10 Fragen

Ich stelle ja ständig komische Fragen, also beantworte ich natürlich auch welche, dir mir gestellt werden. In diesem Fall von Themisprojektperson.

  1. Welches Pokémon würdest du am ehesten in deiner realen Umgebung haben wollen und warum?

Ein Schiggy. Damit hätte ich immer frisches Wasser dabei. Das wäre auf Wanderungen und so ziemlich praktisch und auch, um in Gebiete, die von Dürre betroffen sind zu reisen und dort dann überall dauernd Aquaknarre zu machen.

 

2. Welche Sailor-Kriegerin wärst du am ehesten? Solltest du seriöse, empirische Tests gemacht haben, um das herauszufinden, umso besser.

Hm, vom Aussehen her wohl am ehesten Uranus, weil die auch eher androgyn rumläuft. Sonst kommt es wohl sehr auf die Phase in meinem Leben an. Jetzt vielleicht Merkur, weil ich akademische Dinge tue, aber als ich 14 war, war ich die sicher nicht. Dieser höchst seriöse Test behauptet aber jedenfalls Sailor Merkur.

 

3. Welches ist die deiner Meinung nach wichtigste gesellschaftliche/politische Veränderung, die in den nächsten 10 Jahren passieren sollte? Wenn du dich nicht entscheiden kannst kannst du natürlich auch mehrere nennen.

Die passieren sollte oder von der ich es auch halbwegs realistisch finde, dass sie passiert? Wenn ersteres, dann möchte ich bitte ingroup-bias komplett abschaffen. Das ist halt eher eine psychologische und unrealistische Veränderung, hätte aber sehr weitreichende Folgen.

Wenn es etwas realistischeres sein soll… dann eine gerechtere Verteilung von Ressourcen weltweit und dass politische Entscheidungen auf der Grundlage von wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen gefällt werden müssen. Also z.B. wenn man jetzt z.B. das Ziel hat, häusliche Gewalt einzudämmen, dann müssten verschiedene Experten aus dem Gebiet, also die dazu forschen, aus unterschiedlichen Disziplinen (und die sollten auch wirklich Experten sein, die irgendwie nach objektiven Kriterien ausgewählt werden), darüber diskutieren und zu einem Ergebnis kommen und das müsste dann so akzeptiert werden. D.h. die Politiker könnten nur noch entscheiden was für Ziele sie haben und was wie wichtig ist, aber könnten dann nicht einfach irgendwelchen Blödsinn entscheiden.

 

4. Wenn du ein verpflichtendes Schulfach an deutschen Schulen einführen könntest, welches wäre das?

Psychologie. I might be biased. Aber irgendwas engineering-mäßiges wäre auch cool. Das find ich nicht so wichtig und sollte auch nicht so viele Stunden bekommen, aber existieren. Und mehr Statistik.

 

5. Welches andere Schulfach würdest du dafür rauswerfen bzw. welchen Fächern würdest du weniger Zeit einräumen, damit dein neues Fach Platz im Stundenplan hat?

Hm. Sport hab ich zwar gehasst, würde ich aber trotzdem beibehalten. Religion kann gerne gehen. Sonst würde ich es aber einfach insgesamt eher so machen, dass man seinen eigenen Stundenplan individueller gestalten kann. Also ich finde jetzt z.B. nicht, dass alles, was ich so in Mathe gelernt hab, wirklich nötig war – mehr Statistikwissen wäre sicher hilfreicher, und das meine ich jetzt nicht mal nur für Forschung, sondern auch, um „normale“ Artikel zu wissenschaftlichen Themen besser beurteilen zu können – und z.B. zu lernen, was eine Korrelation eigentlich ist und was „signifikant“ überhaupt bedeutet und wie es berechnet wird. Und so viele Sprachen braucht man auch nicht. Englisch und Deutsch schon, und sonst könnte man da gerne noch mehr dazuwählen, wenn man will, aber ist jetzt nicht nötig.

