There's Much More to that Mizzou Story Than Meets The Eye
The story right wing outlets are reporting about Mizzou saying big men shouldn't ask out small women has an origin story. On its face, it looks really bad. Especially the headlines. Men can't ask women out on dates? Only short, shrimpy, spindly boys can ask out girls since they're on a physically level playing field with women? It's stupid. Most men are bigger than most women. Further, most women prefer their men to be larger than they are. So when I first saw the headline about this story, I thought maybe some wimpy guys were behind it, trying to push out the competition: the much preferred strapping men. Then I learned the complaint originated with a dance instructor who was asked out by a student. Again, my first reaction was "WTF, what a wimpy b!tch." Then I read on and found the account of what actually happened.
Full disclosure: I am a woman who's had unwanted encounters from creepy men. What each encounter confirmed is creeps don't know they are creeps. Creeps cannot read social cues. Creeps don't take no, whether a polite no or a fervent NO, for an answer. Creeps interpret everything as a challenge. In every case, a creep just being a man, his physical size or strength, is intimidating because should that creep decide to escalate the situation, I'm not in a position of physical power. My gun changes that, sure, but biologically I'm ill-equipped.
Does the weight differential mean men should be banned from dating women or asking women for dates? Oh hell no. I still believe the majority of people are decent. A lot of men are good men. A lot of women are good women. But, as a woman, I have to be constantly aware and careful not to find myself isolated or in a precarious situation with a creep. It's just how it is. Men need to be aware that wise women are cautious around strange men, and always have their creep radar set to ten.
So when I, who's had experience with creeps, read about how Jeremy Rowles, the initiator of this entire Mizzou kerfuffle, pursued and continued to pursue Annalise Breaux, flags went up. This story is much more than what the headlines have sold.
In a motion for summary judgment filed on Christmas Eve, Jeremy Rowles shared excerpts of depositions with Mizzou officials from his federal lawsuit against the public university.
They suggest that male students should avoid asking out female students at all, particularly when the male is physically larger than the female.
A bit of background: Judge Brian Wimes greenlit the doctoral student’s lawsuit this summer, saying there was no evidence that Rowles had done anything more than make his dance fitness instructor, student Annalise Breaux, “uncomfortable” by asking her out in spring 2016.
For the record, Annalise Breaux never suggested men shouldn't ask out women, or that big men shouldn't ask out women. That was a call made by others in light of the details of the case. By the way, stalkers and creeps begin their stalking and creepiness by making a woman uncomfortable and not stopping even after she has told him to stop. Because yes, Breaux told Rowles she wasn't interested in dating him. Here's how she stated it:
Jeremy, I really appreciate your feedback about my class and choreography, but these messages are getting excessive. I think our friendship needs to remain in the professional setting. Many of the things you say, like that Instagram comment for example, is over the top and I wouldn’t be comfortable hanging out outside of my places of work. I still want you to come to Tiger Tease and enjoy your time there, but I need my space outside of class and I think a line has been crossed here.
This is an example of a woman being polite and declining a man gently. But it is still a denial. Rowles initially responded with nothing but apologies, signaling he understood her disinterest. But then later followed up with a three page letter.
On October 14, 2016, Rowles handed a three-page letter to Breaux after class. The letter “contained apologies and a confession of ‘love’ for” her. Breaux found Rowles’s conduct “bizarre,” and his letter made her “extremely uncomfortable.”
If a woman says she doesn't want to go out with you, and she's said so more than once, then has avoided you (as Breaux did), handing her a three-page letter of any kind is bizarre and creepy. By the way, we still haven't seen the content of those three pages. I bet it's creepy.
Noticing a theme?
That's the context. Men are stronger than women. Which is why it's unfair when transgender "women" compete with biological women. Which is why men are usually the ones sent to war, perform the dangerous jobs requiring strength, and insist on opening jars for ladies. Men are stronger than women and all women know it. We even know it when we're faced with a creep who won't stop being creepy and he's capable of overpowering us if he should just gosh darn feel like it.
Rape culture is a myth, yes. But you'd be hard pressed to find a woman who's not had to deal with a weirdo who's stronger than she is, whom she's afraid might harm her if she can't somehow avoid him. Because remember, creeps don't know they're creeps and take all refusals as challenges.
