Monday, July 11, 2011

Social graces, who needs em?

Russell here. I haven't really thrown myself fully into the Watson / Dawkins dust up, apart from a Facebook thread and a few choice remarks in comments. Rest assured, though, that I and pretty much every Atheist Experience participant I've seen in email agrees (as far as I can glean) with the main thrust of Martin's post on the subject, to wit: "Dawkins is wrong, Rebecca is right." We've gotten email trying to insist that we should inject some fake balance into this discussion, saying both sides have blown it out of proportion. Nope. IMHO, they haven't, all the proportion blowing out of has been in one direction.

A thread that is pushing towards 400 comments probably doesn't need more people repeating what's already been said, but I want to take some time out to address one of the most... confused... comments that I saw thrown out and repeated a few times in there. It's this:

This is embarrassing. I feel the need to comment on this because Martin, Tracy, and Matt are clearly being hypocrites here.

"Lets make a TV show where we call all religion false. People will feel offended/threatened/fearful for viewer's salvation, but in the name of free discussion, its worth it. After all, people don't have right not to be offended."

And now look whats happened. "Its good for Rebecca to set incredibly subjective social rules for all men (applying to all women as well) because she might be frightened."

Of course people don't have the right not to be offended.

And by the same token, people don't have the automatic right of association with people that they've offended.

Look, I don't spend time talking about atheism because I think it's naturally fun to offend people. I talk about atheism because I feel that it's an intelligent point of view which has been unfairly misrepresented by a large number of religious people. When I'm on the show I have different goals depending on who I'm talking to. The three most common goals, for me, are as follows:

  1. Hello, fellow atheist! Don't feel bad that you're an atheist, because many other smart people agree with you and have good reasons for doing so! We support you and appreciate what you're going through.
  2. Hello, theist! We may disagree with you, but we're not a danger to you. We have values, we don't harm people, and we aren't on a mission to destroy your freedom to believe what you want. We think your beliefs are wrong, but we'd like to discuss why rather than drawing the knives. Yay for pluralism, am I right?
  3. Hey, audience! Get a load of this guy! His religion has caused him to have an extraordinary number of obviously false beliefs, so hilarious that they are transparent even to his fellow religious people! Let's all enjoy him for entertainment value, since it would obviously be a waste of time to try to convince him of anything.

That's the formula in a nutshell, and all three types of caller are valued. Caller #3 is the most likely to be "offended" by our topics, but that's okay with me. He is free not to watch, and if he watches anyway, well, offense is part of the package deal.

But I also don't expect to hang out with those people. I usually don't come into their church, tell them things from their pulpit that will offend them, and then get angry because they don't immediately hire me as the new pastor.

So the question is: do we, in fact, give a crap about having women like Rebecca and Tracie and and Greta and Jen Peeples and Jen McCreight feel comfortable as a part of the atheist activist and outreach community, or don't we? If several of our existing activists explain what it is that is making atheist conventions a potentially uncomfortable environment, are you gonna say "Suck it up, babe, I have the right to offend you"?

Well, yeah, you have the right to do it. But you're kind of like a guy who is sitting in a public place for hours making armpit fart noises. It's not illegal to make armpit farts, it's probably not "threatening behavior" per se, but you can rest assured that the vast majority of people will find you annoying and stay far away from you. Some might even approach you and say "Please stop doing that, it's obnoxious." As Richard Dawkins might point out, the amount of discomfort it causes people is quite trivial compared to what oppressed women in the Middle East have to go through, but it doesn't change the fact that it will cause a lot of people not to like you.

So if I say "Please stop with the armpit farts," I am not curtailing your free speech. And if you insist on your "right" to do it, and then as a result I choose to avoid you, I am also not curtailing your free speech. And if I later throw a party, and I say "Don't invite him, that's the armpit fart guy," I am still not curtailing your free speech. I'm just exercising my freedom of association because I don't like you.

Sometimes in the past I've talked about debating atheism as being a kind of competitive game, much like chess or poker or Starcraft II or football. In all competitive games, there is a certain amount of luck involved with the circumstances under which you play, but the main way to increase your skill is to play a lot. When you lose, you observe what your opponent did and see if there is anything you can specifically borrow from his style so that you improve the next time. When you win, identify why you won and keep doing that, but also review where you were weakest and how you can stop doing those things.

Being socially effective and well liked is no different, but this is a difficult thing for some atheists to get their heads around because a lot of us are -- show of hands, please! -- nerds. It's not a coincidence that there are strong nerdy tendencies among a group that emphasizes intellect, rationality, and scientific literacy. It comes with the territory. I'm a nerd, I'm engaged to a nerd, I love talking to nerds.

But one thing that characterizes some nerds is that they care more about their chosen area of passion -- whether it's physics or Greek poetry or getting really good at Starcraft II -- than about their personal interactions with other people. And that, of course, leads to frustration when they recognize that social acceptance doesn't come for free; you have to work at that too.

Let me throw out a chess analogy here. I prefer to use chess rather than other games because I feel most people (particularly nerds) are likely to have at least a little bit of familiarity with it. At all skill levels, most players start the game by moving the king's pawn. A smaller number move the queen's pawn first, often as part of a queen's gambit. It's also possible to open with any other pawn or even a knight, but it's very rare for good players to do this for a lot of reasons: you give up early control of the center, you delay your ability to move out key pieces on the board, etc.

Now suppose you're just learning to play chess, and you decide that you want to open every game by moving your rook's pawn, way over on the side of the board. After I watch your games a bit, I say "I think you should stop using that as your opening move, try something more traditional." A player who wishes to improve at chess will seriously consider this suggestion and most will eventually recognize it as correct. This improvement comes in two stages: first understanding the reasoning behind the strategy, and second, trying it out and observing that, yes, you win more when you do it.

But another reaction to this advice would be to throw a temper tantrum, saying "What an unfair demand! That's the problem with this dumb game, it's so rigid and has all these unspoken 'rules' that I'm expected to follow even though they aren't part of the official rules of the game! I think you're just imposing on my freedom to open with the rook's pawn, and you can go fuck yourself."

That player is always going to be bad at chess. He's right, of course, to think that you "have the right" to make a rook pawn opening. But what he's missing is that you don't have the right to open with the rook's pawn and then win the game. Being good at chess is not a right.

Forgive the incredibly convoluted analogy, but I do have a point. There is a way of acting which will be regarded as offensive and out of line by most people who give any actual thought to the matter. People who insist on their "right" to act this way do not have the right to be respected or appreciated for their independence, which would constitute "winning" the social game.

Periodically we'll see discussions going on about why there are so many white dudes in the atheist activist movement. Atheist men would like to have more women around. Atheist women, minority that they are, would like to have more women around. Black atheists, and non-racist white atheists, would like to have more black atheists around. We don't want that so that we white men can have more chicks to hit on, or so we can smugly say "I have some black friends!" It's because we would like atheist activism to be an open and inviting community for all people of like minds to be comfortable congregating and exchanging ideas. We don't want to be forever hiding our atheism because Christians are the only ones who know how to apply social pressure.

Because, see, Rebecca Watson does not presume speak for all women; but if you look around at the reaction to her story among female bloggers, you'll see that she obviously speaks effectively for a lot of them. The atheist community is either going to be a place that welcomes and embraces guys being obnoxious douches for the sake of celebrating their freedom to do what they want... or it's going to be a place where women like to be. It can't be both. You can offend people if you want, but you can't be aggressively, unapologetically offensive to people whom you then also hope will like you.

Those are the rules of the game. Sorry if it cramps your style. Learn to play or go find a different game that you're better at.

289 comments:

  1. While I agree that Rebekah has the right idea in this case, I feel that both have a bit of a sexist attitude. While Dawkin's statements are unfortunate and shallow, I think Rebekah's assumption about a man asking her to his sleeping quarters to discuss ideas was also shallow. What if he had wanted to do just that, with no sex whatsoever? From what she said, I agree with her point that the man was daft for not listening to her close enough so as to not make her feel uncomfortable (maybe he should have asked for a breakfast meeting instead,) but not every man under that set of circumstances has sex on the mind. She just went along with a gut reaction, which made Jump to conclusions based off of pessimistic absolutist's stereotypes. Not only is it unbecoming of her, but that also puts a notch into the guy's good name, all because of a tiny social mistake.

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  2. No. She didn't. As I said right there at the top, people who are scrambling to play the moral equivalence card by saying "both sides blew it out of proportion" are not correct here because they have to resort to mischaracterizing the nature of her complaint.

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  3. Well said, and I hope this is the last post on the matter.

    Men, please listen to what the women are saying. We have a valid point of view, even though it's not what you would feel in the same circumstance.

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  4. I have been on the periphery of this kerfuffle, so if I am sticking my oar in someone else s pond, please excuse me. AFAIK the story so far is a girl left a bar at 0400 hours and was hit upon by a fellow bar patron. The girl took umbrage at hit. Famous atheist said no umbrage justified. Now every body's knickers are in a twist. Is that about the size of it or have I missed one hundred layers of nuance?

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  5. Gosh, FDR, I can't see why you'd think you missed any nuance just because you stripped out every bit of context and background from your summary of the situation.

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  6. When Rebecca Writes:-(So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.)

    She really is chucking her dummy out the pram. And you are doing her no favors by not pointing out that she is being silly.

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  7. I really enjoyed your post Kazim (and now wish to play you in SCII). You made some great points that gave me a greater perspective on the matter.

    I already agreed with the point about Dawkins. His comment was simply fallacious. If my friend gets dumped and says he's feeling depressed I don't counter-argument with "dying kids in Africa". I address his comment on face value.

    I do have issue with Rebecca's statement. Not with the conclusion, mind you. She said she was "sexualized".

    Grab a snippit here: "It refers to the making of a person, group or thing to be seen as sexual in nature". I'll grant there is a high probability that he was interested in sex, but if the comment was meant as "a reduction to a sexual object" that is simply incorrect. One can be attracted, physically/sexually, and still see the person as more than a sexual object and trying to create a division between these two concepts is a false dichotomy.

    Maybe that's not what she meant by sexualized. Maybe she meant it under a looser definition, like: "It can also refer to the making of an interpersonal relationship into a sexual relationship." Then okay, sure. I have no issue with her statement at that point.

    But that still leaves me in an opposing stance against Rebecca supporters who are taking the incident and using words like "sexist" and "misogyny" because those words are incorrect applied in this situation.

    It was, like you said, bad social grace. And no, I have no objections to her stating it because if that's what she means, she's right. He's being armpit guy. But can we stop mislabeling the incident?

    I made a youtube video about the incident:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYo4dzbVWes

    Where I describe the issue under "Being a desired minority in a majority situation". THAT'S what we need to increase awareness about. Tagging "sexism" and "misogyny" to the issue is going to rightfully create opposition.

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  8. "What if he had wanted to do just that, with no sex whatsoever? "

    That's certainly a possibility, but there is one important fact to be considered: coffee and relative privacy was available at the hotel bar, in closer proximity than the man's hotel room. He was requesting she go out of her way to hang out with him.

    Besides, in what universe is it ever polite to immediately invite someone to your bedroom upon meeting them for the first time, for ANY reason?

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  9. I think Watson's original comment was fine. But now that anyone who doesn't 100% agree with the condemning EG as an obvious potential rapist, is a rape-appeaser, I've lost all interest in the opinions being flung around. It is just silly now and it makes everyone involved look silly.

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  10. " One can be attracted, physically/sexually, and still see the person as more than a sexual object and trying to create a division between these two concepts is a false dichotomy."

    Rebecca wasn't offended by the idea that this man might be physically attracted to her. She was offended that he chose to take a rude, boorish action as a result. So many in this debate are conflating thoughts with actions, and that a condemnation of the actions is necessarily a condemnation of the thoughts. It's not. Not even close. And Rebecca, Jen, and others on that side of the issue have already repeatedly pointed that out.

    It is okay to think sexual thoughts about a woman.

    It is not okay to act on those thoughts in a way the woman finds unwelcome.

    It's really that simple.

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  11. @ FRakaFDR - yes. You've missed a hundred layers of nuance. You didn't even get the basic story completely correct.. Read for comprehension next time.

    NI_Scotty said: "I think Rebekah's assumption about a man asking her to his sleeping quarters to discuss ideas was also shallow. What if he had wanted to do just that, with no sex whatsoever?"

    Wow. Really? Somewhere there are operators standing by to sell you bridges, swampland.. er prime development sites, and books that guarantee you will be saved and get to heaven when you read them because OF COURSE no one in the history of the universe has EVER made misleading statements to get someone to do something they might not have done otherwise. If someone says something, it must ALWAYS be a 100% true and accurate reflection of their intentions and a guarantee of their honesty and good will.

    Why are you still here? Start dialing immediately! Log onto web sites and give them access to your credit cards and bank accounts. Convert to every "truth "that comes along and tells you about it. You obviously think the best strategy is to believe *everything* anyone tells you, right?

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  12. AbnormalWrench said...

    I think Watson's original comment was fine. But now that anyone who doesn't 100% agree with the condemning EG as an obvious potential rapist, is a rape-appeaser, I've lost all interest in the opinions being flung around. It is just silly now and it makes everyone involved look silly.


    Nobody did that, AbnormalWrench, which makes you yet another data point for the observation that the out-of-proportion blowing is being done almost entirely by one side.

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  13. tonyD: I can cut Rebecca some slack, because to her, Dawkins' dismissive remarks come across as a personal insult. I do think that the subsequent blog hysteria that has created a Team Rebecca calling for a boycott of Everything Dawkins — as if decades of successfully promoting and advancing the cause of science, reason and atheism deserves to be thrown under the bus on account of one callous remark — is definitely an act of cutting off our nose to spite our face, and it does nothing but bring heat, though no light, to the argument.

    Still, Russell and I would be in full agreement that while some radfem supporters of Rebecca have made some excessive and dumb remarks, mostly we see some guys still stubbornly Not Getting It, and acting determined Not To Get It even when women do their level best to explain it to them. I've been particularly disheartened to see the quick-draw crack "You don't speak for all women!" used to immediately dismiss and negate in their entirety the opinions of those women who try to explain what all this means to them.

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  14. For the record, Martin, I also don't support a boycott of Dawkins. I am disappointed in his behavior but that has not diminished my appreciation for everything else he's done for the atheist community. If we boycotted everyone with whom we had major differences of opinion in one area, we wouldn't have an atheist community. I could fill pages explaining how many things I disagree with Christopher Hitchens about, for example.

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  15. You know what would put this whole issue to rest? More Jeff Dee. There's the voice of reason and calm we need in these troubled times. :)

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  16. NI_Scotty: I think Rebekah's assumption about a man asking her to his sleeping quarters to discuss ideas was also shallow. What if he had wanted to do just that, with no sex whatsoever?

    In which I still my snark from Jen Peeples: Yeah, because it's less likely the guy was trying to get laid at 4 AM, than it is he had this really awesome espresso machine in his room he was itching to try out.

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  17. Kazim: If you haven't seen the vitriol being tossed around about potential raping and outrage of people not acknowledging said potential rape concerns, then you haven't been paying attention.

    I fully agree things have been taken far out of proportions, which is exactly why it is all so silly. You seem to be confusing the cause and effect.

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  18. @NI_Scotty It doesn't matter what the guy's intentions were. If she was in a situation where she was thinking "what if this guy's a rapist", then he failed a charisma check somewhere. (And, if I understand it correctly, this really is about women saying "if you creep us out, we won't go to your conferences")

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  19. I disagree with Dawkins in more than one area, counting this little scuffle. That does not mean I don't hold enormous respect for him.

    I only got a brief summary of exactly what was said between Watson and the guy at the bar. Before I can actually speculate on this, I'd like to know exactly what was said, verbatim.

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  20. "Rebecca wasn't offended by the idea that this man might be physically attracted to her. She was offended that he chose to take a rude, boorish action as a result. So many in this debate are conflating thoughts with actions, and that a condemnation of the actions is necessarily a condemnation of the thoughts. It's not. Not even close. And Rebecca, Jen, and others on that side of the issue have already repeatedly pointed that out."

    I'm not speaking against Rebecca when I say that. I'm speaking against anyone who holds the opposite viewpoint of what I stated. That those are the only two options. I hope that clarifies with to whom I'm addressing.

    In addition, your comment on the action. I disagree.. somewhat (depending if you agree or not with the following), the action, isolated in a vacuum is not rude nor boorish. Asking someone out with his particular phrasing under other circumstances could be socially acceptable and perhaps welcome, give or take the asker/askee.

    I just want to be clear that asking a woman back to your hotel for coffee because you find them interesting isn't intrinsically terrible. It is terrible when you just gave a speech saying you don't want that kind of stuff to happen, and when that kind of thing happens to you too much.

    It is inevitable that occasionally a man is going to ask a woman out when it is unwelcome. That's a guess we have to take from time to time. Asking a women with a chance of it being unwelcome is an okay thing to do.

    The important thing to take from this incident is: In this situation, the probability factor of it not being okay is so statistically high that you ought to keep your mouth shut and NOT take the risk.

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  21. It amazes me how a lot of people are playing dumb with the whole "all he wanted was coffee!" thing. As Rebecca pointed out, coffee was available in a location that was closer and more public: the hotel bar they had just left. He also started with "don't take this the wrong way," which meant he knew how he sounded and was trying to get her to ignore it ("Don't take this the wrong way" is about as incredulous as "I'm not racist, but...". You might as well say "I'm going to do something offensive, but please do what I want anyway").

    The likelihood this guy was trying to get her up to his hotel room to share bodily fluids is far higher than if he simply wanted someone to share caffeinated fluids.

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  22. Just a few remarks.