 

6. Welcher Satz nervt dich in Diskussionen am meisten? Es darf auch einer von mir sein.

Ich glaub es gibt nicht einen bestimmten Satz, der mich unglaublich nervt – und es kommt natürlich auch darauf an, worum es in der Diskussion geht. Ich finde es unglaublich nervig, wenn mir mein Gegenüber aufgrund irgendeines Merkmales abspricht, eine gescheite Meinung haben zu können statt meine Argumente zu entkräften (sowas wie „als Frau verstehst du das halt nicht“ oder „wir reden nochmal darüber, wenn du älter bist“). Ebenso finde ich es furchtbar, wenn Leute in Diskussionen nicht zwischen ihren Meinungen und Fakten unterscheiden („Kartoffelbrei ist der Untergang der Menschheit“ statt „ich bin der Meinung, dass Kartoffelbrei der Untergang der Menschheit ist“).

 

7. Was ist der stärkste Bias, den du an dir selbst beobachtest? Das ist vermutlich psychologisch nicht akkurat ausgedrückt, deshalb führe ich mal lieber aus, was ich meine: Wenn du jemanden einstellen müsstest, was wäre ein Detail am Charakter, Aussehen, Lebenslauf der Person, die dazu führen würde, dass du sehr viel geneigter wärst, die Person einzustellen, obwohl das Detail an sich deine übermäßig positive Reaktion vielleicht gar nicht rechtfertigt?

Oh, das ist eine gute Frage! Vermutlich sexuelle Orientierung und gender-non-conformaty. Also bestimmt habe ich noch sehr viel mehr biases, z.B. Selbstbewusstsein und Attraktivität, aber die habe ich jetzt nicht mehr als andere Leute, glaub ich. Und das mit den gay und gender non-conformaty Leuten halt schon. Oh, und gegen Leute mir rheinländischem Dialekt habe ich bestimmt auch eine Bias (also natürlich so, dass ich sie weniger einstellen würde).

 

8. Für welche Ideologie (mit Ideologie meine ich hier tatsächlich gefährliche [politische] Ansichten, die in Gewalt ausarten können) hälst du dich am anfälligsten? Falls überhaupt eine.

Äh, was steht denn zur Auswahl? Also in Gewalt ausarten können ja sicher alle. Von den politischen Ideologien die Wikipedia so vorschlägt wohl gender equality / feminism, aber dafür bin ich wohl kaum „anfällig“, sondern das ist halt meine Überzeugung. Ich bin mir also nicht sicher, ob ich die Frage richtig verstehe.

 

9. Nenne ein gedankliches Konstrukt, dass du besonders elegant/ästhetisch findest oder dass dich besonders (positiv) beeinflusst hat.

The idea of gender performativity. Very liberating.

 

10. Welches Produkt/welche Sache auf der Welt findest du am unnötigsten und ärgerst dich jedes mal, wenn Leute dafür Geld/Zeit aufwenden? Falls es sowas überhaupt gibt.

Formel 1, vielleicht. Aber allgemein Sport – nicht, ihn auszuführen, aber dass es dann so Wettbewerbe zwischen Nationen gibt, wo dann plötzlich alle ganz patriotisch werden, finde ich total bescheuert.

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Dog People vs. Cat People: Are There Differences In What They Look For in Romantic Partners?

Before you start reading this, please keep in mind that this survey was created for fun reasons and was not designed to be „super rigid proper sciency sciency science“. This was a fun and nerdy way for me to procrastinate, nothing else. Please don’t take it too seriously. It is mostly meant to be fun and interesting to read – do NOT cite this as a scientific source. Moreover, if you are not a psychology-person, feel free to skip the methods and results section. Lastly, thanks for everyone who participated.