Mizzou, a university which has made any number of missteps in the past, and in light of the bombastic nature of #MeToo, made a call. Was removing Rowles from their school the wrong call? In light of all the sensitivity around sexual harassment, when faced with someone who, at least based on what I've read in the motion, was harassing a woman, it seems to me Mizzou was trying to protect itself from a larger lawsuit if things escalated beyond creepy letters.
That's just my opinion. Again, was it wrong to even hint or let it be hinted that men shouldn't ask out women? YES. Is there a real war against masculinity? YES. Was Jeremy Rowles making this woman extremely uncomfortable to the point she had to have the school intervene, because what she was doing on her own wasn't working? SEEMS LIKE IT.
People have frequently asked what they should do now sexual harassment is on the forefront, and the rules are murky because dating is murky; it's always awkward, there are nerves involved, and miscommunication and missed signals are real.
But what's also real are men who can't take no for an answer. What's also real are women who make false rape accusations. And the innocent are stuck with the consequences of that reality.
If your read the full motion (you should) you'll see there's a lot of confusion as to what to do about Rowles situation. Which is where the source of much of the headlines for this story originated: he's bigger and that's what made him scary... ergo men if they're bigger than women may scare them. Which is the ultimate in body shaming, sure, but if you're a creepy guy and you're bigger than the gal you're creeping on, you do have power over her and she's probably scared.
Let's not also pretend some very bad guys use their physical strength to exactly that advantage over women.
Here's where this gets weirder, as the defendants discuss how all this breaks down. Rowles deposed Eardley and Scroggs, the Curators of the University of Missouri:
Q. So, let me ask you what unwanted sexual advance means. Is that - - is a request for a date an unwanted sexual advance, if it's unwanted. I mean, if someone asks you out that you don't want to go out with, is that an unwanted sexual advance?
A. Probably not the first time, no.
Q. But the second time it would be?
A. If I keep turning him down and he keeps asking, I would consider that unwanted.
So far so good.
Q. The allegations against Jeremy Rowles, do you believe that they've satisfied subsection 1 of sexual harassment?
A. I think he was perceived as having power over her.
Q. And what was the nature of his power over her? Was it just his size?
A. His physical size.
Q. Okay. So, this part 1 doesn't require him to be a teacher. When it says person of authority, it doesn't mean, like, teacher or boss?
A. Well, I suppose it could; but in this case, no, I didn't interpret it that way
Then Defendant Hayes, who's essentially the arbiter of Title IX for Mizzou:
Q. Would you agree with me that that section only applies to situations in which the accused has some position of authority over the accuser?
A. Or power.
Q. What's the difference between those things?
A. Well, I think in certain situations that a man could have power over a woman, even if there wasn't an authority situation. I think there could be a feeling of that just by the nature of your gender.
Q. So subpart one could apply to any situation with any man and any woman?
A. It could.
Look, I'm not happy this went all the way to now a federal lawsuit. I don't like this case has become a Title IX issue which will screw a lot of good people and set some terrible precedents.
Creeps, weirdos and stalkers are equal opportunity. They're usually not the jock type, more the ugly little nerdy gnome type. But they are stronger than women. So yes, their size does make them scary, especially when a woman has already done what she could to get rid of him. A man's size does give him power over a woman.
So what to do? Seems like Mizzou doesn't know any more than anyone else. Their solution was to overreach, to kick Rowles off campus. I suggested we all return to behaving like ladies and gentleman. But I'd also like to see a return of gallantry where good men set right men who are not. Whatever happened to "Is this man bothering you?" then sorting it out amongst men? Kinda like this:
Maybe without the B&E, brandishing a weapon, and knife play. But you get the general idea.
Until we can establish some kind of guidelines for how we, as a society, deal with real sexual harassment and not "he looked at me funny ergo rape" we're going to have more cases like Mizzou, where those in authority haven't a clue how to fix it. And the rest of us get stuck with the likely awful results.
What say you? How do you think this will turn out?
~ Written by Courtney Kirchoff (who mutes and/or blocks creepy Twitter users).