I really hate it when people technically on my side make my side look so bad. As some of you may know, I am very much a proponent of taking responsibility for your own choices. I'm also 100% for striving to be the sort of person who can make rational choices for your own benefit regardless of what other people have done to hinder those choices for you, but she is basically suggesting that interpersonal interactions follow a cause-and-effect protocol where each person in any situation is equally empowered. Just. No.
I left a comment there but it was screened. I'm copying it over here with some additions/modifications as I see she's (rather deservedly) taking all sorts of heat for the post -- so I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't unscreen non-flisters' comments at this point. I mean, I saw one comment that actually attacked her religion -- and I gotta say comments like "fantasy paganland" are uncalled for no matter how wrong this person is otherwise. DDDDD:
The statement I quoted above, out of context like that, is something I actually completely agree with. But in the context of her post and in the context of the larger discussion about coercion and consent that arose as a result of the unfunny SPN kerfuffle, I disagree so completely I don't even have words!
Well, actually, I have a few. >.>
Because in context, that quote would be most properly aimed at those who made the affected women feel coerced, not at the women who felt coerced. And she's aiming it at the wrong people.
The thing about personal responsibility is that it can't exist in a bubble unless one lives in a bubble; people can and do make choices that interfere with others' choices, and since you cannot be responsible for the choices other people make, when Billy's choice creates a situation in which Sally has to make a choice in response, it's Billy who is responsible for the situation, not Sally. If Billy's choice has left Sally in a mental or physical state where her capacity for decision-making is diminished (if she is scared, if she is hurt, if she feels inferior or defensive, etc ad nauseam), Billy has taken away some or all of Sally's options.
This may possibly not be the case if Sally is a tenacious go-getter who is only intimidated by tentacled aliens wielding gardening tools, but that's not a question of choice or responsibility, it's a question of temperament and attitude, neither of which is strictly a matter of conscious choice, unless you're one of those super-enlightened types who are self-aware and self-critical 100% of the time. If Sally is a shy person who yearns for acceptance and who has been taught that reacting negatively to certain situations or wanting to escape from them are signs of a socially undesirable sort of person, she is forced to make a choice between:
a) feeling ooky as a result of witnessing behaviour she'd rather not witness; and
b) feeling ooky as a result of behaving in a way that she believes marks her as socially undesirable.
It's a choice between feeling ooky and feeling ooky; in other words, it is not a choice at all. How the fuck can anyone with a shred of logic expect a person with that temperament to make such a choice? And then take responsibility for it? I don't even.
Expecting people not to make choices that make others feel threatened or coerced is not the same as expecting those people to be responsible for you or your mental well-being. If an able-minded person would like to participate in social interaction with other humans, she does have a personal responsibility to take the other humans into account. If someone pisses in a public pool and other people are disgusted, it's not their responsibility not to feel disgusted because they should have expected a pool-pissing asshole. It's the pool-pissing asshole's responsibility not to piss in the damn pool.
If we get back to Billy and Sally for a minute, I said that Billy is responsible for the situation. By extension, he also shares some responsibility in Sally's reaction to the situation. If Sally ends up pulling out a knife and cutting Billy to ribbons because his behaviour made her snap, it is certainly her choice, and the direct consequences of such an attack would be Sally's responsibility to shoulder. But the extent to which Billy shares responsibility is more than zero. He created the situation that caused Sally to snap; if it hadn't been for him, she would have been happily doing something else elsewhere.
You might think this is a dangerous road, because the situation can be very easily flipped around to say "well, if Sally hadn't worn that short skirt or hadn't said she wrote porn or hadn't worn so much make-up, etc, Billy would never have assumed she was totally sexually "liberated" and willing to participate in sexually-charged or sexual activities and he would never have invited her into his room -- so ultimately Sally shares responsibility for the whole thing, too."
There is a huge difference between choices to think or believe something and choices to do something. Enormous, gigantic, epic, GULFLIKE difference. And all too many of the bullshit defenses of behaviour that perpetuates rape culture are based on fallacious assumptions about women. When you make an assumption and act as a result of that assumption, the person about whom you make the assumption is in no way to blame. Ever. Putting someone in an uncomfortable position because you thought [insert your excuse here] IS NEVER OKAY.
It ultimately comes down to this: you are not responsible for other people's behaviour, but you as an equal member of a social group are responsible for taking into account other people's needs and wishes, because that's what being part of a social group requires. Acting in a vacuum is only possible when you're the only person aboard a space pod. Being socially responsible is not just about picking up your litter or helping the occasional intrepid granny across the street. It's taking into account that the people you're dealing with are fellow human beings. It's paying attention to who those people are, because unless you're unprivileged in every way, you could possibly have power over them that you may be unaware of -- but they're all too aware of it, and if you don't keep that in mind, you WILL end up doing something that puts them in front of an uncomfortable choice.
You may argue that being unaware of your own privilege -- as a white person, or as a male, or as someone who's never faced sexual assault, etc -- gives you immunity from being responsible for creating those uncomfortable feelings. After all, you can't help that you exist! You can't help being white, or male, or lucky enough never to have been raped. No, you can't help any of those things, but that in itself doesn't absolve you of responsibility IF you're really interested in treating people fairly, or in lofty concepts like equality. If I am interacting with a member of a marginalised group, it is indeed my responsibility not to make them feel any more marginalised if I want to call myself a decent person.
And if you don't want to call yourself a decent person and just want to do as you like, then fucking well wear it. Why not? It takes all kinds. In the end, the only way to avoid social responsibility is to avoid social interaction.
Also, in my experience, cheesecakes haven't been known to make a habit of mocking or belittling people who choose not to eat them. Whereas someone like timid!Sally all too often will have to deal with being called a prude or a bore after she hightails it out of a room where people are having sex. >:(