Two years ago, I thought everyone knew how to play chess. My dad taught me how the pieces moved and how to formulate a strategy when I was a kid, and I never forgot. I assumed that this was a normal experience. Turns out, about half of people don’t know the rules to chess. Many fewer actually know how to actually play the game coherently. Here’s the thing, when I would ask someone if they knew how to play chess, they would invariably say yes. Huh? Well, I never really asked people, “do you know how to play chess?” or “are you any good at chess?” I would ask, “have you ever played chess,” (most people have known how to play chess at some point). I would then sometimes ask them to play a game and they wouldn’t be able to because they had no idea how to play chess.
I would guess that this phenomenon is pretty common. We all believe that people are somewhat like us, until someone proves us wrong. Those of you that have been following the feminist movement probably know what I am getting at already. Basically, abuse works the same way. You turn to someone and ask, “is it normal for your girlfriend shake your shoulders and scream until you feel sick?” and they say “well, I don’t think so, but there was this one girl I dated…” When you are a survivor people open up to you a lot and you end up with all of these stories that normalize your situation. ”Feminists don’t think all men are rapists. Rapists do,” has become a feminist rallying cry recently and it’s true, but I think a more useful statement might be “Feminists don’t think all men are rapists. Rapists and their victims do,” even if it doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.
From this year forward, whenever I feel unsure, I am going to turn to the person on my left and ask, “do you know anyone who as done that?” and then do the same to the person on my right. I’ll try to listen to the counter examples.
This post has been somewhat short and depressing. I’ll have something about pickup artists in the next week.