Abstract

Dog people and cat people are often thought to be quite different and it has been proposed (by a certainly very trustworthy source on the internet that I am unable to find right now) that pets can serve as a substitute of a romantic partner. This poses the question whether we look for similar attributes in our pets as in our romantic partners. In order to answer this highly important issue, 96 participants filled out an online questionnaire in which they were asked about the importance of a range of attributes in potential long-term partners as well as whether they identified as cat people or dog people and how much they liked dogs and cats. I found first support for my hypothesis. Moreover, results indicate that dog people generally expect more from their long-term partners compared to cat people.

cat1

Introduction

It is widely accepted that dogs and cats are very different animals. While some might argue that cats are bitchy, unpredictable and aloof, other might characterise them as independent, fluffy (LOOK AT THAT PICTURE OF THAT CAT!!!!), elegant and having their own minds. Dogs on the other hand are often valued for their enthusiasm, usefulness, and generally loving nature, while others (i.e. the author) despise the fact that they smell, blindly follow orders and, most irritating of all, try to hump everything. We might refer to those in the latter category as “cat people” and those in the worse category as “dog people”.

Research into cat people and dog people has so far focused on trait differences of those people. For example, Gosling et al (2010) found that dog people are generally higher in agreeableness, extraversion and conscientiousness, while cat people are higher in openness to new experiences and neuroticism (non-psychology people: see big five). Other research (Kidd & Kidd, 1980) has suggested that dog people are generally more dominant than cat people.

However, despite the fact that it is sometimes suggested that pets can serve as a substitute of a romantic partner there is no research on whether we look for similar attributes in our pets as in our romantic partners. This first pilot study addresses this issue. I hypothesise that cat people and dog people differ in what they look for in long-term partners and that these differences are in line with traits associated with dogs and cats. For example, while cat people might value independence more than dog people, dog people might value loyalty more than cat people.

Moreover, it is generally believed (and by that I mean I have discussed it with about five people), that lesbians have a strong preference of cats over dogs, whereas the opposite is true for gay men. This is also investigated in this study.

Methods

Participants

The sample consisted of 96 participants recruited via Facebook. The majority (71) were female, whereas 24 identified as male and 1 participant identified as something else. The sample included 70 participants who identified as heterosexual, 7 who identified as gay, 11 identifying as bisexual and 8 who identified as pansexual. None of the participants identified as asexual. The average age of participants was 24.6 years (SD=6.5 years).

Measures

The online survey assessed the subjective importance of a number of attributes in a potential long-term partner such as independence, success and commitment on a scale ranging from 1 (not at all important) to 7 (extremely important). The attributes were presented in random order. Moreover, participants were asked to indicate their gender, age and sexual orientation. On a separate page they were asked whether they identified as a cat person, a dog person, both or none and to what extent they liked dogs and cats. This question was asked on a 7-point scale ranging from “THEY SUCK”, over the midpoint of “neither like nor dislike” to “OMG I LOVE THEM”.

Results

Factor Analysis and Scales

The importance of different attributes were aggregated into separate scales based on the results of a factor analysis and can be viewed in table 1. As reliability analyses revealed that the remaining factors did not even approach reliability, these items (attractive, willing to spend most time with you, clean and well-groomed, playful, laid back, honest, intelligent, more of a follower than a leader, opinionated, open minded, happy to engage in conflict and discussion and unique) will be analysed separately.

Table 1. Desired attributes in romantic partner scales.

Scale name

Included items

Cronbach’s Alpha

Warmth and commitment

Loyal

Always there for you

Friendly

Affectionate

Committed

0.76

Ambition and success

Ambitious

Successful

Driven

0.71

Independence

Independent

Willing to still have their own life (e.g. separate friends or hobbies)

0.71

Confidence

Confident

Able to make their voice heard

Outgoing

0.69

Cat People vs. Dog People

I initially conducted a series of 2(cat person vs. dog person) X 2(gender: male vs. female) ANOVAs. For reasons of simplicity, only those who identified as either a cat person or a dog person and either as female or male, were included in these initial analyses.

