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    THE ANTI-MISANDRY BLOG: EPISODE IX

    Recently, I have noticed several public service announcements (for instance, The White Ribbon Campaign and my own BC Lions’ “Be more than bystander” offering) calling on male bystanders to defend potential female victims of crime.

    I applaud the notion of encouraging people to look out for each other, but I find the moral framework for these campaigns to be problematic, especially when compared to our society’s current opposite expectations of victims.

    The current bystander imperative is that, when someone (particularly a woman) is in danger, then you have an obligation to help by intervening (particularly if you’re a man) and/or contacting the police.

    In contrast, the current victim expectation is that, when you have been a victim (particularly if you are a women and your assailant a man), you have no obligation to help future victims by telling the police about the crime.

    Notice that, in the second case, feminist advocates suggest that asking female victims to come forward immediately after a crime occurs (giving police the best chance of catching the assailant, and reducing the violent criminal’s opportunities to repeat his evil) is a form of victim blaming. After all, say feminist advocates, “Women have the right to choose” whether they want to come forward, especially considering that “the justice system is so hard on female victims of crime.”

    Of course women have the legal right to decide whether to come forward, but bystanders also have the legal right to decide whether to dive into a dangerous situation to help a stranger.

    The more interesting and relevant question, then, is whether victims and bystanders have a moral obligation to help. I submit that, in both cases, the answer depends on the context of each individual situation.

    I imagine five general moral categories:

    (1) Morally supererogative*
    (2) Morally right.
    (3) Morally neutral.
    (4) Morally wrong.
    (5) Morally awful.

    *Supererogative, meaning essentially to go above and beyond one’s duty, has been taken out of some dictionaries because it is considered an archaic term that is no longer in regular use. I hope it’s not also an archaic behaviour.

    Where we locate both passive and active bystanders on such a moral ladder should be a function of the circumstances of each case. If the level of potential harm to the victim is significant, and the risk to a bystander who might intervene is non-existent, then not helping is, I believe, morally awful. For instance, if you’re on the fifth floor of your apartment building and you see someone being assaulted outside on the street, and you merrily watch without calling the police to help, then you’re likely not a good person. However, if you put yourself at risk by running down to fight off the assailant, then, in that case, you may be morally supererogative. Or, if you were to witness a mob hit, and you testified against the killer and consequently put yourself in mortal danger, then taking such a witness stand would also clearly be a morally heroic act.

    Thus, I think it is encouraging that current bystander theory is asking people to aim for higher on our moral decisions. Instead of ignoring those in trouble, let’s try to help. At the very least, let’s alert someone or some agency such as the police who might be able to make a positive difference, and if you feel up to it, then intervene yourself. However, as I argued in ATTACKING MEN, it makes me nervous that we seem to be expecting men to climb higher on this ladder as an obligation of our gender; that is, men are told they should intervene directly; if they don’t, they are often treated as complicit in the crime. This is dangerous talk. While I think it’s laudable for those who are most physically capable to try to help those less physically fortunate in an altercation, let us not forget that, when bystanders try to help, they can and have been injured or killed in their heroic efforts.

    The aforementioned white ribbon campaign (which my BC Lions endorse) tells men: “Don’t walk on by if you witness harassment or assault on the street or anywhere: assess the risk, then intervene and confront or diffuse the situation. If you need to, ask for help. Call 911.”

    It turns out that not all men are experts in dealing with violence: many men don’t have the training to accurately assess risk, nor the skills to diffuse a situation; moreover, my BC Lions may be surprised to learn that not all male people are elite athletes possessing the physical aptitude that might make a confrontation with a potentially violent criminal a safe activity.

    This is not to say that we shouldn’t celebrate those who do put themselves at risk for the sake of a stranger, but we ought to be careful to differentiate such moral heroism from obligation.

    (Often I hear stories where a man has attempted to assault a women, and male bystanders have intervened; they are rarely celebrated for such actions, but instead are treated as people simply doing their duty.)

