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Xeni Jardin at 2:50 pm Wed, Oct 24, 2012
i learned a lot from elevatorgate, despite my opinion that it was far overblown. i learned about it through the anti-skepchick side; not the virulently hateful part, just the dawkins-ish “she overreacted” part. then i watched her video and mostly agreed.
several months later, i found another link to it (courtesy of the pz myers/thunderf00t debacle), rolled my eyes, and figured it would be amusing to see how the pot’s been stirred this time. after stewing and chuckling at both sides, i went to skepchick’s video again and realized that, yeah, she wasn’t overreacting at all. it was just an offhand comment.
and i was enlightened. it’s a point which either no one made, or which is very difficult to communicate in a culture where everyone is so easily offended, or which i was just too thick to notice. some people really are “called out” for quite minimal behavior, at which point the strawman has been built and rolled down the snow-covered hill.
some adjective like “arrogant” or “bitchy” gets associated to, really, the minimal assertion of one’s rights (which insinuates a dark mirror-reality, that the victim is exercising some kind of undefined privilege), and it’s all over; any following discussion will be about some chimeric version of reality. all this, of course, really should say more about the people doing the calling out.
i am an ex-vegan, and i still have sympathy for vegans for much this reason; omnivores will go on and on about the arrogance of vegans. and, sure, that would sound pretty annoying, as omnivores tell the story. but having been a vegan, i know that some people will label as “arrogant” even the most polite and minimal assertion of your dietary standard. i should be fortunate, i guess, that, being white, male, and straight, i had to become a vegan to learn about this crap.
Anyone taking issue with someone else’s food choices really doesn’t really deserve a reply*. You want to be a vegan? Be my guest – I mean, how does that affect me? Of course if you keep boring me with trying to convert me, I might get irritated…but you’d have to be pretty persistent in that to warrant a response.
Skepchick does have my sympathies on the whole. But some of her language jars with me …. “cop a feel”, while I’m sure unpleasant, doesn’t seem to reach my threshold of “assault”. Last time I was assaulted, I had a split lip.
And the Dawkins comment does – albeit crudely – point out the “first world problem” situation of a lot of these issues. Yes, it’s nasty, yes, it’s unpleasant, and yes, you could even argue it should be prosecuted**. But it does rather pale into insignificance compared to female genital mutilation, stoning adulterers, etc etc etc.
Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t campaign against it, doesn’t mean the sexism isn’t there – but it’s important to keep it in proportion.
* parental exceptions apply
** I can totally see why threatening violence against someone online should be a criminal offence. Bad jokes – not so much.***
*** That’s the “April” joke which got someone in the UK banged up for twelve weeks; I’m not going to repeat it for obvious reasons, but given the jokes I overhear in the office about Jimmy Saville – WTF?
Dawkins’ comment was condescending and useless. Everyone knows that FGM is worse than being sexually harassed in an elevator, but stating this publicly accomplishes nothing. ”Keep it in proportion” is almost another way of saying “stay quiet because I don’t want to feel guilt about my own casual behavior”.
No, Dawkins’ point was awful. Just because some people have a much harder time of it in some other parts of the world, it doesn’t mean that women can’t also get upset over less terrible -but still creepy and bad- sexual advances. I do hope Dawkins never complains about the service in a restaurant, because there are so many starving children in the world. (And so on.) I’ve seen him make some logical fallacies in the past, but this is beyond the pale.
I mean, in what context is it okay to ask a girl to sleep with you at 4am in a lift, to whom you haven’t even introduced yourself? Sometimes, I really hate my gender.
As a woman, I wasn’t offended by the pass made on Watson in the elevator; though I think it was a foolish pass I don’t think the offer itself was horrible. But Watson has every right to feel otherwise, and the idea that a community based around intellectual approaches to modern fallacies would act this way was is distressing.
But what upset me most was Dawkins’ letter. Worse than rude, worse than fallacious, it was dismissive. It smacked of the same tone as men who tell women to go back to the kitchen, and mean it in all seriousness. How does a scientist who has fought for so long to promote rational thought make such a statement? How can a man who’s struggled to advance modern thinking be so antiquated and unjust?
For the longest time, I thought Dawkins a man made abrasive by the abuses and insults of the hidebound and desperately superstitious. Now? Maybe he’s just an ass.