I found that compared to cat people, dog people assigned a higher importance to warmth and commitment (F=4.60 and p=.036) and confidence (F=6.58 and p=.013). They also found it more important for their partners to be more playful (F=7.26 and p=.009) and willing to spend most of their time with them (F=10.12and p=.002). No other differences reached significance and there were neither significant effects of gender nor significant interactions between gender and whether participants identified as a cat person or a dog person.

Next, I examined bivariate correlations between liking cats as well as dogs and the importance of different attributes in a romantic partner. These correlations are presented in table 2. As can be gathered from this table, being willing to spend most time with their partner was negatively correlated with liking cats, as was being more of a follower than a leader. Liking dogs, on the other hand, was positively correlated with warmth, confidence, attractiveness, playfulness, and willingness to spend most time with their partner. Interestingly, liking dogs was also negatively correlated with liking cats (r=.275; p=.007).

Table 2. Correlations between liking cats as well as liking dogs with importance of attributes

Liking dogs

Liking cats

Warmth

r

.249*

-.121

p

.015

.244

Ambition and success

r

.168

-.124

p

.103

.233

Independence

r

.041

-.037

p

.695

.721

Confidence

r

.247*

-.150

p

.016

.151

Unique

r

-.026

.007

p

.805

.946

Attractive

r

.217*

-.160

p

.034

.124

Honest

r

.065

-.008

p

.528

.940

Playful

r

.324**

-.148

p

.001

.153

Intelligent

r

-.102

.122

p

.322

.240

Willing to spend most time with you

r

.323**

-.241*

p

.001

.020

Happy to engage in conflict and discussions

r

.078

.007

p

.448

.944

Opinionated

r

.119

.058

p

.246

.578

Laid back

r

.116

-.138

p

.259

.182

Open minded

r

.123

.087

p

.233

.402

More of a follower than a leader

r

-.013

-.203*

p

.900

.049

Clean and well-groomed

r

.029

.049

p

.779

.640

Discussion

The aim of this pilot study was to assess whether dog people and cat people differ with regards to the attributes they look for in a long-term partner and whether these differences are in line with the attributes associated with their choice of favourite pet; in other words, whether we look for similar attributes in our romantic partners and our pets.

I did find some evidence which supports this idea. Self-identified dog people seem to find the attributes of warmth and commitment as well as playfulness and willingness to spend most time with them more important than cat people. I assume that most people would agree that dogs generally rank higher in those traits compared to cats. However, dog people also ranked confidence as more important, a trait that I had initially thought would be more strongly associated with cats. Interestingly, there was not a single attribute that cat people found more important compared to dog people. This might indicate that dog people are generally more demanding (or, framing it positively, have higher standards) when it comes to their romantic partners.

I also found that liking cats and liking dogs is negatively related and that to each other and that, regardless of whether someone identifies as a dog person, cat person, neither or both, liking dogs is associated with finding it important for one’s significant other to be warm and committed, confident, playful, willing to spend most time with one’s partner and attractive. Liking cats, on the other hand, was negatively related to the importance of the willingness to spend most time with one’s partner.

Lastly, neither gender nor sexual orientation was found to be related to liking dogs or cats or to valuing different attributes in one’s partner. This might simply be lack of sample size and due to the small numbers of men and gays in this sample, but so far these data do not support the idea that lesbians are more likely to be cat people and gay men more likely to be dog people.

This study, albeit only being a pilot study, has a number of limitations. First, the sample size was small and not representative of the general population. Moreover, the attributes were chosen at random rather than based on the previous literature on relationships and importance of different attributes in one’s partner. Furthermore, I did not assess in any way whether participants saw these traits in dogs or in cats. Thus, it might well be possible that cat people ascribe different traits to cats than dog people and vice versa or that everyone associates cats and dogs with different attributes than I do. In further studies, these assumptions should either be pilot tested or be based on existent literature.

