Will real men please stand up

Maybe its the result of the full moon we had last week, but there’s been all kinds of wicked happenings on muni lately. If it’s not live food, its random attacks on unsuspecting riders.

Two weeks ago while standing in front of the AMC theatre on Van Ness, I observed a group of adolescent boys attacking a male college student in the hopes of stealing his bag. I was trying to figure out what, if anything, I could do to help. Given my broken arm and the fact that all those guys outweighed me, I decided to call the police during the attack. Thankfully, two men in a car pulled up and managed to scare the kids away.

Then on Saturday night, while riding the #15, I couldn’t believe what I witnessed. Yet again, five young adults attacked a 6’2″ man on the bus! The driver sat there. There were some older folks sitting in the front so I certainly wouldn’t have expected them to do much. But what about the 4 twenty-something guys that were sitting at the back of the bus? Why didn’t y’all have the guts to help this poor guy who was being mugged before your eyes?? Instead, you all lowered your eyes as if blind to the crime that was happening right in front of you.

I’m sorry but this time of year, there’s absolutely no excuse for someone not stepping up to the plate. That just about killed any fuzzy warm feelings I was having for the holiday season. Will the real men in SF please stand up?

21 Comments so far

  1. mattymatt (unregistered) on December 12th, 2006 @ 7:09 pm

    Womenfolk, though, can stay seated. Wouldn’t want to ruffle your hoop skirt or nothin’.

  2. tharpo (unregistered) on December 12th, 2006 @ 8:58 pm

    i’m sure the reason no one else did is because you didn’t either.

  3. Chester (unregistered) on December 12th, 2006 @ 9:14 pm

    Broken arm or no, given that the extent of your action was to call the police, I’m not so sure you’re the one who should be casting aspersions as to other people’s guts/manhood.

    And that’s before one considers how antiquated your entire challenge is.

  4. 49Giants (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 12:44 am

    When I was 14, I got mugged taking the bus with a couple of friends. Some guy who was a little older than we were straight took our wallets. My friends and I made eye contact, and through ESP, we decided we’d jump him as soon as he turned his back toward us. He must have seen us, or had ESP himself, because he immediately, but slowly lifted up his shirt to reveal a gun tucked into his jeans. We pretty much shut the fuck up after that.

    “Real men” standing up is a nice idea. I’d like to think that I’d step up if I saw what you saw. But would I really? If someone “stood up” and helped me and my friends out that one day in the back of that bus, he’d have probably received a slug in his gut.

    I’ve intervened in bar fights and the such, but that was in college, in a small college town, between college boys. The city is a different animal. It’s sad, but you learn to mind your own business in big cities; just as you learn to look at the sidewalk to look for shadows from a person walking behind you; just as you learn that you keep your car doors locked when driving and your house doors locked when sleeping, or all times, for that matter.

    If standing up means that there might be a chance that your mother hears Dennis Richmond saying your name on the 10 o’clock news, I’m thinking that your seat becomes pretty damn comfy pretty damn quick.

  5. Tironius (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 2:27 am

    “The city is a different animal. It’s sad, but you learn to mind your own business”

    And then nothing ever fucking changes. Because little prissy bitches like the hippie commentors on this article look down, do nothing, say nothing, and allow it to happen. No, it is not antiquated to talk of “real men,” though this upsets the feminists and hippies who would like nothing more than to castrate every last man on Earth. Calling the police won’t do shit. It is up to every law-obiding man–that’s M-A-N–to defend himself and the principles of a free society with either his muscles or a fucking bullet, because within the history of all mankind, we as individuals and society have the basic human right to eat, breathe, and defend our self and property.

    Mr. Writer, did you at least say anything? Did you shout “Hey! You! Stop it!”? Did you ask those twenty-somethings at the time of the incident to stand up and help? Or did you, too, just sit there and watch it? I’m going to start excercising Ammendment number two and start carrying a goddamn gun.

    Unrelated, yet very related topic: you failed to mention whether or not the two incidents involved the assailants being black or white. Statistics already tells me the answer.

  6. cd (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 10:12 am

    Though I am not bothering to google up an actual article on the topic (and I think I’ve mentioned this before, over at b.la maybe), there’s a phenomenon in cities where attacks go uninterrupted and help is slow in coming (or being summoned) after accidents, etc. Meanwhile, on rural roads, people stop to help and Good Samaritanism levels are high. The reason: in cities, it’s far, far easier to assume (hope/rely/etc) on someone else taking action. And it isn’t solely laze or fear that motivates people to hope someone else steps up – usually it’s a feeling that there must be someone more qualified around who can do the right thing – whatever that is.