I think that if someone physically larger, who disliked me publically, and who I was predisposed to dislike, very publically stated that he or she was hoping to catch me alone in an elevator, and forcibly fondle my testicles, I would express discomfort with his intentions. I don’t really have a problem with someone describing that as assault. I’ve had split lips from slip ups in martial arts, but that was among friends, and the person who did it was always apologetic, so I could laugh it off. Were it inflicted by someone wanting to hurt or belittle me, it’d likely have bothered me more. Yes, none of these problems are as important as FGM, or Global Warming, but it’s a bit dickish to go nuclear on someone’s valid comment about how to treat each other more kindly.
FWIW, Kraut is a known misogynist troll on FreeThoughtBlogs. Recently, Pharyngula co-blogger Chris Clarke deleted some rather masturbatory comments by Kraut about how much he enjoys killing cats that wander onto his property.
But some of her language jars with me …. “cop a feel”, while I’m sure unpleasant, doesn’t seem to reach my threshold of “assault”. Last time I was assaulted, I had a split lip.
What’d you do to get a split lip? Let me guess. You copped a feel.
(Hint: “cop a feel” = sexual assault = assault.)
It might not reach your threshold of “assault”, but it does reach a legal one.
Well, ya know, dudes like Kraut always have exceedingly high standards that they think any claim by a woman should meet. Because bitchez lie n’ shit.
“atheists and scientists” are as mixed a bag as anyone else. There will be insensitive and/or prejudiced individuals.
If the point is to make folks aware of that so we, like everyone else, can try to correct it, fine; that’s appropriate.
If the point is to insinuate that there’s any other relationship between the two sets (which the above summary unfortunately suggests), or to otherwise “take them down a notch”, that’s unjustifiable.
You could have just had a quick peek at the full article instead of postulating an irrelevant dichotomy. It’s not cheating.
Actually, technogeekagain seems to be making a good point. This is an article about sexism in the skeptic community, true, but it shouldn’t be taken as a claim that all skeptics are sexist.
Another way of looking at this is that it is an example of the universality of sexism. It exists even within a community that seems well constituted to avoid exactly this kind of thing. Skeptics defending this example of sexism should be ashamed at their lack of humility.
Everyone everywhere has an opportunity to learn from Rebecca Watson’s story.
I love well constructed trash talking on BB comment threads.
The point is to shift the conversation in the skeptical and atheist communities away from actual issues directly involving skepticism and atheism towards talking about white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered privilege. The same thing has happened in the gaming community. Presumably it’s happening in other communities as well.
And it will likely continue to happen until people anywhere on the gender spectrum are treated with respect on the basis of their humanity regardless of their gender (especially in those realms where gender has no particular relevance to the narrative, such as a skeptical and atheist community, other than an aim to ensure it is accessible to all genders). Has basic kindness slipped that far down the list of desirable traits that people must now beg for it?
The atheist/skeptic community is having this conversation because it started to talk about why it was having such a dawkins of a time reaching out beyond its young white male core. The problem is, once you’ve been so homogeneous for so long, you develop an insular culture, one where “women” become these hypothetical objects of fascination, fear, and lust. The atheist/skeptic community (and, incidentally, the gamer community) got used to talking about women as though they weren’t in the room.
You’re seeing the next stage of a civil rights movement that’s been going on for a hundred years. Women are demanding respectful treatment anywhere they go, in any community devoted to any subject. In short, they’re demanding to be treated much the way their “white, male, heterosexual, cisgendered” have the… ahem… privilege of being treated.
There’s some ambiguity to your comment, but it seems you find this conversation to be a distraction from the “real issues,” created by feminists who are deliberately trying to derail the original conversation.
That is not how I read Jardine’s comment. Unless you meant to reply to Technogeekagain?
At 4 am after an evening in the hotel bar I think she’s lucky the dude didn’t heave on her feet.
Anyway, I might be a bit sensitive and overreactive a bit if I was constantly getting shit as well.
While I think that Rebecca’s experiences aren’t limited to the skeptical community, I do think she is correct in expecting more that community in particular. Skeptics are supposed to approach everything with a rational mind, and that doesn’t seem to be what has happened on this particular subject. Skeptics should try harder that they have.
With respect to the issue at hand, which is the inappropriate behavior of some men around women, I think it has to do with a lack of empathy combined with the glorification of male sexuality in our society. These people need stop letting their sex drive control their actions, and think more about how your behaviour was perceived than what your intent was.