    In contrast, note how we treat female victims who are, in a sense, bystanders of future crime by the same assailants. (We know that most violent attackers victimize more than one person, so when victims don’t tell the police what has happened, they are leaving future victims to fend for themselves.) In the Jian Ghomeshi case, women who say they waited many years to come forward with accusations against the former talk radio superstar were described as “courageous” by many observers. It is a strange label for a group who (assuming they are telling the truth) did nothing for a decade to help possible ongoing victims.

    One such belated accuser, who was interviewed on CBC’s As it Happens, said she didn’t present her case initially because she’d seen an alleged victim of a different crime severely criticized on the internet, and she said, “That would have happened to me.” However, she explained, she was now presenting her case because she was angry that current alleged Ghomeshi victims were asked why they waited so long to make their accusations.

    If she’s telling the truth, then on her own testimony, she’s a significantly selfish person (especially if we use bystander expectation theory to asses her). She refused to help other potential victims because she didn’t want to be criticized (that is, she valued (A) her own reticence to receive a negative reaction from trolls on the internet, over (B) other women’s physical safety); and then, she only decided to testify because she was offended by a politically incorrect question—not because she wanted to help the alleged victims, nor to bring justice to the alleged assailant so that he couldn’t hurt anyone else, but because she was affronted by someone asking a simple “Why?” question.

    And note that As It Happens host, Carol Off, did not venture a single hard question towards this self-centred approach to justice. I don’t mean to demonize the alleged victim in this case. Lots of people are as self-interested as she appears to be, but we clearly have a double moral standard where alleged female victims are treated as heroes even when they testify so late in the timeline that their alleged evidence is corrupted beyond usefulness, while we treat men who risk their safety to intervene as simply doing their duty.

    Why don’t we ask everyone to at least do the morally right thing, and if they’re up for it, the morally exemplary thing? That is, if you’re a bystander, then it would be morally right to help as much as you can without putting yourself in danger; and if you are willing to risk your safety to help someone else, that would be morally great of you. Similarly, if you’re a victim, it would be morally right to come forward, unless such help would put you in danger, in which case testifying would become morally wonderful of you.

    Admittedly, where we draw the line as to what constitutes danger, or at least harm, in coming forward may be tricky: a female victim—who has been taught by feminists that all female victims will be re-victimized by the justice system—may sincerely believe that her life will automatically be ruined if she testifies. So I do not mean to suggest that all silent victims are morally culpable, but we need our media investigators to start considering the possibility that in certain cases even a victim might be morally troubled if they don’t try in any way to help future victims.

    I don’t know how daunting it is for female victims of violence to come forward. We know, from feminists’ previous work in propaganda, that feminist victims’ advocates cannot be trusted to draw an accurate picture of police/victim relations; after all, it is an intrinsic aspect of their ideology and best interests (for future funding) to always tell the most bleak tale they can.

    From feminists we only have their often anecdotal assurance that female victims of crime are “up against it” when they go through the police and justice system. No member of the Canadian media that I’ve heard has ever challenged the assertion, not just that police abuse victims sometimes, but that every female victim will suffer any time she pursues justice. And, as this wild fire accusation against our police and legal system has spread, it has become an unassailable fact as opposed to a shocking indictment that demands an impartial investigation.

    Nevertheless, even if, as I suspect, modern police mistreatment of female victims has been greatly exaggerated, this does not mean that some female victims have not been traumatized by police and/or the justice system; moreover, given that feminists so constantly and dogmatically tell victims (via the media) that going through the process is “as bad as” suffering the violent crime itself, it is understandable that some women, persuaded by these terrifying claims of ubiquitous police misogyny, are tempted to leave justice to fate.

    Thus, I think it’s time to resist this unwavering narrative that the justice system hates women, and in turn, the corollary notion that that we ought not to expect any help from victims, especially female victims, in our pursuit of violent criminals.

