to you, honor that. That blindness or lack of concern for comfort level that a lot of dudes-on-transit exhibit break this rule, throw it to the ground, and clog dance on it.

  360. I think it might have worked if the last frame was in another thought bubble, as if the character was weighing the ideas up in his mind and not knowing which was best. Or even if both characters were thinking about talking to the other one but imagining the rebuttal they might receive if they tried such a thing.

    This might make the comic too visually busy, but I think it would have worked well to have alongside the scary-imaginings panels the actual girl trying to make eye contact, saying hi, etc, which he of course doesn’t notice because he’s too busy worrying about what she *might* say. And then the last panel would more clearly be her having given up and turned away in disappointment because the cute boy is still ignoring her.

  361. I think all this commentary about what Munroe “really meant to draw” is a bit counterproductive.

    1) He only publishes comics 3 days a week. That gives him two whole days between comics to draw something relatively simple (by contrast, there are webcomic artists who publish whole-page comics 5 times a week, or a six-page comic once a week). He has time to perfect the idea. To run it past friends who may be more experienced with the topic. He can even shelve it and throw in a clearly-filler comic like the last couple have been.

    But he didn’t. He published a clearly-problematic comic and didn’t stop to consider that most of it is really infuriating.

  362. SarahTX: Nonetheless, I am curious if he has answered any of this in any way. I am given to understand he interacts with people. Has he weighed in with a “yeah, I screwed that up” or a “you’re all over-reacting” or anything? Does anyone know?

  363. Bagelsan, I’m glad you feel safe enough to stay until your planned move-out date, and that you’re being super careful until then. I don’t want to push you to do anything you aren’t comfortable with, and you are a grown-up who can make your own decisions! Though I do want to add that it seemed like my landlord assaulted me in part because I was about to move out, so his opportunities were almost up. Things got scariest at the very end of my planned stay. That kind of in-house stalker seems to get more desperate at the end — and I have to say, my landlord’s level of stalking and aggression was not nearly as frightening as yours sounds, which is part of why I feel so nervous for you. And needless to say, I did not see the assault coming. (But I also had 2 weeks left of my stay, not a few days, so maybe your landlord really won’t do anything now that it’s gotten this late.) I’m glad you’ll fill us in when you have moved out.

    I agree that looking at people and wanting sex with them is not in and of itself a problem. As long as you are still capable of treating them like another human being!

    I want to add to the discussion of big, unfriendly cities that not only are women assaulted and can they feel threatened in small friendly towns and friendly cities, but life in a city where strangers don’t normally talk to each other can be perfectly pleasant if you’re used to it and grew up with that. It’s comfortable, you still make great connections with people, but the social customs are just a bit different. MeToo’s comment made me feel very defensive in part because I’m from a region where it’s not social custom for strangers to talk to each other unless they have a reason (like asking for help or for the time of day), and I like it. I find it comforting and comfortable and it makes me feel safe, and I make friends and friendly acquaintances on the street all the time. I can understand that not knowing how to navigate a different set of social customs can be alienating, but that hardly means that all the people around you find it that way.

  364. I keep coming back to focus on the Title: “Would it kill you to be civil?” That’s the big question here and the one all of these discussions boil down to.

    Would it?

    Seriously. If you decide to be civil to a stranger will it eventually result in your death? That’s the question women have to ask themselves each and every time they are approached in public. It’s a question most men are obviously not concerned with when they decide to pester a woman that they don’t know. It simply would not occur to them to wonder if a woman might be a threat to their health or their lives because most women are simply not as powerful as most men.

    That’s the privileged thinking that is setting most of us off. The guy in the cartoon is afraid of being EMBARRASSED, he never stopped for a second to consider that his life might be in danger because HE didn’t have to.

  365. Thanks for all the props on my small talk rules. Just wanted to point out to some of the “OMGI’mfromasmalltowner!”s that these rules are totally in place in small towns, along with big ones. It’s basic etiquette, whether or not you’re in a place where everyone says “hi” on the street (like my close-knit Seattle neighborhood or my tiny undergraduate school) or in a big BOOGABOOGA scary city (like Cambridge, where I used to live, or downtown Chicago, where I used to work). These rules are functional everywhere because male privilege exists everywhere. You better believe I had creepy guys try to push their boundaries at college or when I’ve been in small towns outside of Chicago. It’s no less frightening there. Maybe even moreso, because you know that if something happens, word travels fast. At least in a big city you have the option of staying anonymous if stuff happens.

    lightcastle: I’m also curious about what Munroe’s response has been. He seems like a reasonably smart and feministy guy. But even guys who identify as feminists can screw up. The important thing is that they’re open to learning why people got offended and how to fix their mistakes.

  366. Hilarious dude comment of the day so far (not approved, natch): Dude watched following interaction:

    1. Man on street asks random woman for her number.
    2. She slaps him! Right in the face!
    3. Nearby cop does nothing as she walks away.

    Thus, Dude argues, cops aren’t interested in preventing gender-based violence… against men. Thus, feminism is useless.

  367. I think the post and the comments I have read are very interesting. I guess I just interpreted it differently. To me, it’s more a case of “Should I talk to her? No, this might be the outcome.” I don’t think it’s a social commentary on woman at all, but moreso on why people hold back, both men and women. We’re always afraid of rejection, on both sides, and people like me play out the worst possible outcome in our heads, no matter how ridiculous.

    It also reminds me of this one: http://xkcd.com/458/, except replace ‘kissed’ with ‘talked to’.

  368. Okay, maybe she shouldn’t have hit him because violence is never the answer. (until it’s the only answer you have left) Then again it sure as hell stopped that aw-c’mon-I’m-really-a-nice-guy-why-not bullshit before it had a chance to get started. If she’d have responded with a polite decline or even a rude retort it’s a safe bet that the whining would have commenced. At least she didn’t follow him down the street making rude remarks grabbing into his personal space and calling him names. She didn’t pursue him to his home or continue to wait around outside making him feel unsafe. Would I rather have a guy just slap me and walk away if I had the choice? Hmmmm…

  369. The comic is about a modern human problem – creating connections between strangers. Everyone is afraid to reach out and make friends these days. Neither gender wants to seem creepy, or risk rejection, and the intricate plots we weave to try to cross this gap are often amusing (from an outside point of view). I don’t understand why this comic is being keelhauled. I’ve read it several times, and I’ve read the article, and I still don’t understand why it has sparked this kerfuffle.

  370. Yeah, I can just imagine man on the street asking random woman for her number:

    Dude: You’re really cute.

    Me: Thanks. *doesn’t even bother looking up this time*

    Dude: Can I have your phone number?

    Me: I’m married.

    Dude: I could take care of him for you. Come on, give me your number!

    SLAP!

    Oh, wait, I just quoted a real interaction Tapetum had. Which makes me wonder, do guys get that making women FRIGHTENED ENOUGH TO RESORT TO VIOLENCE is not the way to find a soulmate or increase the level of civility in the world or whatever the fuck these people are worried about? Is this so completely hard to understand?

    Evidently.

  371. So timely enough- near my parents’ house there’s this glass and window shop, and the guy who owns it is a capital douchenozzle. Every time he sees a woman walking by, he gives a nod to his employees and they all stop what they’re doing and go outside to harass her. They’ve been bothering me and my sister for years, and now that I’m living with my parents again, I have to see them practically every time I go to the subway, because they’re right on the way. There have been different people working there at different times, so the comments have been as innocuous as “good morning” to as offensive as “You look like you’d be so much fun to fuck.” Ew.

    A few weeks ago I was going to school a little later than I normally do, so the store was already open. I was across the street waiting for the light, and I saw one of the guys turn around, spot me, and then signal all the others. They WATCHED ME cross the street and approach them. Then one of them said, “Good morning!” It doesn’t necessarily sound scary by itself, but the fact that they saw me coming and basically stared me down like I was prey in order to build up to that “good morning” made it extremely, especially creepy. I said, “Don’t you have work to be doing?” and walked on.

    The past few times I’ve walked by when the store’s open, I’ve just sped by so they don’t even have a chance to say a word. Now cut to this morning- I’m on my way to a dermatologist appointment and I pass by the store. The owner is talking to someone, but as I walk by, he lowers his voice and mutters, “Oh man, check out the bitch!” (He didn’t think I could hear him.) The two men stopped their conversation and watched me pass by. I just pretended not to hear. But now I’m nervous, because even though I know he does this to every woman that walks by, the guy clearly now knows who I am and has it in for me. My parents are telling me that I have nothing to worry about and I just have to ignore it, but I don’t know- what’s to stop them from surrounding me next time? What’s to stop them from throwing something at me, or calling me some nasty slur out loud? Of course my parents think, “That would be assault and they wouldn’t do that.” But would they?

    I’m also afraid that my dad is going to take it upon himself to say something to the owner, and the conversation will go something like this:
    Lucy’s dad: Listen, my daughter says you called her a bitch.
    Owner: What? No I didn’t. Who’s your daughter?
    Lucy’s dad: She said that when she walked by, you said, “Oh man, check out the bitch!”
    Owner: No. I probably said, “Ow, I have an itch.”
    Lucy’s dad: Oh really? Oh. All right. I’m sorry about that.

    And then my dad will come home and be like, “Lucy, he didn’t call you a bitch. He wouldn’t do that anyway, he owns a store.” (As evidenced by his belief that Polanski should be cut some slack because he was in the Holocaust, my dad has very strange logic for human behavior.)

    This is the question I keep asking everyone- what are you supposed to actually do when neither ignoring it nor confronting it works?

  372. Frosty–did you read the comments? Are you willing to accept that people’s real experiences, as expressed here, are valid? Are you still arguing that there’s nothing wrong with a comic that encourages men to ignore women’s signals because *secretly* the women really want to be hit on?

  373. “Keel-hauled”? Is a legitimate and carefully-worded criticism of a cartoon really the equivalent of hauling someone around a boat until their skin is ripped off by barnacles or they drown? Ah, but it was just a figure of speech. That’s what men say when they’re all, “Ooh, feminists! I better watch my step, don’t want to lose the family jewels!”

    If you can’t understand what the problem is after reading the post and 400+ comments, you never will. I would suggest, however, that you consider the implications of equating a woman criticizing sexist imagery with a brutal punishment, and think for a second just who has th power here.

  374. Lucy, maybe I and my large and scary dogs and about fifty other women (volunteers?) could come and stand on the sidewalk and stare at the store owner and his gang and make rude remarks about their genitalia for a few hours.

    It is such a fucking pity that we are all too innately civilized to do that. Gah! The more I think about this, the worse my language gets! Fuckity fuckity fuckity FUCK I hate a culture that gives men the right to scare us.

  375. Hi Frosty,

    I don’t mean this in a mean way at all. You don’t get it. Cool. Here are your choices:

    1) Go find a blog that doesn’t get it either.
    2) Sit in the corner and be quiet until you do get it.

    Most of the other posters do get it. Maybe they have a point. Maybe you should consider those points before popping in and complaining that you don’t understand.

  376. Being the labrador-retriever type, I find that DRST’s “I … have the right to sit on the subway and stare out the window and not talk to you? I’m just curious if this respect of others your proposing also includes the right to privacy and being left alone in public spaces?” is easily misread to say that, even absent the original question of privilege (for instance, one female to another), *speaking to* another person in a public place may for the other person constitute a violation of that person’s right to privacy, whereas I think people here are saying that *expecting someone to respond to a conversational overture even if they don’t want to* is violating their right to privacy.

    Thinking about this, I wonder how, in questions of privilege (older to younger person, caucasian to PoC, etc.) this can play out. I have an unfortunate tendency to stare at pretty fabrics, and have tried to make up for this by commenting to the person wearing the pretty fabric that I think it is pretty– which, if I’m reading this correctly, could be an abuse of privilege if it involves saying to, say, someone from India “your headscarf is beautiful.” I *think* it would only be an intrusion if I try to strike up a conversation and miss that they don’t want to, but…? Like I said, I’m a labrador retriever type so I have no social skills to begin with AND I’m trying to be careful of my privilege, so I’m not asking this as a troll, I’m really trying to sort it out.

  377. Where does this comic encourage men to ignore signals? He IMAGINES a bad interaction. They never actually interact because he’s afraid to do so because he’s afraid of a bad reaction. There are 4 circumstances:

    Man hits on woman, woman does not want to be hit on (many of the comments)
    Man hits on woman, woman wants to be hit on
    Man does not hit on woman, woman does not want to be hit on (no interaction)
    Man does not hit on woman, woman wants to be hit on (the comic)

    Does this generalize and say all women secretly want to be hit on? No. It’s saying that it DOES happen where men are timid and don’t hit on a woman because they imagine a negative reaction, whether that be as mild as a rejection or as serious as what is depicted in this comic. This is obviously an overreaction, everyone laughing at him. But it’s very realistic that men like myself IMAGINE these kinds of interactions.