Rebecca is right to speak out, and I hope more women in the skeptical community will do so as well, because things won’t improve until the community wakes up and recognizes that this is a big problem.
Also, the only people who need to grow a thicker skin are these men who can’t take any criticism about how they conduct themselves. Grow the fuck up!
Sometimes a coffee with someone you find interesting is just a coffee. This may not have been (considering the circumstances and the time), but seriously…I wish I could occasionally just like an aspect of someone (like their brain) without it being a big thing. I’m a guy (obviously) but I hear women make the same statement in regard to wishing guys would just like them for who they are, not how interesting their boobs are. It goes both ways.
Sometimes a coffee with someone you find interesting is just a coffee
not at night in the asker’s hotel room, it isn’t. they make coffee shops/lounges/bars precisely for such things. and definitely not after a long talk about misogyny and sexual harrassment.
Give me a break. Seriously? Take a look at the context, would you? Any guy should know better than to corner a woman in an elevator before propositioning her, “coffee” or no.
- Elevators are already considered one of the most awkward public spaces in society.
- As a society, we have agreed that at most you can nod to a stranger in an elevator, say “Hey” and then stare fixedly in another direction. Anything else violates the Elevator Contract, whether or not you agree with it.
- 4 AM!
- This is outlined in the same rule book that doesn’t allow me to start chatting with a stranger when we’re standing at contiguous urinals. How would you feel if a gentleman whom you have never seen before asked you if you wanted to have coffee while you were both in the men’s bathroom? At least in the bathroom, you have a reasonable chance of simply walking out the door, unlike the elevator.
Women are also repeatedly told in every self defence class that elevators are DANGEROUS and that if we feel uncomfortable in them we should get off immediately and go somewhere there are people.
Don’t you love how it works? If we’re alert and ready to defend ourselves, like we’re constantly told we should, we’re “man-hating feminazis.” But if we let our guard down and a man rapes us, we “should have been more careful.”
As a teenage girl attending sci-fi cons I was routinely cornered in elevators by grown-ass men who “just wanted a hug” and then didn’t let go. “Its just a hug, don’t make a big deal, what’s wrong with you, are you a prude?” – it was always in the back of my mind that if they got me alone things would go very badly, and that it would all be my fault because I “let” them hug me in the first place. Good times.
As a complete aside, it’s interesting to wonder *why* this is the case for elevators. They don’t have the same intrinsic awkwardness and inappropriateness for social interactions that a bathroom has.
Interestingly, in my apartment building, which has a very old iron cage elevator with a full time operator, it’s one of the most social areas of the building. Strangers will talk to each other in it more often than they remain silent. And yet in a normal elevator, hardly anyone will do so. It’s unclear to me whether this is because of the of the elevator operator who is always there so that one isn’t alone with strangers, or the ability to see out and feel (somewhat falsely, though not entirely) able to escape.
It’s the “able to escape” bit. Elevators are small spaces that can be stopped between floors. If a larger person gets between you and the control panel and physically overpowers you, you can be completely at their mercy with no means of escape.
Not the case in Europe. Urinals, trees or walls make little difference to the pace of a conversation.
Also consider that not everybody may have read the same ‘rule book’ as you, or that there may be quite a few variations.
Perhaps you should ask European women how they perceive elevators as social spaces, particularly when they are alone with one or more men in one.
Just out of curiousity, if your younger sister, 18 year old daughter, wife or girlfriend said she had just met a complete stranger in an elevator and was going up to his room for coffee, at 4am, would you give the guy the benefit of the doubt? If she explained that they’d met twenty seconds ago, knew no one in common, but that he thought she was interesting? He might just really like sharing coffee with interesting people. In private. With a bed conveniently nearby.
The problem with the “What if it was your sister/daughter/mother etc.” line of argument is that for sexist guys, “their” women are “their” property and they’ll kick the crap out of anyone who so much as has a “wicked” thought about them. “Other men’s” women? Fair game.