    Recently, on a metro Vancouver Skytrain, a man allegedly groped a woman. A second woman says she checked on the alleged victim to see if she was okay, but didn’t receive a reply. So the bystander took a picture of the alleged assailant, and reported the alleged crime to the police. The police were then able to apprehend the alleged assaulter, who apparently they had met before, which seemed to give credence to the bystander’s claim. The police, however, were not able to find the alleged victim, and so, given they needed her corroborating testimony to charge the suspect with a crime, they have gently but publicly asked her to come forward (letting her know she will be treated respectfully).

    This seems to me to be a case in which, if the incident happened as the bystander describes, she should be considered to be someone who was morally heroic, because she tried to directly help at the time of the alleged crime (putting herself at risk), while the alleged victim seems morally wrong for not coming forward to help future potential victims. Nevertheless, the bystander has been treated by the media as a neutral character in this story, whereas the police have been condemned by victims’ rights groups for expecting a victim to speak up.

    “It’s her choice whether she wants to come forward,” is the common feminist mantra. “She has the right not to speak up if she doesn’t want to.”

    Again, yes, of course, she has the right not to defend future victims, but that doesn’t make it morally right to be unwilling to help. One feminist victims’ advocate explained again that women have many obstacles to overcome in the justice system, and so it is wrong to pressure any woman to talk to the police. And so once again the feminist advocates are encouraging victims not to help each other, and instead to demand that police and bystanders do more. In this case, if the crime happened, the victim would have had an ally, via the bystander’s testimony, that would surely have made a persuasive case for the justice system to seriously consider. So does she really have any moral justification not to help the police put away this alleged bad guy? Is the risk to her anywhere near the level of good she could do for society if she were to stand up?

    Perhaps, as I’m sure many feminists would say, I just “don’t get it.” Maybe female victims suffer in the justice system as consistently and terribly as feminist advocates insist. But how can we know that if our media continue to shirk their responsibility to investigate such a claim? At present, most Western media simply do not ask feminist advocates critical questions; on the contrary, instead of recognizing that such feminists are devotees of a particular ideology (that, like any other, is fallible), they treat such biased sources as scientific experts whose startling statements need no skepticism.

    Yet, if my suspicion of feminist exaggeration has any veracity, these so-called victims’ advocates are protecting assailants as much as they are their victims. By scaring victims into thinking that Western society and the justice system is out to get them, they encourage victims not to stand up for other victims. Who’s the bystander now?

    Posted by SethBlog @ 11:13 AM

  • 4 Responses

    WP_Modern_Notepad
    • Julie Says:

      When I saw that the title for this post was ‘The anti-misandry blog’, I expected to read something about misandry. Instead, I learn that one nonprofit group (the White Ribbon Campaign) is advocating a an intervention when sex assault is occurring. The other BC Lions campaign includes (gasp) encouraging men to speak up if someone speaks disrespectfully about women, and teaching that respecting women is “cool”. (Did you read the link you posted? Or just get hysterical when you saw the title “be more than a bystander”?)
      Thus, I would be more willing to listen to something if “the current bystander imperative”, as you put it, were a thing that existed. Show me the men who are becoming injured as a result of this! The ones whose self esteem is irrevocably damaged as a result of the shaming they received! Let’s see some stats from a perfectly unbiased study to prove it!
      Victim-blaming and slut-shaming, on the other hand, are real things that exist and are well-documented. It IS daunting to report a rape. There are many publications you could read. Statistics Canada surveys estimate that only 8% of sexual Assaults are reported and give a variety of reasons for this- a lot of selfish victims out there perhaps? You could also listen to victims advocates- you haven’t made the case very well here that they can’t be trusted at all. Have you read or listened to anyone besides CH Summers and Janice? What was that you were saying about confirmation bias earlier? I won’t get into a discussion here about when victims should, if ever, be obliged to report, but I would probably be more in favor of reducing the known barriers to reporting, I think.

      If you don’t post my comment, you will be CENSORING me!!!! Denying my right to free speech!

    • Julie Says:

      Last sentence of second last paragraph was meant to read “I won’t get into a discussion here about when victims should, if ever be obliged to report, but I would probably be more in favor of reducing the know barriers to reporting, I think, rather than shaming victims into reporting.