    To me, modern movements fighting for the rights of a group are all about fighting against generalization. Now you’re generalizing by saying that this one comic written by one man about one woman taking one step to try and initiate one connection is commentary about all men thinking that all women want to be hit on at all times. I think you’re illustrating Randall’s point, or what I interpreted to be his point. If I were that man on that bus and I had just read this post and this comment thread, I would be like “Well, most women think all men are pigs that think they want to be hit on all the time, so I won’t hit on her because there’s a good chance I will be chastised”.

  378. Jenne–try the drive-by, which is essentially making a comment as you’re in the process of departing, so the other party doesn’t feel obligated by it. As you leave the coffee shop: “I love that coat!” then departure. Other party’s options are ignore, smile, or converse. If conversation starts, you can delay departure and talk.

    And don’t do it to people who are otherwise occupied with conversation, reading, earphones, 1000-mile stare, etc. Unless your comment is along the lines of, “Pardon, but did you notice you’re about to sit in a puddle of cold coffee?”

  379. I know this is somewhat behind the point (all y’all fabulously articulate Shapelings hit every substantive point I might’ve), but I’m here puzzling over the mental trickery of exactly how one would keelhaul an internet comic — since it’s a digital thing rather than a 3D object.

    I mean: there’s nothing to tie the rope to.

    Also, the coinage “Schrodinger’s rapist” is just made of endless win.

  380. Starling: I am a big fan of the drive-by compliment. (Sincere, of course.)

    It can still be creepy, but the disappearance does drop the intrusion level down a lot.

  381. Okay, short answer to the title of the post.

    Yes.

    I’ve done some reading on the street harassment blog and they have several instances of women in the US being killed for turning down random men who accost them.

  382. If I were that man on that bus and I had just read this post and this comment thread, I would be like “Well, most women think all men are pigs that think they want to be hit on all the time, so I won’t hit on her because there’s a good chance I will be chastised”.

    Derek, if you really did read the comments on this thread, you would realize that the upshot of this? The man thinks “I won’t hit on that woman after all”? WOULD BE JUST FINE. In fact, it would be preferable to many, many women to ride the train in peace.

  383. lightcastle: It’s usually okay, so long as you’re not a forty-five year old complimenting a teenage girl, and the compliment isn’t along the lines of, “Nice tits!” And, you know, you aren’t visibly armed or in shackles.

  384. For the record, I have never hit on a random woman in public. I don’t think I ever would. I wonder if any of the women I have met in my life could have been the one? Maybe I missed a connection. I know it’s very movie storyline, but things like this do happen. My friend’s parents met while biking across the U.S. with a large group of people. If Mr. D had never approached the now Mrs. D and struck up a conversation, they never would have been married and my friend would have never been born.

    I also recognize all the negative experiences people have and it disgusts me. I am definitely one of those men who strives to not be the creepy guy who hits on everything with 2 legs and 2 X chromosomes. There’s also a negative side to this. I am so afraid to approach any woman in any romantic respect and make the first move. That’s what this kind of reaction does to me and men like the guy on the train in this comic. I grew up around people and seeing things in the media that made me believe that all romantic and sexual advances made by men were only accepted by women to make the men happy. My last relationship, which was almost 5 years ago by the way, involved my girlfriend wanting me to make many first moves but me being afraid they were unwanted. The relationship ended in epic failure because she was being clingy because I wasn’t giving her the attention she wanted because I was AFRAID. Both parties ended up unhappy.

    I’m not trying to shove off any of my shortcomings onto someone else, but this comic really spoke to me because it’s true that women do want these kinds of things occasionally (right?). Bottom line, there are a disproportionate amount of disgusting and creepy men who don’t know how to take no for an answer. But there are also plenty of nice guys who are just too afraid that they will be perceived in this way.

  385. The man thinks “I won’t hit on that woman after all”? WOULD BE JUST FINE. In fact, it would be preferable to many, many women to ride the train in peace.

    Seriously, pass the word. And talk to those assholes who throw things out of car windows while you’re at it.

  386. And talk to those assholes who throw things out of car windows while you’re at it.

    Right? Also the ones who come to feminist blogs to tell us why feminism is useless.

  387. I totally agree with the post and the comments are great. You Shapelings all rock.

    What I’m not getting is this reaction from men (maybe also from some women, but it seems to be mostly men) that, “OMG, this means I can’t hit on/talk to women in public any more!! It’s the breakdown of public discourse, common courtesy and Western civilization as we know it!”

    Like Sweet Machine basically just said, it’s really not that big a deal. So, maybe you’ll think twice before complimenting that girl on her hat or commenting on how cold it’s been lately. Who the fuck cares? It’s vastly preferable to being harassed and creeped out ‘cuz some guy can’t take a hint and won’t shut up and leave me alone.

    I’m rambling a bit, but I was thinking about how upset dudes seem to get about not being able to talk to strange women and it seems like it’s part of this idea that everything they think or say is so freaking important that they just have to share it with the whole wide world. Honestly, dude, I may have a perfectly lovely conversation with you at the bus stop and you may be a very nice guy, but missing out on saying hi or hearing you compliment my hat is not going to ruin the rest of my life. Like, everything you think does not have to be shared. I’m really fine with not getting the chance to experience your awesome conversational skillz. Really, you can keep them to yourself.

  388. Starling: You do know I am now trying to find a way to make that exact scenario ok, right? ^__^

    Derek: I’m going to try to do this.

    Yes, there are shy guys who miss out because they are too cautious. Or, as you say, their girlfriend expects them to make first moves and they are too afraid and it ends in epic fail. (Been there. More than once, in fact.)

    Yes, there are shy people who miscommunicate and miss connections and being brave enough to talk to someone you are interested can be scary.

    Yes, that’s what Munroe is writing about.

    HOWEVER, he used an example that is deeply problematic, because women being approached in public (especially on public transit) by people who won’t respect their boundaries and leave them alone is a real problem.

    Presenting the scenario in the form of “woman who gives no signals of interest but is secretly interested” furthers all kinds of messages in the culture that help CREATE these miscommunications and perpetuate the idea that it is expected, even desirable, for men to approach women who give no sign of wanting to be approached.

    As has been said repeatedly, most of the people writing here are fans of xkcd. We are not attacking Munroe. We are pointing out a problem with the way the comic tries to get at the problem he does want to discuss. We even pointed out some ways he could have gotten the main message – the one you’re responding to (as his desired audience) – without invoking the same baggage.

    Also, I don’t think anyone here is against talking to strangers, we are against not respecting people’s boundaries. Nor do I think anyone here is against presenting the idea that women actually want men, we are against presenting the idea (even accidentally) that a woman who is expressing no interest in a man actually wants that man.

    It is possible for more than one message to be encoded in a comic, even if one of them was an accident.

  389. Tanz-33 Not being and American woman probably DOES make a difference, a huge difference, since the US is as violent or more violent than most countries we criticize or invade for being too violent. The leading cause of death during pregnancy in the US is homicide. Rape affects one in four women, with the peak age of the assault being 14. Rape is basically not prosecutable, and despite the fact that it is illegal to cross examine victims/surviviors about their consensual sex lives most judges still allow such questions. The Polanski case is typical, THAT’s why women here are angry. Stalking is also essentially immune to prosecution – indeed, it’s seen as a normal and acceptable COMPILMENT.

    If you are from a country with better conditions for women, you might well not understand what it is like to live in the US and the frustrating and angering cluelessness (privilege) of this cartoon.

  390. RE Sweet Machine’s unpublished dude and his fantasy scenario, I’m going to turn it around and act like a typical snotty internet dude here…

    Pics or it didn’t happen.

  391. Derek — I don’t get the whole concept of hitting on people you don’t know, so I may not be the best person to answer this. But people are seldom creeped out by an honest, non-sexual conversation starter that respects whether or not they seem to be occupied with something else and thus might not want to talk to you.

    It also is significantly less creepy if someone strikes up a conversation in a context that is more explicitly social — a bus is not a social place in most areas of urban America. It is an instance where you are forced to be in close proximity to a large number of other humans, most of whom would rather ignore each other.

    I can’t speak for all women, but I am also generally not creeped out by a friend or fairly close acquaintance making a romantic overture, so long as they are graceful about being turned down. But I will always think it is profoundly odd for someone to make romantic/sexual advances on *someone they’ve never met*. Can’t you find some sort of conversation starter that isn’t about physical attractiveness or desirability? And if you see each other regularly on your commute and strike up a casual relationship, maybe move to a relatively non-threatening overture like going out for coffee?

    My last relationship, which was almost 5 years ago by the way, involved my girlfriend wanting me to make many first moves but me being afraid they were unwanted. The relationship ended in epic failure because she was being clingy because I wasn’t giving her the attention she wanted because I was AFRAID. Both parties ended up unhappy.

    This is a communications failure. You can’t be expected to know what she wanted, and either she should have told you, or you should have asked. Many relationships, including ones I’ve been in, end due to communications failures. The exact topic of failing to communicate is rarely all that important.

  392. @ Derek, to add on to Tiphane’s point – think of it this way. If scenario A. is potential nice thing doesn’t happen, and scenario B. is potential really creepy and upsetting thing doesn’t happen, in both cases because we’ve somehow managed to ban all men approaching strange women in public? I can see how if you’re really only focusing on scenario A. you might be going, aw, that would be sad. But if you’ve actually been through scenario B. or known someone who has, and if you read the comments you’ll see that’s just about every woman alive, then can you see how potentially missing out on scenario B. might seem like the lesser of two evils?

    I mean really, there are other ways for people to meet than chatting each other up on public transport or in the street. Even if that was completely banned, which isn’t actually what most people were suggesting, it’s not like no one would ever find love again.

  393. Defensive dudes make me want to sit on a knife.

    “Please leave strangers alone on public transportation” =/= “WE ARE GOING TO CUT OUT ALL YOUR TONGUES SO WE NEVER HAVE TO HEAR FROM YOU AGAIN” My god, the whining.

    If y’all can’t find another way to meet the ladieez that is YOUR problem, not one women of the world are supposed to solve for you. I am so fucking DONE being made to feel responsible for cleaning up after men. So, pro-feminist dudes on the thread, good for you for not being as much of an automatic asshole as many of your brethren. Whoop-di-fucking-doo. You are still not entitled to my – or anyone else’s – time or attention when we are both inhabiting public space. Or really, at any time I don’t feel like giving it to you. Deal with it yourself or get the fuck off my planet.

    And I know I’m a bit late on this, but really? This post was over-the-top angry? REALLY? Fuck it. I guess I’ll just go sit in this corner and sigh daintily whilst brushing a rose against my cheek.

    Argh. Sweet Machine, I want to bake you many tasty delights to consume with equally tasty wines. You have so much more patience than I do, which is part of why I hath not a blog.

  394. It’s vastly preferable to being harassed and creeped out ‘cuz some guy can’t take a hint and won’t shut up and leave me alone.

    Oh, Tiphane, you mean vastly preferable for women. Surely you’re not suggesting that women be the ones to call the shots on this issue, are you? That’s just crazy talk. I mean, sure the world would be a safer place for 51% of the population, but some dudes might get their feelings hurt or be inhibited about living out their romantic comedy fantasies, and we can’t have that!

  395. Presenting the scenario in the form of “woman who gives no signals of interest but is secretly interested” furthers all kinds of messages in the culture that help CREATE these miscommunications and perpetuate the idea that it is expected, even desirable, for men to approach women who give no sign of wanting to be approached.

    I will concede this (and was never really against it). But I will also state the obvious: women are people; women make mistakes; women give wrong signals; women also play games including hard-to-get (and sub men in for women in any of those). There are men who think that women are ALWAYS playing hard to get and they should just keep pressing, which is the real problem. I am all for castrating them and making sure they never breed disrespectful children.

    I do know women who have gone through bad experiences. I recognize avoiding a bad situation is probably better than experiencing a good one. I suppose for me, I guess it was just offensive to come here and feel like everyone was saying “How DARE he compliment her netbook”. I understand where you’re coming from, I just want to be understood as well.

  396. Sniper -
    You’re totally right. I forgot about the menz! How could I forget about the Men and attempt to restrict their peen-given right to share every little thought that comes into their huge manly brains? I mean, it would be so mean and oppressive if they actually had to interact with women as if we were real-life people! What is wrong with me?

    Oh, wait.

  397. That’s what this kind of reaction does to me and men like the guy on the train in this comic.

    No, Derek. That’s what the asshole men who harrass and assault women do to you and men like the guy on the train in this comic. Stop blaming the women.