    I've found it strange that very few people realise that Paula's unfortunate experience happened with a guy who was likely quite drunk (leaving a bar at 4am). You can tell guys or gals many things about social etiquette, but it usually goes out the window at around 2am after a few drinks. Drunks can be jerks, guys and gals.

    Secondly, Paula's exact words were "Guys, don't do that". I would not be surprised if Dawkins' reaction was more related to being peed off at her reference to "guys", thereby including him. As someone who sees himself at the forefront of gender equality, maybe he was upset at being lumped in with jerks who make girls uncomfortable at 4am in a lift? That doesn't excuse his response, which was quite stupid.

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  23. The big mistake here is arguing with women.Any man who does this is very brave or very stupid.

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  24. "I just want to be clear that asking a woman back to your hotel for coffee because you find them interesting isn't intrinsically terrible. It is terrible when you just gave a speech saying you don't want that kind of stuff to happen, and when that kind of thing happens to you too much."

    It isn't intrinsically terrible, but context does matter. If the guy decided to start a conversation with her first, it wouldn't necessarily have been bad, after having a pleasant conversation, to ask her to his bedroom.
    The way he did it though, without any prior conversation, or even so much as an exchange of names, does make it rude. This guy was anonymous to her. So let me phrase it this way, do you think it's okay to go up to women you don't know and immediately ask them to go to your bedroom? Do you think it's reasonable to conclude that most women would find that unwelcome?

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  25. How many men would think that a woman wanted only coffee and conversation if she asked him to her hotel room at 4:00 a.m.?

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  26. @RookieRationalist

    As a guy I wasn't offended by her "guys, don't do that" admonition at all. I know Rebecca doesn't think all (or even most) guys would do such a thing. But apparently a lot of guys don't realize how scary the elevator situation can be, especially since, as many have pointed out, we live in a world where elevator rape scenarios DO happen.

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  27. @TonyD:

    Wrong lesson. Maybe it only seems that way if you're in the habit of supporting indefensible positions.

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  28. "So let me phrase it this way, do you think it's okay to go up to women you don't know and immediately ask them to go to your bedroom? Do you think it's reasonable to conclude that most women would find that unwelcome?"

    Question 1: In a vacuum, context independent? Yeah I think it's okay.

    But oddly, Question 2: Yes, I think that's reasonable.

    But let me clarify on Question 1. You have a point, right now, with answer 2 being what it was, again the statistical probability is terrible and perhaps therefore it should be cast into the "Bad social grace" pile.

    The reason I answered question 1 the way I did is because of another debate (which may or may not be fruitful to get into here) in which I feel perspectives of sex (with a large sarcastic *thanks a lot* going to religion) are overly negative. Female sexuality is talked about in negative terms too often where the idea of being able to be adventurous with sexuality (and being safe!) is acted as intrinsically wrong. And it's not.

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  29. I only get defensive during sensitive topics like this when blanket statements are tossed around. Naturally, I don't take well to being labeled as a potential rapist.

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  30. Nobody labeled you as a potential rapist.

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  31. "Nobody labeled you as a potential rapist."

    Comments have been put around stating this incident was sexist, misogynistic and that "women are afraid in these situations because the man can be a potential rapist". And "The man" can mean ANY man.

    Have you just not seen these comments anywhere?

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  32. Well, I wasn't making a specific example from this incident. I'm just saying in general when other incidents similar to this happen.

    It's easy to take something offensively on both sides of the fence with this topic.

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  33. Seriously, though, aren't anonymous men all potential rapists? What is the relevant background probability?

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  34. Brian I want to use some of the things you said when I make another youtube video about it (about things I've learned and what not). Do you mind if I direct quote you?

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  35. Rod Keller: While I understand how offensive it is to be presumed a rapist, there is still something you need to consider, and which it is hard for us guys to cut through the filters of our male privilege in order to consider: all dating situations are different for women than they are for men.

    Unlike the man, the woman always has to consider the likelihood, even if it is .0001%, that the guy she agrees to have coffee with may be unsafe. Most sexual assaults are those in which assailant and victim are known to one another. If you ask a girl out, even for something as innocuous as coffee, she knows that you are most likely motivated by romantic and sexual interests. In most cases, these are just part and parcel of normal human courtship rituals, and not intrinsically threatening. But even then, a woman finds herself having to do a basic threat assessment of each and every guy she gets asked out by. Because, even if the likelihood that the smiling gent standing before her may be harboring a secret life as Ted Bundy is vanishingly small, it's still there, and to be considered.

    This isn't paranoia, it's just women having to consider their safety in a circumstance where men never have to consider theirs. I've read comments from guys in these threads angrily chastising "feminism" for making an issue of this. I would suggest their anger would be better directed towards those assholes who actually do assault women, and who have made sex and dating much more difficult work for the rest of us non-raper types. In any sexual/dating/romantic courtship scenario, that a guy is a safe bet is his burden of proof to bear. Man up and deal.

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  36. You may say that Kazim,
    but i am a realist i have observed that women are always right even when they are wrong.Even if you pin them down on a point where they are wrong, they will just move the goal posts.
    It's better just not to argue with them in the first place.

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  37. Ouimette & Riggs (1998) put it at 8.8%
    Rubenzahl & Corcoran (1998) put it at 10%
    Lisak and Miller (2002) got 6.5%
    Merrill et. al. (1998) got as high as 14.8%

    I couldn't find any study below 5% for men self-reporting whether they've ever attempted rape. Soooo...call me a skeptic but it seems the data indicate women are more than raational to perceive men as a potential threat. Sorry,Mac.

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  38. Until that statistic is 100%, then it is still unreasonable to call me one.

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  39. tonyD: You may say that Kazim,
    but i am a sexist i have observed that women...


    FIFY.

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  40. @Martin

    I actually have a friend, male friend, who was raped by a female. Drugged and used. But that's not a counter-argument of any sort, other than to the specific line "unlike men".

    I agreed with everything you said, so I'll just get down to my comments on the conclusion:

    "In any sexual/dating/romantic courtship scenario, that a guy is a safe bet is his burden of proof to bear. Man up and deal."

    First off, Man up and deal isn't required. I'd have taken your post seriously regardless. It's kind of rude, actually. Would you mind redacting it and changing it to "It's up to the man to man up and deal with that reality" because otherwise it seems directed at me.

    I can see what you are saying. One thing to note though, is that a rapist isn't going to attempt to appear as a rapist. He's going to take that burden of proof into account as much as the non-rapist is, if he wants to be successful. So when you have someone who hasn't raped anyone perform an act that leads to no rape, calling him a "potential rapist" adds no additional information to things that happened in the past.

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  41. Guys, women will err on the SAFE side and not care about hurting your sensitive feelings. If a woman has nobody around to come to her aid, if she's alone in a strange city, if it's 4:00 a.m., she'll feel vulnerable. If she doesn't feel 100% safe with you, she won't go to your room with you.

    Mac, do you leave your car door unlocked? Do you leave your house unlocked? The odds of being burglarized are nowhere near 100% and the crime of burglary isn't anywhere near as personally invasive as rape. So until you leave your car door unlocked and hour house unlocked, puh-leeeeeze. Women have the odds stacked against them once they've been put into a vulnerable position by virtue of the bad guy having a plan and more strength (most of the time) or a weapon. The consequences of being wrong are so dire that losing out on a roll in the hay with a nice but clueless man is a small price to pay for caution.

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  42. Rod Keller: First off, Man up and deal isn't required. I'd have taken your post seriously regardless. It's kind of rude, actually....it seems directed at me.

    It was directed at males in toto.

    Of course a rapist isn't going to go out of his way to look like one. That was my whole point, which is why all men in a woman's potential dating pool have to prove the concern isn't warranted in their own case.

    A guy is a "potential rapist" to a woman up until she decides he isn't, based on getting to know him. This doesn't always mean she'll be right. There are indeed slick manipulators out there. But for general purposes, general principles can be applied. A guy who's going to be Mad, Bad, and Dangerous To Know will usually reveal this very soon. And it's not simply "potential rapist" that she worries about. It could just be "potential selfish jerk" or "potential lying cheater" or "potential whatever-else-that-might-turn-me-right-off" that a woman is scanning you for.

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  43. Good point LadyAtheist.

    I think one of my issues, is that being labeled a "potential rapist" feels the same as being labeled a rapist. It's not. I'm a man of statistics and as Damion points out, the odds are high enough that women would, like you said, err on caution.

    I think I'll have to take the potential part not as offensively.

    I still stand though, that this incident was not sexist or misogynistic. (At least by conventional definition).

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  44. RodKeller: I still stand though, that this incident was not sexist or misogynistic.

    Oh I agree. But the ensuing arguments in the blogosphere have revealed that a lot of people still hold to preconceived, acculturated ideas — many of them rooted in male privilege and sexism — that we have to outgrow.

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  45. Just imagine what the guy from the elevator is going through right now. From the most innocent and probably silly and alcohol-induced attempt to get laid he started a shit storm in the atheist/skeptic community.

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  46. @Martin

    "It was directed at males in toto."

    It wasn't obvious.

    Everything else, I agree. I actually think I've learned quite a bit from this entire incident.

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  47. Well, to be fair, that's spinning my example a little out of context. I don't call everyone I meet on the streets a burglar just because there's a probability that they are one.

    I'm not saying that they shouldn't take precautions. I'm saying that when they address this issue, they should not toss around blanket statements like "All guys are rapists" when that is an incredibly rude thing to even imply.

    Frankly, it's similar to me saying that all women are after my credit cards. It happens. Doesn't mean that I operate under the assumption that all of them will.

    I try my best to present myself in a way that dislodges these kinds of preconceived notions.

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  48. Rod, children have been taught "stranger danger" and we don't take offense when they don't offer their immediate trust. Men should take the same non-offended stance toward women who are being cautious.

    It really is nothing personal. Rapists portray themselves as nice normal guys, and we can't tell the difference.

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  49. Russell, beautiful job here, and it amazes me that this has become all about elevator guy again in only about 30 posts. Brian, you said something that I have been thinking all along. I have been trying to think about how to put it into writing, and keep it short as well. I will try to be brief ...

    this is not simply about the elevator guy, he is not being made an example of, but is being used as an ironic example of what Rebecca was talking about that day

    this is not about thought crimes, it is not thinking of a woman as a sexual object, it is about TREATING women as sexual objects. It is about actions, let me try to draw some connections that may seem more familiar ...

    actions are not based on thoughts, it is erroneous to say "I think X, that is why I do Y" actions are based on beliefs. Some of you may see where I am going with this. We have heard this before, beliefs inform our actions, as atheists, skeptics, freethinkers, whatever, we have many discussions because of belief, or lack of belief in what others believe.

    I don't think I need to go into the offense issue, Russell covered that quite well, so let's move on to a different set of beliefs, and corresponding actions...

    the belief that women always enjoy being hit on...
    the belief that women always take being hit on as a compliment...
    the belief that propositioning a stranger is not a problem, especially if she says no...

    I could go on, but I want to get to my point

    based on the fact that women are saying that they don't like being hit on all the time, being hit on at inappropriate times is not only not complimentary, but can be demeaning, offensive, even threatening, being propositioned by a stranger is also not desirable, and so on...

    we get to the fact that THESE BELIEFS ARE WRONG

    you expect a theist to listen to your logic, reasons, and facts, why don't you do the same yourselves?

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  50. And the comments spill over.....Please guys, enough now. This is getting us nowhere apart from entrenchment. Can we all just be friends again? And hold hands? And laugh at theists?

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  51. (wow, this thread was at 27 posts when I started typing that, guess I type slow)

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  52. "Oh I agree. But the ensuing arguments in the blogosphere have revealed that a lot of people still hold to preconceived, acculturated ideas — many of them rooted in male privilege and sexism — that we have to outgrow. "

    That's certainly true. I may myself be guilty of that ignorance at the start of my investigation (Or perhaps continuing onwards, I can't know what I don't know).

    One issue for me, is that I view the world as an idealist and not often enough as a realist. When people chastise what this guy did, it damages my idealist sensibilities where, in an ideal world, what he did was A-O-K, because it doesn't cross ethical boundaries.

    But the realist has to realize what world I actually do live in and work with it as I move towards the idealist one.

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  53. I'm posting this againe because it's a sentiment I'm not seeing mentioned very often:

    Without knowing exactly who Dawkins was responding to, I can't really judge whether he was a Class A dick or just mildly inappropriate. If he was responding to Rebecca's blog post about the elevator, where she was very casual and reasonable about the incident, then it would be the former.

    However, I suspect his reaction was more towards the way some people (including Rebecca in her key note speech) made a direct link between that kind of behaviour and full-blown rape. THAT was a bit over the top, in my opinion, and that may have been what Dawkins was responding to. His message, essentially was, "people who are comparing this incident to rape and hard-core mysogyny are being unreasonable."

    If indeed that was his point, I think it's a completely valid one (though perhaps poorly presented).

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  54. "this is not about thought crimes, it is not thinking of a woman as a sexual object, it is about TREATING women as sexual objects"

    "ing hit on at inappropriate times is not only not complimentary, but can be demeaning, "

    Ugh, you're the kind of person I'm bitching about. Yes, treating women as sexual objects = bad. But that didn't happen here. He did not do something demeaning. He did something inappropriate. Please look up the definitions of demeaning and try and match it to the incident.

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  55. I work in a bar and i see every weekend men and women meeting there and leaving toguether. Mostly men break the ice and 90% of the times or more are refused. Women mostly flirt until the guy they like comes to talk with them. Until they manage that they say "no thanks" to all the other guys. They don't stop coming to my bar because are offended by all the guys asking them out, nor the guys rape them for saing "no". If she felt uncomfortable because they were alone in an elevator, asking didnt make it better and he did a stupid movement (like the opening rooks pawn) she said "no thanks" (check mate him) and that was the end of the game. Then she makes a post about how unfair and sexist is that. RD says is not a big deal (and i agree) and the whole webb calls him ignorant, macho, misoginist and everyone who defends his position is a clueless macho... i respect and love women. I don't judge them for how many sex parners they have or one-night-stands, i believe we have the same freedoms and rights and despise violence and agression. If you are a woman is ok to ask to a guy/girl to have sex with you and is ok if somebody asks you to say no if you
    don't want and should be respected over all, even if is your own partner no means no. Apart of that the elevator thing is not big deal and IMHO RD is right to say so :-p

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  56. Petr,

    Just imagine what the guy from the elevator is going through right now. From the most innocent and probably silly and alcohol-induced attempt to get laid he started a shit storm in the atheist/skeptic community.

    For what it's worth, I have given some thought to how embarrassed elevator guy must feel, and I do feel sorry for him in a way. It's unlucky for him that his fairly minor cloddish incident happened to be THE cornerstone that triggered the massive discussion on sexism and social awareness.

    Nevertheless, it's a discussion that needed to happen, and that discussion needed to start somewhere. I think of it a bit like a company that damages or rips off its customers on a small scale, millions of times owner. At some point, there is going to be a key lawsuit where the plaintiff is going to be the beneficiary of not just compensation for their injury and court costs, but MASSIVE PUNITIVE FINES. It has to happen sooner or later, because otherwise the company will just make a calculation that it's more profitable to keep doing whatever the bad thing is. "Making an example of" a particular case may seem harsh in that one instance, but it's necessary to stop small but widespread abuses.

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  57. Being labeled a "potential rapist" actually doesnt bother or offend me at all. Anyone is a potential anything, and until you know the person well enough i dont see why you would discount the possibility, and the risk.
    I know im not a rapist so the idea that someone that doesnt know me might think i am doesnt affect me. Its a reasonable and safe position for a woman that is encountered with propositions, and at 4 am in an elevator none the less?

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  58. I would suggest that everyone listen to the latest Skeptics Guide to The Universe podcast. http://www.theskepticsguide.org/
    Listen from 35mins 28secs.
    Get the story straight from the horses mouth.

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  59. Kazim, it's sad that this thread is more than one post long, because you nailed it at the start.

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  60. @Martin You can call me a sexist.I don't care.I do not consider women inferior.If anything i have always thought the opposite.
    But don't assume you are gaining brownie points with women atheists for taking this line.Half of them will think your brown nosing them in the hope of a leg over.

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  61. @Rod Keller - as I said, this is not about "the incident," this is about how women are saying they are being treated at atheist, skeptic, etc. events

    @xairo - again, nothing to do with the bar scene

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  62. While there is evidence for the concept of male privilege, I think there are two sides to the story of EG. So this relentless social pressure to conform to "Rebecca is right" and the lambasting and name calling of anyone who dissents from Team Rebecca is odd, given that we are a rational community. Surely there is room for other views.

    I recommend reading A Passage To India, which is a superb novel about the allegations made by an English woman against an Indian man in a cave in India. The author illuminates ALL sides of the issue, which I feel is directly applicable to the elevator incident. The movie is also excellent.

    I would pose this as food for thought: if we could supply empirical evidence that would apply to male privilege in this instance (using double blind studies and surveys about 2 people in an elevator, etc.), would you, whichever side of the issue you are on, change your position if empirical evidence shows your side to be wrong?

    All embryonic social movements have these sort of internal squabbles. It is quite normal. But beware of one side dictating an absolute Truth. Interpersonal relationships are seldom so clear-cut.

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  63. You can call me a sexist.I don't care.I do not consider women inferior.If anything i have always thought the opposite.

    I bet some of your best friends are women.

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  64. tonyD: You can call me a sexist.I don't care.I do not consider women inferior.If anything i have always thought the opposite.

    You derided the entire gender as liars. That isn't exactly an egalitarian point of view.

    But don't assume you are gaining brownie points with women atheists for taking this line.