    • Julie Says:

      “From feminists we only have their often anecdotal assurance that female victims of crime are “up against it” when they go through the police and justice system. ”

      Ummm….no. Social scientists have studied secondary victimization. You can find this out in 2 seconds with a google scholar search.

    • SethBlog Says:

      Thanks Julie for your three detailed comments. Since some of your criticisms are about my blog in general, I’ll focus on those first.

      (A) YOUR COMMENT: “When I saw that the title for this post was ‘The anti-misandry blog’, I expected to read something about misandry.”


      MY REPLY: The title of this series “The Anti-Misandry Blog” is problematic, I agree, because I’m not sure how accurate it is. My focus here is on the media and how I think it is biased in discussions of feminist topics. I believe such non-objective work sometimes allows misandrist rhetoric to infiltrate the discussion; more importantly, though, in my observation, the media rarely questions any feminist argument, let alone offers a balanced conversation in which they provide critics of such controversial data and ideology. Thus, sometimes my criticisms are focused merely on what I perceive to be biased and sexist conversations (which, admittedly, are not always misandrist). I would have called this series “The Anti-Sexism Blog” or “The Anti-Media-Bias Blog,” but I think that would have been disingenuous because my focus here is on the sort of pro-feminist media discussions that, in my opinion, treat men worse than women and are soft on feminist claims, while ignoring criticisms of them.

      Consider, for instance, how mainstream media in Canada and the US has tended to treat the Gamergate controversy through a feminist lens.

      “The Anti-Misandry Blog” is the best I was able to come up with for this project, but I take your criticism there: it’s an imperfect solution.

      YOUR COMMENT: “Victim-blaming and slut-shaming, on the other hand, are real things that exist and are well-documented. It IS daunting to report a rape. There are many publications you could read. Statistics Canada surveys estimate that only 8% of sexual assaults are reported and give a variety of reasons for this- a lot of selfish victims out there perhaps? You could also listen to victims advocates- you haven’t made the case very well here that they can’t be trusted at all. Have you read or listened to anyone besides CH Summers and Janice [Fiamengo]? What was that you were saying about confirmation bias earlier?”

      MY REPLY: Victim-blaming, slut shaming, or my claim of media bias are difficult for anyone to prove via data because how we define and measure such societal forces is likely to be influenced by subjective ideology. In general, I’ve tried to avoid joining the stats war. My perception (which, as you say, may be informed by my own confirmation bias) is that most social “science” stats are problematic because those fields seem to me to have been overrun by feminist ideology. That conclusion is hard for me—-a non social scientist—-to know, of course; even if academics such as Christina Hoff Sommers, Janice Fiamengo, Warren Farrell, Katherine Young, Paul Nathanson, and Jonathan Taylor provide eloquent and compelling cases, how do any of us know which social scientists and data critics should be trusted? Thus, what I tended to do (before starting this blog series) was to pay attention to how the two sides talked about their stats and whether they seemed to be reasonable in their explanations and arguments. I acquired my “data” for this subjective meta analysis from media stories and interviews on television and radio, but primarily from my two radio stations (CBC and CKNW, both of which seem to treat feminist advocates as objective scientists), and what I found was that most feminist representatives in the media were unscientific, uncritical, and unbalanced in how they talked about their stats and arguments. Perhaps, if the media were to question them with a smidgen of journalistic skepticism, feminist advocates would produce more rigorous evidence in such forums. (I’ve said many times the best nourishment for any ideology is criticism, but feminists in Canada are rarely—-in my observation—-questioned in the media, so they unfortunately have less reason to bring their best possible work to the microphone.)

      Onto some of your specific criticisms:

      (C) YOUR COMMENT: “Instead, I learn that one nonprofit group (the White Ribbon Campaign) is advocating a an intervention when sex assault is occurring. The other BC Lions campaign includes (gasp) encouraging men to speak up if someone speaks disrespectfully about women, and teaching that respecting women is ‘cool’. (Did you read the link you posted? Or just get hysterical when you saw the title ‘be more than a bystander’?)”