    And how do you know when it’s okay to approach someone, or make a move? When she tells you it’s okay, it’s generally okay. If your ex communicated to you that she wanted you to initiate sexual activities, and you were too nervous, well, it would have been okay for you to initiate sex. And if she didn’t communicate that to you, she should have, and it’s too bad she didn’t. So yes, you are absolutely blaming your shortcomings on women. It’s hard to be shy and nervous, but frankly, that isn’t the fault of the people you are shy and nervous around.

    Also, way to be telling feminists how to be better feminists with your whole bullshit “generalization” argument. Seriously, this is not about you, and you’re making it about you.

  398. I understand where you’re coming from, I just want to be understood as well.

    whoa whoa whoa, what? No seriously. This isn’t a thread about you. This is about women who experience street harrassment and feel threatened by our pervasive rape culture, and how a seemingly innocuous comic plays into that frame. Coming in and saying, “but the poor men!” and “I just want you to understand meeee” is completely redirecting the conversation back to you. Maybe sit back and listen, because like I said before, it. is. not. about. you.

  399. I still don’t understand why so many men who’re objecting to this can’t seem to grasp what everyone else is complaining about, because it’s pretty simple.

    The idea that a woman who isn’t showing any interest in you is secretely interested? That’s wishful thinking. It is your personal fantasy. In most cases it’s not true. You don’t get to inconvenience all the women for whom it’s not true just in case you might otherwise miss out on the tiny number of cases in which what looks like total lack of interest actually isn’t.

  400. You don’t get to inconvenience all the women for whom it’s not true just in case you might otherwise miss out on the tiny number of cases in which what looks like total lack of interest actually isn’t.

    Hail Cassandra. Yes.

  401. “OMG, this means I can’t hit on/talk to women in public any more!! It’s the breakdown of public discourse, common courtesy and Western civilization as we know it!”

    Oh, yes. Right. Snerk. Never mind that there has never been a time when hitting on women in public was considered courteous. Never. Got that, dudes listening in? Even in the Haight-Asbury in the late 1960s, when it was considered edgy and earthy and antiestablishmentarian, it STILL WASN’T CONSIDERED POLITE.

    @lucizoe, Right fucking on.

    @Derek, try again. You still haven’t got it. Go back up to the top and read again, because what you think we’ve been discussing and what we’ve actually been discussing are very different.

  402. CassandraSays, that’s exactly it. If I am interested in talking to some dude on a train (because of sexual attraction or just interest in a person), it’s totally obvious because I make eye contact and I smile. If he is just as overtly friendly with the body language and eye contact, I MIGHT rarely make a friendly but very innocuous comment, like “man it’s cold” or “cool shoes.” But only when it is so over-the-top obvious that the most socially inept person couldn’t possibly miss the friendly gestures. Because the last thing I want is to make anyone else uncomfortable. And if I see a cute person and there were slightly less obvious signals of interest in conversation? I might wonder for a while if I should have said something, and maybe some amazing opportunity to meet my soulmate passed me by. But I don’t go kicking myself over it or feel deep regret. And I CERTAINLY don’t feel angry or resentful at that guy who was an asshole to me last week because he made me feel uncomfortable approaching people in public, and then just feel mad at men, including the nice guy I didn’t say hello to. I mean, that makes no logical sense.

  403. By the way, I just love (i.e., hate) how a thread about sexual harassment got completely derailed by some guy pleading for sympathy and respect for his desire to hit on random women.

  404. I’m not trying to make this about me and I’m not trying to outright object. I’m trying to offer an opinion. To me, feminism is about equality and choice, not about removing men from the discussion. In my mind, wanting to be understood is not trying to make it about me.

    My point in coming here was to offer an explanation of what I thought the intent of the comic was. I also know what the thread is about, so please do not confuse my trying to offer a balanced opinion with supporting evidence for misunderstanding, whining, or being defensive.

    Most of the comments I have read here are well thought out and well educated which is refreshing for a blog with such a heated topic.

  405. I KNOW. It always makes me wonder if they realize that some concern trolling WATM asshole does this every single time women try to talk about an issue like harrassment, rape, or rape culture, every single fucking time women try to have a conversation about what it’s like to be women. Don’t forget those men and their feelings for a minute, ladies. Nothing is allowed to be about us and our experiences. grr.

  406. Derek, you’ve made your point, and the conversation about the comic’s intent has been had (and had again) in the 400+ comments by now. I appreciate that you read the thread and that you’re trying to engage with what people are saying to you, but I think the reaction you’re getting signals that your “balanced opinion” and “explanation” are not coming across as neutrally or as helpfully as you mean them to be. In other words, just like the comic, you have a good intent but you are stepping on some people’s toes. I suggest you stop.

  407. This is tangential, but something got on my wick about Derek’s claim that “maybe one of those women I refrained from annoying on the bus was The One! Maybe I missed a connection!” It reminded me of the nutters who blame abortion for loneliness because hey, your perfect friend must have been aborted – and I notice now that he makes a similar argument about how his friend D. might never have been born.

    Yes, D. might never have been born. A vanishingly small subset of the people who might have been born actually are. But if he hadn’t, unthinkable as it sounds, you would probably have made another friend who would mean as much to you today as D does. People are unique, but they are adaptable, and they make and nurture connections with the other people who are lucky enough to exist and whom they meet and talk to.

    You know, I never had an older sister! But I don’t spend time wondering what her name would have been and lamenting that she’s not here to take me shopping, because that would be bonkers – not to mention an insult to my amazing brother and younger stepsister.

    Likewise, you “missed a connection” with a woman on your bus. You also missed connections with the girl on the bus before yours, and the three girls on the next bus, and the four hundred girls on totally different bus routes, and the four hundred thousand in different cities, and the billions that you missed by being born in the wrong century and the astronomical numbers of women you missed because their parents never met on a road trip. There are, however, sufficient OTHER chances to talk to women in situations where you won’t creep them out that most people will eventually meet someone they click with.

    Honestly, if you believe that there’s one woman who’s just perfect for you, and everyone else is an inferior substitute – and then also believe that it you only get one chance to talk to her – and you already blew it… well, that’s bleaker than any religious or atheistic worldview I’ve ever seen espoused and I suggest you rethink it, one way or another.

  408. Whoa, Sweet Machine. You must be some kind of evil genius! I now picture you in a high-tech lair shaped like a giant cupcake. The top rotates, of course, and there’s a candle-shaped observatory.

  409. @ Eucritta and Volcanista – You know, if any of these men actually thought of women as people we wouldn’t even have to have this conversation. I mean really, in what universe is it not bad etiquette to interrupt someone who’s doing something else?

    Basically I think this is all about the idea that nothing a woman is doing of her own volition could possibly be that important. At least not as imporant as some guy’s theoretical right to eventually get laid or find true lurve.

    I once had a dude interrupt me in the middle of a business call by tapping me on the shoulder and trying to chat me up (in an airport). I’m willing to bet he didn’t think he was being rude either.

  410. What SM said. And 1) what feminism means to you isn’t what it means to everyone, 2) there are plenty of men engaged in this discussion who are not relating the comic or the discussion of it to their personal senses of loss and missed opportunities, 3) plenty of people in this discussion have disagreed in a respectful manner that did not come across as condescending to the little ladies, and 4) whether or not you think so in your head, in a conversation about the experiences women have when in public with men who feel entitled to approach strangers in a society where women are frequently attacked by strangers, wanting to have your feelings and point of view understood is actually derailing.

  411. “Feminism means what I want it to mean. If it’s not helping lonely men to find love what’s the point? Ladies, can’t you consider how hard it is to be a man?”

    Oh, if only this was the first time some dude had tried that argument in a feminist space. Is that on the bingo card?

  412. Cassandra, if I implied any of that then I am truly sorry, because that was not my intent. There we are back to that word again, intent. Never did I say that you should ignore yourself for the sake of men or that it is harder to be a man than a woman. If I implied it, I am wrong.

  413. @ Derek – Well, you do seem to keep implying that your wish to meet women/not miss out on romantic opportunities is more important than the wishes of women(and you have several hundred of them right here, clearly expressed) not to be bothered during their commute. If you honestly don’t see how framing things that way is centering yourself and your needs at the expense of women and their needs then I honestly don’t know how to make things any clearer.

  414. I was only trying to play a little devil’s advocate (which is healthy for almost any discussion) via anecdotal evidence. If you look at one of my early posts, I said I have never hit on a woman in public and probably never would. My intent really was to say “sexual harassment is wrong, but not every case of a stranger talking to a woman is sexual harassment” and to explain that I didn’t think Randall was trying to imply that every woman wants to be hit on.

  415. When I first read this post I thought, “whoa, this is out there.” But after reading the discussion (whew! that took a while), I get it. The comic was off-base. It’s hard for people to hear words like “perpetuating rape culture” and not get defensive, but the truth is that men feel entitled.

    Several years ago I was in Boston for a meeting. One evening I decided to take in a movie by myself. As I was purchasing the ticket at a machine in the lobby, a young man approached me. He was initially polite, but proceeded to talk to me about himself without bothering to determine whether I was interested or had time. Even though my movie was about to start, I patiently waited until he wrapped up his spiel (it was meandering and not memorable). He ended with, “So, what’s your name?” I told him – very politely – that I didn’t want to tell him my name, that I lived 3000 miles away, and that I didn’t want to talk to him. I was VERY polite (I always am) and straight forward. Nonetheless, he became irate, and launched into a diatribe about how he was trying to be NICE to me, and what kind of PERSON was I to not even want to make FRIENDS and get to know someone new. Oh, and I was SHALLOW and PATHETIC. He went on and on about how lonely and rotten I must be, and how I’d end up alone, and he’d be surprised if I had ANY friends. It was so shocking, that my physiological response was to tear up. He ended by asking me some question, and as he glared at me waiting for my answer, I opened my mouth to speak, and no sound came out. The only way I could maintain my composure was to turn around and get on the escalator. I went into the bathroom and broke down in sobs. This was WAY more traumatic for me than the time I was flashed in college, and the time some guy rubbed his hard-on against my butt at the library book sale.

    I remember telling one of my brothers about this later, and he told me that I was “kinda cold” to the guy. All he could identify with was the desire to have a woman he found pleasing find him pleasing in return. I feel the need to talk to him about this again. We have to start with the men in our lives.

  416. Derek–We’ve got devil’s advocates. I promise. See above. We’re also pretty warm and fuzzy towards Randall and xkcd. I promise. See above. We also don’t think that strangers talking to women is always sexual harassment. I promise. See above.

    I do think it’s worth addressing your anecdote–it’s actually an important point re: meeting people. Your friend’s parents were participating together in an activity and met each other that way. This is a variation on the venerable concept that “the roof is the introduction”: in other words, a group of people brought together by one purpose or host or cause have a presumed connection strong enough make introducing one’s self an acceptable behavior.

    I was discussing this with a friend yesterday. She was skeptical, and reminded me that her ex introduced himself to her by following her out to her car after they saw each other. I pointed out, though, that the occasion was a church-sponsored charitable activity. If he had followed her out to her car from the commuter train, she would have been alarmed, not flattered, and absolutely not receptive.

    It’s subtle, but that’s kind of the point. Subtle is important, and it often governs what’s okay and what’s not.

  417. Oh, “only playing devil’s advocate”. Charming. Barging into a genuine, honest conversation between women about things that actually matter to our actual lives and treating it as a snotty little debate-team exercise.

    Again there’s a lovely parallel between the behaviour Derek shows in the thread and the precise behaviour we’re complaining about: whine whine why do men never get the benefit of the doubt… and we give him the benefit of the doubt and try to engage him in good faith. And look what happens.

  418. That’s the thing, I don’t think my original post said anything wrong except for the line “I don’t think it’s a social commentary on woman at all” which I do retract after having thought about it more and reading some more of the comments (sorry, I didn’t get through all 400-something before my original post!). It was more “wow, this is interesting, I didn’t see it that way”. My 2nd post was in response to:

    Are you still arguing that there’s nothing wrong with a comic that encourages men to ignore women’s signals because *secretly* the women really want to be hit on?

    and I again offered some personal experience merely to say “this is how I read the comic” and to counter what I thought was an over-generalization.

    After that, I felt I was being personally attacked and things just went downhill for a while. Honestly, despite that, I value the exchange I’ve had on the boards today because it’s given me new perspective. I still think a few comments were out of line (personal attacks) and I still think intent should outweigh unintended implications.

  419. Someone get Derek a 101 link! Stat! His heart really is in the right place, he’s trying, he’s failing but he’s trying so hard and he’s so close.