    That you think this is what motivates me is the clearest evidence of your Not Getting It.

    mostserene1: The movie Rashomon has the same theme. But really, by this point, the topic at hand isn't really what did or didn't happen in the elevator, but how badly the skeptical community suffers from the same fraught gender politics as any other group. People insist upon clinging to preconceived and privileged ideas, instead of trying to understand the other view. You'd think guys would twig to the idea that respect gets you a lot farther with women than otherwise, and most do. But the ones who don't seriously don't.

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  65. @kazim,LOL
    I am only being honest.

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  66. @ martin
    I don't mean to say they are liars.I am saying they hate to lose an argument.
    There for it is best to avoid arguing with them.
    Also if you do argue with women you are running the risk of winning.The repercussions of which don't bear thinking about.
    I am of course generalizing.

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  67. "You'd think guys would twig to the idea that respect gets you a lot farther with women than otherwise, and most do."

    The one word I'd use to describe the entire situation that has unfolded over this is "respect".

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  68. Yes, and it is precisely that generalization that makes you sound like a contemptible sexist. Not men in general, just you. Likewise if you said "Asians are X," you'll almost certainly sound racist even when X is "good at math." Decent people prefer to deal with fellow humans as individuals, not stereotypes.

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  69. Martin:

    Thanks for reading my post. Male privilege exists, and MAY have played a part in the elevator, but as a former investigator, I am leery of making judgments based on a one person's testimony.

    As I understand it, she was tired, had the subject of privilege on her mind (based on her talk), and they both, presumably, had drinks. So I would not draw too much from the encounter, but I'm a female who is analytic by nature.

    The price of celebrity, even minor celebrity, is unwanted fan attention. I would guess (only a guess) that THAT, more than privilege, was the more active factor in the encounter. But having privilege on her mind, that was the optic through which she interpreted the interaction.

    Anyway, I've spend enough brain cells on this. Peace to all.

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  70. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  71. I have deleted my last comment as i thought it was funny when i wrote it. But in hind sight it might be taken seriously

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  72. Sexual selection criteria would exist even in the most egalitarian of world's with no sexual hangups. Everyone has criteria or standards of what they want/like and what they don't. I guarantee you there is _something_ a person could do to you in a bedroom you wouldn't appreciate.

    NOTE: NOT TALKING ABOUT ELEVATOR GUY HERE, BUT TO ANYONE THINKING COLD CALL SEX REQUEST IS SUAVE: To approach someone and ask for sex, and not preface that request with any sort of situation in which the other person has been given an opportunity to get to know anything about you, means you have just come up to them and said, "Hey, you look like someone who doesn't any standards at all--care to have sex with someone you know nothing about?" In addition to calling me "desperate"--you're also assuming I'm an idiot.

    I suppose another option is "I know you have zero info on me with which to make even the most preliminary decision on whether you'd have sex with me, and it's not that I think you have no standards, but as I'm clearly an irresistible chick-magnet with more physically to offer you than any man you've ever seen--which is why you'll bed me based only on my looks at this time. I'm know you want me now." Lean in for effect when you say that last sentence--really makes an impression with the ladies.

    A young woman on another strand posted "Men do this all the time in clubs. Why is this such a big deal?"

    I haven't been clubbing in years, and thought perhaps times had changed, so I asked, "Really? I went clubbing every weekend for more than a decade and never had this happen. I've seen men offer to have a drink with a woman and to engage in conversation. I've seen people who just met talk all night and leave together for sex after the bar closed or after a few hours of getting to know each other. But I never had someone come up to me and just ask me to leave with them and go back to their place, giving me no opportunity to find out anything about them before even asking if I would have sex...?"

    She replied "Well, drunk guys do it."

    I wrote her back that I agreed there. I _had_ seen very drunk guys do this--the same guys hanging on other people to stand up, while drooling. The same guys liquored up enough to pick a fight over a napkin with a guy twice their size without a second thought. Drunk _people_ do a lot of stupid shit. But when I'm talking about "men"--I'm generally not judging them by their lowest possible state. Yes, if you're shitfaced, I recognize that's "prelude to an asshole" for men AND women, alike. And tomorrow when you're sober, you might actually be someone cool.

    But if you are a guy and you are modeling your "approach" after "Obnoxious Drunk Guy"--just be aware that's the "not coolest" approach.

    Fantastic post, Kazim. Nailed it. There's a world of difference between a woman minding her own business and a religion that causes no end of problems for humanity. The difference between me speaking out against harm, and saying "If it offends a few people, I can't help it" (since the existence of atheists offends many theists), and me approaching a person who isn't doing anything to me at all, with some insulting first impression, is night and day. Using an analogy where women are likened to a plague on the planet...well...gosh, glad to see how you really feel about me. Don't be surprised if one day I'm _responding_ to some rude crap you throw at me, unsolicited by me, with "Gosh, thanks, but I don't bed assholes." That's part of my sexual selection criteria.

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  73. "The price of celebrity, even minor celebrity, is unwanted fan attention. I would guess (only a guess) that THAT, more than privilege, was the more active factor in the encounter. But having privilege on her mind, that was the optic through which she interpreted the interaction."

    I have done some public speaking, and I agree: people think they know you better than they do, and you don't know them at all.

    I think the real story here isn't that someone said something that someone else didn't appreciate, but that it's become apparent that atheist men (on the web anyway) really don't get how hard it is for women to be taken seriously for their thoughts.

    When I'm speaking to a group I want them to be thinking about whatever it is I'm talking about. I don't want them to think "nice tits" or "she's ugly" or whatever. It's not just that it's unwanted attention to my body but it's unwanted *in-attention* to my mind. For someone who is speaking at a venue devoted to rational thought it must be doubly disappointing to be hit on.

    Anyone who has hung out in the AETV chatroom while Jan is hosting knows that there are a lot of puerile atheist men.

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  74. What I'm not seeing addressed here is the assumption of "sexualization" on Rebecca's part, by the individual in the elevator. That's what is truly disgusting about this whole thing. She is assuming the guy is sexualizing her, and that is wrong.

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  75. In my experience, when a guy invites you to his place he's thinking about having sex. He may actually have enjoyed her company and admired her mind but he had most likely mentally taken another step.

    If a woman invited you to her place at 4 a.m., would you really think it was for coffee?

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  76. A part of me doesn't want this kerfluffle to end. I just find the varied comments and commentary fascinating in an intellectual curiosity kind of way.

    On an emotional level, I'm too jaded by the internet to be surprised by the misunderstanding, ignorance, stubbornness, and outright misogyny in the comments of various blogs. On the contrary, I find I'm actually more overwhelmed with relief by the outpouring of understanding in the atheist and skeptical community that I've seen.

    And even if there is a large group of people who have expressed disagreement, I think many will at least be more conscientious of their behavior around women in the future. They can say whatever nonsense they want online, as long as they think twice about their brilliant idea of approaching me alone in an isolated area at night and invite me to their bedroom for some "coffee".

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  77. If I were invited up for a cup of coffee, I would be wrong to presume sex, correct? How is it ok for Rebecca to presume intent and essentially accuse the guy of being a "misogynist"?

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  78. I find it so interesting how easily the argument is shifted to "the misogynist male" when it very clearly is a female who is sexist towards males making a ludicrous argument. "Equality" doesn't mean "women > men", it means equality. This type of feminism that Rebecca Watson espouses is pretty darn disgusting, if you ask me, and I find it disheartening that so many in the skeptical community are so quick to side with someone without critical evaluating her claims.

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  79. Welp, remember what I said about guys bound and determined to Not Get It? Here you go.

    Attn: Wee. Rebecca never called Elevator Guy a misogynist. Rebecca has never espoused the view that women are superior to men, nor have any of the women who've been posting their viewpoints here in the desperate hope some of what they try to explain will slip past your "what about teh mehnz?" firewalls.

    So, apart from all the straw women it's full of, your argument is flawless.

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  80. The car lock example should have driven it home really. Whenever you lock your doors, you don't really think that someone will try to steal your car every time, but you don't want to take any chance. Now imagine if some old lady saw you park your car and shouted at you "Why re you locking your doors?" and you answer, so it won't be burglerized, to which she responds "So you think everyone in this neighborhood is a potential criminal?" would you not find this unreasonable? It seems to me that the protesters against Rebecca are like that little old lady, taking umbrage for her neighborhood that someone had the nerve to lock his car.

    I note that some people are taking umbrage at the 'potential rapist' appelation because they seem to have no understanding what it implies.
    When we have statistics that claim e.g. 5% of men have at least attempted rape (I'm piggybacking on Damion's numbers here) That means that, in a chance encounter, where a women has no other information about the person you are, there is a one in 20 chance that the person there is someone who will attempt a rape. It doesn't imply that every man has a 5% possibility of becoming an attempted rapist.

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  81. Martin,

    I noticed, once again, that you're failing to address the fact that Watson assumed the man in the elevator was "sexualizing" her.

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  82. Caffeine Addicted

    I'm not sure that analogy holds up. If a black man asks you for 4 quarters, is it correct to assume he wants to steal your wallet? And if the black community fails to understand how the white man could validly assume the black man is "monetizing" him, well then he clearly has a hatred of white people.

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  83. @Tracieh

    As a Bi male, I take offense to your comments, which I hope don't reflect the majority of the staff.

    Within the gay community, one night stands, based on looks alone are common enough. To say that if I accept one, I am desperate and stupid and that the guy who asked me is an asshole, all of this by default, is completely asinine.

    Your commentary does not even closely accurately reflect the views of the asker nor the accepter in these cases.

    At the base level, the most one can assume is that the thoughts of the asker are "I find you on some level attractive and would like to partake in a sexual act for pleasure." and the acceptor "I also find you attractive and agree to mutual pleasure".

    I have agreed that for a woman, sex propositions can reflect a measure of danger and I can understand the err of caution and the expression thereof. I do NOT agree that any of the insane things you wrote are what someone is implicitly stating. It is what you think they are saying, which means it is a matter of YOUR perspective. It is not a matter of objective reality.

    If sex, which is a pleasurable physical act (hopefully) could be enjoyed, safely, with minimal discussion, then I am for it. I understand that for a female, with a male, this may not be a realistic possibility, but hypothetically, if it was, give me one good reason why anyone shouldn't?

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  84. Wee, if I ever invite you to my room at 4:00 a.m. for "coffee," be sure you have condoms before you say "yes." ;-)

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  85. A question for the men who think it's an insult for a woman not to trust them:

    If Rebecca had been raped by elevator guy, would you be saying "Well she shouldn't have gone to his room in the first place."

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  86. Wee,

    That example is completely lacking of context. If a man approaches me in the middle of the night, in a deserterf alley, when I am alone, I will be wary. If a man approaches me in the middle of a crowded street among other people, I would be a lot less concerned. This would be immaterial to the color of the man's skin. It would be on the same level of taking the precautions to lock my car in either locality.
    To expand on your example, imagine if the old lady in my example above was in fact black, and accused you of racism because you locked your car in a black neighborhood. Do you find that a reasonable accusation? Because it mirrors the claims by the various men who are claiming RW is sexist.

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  87. Thanks Russel :)
    I'm with you (if I'm reading your comments correctly) on there not being a need to boycott Dawkins. Goodness knows I've made mistakes. Maybe not as publicly, but I've enjoyed a foot sandwich a time or two. I also think Rebecca is well within her rights to choose not to buy his stuff anymore. If he directly offended me I'd probably feel the same way, but like Watson I wouldn't expect others to follow.
    In short I think she's handled the situation well, I think you all at tAE have handled your response well, and knowing all this I'm looking forward to finally poking my head out of my corner and attending one of the ACA events ;)

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  88. It's so nice how all these people I though rational now jump abroad the "Go Rebecca" team just because she's a big name (as evident from Kazims listing only "big name" female bloggers in support of Rebecca). There are numerous female atheist bloggers who disagree with her and imho the main blowing out of proportions came only after Rebecca made an ass of herself in her keynote speech and subsequent comments about it... it's so nice that you've all conveniently forgotten about that little inconvenience.
    I'm sorry that I'm not in your little "who gets it" gang, but this is starting to look very much like a cult of personality here.

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  89. Not that anyone cares, or needs to hear it, but here's where I currently stand on this whole thing:

    I cannot be certain whether Elevator Guy was making a sexual proposition or merely displaying crashingly bad social skills. While the former seems more likely, we must remember this was (a) a drunk guy from (b) a Skeptics' gathering... more pitiable than predatory, in other words.

    I have no quarrel with Rebecca Watson voicing her feelings on the matter. I do not take her specific comments about the incident as some manner of misandrist broadside. I do not feel personally affronted by them.

    While I understand the point Richard Dawkins was trying to make, his response to Watson comes across as callous, flippant and just plain stupid. He should apologize to her, personally, for that.

    Note that, please: Apologize, personally.

    Apology. Not self-abasement. Not presenting himself as the Emmanuel Goldstein of chauvinist Skepticism to indulge the Feministing crowd in their latest Two Minute Blog-Hate.

    I support Watson and others speaking out about what is and remains an important issue both for "our kind" and general society: sexism.

    But HOW we tackle problems matters as much as IF we do, and there are those among Watson's supporters seeking to turn what was at worst a clumsy, drunken pass into Skepticism's version of the Triangle Factory Fire in order to advance their gender politics.

    They screen their advance with plenty of Sturm und Drang about "male privilege," institutional this and systemic that but the simple truth is that the Agit-Prop value of l'affaire Elevator matters more to them than what actually happened.

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  90. @george,
    I agree with a lot of what you said.
    I wonder if an apology might not just blow the whole thing up again.
    There are gender gap issues here and there is also a generation gap issue that hasn't been commented on much.

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  91. @Draugo How could there have even been a controversy in the first place if this was just a case of people going where the fame is? If this was simply about people siding with whomever has the biggest name, everybody would have just agreed with Dawkins and the issue would be done. I know this might sound crazy, but maybe many are siding with Rebecca because they weighed the arguments and came to the conclusion that she is in the right?

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  92. @Madge
    I do believe you are correct. I have been and still am a fan of Dawkins work; TGD was the first book I read when I was deconverting from Christianity. That I disagree with him now in no way diminishes the worth of his work; likewise the fact that I admire the man as an atheist does not make him right in everything.

    I hadn't heard of Skepchick until the internet exploded, but if asked I'd answer that I am emphatically supportive of her. Due to this exposure I am finding myself increasingly interested in the circles of feminist atheist bloggers. I've really enjoyed blog hopping and being exposed to the opinions of other female atheists.

    I'd noticed that there didn't seem to be many vocal women in the atheist community, and I'd wondered why while at the same time I'd been avoiding gatherings for the exact issues being addressed. Now that I know I'm not the only woman who feels this way and that there are men out there who Get It I feel much more inclined to participate.

    I hope more female atheists will step out of the blogo sphere and into the public sphere as this conversation continues :)

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  93. I actually agree with what Jen McCreight wrote a few days ago: Dawkins said some stupid things, he may have a limited and privileged perspective on the matter and doesn't really "get it". However, I (and Jen as well), agree that calling for a boycott, or even just saying that a personal boycott is merited, is a little bit excessive and going too far.

    Of course, Rebecca is fully within her rights to say that and probably feels more strongly than anyone else about the sort of thing that Dawkins said, but I highly suggest that people read what Jen had to say on the matter because she really wrote about it very eloquently:

    http://www.blaghag.com/2011/07/dawkins-is-not-misogynist.html

    Again: I'm not saying that Rebecca is wrong in any way at all. She isn't. She's right. I just think that her reply in terms of a boycott was a little over the top and excessive.

    After all, Dawkins isn't the sort of person who won't ever back down, or apologize, or even refuse to be reasoned with. We may completely disagree with his stance right now on this matter, but he's still "a friend" in a sense. You don't help a friend by cutting them off completely in every single way. You reason with them and you make them understand. We all know that he's capable of understanding things given enough time.

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  94. Can I offer my fellow males a piece of advice if you should ever find yourself in an 'elevator situation' and you do not wish to risk being labelled a creepy predator.

    Ask yourself, 'What would Howard Wolowitz do?', then do the exact opposite.

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  95. Wolowitz: If it's "creepy" to use the Internet, military satellites, and robot aircraft to find a house full of gorgeous young models so I can drop in on them unexpected, then fine, I'm "creepy".

    If it's "creepy" to follow a drunk girl into the elevator at 4am in a foreign country and ask her back to my hotel room for "coffee," then fine, I'm "creepy."

    Oh crap, you're right; it totally works.

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  96. Well my take on this is that its mainly a question of different perspectives specially as nothing happened. I will just quote the [post on some of the Indian Atheist Sites.

    "To me the error appears because , and every one agrees, that both of them are seeing this in a different way. Now we do know that we homo sapiens tend to react more to the perceived threat rather than actual threat. This is direct consequence of our evolutionary past. First we have to remember that most of the time intentions can only be ascertained by words. So we need to ask a question and the answer will determine the intention. Clearer the answer clearer the intent. Now switch to what happened. The confined space (Lift), being alone and history of males normal behaviour towards lone woman implies a high perceived threat from Female perspective. Then asking for Coffee at 4AM to his ROOM was unpardonable. Why not coffee shop. Even if it was meant to be harmless device can only happen in Hollywood and its ilk. Hence the perceived threat went up quite a notch. Now as in the end every thing went fine one possible conclusion could be that the actual threat was minimal. This is what Dawkins understood. His comparison to an imaginary Muslim women is one indicator. Clearly both sides are in an emotional state continue to harangue ( I think the debate time is over) and each is holding his/her perspective to be more correct and both do not try to clearly spell out and understand the perspective. So RD she is right in making her perception and intent of woman clear and yes and to continue to stress the perceived threat as always the real threat will be wrong"

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  97. How exactly do we get from the point that people in the atheist community should be more sensitive to the women, if we want them to hang around us more...