    On country roads, though, a witness knows there probably isn’t anyone else coming along and so will more likely take action.

    This doesn’t make city inaction okay, nor does “human nature” excuse things we should rise above, but it is an explanation.

    I certainly don’t blame Gurpal – already disabled with a broken arm – from not taking any direct action herself. Nor would I insult her or the world with some kind of foolish, feminist bullshit – unless it was a bus full of able-bodied women who together could take on a group of thugs, more often than not, basic biology would lead a wise girl (or guy) to evaluate that small will lose to big, and not run in, arms flailing.

  7. mark (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    I believe everyone can at least shout “Hey! Stop that!” A whole bus full of people shouting at you is actually much harder for a mugger to withstand than a single person trying to fight back.

    That said, I have broken up fights on the street before. I haven’t broken up any on Muni, though I have shouted at people.

  8. annonymous (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 11:26 am

    Maybe it’s a southwest thing, but gun laws or no, i always assume the bad-guys have one. Since I don’t always carry one with me, it doesn’t make sense to get involved. Doing anything more than calling 911 opens me up not only to the immediate threat of bodily harm, but also to painfull lawsuits. Even Bernhard Goetz was driven into bankruptcy, and it’s hard to justify stopping some punk from mugging another for a couple hundred when I could loose much more by physically intervening.

  9. anna (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    I get really upset when people don’t act on obvious issues like that. My example: a fight broke out in BART due to a (perceived) racial slur. Everyone backed away- until the car arrived at West Oakland and the police came on. THe guys fighting stopped a few moments before the stop and tried to “act normal” (like they hadn’t been fighting). When the cops came on and looked around, everyone pointed at the two guys.

  10. Bradley Allen (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 3:32 pm

    About five years ago on BART a so-called ‘man’ attempted to assault a woman sitting across from me. She was with her toddler. The car was packed. No one did anything. Except for me. The situation got fierce, but at the time I wasn’t thinking about if the thug had a gun or not. All I was thinking was, “what if that was my wife and kid?” A potential lawsuit was the last thing on my mind. It wasn’t pretty, and I hope my own children never have to witness what that little kid saw… but I put a stop to it.

    I don’t claim to be a hero and have no desire to be a vigilante. I abhor violence and try to avoid conflict, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Not to sound Kafka-esque, but I’m a human being, not a cockroach. Go ahead, call me antiquated if that makes some of you feel better… but I’d rather live as a man than scurry into a dark corner when the light of reality suddenly gets switched on when you least expect it.

  11. joann Landers (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 3:53 pm

    Good for you Bradley.

  12. Gurpal Dosanjh (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

    Interesting perspectives to say the least. But as a woman who has confronted thieves in the past (perhaps foolishly), I just expect more from my fellow city residents–especially men. Kudos to the likes of Bradley and Mark for standing up. And thanks for your support CD!

  13. Chester (unregistered) on December 13th, 2006 @ 5:50 pm

    It is not antiquated to take action to intervene in bad situations. It is, however, antiquated to think that it takes a “real man” to do so.

  14. Tironius (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 1:53 am

    I didn’t realize this writer was a lady. So, she should not intervene, but should carry a gun.

    “…. It is, however, antiquated to think that it takes a “real man” to do so.”

    Antiquated? Who knows. But like many other antiques, real men like this Bradley are rare and valuable.

  15. Bradley Allen (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 2:21 pm

    Yes, and as long as no one attempts to restore the rich patina I’ve developed over the years…. I won’t have to break anyone’s face. See ya folks at the next Road Show.

  16. Chester (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 3:28 pm

    My point is that a “real woman” who hasn’t subscribed to antiquated notions of what she is or is not capable of can do a lot more than what popular opinion gives them credit for. And so it’s not about needing a “real man” to stand up and take action. It’s ultimately about individuals of any type realizing that we all live in a society and part of what that means is taking individual risks for the collective good. So kudos to anyone who stands up and does something when bad shit goes down, but I disagree with the idea that one needs to have a Y chromosome to do so.

  17. cd (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 4:23 pm

    It depends what the “right thing” was in the situation. I don’t know Gurpal’s stats, I don’t know the bad guy’s stats. If she’s a wee to medium sized woman, and he’s a medium to big sized man, then common sense would lead her not to take physical action.

    Biologically speaking, men, on the average, overall, are larger and have better upper-body strength. I happen to be a taller-than-average woman, but that doesn’t mean I’m stronger than a man my size or within a few inches either way of me.