      MY REPLY: I did look at the White Ribbon Campaign, as well as the BC Lions campaign (which linked back to the White Ribbon Campaign), in detail, and I also listened to representatives of the White Ribbon campaign in interviews. I don’t have a problem with encouraging people to stick up for each other in general, and to pursue a less sexist society. I’m irked, however, by two aspects of these campaigns:

      (1) They are unbalanced and focus only on male sexism against women, and men’s responsibility to do something to help women instead of asking people in general to look out for each other. (This is reminiscent of UN Goodwill Ambassador Emma Watson’s “He for She” Campaign. What would have been wrong with “He and She for Equality”?)

      (2) They ignore the danger that bystanders face when they decide to intervene. You’re right: I did not provide statistics to back up this claim, but I didn’t feel the need to research such a premise because I think it’s self evident that, whenever you confront a hostile stranger, you are putting yourself at increased physical risk. Recently, in metro Vancouver, a bystander intervened when he heard a woman being attacked by a stranger in her home. The result, as I’m sure he anticipated, was a full-on fight that smashed its way onto the street. I think that was heroic of him, and I like to think that I would have run in as well and gotten myself into the same dangerous confrontation that this wonderful stranger did. But none of us know what we would do in a scary situation. Maybe some of us would be terrified in the moment (of people who might be bigger, stronger, fitter or more skilled fighters than us) and paralyzed to act. I object to shaming those who might not decide to risk their safety (and instead only call the police).

      Moreover, and this was my main point, if we’re going to demand that bystanders risk their safety, why do we not ask victims to risk a potentially daunting encounter with the justice system to also help combat violent criminals in our society? Why is the latter call-to-action taboo, while the former a presumed good (to the point that a mainstream sports team is supporting it)?

      (D) Based on this quote from me: “From feminists we only have their often anecdotal assurance that female victims of crime are ‘up against it’ when they go through the police and justice system.”


      YOUR COMMENT: “Ummm….no. Social scientists have studied secondary victimization. You can find this out in 2 seconds with a google scholar search.”

      MY REPLY: You might be right that there is evidence for this scary claim, but I haven’t heard it discussed in the media. As I said, this blog is about the unbalanced way in which the media looks at these issues. I address the discussions I hear in the media and ask the questions I do not hear from journalists. When I say that from feminists we only have “anecdotal assurance,” perhaps I should be more clear: all I have ever heard on this topic in the media is the presumption of a justice system that is particularly biased against and hard on female victims. I have yet to hear any feminist advocate in the media provide non-anecdotal evidence for that argument. As I say, maybe they have such evidence (and, if you have a link to it, please do provide it), but I think it’s time for the media to start asking for the verification that you say is so accessible.

      Admittedly, I am generally unsure of how confident we can be about any sexual assault statistics that are based on self-reporting that has not been adjudicated. Given we are living in a statistics war, does it not stand to reason that in a confidential survey, some people will answer the questions in a way that will yield the results that match their ideology? (“Confirmation response bias,” if you will?) Meanwhile, might not those measuring the results, if they are working from an ideological perspective, help themselves to particular results-supporting interpretations of answers?

      And there are plenty of other reasons that some people might claim to have been victims when they weren’t, just as there many reasons that some will assault innocent people: it turns out there are a lot of bad people—-both male and female—-in the world. But to assume that deceitful, hostile, and psychopathic tendencies are purely male characteristics is misandrist.

      (Notice that men who claim they are victims of false rape accusations are not given the same presumption of truth-telling in feminist analysis.)

      (E) YOUR COMMENT: “If you don’t post my comment, you will be CENSORING me!!!! Denying my right to free speech!”

      MY REPLY:

      I have never excluded any genuine comment on my blog and don’t intend to start. This site is moderated merely for spam (i.e. random messages—-probably sent by spambots—-that are unrelated to my content). Once any person’s first comment is verified as non-spam—-as yours was long ago—-all future posts are automatically approved by the site.

      *Not that I think that a private blogger restricting comments on their site would necessarily be a restriction of free speech.

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