True dat. Since attaining chronological maturity, if not wisdom, I have always tried to be informed by the facts that I am the son of a woman, the brother to two women, and now the father of a woman. It helps me see through their eyes just a bit, and it tempers my actions when I interact with the women not of my family. Sorta the sabeletodo corollary to the Golden Rule: Do unto women in general what you would want to have done to Mom, Sis, or the best daughter in the whole world. When faced with the choice of actions, would I want my close female relatives spoken to or treated in a given way? A nope means I’m pretty safe not doing or saying something (not that it is a big problem for me usually). Now I can see Republican or member of the Taliban using the same corollary and treating women much differently than I would, as they might want Mom voteless, pregnant and burka wearing, so it’s not a panacea for male/female interactions, but it might work well at 4 AM in an Irish elevator at skeptics convention.
I am reminded of the old summer camp song lyric, “Be kind to your web footed friends, for a duck may be somebody’s mother.”
It might work for you, but this argument has been used since at least the ’70s, and I don’t really see it budging the culture that much. IMO it feeds into the perception that women exist in relation to other people, while men are their own people.
I once asked a woman if she would like to go get a cup of coffee. She briefly, and understandably, misinterpreted my request, but what I meant was, “Would you like to go get a cup of coffee?” Contrary to what George Costanza once said sometimes “coffee” really does mean “coffee”.
To put that event in its proper context, though, she was someone I already knew, it was part of a lengthy conversation we’d been having, we were in a hallway, and it was closer to 4PM than 4AM.
I get what you’re saying, but I think you should give greater consideration to “the circumstances and the time” in cases such as this.
Context always gets elided in these discussions somehow…
Dawkins should be ashamed of himself with that argument – ‘how dare you complain, others have it worse’. That doesn’t work with seven year-olds, and he should really know better.
Ever since that ‘high-brow debunking exercise’ he tried to stick Rupert Sheldrake in, I afford Dawkins no respect. I should have noticed it earlier in the Selfish Gene, but hey I was young.
Why are people so defensive about Sheldrake? I’m glad people are doing paranormal research but people like Sheldrake who rail against anyone who repeats his or her experiments with better protocols (and as a result find no evidence of paranormal activity) give paranormal research a bad name. Making claims that fly in the face of accepted science is great but it requires a certain amount of humility.
You’re getting up in arms about Dawkins’ comment? Don’t you know that one time, a guy said something on the Internet that made another guy so mad that he went over to the first guy’s house and shot him in the face three times?
Why are you complaining?
Why are you fretting about one little shooting? Don’t you know there’s a war on?
I can’t believe the apologists and attackers. I am appalled at Dawkins’ note and by the reactions of the community.
This stuff is absolutely inexcusable in any society or community that values freedom of thought and expression. People are being threatened and made to feel unsafe, and then attacking her for bringing it up? It is sick. It is the kind of thing I would expect from an insular fundamentalist cult, not a community supposedly based upon openness and free thinking.
I’m a guy, and I never understood sexism as having any place in an adult society. Why would I not want women and men to prosper? Why would I want to threaten people out of my community? Why would I want anyone to feel unsafe?
How big does the hole in one’s heart have to be to go on the attack like this to any other person? Dawkins should be ashamed of himself. As should anyone else participating in this continued attack.
That’s one of the problems we as men who wish for a greater, better society face. It seems so self-evident (after a certain amount of experience as kids/teens/whatever) that strong, powerful women help make our society better, and that we need to have their 50-51% of the population fully engaged in society if we’re going to solve the big problems. I don’t want to prove myself to be a strong man by dominating a woman, I want to prove myself strong by learning how to live with someone who is my equal overall, that, to me, is strength.
This is just off the top of my head, so I’m not going to defend it very vigorously.
There was a study from Boston University not too long back that observed a correlation between atheism and autism. A noted effect of autism is social ineptitude or inability to empathize. The gender ratio of autism is heavily weighted toward males. Does this phenomenon of misogyny among skeptics possibly emerge from a bunch of high-functioning autistic men drawn to an environment hospitable to their concrete way thinking and displaying poor interpersonal skills?
Doesn’t account for the abominable YouTube comments, but that could simply be garden variety assholes.
Not this shit again.
Context: Sexual harassment at Readercon by a man who is most unlikely to be on the autistic spectrum.
What the isopod said.
If someone’s so high on the spectrum they can’t conduct themselves in a non-threatening and appropriate manner in public, including online, then they either need to remove themselves, or make sure they have a carer who can keep them on track. And Aspies and Auties work bloody hard to set themselves rules and standards for social behaviour; they struggle with it and don’t deserve to be lumped in with insensitive assholes who think it’s OK to harrass, or to threaten someone with violence, for talking while female.