    We want you on our side, we do, we love men here, but you have to be willing to listen to us. We really do want you on our side though, check out some 101 blogs and come back. We all love feminist men.

  420. Miss Prism – Funny how often this happens, isn’t it? Actually the funniest part is I really don’t think Derek realises what he’s doing. Privilege blindness, exhibit A.

    RE Starling’s point about context – this is also very relevant. Every situation has its understood social rules, and they vary. At a bar or a club you expect strangers to try to talk to you – on the bus, not so much. It also matters whether or not you’re interrupting someone, which was actually what ticked me off most about the comic, the idea that it’s always OK for men to interrupt women regardless of if they’re busy or not.

    (This is a major pet peeve, actually, especially men who interrupt women when they’re reading)

  421. @ Derek, re: “generalizations: Culture is a repertoire from which all people draw different beliefs and behaviors; seemingly disparate beliefs and behaviors exhibited by members of a society can be observed and common cultural threads extracted. In the case of this xkcd strip, the disperate beliefs and behaviors are male assumptions about the sexual and romantic availability of women and people’s (most often women) experiences with physical and verbal intimidation and harrasment. These are not two unconnected phenomena: they are inextrably woven into rape culture.

    I hope this somewhat clarified things for you. I’d suggest that if you don’t understand what we mean by “rape culture,” you might want to do a little research before commenting again.

  422. @Derek – discussions among women about their lives and experiences have absolutely zero need (I might even venture there is in fact a negative need here, an anti-need, if you will) for anyone to play “devil’s advocate.” Simple facts: we LIVE the devil’s position, thanks. We know it in and out. We don’t need it explained to us, because hearing it from a dude is sort of like you’re grabbing our faces and rubbing it in your privilege as you approach this, as others have noted, as some sort of academic, abstract discussion (when it’s not about your personal feelings about your former girlfriend, that is).

    It’s actually a pretty condescending tact to take, here, and I really hope you’re able to really think about and understand why that would be. It’s not a perfect corollary, but imagine a group of US-based men of color talking about anti-racism advocacy and someone claiming to be an anti-racist ally comes in and proceeds to lecture everyone about how to understand white culture. They don’t need the lecture because they are already soaking in it and the ally looks a right goofus and suspiciously not like an ally at all.

  423. “By the way, I just love (i.e., hate) how a thread about sexual harassment got completely derailed by some guy pleading for sympathy and respect for his desire to hit on random women.”
    Jeebus. Again?!?

  424. I still think a few comments were out of line (personal attacks) and I still think intent should outweigh unintended implications.

    The best way I’ve ever heard to explain why this argument is pointless was Liss at Shakesville: if someone is walking past you and accidentally steps on your toes, you know what? You expect them to apologize. As they should. No one goes around denying that your toes were stepped on, because the stepper-oner didn’t intend to step on your toes. No one is saying Munroe is a horrible, horrible person. Rather, he took an action (drew a comic) that hurt, whether or not he intented to. So this whole discussion about how he didn’t mean it is dumb. He didn’t mean to, but he did, and that’s the sort of thing you have to own and apologize for and try not to do in the future.

    Plus, we can talk about this single comic and the way it relates to rape culture and a patriarchal society, and our experiences with women in it, without it actually being all about Randall Munroe.

    If I were that man on that bus and I had just read this post and this comment thread, I would be like “Well, most women think all men are pigs that think they want to be hit on all the time, so I won’t hit on her because there’s a good chance I will be chastised”.

    I also wanted to comment on this, because … really? The worry you have that stops you from not approaching a woman on the bus is that you might be chastised? Not that the woman might have life experiences that make it frightening to have men randomly approach her? I would like to think that the world’s actual nice guys are chosing not to approach us on the bus out of respect for us & what we live through daily, not out of fear that they’ll “be chastised”.

  425. Er. Our experiences as women, not <i<with women. Also, uh, sorry for the book.

    And Sweet Machine, I love this whole post to pieces. Undainty pieces, at that.

  426. @Derek –
    “I was only trying to play a little devil’s advocate (which is healthy for almost any discussion) “
    NOT. THIS. ONE.

    Lis summed this up for men like you a couple of days ago.
    It’s really very simple.

    All it takes, when engaging with a woman, is to think about someone’s needs for two seconds other than yours.

  427. Maybe some guys need a list of spaces where it’s generally not cool to strike up a conversation with someone who looks uninterested? This list applies to both men and women:

    1) The bus.
    2) An elevator, unless there is an emergency.
    3) The train.
    4) The subway
    5) An airplane (oh god, creepy man in 25B, the headphones mean I DON NOT WANT TO TALK)

    These are utilitarian spaces. No one wants to be there. Look for mutually open body language before proceeding with a conversation!

  428. Hell, add non-utilitarian spaces as well! If someone doesn’t look interested, assume they are not interested.

  429. So, I’ve been wondering whether or not to comment here. Some of this has already been said and was not well received. But this post and its angry initial comment thread stunned me.

    Other commenters have referenced the JoCo title. I personally find the title of this post incredibly ironic. I was drawn to this blog because of the incredibly respectful and nuanced discussion of Fat Acceptance. The boundaries of the FA discussion are clear and useful. In part, you don’t trash thin people because we’re all in this body acceptance game together, and you don’t compare to other civil rights issues because this fight is its own fight. The SP bloggers enforce the policy, and they remind commenters of it, and because of that the FA discussion is impressive, safe, and educational.

    But it seems that those rules don’t apply to other issues at all. The subtext of the xkcd comic is an incredibly useful thing to talk about. But the post isn’t anything like respectful to geek men or the actual intent of the comic. It disparages the whole comic’s topic choices (“it’s extra disappointing when the strip has its rare excursions into ‘woe is the geeky boy, who shall never get pussy’ territory”). It makes no attempt to understand or correctly represent the thrust of the scenario (“But the xkcd strip is the fantasy of a Nice Guy TM: if only he weren’t so gosh-darn nice to women, he’d get some tail.” — which only works if the guy doesn’t talk to the girl because he’s nice, not if he failed to talk because he was afraid). Even the Sociological Images quote seems to make the statement that one cannot be privileged and downtrodden at the same time, when we ought to know that of course you can be both. And perhaps most of all, the entire post was about ENCOURAGING RAPE. There aren’t that many more loaded words in the feminist lexicon. It was like shooting a canary with a bazooka.

    Would it kill us to be civil?

    Why is the FA discussion so cleverly safeguarded, but this discussion is not? Is there a different emphasis on FA talk? Why?

    SM says later in a comment, “The thing that really makes me roll my eyes about this is that (like I said in the original post, how about that) I am a huge fan of xkcd. I’m really not trying to ‘attack’ anyone.”

    I guess this comment indicates that SM doesn’t think there was anything at all provocative about the initial post. I’m stunned by this too. Of course it would set off a firestorm reaction. Of course it would draw furious, confused xkcd fans who don’t understand the issues. Perhaps it is couched in analytic language for an academic survey of rape culture, but that language is pretty dang inflammatory for those of us who don’t read that stuff all day. It really isn’t the same language we see regularly on SP.

  430. 2) An elevator, unless there is an emergency.

    Elevator is seriously the worst, for me. I’m already often uncomfortable being in such a small, confined space with a stranger. Please don’t make this worse by speaking to me. Especially not if you’re going to fucking tell me to smile.

  431. Sarah TX – The only exception to this rule I’d add is that if you’re having a heart attack and need someone to call you an ambulance then sure, by all means accost whoever is nearest. Or if you’re on fire. Being horny is not a medical emergency.

  432. I was only trying to play a little devil’s advocate ….

    @Derek, in the main this discussion has not been been abstract, but rather about our lives. Which are not games, nor high-school debates.

  433. Echo — really?? You’re kidding… please go read all the feminism 101 links helpfully provided throughout this thread and then come back when you’ve gotten over yourself.

    :::jeebus:::

  434. Even the Sociological Images quote seems to make the statement that one cannot be privileged and downtrodden at the same time, when we ought to know that of course you can be both.

    In fact, the quote says the exact opposite of that. I encourage you to reread it.

    And perhaps most of all, the entire post was about ENCOURAGING RAPE.

    This post says “rape” four times, and the entire post is in fact about “perpetuating rape culture,” which is something that almost all of us do in some way or another. It’s about systemic misogyny, not about individual acts of sexual assault.

    But the post isn’t anything like respectful to geek men or the actual intent of the comic.

    This comment is incredibly ironic to me after this discussion thread. Also, “geek men” are not a different species. They are men. I like to think that asking men to not contribute to patriarchy actually shows them a lot of respect.

  435. @Derek, in reading closely, I don’t see any evidence of personal attacks, which I would define as
    “John Smith, you are an (insert insult here)”, or something of that sort. I DO see critisms of your thinking, your writing, your justifications etc. In other words, behaviors of yours were criticized, not your inherent worth as a person.

    I am sure you do feel that you were “being personally attacked”, and that some commenters were out of line. I bet that feeling hurts, too, if you are like most of us here who have at one time or another felt personally attacked.

    May I suggest that feeling you have of “being personally attacked” is the result of having your biases and assumptions being revealed and challenged? Everyone here has been through that as well, because it’s how we grow. When you’ve got your Privilege Filter on, a lot of stuff that hurtfully affects those without one, bounces off you. Your Privilege Filter is an armor against those hurts. When you wear that kind of armor, it’s really easy to overlook that lots of other people don’t have it. And they are therefore vulnerable.

    Here, we are trying to get around and through the Privilege Filter to the soft nommy bits. We hope that empathy with and understanding of the hurts that others have experienced will help you learn to move in a better and different way through life. We hope the next time you hear something like “I tried to talk to this chick at a party, but she turned out to be a stuck-up bitch”, you will challenge them in the way we’ve challenged you.

  436. Echo, “rape culture” is discussed regularly on SP. Kate regularly talks about rape culture off SP. (I’m sure the other bloggers do too, since as I recall they read/comment on other feminist blogs, and rape culture seems to come up.) Also, it’s not like in the topics where fat comes up, we pretend that good intentions make everything okay. (See the thousands of comments and posts about “But I’m just worried about your heeealth . . .”)

    Have we been reading different blogs?

    It’s true, rape is a loaded word. I mean, it’s got all kinds of icky connotations and stuff. I wonder why? I mean, god, some of us are such bitches about forced sex and the culture around it, including the assumption that we’re accessible to men at all times!

    Jesus.

    There are aspects of geek culture and tropes of geek masculinity which support rape culture, and one of them showed up in a comic. We’re not required to pretend like it didn’t just because everyone wishes it hadn’t, and no one intended for it to. That doesn’t magically make it okay. (I feel like this conversation has been had like twelve times in the comments already.)

  437. OK, so this has been bugging me and I’m curious what other women’s experiences have been.

    I’m into some geek stuff, and thus occasionally venture into geek centric spaces. I have literally never done so without being harrassed in some way. In my experience, geek guys are some of the worst guys out there in terms of creepy annoying harrassing behavior (usually of the Nice Guy variety, but sometimes more blatant than that). But I keep seeing this assumption that, in general, geek guys are better about this than men in general an so something like this comic is an abberation.

    That just doesn’t ring true to me. To me this comic seems entirely in character (for geekboy culture in general, not for this particular cartoonist, who’s usually smarter than this), as do the defensive comments from geekboys about it. I mean geekboy harrassment has it’s own flavor that’s a bit different from say fratboy harrassment, but it’s far from invisible.

    So I’m confused. Thoughts, geek girls? In all honesty I feel more comfortable and have to deal with less creepy behavior in my part time job as a rock journalist, which involves interviewing bands on tour buses and in hotel rooms, than I do when I interact with geekboys. So I’m trying to figure out where the disconnect is between what other women who’re into geeky stuff are saying about their general experiences with geeky men and what I’ve seen.

    (Sorry if this is a derail, feel free to ignore if so. It just jumped out at me that there’s this underlying assumption that geeky men are, in general, less prone to being creepy or obnoxious than non-geeky men and that hasn’t been my observation at all.)

    Other data points that may be relevant – unusually high percentage of geekboys seem to be involved with PUA, possible interaction between social awkwardness in general and coming across as creepy.

  438. CassandraSays, some of the defenses of/by geek men did make me think of the infamous “Open Source Boob Project” from a year or two back, which might be relevant to your point.

  439. Fellow posters:

    Derek said, “women also play games including hard-to-get (and sub men in for women in any of those). There are men who think that women are ALWAYS playing hard to get and they should just keep pressing” and that got me thinking. Maybe some of you have had a different experiences but I have never ever ever ever seen or heard of a woman who played hard to get. I mean, we play hard to get when we are not freaking interested because we do not want to be got. But when a guy (or girl depending on preference) is interested in us and we are interested back do we play hard to get?? In my experience NO.

