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Good blog

I don't remember where I found out about the Sociological Images blog, but I've been finding it really interesting. One recent post is about an ad in the Manhattan subway urging people who have experienced sexual harrassment in the form of "an improper touch" to report such incidents.

The point made in the blog is that the ad does not tell anyone to stop groping. It just tells victims to report it.

http://contexts.org/socimages/2009/03/09/whos-responsible-for-sexual-harassment/

The LJ feed for this blog is sociolog_images

Comments

( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
leback
Mar. 10th, 2009 02:02 am (UTC)
My first reaction here is to want to argue with the implications of that reading. I want to say it's not about making victims responsible, and it's not about accepting the behavior of transgressors. I want to say it's about the conclusion that consciousness-raising with victims is a more useful strategy than scolding perpetrators, because some people are beyond persuasion. I want to say anybody who would do that has to be *forced* not to, and the sign is about letting victims know that we're willing to use the necessary force to protect them.

But thinking a little harder about what I'm saying there, I actually do begin to see the sign as problematic. I don't quite agree with the site you linked to that the sign "normalizes" sexual assault; my concern is actually that it others it, and others the people who commit it, by implying that those aren't people who can be *talked* to, aren't people who will follow the rules of society. It's not giving them a pass, I don't think, insofar as it's offering to follow up with force against them -- but by treating them as others against whom we have to use force, treating their behavior as other, it gives all the *rest* of us a pass. Sexual assault is treated not as the predictable outgrowth of pervasive societal dynamics, but as deviance, as the behavior of people who are so not-us that we can only engage with them through force.

And as my initial reaction illustrates, I almost bought it.

So whether or not a sign saying "Don't sexually assault people on the subway" would actually deter anyone who already intended to sexually assault someone on the subway, maybe it would shake other people out of the complacency that says "I have no part of this problem and no responsibility for it," and maybe that would help change the social context in which the sexual-assault-on-the-subway problem is produced.
firecat
Mar. 10th, 2009 05:02 am (UTC)
I see the "put the burden on the victim" aspect that the post mentions.

I also think it's intending to convey "We know it happens and if you tell us it happened to you, we aren't going to scoff at you, we will try to do something." I do think that's something worth conveying, given the way that sexual harrassment reports are usually handled.

I agree with your "Othering" analysis, too -- for the reasons yous tate, and also because it implies "and if you see this happening rather than having it happen to you, it's not your problem."
lorres
Mar. 10th, 2009 01:43 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for pointing out this blog. It's opening up a whole new world for me.

I like both of your analyses, and would only add that what the perpetrators are getting from it might be that they will have fewer passive victims on the subway. So they will likely move their offensive behavior to other places.

Edited at 2009-03-10 01:46 pm (UTC)
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