    ... to accusations about flocking to cult personalities, thought crimes, and mass misandry?

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  98. Hey Guys,

    How do you feel about your girlfriend attending an event by herself and getting hit on constantly?

    I'm trying to instill a little empathy into the conversation.

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  99. JT,
    Nerves are being hit?
    Shields are going up?

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  100. @Rod Keller

    Yes you can quote me.

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  101. You know what really bugs me about this whole thing?

    It isn't anything directly to do with the matter, either.

    It's that people continue to treat it all as having two sides. It doesn't. It has multiple sides, some of which are compatible with each other.

    There are the people who completely agree with Rebecca with regards to the incident in the elevator.

    There are the people who feel that her reaction was a bit over the top and unwarranted.

    There are people who have straight away tried to make connections from Rebecca feeling uncomfortable by a social inept guy to misogyny and rape.

    (Incidentally, judging by the event itself, I wouldn't be surprised if all he truly wanted actually was a coffee and a chat - it just seems so incredible that he thought that would be a smooth line to get in Rebecca's pants! I mean, that is just dumb: I think his ineptitude quite possibly clears him of sexism and misogyny.)

    There are people that have been angered by claims of a 'rape culture' and insinuations that any man could be a rapist, feeling (rightly or wrongly) as though if this was being said about any minority everyone would be outraged by it.

    There are people who have said misogynistic things.

    There are people who have rightly called them out on it.

    There are people who have said misandrist things.

    There are people who have rightly called them out on it (and then sometimes been labelled as misogynistic - which is quite funny sometimes when these are clearly feminists doing the calling out...)

    Then there are the people who have reacted to events based upon Stef McGraw's altercation with Rebecca Watson. A large proportion of the criticism of Rebecca comes from here, where she used her platform to call Stef McGraw out by name in an uneven playing field (You can see Stef's post about it at http://www.unifreethought.com/2011/06/fursdays-wif-stef-33.html, if you don't know about the incident - I notice no-one at AE has mentioned it).

    Then there are the people on each side in this thing with Richard Dawkins.

    Hell, there are probably more sides too, but I'm too sick of the subject to go into them. My point is that by simplifying it as is being done throughout the interwebs, including here, to just two sides, horrible strawmanning is going on, and there is not a chance of anything worthwhile coming from it.

    Kazim - it's not that both sides have blown it out of proportion, it's that there are lots of different sides that are getting muddled up so that each side thinks they are being unfairly criticised about things they don't agree with anyway.

    It doesn't help matters that there are misogynists and misandrists out there posting on other people's blog posts who provoke more rational people of each gender by some of their hate fuelled bile, in the process blowing things all out of proportion. And in this sense, Kazim, both 'sides' are blowing things out of proportion. (However, 'sides' is meant only extremely loosely.) It sometimes seems like a faux pas to point out that it's not only men that can have disgusting views of the opposite sex, but I'll risk it.

    I want to finish up by stressing that I think most, if not all, of the friction between the above groups (excluding the blatant misogynists and misandrists) is actually caused by misunderstandings and sweeping generalisations that people have found offensive.

    It's one of the reasons I'm not often weighing in on the matter - I suspect I agree with almost every group to some extent.

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  102. Draugo, I for one am not a fangirl and I think your "cult of personality" accusation is off base.

    There is a difference between how men and women see the world, and that's what is evidence here, not some cultish cabal.

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  103. I think it is fine for Rebecca personally to be unconformable with EG propositioning her. If EG did hear that she did not want to be propositioned, but he did it anyway, then I feel that he was wrong for not respecting her wishes. I am not sure that he was sexually objectifying her but I don't think she intended to make a big deal about it given that it was only one sentence of the entire point she was making.

    What I don't agree with is the escalation of the event by figures like PZ, Phil Plait and prominent bloggers. Especially ones introducing a possible rapist angle in Rebecca's defense when Rebecca had not even made such claims in her original video. This includes feminist bloggers like Amanda Marcotte, whom took the original story of EG, invented intent and maliciousness by EG and ran with it. Twisting the story to make a point about how men exploit women.

    "In sum, men who corner women know what they're doing. And yes, they are relying on the fear of rape to grease the wheels towards getting laid. Rebecca may not have put it that way, but being a mean ol' feminist bitch, I'm happy to say it. Also: duh. It also strikes me, in my dealing with geek culture, that there's a taboo against rejecting someone, and creepy dudes also are happy to exploit that, knowing that women who reject them will be condemned for violating the "don't be judgmental" rule. "
    http://pandagon.net/index.php/site/comments/because_of_the_implication

    In short, I am in 99% approval of Rebecca, at least in her original comments.

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  104. Just on the lighter side, I think "Elevator Guy", a.k.a "EG" should get some sort of award anonymously just for having inadvertently created the term "Elevator Guy" that we can all share for a giggle. =)

    It's like "Comic Book Store Guy" (Simpsons), or "Body Suit Man" (George on Seinfeld) or something.

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  105. "(Incidentally, judging by the event itself, I wouldn't be surprised if all he truly wanted actually was a coffee and a chat"

    If all he wanted was coffee and a chat, a much more convenient and physically closer location was available to him--the hotel bar he had just left. Also, he could have asked for an appointment. There was no need to ask her up to his room. Finally, he was in the group Rebecca told she was going to bed (she clarifies this in the July 5th Skeptic's Guide to the Universe Podcast), so he KNEW beforehand that she was not interested and IGNORED that. That's really the icing on the insult cake.

    " - it just seems so incredible that he thought that would be a smooth line to get in Rebecca's pants!"

    Speaking as a guy I know for a fact that we have come up with far, far lamer pickup lines.

    "I mean, that is just dumb: I think his ineptitude quite possibly clears him of sexism and misogyny.)"

    No offense, but I think that statement is dumb. Even though he probably didn't MEAN to be sexist and misogynistic, his actions could be interpreted that way quite reasonably. Being a nervous, inept guy doesn't excuse you from basic social graces.

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  106. This is a great summary Russell. It's amazing how a bit of advice can snowball into an ideology war.

    I don't, however, think overreaction was completely Unidirectional.

    Rebecca's response post on Dawkins told how he "will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same".

    Dawkins comments were ridiculous. I understand she's angry and offended, but this response (in my opinion) works to enhance the side-choosing hysteria. A reasoned, diplomatic approach may have curbed some of the hostility. In other words...she could use her relatively popular platform to try and establish a real dialogue with Dawkins...and come off looking more graceful.

    That being said...I'm enjoying the vigor of this discussion and hope we're all learning. Here's to decorum and a lowering of the collective Creep-O-Meter!

    Bob

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  107. As a fan of Dawkins and never hearing of Skepchick, I'm not falling in the cult of personality strawman put forward.

    She was made to feel creeped out by a socially unacceptable (totally legal) act; and asked guys "not to do that". Blogosphere explodes.

    Matt D linked an article that should enlighten even the most obstinate about the issue of privilege. https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

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  108. Benjamin,

    Rebecca didn't just tell the guy to "not do that". She presumed intent and made a victim of herself when she wasn't a victim of anything other than being made to feel uncomfortable. Let me quote.

    "Don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner."

    Then, she goes on to address the matter of whether she is blowing things out of proportion, and uses whatever truly misogynist comments in her video as evidence that this "sexualization" and "misogyny" really exist. The comments in her video play no role in what happened in the elevator, and don't excuse her blowing it out of proportion.

    "I wanted to thank all of the misogynists who commented on that video because some people will watch that video and they'll think I'm exaggerating. You know how girls are? Sensitive...and then they'll read the comments! And they'll realize exactly how terrible you are and how it is a problem."

    Why don't people see this?

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  109. I was going to write a response to this whole liftgate (elevatorgate) affair but it started to look more like an essay rather than a blog comment, so I gave up. It was frustrating to me that there were so many missteps and wrong turns by the major players involved that it would take a very long essay to break down and analyse all of the constituent elements to the unfolding story.

    The way that Rebecca Watson has responded to Richard Dawkins' comments tends to bring the cynic in me to the surface. I can't help but feel that there may be an element of opportunistic political manoeuvring in all this by Watson and friends who wouldn't mind taking Dawkins down a peg or two. Perhaps they had been harbouring feelings prior to this incident that his approach and style no longer best represents the atheist and skeptic movements. Or maybe all the craziness has turned me into a conspiracy nut. You Decide!

    Now I wont subject anyone to a lengthy essay but here are a few thoughts that I've yet to see anyone express.

    There were a lot of accusations of reverse sexism being bandied about in the comments sections of blog posts, mostly on the topic of elevator guy being referred to as a “potential rapist.” Rebecca Watson did not in fact use the term herself as some people mistakenly believed. But there was something in her original youtube video which if not boarding on sexism then at least what I feel is a sloppy manner of speech. What I am referring to is her admonishment “guys, don't do that.” Now, I am aware that when Rebecca says “guys” it is most likely her intention to direct the statement only to men who would think of behaving in a similar fashion to elevator guy. However, saying “guys, don't do that” could give the impression on the face of it, without running it through a probable intent filter that all men should heed her words. You may be thinking “so what, if you are not the kind of guy who would disregard a woman's feelings then you have nothing to worry about.” Perhaps the following example will illustrate why I think this is at the very least a sloppy manner of speaking: On a number of occasions while watching the evening news with different women, a female politician or news presenter has been speaking and the women in the room have started criticising the hair or dress sense of the speaker, mid broadcast, I find this quite annoying on a number of fronts and break in to say words to the effect “I am more interested in what she has to say right now, not how she looks.” If I were to write or say something about this which was intended for public consumption, I would most definitely NOT, after describing my experience say “girls, don't do that” If I were to say “girls, don't do that” wouldn't you agree that coming from a man this could easily be interpreted as patronising and insinuating that this is the general behaviour of women rather than it being something I've observed a couple of women doing and not really knowing how prevalent it is among the female population?

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  110. Lady Atheist- "Wee, if I ever invite you to my room at 4:00 a.m. for 'coffee,' be sure you have condoms before you say 'yes.'"

    This doesn't mean the presumption is any less wrong when the proposition is "a cup of coffee". I also know plenty of women who would be incredibly upset if you presumed such a thing from such a proposition. So what? The fact here is you are wrong to conclude intent in this manner and context.

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  111. Caffeine Addicted -

    "That example is completely lacking of context. If a man approaches me in the middle of the night, in a deserterf alley, when I am alone, I will be wary. If a man approaches me in the middle of a crowded street among other people, I would be a lot less concerned. This would be immaterial to the color of the man's skin."

    So you agree, presuming that the black man wants to steal your wallet simply because of the color of his skin and a request for 4 quarters is wrong.

    "It would be on the same level of taking the precautions to lock my car in either locality.
    To expand on your example, imagine if the old lady in my example above was in fact black, and accused you of racism because you locked your car in a black neighborhood. Do you find that a reasonable accusation? Because it mirrors the claims by the various men who are claiming RW is sexist. "

    How is that at all an appropriate analogy? Replace "man" in Watson's complaint with "black man" and "cup of coffee at my place?" with "4 quarters" and then replace Watson's irrational conclusion of "sexualization" with "monetization" and you've got an accurate analogy. And then when the black community doesn't understand how a white person could feel uncomfortable, it's clearly because they have a hatred of white people.

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  112. A post that features my very own quote. I'm flattered. No, really, I want to get along with you on this. But, I do want to stick up for what a said just a little bit.

    I'm wasn't trying to make a nihilistic "no etiquette" case. There are good reasons to have customs and norms. All of your examples Russell are great.

    I think there's a conflation of one instance of insensitive behavior, and a gender proportion problem (more of one gender means more unwanted advances to the other.) That's why I was trying to argue for solid footing, so to speak. Offensiveness can be slippery slope.

    Invoking rhetoric about free speech did me no good. Sorry. This blowup has taught me a lot about what I should not say. (But I already knew stranger propositions were wrong, I swear!)

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  113. Wee, by "wrong" you mean "incorrect," it seems. What you don't seem to get is that women don't care about being incorrect in times like those. So what if he had the highest motives? Considering the circumstances, she went with the odds. It's not like there's a 100% reliable way of reading minds on the spot.

    Men, you just have to accept the reality that women will misinterpret your motives sometimes. It's not "wrong" to err on the "safe" side, especially at 4 a.m.

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  114. LadyAtheist,

    I understand the circumstances of the situation at that moment. I understand it made her feel uncomfortable. I'm not faulting her for that. I'm faulting her for, after the fact, using her own perceptions as evidence of misogyny in the atheist "movement".

    Ok, so she assumes he is sexualizing her to "err on the safe side". Good. Do that. By all means don't go up to a strangers hotel room for a cup of coffee because you fear something more. But nothing happened. She didn't go to his hotel room, she went to her hotel room because she presumed "sexualization", and nothing happened. This doesn't excuse using her perceptions of the proposition as factual.

    Rebecca would have gotten her point across in a much more constructive way had she said, "This made me feel uncomfortable, and regardless of the intentions of the man, made me feel sexualized.". As opposed to stating the man was sexualizing her. That is her perception, and she is victimizing herself when nothing happened, to drive home this actually very real point about misogyny. It is this that I find detrimental to the "expanding the consciousness" of men in the atheist movement.

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  115. And yes, by "wrong" I mean "incorrect". Sorry for the confusion.

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  116. Brian:

    (First off, that bit you quoted was mainly meant flippantly, but anyway...)

    Bit 1) I had not heard that clarification. Can't say that I see how it means he was automatically after sex, however. Maybe there was more to it than what you said.

    Anyway, if he is shy, he almost certainly did not want other people to see him get shot down, so he would of course wait until he was alone to ask. It being a busy conference (even at 4am evidently), suggesting they went to sit in a busy area where other people would almost certainly interrupt their conversation would also be rather counter-productive. Rebecca is well known, and other people would likely want to talk to her, after all. That certainly does not prove he wasn't earnest.

    Secondly, Rebecca was in a different country (and continent), but afaIk there is no reason to believe that EG was a long way from home, or that he would ever get a chance to attend an appointment with her. It's not too much of a stretch that he wouldn't be able to afford a plane to America from wherever he lived (presumably Ireland) in order to keep an appointment. Again, this is not a particularly convincing argument to me.

    Even with the clarification, however, that still doesn't alter the fact that he may have viewed this as his only chance he'd ever have to ask, and didn't want to lose the opportunity. It still doesn't necessitate that his goal was sex. It still doesn't mean he couldn't have just wanted coffee and a chat.

    To be honest though, I'm not sure why you cut my sentence up like this, and thus lose the context of what I was saying. To clarify, I was suggesting that the naivety of his approach suggests it was quite possibly genuine - note: not unquestionably, nor almost certainly, nor even vastly probable, but rather quite possibly.

    Bit 2) Er... okay... Well then, those people aren't the brightest lights on the Christmas tree when it comes to picking up people they are attracted to. So?

    Bit 3) So... you call my comment dumb, and then essentially rephrase it. Ri-ight... (Just to make sure you understood, I was calling EG's supposed chat-up line dumb (or socially inept if you prefer) - you almost seemed to take it personally.)

    Unless you are trying to argue that merely by someone taking something to be misogynistic, the person that said it actually is a misogynist? I seriously doubt you are, but that's the only way I could see how you could disagree with what I said from what you wrote.

    Honestly, as far as I can tell, you've taken a flippant remark, not really understood what I was saying, called something I said dumb, and then finally agreed with the thing you called dumb. I'm confused.

    Also, I really didn't want to get into a discussion on the incident itself, as I said in the above post, but you seem to be making a big deal of what was really an aside (hell it was even in brackets). So if I come across as being a little irritated, that is why, I'm afraid. Sorry. I think I've taken out most of the really snarky bits I wrote at least.

    Or maybe you are just trying to illustrate the point of my post, by assuming that I fit into one of two sides when there are far more than just two sides in this discussion, and I am a member of a number of them? (As a result, of course, you would be assigning me views which I simply do not hold.) If so, thank you for the illustration, I suppose.

    Finally, just to avoid any further possible confusion:

    I think Rebecca was perfectly entitled to feel uncomfortable because of this event.

    As an aside, as I went to post this, some of the string of letters I had to type to post it in the 'Word Verification' were (in this order): 'stfu'.

    Maybe I'll take the advice. :)

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  117. @"all men are potential rapists" accusation.
    I'm really a bit sick of it.
    I'm a woman and I know that there are rapists out there. Most men are not.
    Here's the problem: I can't tell you which one is and which one isn't.
    I can't read minds. I only find out after the event and hindsight is 20/20. That's what most women are aware of.
    We get told rape-prevention tips from early youth on. And to give you a clear-cut example of male privilege, young boys usually don't get told, there's little need.
    Yes, it has a toxic influence on most women's mind over time. If you get told time after time again not to walk home alone after dark (as if you were living in some bizarre fantasy novel where the monsters come out after dark), how does that make you feel if you do? And avoiding it for the rest of your life is hardly an option.
    If you get told time after time again that you must never accept a drink from a stranger because of drug-rape, how does that make you feel if some guy who might actually be Mr. Perfect comes up to you and offers you a drink?
    If you are a minor atheist celebrity and get e-mails threatening you with rape by your enemies, and e-mails telling you how they'd like to fuck you by your "fans", how would you take the "invitation for coffee"?

    I can understand that RW is personally angry and offended by RD. If you followed the whole thing from before it became "Rebeccagate", you'll remember her original talk at the conference. You'll remember that she told about those mails, how they creeped her out, how such things make women uncomfortable to come to engage in the atheist comunity.
    You'll also remember that RD sat right next to her when she told those things (and EG was somewhere in the audience).
    After he sat next to her when she explained how such things make her feel, he made such a comment basically telling her how she should feel. I'd be angry and sad and offended by him, too.