  440. Sweet Machine – I was thinking of that in terms of the specific form creepy behavior takes among geeky men, actually. Also someone’s comment about being harrassed while playing D&D but having it deliberately done in a way that falls just short of what can easily be called out.

  441. I read the board rules, and I know that this ain’t a democracy, but for fuck’s sake can we PLEASE stop talking about Derek “the memememememememeeee it’s all about meeeeeeeeeeeeeee and my peee-peee!” Devil’s Legal Services, Pawn Shop, and Bail Bonds Answering Service Phone Tree (push the right button and get another lame excuse! Press 1 for ‘we’re not all like that, so that makes your argument invalid,’ press 2 for ‘this thread NEEDS me for some counter-focus (like denying that rape culture exists),’ etc” and get back to the topic on hand?

    Thanks.

    Sorry, but I can’t believe that anyone can be dense enough to read through all the 400+ comments and NOT get the fucking point.

  442. So I’m confused. Thoughts, geek girls?

    Yeah, I see what you’re saying, and I think it has to do with what is an acceptable expression of privilege in each culture. I definitely know a high proportion of smart, geek guys who just don’t have a handle on (a) body language or (b) the fact that most women are socialized to be nice even when they don’t feel like it. So a geek guy will think, “Man, that girl was nice to me! I am totally falling for her!” without realizing that she’s a person with her own internal thoughts and feelings. Conversly, the geek women like me who weren’t socialized to be nice all the time become “just one of the guys” (aka, completely a-sexual in their mind). Honestly, that’s why I married a stoner nerd instead of a geek :)

    On the other hand, I definitely get uncomfortable comments and vibes from a lot of non-geek guys I work with. Again, they tend to express the fact that “women are different from us menfolk”, but in different ways.

    And geek guys tend to improve as they grow up and start socializing more.

  443. Thoughts, geek girls?

    Well, to start off with geek culture is far from monolithic, so it’s possible I’ve just experienced the less-skeezy bits. Also, I’ve mostly been in geek culture while obviously non-single, which scares off all but the completely clueless.

    But one major reason things like this tend to be worse in geeky/fannish culture is that it’s a population of people who were generally not exactly popular up until college or so, and thus did not absorb most of the usual social niceties. In my case, this just results in being very shy and not knowing how to make small talk, which is annoying for me but usually harmless for innocent bystanders, especially since I’m usually reasonably good at social interaction if someone else initiates it. Shy introverts just sort of disappear into the background.

    Much of geek culture, however, is shy and undersocialized extroverts. This is not a good combination, as it results in people who desperately crave human contact and never learned how to go about it in a socially acceptable way. It’s also a culture that tends to be very accepting of open and/or alternative sexuality, which is often a good thing, but then can result in lack of effective boundaries around unwanted sexual attention. Socially awkward people attempting to help other socially awkward people navigate etiquette results in situations that range from amusing to painful. Happily, there are plenty of geek communities that are aware of the inherent possibilities for explosion and actively try to establish rules of conduct and find ways to gently (or not-so-gently, if needed) help people learn how to not be idiots.

    All of this is exacerbated by the fact that much of geekdom is — or was until very recently — heavily gender-segregated. Gaming and SF/F communities and conventions are often majority male; anime groups usually less so. This results in somewhat of an “old boys’ club” effect.

  444. CassandraSays: RE GeekBoys vs. other guys: Depends. I was, and still am, very immersed in geeky culture, and one thing that I ALWAYS found was that in any RPG, there was always a focus by most of the gents on game details such as whorehouses and the like. Ditto for the high use of booth babes at ANY tech/gaming show Weirdly enough, I never saw that as translated into disrespectful behavior towards me at any particular gaming venue or trade show.

    OTOH I tend to get a lot of attention at such venues simply because I am female and have interest/knowledge of the topics covered there. That also raises an odd angle, because in such situations I am treated as “one of the guys” vs. the non-geeky girlfriends of some attendees who show up anyway but don’t seem to be engaged in the subject matter (those women wind up getting ignored, believe it or not, in my experience).

    Then again, in NON-geek havens, there seems to be a presumption of non-geekyness in “mundane” space. Example: I’m at my job, in the floor lobby, waiting for a meeting room to clear out. Two guys are in two of the chairs outside, fiddling with two very new-looking swivel-tablet laptops. They had visitor badges on–probably consultants. I had just read about some new tablet laptop being released and wondered if this was them.

    Me: Hey, those are pretty cool. What are they?

    Guy #1 (proudly) They’re laptops

    Me (stunned for a few seconds: Yes, I see…I meant, what model? Are those the new Asus BlahBlahBlahs with the expanded Blahs and more Blah? With the integrated BlahBlahBlah??

    Guy #1 (looks a tad stunned) Hmmm, dunno, let me see (turns laptop over)

    Guy #2 (briefly looks at me, glances at #1, and starts to snicker, immediately covering said snicker with a cough and much lip-biting, trying not to crack up at #1′s gaffe)

    Me (to guy #2) Are you OK? There’s a pantry down the hall with water in it…

    Guy #2 Thanks! (gets up and RUNS down hall, leaving his laptop on chair)

    *business related small talk continues until room frees up; turns out that both Guys were on wrong floor anyway; I direct them to correct floor and go to my meeting*

  445. I once had a guy hit on me when I was sunning myself on the roof of my apartment building reading Mary Daly’s Gyn/Ecology. I suppose I should mention that this was the one summer of my life that I wore a two-piece bathing suit. So, clearly, “a** on parade” even outweighed “but she’s reading a rad fem book” to this man.

    He even asked to borrow it. I’m sure that was his first thought up there on the roof: “I wish I had some good ideas for what to read next!”

  446. BTW, the main point to my sharing that story, and its relevance to this thread, got lost because I omitted the details that I (1) wasn’t looking for conversation, (2) didn’t know how to stop him talking to me, and (3) felt naked and intruded upon. I got up and went back downstairs, and he followed me, asking if he could borrow the book.

  447. @limesarah – Hmm, I hadn’t thought about the introvert vs extravert angle. But yeah, ime shy and geeky tends to lead to perfectly inoffensive dudes who’re too scared of women to harrass them most of the time. Those aren’t the guys who get in your face, generally.

    The Ferrett would probably be a good example of what you’re talking about in terms of extraverted + geeky (see OSBP again).

    Jenonymous’s comment about dudes insisting on much talk about whorehouses etc rings bells for me. Maybe that’s part of it, the combination of openess to alternative ideas about sexuality and lack of social skills leads to not being aware that they’re making women really profoundly uncomfortable, plus the idea that geek space = dude space means that if women are offended well hey, you don’t have to be here.

  448. In my experience, geek guys are some of the worst guys out there ….

    This has been my experience as well. I also think that social ineptitude no longer cuts it as an excuse, if it ever did; especially since the advent of the Web, there’ve been plethora of opportunities for social interaction with minimal risk.

    Gaming and SF/F communities and conventions are often majority male; anime groups usually less so. This results in somewhat of an “old boys’ club” effect.

    Oh, good grief, YES.

  449. Hi Jenonymous:
    “push the right button and get another lame excuse…”

    FYI, “lame” is ableist language and we try not to use those kinds of words around here. Thanks (signed, feminist with a limp).

    @Cassandra:
    “Maybe that’s part of it, the combination of openess to alternative ideas about sexuality and lack of social skills leads to not being aware that they’re making women really profoundly uncomfortable, plus the idea that geek space = dude space means that if women are offended well hey, you don’t have to be here.”

    Mmmm. I think there is a lot to this. What a crappy combo of ideas.

  450. Eucritta, I’m not sure web-social interactions really teach us much about real life social interactions; all the body language stuff is still difficult. That’s my experience anyway.

    Maybe something like second life, with a training camp for social skills would help; with particular focus on faces. I know there’s been research on using computer programs to teach autistic kids what expressions mean that seems to work.

  451. Why in under sweet holy fuck are the bloggers and commenters expecting to continually explain and defend their right to discuss this comic strip and this topic to randoms in off the street? We’re having this discussion because WE WANT TO, and SHUT UP.

    Thanks for coming in and explaining all this to the womenfolk, Derek. I appreciated your breakdown of the situation, because since it’s about our actual lived experiences we just weren’t getting it on our own. Fuck off.

    Also, what Ethyl said. Between two girlfriends I live with, a job in customer service, volunteer work and my sometimes-too-active social life, the last fucking thing I want on my ride home from work in the Big Bad City is to have to make involuntary contact with anyone else. I get involved in random acts of kindness for strangers all the time, and ones I see warm my heart, but that has fuck-all to do with my right (and every woman’s right) to be left alone in a public space if that’s what she wants at the time. To put it much as the “You Don’t Have to Be Pretty” post did, making unwanted conversation with strange men is not a rent I have to pay for being a woman in public

    “wait, love for the series has fuck-all to do with whether this one’s a fail”
    Yes! That.

    it’s very important to recognize that your justifications for bothering someone in a public space don’t count for the other person
    That too.

    It seems like people here are mostly saying that women should be allowed to decide with whom/when/where they want to talk, and that men should be encouraged to respect those decisions. And anyone who finds that unreasonable… should maybe engage in a little soul-searching about why they think that.

    And that.

    Shiyaya, I totally get what you’re saying. Cheers.

    I’m rambling a bit, but I was thinking about how upset dudes seem to get about not being able to talk to strange women and it seems like it’s part of this idea that everything they think or say is so freaking important that they just have to share it with the whole wide world
    Yeah, Tiphane, that’s pretty much exaclty what it is.

  452. Jenonymous: I had the biggest habit of saying that word and never once did I think about what it would mean to someone else until I started reading this blog. Now I make a conscious effort not to use it anymore, but I still don’t really see it when I read it somewhere or hear it when someone else says it. I’m learning, but usually the only way I ever get something is to mess it up first. :-)

  453. @Gail –
    “Maybe some of you have had a different experiences but I have never ever ever ever seen or heard of a woman who played hard to get.”
    I’ve seen it admitted to by at least three different women on the multiple threads on this topic, and I had to file my nails furiously to keep myself from typing “Then you are part of the problem.” Because every woman has her own struggle with and coping mechanisms for internalized misogyny (true) and a comment like that could be perceived as victim-blaming (*sigh*).

    @Cassandra, SM –
    “some of the defenses of/by geek men did make me think of the infamous “Open Source Boob Project” from a year or two back, which might be relevant to your point.”
    Which, as much backlash of that as flooded the internetz, tells me that despite their alleged vaunted intelligence, some of these guys really haven’t learned all that much.

    (And/or, of course, the more charitable reading that discerning people’s feelings other than your own actually is a different form of intelligence than C++ and/or Java programing capability. At which point I think one should betake oneself to the library and/or download some vids that are not PUA materials, and learn something, since there are entire sections on “emotional intelligence” floating about these days.)

  454. Wow, a long rant.
    I do also know “programming” has 2 ‘m’s. I think I’m edging up to needing a new keyboard.

  455. Yeah, I forget where I heard it or who said it, but the whole idea of “men who thought themselves too intelligent to be sexist” really seems key here. The Open-Source Boob megafail, among other things, read to me like an example of self-professed geeks trying to apply their huge brains to a topic and “logically” reasoning through to an engineering solution to gendered interactions, with predictably terrible results.

  456. Matt K – To which the response seems to have been “but see the concept is fine in theory, we just need to fine tune it a little”. That was the infuriating thing there, as well as here – no amount of “no really guys, this isn’t cool, it pisses women off, stop it” seems to make a dent in the conviction that since they have the big brains and all those guys MUST be right.

  457. I have a male friend I’ve known since high school who is a very socially awkward geek. From what I’ve heard, his childhood was terrible and involved a lot of abuse. I’ve no idea how much this impacted his personality, but he tends to come off as odd or strange to everyone at first meeting. To top it off, he has studied martial arts and is proud of what he has accomplished. When someone asks him about hobbies he talks about his two blackbelts. He is 32 and has never had a date. Ever. He has a very hard time around women and he comes off badly, despite many coaching attempts by friends. I know he’s a good guy because I’ve known him for 15 years, but I imagine any woman he tried to strike up a conversation with out of the blue would not be thrilled by this awkward, athletic man who keeps weapons in his car.

    I see some people calling others on ableist language – “lame” and so on – but look how some of you are treating those who are not (to borrow from the Aspies) neurotypical, or had the luxury of normally socialized childhoods? Just like fat people are perfectly nice human beings deserving of basic courtesy, so are some very awkward people who by virtue of abuse or genetics or whatever, happen to come off as ‘not quite right’. A person is certainly not obliged to give out information or commit to a date – or even be nice! – to such a stranger, but just because someone comes off oddly or has some visual non-conformity doesn’t automatically make them a predator out to corner a woman and cause her distress.

