Stranger Danger Is Stranger Than Fact

Content notice for discussion of sexual assault, child abuse, and rape

Sometimes, a cut-off question linking to a really incoherent anti-feminist meme can be a reminder of just how irrationally-prioritized people’s ideas of danger, if not fears. can be.

children holding up protest signs satirizing feminist protest signs. text on top reads "Kid Walk 2013" and bottom text reads "this is why I need childism"


To address these signs, counterclockwise from 12:

  • Playing in traffic means placing yourself bodily in a dangerous area not intended for people who aren’t in cars. If we were to accept that a woman entering a space where she might be raped is as ill-advised as a child playing in traffic, then we would have to basically tell women to stop existing. Since rape happens everywhere, not only would women not be able to go anywhere, we wouldn’t be able to stay home.
  • Looking both ways before you cross the street is sensible. However, given that most rape victims know their rapist and there is often no indicator that they are a predator, I can’t think of any equivalent for rape; there is no way to “look both ways” for the presence of rapists.
  • The candy thing is a load of crap even in the case of children. The Halloween poisoned candy incidents involved deliberate targeting by relatives. As in the exact people a kid is supposed to accept candy from instead of from strangers. Oops. As for the “strangers with candy” model of sexual abuse, it’s also rather hyped up, as strangers are not as much of a danger to children as people they know.
  • Once again, stranger danger is overhyped. Most people who will harm a child are someone the child know (especially their own parents). The exact same goes for rape, which most often involves someone the victim knows rather than a stranger.

Anyone else reminded of the “lock your door” analogy? This meme is just another poorly-thought-out analogy in the long and storied history of poorly-thought-out, fallacious, unfactual rape analogies.

Stranger Danger Is Stranger Than Fact
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9 thoughts on “Stranger Danger Is Stranger Than Fact

  1. 1

    A beautiful,succinct take-down.
    That meme needs to die, it is as misandrist as it is misogynist.
    A driver who cannot break on time because a child ran onto the street =/=
    an asshole dudebro who willfully ignores his partner’s “no,please stop”.

  2. 2

    Also, please never ever teach your child “stranger danger”.
    A child’s concept of “stranger” is very different of an adult’s. In the rare case of a stranger trying to chat up the child, all they need to do is say “hello, my name is xyZ. I have a kitten called Fluffy” an ta-daaaa, no longer a stranger!

    1. 3.1

      Indeed, though as I note below, I find the idea that a comparison to children is inherently insulting to also be rather problematic. The implication you note is certainly bad, and I think we additionally should question why we sometimes think that things that we deem unacceptable for adults are actually good ideas for children in the first place.

  3. 4

    (Note: these are USA-centric responses to that image. Also, this got long and perhaps somewhat off-topic. I certainly won’t be offended if you deem it too far off and delete it – not that I really would anyway becasue you have an obvious right to manage your own blog as you see fit. I didn’t start out intending it to be a soapbox rant, but this post touches on some of my primary areas on interest, and the systemic, culturally-sanctioned abuse and marginalization of children is a big one. Attempting to exploit a more-widely-accepted system of oppression in order to try to justify a less-widely-accepted one is doubly disgusting/enraging to me.)

    I’m pretty sure we DO tell drivers to not hit people with their cars – there are even licenses and mandatory training classes that seek to minimize traffic fatalities by controlling (though not strictly enough, IMO) who is allowed to drive, and making sure they’re safe beyond a certain threshold. Trying to use this as an analogy suggests that we should be licensing people (and especially men) to ever leave their houses, and those who demonstrated themselves to pose a danger to others would be barred from going in public. This advocates a null hypothesis of imprisonment for all people, unless they can be demonstrated to not be a threat to others. I get the impression that the person who made the image did not think through its implications.

    I’m also pretty sure we explicitly tell people to not kidnap or rape children, reinforced by a discursive construction of children as particularly vulnerable and needing extra care and consideration that is present in nearly every cultural and subcultural discourse.

