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25 November 2007 @ 09:35 am
The Gift of Fear  
At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.
- Gavin de Becker, the Gift of Fear



Men have no idea how intimidating they are.
- kitsunebeast



The man in the underground parking lot who approaches a woman as she puts groceries in the trunk of her car and offers assistance may be a gentleman or he may be conducting an interview. The woman whose shoulders tense slightly, who looks intimidated and shyly says, "No, thanks, I think I've got it," may be his victim. Conversely, the woman who turns toward him, raises her hands to the Stop position, and says directly, "I don't want your help," is less likely to be his victim.

A decent man would understand her reaction or, more likely, wouldn't have approached a woman alone in the first place, unless she really had some obvious need. If a man doesn't understand the reaction and stomps off dejected, that's fine too. In fact, any reaction - even anger - from a decent man who had no sinister intent is preferable to continued attention from a violent man who might have used your concern about rudeness to his advantage.

A woman alone who needs assistance is actually far better off choosing someone and asking for help, as opposed to waiting for an unsolicited approach. The person you choose is nowhere near as likely to bring you hazard as is the person who chooses you. That's because the possibility that you'll inadvertently select a predatory criminal for whom you are the right victim is very remote. I encourage women to ask other women for help when they need it, and it's likewise safer to accept an offer from a woman than from a man. (Unfortunately, women rarely make such offers to other women, and I wish more would.)

p. 74-75, the Gift of Fear and other survival signals that protect us from violence by Gavin de Becker
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Kburgunder on November 25th, 2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
I want to start a special fear-less less-fear club (like Lauren and Maxx's wrist tattoos) where we women folk earn pseudo-points for making more such offers.

+1 to me
I helped a young woman named Letoya with her grocery bags on the way home from Madison Co-op yesterday. She kept pausing, putting down her bags, and then picking them up again because they were too heavy. I've so done that, and from what I've read in this book so far, it makes for an inviting target to predators. I helped her with one of her bags until we got to my apartment, and then handed it back to her. While we walked, we talked about the book I'm reading and how her roommate witnessed two girls getting mugged in our neighborhood just last week. It was a good reminder that we do indeed have a quiet sisterhood, even if it is arguably a variant of the "forced teaming" the de Becker discusses in his book. It's a forced team I've never minded being on.

intrepid_reason: Boys suckintrepid_reason on November 27th, 2007 12:20 am (UTC)
This sounds like a great club! Don't mind my icon...
Deirdreevillinn on November 25th, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)
I'm so frustrated by the presence of such concerns. I hate it. I don't tend to be particularly fearful, but I was raised to be very mindful of my surroundings and my appearance in terms of awareness and confidence. I've also never been a victim of any sort of crime, so its easy for me to not revert to fearful body language - I've never actually experienced that kind of fear.

At any rate, Raven and I have often offered help to people, with me doing the actual offering, and often him doing the actual helping with my continued close presence. I hate that its necessary, but recognize that it is. It pains me that the gentle, kind, generous men we know could ever scare someone, and it pains me that some people are living in such fear and such sense of vulnerability.
Khallis: Aftermathkhallis on November 26th, 2007 09:29 am (UTC)
Well said.

As a man, I spent many years utterly imprisoned by excess concern. If you accept the fault and guilt for the fear of the hypersensitive toward you, there is nothing left that you may do in public - any action you ever take could terrify someone.

I had to let it go. If people freak out around me, that's too bad, but I can not continue to pick up the blame for it. They can cast me as an ogre in their own minds, but I'm done letting them cast me as one in mine.

Kburgunder on November 26th, 2007 05:00 pm (UTC)
I've dealt with a fair number of guys who are oblivious to the kind of safety concerns women face in a big city (and some women, which always baffles me), but I can't even imagine how difficult it is to be wholly aware of it and doing one's best to be respectful and not compound the problem. Hyper vigilance in any form can be seriously exhausting.

FWIW, there are only a few things that I think I even blame on the specific guys I encounter in the bad behaviour that wasn't intended to be threatening department. Walking home at 2am and some guy walking up behind me and pacing me because he's worried about passing me. I'd rather he passed with an, "on your left!" I just stop, face him, and do the sweeping hand gesture to let him pass. It's never been anyone hostile, just someone socially inept and just aware enough of the problem to add to it, if that makes sense. Of course he's walking faster than me. My stride is pretty wide for being pocket-sized, but I'm not going to out-pace anyone above 6' unless they're seriously moseying.