Lastly, while you might find that your pet can be a substitute for your partner in some respects, please do keep in mind that bestiality is illegal in most countries 😉

References:

Gosling, S. D., Sandy, C. J., & Potter, J. (2010). Personalities of self-identified ‚dog people‘ and ‚cat people.‘. Anthrozoös, 23(3), 213-222.
Kidd, A. H. and Kidd, R. M. 1980. Personality characteristics and preferences in pet ownership.
Psychological Reports, 46, 939–949.
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On „The Lion King“

I love The Lion King. It has without doubt been my favorite Disney movie ever. It has cats. Big fluffy cats. Not only that. It has a little fluffy cat being raised into a big fluffy cat by a gay interracial couple. It can’t get much better than that. Nevertheless, I recently – while karaoke singing “be prepared” with my sister, to be exact – started thinking about The Lion King more critically and have since come to the conclusion that it has some quite questionable messages.

Let’s start with Scar, because this is where my thoughts began as well. He is evil. You know that straight away because a) he has a black mane and we all know that black means evil and b) he is quite effeminate and we all know that effeminate men are all evil as well.

Why is he evil? There are a number of potential reasons. The first one, which the movie focuses on is the fact that he is jealous of his older brother who so happens to be the king because he happened to be born first. I don’t think we need to discuss whether being born first or not makes someone more suitable for leadership positions. Other than that, there is not much evidence presented as to who would make the better leader had they both been treated equally in their childhood. If anything, Scar seems more intelligent as evident in his cunning plans to seize power as well as his rich vocabulary. So, for rather random reasons, one of the brothers is strongly favored over the other. Quite a good reason to be jealous, if you ask me.

But there is more to this. Scar is named after a scar on his face. The fact that this is his name implies that he has had it for a while, which suggests that he had to suffer physical violence at a very young age. This might have been inflicted by family members (likely) or, if he got the scar in some other way, his family was still cruel enough to remind him of this experience every day by calling him Scar.

Moreover, Scar is extremely skinny. This could have two reasons: He either does not get enough food – in other words, the other lions not only ostracize him but also let him starve – or he chooses not to eat, likely due to some form of disorder (e.g. eating disorder, depression) which is likely a result of being ostracized.

To sum this up, he has basically been treated like shit since he was a fluffy little cub while his older brother has been pampered and spoiled and told how very special he is. No wonder he is bitter.

Then there is the hyenas who are not allowed in the Pride Lands. There is never really any explanation for this other than the fact that they are dirty scavengers (which isn’t even true). They are therefore forced to live in poverty beyond the border of the Pride Lands and are shot at immediately when trying to cross the Mexican American border… ahem, attacked when crossing the border of the Pride Lands, I mean. When meeting the hyenas, they don’t seem all that bad either until Scar uses them for his plan to seize power. On the contrary, they seem quite cool. Although one of them (a woman!) is clearly the leader there is much less status and prestige bullshit associated with that position. There is much less of a hierarchy and they seem to form one quite close group.

Nevertheless, they are of course the bad guys because they, a) are matriarchal, b) live in poverty and aren’t okay with it and c) don’t honor weird traditions like gender roles and succession of the throne.

For my next point, let’s go back to the bit about Scar for a second. As I said, there is no real explanation as to why Mufasa is better suited for being a king (other than the fact that Scar has, understandably, turned evil). One thing that is mentioned a couple of times and is implied throughout the film, however, is the lack of Scar’s physical fitness. He could not defeat Mufasa in a “fair” fight and thus has to come up with other measures to get rid of him. So apparently physical strength is a value and is something that gives someone the right to be king. Okay, regardless of the moral value of that idea, let’s just accept this for a second. But following that logic – shouldn’t Nala be queen then? She beats Simba in their physical fights both when they are kids and as adults (which, in itself, is one of the cooler things about the movie). So clearly she should be the leader! But of course she isn’t. Because gender roles, bla bla bla, puke.

So, to summarize: The good guys in this movie are a bunch of monarchal, patriarchal assholes, who are unwilling to share their wealth with the poor (hyenas) and ostracize and abuse some of their own who happen to look different and refuse to adhere to their stupid ideas of masculinity. They also seem to equate leadership skill with physical strength – but only for men.