    Ironically, in one narrow sense, that image actually makes a good point, but the anti-feminists aren’t going to like that point (because a lot of them are also deeply paternalistic). In ways that are sometimes strikingly similar to women (usually becasue women are sometimes infantilized to justify discrimination against them), children, particularly juveniles but also adolescents, are an unjustly marginalized, oppressed class. We do very much need a movement similar to feminism (and intersectional with feminism – we actually do already address some of the intersectional bits e.g. fighting for the right to access sexuality information/education and reproductive healthcare for minors) that advocates for the rights of children as full people, not the property of their parents. What we DON’T do, and what we should do, is to tell people that children own their own bodies and that authoritarian dictates are no more appropriate for them than they are for adults. We should absolutely be telling parents that they have far fewer “rights” to control their children than many seem to desire. So yeah, we do need to do a better job of telling people to not harm children – for the most part, the danger comes from their parents and the harm is normalized.

    Parents: don’t ever try to force your child to participate in religious or political activities, don’t try to censor their access to information (particularly not information about themselves and their lives), don’t gaslight them (for example, things like the Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause are all textbook gaslighting*, but they’ve been normalized, so people defend them vehemently), don’t lie to them becasue it’s convenient, don’t violate their bodily autonomy (excepting the few cases in which doing so is a matter of health that the child is incapable of understanding and thus consenting to, as with vaccinations; this DOES include things like forcing them to hug or kiss relatives when they don’t want to do so, body modifications for any purpose other than addressing an imminent health concern to which the child has not consented or cannot consent, including all forms of “circumcision” and gender (re)assignment surgery, and, I hope obviously, ever intentionally physically harming them, including all forms of hitting e.g. spanking, wrist-slaps), don’t use appeals to authority (or, for that matter, tradition) as a justification for rules (e.g. “Because I said so,” or, “My house, my rules.”), and don’t exploit children’s labor (expecting fair, ability-adjusted contribution to household labor is not exploitation; assigning all of the household labor to children or confiscating wages they’ve earned through paid employment is). I’m sure there are other widespread (here in USA at least) abusive/oppressive ways parents treat children that I’ve missed, but these are some of the most common. Anti-feminists may want to avoid this particular rhetorical tactic becasue it might well backfire and cause people to additionally question our marginalization of children instead of accepting it as obviously right.

    (Tangential note: I also find it interesting that we see biological essentialism thrown about quite a lot in discussions of children’s cognition and behavior. While I do think that there is likely a greater degree of biological impact than there is with something like gender, it’s notable that many cases in which biological essentialism is asserted, it has the same bullshit bases as with gender, like correlations interpreted as causation, despite the fact that we know environment can impact the biological metric in question. For example, teens are often discussed as being less-able or unable to process long-term impacts of their decisions on the basis of imaging studies that show a lack of activity in relevant areas of the brain; however, we know environment can impact brain structure and how readily certain areas are activated – this is neuroplasticity, it’s how learning works. So another possibility is that teens are socialized to focus on the near term only, and this suppresses their processing of long-term consequences, but the essentialized biological interpretation is nearly always assumed.)

    *These are misrepresentations of reality, often with elaborate charades meant to validate the false narrative. Would most people condone coercing adult behavior to be “good” by inventing a mythical character and then secretly undertaking actions on that invented character’s behalf in order to validate the myth? Even the religious often criticize their leaders for knowingly and intentionally lying to congregations in service of the religious myth. But, strangely, many atheists who rightly see this as abusive in the case of a rigged statue crying or bleeding defend the very same practice when it comes to the elaborate gaslighting of their own children. Do they really think e.g. gift-giving (or gift-getting) won’t be a fun memory for kids unless it’s couched in a false magical narrative? The fun they remember having with Santa Clause was with the myth itself, not with actually believing that the myth is real, and even the parents in question should be able to intuit this becasue they themselves are having fun with the myth despite knowing it’s not real. Encouraging imagination in kids is a good thing to do, and it’s very much not the same as lying to kids about the nature of reality.

  4. 5

    The car example in particular is ridiculous – even a small car is upwards of a thousand pounds of industrial machinery, and the level of control fits with that. It’s entirely possible to hit someone with a car by accident. Rape? Not so much. If there were specific complaints about people tripping over bad ground and happening to collide with others then maybe the car analogy would be applicable, but said complaints don’t seem to exist, as the people not making this meme seem to understand the concept of accidents.

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