Katherine Mankiller

Why are women so gosh-darned unfriendly sometimes?
February 10, 2008, 1:27 pm
Filed under: life, the universe, and everything

Over here we have a fellow that I assume is well-intentioned wondering why women are so gosh-darned unfriendly when strange men walk up to them at the airport. Another man in the comments relates that women sometimes cross the street to get away from him and wonders what’s up with that. Another was outraged that a woman told him, “Go away, I have a boyfriend,” when he was just trying to tell her she left her cellphone on top of her car.
I can’t speak for Australian women (the link is on an Australian server), but one out of every six American women has been the victim of sexual assault during her lifetime (source: RAINN). The usual recommendations to avoid being one of the one in six include not talking to strange men, not wandering around alone in bad parts of town, not dressing well (I have that one down pat, myself–picture jeans, a t-shirt that says, “No, I will not fix your computer,” and hooray that it’s black because then you can’t see that I spilled coffee on it this morning, and what is this makeup thing of which you speak?), etc. If you’re insulted that someone thinks you’re a “strange man” they shouldn’t talk to when you’re just trying to be friendly or helpful, consider that 38% of victims are raped by a friend or acquaintance, four in ten assaults take place in the victim’s own home, and two in ten take place at a friend or acquaintance’s home (source: RAINN). If a woman has to be afraid of that nice guy Bob in accounting, or the guy she’s going on a date with tonight, why should she trust a total stranger?
No, I’m sorry, you can’t have it both ways. Either rape is a woman’s problem and the only way to avoid it is to consider half the human race a potential assailant who is bigger and heavier than you are, or women can be friendly to strange men who walk up to them and try to sell them things or tell them they’ve left their cellphone on top of their car. Those are mutually exclusive situations, sorry. It’s very likely that you’re not a rapist, but she has no way of knowing that.
RAINN has things men can do to help here. But if you’re going to be friendly, try to be friendly in social situations where there are other people around, like your local LUG or work. Don’t corner women alone in an isolated place like a parking garage and be friendly. We have it drummed into our heads from an early age that that’s a prelude to assault.


Airports have been increasingly secure since the 70’s. Since 9-11 airport security has become a little insane. If you are inside the security zone of an airport (as was apparently the case in the 7:38AM incident in the Lenovo blog) then you have nothing to worry about, at the first sign of a physical disturbance you can expect guards with automatic weapons to appear.
My blog post solely concerns being friendly at conferences (which are like local LUG meetings bug larger).
I don’t recall any of the commentary on my blog post (either direct or through Reddit) mentioning any issue of a woman being cornered in an isolated place.
Your domain name makes it clear what your agenda is. But finding facts that fit the agenda will better help your cause.
As for the cellphone on car anecdote. A reasonable response might be for the woman to get in her car and talk to the man through a partially opened window. The way things apparently worked out was not good for anyone other than some random person who presumably found a phone by the side of a road.
PS It would be better to state that RAINN statistics indicate that 1/6 women are the victim of an “attempted or completed rape”. The above definition of sexual assault indicates that it often means things other than rape. I expect that many readers will assume that “sexual assault” mostly refers to less serious crimes.

Comment by Russell Coker

Thanks for posting this, KM.
It appears that, even when you spell it out in detail for them, some people still don’t get it.
Fortunately, others do. I remember being on a first date with someone, years ago, who didn’t understand why his female coworkers would ask him to walk them out to the parking lot after work when it was dark, or why blind dates would want to meet him someplace instead of giving him their home address. I had to explain to him WHY the women he works with don’t want to walk alone through dark parking lot, and WHY women who have never met him before aren’t eager to give him their address.
Amazingly, that was it. He “got” it. He just hadn’t had any idea that this was something women worried about. (Not just rape, of course, but also mugging, stalking, and random creepiness.) He had never thought of it before.

Comment by Julie

Russell, I’m assuming that you’ve never heard of Wilma Mankiller. She was the first woman chief of the Cherokee tribe. It’s a real Native American name.
As for Airport Security, I’ve had more people wander off and ask me to watch their bags since 9/11, probably because things are so much “safer” now.

Comment by k.mankiller

Yeah, I think a lot of men just never have to think about this sort of thing. It’s just not something they deal with on a regular basis.

Comment by k.mankiller

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