And before anyone says that this is just how lions live in the wild – yeah, and they also have birds as servants and sometimes lion cubs are raised by a meerkat and a warthog. Cause the Lion King is actually a documentary, right? They could have portrayed things differently. But, alas, they didn’t.

P.S.: Yes, I am aware that you could write similar things about pretty much every movie ever made. And I still love the movie and should I ever have children, I will probably also let them watch the movie. Some of these points were merely fun to think about, while I see others as actually problematic, e.g. which signals we use to identify the bad guys in kids‘ movies, such as their lack of masculinity.

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On homophobic behavior

I live an extremely privileged life. Not only have I lived in countries in which being gay isn’t illegal my entire life, I am also lucky enough to have a family and friends who are accepting and supportive of me as the person I am (including, but certainly not restricted to, my sexual orientation). My experience with homophobia is very limited. In fact, I have so far only once encountered threatening, open homophobic behavior towards me directly. However, that incident, as upsetting as it was, is not even what I want to discuss here. Rather, I want to highlight a few more subtle behaviors that I have come across quite a bit from quite „liberal“ and „open“ friends and acquaintances and that are annoying the sh*t out of me. Because, guess what, if you’ve said any of the things below, you are obviously not quite as accepting as you think you are.

1. „Well, you have to keep in mind that X grew up in quite a different time. Things were different back then“ (and therefore it is okay that they are being a bit homophobic).

Well, first of all, my grandma is 85. She is cool with who I am. So clearly age is not a sufficient condition for being homophobic. Moreover, and more importantly, people who grew up 80 years ago grew up with a whole bunch of different norms and some of them are seen as completely unacceptable today. I am from Germany so most of the old people there grew up in Nazi Germany. But do we excuse antisemitism and racism because „things were different back then“? Then why make the exception for homophobia? Maybe because there is something a bit yucky about those gay people, hm?

This brings me directly to my next point:

2. „Well, if I see two men kissing, I just feel disgusted. I can’t help it!“ First of all, things that we find disgusting can be learned and unlearned. So there you go. While you are working on that, yes, you can feel disgusted. But that doesn’t mean that it is okay to treat people differently or to expect them to behave a certain way because you feel uncomfortable.

3. „Don’t take everything so personally. It’s not homophobia. There is just a place and a time for everything. If it bothers people, why don’t you just tone it down?Yes, there is a time and a place for everything and even though I do not necessarily understand certain norms (as far as I am concerned, love and sexuality are things that should be celebrated rather than repressed), I do accept them to a certain degree. I accept that people would have an issue with me having a heavy make-out-session in a church, a graveyard, a nursery or at a funeral. However, the moment that these norms don’t apply to everyone in the same way, I do take it personally. If people mind me kissing my girlfriend in a pub, a club, or on the street while they see hundreds of straight couples doing the same thing every day, than it is homophobia. And no, I will absolutely not tone it down in that case.

4. „I don’t mind gay people, but why do they need all these stupid parades? There is no straight pride parade!“ Yes, there is. Every day that you walk down the street hand in hand with your partner without being stared at (or worse) is a straight pride parade. Remember that day that you didn’t have to come out to your parents, your co-workers and your friends as straight? That was your straight pride parade. All those times people didn’t tell you that your sexuality was just a phase or that you just hadn’t found the right guy or girl was your straight pride parade. And have you heard of that thing that straight people do all over the world with fancy dresses and bouquets and lots of booze and awesome food and all their friends called „wedding“? A very straight pride parade.

5. „I don’t mind lesbians. Gay guys are gross, but you are hot! So we can still be friends, right?“ – no. Just as I am not going to be friends with a racist just because I am white and they don’t think I am inferior I am not going to be friends with you. And thanks for sexually objectifying me, by the way.

That’s all. Just had to get that out of my system.