Also, note that there are plenty of women on the spectrum, and they face the same social pressures that neurotypical women do to please men at all costs. They’re much more likely to be victimized by sexual assault than to be sexual assailants — and their social awkwardness makes it hard for them to process the assault and oftentimes to be believed.
I’m not sure how “high on the autistic spectrum” I am (not very), and I am very careful, but I’m not sure where I fit into your picture of requiring a handler to prevent antagonising normal people.
I have frequently reflected after the fact on how completely innocent suggestions of mine might have been misconstrued as harassing or intimidating. It’s not as though I mean to be, and I have a lot of rules to prevent inappropriateness, but if I followed them all the time to avoid risk, I would meet precisely nobody. I’ve heard too often that I was an idiot and missed lots of signals or that I’m too haughty/aloof when I’m just being careful and respecting space.
I think we are sometimes painted as “adorkable” or “quirky” or something (possibly thanks to the rise of Sheldon Cooper) when advocated for by the well-meaning, but I think that’s a best-case scenario and rare. Socially-adept people don’t like us. Hell, even I cringe at more extreme AS behaviour. Given how alien we are to most people, it’s not as though we can resign ourselves to socially-adept people breaking the ice for us or life would be intolerably lonely. So I tend to stick to online dating.
Yes, I am extremely lonely.
I’m sorry you struggle with these issues. But you at least seem to attempt to address them, and I’m going to guess that you apologize when you feel it’s warranted and that the other party will be receptive.
Generally, however, I think the Asperger’s issue w/r/t sexual harassment and violence is a red herring. Leaving aside cases of same-sex harassment and the relative minority of cases in which a woman harasses a man, sexual harassment is fueled by a male sense of entitlement to women’s bodies and attention, and this has nothing to do with ASDs.
Occam’s razor says cognitive dissonance is all the explanation you need: I’m basically a good guy and misogyny is evil, so obviously my actions could never be misogynistic.
That’s very well stated. But I’ll try another restatement. Assholes are more common than Aspies and Auties. When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.
True enough in a random sample, but what if you hear hoofbeats while standing on the veldt? My point was not to suggest that autistic individuals were misogynistic anymore that it was to suggest that skeptics were prone to autism. I just thought the “perfect storm” could be at work.
At any rate, it’s something that popped into my head while waiting for my macaroni to boil and I will stipulate that I could be entirely full of shit.
I think it’s fine to wonder about that, but I’d disagree because I’ve seen many, many men be completely capable of completely socially appropriate relationships, with other men and often with many women. But with women who they disagree with, had power struggles with, a latent misogynist asshole trait comes out. I know autism pretty well, worked in science and saw many HF types in the field, had a close college friend with Asperger’s, also have a kid with autism, and know many kids with autism and Asperger’s. I’d say even within science or gaming circles, the latent assholes have outnumbered the folks on the spectrum. In the folks I’ve known on the spectrum, there’s certainly lack of awareness or lack of caring about social norms, but I don’t think it organically boils down to misogyny. While I believe that most people are basically good, there are a lot (a LOT) of garden variety assholes out there commenting on youtube. I sadly don’t think the skeptic community has cornered the market on them, there’s plenty to go around.
What is so *unsafe* about being politely asked for sex?
Context: 4 AM elevator ride.
Context 2: that was his first interaction with her, ever.
You may want to read the article, and educate yourself
.Rebecca had JUST finished talking about sexism and misogyny at a conference — and this man was an attendee of that talk. At the bar, she had been talking about how tired she was and how she wanted to go to sleep. He was there to here that, too.
This guy cornered her in an elevator at FOUR AM to ask her for “coffee”.
That would make *anyone* uncomfortable. She never once called him a rapist. It was just highly inappropriate.
Also, if you’re asking a total stranger for sex with no context at all to indicate that the person is even interested in you, then you are not being polite. You’re, at a very minimum, being creepy and inappropriate.
Do you REALLY ask random strangers to fuck you, outside of a sex party? I mean, really? Perhaps at certain drinking establishments, but just because I’m a woman drinking in a bar does NOT mean I want random men walking up to me asking for sex. STILL not polite unless there is some other context.