    I’m uncomfortable with how quickly people here (of all places) are willing to throw someone in the ‘untouchable’ bin for just trying to talk. If we only had conversations with other people that we deemed visually acceptable, what a sad world it would be.

    Might I also note, that my mom and dad met on an airplane flight. My mom sat next to my dad because he looked like he would be quiet and not talk to her. If my dad hadn’t plucked up his courage and made a human connection, I would never have been born.

  458. Frosty, you seem to have a lot of compassion for everyone except the victims of rape culture. I’m not fucking impressed. You seem to be absolutely intent on inducing stabby pain.

  459. Frosty, if you have a friend who accidently stands on people’s toes and hurts them, you teach him to be mindful of where he’s stepping. You don’t tell the people with the sore feet to shut up and be nice. Your buddy might really benefit from sitting down, looking at a thread like this, and thinking, “Gosh, I wonder if I’m accidently scaring women? How can I stop doing that?”

  460. Um, yeah, if I were to meet a random big athletic man who was intent on telling me all about how much he liked martial arts and who refused not to carry weapons around? Sorry, I’m going to protect myself first and worry about his feelings later.

    Women are not unpaid social workers whose job it is to make everyone around them more comfortable. Also, there is a difference between ” I don’t want to talk to that person because I don’t think they’re pretty” and “I don’t want to talk to that person because he scares the crap out of me”.

  461. I’m uncomfortable with how quickly people here (of all places) are willing to throw someone in the ‘untouchable’ bin for just trying to talk.

    That would be a nice theory if anyone here were doing this. As no-one is, what you’re really saying is “Let me tell you what women who are acting to protect themselves from serious harm are doing wrong, and how this hurts the feelings of the poor menz.”

    A person is certainly not obliged to give out information or commit to a date – or even be nice! – to such a stranger, but just because someone comes off oddly or has some visual non-conformity doesn’t automatically make them a predator out to corner a woman and cause her distress.

    Oh, please stop trying to make out that we’re some uncompassionate bunch of NTist bigots, because you sound like an idiot. Here’s a fun fact about men who approach you in public and may or may not be dangerous: THERE IS NO WAY OF TELLING THE DIFFERENCE UNTIL THEY ATTACK YOU. As SM said above, if you have some magical foolproof way of identifying the difference between your friend who seems “not quite right” and a potential assailant at first glance when they offer unwanted attention to strange women on public transport, do share. Otherwise, I don’t care.

    Also, your friend’s story is sad and all, but it is not actually up to me, any other woman reading this thread, or any other woman in the world to make up for his terrible childhood or whatever. I don’t owe any man my attention or time, and I don’t care why he thinks I do. Every man who intrudes on a woman in a public space thinks he has a perfectly good reason. As DRST said, “it’s very important to recognize that your justifications for bothering someone in a public space don’t count for the other person.” They don’t. Deal with it.

    And in the meantime, how about some men take it upon themselves to make up for the harm women have suffered from this society by, I don’t know, considering for 2 seconds that a woman’s right to feel safe in public trumphs their right to her attention. No? Then, I don’t care.

  462. At this point seriously asking “would it kill you to be civil” is just ridiculous. We don’t know if it will kill us! That’s the whole point!

    ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHH!!!!

  463. CassandraSays sagely said:

    #

    Women are not unpaid social workers whose job it is to make everyone around them more comfortable. Also, there is a difference between ” I don’t want to talk to that person because I don’t think they’re pretty” and “I don’t want to talk to that person because he scares the crap out of me”.

    WIN and THANK YOU and AMEN on both points.

    Remember that creep who shot up a gym? The one who thought that he was entitled to some hoochie-hoochie because he bathed regularly and had a matching sofa/seat set?

    News flash: It wasn’t the women who caught his “eeew, creepy, not dating him” vibe’s fault.

    His sense of ENTITLEMENT was the problem.

    Got it, guys?

  464. Frosty:

    I identify with those who are not neurotypical. I had to coach myself pretty much my whole life to respond like those around me so that I wouldn’t stand out. Then I realized that I could be funny sometimes and I liked standing out. I also realized that I had a different way of looking at things than most “normal” people did, but I still had to train myself to translate how I thought to others.

    My son is also just this side of autistic. I have had to coach and drill him pretty much every day of his life and he kind of gets it now. Conversing with a lot of different people with different opinions online has helped him train himself to speak the language of the “normal”.

    The word Geek for me is self-identifying, like fat. I am fat. I am blonde (this week). I have hazel eyes. I have an IQ of 142. I am a geek. I am a rocker. I am a lot of things. And I may be wrong, but nobody here said that geeks were untouchable. And who said anything about only talking to those we find visually acceptable??? AND I LOVE ODD PEOPLE. I am one, my son is one, and I tend to attract odd folks.

    Look, I’m glad you have a friend who is different and all, it can be a wonderful experience. I’d like to meet him myself. I’m sure he’s great. But if I met him and felt threatened by him because I just didn’t want to talk then it is still my prerogative to not freakin have to.

  465. Look, this is really very simple. If I have to choose between my own safety and someone else’s emotional discomfort, I choose my safety. And so should every other woman. Hurt feelings are less tragic than hurt bones or, you know, death.

    Right now I’d like the smack a bunch of people upside the head with a copy of “The Gift Of Fear”. You know when women get that “something’s not right with this guy” feeling? There is a reason for that, and we are correct to pay attention to it. Our primary responsibility is to ourselves, not the feelings of some random dude we don’t even know.

  466. Our primary responsibility is to ourselves, not the feelings of some random dude we don’t even know.

    But frosty’s friend will hypothetically be sad, CassandraSays. How can you live with yourself?

  467. Also there’s something kind of hilarious about someone suggesting that people here are saying we should treat geeks and the non neurotypical as untouchables in a thread in which tons of people have clearly identified themselves as geeks and/or non neurotypical

    Reading comprehension – it’s a good thing.

  468. How can you live with yourself?

    Caitlin, you forgot that by refusing to bear the friend’s children, CassandraSays is depriving the world of future frostys. Or something. I got a bit lost there.

  469. Caitlin – I will cackle to myself as I make a necklace out of the castrated balls of men just like Frosty’s friends. It’s what evil bitchy feminists do, after all.

  470. CassandraSays, do you get that he’s a geek and she’s a geek, and that’s why it’s okay? Maybe you would get it if you were a geek yourself.

    Oh sorry, weren’t we having that conversation again?

  471. . I know he’s a good guy because I’ve known him for 15 years, but I imagine any woman he tried to strike up a conversation with out of the blue would not be thrilled by this awkward, athletic man who keeps weapons in his car.

    And that is the whole damn point. YOU know that because you’ve known him for 15 years; A STRANGER doesn’t know that because all she sees is him in the train car or bus or whatever. And guess what? That stranger who doesn’t want to talk to him? It’s not because she assumes he’s a predator, it’s because SHE DOESN’T KNOW one way or the other.

    I’m uncomfortable with how quickly people here (of all places) are willing to throw someone in the ‘untouchable’ bin for just trying to talk. If we only had conversations with other people that we deemed visually acceptable, what a sad world it would be.

    This is NOT about people being “visually acceptable;” it is about people acting in a threatening manner.

    For god’s sake, as has been said many, many times on this thread, not wanting to be accosted in public is not a result of thinking that everyone is a predator, it’s a result of thinking that someone might be.

    I fully understand that people who are not neurotypical may not know or may not be able to attend to typical social cues. My brother, who is cognitively disabled, is one of these people; he often overshares with casual acquaintances or wants to hug people he doesn’t know very well. I absolutely despise it when people say mean things or stare at him in public; however, if he went to hug someone and they said “Don’t touch me” or something much harsher that meant the same thing, I would fully understand. And you know what? So would my brother, if I explained to him afterwards why that person might have reacted that way. He would be really sorry that he had acted inappropriately, because he is a genuinely nice man who respects other people deeply even though he does not always act socially appropriately.

  472. CassandraSays, that’s actually what I sell on Etsy, providing a useful second income.

    Caitlin, you forgot that by refusing to bear the friend’s children, CassandraSays is depriving the world of future frostys. Or something. I got a bit lost there.

    Ahahahaha. And then where would we be?

  473. Hi all.

    You are probably sick of comments :) I haven’t even been able to read through them all!

    I just wanted to respectfully say I don’t really get it. I mean, when I saw the comic strip, and then saw what was written about it, I was confused. Because the guy was only going to say she has a nice notebook. So yeah, it would’ve been a bit exaggerated for her to respond the way he imagined. I mean, at worst, most women would probably ignore him or something. And just speaking for myself, I would either smile and show openness, if I was interested in talking, or I’d either ignore him or say thanks and THEN turn around and ignore him. I wouldn’t think he is “accosting” me, unless he continued to bother me.

    Anyway, I just thought the way he imagined her responding was an exaggerated one, and the fact that on top of all that SHE was being awkwardly shy just made the situation that much more ironic, and therefore funny to me.

    My point is that everything that was written would make sense to me if he continued to try to talk to her more than once, or if his first line was something rude… But as it is, I just didn’t understand the whole rape culture thing, and I thought it was all funny and cute.

    I’m not saying this to be argumentative, I totally respect these other points of view. This is just mine, that’s all, but it’s certainly interesting to read what other people think as well.

  474. Blerg.

    Part of me wonders whether trolls are just evolving into progressively more subtle forms in order to get past the banhammer. But assuming good faith and all…

    @cggirl, I don’t want to mansplain anything here, but the whole “I haven’t read the comments” bit is getting a bit stale, at this point. If you had read them, you’d know this, and you’d know that the general gist of your comments has been addressed. Repeatedly.

  475. I’m not saying this to be argumentative, I totally respect these other points of view. This is just mine, that’s all, but it’s certainly interesting to read what other people think as well.

    Oh for fuck’s sake! Don’t even try to pretend you read anything in this thread. What disrespectful shite.

    What about MEEEEEE!!! Here I am trying to read the wonderful, insightful and witty reparté of the Shapling Regulars and a bunch of drive-by assholes keep cluttering up the thread.

  476. FYI, I have hit Douchebag Mockery Stage on this topic, and ne’ver shall I return. There are no jellied eels, only pie.

    cggirl, no harm to you, but if you don’t care what I think then I don’t care what you think. It is unfathomably rude to say you haven’t read (all) the comments and then say what at least 10 other people have said before you, while ignoring everything that was said in response to them.

    What about MEEEEEE!!! Here I am trying to read the wonderful, insightful and witty reparté of the Shapling Regulars and a bunch of drive-by assholes keep cluttering up the thread.

    But, Tricia, what about their thoughts? What about their feelings?

  477. Frosty:

    If you like him so much, feel free to date him. We will continue to make our own decisions on this matter.

    Your friend may have to stop being weird to get dates. If he does not, you should assume that not changing is more important to him than dating.

  478. From Cassandrasays — “If I have to choose between my own safety and someone else’s emotional discomfort, I choose my safety.”

    Or even MY emotional comfort versus someone ELSE’S emotional comfort. (*See note.) Not even sure if this is relevant — it’s so very, very minor compared to what others have experienced — but I think it’s another illustration of “men automatically expecting women to accede to their wishes”…

    A while back an old boyfriend contacted me via email. It hadn’t been a great relationship; we were both very young, I had a feminist expectation of being myself (despite not knowing what a feminist was at that age), and he had an expectation of being “the big man” and “taking care of me”.

    So, his first email was cutsey-coy; I wasn’t even sure if it was the same guy at first. When I questioned him directly, he answered directly. He wanted to phone me to talk, but couldn’t get through. (I’ve let my land-line lapse, only use a cell.) Could he have my new number so we could talk?

    I thought about it. But I don’t communicate well on the phone; I get tangled and sidetracked, and never manage to say what I want or need to say. In email, I can take my time, edit, and make sure I’ve explained my point. I told him that, and said I’d be happy to communicate by email.

    He wrote back; he just wasn’t comfortable in email, couldn’t express himself well. Please, couldn’t we talk voice to voice?

    I pointed out that he could take as long as he wanted to express himself in email, so that it would satisfy him; he is, after all, literate. But, ultimately, one of us was going to be “uncomfortable”. I told him I elected to stay in MY comfort zone; if he wanted to maintain communications, he could use email.

    That was a year ago; I haven’t heard one word from him since. So yeah — somehow, I think a “desire to keep in touch” isn’t very strong if it fades away because his every specification is not met. Thirty years, I didn’t know or recognize “male entitlement”; now I realize he’s full of it. (Pun unintended, but appropriate.)