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On Marriage

So, Britain has just decided to legalize gay marriage. While I generally think that this is a good (and long overdue) step, I wish it had abolished marriage altogether instead. Here is why:

1) It is discriminatory. Sure, it has just gotten a lot less discriminatory towards a number of minority groups. They can be broadly divided into

a) those who might want to get married but cannot, including but not restricted to polyamorous relationships (either one person wishing to get married to several people (e.g. person A wanting to get married to person B and person C) or multiple people wanting to get married to each other (e.g. person A, B and C all marrying each other) and those wishing to marry their relatives (and don’t bring that „ewwww, that’s disgusting“ argument – that is exactly how a lot of people feel about gay marriage and it is not a valid reason to deny people certain rights. Nobody says that YOU are supposed to get married to a member of your family). And

b) Those who simply do not want to get married because they don’t feel the kind of „romantic (sexual) love“  (e.g. those on the autism spectrum, asexuals) or because they have political or personal reasons for not wanting to get married.

Now for those who say: But wait, the latter group actually has a choice! They could still get married! Yeah. But they don’t want to. And they shouldn’t have to in order to get tax benefits etc.

2) It doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Marriage laws were established in a very different time. A time in which birth control, among other things, was pretty much not an option. Now let’s consider this for today’s society. Here are the two main arguments that I hear in favor of marriage:

a) It’s worth supporting people who raise children together. Yep. I agree. But this is not what marriage laws do these days. They support two people in a monogamous relationship. Give tax benefits to those who raise kids together, whether it be a single mom, a man and his grandma, two women, two male best friends, a mother and her two best friends, a family of two gay men and two gay women – it shouldn’t matter. If you still believe in the whole „blablabla but a kid needs a mom and a dad blablabla traditional family blablabla“ bullshit, then just… go away… play somewhere else. I’d suggest the 1950s. They seem like a good place to go for you.

b) It’s worth supporting people who have decided to be committed to each other, help each other out in times of needs etc. … Well, this is still discriminatory against those who are not able to have any close relationships at all but I get what you are saying. I understand why a government might want to support this – because person A caring for person B when person B is sick is really useful. They don’t have to pay person A, but they’d have to pay someone if person A and person B were not in some sort of committed relationship. In exchange for this useful commitment, person A and B get a number of fluffy things, ranging from tax benefits to visiting rights in the hospital or the right to remain silent in court (at least in Germany). So far so good. But why on earth does this have to be a contract between two people in a romantic, sexual relationship? I personally am much more committed to some close friends than to almost all sexual partners that I have ever had (even at the time I had them) and I am pretty sure I am not the only one. And why, again, can I apparently only have this commitment to one person? The same argument that applied to children applies here.

… I have to get back to doing my actual work now. This was written in a rush. But please share your opinion, especially if you disagree with me, in the comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my rant.

Veröffentlicht unter social change | Verschlagwortet mit , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Kommentar

On Victims and Offenders

All the media attention on the Steubenville rape case has made me think a lot about violence against women and rape in particular and more importantly about gendered norms surrounding the terms victim and offender.

First of all, before anybody gets confused, though: Yes, I absolutely think these boys should have been convicted and I think it is wrong and awful that people blame the girl for what happened to her.

Anyway, moving on. I think everyone can agree that the term victim and offender are highly gendered terms in two senses: In a descriptive sense as well as in a prescriptive sense. The former tells us what a victim is in a stereotypical, culturally sense. If I asked three random people on the streets who they imagine when they hear the term “victim”, descriptions are likely to differ, but more likely than not, all three will assume the victim to be female – especially if the crime is one of sexual assault or domestic violence. The offender, on the other hand, will probably be pictured as a guy. „Prescriptive“ on the other hand goes a step further and refers to what men and women should be like. While it is in some bizarre sense “okay” for a women to be the victim of domestic violence, men who suffer the same fate are seen as “pussies” “gay” or some other apparently undesirable name. For women, the prescriptive norms are less clear, but this is not the topic of this blog post.