    If Gurpal – a woman – has somehow betrayed the sisterhood for making the best judgment call she could in a stressful situation, then I think the sisterhood needs to get the hell over it.

    Chester – are you a male, as the name “Chester” usually implies, or a woman?

  18. Chester (unregistered) on December 14th, 2006 @ 10:49 pm

    So is it a matter of size or a matter of gender? If you’re a woman who’s 6’0″ and 180 pounds, are you not obligated to do something if the attacker is 5’6″ and 150 pounds? What if there’s a male bystander who is 5’3″ and 110 pounds? Does he have more obligation than you becuase of his gender?

    If any man is obligated to take action in order to be a “real man” and any woman excused from doing so because there’s no parallel obligation to be a “real woman,” then why do you go through the trouble of discussing physical size? Doing so implies that you ultimately think it’s about size, not gender.

    And if that’s the case, then the call is not for a “real man” to step up, but for a “real person of the appropriate build” to step up. Doesn’t roll of the tongue, for sure, but it’s more accurate.

    I’m not faulting Gurpal for not taking action. I just question her (and I actually thought she was a he) holding others to a standard she doesn’t hold herself to and to her use of “real man”. Because, in the end, it is about size. If there were a man on that bus who is smaller than Gurpal, physically, then did his inaction make him a less than “real” man? Or does he get a pass because his size?

    In the end, to me, it’s about people acting for the common good to whatever extent is possible for them. And that general obligation extends to both men and women.

    P.S. I’m male. It’s cruel enough to name your son “Chester”, but I don’t think my parents are so cruel that they would name a daughter “Chester”.

  19. cd (unregistered) on December 15th, 2006 @ 9:56 am

    People don’t necessarily post comments with their real names.

    Perhaps I haven’t been clear – it’s a matter of both size and relative strength. Size doesn’t necessarily equal strength. But gender does figure into things – partly biologically and partly as a shorthand.

    For instance, on the average, the muscular structure of men and women means that men usually have more upper body strength, while women have more lower body strength. This is one reason why some schools of self-defense recommend a woman not freak out if she’s wrestled to the ground, but rather learn to use her own tactical advantages – larger, more muscular thighs, etc – to work her aggressor over – who is, usually, more powerful standing up and using his larger, more muscular arms and chest.

    Obviously, there are no bright lines in this discussion because it would be simple to have a bus full or people whose bodies are the complete opposities of some biological assumptions.

    But I absolutely do not think it’s wrong to wish for a guy to step in and do a guy thing like get physical when the situation demands it. I can understand the “progressive” gender equality views, but I don’t agree that they are either progressive, correct, or sensible in a case like this.

  20. Jim M (unregistered) on December 15th, 2006 @ 12:02 pm

    Years ago I was reading Chuck Norris’ autobiography and someone once asked him if he would fight off a robber. His answer was that my wallet is worth less than my life. Jumping alone into five guys may not be smart. If they have any weapons or you screw up in the fight you will be hurting quick. If you have friends with you then breaking it up may be possible.

    The bus driver could get help. I know someone driving for AC Transit and they have panic buttons on the bus. They generally won’t use it though since the bus company will not give them any support if the attacker retaliates against the driver. I suspect Muni has a syatem too. If the attackers are minors, the cops are pissed, or they can keep a good story straight you may go to jail too. Technically it is still assault or distrubing the peace.

    The truth is that behavior like you see here shows that the people involved in the attack have no social skills and know they can get away with what they do. They should put a seven day curfew at 9:00 for minors and if they screw up fine the parent.

  21. charles r.sears II (unregistered) on December 20th, 2006 @ 11:33 am

    If I had seen this happening I would have gotten the driver’s attention to it,shouted at the perps to stop it,and done what I could to stop it.I am a gay man,disabled,who rides MUNI..and tells people to get on the front of the bus,to get up for me when they are sitting in the senior and disabled seats for no reason,etc. I have taken MUNI driver’s to court for being rude to me,and calling me names,not stopping at the bus stop,and just being a..holes in general.I have encountered excellent MUNI driver’s who do not let people on their bus without paying their fare,and others who do..making it hard for the good ones who demand the fare from all[one way MUNI is losing money],and sticking up for the rights of passengers who do not want to sit next to smelly,homeless street people,who have lice,etc.We, as riders of public transportation and citizens of SF need to take pride in our city once again,and look out for each other preserve our history of diversity and melting pot of cultures.That means accepting each other and protecting those we see in need of protection,by speaking out either by email,voice,or action,wherever,whenever, they may come into play.Next time we see a scene such as prompted these messages,let us go into action together.

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