I had a small epiphany recently. I read a post on another blog wherein the blogger is having problems with someone who is – at best, being creepy; at worst, stalking her. As I let it roll around in my head, I thought about how I’ve often debated how much of myself it’s safe to reveal online, for exactly that issue: what if someone wants to, let’s say, creep me out, so ends up sending me black roses, perhaps.
I’ve tended to deal with this by compartmentalizing my online life, as best I can, and generally having this niggling fear that raises its ugly head from time to time.
But as I mulled over it happening in real life to this real woman, it suddenly dawned on me:
In my head, all these years, I’ve been guilty of carrying over the blame-the-victim mentality that we’re socialized to have, which I’ve tried so hard to get away from. This is most talked about these days regarding rape: the blame-the-victim mentality says, “She shouldn’t have been wearing that, or walking alone there, or drinking alcohol, or or or.” The view I’ve adopted, which I think is correct, is that all of us have every right to dress however we want, to walk where ever we want, unescorted, to drink or not drink alcohol, etc, without the safety of our bodies ever being in question. The attacker is in the wrong for attacking, not the victim for simply existing.
But I didn’t see how much the blame-the-victim mentality permeates and goes into other areas; it was, indeed, regarding rape that I first started learning this differentiation. I suddenly realized I’d been carrying the blame-the-victim mentality into this question of how to act online.
The truth of the matter is, if a person’s put clues to their identity, location, etc, online, a creepy person can figure it out, or a reasonable person could figure it out. (Or if a person’s put this information forthrightly out there.) But the reasonable person won’t do anything untoward with that information. It’s the creepy person’s fault that they’ve chosen to go and do something uncalled-for with that information. It’s not the victim’s fault for existing.
It is still the victim’s problem, sadly, to deal with any creepers/etc, but that’s a separate issue. I was conflating them.
(I should be clear here that no one that I know of is blaming the original blogger for this happening, and that I know only what’s in that post about her situation. I only used it as a take-off point for the thoughts I’ve struggled with for so long, and you shouldn’t think I am trying to say anything about her situation at all. Except, obviously, that it’s her creeper who’s in the wrong.)