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  118. [Note: I wrote the following series of comments for the other post before I saw Russell's new post here. Since the attention has shifted from that post to this one, I'll put my comments here. Hopefully, they'll still be relevant.]


    Over the weekend, while I've refrained from posting, I've been seeing the same problematic arguments being raised and new ones added to the mix, and it's been very disheartening to discover such pervasive intellectual failure among our community. I don't read comments on this blog very often, but when I've done so in the past, I've never seen a significant number of troubling opinions from different people, until now. I've written a lot of material to counter the points that naysayers have attempted to make, which will post after this. But first, I want to direct everyone's attention to two things...

    First, despite honest efforts by a few commenters, including myself, a clear explanation of "male privilege" has still not been posted. So please read the following article (published in January 2010), and take a while to digest it, before you try to argue against the term or misuse it in some ignorant way:

    Second, the naysayers have huffed and puffed, but quite strangely they still haven't clarified a very crucial matter (which I noticed even as I was writing the rebuttals): Why is anyone defending Elevator Guy and trying to excuse or apologize for his behavior? Seriously, this is not rhetorical question, so please actually answer it.

    If you naysayers continue to avoid addressing those two items, then I will just keep pressing you on them, because this discussion can't proceed in a productive manner unless we're all on the same page as a starting point.

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  119. Whoops, forgot to include a link to the aforementioned article about privilege. Here it is: https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

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  120. In what world does a woman's statement that she's exhausted and going to get some sleep, after a night of socializing, suggest that she would be open to the possibility of (a) drinking a caffienated beverage so that she could do more talking (with a complete stranger, no less), or (b) engaging in casual sex (with complete stranger, no less). OK, the possibility does exist, fair enough. But it falls under the category of "pretty damn unlikely." Did you know God might also possibly exist? If you're not omniscient, then how could you reasonably dismiss God? Seriously, guys. That's exactly the same sort of logic as the whole "ESP" and "mind-reading" nonsense.

    So, fellow atheists, please apply your mad skills of rationalism: Why do you think that propositioning the woman (be it for sex or just for coffee) is a good idea, after hearing her say that she's tired and wants sleep? Perhaps your answer is, "Because I want to have sex/coffee with her, and I'll never know if it'll happen unless I ask." OK, so why do theists believe in God? A common answer will be, "Because I want to go to heaven when I die, and I can't get there unless I have faith in Him." So you know how there's Pascal's Wager? Well, now we have something that I shall dub "Murphy's Wager" (since that guy kept going back to it in his comments). In both "wagers," the short-sightedness, not to mention the single-minded selfishness, required to twist logic and throw rationality out the window is almost mind-boggling.

    If the cold come-on is your primary or only strategy, especially if you're shy, then you're likely to suffer from long periods of sexual frustration. Even if most women were not turned-off by it (which is, for the record, contradicted by an endless abundance of real-world experience and evidence), the odds would always be against you. This is because several men are usually vying for the attention of a moderately attractive (at least) woman, and she's probably going to choose the one(s) with more to offer in terms of looks, personality, and/or chemistry. And don't forget that most women are not attracted to most men, just as most men are not attracted to most women. Thus, statistically speaking, sexual attraction between two complete strangers is more likely to be one-sided than mutual.

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  121. Elevator Guy watched Rebecca Watson all night and made no attempt to interact with her while she was mingling with fellow conference attendees (according to her clarifications, posted on other sites). When she left the other people in order to be alone (i.e., by heading back to her room), he followed her and apparently didn't ever start talking to her until they were in the elevator together, alone. Sorry, but there is no other way to characterize this behavior except as borderline stalking. It doesn't matter if his intentions were innocent and warm-hearted; that doesn't change the nature of the act. Many stalkers don't see their behavior as malicious, even if they were convinced to agree that it's abusive. The key point is that one such act directed at one person is creepy, while a pattern of such acts is criminal. This is not merely a subjective matter. If there were nothing wrong with a single act, then why would several such acts constitute something illegal?

    The harsh truth is that being shy, or otherwise socially inept, is no excuse for bad behavior. Seriously, when does that excuse ever work in social environments (except when a person has a mental handicap such as an autism-spectrum disorder)? Bad behavior needs to be called-out and corrected; that's the only way that shy people can learn to function better socially. Trying to defend Elevator Guy's behavior as a reasonable tactic for shy people to use has another serious problem: Studies have shown that women overwhelmingly prefer potential mates who project confidence. (Supposedly, confidence is generally deemed to be even more important than looks as a factor for attraction.) And as important as confidence might be for romantic relations, it's even more important for sexual relations, as shyness makes a poor first impression for how one might perform in bed. Shy guys who don't learn how to approach women in more socially acceptable ways will, in all likelihood, continually experience rejection (which hurts far more for those who are shy than for those who are confident) that only worsens their problem.

    So does anyone have a rational argument for how Elevator Guy's behavior could possibly reflect confidence instead of shyness?

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  122. When a stranger follows you into a place with no one else there, and asks you to go to another place for some private one-on-one time, how could you not feel at least a little bit worried, a little bit threatened? It doesn't matter who it is or what the request is. It could be a heterosexual man (or woman) following another heterosexual man (or woman) into an elevator and saying nothing but a polite-sounding invitation for drinks. Do you honestly believe that only a few reasonable people would think, "Who is this person, and what the hell does he/she want with me"?

    If you're a man and are turned on by the thought of an unfamiliar (but attractive) woman sexually propositioning you in an elevator, then your judgment is being distorted by more than your male privilege: You're thinking with your penis rather than your brain. For all that you know, she could be a psycho killer whose main thrills in life come from ensnaring men. Or maybe she wants to drug you and steal all of your money, your identification, and your credit cards (a situation that would be far worse if it happened in a foreign country, which was where Elevatorgate took place). Maybe it's a honeypot scheme in which she's already pregnant by another man, but she plans to use the sexual encounter with you as the basis for extortion. This world is filled with all kinds of characters, right?

    The bottom line is that casual sex with strangers is a highly risky activity, and most people who engage in it do not properly comprehend the risks. Beyond the dramatic scenarios above (which are not totally unrealistic), there are the more mundane dangers of STDs and unwanted pregnancies. Condoms break, and some have defects, and plenty of people don't even know how to properly use the birth control devices that they have in their hands. Some men refuse to wear condoms, and there are even some prostitutes who acquiesce to the small number of clients who insist on going bareback.

    All things considered, sex with someone that you do know offers much greater safety and security than sex with someone that you don't know. Casual sex with strangers is not worth defending simply because it may be "fun." There are plenty of people who enjoy drag racing and may be skilled enough to minimize the inherent dangers, but even if it were legal, would it be a wise thing to do? It's like when people talk and text on their phones while they drive: "I know how to do it safely, so there's nothing wrong with it." Puh-leeze. Even aside from the objectification issue, sexually propositioning a total stranger is degrading because you'd be treating that person as someone who's too stupid, ignorant, or naive to realize the multitude of dangers inherent in such an encounter. And you're just trying to take advantage of that person to satisfy your sexual desire.

    And again, even if the request weren't sexual in nature, it would still be unsettling. Your loneliness and desire for platonic companionship is no excuse for ignoring the risks of going to a private place with a total stranger.

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  123. @MattAnderson:

    Good enough for me. I don't expect to agree with me on everything, but it sounds like you've accepted most of what I was saying about manners, so I guess the post is a success insofar as we reached some common ground.

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  124. Having read almost all of the comments on the other post, I've noticed that almost all of the naysayers' points go back to the same basic argument: Rebecca Watson's feelings and views (and those of the women who have stated their agreement) are not shared by all women. Some women appreciate Elevator Guy's kind of behavior. That is reason enough to consider what Elevator Guy did to be a valid, justifiable, and not inappropriate way to approach women in general. Otherwise, men might be missing plenty of good opportunities for sex and romance, and the women who crave that sort of attention are having their feelings disrespected, disregarded, and dismissed.

    What a profoundly pathetic, myopic, and disingenuous argument. If this is really the best that you guys have (considering that it's the most persistent), then you ought to be ashamed for having the gall to claim a position of rationality. Guess what? There are plenty of women who are pro-life activists or sympathizers. The pro-life camp has also said that pro-choice women do not speak for all women. Does that mean that abortion is not a women's rights issue? (No, I'm not sorry that I dragged abortion into this debate. I don't care if anyone wants to start debating about abortion or not; the point is that the same sort of logic would apply to issues far beyond Elevatorgate, so you'd better start thinking about how consistent your beliefs and opinions may or may not be.) So tell me, who's actually trying to speak for all women?

    To suggest that an issue be universal to the experience of all members of a group in order for it qualify as a genuine civil rights, or human rights, issue is appallingly disingenuous and a red herring. One could theoretically defend every single civil/human rights violation (and thereby invalidate every single civil/human rights law) because one could find someone somewhere who is not only not offended by such degrading treatment, but actually enjoys it. I'm not even talking about consensual BDSM scenarios. T. E. Lawrence privately admitted that when he was taken prisoner at Deraa, he experienced sexual pleasure when he was tortured and sodomized (raped) by his Turkish captors. Which reminds me: So Stockholm syndrome means that kidnappers should be punished with no more than a slap on the wrist?

    Some have attempted to argue that the fact that women have criticized Watson, not just men, greatly undercuts Watson's case. To them I say: Do you know what the term "Uncle Tom" means?

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  125. Noah has discussed something that I've already mentioned several times, and yet no one else here has addressed: sexual harassment. Do you guys understand what sexual harassment is? It's not something that applies only to work environments. The reason why the laws pertain to the workplace is because sexual harassment is believed to create a "hostile work environment." So it's not so much the behavior in itself that's the problem; it's effect of such behavior, and the only way that the law can work to minimize the effect is to criminalize the cause. Legislators weren't being prudes when they passed the laws; they had to be made to understand the real psychological harm that sexual harassment was causing to many employees (mostly women).

    I have absolutely no doubt that there are some women who enjoy receiving sexually suggestive compliments from male coworkers. Does this mean that there's no basis for sexual harassment laws; i.e., sexual harassment is an invalid legal offense because one person's harassment is another person's compliment? Attitudes like that are what delayed the passage of sexual harassment laws until decades after women became commonplace in previously male-dominated (or male-exclusive) work spaces, post-WWII.

    I have absolutely no doubt that some woman somewhere would be incredibly flattered (and turned-on) if a stranger flashed his male organ at her to show her how "well-hung" he is. Does this mean that you should ever attempt to do it whenever you feel like it, on the off chance that it might get a girl to jump into bed with you?

    I have absolutely no doubt that there are some women who like when unfamiliar or somewhat-familiar men "grab their ass." (That's not even as extreme as Doug's story about the anonymous lady who grabbed his crotch and kissed him.) Does this mean that you should ever attempt to do it whenever you feel like it, on the off chance that it might get a girl to jump into bed with you? Unfortunately for Doug, what happened to him is what almost all of us would sensibly recognize as sexual assault. So what if he happened to find it pleasurable, that one time? Does this mean that groping a stranger on a crowded bus or subway is OK? It's all "subjective" after all, right?

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  126. The argument that censuring the kind of bad behavior displayed by Elevator Guy qualifies as "white knight" antics would be laughable, if it weren't so despicable. Shifting the guilt by twisting the underlying issue is just simply sleazy. It belies even more sexism. You might as well declare that no one should tell husbands not verbally abuse their wives, because, as the saying goes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." If each person is responsible for how she/he reacts to something, then suggesting that another's words, no matter how malicious, can have a serious impact is denigrating the person's strength of character, yes? Similarly, we must deny that there are many women who are trapped in abusive relationships, because to accept it, and suggest that something needs to be done about it, is equivalent to putting women on a pedestal as frail objects that need to protected or saved, yes? In fact, no women need to be saved from any men, because we have believe in them to have the strength to overcome their hardships, yes?

    The point is that, unfortunately, in a patriarchal society, women may feel disempowered by the men, or their perspectives may be distorted by lives of persistent disadvantage, such that they don't understand what's wrong, or what could be done, even if they intuitively realize the misery of their situation. This is how oppression works and how it perpetuates. Rarely does overtly oppressive action need to be taken. And that the oppressed keep failing to assert themselves is not a simple matter of strength or weakness. Everyone in the oppressive society (both oppressors and oppressed) just continue to live under the belief that everything is how it's supposed to be. The women in Islamic theocracies are among the most oppressed in the world, but they are still women, just like the women in western societies who have benefited from the numerous feminist movements in the previous century. No one will say that those Islamic women are "weaker" or more "fragile" than American women or European women. The Islamic women are just way more oppressed, and for that alone, they need help.

    The other point is that by censuring a certain kind of male behavior, we're not making any implications about women. We're simply asking men to be mature, take responsibility for their behavior, and carefully consider how any behavior in question might be received, before moving forward, as a matter of respect. This is applicable to all relations, not just those between heterosexual men and women.

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  127. Afterthought_btw,

    Well said.

    Dan Botzu,

    Ah yes, Amanda Marcotte.

    Remember the infamous Duke University Rape Hoax of 2006-07? Not only were the charges exposed as a farrago of lies and the accuser to be crazier than an outhouse rat, but the DA's legal misconduct was so extreme as to result in his disbarment - the first in North Carolina history - and the state AG not only wound up dropping all charges but flatly declared the four defendants innocent.

    In other words, this wasn't your run of the mill "we got the wrong guy" police case. This was a spectacle of legal nuclear meltdown the likes of which are rarely seen.

    Amanda Marcotte blogged away through it all, pointing and shrieking like one of the Body Snatcher aliens and screaming "Rape apologist!" at anyone expressing any doubts about the case, the accuser or the prosecutor.

    Not for one second, right until the bitter end, did Marcotte reckon with the accumulating mountains of evidence that the men were innocent, there that were compelling reasons to look askance at the actions of local government officials or that the whole thing stank to high heaven.

    Nope. You either agreed with her or you were a "rape apologist" thoughtcriminal and Enemy of Feminism.

    So now you say she's bringing her special blend of venomous mendacity to ElevatorGate?

    Why am I not surprised?

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  128. I wasn't going to comment on the issue of the rape threat, but a couple of days ago, I read a personal account by a female atheist blogger who had sent a letter to Richard Dawkins in the hope that it would make him more aware of the realities of rape. Her words moved me so much that I was compelled to write about the issue here.

    Murphy and his fellow naysayers all seem to operate under the belief that rape is not even a valid point of discussion because nothing of the sort was involved in the incident. They think that there was nothing wrong with Elevator Guy's behavior because he simply left after being rejected. In other words: No harm, no foul. How wonderfully deluded. Look, in the real world, threats are not assessed in the aftermath of an event. They are assessed before anything ever happens. Maybe you need to consult a dictionary for the actual definition of "threat," instead of going by the one from the dream-world inside of your head.

    I can't even begin to fathom how these guys expect women to be wary of rape while at the same time ignoring many of the possibilities of rape. I mean, these guys do think that women should be concerned about rape, right? After all, it is a fairly common crime, and the vast majority of cases involve males raping females. (By the way, negative points to the clueless dude who mentioned how a significant number of rape reports have been found to be bogus. You know what? Rape is actually underreported, because many victims feel deeply ashamed and even think that it was their fault. Good job, man.) Perhaps they think that rapists are easy to spot? Again, how wonderfully deluded.

    I would think that adults, especially rational ones, generally have the wisdom to realize that malice often hides behind a mask of decency or charm. Rape is a fascinating and complex subject, because of the broad range of psychosocial aspects involved. For instance, most rape actually occurs between people who are at least somewhat acquainted with each other. It could be family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. Even longtime boyfriends and husbands can rape their significant others. Rape can happen on dates that start off very well, regardless of whether it involves sedation or physical aggression.

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  129. As a female, you can never accurately anticipate who will be a rapist and who won't be. This can make the world seem like a scary place, even though most men are not rapists and never will be. Thus, a certain level paranoia is understandable, if not entirely justifiable. In any case, the best strategy to stay safe is to be particularly wary of men whom you don't know, and to be suspicious of any sexual advances to which you didn't make any suggestions that you'd be receptive. (By the way naysayers, what do you know about the experience of being a woman? Not much? Then maybe you'd better shut-up and listen to women, instead of dismissing them as being unrepresentative of women in general.)

    Let's revisit the elevator incident with a few minor tweaks to the scenario. Let's say that Watson did not say that she was tired and heading to bed. Let's say that she never had any concern about being raped, never in her whole life. Let's say that she takes Elevator Guy's suggestion at face value, and they go to his room to talk over coffee. Now, while they are alone in the room in the middle of the night, Elevator Guy starts to get a little too friendly. It begins with playful touching, which Watson brushes away, but he's persistent. So then he proceeds to grope her, and she becomes increasingly uncomfortable. Soon, she's saying "no" over and over again and fighting to get away, but to no avail. He overpowers her and rapes her.

    Would that really have been an unrealistic possibility? In my alternate scenario, Watson gets raped even though she trusted Elevator Guy. And frankly, she was in more danger by going to his room than she was in the elevator, because the hotel room is a much more private place and doesn't have any time constraints for him to do what he needs to do. Naysayers, if that had happened, what would you be saying to Watson now? What would you suggest that she could've done to avoid getting raped?

