Friday, March 7, 2014

Skepticism is in order here

The Gift of Fear is a rehashing of a truckload of anecdotes with very little actual evidence. It cites other, similar, books by title but usually only to pull a nifty quote, not to give you any numbers or studies or anything else that you might expect to actually prove that any of these techniques work.
That being said, there is some good advice. It can be broken down into component elements pretty easily:
If you're afraid of something, do something about your fear.
Try to avoid potentially violent situations.

Shit. I have written and crossed out and re-written about a dozen things in this space trying to figure out how the hell to respond to this damn book.

Good stuff from the book:
Listen to your fear, we need classes that teach children "no means no" and " 'No' is a complete sentence", battered women's shelters are a fairly safe way to escape an abuser, no two situations are alike so listen to your instincts if you feel like you're missing something.

Questionable stuff from the book:
A lot of information (particularly as relates to gun violence and rape statistics) is incredibly dated; I believe that guns are safe if people are taught to use them safely - de Becker has a lower opinion of the teachability of people than I do; I also have a much higher opinion of Restraining Orders than de Becker does, but I do recognize that no piece of paper is actually going to protect you from another human being.

Bad stuff from the book:
Oh man, this is some crazy dated shit and it's kind of hard to take any book written about fear and violence seriously when it was written before 9/11; we're living in a vastly different, completely paranoid world and a lot of the advice given is meant more for people who haven't had "see something, say something" violently rammed into their heads since childhood. Also the sexism. Lots and lots of sexism that's prefaced to seem well-intentioned or just blatantly perpetuates stereotypes. Oh! And this is a book that you can use as a time capsule from before the wider acceptance of the LGBT community - there's no mention whatsoever of any kind of domestic abuse except men hurting women and/or children and everything falls into a neat heteronormative binary, including rape. AND almost all discussion of rape is as an act committed by a stranger, the least likely kind of rape.

Overall this isn't a bad book, it's just a dated book, but it also isn't the bible of awareness that a lot of people make it out to be.

De Becker, Gavin. The Gift of Fear. Random House. New York: New York. 1998. (1997).

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