Friday, 31 March 2017

Coping with life’s pricks

The BBC has a story about pricks.

When a new style of seat suddenly appeared on Mexico City's metro system, it was labelled as inappropriate, uncomfortable, humiliating and embarrassing.

It was supposed to be.

The seat, moulded to include a protruding penis and chest, was designed to highlight sexual harassment experienced by female passengers.

The explanation next to the men-only label read: "It is uncomfortable to sit here, but that is nothing compared to the sexual violence that women suffer on their daily journeys."

Taking measures to tackle sexual violence and harassment is obviously necessary in this case, but as so often that is not the whole story. To my mind this stunt is crude and blatant but also typically modern. Its crudity highlights those lesser accusations which have become such a generic aspect of modern life. This one effectively points the finger at all males from teenagers onward, that is the underlying message and one cannot dismiss the possibility that it is deliberate.

We see generic accusation everywhere. Not necessarily as in your face as this, but the finger-pointing has become universal. It isn’t new but it seems far more pervasive than in the past and far more extensive and accusatory than Keep Off The Grass or No Spitting.

We see it in notices about zero tolerance with the implied message This Means You, however meek, mild and tolerant one might be towards those pockets of incompetent insolence hiding behind the notice.

It is particularly virulent in modern minefields such as racism, sexism, xenophobia and environmental worship. Here we also see scattergun accusations coupled to the implied message This Means You, especially if one is not safely ensconced in one of the favoured minorities where This Doesn't Mean You.

Maybe this is an endlessly tiresome aspect of modern life which has fed into political upheavals such as Brexit and Trump. Perhaps many people are weary of all those implied accusations. Perhaps civilised people do not take kindly to preaching fingers constantly pointed in their general direction. Perhaps they are prepared to rock a few political boats as a way of venting their frustration. Beneath the hysteria surrounding Brexit and Trump there is surely an underlying current of quiet satisfaction.


Demetrius said...

I suspect that the mentality of the men who go in for sexual harassment will mean that this seat will make little or no impact on their attitudes or conduct. Worse among the less sensible it might have the opposite effect to that intended. Life has taught me that the typical nutter's brain working is not the same as that of others.

Sam Vega said...

We see generic accusation everywhere

Indeed we do. It seems to be the unpleasant offspring of social engineering and mental laziness. Sexual harassment has to be seen as something that all men are potentially capable of, because otherwise the theorists would have to give up on the idea of social determinism and the plasticity of human nature.

It's possible that generic accusation does actually dissuade some potential offenders, by getting them to reflect on their traits. But my guess is that most sex offenders already know what they do is wrong. The damage done by trying to convince swathes of the population that you don't trust them is surely far greater. Better to dissuade by effective prosecution and punishment of the real offenders.

Sackerson said...

People will sit on it, willy-nilly.

A K Haart said...

Demetrius - I agree, the assumption behind it seems naive.

Sam - yes I'm sure there is an element of mental laziness in there. It's the easy approach.

Sackers - is that expression still allowed?