And, no, just because I’m a woman and am walking around in public, does not mean you have a right to ask me for sex. It’s not polite. At a minimum, it’s rude.
Nothing, it’s just creepy. What is unsafe apparently is telling the same kind of men that will ask politely for sex of a stranger at 4AM in an elevator, to not do that because it’s creepy. That makes them very violent apparently.
Perhaps we could use this as some sort of litmus test and confine those men to Alcatraz or some such?
Enclosed space, no other people, no previous contact, 4am, her talk was about how she didn’t like being sexualised at conferences.
Coffee tomorrow would have been better, before she got into the elevator. I’m a big believer in “whether she says yes or no, a woman likes to be asked”, but just like in journalism, the How, Who, When, Where, Why all matter. If you ask for coffee tomorrow, and she says yes, great, if she says “why not now?”, even better, but let her escalate the intensity.
While I totally appreciate the respect and agency you are very obviously giving all women you encounter, ”whether she says yes or no, a woman likes to be asked” - this is not the case. Very often, we do not want to be asked, at all.
I’m pretty sure ocker meant, “a woman likes to be asked directly about intimate encounters, rather than asked for coffee and have the intimate encounter be assumed by her yes to coffee.”
Possibly not, though. Possibly ocker actually believes all women want to be asked about sex with him (?) all the time. In which case, I’m offended I haven’t had the opportunity to say aye or nay.
(What I mean by this is that being (deliberately?) semantic or obtuse doesn’t solve the issue at hand and it could make those who are — or could be — sympathetic, rather defensive or annoyed. Don’t let’s repel potential allies by unnecessarily chastising them: use the opportunity to help expand understanding by showing your own understanding of their point of view.)
I’m not trying to alienate him, or any allies. And I wasn’t being deliberately semantic or obtuse.
The statement “a woman likes to be asked” feels to me to be rooted in the idea that women crave male attention, and that’s not [always] true, and is often a fallacy used to excuse bad behaviour.
We can all improve our thoughts and our actions. I hope my comment was not taken as an attack, it was not meant that way, just an aside.
Actual allies will be happy to be corrected politely, which is precisely what Missy Pants did.
**Edit: Evidently I did not express enough outrage. Yes, I do think the author’s experiences are terrible, and great examples of soft sexism and sexual harassment, as well as outright verbal violence and cultural ignorance. My other points were merely tangential.
I’ve seen some allusions to sex-party behavior. Well, this kind of behavior isn’t supposed to go on at sex parties, either. There’s rules, and they’re usually posted and contracts signed. You can get booted for even looking at someone too long.
I think what the author and other people speaking out about this behavior are doing is bringing to light the necessity for rules and safe space, even in areas of the world that are not sex parties, or are women being outright beaten and not allowed to vote. Just because behavior isn’t extreme, doesn’t mean it’s not wrong. And the accumulation of it is certainly extreme**
On the whole, the reaction this woman got was terrible, and telling.
As far as “elevator-gate” as it’s called, well…whatever. A guy liked her and made a point of asking her out in private. She didn’t share a mutual interest and declined. Case closed. Yes, she has an interesting point about being asked in an elevator after her talk, and I think it’s interesting philosophically, and personally for her and others who have been in similar situations, but I don’t think beyond that as a pronouncement on gender politics, especially misogyny. A guy wanted sexytimes with her, so he asked using our standard cultural script. I don’t feel that being sexually attracted to someone is sexist/misogynist, nor is making that known. If it was “I just bought you a drink, now you know what you owe me…*wink*”, then yeah. In this case, Dawkins argument was gross, but there was a kernel of a point in there: someone asked, he was told no, and it got left at that. A culture of general equality between the genders would mean that a woman would not have to be frightened of being with a man in an elevator. A culture of general sex-positivity would mean that stating attraction and asking about the chance for intimacy would be taken at face-value, and the asker and askee wouldn’t have to be ashamed of interest or lack thereof.
You’ve completed elided the context of where and when he asked her, and what she’d been speaking about all day.
As for “sex positivity,” I have more or less given up on the term, because it always seems to be reinterpreted to mean “whatever gives straight men a boner.” If I’m perceived to be a boner-killer because I stand up for my rights, I’m all of a sudden no longer “sex-positive.”
In short, we all have our “Hey wanna rub genitals together?”/”Why yes I would love to!” dance. I’m not going to villify someone who’s dance doesn’t have the nuance or steps I prefer, and it doesn’t seem that the author was trying to, either.