The term “rape culture” has been widely used in the discussion of the Steubenville case in the sense that we live in a culture where it is in some sense acceptable to sexually objectify, assault and rape women. I think this term is too narrow. I think we live in a culture where it is in some sense acceptable for men to be violent – towards women as well as towards any other social group. Of course men and boys are not completely at the mercy of social norms. It is their responsibility to actively fight against or, better yet, change that norm. This might sound extreme and almost like I am assuming that “rapist” is the default for every man. I am not. I am simply saying that for men, compared to women, it socially more accepted and in some social groups even glorified to be violent. The Steubenville case is a prime example of this. To me it is obvious (and a lot of people disagree with me on this) that these guys were not aware of the fact that they were doing something wrong. If they had been aware of it, would they have posted videos and pictures of their crime on social networking sites? Would they have joked about it with their friends? No. Nobody boasts about things they know they will be lambasted for by relevant others (in fancy social psychology terms: by their relevant in-group). Does this mean that they could not have acted any differently, that it wasn’t their fault? No. But it does mean that we need to change our culture rather than solely blaming two teenage boys.

This is an important issue to discuss and it has been received quite some attention. The other, equally important side of the coin, however, has received much less coverage – the issue of women being victims – an in a sense accepting that. As you, the reader, are likely one of my friends and probably one who is generally interested in gender issues, I can already sense how this sentence infuriates you, so let me get this straight: I do not think that somehow women who get raped or beaten or are in any other way the victim of male violence “had it coming” or that in some twisted sense it is their fault because they were drunk or wearing a short skirt or being slutty or were walking home alone at night. I think every woman (and everyone else as well for that matter) has the right to be as slutty and drunk etc. as they want without fearing violence because of it. I am saying, however, that the fact that it is normatively accepted for women to be victims, contributes to the fact that they become victims if they cannot break free from that norm.

Most of sexual violence does not happen by strangers and most of it is on a surface level not even “violent”. Most rapes do not happen because men are stronger than women and can thus force themselves on them. On the one hand, as discussed in the media, they happen because men fail to understand that “no” means “no” but also “maybe tomorrow”, “I’m fucking drunk” or “I have a headache” means no. On the other hand they happen because women often do not articulate their “no”s clearly enough. This is harmful in two ways. First, it makes these crimes more likely to occur. Second, it additionally makes it more likely for the victim to blame herself rather than the offender. “I mean… I didn’t really try to fight him off”, “I think I kind of made him think that I agreed to it…” and so on. In my opinion we have the prescriptive nature of social norms to blame for that. Our culture tells us from a young age on that women are supposed to be warm, caring, polite, docile, compliant. Women who do not adhere to these norms quickly find themselves in the role of the “cold, pushy bitch”. However, adherence to these rules in situations of sexual assault or other violence lead directly into becoming and staying the victim.

What’s more – once one categorizes oneself as a victim, a whole new set of stereotypes are hauled on oneself, the most detrimental one probably being “helpless”. So as a victim, additional to being expected to be polite and compliant, women are now also expected to be helpless. How the hell is this going to help anyone to get out of any situation? I have read the term “rape survivor” in a number of articles recently and like it much better. It has a much more agentic quality to it, emphasizing in some way how, horrific as the event might have been, one has emerged from it stronger than before.

So what is my point? I cannot stress enough that the point is in no way to blame the women who have had to experience sexual assault (or any other kind of violence). My point is one of empowerment. Women are not helpless victims of male (sexual) violence just as men are not rapists by default. We shape the culture we live in as much as it shapes us. And this is exactly what we need to do. Rather than (once again) assigning a passive role to women who are apparently just supposed to wait around until the men have sorted out their rape culture problem, I’m saying that everyone can and should work on bringing down these gendered norms of offender- and victimhood. And we need to do that not only in violent situations but in everyday life which tells us and everyone around us what it means to be a man or a woman by displaying, rewarding and punishing gender normative and counter-normative behaviour.

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