    (*Note: not saying that I expect never to leave my comfort zone. If a friend needs me, or even someone I only know from work, I’ll expand my comfort zone temporarily to help them out, acceding to their comfort zone. But I’M the one to choose, thank you very much. As someone else said, it isn’t my job to take care of the rest of the world.)

  479. Hey guys, I’m a surly goth, does this mean I get to go to weddings dressed like Wednesday Addams now and that if I have a customer service job I can scowl at people and refuse to help them if I’m not in the mood? I mean since people aren’t supposed to have to adapt to society in any way.

    Oops, I forgot, that rule only applies if you have a penis.

  480. frosty, I’m honestly confused. Are you trying to say that women shouldn’t say “I don’t want to talk to you” to men whom they don’t want, for whatever reason, to talk to? Or are you saying that women *should* want to talk to any man who talks to them in public on the offchance that the man had a bad childhood but has a good heart?

    Or are you just saying that it’s mean to think mean things about people… and so women who say “I don’t want to talk to you” to a strange man, NOT because they’re fearful of getting assaulted, BUT RATHER because he isn’t carrying a top-of-the-line briefcase or is a member of a race that they’re prejudiced against, should not feel that way? My most charitable read is that it’s this last one — and I agree with you, but honestly don’t get what that has to do with what we’re talking about.

    And cggirl, maybe you can get the notes from one of your classmates?

    /is astonished

  481. FYI, I have hit Douchebag Mockery Stage on this topic, and ne’ver shall I return. There are no jellied eels, only pie.

    :::pops popcorn:::

    But, Tricia, what about their thoughts? What about their feelings?

    :::waves humorless feminazi beeyotch card:::

  482. A Sarah – Honestly, at this point I’m picturing Frosty’s friend standing there with a samurai sword in one hand, nunchucks in the other, and the Kubric Stare on his face, and her standing off to one side berating terrified looking women passing by with “but you’d like him if you got know him! he’s a nice guy! god, you’re all so shallow, judging people on appearances like that”.

    I mean after all the excuse-making so far nothing would be surprising, not even if we were being asked to be more sympathetic to an actual axe murder, with a axe in hand and the words “axe murderer” written on his forehead.

  483. I think it would have worked well to have alongside the scary-imaginings panels the actual girl trying to make eye contact, saying hi, etc, which he of course doesn’t notice because he’s too busy worrying about what she *might* say. And then the last panel would more clearly be her having given up and turned away in disappointment because the cute boy is still ignoring her.

    Still problematic to my mind. It’s still “oooh scary feminism has made men afraid to approach women, you silly women better stop harming your own/each other’s chances to trap a man!”

  484. Oh my fucking god Frosty, for real? I think I met your friend in high school, he tried several times to flirt with me, acted like I was an icy bitch because I wasn’t into it, and then he came to school one day with a samurai sword shoved down his fucking pants. I did put him into the untouchable bin in my mind, and that’s my FUCKING RIGHT! However, I love geek boys, and so does um pretty much everyone else on this fucking thread if you read the god damn fucking comments.

    Cggirl, this is the first time I’ve seen much in the way of the commenters here getting pissed with the usual “the thread was too long so I want to comment right now, read it, come back and apologize for repeating points and piss everyone off” statement. It’s sort of new, but if you have read the posts, you would have seen Kate get angry about it, and know not to do it. Oh the irony. *Evil Cackle*

  485. CassandraSays, yeah, when I realized that an upthread comment (the keelhauled one) was also frosty I was no longer honestly confused.

    But, Tricia, what about their thoughts? What about their feelings?

    Right? Because it’s a great use of the blog for random people to log anger that their thoughts and feelings aren’t confirmed by someone else’s analysis somewhere on the web.

    Oh! That reminds me. There was something I needed to tell you all. I AM NOT KEEN ON PASTEL POWDER ROOMS. ALL YOU PEOPLE WITH PASTEL POWDER ROOMS IN YOUR HOUSES AND APARTMENTS, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU? My only consolation is that now there is a testament to my strong opinion on the subject, right here on the internet. You’re welcome!

  486. No, no, no. A Sarah, you’ve got it wrong. You forgot to add:

    HOW COME YOU PEOPLE WITH THOSE FUCKING PASTEL POWDER ROOMS HAVEN’T FIXED THEM YET? YOU, HERE, FIX YOUR DAMNED PASTEL POWDER ROOM. BECAUSE WHAT IF I NEED TO BORROW IT SOMEDAY WHEN I AM ON YOUR CONTINENT AND IN YOUR COUNTRY AND VISITING YOUR CITY?

    I LIKE JEWEL TONES. PARTICULARLY BLUES.

  487. Oh shit A Sarah, you may or may not know this, but all humorless feminazis have pastel powder rooms. Now all of us will scream at you, because anyone not like us is totally attacked on here. Now because their ideas are flawed, but because they don’t have vaginas and a she-woman man haters club membership.

  488. Hey all:

    I wanted to thank everyone who has commented, y’all have helped me crystalize something that has been bothering me a lot about male-female interactions.

    It seems these conversations generally proceed something like this:

    Man approaches woman: Hi. Please dispense regard on demand.
    Woman: *being polite* Here’s a small amount of regard. Okay, have a nice day.
    Man: *Wow! She likes me!* How about a little more regard?
    Woman: *wondering what is up* Regard, I’m going to get back to this other thing that I chose to do.
    Man: *This regard is amazing! She’s pretty!* Regard, regard, regard, gimmee, gimmee!
    Woman: Fuck off.
    Man: *heartbroken* I was just being nice, you insufferable bitch! And you’re fat!

    But they weren’t ever really being nice. They were expecting a handout, and contrary to the rules of human interaction in every other realm of life, they didn’t want to trade something of value for it. They didn’t stop to imagine that they might not have anything we want. They just want to push a button and get fed.

  489. YOU WILL ONLY HAVE THE HONOR OF MY SHITTING IN YOUR POWDER ROOM IF IT’S A NICE SATURATED COLOR, IS WHAT I’M SAYING.

    TAKE NOTE NOW BECAUSE I MIGHT NOT REMIND YOU FIFTEEN TIMES.

    (OR I MIGHT. DEPENDS ON WHAT’S ON THE TEEVEE.)

  490. But, Tricia, what about their thoughts? What about their feelings?

    :::waves humorless feminazi beeyotch card:::

    Ah, you get a free pass on this one.

    Frosty: If you like him so much, feel free to date him.

    I can’t tell you how much I lolled.

    Also, it is 5am here and somehow you people made me forget to sleep. Damn yous and your responsibility for my thoughts and actions! *waves fist*

  491. Yup, bellacoker, that’s it.

    “SATURATED” and “JEWEL TONES. PARTICULARLY BLUES” are rocking my world.

  492. (Confidential to Caitlin: I emailed you at the address you enter when you comment. If you didn’t reply because you don’t want to, no prob. But I thought it might be b/c you don’t check that email often, so I thought I’d let you know it’s there.)

  493. Awwwww, thanks.

    But I couldn’t bring myself to shit in your wrongly-colored powder room, so I shat on your kitchen table.

    Hope we can still be friends!

  494. YOU WILL ONLY HAVE THE HONOR OF MY SHITTING IN YOUR POWDER ROOM IF IT’S A NICE SATURATED COLOR, IS WHAT I’M SAYING.

    For what it’s worth, I got a colonic once from a woman whose bathroom was painted brown. Yes, brown. I asked her, “Is this bathroom brown to facilitate…” and she rolled her eyes and said, “If I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that.”

    I don’t know- does anyone else notice that it’s generally considered okay for men to be freaked out by women who do kind of off-kilter but largely harmless things? Like if a woman has a lot of cats, she must be insane. Or if a woman (like me) really enjoys horror movies and knows a lot about true crime, that totally means you’re going to wake up in a tub full of ice. Or another woman I knew who used to do embroidery of weird bugs- tons of guys thought she was “too weird to date.”

    However, Frosty’s friend can talk to a woman right away about keeping weapons in his car, and they’re not supposed to be even slightly perturbed? A guy can attempt to light a woman on fire on the bus for not talking to him, and it’s her fault for not being nice?

    I’m so confused.

  495. Holy Logic-Bomb Bellacoker! *ZAP* – *POW* – *BANG!*

    You wrote the Cliff’s Notes! Now we just need the I-wanna-talk-but-I-don’t-wanna-reeeeeead folks to pick up a copy…

  496. {A Sarah, there’s nothing in my inbox that looks like you. Could you message me on the Ning site in case my email’s playing silly buggers?}

    so I shat on your kitchen table.

    Hope we can still be friends!

    bellacoker, sure! I can’t see why you shouldn’t do exactly what you want, no matter how it might upset or inconvenience me. Isn’t that how the world works?

  497. Man I am late to so many parts of this party. *snerk*

    Re: Geek guys and their misogyny, let me just say that in my extensive experience (I spent high school split between hanging out with the band geeks and going to the Math/Science Center), geek guys are particularly vicious in their misogyny toward geek girls specifically, because they have this perception that they are being “denied” pussy that the world “owes” them (for being male) because they are not traditionally masculine or whatever, so if you are female and geeky in their presence, they feel like they own you and if you don’t play into that they get very upset.

    That is when they are not using their traditionally-stereotyped perceived lack of social skills to get away with shit they know is not cool. Or, some of them, genuinely lacking the social skills to figure out that it isn’t cool.

    I mind me of the time I was ordered and instructed by a group of dudes at my Math/Science Center to like this friend of theirs who had a crush on me, because at an I.Q. of 162 he couldn’t reasonably be expected to have social skills or be attractive in any way. The “and you’re the girl he wants and the universe owes him a girl” was pretty much just implied.

    Now, the guy in question was actually really fun, but I did not and would never feel about him that way and in any case my 164-I.Q.-having ass was (and am still) totally hot and also really good with people, so his/their excuse wasn’t an excuse anyway.

    Not that anyone has an obligation to be hot and comfortable around people. Although social skills are something I believe we should all strive to develop, if only for our own benefit.

    But people absolutely have an obligation not to expect and require someone to be attracted to them when they’re just not.

    Anyway, I have gotten a bit tangenty over here, but what I mean to say is, I think it’s a product of the hierarchical nature of traditional/patriarchally-prescribed masculinity that geek dudes act the way they do. They sort of come at it from the other direction than the jock dudes, I guess, but they arrive at basically the same outcome, which is, the universe owes me pussy, I pick this one. And then they just sort of expect us to gleefully hop on their dicks. But geek dudes have this culture trope they can play on about how they are so much nicer/smarter/more interesting than the jock dudes and they never get any chicks and try to guilt us into sleeping with/dating them. (Or standing by quietly while they sexually assault us in public–yes, I remember the Open Source Boob Project all too well.)

  498. Caitlin:

    Gawwd! It’s just a little shit! You don’t have to get all blown out of shape and passive-aggressively say it’s okay, while making me feel bad, and therefore causing me to question my entitlement to poop freely. If you want to police the poop of the world, then go ahead!! But my poops will NOT BE TAMED!!

  499. Bellacoker to Caitlin: “Besides, if I stop doing it, it’s not like the rest of the people won’t do it anyway, so what’s the benefit? And it inconveniences me! And why do you have to be so damned shrill and combative about it? I bet you’re really chasing away allies here. If only you were more nice and understanding . . . ”

    I’m beginning to get the feeling that we were all playing the same drinking game with the trolls on this thread. Did cggirl push us past a little buzzed and into absolutely smashed, or what?

  500. bellacoker, I think you’d better find a site where people suggest that it is not okay to shit on other people’s belongings and inform them of your opinion, immediately. THEY ARE PROCEEDING WITHOUT THE BENEFIT OF YOUR WISDOM AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED. YOUR BROTHERS MUST SHIT FREELY ON ALL TABLES EVERYWHERE.

    But Starling, allies who’re only prepared to listen to us if we’re patient, kind, grateful and nice are the only kind worth having! WHAT TO DO.

    Did cggirl push us past a little buzzed and into absolutely smashed, or what?

    I dunno, but I am loving it. All we need now is JupiterPluvius.

  501. No, no, no! Powder rooms should be like all glass with a garden and bamboo around them, and a waterfall with splashy rocks and things. Don’t forget that the floor must be natural stone, slate or granite or something!

    We gotta go back to pooping in the woods, only expensive woods you know, no slugs allowed either.

  502. HE’LL LEAVE YOU FOR A WOMAN WITH A JEWEL-TONE BATHROOM! JUST YOU WAIT AND SEE!

    I tell you this for your own good, because I am Concerned for your Happiness. FYI.