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  130. A few commenters have tried to attack Watson's credibility by noting her appearance in a certain calendar that apparently relies on sex appeal to sell. I don't know the nature of the calender, but I understand the gist of the argument: Because Watson was happy to present herself in a sexualized way to the public in this one instance, she has no business complaining about being treated as a sex object by anyone. This argument, to me, reflects a sexist mindset at least as much as an utterly boneheaded one. In my earlier comments, I explained my view that sexual objection in limited contexts is acceptable, while sexual objectification as a general approach to interacting with people is unacceptable. The same applies here. In a restaurant, you can order your waiter to do your bidding; that is, after all, his job. If you encounter the same person outside of the restaurant context, does that mean that you are justified in demanding that he serve you?

    The same idea applies to the treatment of women who work in highly sexualized professions. That includes relatively tame examples, such as waitresses of Hooters and similar establishments, as well as the extremes of pornography and prostitution. Look, no one here has yet argued that you are forbidden to enjoy these things. No one has argued that respecting women enough to not treat them generally as sex objects means that striptease, porn, and prostitution should be outlawed. (On the contrary, I specifically stated my passionate support for porn and prostitution.) But the idea is that sexy waitresses, models, strippers, porn stars, and prostitutes are people, too. Just because they allow themselves to become sex objects within the narrow scope of their jobs does not mean that they appreciate or deserve being treated as sex objects in any other aspects of their lives. You may not regard their work as dignified, but would you be so heartless as to refuse them basic human dignity?

    Plenty of porn actresses also work as prostitutes to supplement their income. Many, probably most, do not. Performing in pornography is not really fundamentally different from prostitution: A porn actress is still being paid to have impersonal sex, and usually the sex acts are not what she would choose to do purely out of her own sexual desires. So with this in mind, should all porn actresses be receptive to any random person who offers money in exchange for sex? Certainly not, and many porn actresses would be offended by such offers and insist that they are not "whores." What gives, you wonder? Why isn't your money as good as a pornographer's? The difference between a porn actress and a prostitute is that the porn actress is paid to have sex with other professional performers in controlled environments. On the other hand, prostitutes are far more indiscriminate about their clients.

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  131. I remember a newsmagazine story about porn stars years ago, in which one of the most successful of recent performers revealed that she felt extremely disheartened by her difficulty in forming relationships with men. Most men were only interested in having sex with her. The story documented an instance in which she was excited to finally find a nice guy to date, only to be quickly heartbroken to discover that he, just like all of the others, was only looking for sex. Play the victim-blaming game all you want, but that doesn't alleviate the responsibility that all moral people have to treat other people as fellow human beings.

    But even prostitutes, however indiscriminate they may be about their sexual activities, do not deserve to be treated as less than human or as second-class people. Most of them have self-defined work hours, workplaces, and a range of activities that they will and will not do. Just because they willingly accept money to have sex with strangers does not mean that anyone is justified to approach one just anywhere, anytime, and ask for immediate service. And even if you've paid to be with one in the appropriate time and place, you don't have the freedom to do whatever you want with her. Despite whatever you might think, prostitutes can be raped by clients when they're on the clock. It's like when husbands rape their wives: They think that they are entitled because of a covenant. In reality, mutual consent is essential to every sexual interaction.

    These days, prostitution is generally done as a surprisingly common short-term solution to immediate financial problems, and it's also done with enough secrecy such that if you live in a big city, there's a decent chance that you might be acquainted with a prostitute (active or retired) without even knowing it. If you suddenly discovered that one of your friends is (or was) a prostitute, then would you start to make countless sexual comments and jokes and advances toward her and offer her money to have sex with you? If you say yes, then what kind of a friend are you?

    To go outside of the sex industry, most celebrities do not appreciate when others think that they deserve attention only for the things that made them famous. There's an old episode of "The Simpsons" in which Bart becomes famous for coining an unintentionally humorous catchphrase that causes a media phenomenon. Soon, he is asked to perform the catchphrase wherever he goes, and his initial enjoyment of the attention rapidly turns into annoyance. Most celebrities hate to be followed by reporters and paparazzi. If you asked a paparazzo, he'd probably say that his targets should not complain, because his work feeds their stardom, and they've already sold themselves to the public, hence they owe the public access to every part of their lives. (Do you sense the entitlement attitude here?) Most celebrities also try to be incognito in everyday life and desire to be treated as regular people. Encountering starstruck fans might be flattering at first, but it quickly gets old.

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  132. Here's another way to look at it: Let's say that a woman moved from a highly sexualized profession to a mundane one. For instance, suppose that a girl retires from pornography to do office work. Does this mean that she's now fair game for her coworkers to make sexual advances and sexually suggestive comments toward her? Does her former career invalidate any possible claims for sexual harassment? If your answer is yes, then I'm sorry to tell you that you are a misogynist.

    There are a pair of long-running annual events called "GlamourCon." These are conventions in which many of the adult entertainment industry's most popular porn stars, glamour models, and producers gather to interface with the general public. Attendance is open to everyone, but convention rules state that attendees must be on their best behavior or else they will be thrown out of the venue. This means no touching, no sexual advances, and no crude remarks. I've never heard of any serious problems with disobedience of these basic rules.

    A few years ago, there was a video that was circulated in which an overeager fan placed his hand on the breast of a popular Internet model as they were posing for a photo together. She chuckled and politely swatted his hand away. In the comments below the video, all of which were from devoted admirers of glamour modeling, virtually everyone condemned that fan's behavior. That makes me wonder: How can a huge bunch of horny men have no problem maintaining civility around people who make a living producing masturbation fodder for them, while a bunch of male atheists don't have the good sense to treat their female counterparts with the same sort of respect?

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  133. I cannot believe that a bunch of so-called rational atheists would appeal to free speech as an excuse for bad behavior. This is incredibly disingenuous. How is this even remotely a free speech issue? How are Elevator Guy's free speech rights being violated? How many of you would refuse to condemn the inflammatory statements of the Westboro Baptist Church, on the basis of their free speech rights? All of the rational atheists that I know would fight to protect WBC's rights while condemning their speech (and behavior). Just because you have the right to say (or do) something, it doesn't meant that you should. And while free speech means that no one has the right to not be offended, it also means that no one has the right to not be censured. I would love to see someone defend neo-Nazis like the people here are defending Elevator Guy.

    Naysayers, at the end of the day, all of your arguments prove to be faulty. As we keep refuting them, the new ones that you may offer are not any better. Maybe the time has come for you to admit that you're wrong? Isn't the ability to admit when one is wrong a key characteristic that separates us rationalists from deluded people? Yes, many matters in life cannot be clearly separated into "right" and "wrong." But you are as wrong about your views as theists are wrong about their beliefs.

    By the way, to those who cling to the idea that Elevator Guy's invitation was not necessarily sexual in nature, I ask: Then why did he invite her to go to his hotel room in the middle of the night if he was only interested in coffee and conversation?

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  134. ydgdmlu:
    "Naysayers, if that had happened, what would you be saying to Watson now? What would you suggest that she could've done to avoid getting raped? "

    Well, people would ask her how stupid she could be to follow a complete stranger into his hotel room in the middle of the night in a foreign country.
    They can have their cake and eat it. Lean back and say "but he probably only wanted coffee, don't be mean" when she refuses, lean back and tell her she's to blame on accounts of being stupid if she says yes and something bad happens to her.

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  135. That is a lively discussion on privilege on the sindeloke.wordpress link above. It looks like privilege is something you either "get" as a concept, or not.

    I would point out that mothers are as responsible for creating the gender role of women as men are (unfortunately), because even today most women are taught as children that their mission in life is To Get A Man! Whereas men are taught job one is to get a career/job. These roles are reinforced from childhood on, making it difficult for one gender to put itself in the shoes of the other.

    There are exceptions, but in general, women are judged more for their looks and men for their earning power.

    This is changing (since the 1960s especially), but change is slow. Just look at all of the TV shows on wedding dresses, weddings, beauty pageants, and you will get a sense of what we are up against culturally.

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  136. Some have attempted to argue that the fact that women have criticized Watson, not just men, greatly undercuts Watson's case. To them I say: Do you know what the term "Uncle Tom" means? (ydgmdlu)

    As in Uncle Tom Syndrome?

    Just unwitting tools of the Patriarchy, eh?

    ***PENALTY FLAG***

    No sooner do I recall Amanda Marcotte slandering those who didn't toe her gender politics line, then you step up with a real-time example of the same.

    Hey, bring up "false consciousness" next so we can get some nice, classical Marxism in here.

    Funny, I could have sworn we were just talking about not being disrespectful and dismissive of women's thoughts and feelings.

    Wouldn't that include giving women critical of Watson (or me, or you, or anyone) credit for their own agency? Acknowledging their sincere and distinct reasons for thinking as they do, regardless of whether we agree with them?

    Or are some animals really more equal than others?

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  137. ydgdmlu, I said much of what you said on my blog (http://ladyatheist.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-take-on-elevatorgate.html) and have repeated it elsewhere. Some men just don't want to "get it." Fortunately, quite a few men do get it.

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  138. Feminist Susan Brownmiller memorably asserted that rape was a political act by ALL men against ALL women. Thus we may conclude that the EG had, in a political sense, raped RW, thereby stripping her of power and humiliating her. Her public recitation of the incident was a way of cleansing herself and purging society of the transgression.

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  139. I have just read up, and from what I gather, it's just that the guy made her feel uncomfortable, popping an invitation in an enclosed space such as an elevator. Which makes me wonder... What if the invitation was extended, not in an elevator, but in a hallway?

    Would it still be sexualizing? If yes, how could one possibly ask someone over for a coffee without looking like a creep?
    If no, what's the sexualizing part? The guy had horrible timing, and though she *experienced* it as sexualizing, I have seen no reason to assume the guy *was* hitting on her.

    To me, this seems like someone with bad timing skills invited her, which makes her *feel* awkward. I'm not even talking about her rejection. It goes without saying that that is entirely her prerogative whatever happens. It's just that people seem to read so much into the guy's question when there's not really a reason to assume it was anything else but One Big Misunderstanding.

    What am I missing?

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  140. I'm sorry but Watson just comes off like a snobby high school cheerleader. I mean how could EG ever dream of having a chance with HER. Doesn't he know who she is?!? Doesn't he know how popular she is? He should know his place.

    Reject the guy sure, but publicly calling him out is just mean. All for the high crime of being attracted to her.

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  141. @Rod Keller:

    >Within the gay community, one night stands, based on looks alone are common enough.

    I have a gay male friend who sometimes sleeps with multiple (new) partners in a week and has an on going fuck buddy. His profile was featured recently on a gay dating site, which got him a load of hits. He said the ones that just asked for sex, with no other info, went straight to trash. He described the situation as telling him “God your fat, wanna have sex?” So, being desperate isn’t just something that looks bad if you’re straight and female apparently.

    I don’t have any issue with one night stands. And if you are into looks alone, that’s fine. My friend has had stalkers—are you OK with someone stalking you? Really—all you’re concerned about are looks—if the guy isn’t balanced, that’s acceptable to you? If he's violent, you're OK with that, so long as he's hot? If he is demeaning toward you--you're down with it? Because I don’t think you’re being quite honest here. If you ever complain about the behavior of someone you take home, you’re a hypocrite—as long as they’re good looking. As long as you’re 100 percent accepting of whatever treatment you get from someone you take home—violence, rudeness, mental imbalance, snoring even, you name it—then you’re being honest that you are doing this on “looks alone.” But if there are behaviors that would ensue that would make you end the transaction with a “good looking” date, in that case, you’re saying “I have criteria beyond looks”—and I suspect if you’re honest, you do.

    >To say that if I accept one, I am desperate and stupid and that the guy who asked me is an asshole, all of this by default, is completely asinine.

    If it’s true that looks is your only criteria, and being treated in a nonviolent, respectful way by the people you bring home is irrelevant to you, then I do think you’re desperate and stupid. But that’s your right.

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  142. I know I'm late to the party (different Carlos) but here are my 2 cents...

    I agree the guy in the elevator was probably creepy but this situation is just overblown.

    From what I've read he didn't grope her, even touched her, didn't follow her, stalk her, or harassed her, he certainly didn't try to rape her, kill her, or ANY of the insinuations that have floated around.

    As for "it's not that he hit on her, it's because it was in an elevator at 4am". This is just a bunch of BS.

    Had the guy not been creepy but instead being charming, funny and swept her off her feet she would be talking about how lucky she was to be there at the right moment when her prince charming was also in that elevator at that hour. "It was just fate!"

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  143. Hello, its me again. I've been thinking more and more about this topic, and it is bringing me to a personal dilemma:

    Virtually my whole life, I've rejected religion. I never had a reason to be vocal about it. But then I discovered atheist material that sent the message, "be proud of atheism, tell people you're an atheist, don't be afraid of discussing religion".

    But what's been the point? It upsets people, and virtually never changes their mind. Its been talked about that our way is not really whats turning people from religion. I'm starting to feel like I've been used as a billboard. In the process, I've been sold an ideology where offending Christians is all part of the game.

    Now I'm being told I had better be considerate of people's feelings. I really, truly want to believe that. Atheist rhetoric seems to be mostly preaching to the choir, making big bucks for some.

    I guess this has made me really jaded of the atheist movement. Can someone help me out here?

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  144. @Matt

    It's really up to you to sort through.

    I'd point out that there's one standard:

    1) Trying not to offend people
    2) Trying to dispel myths about atheism.
    3) Trying to discuss the issues any why one side or another is wrong (and why we're right).

    We're not always successful, but we're not out to offend Christians. It just happens.

    Christians are wrong about their position, and hold irrational beliefs, so we confront that. Women do not (really) have that same problem, generally.

    So Christians are bound to get offended, but typically for good reason. Women are getting offended, but for bad reasons.

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  145. Also, I would say, if it takes a thousand hours of discussions to save one person from insanity, it's worth it. Religion and inanity aren't going to go away on their own. It has to be constantly fought.

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  146. I posted on another strand that I'm going to visit another country this fall. In preparation, I very excitedly found a website that discussed the culture and customs there. Even though it's an English speaking nation, the nuances and differences were fascinating and funny. And I learned a lot--because I didn't want to go over there and look like the idiot American tourist.

    One very interesting thing was they have an etiquette about buttering bread and muffins. I wouldn't doubt that if I found a "Ms. Manners" book, it might have this same style of buttering in it. But I wasn't really raised with that, and never heard anyone I've known make an issue out of how to butter bread. But after reading "this is how they do it in THEIR country," and learning that not doing so isn't just considered uncouth, but disgusting, can you guess, when I'm there, how I'll butter my muffins?

    I had heard a friend from there mention someone buttering the wrong way once, and how gross he thought it was. And I thought "Wow, you're really critical about buttering." But I didn't say that, because it wasn't really relevant, just a passing thought. At any rate, now that I see this isn't just him, but is a cultural context, his behavior makes sense.

    OF COURSE I will butter my bread and muffins in the prescribed way while I'm in that country. WHY WOULDN'T I? It's very easy. Doesn't put me out at all. Will avoid making the people around me lose their appetites...so, sure. I can do that much. It won't impose upon me at all. In fact, it will be a learning experience and fun to do things differently for a few weeks. I'm looking forward to the differences--not dreading having to learn new things and conform to a new set of cultural and social expectations. And if I make a mistake and do something "rude" by their standards, I won't get obnoxious about it. I'll apologize, and hope that my accent will let them know "I'm not from around here, sorry, didn't know."

    It really doesn't matter to me--never even crossed my mind--to ask "Do I agree with this bread buttering technique? Can my friend explain WHY it's gross? Not like I'm licking the butter dish...so what's their problem? I NEVER buttered bread this way, and I've got a right to butter my bread however I like. These people need to just deal."

    What a great attitude that would be to take with me on holiday! I'm sure it would guarantee me and everyone around me a really fun time. I'd be well liked and meet lots of new friends.

    Clearly facetious. I think the point is, I CAN butter how I like. And, sure, I could meet up with some people there that don't care about how I butter my bread. My friend was offended by someone else living there, so there are apparently people living there who don't subscribe to this silly bread thing. So, that totally justifies me ignoring their "majority" social protocol. Not like the way I butter bread is any sort of health issue. It can't harm anyone. In fact, if anyone complains about me buttering the bread like an American tourist while I'm there, I'll tell them exactly that. "I can butter my bread however I like--quit whining!"

    If I don't care about making friends there--that's fine. But the truth is, I do want to make new friends there. So, I'm going to just have to learn to butter bread a little differently for a few weeks. Ain't life a bitch?!

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  147. Made another video about everything I've learned so far.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvZ4auvlS7k

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  148. Is what BSkrilla said over in the other thread "mischaracterizing the nature of [Rebecca's] complaint?

    http://atheistexperience.b​logspot.com/2011/07/oh-hel​l-is-elevatorgate-going-to​-ruin.html?showComment=130​9983475059#c39204028314980​89153

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  149. Hmm, the link isn't working, I must've done something wrong. I'll just post the quote.
    __________________________
    BSkrilla said...
    "Initially Rebecca's comments in her video were measured and reasonable. The reaction to these comments has been anything but reasonable; on both sides of the argument. People need to calm the fuck down and realize that both sides have valid points. The way this whole debate is playing out is making me really sad.

    The guy who asked Rebecca in the elevator was probably a little tactless and could have chosen a better time/way to flirt with someone he admires. Rebecca's response to this was reasonable. She didn't scream rape, she didn't call him a sexual predator, she just suggested to men that this isn't the best way to come on to a woman and that it can be a little creepy. I think this is a wildly uncontroversial statement.

    This is where the internet got a hold of it and things got stupid. Suddenly atheists are standing across the aisle from each other, one side yelling "RAPE APOLOGISTS!", the other yelling "CRAZY RANTING FEMINAZIS!" This is ludicrous. It is not evident from anything that Rebecca has said that the man did anything more inappropriate than asking a woman out (with implied sexual intentions), and it is also clear that Rebecca did not berate him as a sexual deviant. It is the rest of the internet that has taken this story and ran.

