Because they're frightened and want to think if they follow some set of rules, they'll be spared the pain that seems to fall down randomly on anyone and everyone? Alas, they're wrong. There is no sense to the madness. Nothing you do can make you secure. Society is in upheaval and capitlaist and no matter how "correctly" you do things, you could still wake up tomorrow and lose you job, lose your spouse, lose your home or lose your health. There's no safety net for any of these things, really. But this cannot happen to you. You've protected yourself with some rules. The other people this happens to must have done something to earn themselves a horrible fate. Therefore, we should instal no safety net. It's a feedback loop of fear, hopelessness and smug self-satisfaction. Where are the democrats when we need them?
Because they haven't experienced something and ascribe all sorts of sins / motivations / whatever to people who have? Empathy is a good thing, no matter how unpopular it currently is. All sorts of misbehaviors can be avoided through use of it. Sure, it's problematic because you can't actually know or feel another person's experience. The golden rule is imperfect. But it could stand to be applied more often. I will now offer advice in its application:
As it turns out, many (but of course not all, maybe not even most) men treat women poorly. Almost all of these men have no idea they've done anything wrong. I'm not talking about domestic violence, I'm talking about work and social situation where subtle and overt sexism can abound. Mr. A likes to tease or flirt with women, like Ms B, with whom he's had some past acquaintance. He knows it's ok, because Ms B smiles and laughs. What he doesn't realize is that Ms B has a dagger in her purse which she sorely wants to stab Mr A with. Women smile, laugh and act approving when they don't mean it. Yeah, it sucks. You cannot tell if you're doing wrong by how they're acting. Don't get angry at this. It's not their fault. They're trained from earliest childhood to smile, to be polite and to not object. Some women will apologize when you step on their feet. A couple of weeks ago, a woman apologized to me because she tripped over a curb while I was watching. They're trained not to frown, not to take up space, not to demand, and to speak as if every statement they make is a question. Assertiveness = bad. Smiling = good.
Oy vey! So what do you do if you can't read or rely on cues? The golden rule! There are two ways to apply it. The first is best with business interactions. The second is better with social / flirting.
Before (or after) you say something, ask yourself, "Would I have said that to a guy?" If not, then you probably shouldn't (have) said it.
Or, if you're straight and you're trying to flirt, ask yourself, "How would I feel if a man said that to me?" I know this gets tricky for many straight guys. If you would feel like the location was inappropriate and you had done nothing to indicate that you might be gay or interested, then well, you probably shouldn't have said it. (Smiling politely is not indicating interest.) If she actually was interested, then you're ok, but maybe the comment would have made you uncomfortable because it's too personal or is somehow objectifying or whatever, then it was a no-no. If you always freak out about the idea of a man flirting with you, well, you're homophobic and you don't get to flirt at all until you get over it. Sorry. You have to apply the golden rule.
I know this is probably completely obvious to all of my readers. In She's Not There Boylan writes about how she drones on and on and on about gender dynamics which are all new and interesting to her but are way old news and bring for other folks in their 40's. It's like that.
I don't think people, even ones who misspell "moron" while name-calling, are stupid. I do think they haven't thought things through sometimes, or haven't tried to see things from the other side. I also think many, many judgmental and angry people are actually very frightened of the world and hope they can separate themselves from people who deserve misfortune.