  503. cggirl — “Because the guy was only going to say she has a nice notebook. . . . I mean, at worst, most women would probably ignore him or something. . . .I would either smile and show openness, if I was interested in talking, or I’d either ignore him or say thanks and THEN turn around and ignore him. I wouldn’t think he is “accosting” me, unless he continued to bother me.”

    Unlike you, cggirl, I have read all comments — and been frustrated from answering by the school server. I think others are tired of saying this again and again and again and again, but I’m relatively fresh, so I’ll summarize…

    1. Many women in this thread have explained that they have had multiple, bitter experiences with guys who start out “just being nice”, then turn vicious, hate-spewing, and potentially dangerous. They’ve learned that “ignoring” doesn’t stop a determined, entitled harasser, that a simple “thanks” can easily lead to continued ‘bothering’, and being “accosted” beyond the limits of manners, decency, or even common human courtesy.

    2. It is not possible to tell, at first glance, if the guy really IS “just being nice”, or if he’s using that attitude as a “come-on”, and will shortly be accosting the woman in creepy and frightening ways.

    3. Since it isn’t possible to tell good guys from bad guys, most women would rather play safe and not engage. If that hurts the menz fee-fees, that’s just too damn bad.

    4. Even IF we could tell that the guy really IS “just being nice”, a woman is not obligated to react with or to him. She has her own thoughts, work, right to privacy.

    5. If you wish to smile, show openness, and talk to a man, feel free. But nowhere is it written that ALL women should (or can) react the way YOU do.

    6. This comic is open to interpretation, with many possible layers of “meaning”. You can see it as you like; that doesn’t make others’ interpretations less valid.

    7. It must be nice that you live in such a simplistic world, where simply indicating your wishes means the men will always respond to your cues. Most of us do not.

  504. Well, it’s time for me to relax in a nice hot bath in my PASTEL bathroom (okay, the pastel is this nasty brownish peach color, I would totes change it if I could, y’all), and thence to my comfy bed, so I will say good night.

  505. And one more thing:

    It’s obvious that men who interact with women this way are not being nice because when people who are being nice and are rebuffed the normal, sane response is resigned disappointment. It’s not generally a big loss, it doesn’t warrant a big reaction.

    But when we don’t receive something that we’re entitled to we get pissed off. For example, when we pay for a service that is not performed or is performed poorly, we get angry. We get upset. We want to speak to the manager, even if we chose to do it politely. That is the response we get from men whose advances are rebuffed. They can’t believe we are dispensing their regard the way they expect and since they can’t talk to our managers they get upset and/or try to set us on fire.

  506. Yay Bellacoker. And, honest, Melena, you are become a legend here. The blue cheese dressing on the searing hot wings of the internet, and now the man with the lighter.

  507. I can’t believe I’ve read all the comments when I’m supposed to be studying for my econ quiz at 1 in the morning *facedesk*, but I just wanted to say that it was very enlightening for me and I’m glad I did it. And I hope more people who want to share their opinions do too rather than just think they can trot out the exact same tone-deaf argument by saying it politely.

    While this isn’t a good way to begin a paragraph, I have to admit that I too didn’t originally see the big deal in the xkcd strip, because of my own background – I genuinely haven’t experienced serious harassment before, and I instantly related to the girl with the laptop because that has been Me in a lot of situations, and to the guy since I’ve felt more likely to be laughed at rather than desired. That bothered me for a long time in my teenage years, which I haven’t really left yet – as someone with very little conventional attractiveness, the fact that I never received any attention, never got hit on in public or by geeky guy friends, really hit my self esteem even harder.

    I’ve been desperate enough to crave even stupid, crude, possibly dangerous come ons by random strangers, just to feel like I’m not completely “unfuckable” and unworthy of attention, which is messed up in a lot of ways. (Last spring, a slightly drunk man offered to fuck me since his friends had dared him. I’m a virgin. I seriously considered his offer. And technically that IS harassment, but he accepted my rejection very quickly and with a grateful look.)*

    I’ve mentioned this because someone way, way above in the comments said something similar, and I think that some lurkers might share the same background – and I hope that people don’t feel like they’re alone and not part of “Womankind” or not “feminine” enough if they haven’t experienced similar things. It’d be trivial to say it doesn’t matter, since being completely ignored ALL the time can also be painful, and sometimes the lack of what is assumed to be a universal experience is alienating in its own way. But it would also be incredibly offensive to think that the down sides of invisibility or humiliation, like the kind some men encounter in being rebuffed, are in any way comparable to the threat of constant harassment, physical harm, coercion, possibly death. I know which scenario the vast majority of reasonable people would choose.

    Even though I haven’t directly experienced the same things that some 500+ comments have outlined in some terrifying detail, I can certainly understand why this strip has been so troubling to so many. And it is troubling to me, since I’m a woman who by her gender is inextricably bound to the issues – whether or not I’m aware of them – that affect Women, and since I’m a human being. (I acknowledge that there are many ways to interpret a text, which is what I believe the concerned not-getting-it-people are trying to share, but not all interpretations are equally justifiable, and not all actually count as thoughtful contributions to the discussion. I’m not saying that you lack compassion or empathy if you don’t see the point of this thread, but there are many alternative places to share your viewpoints that may be more accepting if those viewpoints were not backed up with some very solid arguments.)

    Out of interest, and so I don’t make this post all about Me (*blush*) – is it possible for some shapelings to comment on this article:

    http://www.atchka.com/2009/10/you-offend-myself.html

    Where the author gives his opinion of the commenters on this thread. I’m still thinking through it, and there are some things that bother me about it (my impression is that it’s quite victim-blaming in some ways, and completely misreads much of this thread in others), but I’m not particularly articulate and am still formulating my thoughts on it. I’d like to hear others’ thoughts on it, if possible.

    *(I’ll emphasize that in a healthy state of mind, in no way would I appreciate unwanted harassment, and in no way would I accept my adolescent confusion being used as an example of “she’s playing hard to get”/”she’s secretly really into me”. I’m shy and socially inept enough that I COULD be that laptop girl. But I’m one out of a thousand, and the other 999 women would follow rather similar lines of thinking as this thread has shown.)

  508. Ha! What a thread. Loving it.

    I see we’ve got another “But if men didn’t interrupt women in public I’d never have been born,” too. Personally, I would never have been born if Hitler hadn’t bombed London. That doesn’t make it a good thing.

  509. **Oops, that last sentence should end, “the other 999 women would follow the same lines of thinking as these comments / this thread”. The not-laptop girl line of thinking. Implied by the “But” beginning that sentence, and the implicit “whereas”. Logic. My brain. Need…red….bull.

  510. MissPrism: Don’t be so down on yourself, you’re totally worth the bombing of London. The firebombing of Dresden, still completely out of line.

  511. Five hundred some odd comments, finished the latest at 3:30 AM, and the most coherent comment I’ve been able to come up with so far is if a big scary weird guy sat down next to me and wanted to talk about the swords in his car, I might actually be into that. I like shiny metal too. I might tell him about the sword I keep by my bed, in case the velociraptors come.

    To answer somebody else’s question, I trust geeks more than mundanes. Cons and SCA were my safe space, where I could talk to people. Still true; wouldn’t know what to do with someone who called themselves a jock. Probably start talking about swords, because I sure don’t know anything about sports. Which only goes to show everyone’s experiences are different.

    My favorite parts of this thread, though, are the stories we tell where we won. I don’t think those stories get told often enough. A lot of people have said, “You can’t win. If you talk to them, you have to give up your privacy. If you don’t talk to them, they call you a bitch.” But there are stories in this thread of women who have won that interaction. Here’s one from A Sarah from pretty far up at the beginning of the thread:

    “side note: I actually did say “Why are you talking to me?” once, when some man I didn’t know tried to talk to me (well, yell at me, since he was in a car) while I was jogging. I said it with a genuinely curious tone — eyebrows half raised, flat expression with a raising of pitch at the end… sort of how someone might ask a park ranger how old the stalactites are. It worked pretty well. I got to FINISH MY JOG, which was what I wanted to do, as anyone who looked at me could have told.”

    I think it’s important that we tell these stories too. I think it is crucially important where so many women are so afraid all the time to talk about the ways in which we _can_ control our boundaries, in which we _can_ short-circuit or shut down the undesirable behaviour addressed to us. I’m not saying it’s going to work every time, and I’m not saying it’s going to magically going to protect us when we are dealing with someone who has the will and the superior force to do us harm. But you get the behaviour you reward, and if we tell the stories of how we won, we will know better how to keep winning.

    So I’ll tell you a story about a time I won. I was in college, and I was having dinner at a restaurant near my college. Partway through the meal, a strange guy came over and sat down at my table. He tried aggressively to start up a conversation with me. I told him to go away. He didn’t move. I flagged down a waiter, who got the manager, who threw him out on his ear. I got to finish my meal in peace.

  512. Completely off-topic insomniac ramble ahead. Memememememe in 3…2…1…

    I have to be up in less than four hours and I cannot sleep and I have a chemistry test and a therapy appointment and I have to find felt for a project I accidentally agreed to do for the cat rescue I volunteer for (poor kittehs!) and then complete said project and study more and this week and month and year have just been such shit for the world and everything just seems to get worse and worse and worse.

    And then there’s here, where everyone gets it and I don’t have to be polite to assholes. This helps, so much.

    And the latest exchange of powder rooms and dominance pooping has made me giggle madly and I hope I can sleep now, so thank you all for that.

    And thank you Kate and Sweet Machine and Fillyjonk and A Sarah!!

  513. Bellacoker with more win.

    MissPrism, I am so stealing that Bombing of London example to counter people who do that “I would never have been born” shit.

    The bathrooms…. oh dear lord the bathrooms. :P

    Rebecca V – good point about stories of winning are important too.

    This thread has made my week, I think.

  514. bellacoker, seriously. Your last few (non-pooping-related, heh) posts have been really useful in clarifying what’s actualyl going on here. It is exactly, exactly like a customer service interaction in the way you mention.

  515. The bathroom conversation made me cackle madly. I often go to kuler when I’m feeling down, and pretend I might actually have a room with actual design one day and an actual color scheme. (Hah! Fat chance.)

    Also, I feel obligated to point out the Jonathan Coulton’s playing Chicago Saturday, there’s still tickets for sale (probably because he’s going up against TMBG) and I’ve had “Re: Your Brains” stuck in my head since this post went up. Can we find less catchy and awesome artists for future posts? I keep wanting to begin every email with “things have been okay for me, except that I’m a zombie now.”

  516. Man people are not happy with each other in this thread. I’m honestly a little nervous about posting now because I have no idea what sort of comments I’m going to be opening myself up to, but I’m not really the sit down and shut up type, so.

    For the record, I am a feminist who has been called “rabid” or a “feminazi” by many a sexist asshole for my views, but I do not see the problem with this comic. I don’t think it’s saying that all women want to be approached. I think it’s saying that some women won’t mind it, and some are even just too shy to try it themselves. This is not to say that it gives guys a license to be harassing and persistent because they’re convinced that secretly, you want to be spoken to. But I think there is a big difference between a creepy come on and a polite invitation to chat.

    I lived in Toronto for a few years and one thing I *hated* about it was that the standard of politeness there was that no one is supposed to acknowledge that anyone else exists. People always walked around unsmiling, eyes pointed to the ground, silent. One of the big reasons I am happy to be back in the Maritimes is that people are actually friendly! When you go walking in the park, most people you pass says “good morning” and smile, and people don’t usually get weirded out if you say something to them in the grocery store or ask them a question. I don’t think this makes my city an anti-woman environment! I think it makes it nice and I hope it never changes.

    Maybe that is the origin of some of the differences in interpretations of this comic? I can see how if you’re more used to a culture where it’s considered very unusual for strangers to speak to each other, having a guy make even a fairly innocuous comment like “nice netbook” would be less acceptable and maybe even kind of creepy. But from my lifetime experience, it’s pretty normal for males, females, everyone to interact unless they’re given some indication to back off.

  517. Hey, y’all, I just want to clarify that cggirl is not a troll; she’s a regular who apparently picked the worst possible thread to blithely wander into. cggirl, I know you’re not a troll, but honestly, you have to ask yourself: once there are 500+ comments to any given thread, if you’re not going to read all 500+ comments, why do you think that your comment will be fresh and exciting and original and not covered by the 500+ existing comments? Even if you are frequently delightful in other threads, if you’re late to the party, you gotta figure that someone might have said what you’re thinking already.

  518. I haven’t finished reading all the conversations, but I have to say, thank you for being here. Thank you for starting these conversations and having these criticisms. I wouldn’t have been able to see what was in this comic, just because I had never even SEEN that my fear? My problems? They aren’t me. It̵