She seemed to be making an interesting point on perspective: one person’s trying to have some privacy is another person’s feeling cornered.
The avalanche of hateful response to that point was disgusting.
But I’m loving the more civilized stuff that’s going on in this thread :)
Is the advertisement under the article and Xeni’s byline the same for all viewers? The one I’m looking at is a very buxom young woman in the (?) classical “swoon” pose, smiling up at the camera invitingly. Does this strike anyone else as really inappropriate given the connection between the post and the objectification of women? Could the ad be changed to a less sexist one, please?
Ads are geared to you or random. I’m not getting that ad.
Dawkins’s response, quoted in the article, is disgusting and irresponsible.
You call that disgusting and irresponsible? Firing a puppy cannon into a crowd while distributing pornography to gradeschoolers is disgusting and responsible.
Geez, get some perspective. Until we’ve licked this vigilante puppy cannon problem, nobody gets to criticize Dawkins’ comment.
Your point, I get it.
Yeah, how dare anyone criticize St. Dawkins.
Aw, isn’t that sweet, you’re defending your hero and trying to make a derailing funnay in a thread all about sexism and misogyny. Totes appropriate.
The unfortunate thing about a community that to some extent is fundamentally built around criticism is that it’s going to be really attractive to people who are fundamentally just interested in negativity. Obviously if you’re someone who just likes seeing people being torn down you’re going to get a real thrill out of environments where there’s a really good justification for the criticism. It makes it more satisfying to get a vicarious sadistic thrill out of.
So, if people aren’t vigilant about going “no, that isn’t okay, please leave” any subculture that necessarily revolves around critical discussion is probably at risk of filling up with a lot of people who just flat out like to be bloody negative and mean-spirited for the sake of being sadistic.
I don’t think it makes sense to look for special reasons why the skeptic community would be prone to sexism. What I got from Skepchick’s account is that she expected the skeptic community to be less sexist than others, because it’s more rational; instead, she found that sexism is as much a problem in that community as in others.
“Negativity”? Are you a NewAge/SewAge type who perceives any critical analysis as “negative”?
Science is a social institution, and as such has a number of inherent flaws. Skepticism and atheism are non-scientific reality-models. So much the worse. In such reactive reality-model clubs, members get to wear pope-hats, yet do not have to account for how they got them. I think Charles Fort pointed much of this out a long time ago, so I’ll just wave in his general direction in the hopes that someone may choose to check out New Lands, or Lo! Maybe even bump into Robert Anton Wilson on the fnord way…
Do you know anything about skepticism? Good science doesn’t happen without a solid skeptical foundation, so I sincerely doubt that it equates to being a non-scientific reality-model, at least when practiced ideally. If you’re merely referring to how humanity functions in groups or as institutions, then every club will fall victim to pope hats, supposing they last long enough. However, this doesn’t mean we all can’t try to do better, or that we shouldn’t.
What is your comment supposed to mean, precisely? I’m not (merely) being sarcastic; I really don’t know what you’re attempting to say.
As far as I can see, Watson’s initial comments on the first video were perfectly reasonable and basically light-hearted in tone. I wonder how do people who take the elevator incident very, very seriously square off the fact that Watson herself didn’t seem to take it that seriously until the imbroglio kicked off in comment threads. Anyway, the incident got somewhat blown out of proportion (WAY beyond Watson had initially said about it) in comment threads, and Dawkins’ statement was a reaction to that, using the classic rhetorical devices that sceptics and atheists constantly use against people of faith or agnosticism (Dear Muslema, You believe in the existence of a sentience infinitely more complex than our own? Oh, really? Do you believe in upside-down pink unicorns and flying spaghetti monsters floating around in the flint of your navel?”) Anyway, it seems to me that if you tried to explain the seriousness of the elevator incident to anybody not in the privileged realms of blogging and academia, you would be speaking Martian.
My guess? They were threatened and angry at the idea that a woman would be offended by something they perceive to be Proper Dating Procedure. The men who reacted worst probably have done similar pick-ups, so her mild criticism of The Guy became an attack on themselves.
Baloney. Just about any woman would experience red flags going off if she were alone in an elevator at 4 a.m. in a foreign country and a strange man boarded the elevator, then hit on her.