In my experience, it is rarely the big guys I have to worry about, who seem to be more mindful of their strength, power and ability to be intimidating, and often go out of their way to be gentle and careful with and near me/women. They rarely set off my alarm by the simple virtue of being male - they usually have to be doing something that is specifically setting off my alarms (which is what the book is all about). I can't tell you how grateful I am for the gentle, tough guys in my life - and the strangers in the same mold who've saved my ass more than once.
propaganda_ministry: Danger dangeri_maenad on November 25th, 2007 06:56 pm (UTC)
A while back I was telling Bluecifer that I tend to avoid the quickie-mart at Jackson & MLK when I'm walking to work because there are always 4-10 young men hanging out together there.

I am wary of packs of men in their teens to 20s, regardless of how sweet and vulnerable they might seem as individuals. When I see a clump of teenage boys walking toward me, I usually cross the street. Just on principle.

Blue said she had never been afraid of groups of young men. I find that stunning and enviable--or perhaps insane.
marc17marc17 on November 25th, 2007 07:31 pm (UTC)
If women are to be taught abject fear, wouldn't it be better served to teach them to fear their friends and family since that's the most likely source of any violence they will experience?
Kburgunder on November 25th, 2007 07:40 pm (UTC)
That's Chapter 10.

Who said anything about abject fear?
Kburgunder on November 25th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
This book is about keeping people, especially women who are way more likely to be the victims of violent crime, safer.

This book isn't fear propaganda about men.

It's about hard facts, and what women, and men, can do to be safer.

I have been having some serious problems on the Hill lately. Savannah recommended this book to me to help me tell the difference between terrified paranoia and isolating myself in my apartment forever and how to continue to be relatively free and trust my instincts.

You're on my side on this, right?
marc17marc17 on November 25th, 2007 07:59 pm (UTC)
Sure. I just don't trust something that uses fear as a catch phrase. To much like Fox news.
Kburgunder on November 25th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
And I think we can all agree on this: FUCK FOX NEWS!
marc17marc17 on November 25th, 2007 07:56 pm (UTC)
Between the title of the book and the part you posted, that's what it sounds like. Fear doe snot make a good basis for decisions. It's not rational. By it's very nature it is geared towards overeaction and producing a result just as counterproductive as what it is trying to avoid, as fear only leads to hate.
Kburgunder on November 25th, 2007 08:05 pm (UTC)
There is a big difference between abject fear (not related, but what I think you're referring to here) and intuitive fear (survival instinct, the subject of the book).

It's been a fascinating read so far. The male author is a, if not the, leading expert in the US on predicting violent behaviour.
propaganda_ministry: Marilyn pumps ironi_maenad on November 25th, 2007 08:06 pm (UTC)
Funny, that wasn't my take at all on that passage or burgunder's post about it.

Doing what we can to reduce apparent and actual vulnerability is not overreaction or learning fear. It comes from strength. It protects us against the real dangers. It is the opposite of hobbling ourselves with generalized feelings of helplessness.

Shit still happens, but we don't have to step in it barefoot and pretend it doesn't stink.
Satan's Tilt-A-Whirlsavannarama on November 26th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)
The book is actually very good and not at all sensationalist. (The statistics about the likelihood of being harmed by family and friends are well delved into.) It's the furthest thing from fear-mongering. If you're interested, there is a section on predicting workplace violence that is worthwhile for anyone.

Like burgunder, I was already streetsmart, but I finished the book armed with greater knowledge & trust in myself, and less fear.
Brendan Leberhollyking on November 25th, 2007 08:19 pm (UTC)
I have seen several women who looked like they needed help, but being alone at the time I didn't offer to help for these reasons.
Kushalikushali on November 26th, 2007 12:39 am (UTC)
I haven't read The Gift of Fear or Protecting the Gift but I've heard a fair amount about them, and haven't been too impressed. I think they play into our cultural problems perceiving and managing risks.

That said, in the example you posted I agree with the advice. Its the old adage of "act don't react". I think I first heard that in regards to relationships and issues with my boss, but it holds true in a lot of situations. I think for many people its a locus of control issue, they're in the mindset of things happening to them, so they don't think to make things happen for them.

I'm stubborn and independent though. I can only think of one time where I accepted help. I was at IKEA alone, trying to get some shelves into the car. A woman offered to have her husband help me out. I worked with him to get the shelves into the car. It was daylight in a busy parking lot so I wasn't afraid of him. I was however afraid that he would hurt himself helping me, or that I wouldn't be able to get them out and into my apartment once I got home.


intrepid_reasonintrepid_reason on November 26th, 2007 11:11 pm (UTC)
"(Unfortunately, women rarely make such offers to other women, and I wish more would.)"

I offer, frequently...
Kburgunder on November 26th, 2007 11:39 pm (UTC)
Me, too. We rock. See also Comment#1 if you have a minute.
indie: Bad Santaindiefic on November 27th, 2007 03:44 pm (UTC)
At core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.

As if to illustrate the point:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/international/story/0,,2214867,00.html

A woman was murdered in Spain after refusing her estranged boyfriend's on-air proposal.