    Let's handle this situation reasonably. Rebecca asking men to be more considerate of women's feelings is reasonable. Men asking not to be considered misogynistic sexual predator's when clumsily attempting to flirt with a girl is also reasonable. Calling every woman who asks for respect a feminazi is not reasonable. Calling every man who thinks it's a bit hyperbolic to call this elevator encounter a terrible example of male privilege in the atheist movement a misogynist ass who doesn't "get it" is unreasonable.

    Can we please handle this like the rational adults we claim to be?"

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  150. I'm going to throw down with the United Atheist League on this one, because their answer to the Great Question is the only one that is based on good science.

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  151. I don't really wanna get dragged back into the depths of this discussion. There isn't really much that I can add to what i've already written, and I think George is saying most of what I would say anyway (in probably a much more eloquent manner)

    I would like to hit two points quickly though, and that’s it:
    social graces who needs em
    I agree with pretty much everything you said Russell, however social grace, and sexism/misogyny is not the same thing which is my issue with where this situation has gone. Yes the guy was tackless and socially ungraceful. And yes sexism and misogyny are bad. I just don't see how in this particular situation we get from one, leading to the other.

    @ydgmdlu
    So, fellow atheists, please apply your mad skills of rationalism: Why do you think that propositioning the woman (be it for sex or just for coffee) is a good idea, after hearing her say that she's tired and wants sleep? Perhaps your answer is, "Because I want to have sex/coffee with her, and I'll never know if it'll happen unless I ask." OK, so why do theists believe in God? A common answer will be, "Because I want to go to heaven when I die, and I can't get there unless I have faith in Him." So you know how there's Pascal's Wager? Well, now we have something that I shall dub "Murphy's Wager" (since that guy kept going back to it in his comments). In both "wagers," the short-sightedness, not to mention the single-minded selfishness, required to twist logic and throw rationality out the window is almost mind-boggling.

    Perhaps you should reread what I wrote buddy. I don't remember arguing anything like this, but something I DID keep “going back to” was that if elevator guy did actually harass her after she said she was tired and wanted to sleep, then elevator guy was clearly in the wrong. However, you (and others) don’t score logical points with me by recounting the story backwards in such a way as the rejection happens before the proposition actually took place, and then exclaim “AHA SEE!” when that isn't clear from the initial comments from Watson about the incident. Every indication is that they were talking in the elevator, he asked if she wanted to continue the discussion over coffee, she said no because she was tired and wanted to sleep, he said ok and left, end of story.

    I don't even want to bother with the rape comment you made about me because I think the shear irony of posting that right after George's “Amanda Marcotte” post is comment enough. I said repeatedly that she was justified in worrying about rape (if in fact she was worried. It doesn't actually sound like it from her comments) and she is also justified in recounting those feelings of threat to others after the fact. If you still don't understand my position after i've already tried explain it something like 5 times, them i'm sorry but there’s nothing more I can really say to you.

    I don't like to call people liars, but you sir are an incredibly disingenuous debater. I mean really... “Murphy's wager”? Please keep the Ad hominims to a minimum and stop twisting my words beyond reason to try and make yourself look clever.

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  152. "If it’s true that looks is your only criteria, and being treated in a nonviolent, respectful way by the people you bring home is irrelevant to you..."

    First, you put words and thoughts into people who make sexual requests, then you follow up by putting words in my mouth and attempting to straw man my position.

    If you are able to re-read my actual position and address it at face value, I'll continue this, but as it stands you are absolutely not worth my time.

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  153. @MattSolano
    My thoughts exactly...

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  154. I just want it to make it known that what I posted earlier is not by me, I just agree for the most part with what this person says. I was just mainly curious if what "BSkrilla" said "mischaracteriz[es] the nature of [Rebecca's] complaint".

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  155. Yeah, i got that it wasn't your post matt, but none the less, i agree with what it says too. I don't think it mischaracterizes the nature of Rebecca's complaint at all. I think most of the miscaracterization has been in the from of commenters sensationalising and turning this situation into a bigger issue than it is.

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  156. @Murphy: Ahh, okay, my mistake then. I just wanted to make sure.

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  157. Oh man, I finally understand where my frustration in all of this is coming from. There are two models of social graces:

    1)Looking at one person's feelings (taking offense etc.) and accommodating them.

    2)Taking into account both party's wants and coming up with a mutual agreement.

    The first is good in examples like Tracie's, where a short-term fix will make a vacation much better.

    The second is good if we have a serious discussion about we want from our culture. I think some men are objecting to the way arguments have veered towards the first model. It doesn't mean the solution is bad, we just are afraid of being left out of the negotiation table.

    This has probably been said in many ways before already. I just couldn't pinpoint the discrepancy, and wanted to share if anyone cares at this point.

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  158. Watson's own answers to a lot of the questions being posed: http://skepchick.org/2011/07/frequently-answered-questions/
    If nothing else, I'd like to point out number 4 on the list:
    "My current disinterest in his books is entirely about conscientiously giving my money to people and causes I believe in and who believe in me. I am not calling for a boycott. Analogy: I am a vegetarian, but publicly stating that fact and appreciating that other skeptics are vegetarian is not a campaign to make you be a vegetarian, too."
    After reading her initial response to Dawkin's criticism, that was the impression I had. I think it's sad that she's had to spell it out so many times, but I commend her for doing so.

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  159. @MattAnderson
    I can totally agree with that. I think this is probably one of the best comments I’ve seen so far on the entire subject.

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  160. And to add to my post a bit,

    The women are likewise afraid of their feelings not being respected, therefore losing their place at the table.

    This internal squabble is a vicious negotiation where each side is scrambling for their voices to be heard, and everyone is talking past each other.

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  161. Sky Diver wrote:
    I'm sorry but Watson just comes off like a snobby high school cheerleader. I mean how could EG ever dream of having a chance with HER. Doesn't he know who she is?!? Doesn't he know how popular she is? He should know his place.

    Reject the guy sure, but publicly calling him out is just mean. All for the high crime of being attracted to her.

    Giliell answers:
    Yes, that's because we all know how those women really are. If they tell the world repeatedly that they're not avaible for quick sex because they're in a commited monogamous relationship, what they really mean is that they're just not avaible for a loser, but sure if the right hot guy came along, that would change everything.
    If they say repeatedly that they really don't like being hit on, what they really mean is that they don't want to be hit on by that guy, surely it didn't mean they don't want to be hit on by the cool guy.
    When they leave a bar that serves coffee and pleasant company with interesting conversation declaring that they're damn tired and want to be alone and sleep, what they really mean is that they don't want the company of those people or the coffee brewed on a space-ship sized comercial espresso machine. It surely doesn't meant that they don't want the company of Prince Charming and the converasation of Prince Charming and whatever instant coffee Prince Charming has to offer in his hotel room (just entertaining for a minute the idea that this was about coffee and conversation anyway).
    Also, when they say no they really mean yes.
    Women, you can't trust them.
    His crime was not "being attracted to her". His crime was to disregard her clearly stated wishes to not be hit on in the first place and doing so in a totally inappropriate way in the second place.


    @Rod Keller
    I'd say again that context is the thing. I know there are gay bars that cater specifically for one night stands, providing a Dark Room and everything. I know of rest areas on the Autobahn that are renowened as meeting places for people of all kinds of orientations and desires where they meet and where you can read their respective wishes and advertisements written on the wall. If I went to such a place, I'd obviously be rather surprised if anybody there would try to get a date for lunch to get to know me better. The direct question "Do you want to do XYZ with me" would be rather more appropriate.
    Yet when I go to the "normal" gay cocktail bar or take a break at one of the mall-style rest areas on the Autobahn, that question would mark the person immediately as an idiot.
    That's what a lot of people don't get in this whole debate: It's about context.

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  162. My main frustration with this is not the context, I'm in complete agreement that certain etiquettes should be promoted, rather it's in the delivery and reactions of both initial parties.

    Firstly, I agree that Dawkins was out of line with his rather pretentious rebuttal, in my opinion he should have, at very least, kept his nose out of it. On the other hand, Watson's "disowning" of Dawkins struck me as more than a little juvenile.

    The problem is not so much the reacting as it is the fact that they're both fairly visible members of the skeptic community, and as such have an unavoidable influence.

    In short, I feel the situation could have, and should have been handled with far more maturity. On Dawkin's part, a caustic missive was not only unwarranted, but unproductive. On Watson's part, well.. all I can say is that despite the enormous amounts of respect I have for her activism, I can't help but see the disowning incident as something a teenager might do. As right as she is, it's still a wholly unproductive and irrational response.

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  163. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  164. Just to be clear about my feelings with regard to Dawkin's letter:

    I agree with, what seems like, the majority, in that it was pretty offensive. The idea that he could dismiss a social ill in lieu of another is ludicrous at best. While it's true that, measured against human suffering, one is far more egregious, it does not negate or diminish the fact that the other is a real problem that needs to be addressed. Both problems need addressing, and Dawkin's caustic reaction to Watson for doing so is at very best absurd.

    As an aside: As I've stated before, I'm finding the way that this has manifested to be more than a little disappointing. Both in the reactions of the two primaries, as well as the way in which the discussion has evolved.

    In my opinion, this is much more an issue of respect and consideration than it is of gender bigotry. The actions of the "Elevator Guy" should, as far as I'm concerned, be scorned, and the reasons for such scorn (the inappropriate time, place, presentation, as well as the complete lack of consideration for the feelings of the other party) should be expressed.

    However, I do not believe that this type of consideration should be presented as gender specific. Situations can and do arise on both "sides" and should be repudiated for their content.

    In short, I believe that scorn should be leveled at those who cannot or do not treat others with at least a basic level of respect and courtesy regardless of how the recipient may be classified (e.g. female, male, black, white, straight, gay).

    Just for clarity I'd like to add that when I say respect and courtesy that I do not mean that "we" should avoid offense and/or conflict at all costs. Merely that "privilege" (as it pertains to social interactions) should not be assigned at all.

    (I'm trying my hardest to qualify what I say in order to avoid misrepresentation, but I'm finding the dynamics to be far more complex than my vocabulary allows.)

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  165. @Rod Keller:

    >>"If it’s true that looks is your only criteria, and being treated in a nonviolent, respectful way by the people you bring home is irrelevant to you..."

    >First, you put words and thoughts into people who make sexual requests, then you follow up by putting words in my mouth and attempting to straw man my position.

    Rich from the guy who seems to have ignored my opening statement in my initial post: “Everyone has criteria or standards of what they want/like and what they don't. I guarantee you there is _something_ a person could do to you in a bedroom you wouldn't appreciate.”

    You then said that “looks alone” was a common sexual selection criteria in your demographic. First of all, the offer isn’t looks alone. It’s actually lower than that. My friend I mentioned earlier can’t “perform” unless the legs are to his liking. So a guy who approaches him in a bar saying “wanna get out of here?” who isn’t in shorts, hasn’t even provided him with sufficient aesthetic information to choose on “looks alone.” But you’re saying it supplies YOU with sufficient “looks” info to make that decision. And you admit, the moment you call it a “looks alone” offer, that it doesn’t include any further information for you to judge whether this person is acceptable to you or not as a sex partner. We agree.

    But now you’re objecting when I point out that I think you have MORE requirements than you’re honestly letting on (just as I noted in my first post that anyone likely would). When I suggest you aren’t concerned with mentally stable, nonviolent, respectful, you get annoyed/offended…after labeling the transaction yourself as an agreement to “looks alone.”

    Is “looks alone” all it takes to make a person acceptable as a sex partner to you? Because it sounds now like you’re saying “Well, no.” And I think that’s more honest of you. Is there _nothing_ that would be “unacceptable” to you in a bedroom as long as the person is good looking? I’m getting the impression now that you object to that characterization—and that, of course, you want a partner who isn’t disrespectful, nuts, violent, rude, gross…and whatever else you wouldn’t accept. If there are other criteria that would make them unacceptable, then your list of requirements is NOT “looks alone.”

    So, what you’re actually describing then, is a situation where you admit you have REQUIREMENTS A, B, C, D, and E, to make a partner acceptable to you for casual sex, but you actually accept offers of “A only,” with absolutely NO attempt to confirm your other requirements are included in the offer, and with absolutely NO concern to whether B, C, D and E, that you require, are going to be part of this bargain. Is it reasonable to be surprised if someone says “I think you’re not being very smart about this”? If you think that’s not a fair assessment, then we’ll have to agree to disagree. You seem to be offended I’m saying it’s stupid to accept offers that you admit imply “looks alone” when you actually have far more REQUIRED criteria of which you’re aware, at the time you accept the offer of “A only.” Why would you be surprised that would be labeled something other than "smart"? Or that someone would note it seems to give an appearance of desperation--that you agree to accept less than you want/think you deserve?

    >If you are able to re-read my actual position and address it at face value, I'll continue this, but as it stands you are absolutely not worth my time.

    Again, that's your right.

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  166. "Being socially effective and well liked is no different, but this is a difficult thing for some atheists to get their heads around because a lot of us are -- show of hands, please! -- nerds."

    And that goes both ways, Kazim. For all I know, Rebecca Watson clearly fits your 'nerd' profile. Maybe she is the one who needs to up her social skills and drop the self-righteous whining.

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  167. Nope. In this case it is definitely you.

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  168. It's definitely me? Where's that coming from? Let me guess - from a self-professed nerd who apparently knows his social norms better than any other fellow nerd on here. Hey work with me here alright.

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  169. Just because I said some nerds have a hard time grasping this concept doesn't mean that the outcome is totally arbitrary here. And no, I don't know social norms better than "any other fellow nerd on here" -- there are a LOT of other fellow nerds who didn't have a hard time understanding the concept of respecting people's boundaries and successfully navigating social complexities without being armpit fart guy.

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  170. Kazim back to the chess analogy. Yes, if someone is making a dumb move you tell them; maybe even let them take it back. You don't go post on your blog about what an idiot that guy was.

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  171. Yes, inviting someone over coffee, irrespective of the their actual intentions, is very rude and unbecoming of them. Come on.

    Where and how exactly was he breaching RW's boundaries again? The fact that he got into the elevator with her? Or inviting her for a coffee? All said and done, this guy prefaced his invitation with a "don't take this the wrong way" too. That's not creepy, is it?
    I'm a huge TAE fan, but I'm going with The Amazing Atheist on this one.

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  172. Maybe it's the elevator that scared the bejesus out of RW. Anywhere else on a sunny day, she would have probably gone for it.

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  173. @flame0n
    It's all about context. It was 4AM, in an elevator, in a foreign country. She was tired from talking about how she did not want to be hit on all the time at conferences all day. She had announced to the bar she was exhausted and going to bed.

    Also, he didn't "scare the bejesus" out of her. She was cautious about him, then the next day politely said "Hey guys, don't do that."

    Why is this so hard for people to get?

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  174. Ladies, don't do this....

    http://news.yahoo.com/woman-accused-slicing-off-husbands-penis-144831108.html

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  175. @Tracieh

    If it so helps clarify, change "looks alone" to "On the basis of the limited information gathered by the appearance and mannerisms during the sexual request, which does not stringently mean only aesthetics".

    Yes, appearance is not the only criteria. If someone asks me for sex without saying anything else, I am still making snap judgements on other qualities AND on their appearance. That doesn't change the fact that I object to every assumptious claim you make, unless, you are saying that these are subjective for you, but you are stating "This is what this guy must be thinking". How is this a claim of subjectivity? If you want me to take it as just your opinion, why not state it from YOUR point of view.

    "To approach someone and ask for sex, and not preface that request with any sort of situation in which the other person has been given an opportunity to get to know anything about you, means you have just come up to them and said, "Hey, you look like someone who doesn't any standards at all--care to have sex with someone you know nothing about?" In addition to calling me "desperate"--you're also assuming I'm an idiot."

    If you think I say yes to a snap sexual request and I find signs of trouble that I can't change my mind and leave, that makes no sense. It also doesn't follow that if I find someone physically attractive and say yes on that basis, that I automatically care nothing about any other quality. If the "alone" part was confusing, that's clarification on my actual view.

    Desperate, by the way, is taking an option due to lack of options. If one accepts a snap sexual request, it tells us nothing of what options that person actually has. If that person has dating options but chooses this one, they are disqualified from "desperate".

    My point is that if someone asks for sex, without giving an opportunity to get to know them better, then all the stuff you wrote absolutely does not follow by default.

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  176. @Carlos,

    "I agree the guy in the elevator was probably creepy but this situation is just overblown.

    From what I've read he didn't grope her, even touched her, didn't follow her, stalk her, or harassed her, he certainly didn't try to rape her, kill her, or ANY of the insinuations that have floated around."

    First of all, if I went up to an African-American person and said "man, you niggers are all so lazy," that would be offensive. That would be so offensive I would deserve quite a tongue-lashing to say the least. People would make a big deal about it. And rightly so. Just because I didn't make physical contact with someone doesn't mean I can say whatever I want to them and expect them not to have a problem with it.

    Second of all, you're wrong. He was in the group she was in when she said she was going to bed, so he did follow her to the elevator, which depending on who you ask is borderline stalking behavior as well. He knew that she didn't want to stay up any longer and cornered her in an elevator to ask her to stay up longer anyway. He made no attempt at initial conversation and completely ignored everything she had been saying up until that point. If he had said, "look I know you're tired, want to grab a coffee tomorrow and talk?" it'd be a completely different situation.

