“So if you speak to a woman who is otherwise occupied, you’re sending a subtle message. It is that your desire to interact trumps her right to be left alone. If you pursue a conversation when she’s tried to cut it off, you send a message. It is that your desire to speak trumps her right to be left alone. And each of those messages indicates that you believe your desires are a legitimate reason to override her rights.”
If you haven’t read this piece, it is truly fantastic, and really illuminates how impossible it is to separate any individual interaction from a lifetime of experiences.
So much of this.
It might be a bit de-raily but it’s like there’s this total failure to realise socially that someone who is otherwise occupied is in fact otherwise occupied, not just passing time waiting for someone to come along and interact with them; furthermore we’re socially conditioned to be polite about this to the point of not standing up for our right to be left alone.
It also plays into extrovert privilege. Extroversion is the default. Wanting to be left alone is a sign of a diseased or scheming mind, or a mentally unhealthy person; solitude is a condition to be remedied, even if it’s productive solitude.
This is of course, sadly and infuriatingly, especially true of women. If a person perceived as male insists on being left alone, usually people will huff off and grumble about what a stick in the mud/grump/whatever he is, but if a woman tries to you can just stand back and watch the drama unfold as people decide she is a cold-blooded bitch or mentally unstable or otherwise a Huge Fucking Problem when all she wants is to be left the goddamn hell alone.
In conclusion, I agree that the perception (especially of men toward people perceived as female) that the desires of a person who wishes to interact override the rights of a person who doesn’t is deeply, deeply fucked up, and it seems likely that such invasiveness is in fact contributary toward/indicative of rape culture.
Likelikelike! Just to further derail this, I feel like this fits in with the Nostalgia Objection to mp3players/cell phones/portable gaming, etc. I spend a lot of time around ageing folkies and choralists, and so I hear a lot of censure of my generation’s fondness for technology. Things like how listening to my music is cutting me off from the BEAUTIES of the NATURAL WORLD, which are totally in abundance on the two same boring city blocks I walk to and from the bus on (just kidding, this is Victoria and they are beautiful). It’s true; why would I listen to my music, when I could hear the sultry sounds of traffic, rising in the petulant wail of an ambulance, the rousing hockey game floating out someone’s window, or the haunting, echoing cry of ‘ACK!’ from my neighbor? Anyway, putting THAT aside…
One of the things I hear pretty often is, “I see all these kids on the bus/at the bus stop, and they are all doing things on their phones; no one is talking to each other. What’s up with that?” The main problem people seem to have with this behaviour is, again, this idea that we should all be chatting with each other, like in the Good Old Days which totally existed, or we will become socially stunted mutants or something.
Nevermind that people have always done things like read in public spaces, indicating they do not want to be disturbed. One of my biggest annoyances is that the very people who are condemning us are responsible for creating this environment in the first place. Obviously, we kids did not invent the cell phone, or any of the other technological demons; you guys did. We’ll get around to making some of our own, I’m sure. But more important than giving us the means to avoid each other, you raised us in a culture of Stranger Danger. You taught us not to talk to people we don’t know. If someone wanted to discuss the harmful impact this has had on recent generation’s social interactions, I’d be all ears.
I definitely think that social skills are important (yes, even for us introverts, so stop grumbling), and the inane small-talk we have with strangers is actually kind of good for our emotional health. I also think that my generation, and the millenials following us, are learning to do these things. But we are also learning whole new sets of social skills, such as how to clearly communicate emotion and intent in the absence of body language and tone, or deftly use a variety of mediums to connect with others and express ourselves. We have created and learned entire new languages. We are masters of social skills that academics don’t even have words for yet. Please try to support us in mastering all of these skills, old and new, and acknowledge that they are all necessary in the adult world we are and will be entering.
But what are we actually doing on our cellphones on the bus? What purpose does this serve, beyond contributing to the demise of Western civilization? It is not so much the purpose of the cell phone, as the purpose of the bus, which is so much more than transportation to me. It is a place to study, craft, read, get one last kiss in, eat, sleep, draw, catch up on the internets, apply makeup, game, talk to friends, or spend ten minutes not really thinking about anything. The bus to school is for waking up and finishing any neglected tasks, and the bus home is for winding down and planning (many cellphones have calendars). You are not observing us in an environment we perceive as primarily social. If you were, you might still see us using our phones (mind your confirmation bias, though!), but overall, I think you would see more old school social behaviour when we are, say, in a shop, out with friends, attending class and extra-curricular activities, or patiently listening to you insult our world.
I wish people would respect my desire not to talk to them. I wish people would respect my greater interest in my tumblr feed than watching that same apartment complex roll by the window. I do wish that my generation, introvert and extrovert alike, will understand the value of social interaction. I would love it if there were more (non bar) environments explicitly set up for chatting with new people, like the set up in some French restaurants, where multiple parties are seated around large tables. I suppose this runs the risk of doing the same thing to casual socializing that relegating it to bars and clubs has done for drinking alcohol in our culture, but eh… I’m going to shut up, now.