Sounds like you don’t get it because, not being a woman, you don’t intuitively grasp these red flags.
That may well be the case, but I’ve read women here and elsewhere argue more or less the same point of view, so I’m not entirely persuaded that it is just a limitation of male perspective. I personally believe that making a pass at somebody in an elevator should be something that people of common social sensitivity would completely avoid. But I also believe that to place such an incident on any kind of continuum with actual sexual assault – both in terms of the consequences to the victim, and the moral or legal judgement we might apply to the perpetrator – can only serve to trivialize the gravity of actual sexual assault. Like I said, I don’t believe that Watson actually implied anything like this in her initial comments on the incident. However, in her later reply to Dawkins, she said: “So to have my concerns – and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault – dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who are mutilated, is insulting to all of us.” Here, she has clearly conflated her experience with that of people who have actually been raped, to my mind playing precisely into the kind of trivialization that Dawkins’ comment seemed to allude to in the first place.
No. The comment says “Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with,” and taken as written, that covers women who were raped. It makes sense she objects to this, and hardly means she thinks she was in the same position.
It absolutely does not, without extremely creative interpretation on your part. Dawkins was referring to one incident alone, and “poor American sisters” is clearly a sarcastic reference to Rebecca Watson, and the “suffering” is the elevator incident, as its serves as a preamble to describing the elevator incident itself. Are you honestly implying that Dawkins said that rape victims should not be taken seriously because worse things happen to women in Islamic countries? Everything else I’ve said here is my half-assed opinion, but that is a FLAT OUT misrepresentation of what Dawkins actually said.
I understand Dawkins was talking about the one event, but he phrased it in a very broad “American women should stop complaining” way. Watson was calling out what such dismissals neglect, not conflating experiences.
If you’re going to be charitable, then be charitable. Don’t insist that we consider his quote exactly as he intended, and then start reading implications into just how she said things.
One might respond to Dawkins: “Well American atheists should shut up too, because no one is burning you at the stake”.
Um, no. Just because we’re not in a theocracy, doesn’t mean we will shut up. Just because Ms. Watson wasn’t held at machete point and raped with a bayonet as she might have been in the Congo, doesn’t mean there’s no sexism and harassment problem in the community.
Dawkins’ post is idiotic, irrational and unworthy of skeptics.
At no point did she place this incident on the “contiuum with actual sexual assualt” she said “don’t do this” because its creepy. You did. She encompassed “other women who have survived rape and sexual assault” because, shockingly, they have a stake in these conversations, they have a vested interest in how men and women view appropriate social behaviour. She didn’t equate herself with anything or the incident with anything, you did.
As a married man with a sister, I totally understand why Rebecca Watson would be uncomfortable being propositioned in an enclosed space, alone, at night after a conference. The simple truth of the matter is that on the issue of rape there is no gender equality. Women are far far more likely to be assaulted in their lifetime than men.
So, a woman feeling uncomfortable or even threatened, is the *rational* response based on the evidence, risk and context. Conferences, business travel, hotels, hotel corridors and hotel elevators are all high-risk areas for sexual-assault-by-workmate.
My wife is going to a conference (mostly women attending) and I insist she carry pepper spray and a taser with her. Why? Because she will be alone, or with small groups of people, in a strange town, in a hotel, staying up late and drinking with friends after the conference. When I do that math, I add a taser to her suitcase and make her promise she will carry it. Paranoid? Perhaps, but I’d rather sleep well knowing that she can protect herself.
I think the elevator guy was just thoroughly clueless, most likely harmless. That doesn’t change the equation for Ms. Watson – she had every reason to be concerned.
It’s hardly a huge burden for a guy to be a bit more aware of the physical size difference, the possibility that his own actions may *appear* threatening. A woman’s discomfort in such a situation is not a slight against a man’s character, or sexism towards men in general. It is a rational response to an imbalance of power.
The vitriol and hatred aimed at her demonstrates how deeply insecure some people are and how hard it is to discuss the issues openly. Even when there are some valid points to criticize about her positions, they do not excuse or explain the insane reactions, threats, name-calling and disgusting behavior towards her.
The truth of the matter is that even if Ms. Watson stopped “making a fuss” about this issue, the issue would still be here. Too many people have decided to shoot the messenger because they don’t like the message and what it says about our community. In those actions, they only prove her point