    Finally, no one except those mischaracterizing Rebecca's side of the issue have insinuated that the man was trying to rape, kill, or otherwise harm her. The facts are that he was a total stranger to her, many rapists are good at blending in and appearing non-threatened, elevator rapes do actually happen in real life, and there was no way for Rebecca to tell if this guy was a rapist or not.

    "As for "it's not that he hit on her, it's because it was in an elevator at 4am". This is just a bunch of BS. "

    Well, it must be nice to be able to unilaterally dismiss her concerns as "BS."

    "Had the guy not been creepy but instead being charming, funny and swept her off her feet she would be talking about how lucky she was to be there at the right moment when her prince charming was also in that elevator at that hour. "It was just fate!""

    Oh, the old "if things were different, things would be different!" argument. One of my favorites! Yeah, you may be right, but that's not what happened. The guy WAS creepy, and the imaginary alternative scenario you've dreamt up still didn't happen. So how is that relevant at all?

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  177. Kazim back to the chess analogy. Yes, if someone is making a dumb move you tell them; maybe even let them take it back. You don't go post on your blog about what an idiot that guy was.

    Obviously you have never seen a sports blooper reel.

    Hell, just yesterday I was watching a video in which one of my favorite Starcraft II commentators totally makes fun of somebody who plays very, very badly.

    Of course you draw attention to how people play badly, because depending on the situation it can be either instructive or hilarious. Or both.

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  178. Maybe it's the elevator that scared the bejesus out of RW. Anywhere else on a sunny day, she would have probably gone for it.

    This gets my vote for the most obviously, nonsensically trollish and pointless comment on the entire thread thus far.

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  179. It's disappointing to see the Atheist Experience come out on the side of Feminist Rightthink, but at least as rational people we can agree to disagree.

    No wait, I forgot! Not anymore we can, since everyone on the other side is now either a rapist (or at least a rape apologist) or in case of female, a gender traitor (my favourite is gender traitor thanks to the implication that while rapists are generally just locked up, treason is perhaps the most common capital offense of all).

    So yeah, I don't "get it". I'm even guilty of not wanting to "get it". When "getting it" includes internalizing demeaning and denigrating bullshit like the "Schroedinger's Rapist" article, I see no reason to "get it" at all. I don't want even want to be associated with people who think of me (and all men) as a sociopath-until-proven-not, and furthermore want men to think of themselves as such.

    Luckily I'm not the only one and a lot of good people (Dawkins aside) have taken a stand against this kind of dogmaticism that has crept up in the until-recently-rational atheism movement (check out the latest Mr Deity for one).

    A lot of people consider this whole brouhaha a success in that it has smoked out all the misogynists, MRAs and whatnots out of the woodworks but fail to realize that it cuts both ways. A lot of people have had their eyes opened as well to the fact how uncritically rad fem dogma is accepted in many circles, and are appalled.

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  180. This analogy-making is never going to end. Anyone can bring up a situation with the context tweaked in their favor, to an infinite number of possible scenarios.

    Quick propositions are stupid because of the completely universal failure rate. Even worse with the details surrounding the elevator incident. This fact trumps all; don't do it guys.

    Having to point this out on the internet is unpleasant. Fine, I'll take her word it was necessary. Male viewers may have taken it as patronizing. That's OK too.

    Please understand, when other blogs began attaching heavy feminist rhetoric to the situation, it scares us. Dawkins responded clumsily to it, trying to address how out of hand it could get. It was unfunny and unconvincing.

    Men: Take the lesson learned and stop rationalizing pick-ups in elevators. You're just taking that position because you're trying to prove we have been talked down to. None of you would dare pull a stunt like EG now, and you know it.

    Feminists and TAE: Stop using flimsy arguments like male privilege. You're making men feel marginalized, and it has failed to convince anyone. The Privilege Delusion was a bad attempt at reading Dawkin's mind. Understand men have been bothered by a perceived lack of respect. If you don't, this will never end.

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  181. @Matti

    I think you've summed up my personal feelings on this.

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  182. @ Matt and Matti -

    I'm sure that in person you are quite nice and would never deliberately set out to make a person, of either gender, uncomfortable. So, obviously, none of this is TRUE or REAL.

    Poor baby, I'm so sorry you are misunderstood. Come to momma and let me kiss it all better. /sarcasm

    However, if pointing out cultural shortcomings, not specifically directed at you, has you denying them as absolutely impossible, even though you have been told by people with first hand experience and statistics to back them up that they can and do happen as stated, perhaps they are striking your prejudices too close to home for you to be objective about it.

    Matt, speaking for your gender, you "have been bothered by a perceived lack of respect." Well, d'oh! There is a "perceived lack of respect" for women in the atheist community. Not so comfortable on the receiving end, is it?

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  183. Hmm, no idea why I showed up above as "unkown" I"m Gwynnyd, not deliberately being anonymous.

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  184. "Matt, speaking for your gender, you "have been bothered by a perceived lack of respect." Well, d'oh! There is a "perceived lack of respect" for women in the atheist community. Not so comfortable on the receiving end, is it? "

    That's exactly my point. We both have a say in this, and we want this be resolved in a way that is respectful to everyone.

    Maybe you disagree with our objections to the radfem end of this discussion. But don't go "Neener Neener! Now you know how it feels!"

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  185. This is something of what has been said on the web about this elevator guy:

    A- “he sexualized her” (Watson, looking at the comments I would say half of the community, and a lot of the comments on Watson posts)
    B- “he sexually objectified her” (Watson, looking at the comments I would say half of the community)
    C- “he harrased her” (PZ Myers, like half of PZ Myers readers I could be sure)
    D- “he is a sexist” (Amanda Marcotte, a 'good feminist' that Watson links in her post, and of course like 75% of the comments there)
    E- “was following her, and cornered her, to press her to accept the “invitation” ” (frames him as a stalker, Amanda Marcotte, as I count like 90% of the comments there, and a lot of the comments on Watson posts)
    F- “he is a misogynist” (Amanda Marcotte, group of people on PZ blog and in Amanda’s, I would say about 30% more or less, go count there)
    G- he deliberatly intoduced “a whiff of coercion and fear into a situation” to get his dick wet, because he knew and every men really knows, as she explains (Amanda Marcotte)

    Kazim, You tell me as a Sckeptic if there is sufficient evidence to ground these accusations.

    You tell me as a Humanist, that if we don't have enought evidence to ground this accusations we must care for the innocent.

    Telling someone to their face that their actions are uncool or creepy (as they of course were) is not the same thing as shaming them on the internet. The punishment don't fit the offense.

    I hope you sleep well at night, because this guy if innocent and aware of this probably hasn't.

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  186. "Maybe you disagree with our objections to the radfem end of this discussion. But don't go "Neener Neener! Now you know how it feels!""

    Can I facepalm without sounding like a "radfem" to you? How about a "headdesk'?

    Ok - YOU are not a rapist. I believe you. If I attend a conference and the guy in the elevator with me has "Matt Anderson" on his name tag, I promise not to be worried.

    The ENTIRE issue began with a lack of respect for RW. All she said was, "Guys, don't ask women to your room for any reason when you have had no previous conversation especially if the woman has already said she doesn't like that. Asking at 4 am in an elevator just makes it worse."

    The escalation to everything you apparently object to is only in response to nuance-blind men who "don't see the problem" and want women to just shut up about it. Yeah, we get that.

    How can it be "respectful to everyone" if the only apparent option "men" will accept is for all us women to say, "We are so sorry we forgot our place and made men uncomfortable by bringing this up. We promise to let men hit on us any time men want to from now on because we now understand that most men are not rapists and the ones who ask us to their rooms for "coffee" at 4 am are just too clueless to figure out any other way to start a conversation, or they just hope to get lucky and do not necessarily mean anything personal by it. If a woman does get raped that will be too bad." Should there be a corollary that if a woman does not meet the average man's standards of attractiveness, they should scuttle out of the way?

    Or is it only the second sentence of that you want to hear? That's still disrespectful by my standards.

    What is it you do want? What statements by women would make you content that a resolution to this mutual "lack of respect" problem could be achieved? Don't just tell us we are wrong. Spell out *your* idea of a resolution for us.

    Gwynnyd (old school feminist. I burned my bras in 1969)

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  187. "What statements by women would make you content that a resolution to this mutual "lack of respect" problem could be achieved?"

    Well, to start off, tone down. Facepalming or headdesking isn't helping me 'get' your point. Normally I wouldn't care, but we are talking about respectful language.

    Second, don't straw man what I'm saying. I stated that quick propositions are wrong. I even told other men to stop rationalizing it for sake of argument. And I don't know where you got 'unattractive women needing to scuttle out of the way'. Of course women _and men_ should be able to pursue people of different attractiveness.

    The apparent solution to me is men just take the lesson "don't make strange pick-ups in elevators" for what it is, even if we grumble about its obviousness. In turn, women need to stop with hyperbolic rape language, or male privilege ad hominems, and so on.

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  188. Well, I'm relatively new to this whole shitstorm, but I'm already burned out on the whole question of whatever EG did or didn't do. What I find sad about this whole issue is that I think almost everyone on this blog would agree that what EG did was foolish, inconsiderate, and that RW was perfectly reasonable in feeling uncomfortable with what EG did. The majority of the dispute seems to rest on whether or not you believe EG was merely a socially inept doofus or a borderline sexual predator. I say, with the broader issues that need discussion, what does it really matter?

    Is there sexism in the atheist community? Definitely, and I think it's difficult to deny. Just go look at the youtube comments on any attractive female atheist blogger's channel and see how many are comments that are completely oblivious to whatever often insightful argument is being made. It may not be misandry or sexism proper, but it is completely denying her intellect to do so, especially without having at least first commented on the subject at hand. This is the most minor of instances when one compares it to the kitchen jokes, rape threats, and other sexist idiocy that female atheists encounter.

    Now, is EG a sexist pig with predatory tendencies or some poor guy with the social graces of Rainman? We don't know. What we have is a 30 second description of behavior. That's it. Everything else is supposition. In short, we lack conclusive evidence either way, and since this isn't relevant to the larger issues at hand, I strongly suggest we drop it in favor of more productive discussions.

    I do want to discuss, however, why at least I personally was initially offended by RW. What I'm about to say isn't implying that this offense was justified, but I present it merely in the interest of trying to end the misogynist vs misandrist accusations that have been levied.

    I personally was raised marginally Roman Catholic, but my parents were also socially liberal on most issues. I also have OCD, which is now under control, but one result is that I will feel guilty for things that I shouldn't. This, combined with the media environment at the time I was growing up, led to some pretty messed up values with respect to sex. The Catholic Church naturally taught that anything sexual other than reproduction was wrong.

    Meanwhile, I remember growing up hearing many messages about how male sexuality was effectively ruining the world. Eating disorders were blamed on fashion models, which at the time I found attractive, so I felt simultaneously that I was partly to blame. Men manipulated and use women for sex. Women in this narrative were always presented as victims, and when you combine this with what Catholic school taught me about sex, sex was just a bad thing. As embarrassing as this is, I didn't have a girlfriend until I turned 19. We actually went out for a few months before doing anything beyond kissing, and the first time we seriously made out, I cried when we were finished because I thought I had somehow hurt her, even though she initiated and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.

    Now, where does this fit into my reaction to RW's initial post? I had no problem with her feeling uncomfortable with what EG did. I thought her response of "don't do that" was perfectly reasonable. Then, however, she then stated he sexualized her. To me, this term implies that he dehumanized her and objectified her in some way. While it might be a hasty and irrational reaction, I saw "request for coffee" = sexist, dehumanizing man, and all of a sudden all of the issues I had tried to work through popped back up. Suddenly, it felt like all that pent up negativity was being placed back on me, but this time it was by one of our own. If asking someone for coffee was bad, then what about finding women sexually attractive? Does that make me a sexist prick? Naturally, this wasn't RW's intent, and my psychological baggage brought this on.

    cont.

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  189. While I'm sure my personal experiences regarding sexuality may be extreme due to OCD, I at the same time I'm sure I'm not the only person here who had society and religion give him or her a negative view of sexuality. Add this into other experiences, such as women growing up with the possible threat of rape (and while I don't have that fear, I do know what it is like to grow up in an area where violence if prevalent), we have an explosive mix of psychological factors that I think have come into play here and have reduced the ability of people (not everyone) on both sides of this issue.


    I think we can all agree that sexism is bad. While I don't think we will all necessarily agree on what constitutes sexism, I think we can all agree that it is happening within our community, and it needs to be addressed. However, given the context of the situation being discussed here, I both sides can agree that there is a middle ground in which individuals of all genders can feel respected and appreciated while still giving us room to also pursue romantic opportunities like mature adults.

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  190. @Brian

    "if I went up to an African-American person and said "man, you niggers are all so lazy," that would be offensive."

    Riiight... ask your black female friends (if you have any) if being proposed in a hotel elevator at 4am is A) offensive and B) anywhere near as offensive as someone walking up to you and saying "You niggers are all so lazy!"

    The silliness of "if things were different"...

    Tell an oppressed woman who's pointing out the double standard she lives in that "your silly argument of 'if I was a man I wouldn't be treated this way' is just ridiculous, of course things would be different if things were different!"

    Let me ask you, would anyone come in the defense of a somewhat-famous white dude who makes a video telling how uncool and creepy it is for a black woman to try to flirt with him in a hotel elevator at 4am, how scared he was that this black woman was just trying to mug him right there, and as a warning to black people: you have to be sensitive to the feelings of white people, you don't know how threatening it is for whites to be in an elevator with a black person?

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  191. @VigilanteNighthawk

    I more or less agree with your reaction to the video in that I have no problem in her pointing out that the guy came out as creepy and advise guys not to do it. Hell, *I* would use it as an example of how not to hit on a girl.

    The problem is that in the video she uses the elevator incident as an example of the misogyny problem she sees in the community. After all, being proposed on an elevator can only mean the guy is misogynistic pig who thinks of women as objects. Moreover she explicitly labels as a misogynist anyone who doesn't agree with her (in that there is a problem) and of course thanks the good and decent people who do agree with her.

    Now I admit it's a very good tactic that of demonizing people who disagrees with you (it has worked wonders for religions), so I won't be a Scrub and just tip my hat to her :)

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  192. @ MattAnderson - You say -

    "The apparent solution to me is men just take the lesson "don't make strange pick-ups in elevators" for what it is, even if we grumble about its obviousness. In turn, women need to stop with hyperbolic rape language, or male privilege ad hominems, and so on."

    So, men should try to remember to be polite in social situations, but they are allowed to grumble, and women, even if they feel generally second class and often uncomfortable, should never try to explain why they feel that way?


    @ Carlos who said "Let me ask you, would anyone come in the defense of a somewhat-famous white dude who makes a video telling how uncool and creepy it is for a black woman to try to flirt with him in a hotel elevator at 4am, how scared he was that this black woman was just trying to mug him right there, and as a warning to black people: you have to be sensitive to the feelings of white people, you don't know how threatening it is for whites to be in an elevator with a black person?"

    I think the issue is that your white guy just spent the day explaining to all and sundry, including the black woman who stood back and just watched him, how off-putting he finds random propositions from strangers. When this black woman gets into an elevator with him and propositions him anyway, she begins the conversation with the phrase "Don't take this the wrong way", showing that she knows that what she says next will be unacceptable. He finds her creepy and it makes him uncomfortable because she obviously knew and still did not respect his stated boundaries and he says so in a video. Someone else makes it about race and the fear of mugging by a black person so it blows up out of all proportion.

    Race and gender have very little to do with the main issue. It's a RESPECT issue. All the rape stuff was only brought up because the clueless didn't understand why *any* woman would find a 4 AM invitation to "talk and drink coffee in my hotel room," from a stranger who waited until they were alone in an elevator to make the proposition, to be creepy and unacceptable.

    I'll put on my mom hat and remind you that it is ordinary politeness to do things that make the people near you feel comfortable. If they come right out and tell you they are uncomfortable because of something you are doing, it is rude and pointless to tell them you are not doing anything to make them uncomfortable. They ARE uncomfortable, regardless of your intent. It was hard enough to say that to you because they, too, were brought up to be polite and make the people around them feel comfortable. If you still want to associate with them, at least take them at their word and talk to them about the issue or the behavior with the possibility in mind that you might have to change what you are doing. (Notice that this is carefully ungendered. It makes no difference who is doing what and who is made uncomfortable by it.)

    Gwynnyd

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  193. "So, men should try to remember to be polite in social situations, but they are allowed to grumble, and women, even if they feel generally second class and often uncomfortable, should never try to explain why they feel that way? "

    I'm not really in your guy's conversation here, but this was a complete strawman.

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  194. @Brian:

    > no one except those mischaracterizing
    > Rebecca's side of the issue have
    > insinuated that the man was trying to
    > rape, kill, or otherwise harm her.

    No, but Rebecca herself did say: "I don't appreciate being sexualized that way." How does she know he was "sexualizing" her? Someone's (gut) feelings do not constitute fact.

    @VigilanteNighthawk
    > Now, is EG a sexist pig with predatory
    > tendencies or some poor guy with the
    > social graces of Rainman? We don't know.
    > What we have is a 30 second description
    > of behavior. That's it.
    > Everything else is supposition.
    > ...
    > I had no problem with her feeling
    > uncomfortable with what EG did. I thought
    > her response of "don't do that" was
    > perfectly reasonable. Then, however, she
    > then stated he sexualized her.

    Exactly this. RW was giving a factual account which includes her personal feelings, but closed off with an accusation of her being sexualized, assigning an intention to Elevator Guy that she can not possibly know is there. A whole community of people gets dragged along in this speculation and before you know it, the guy's a rapist.

    I'll Occam the shit out of this situation and say the guy was just inept, pending evidence of the guy, you know, *actually sexualizing her*.

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  195. @Unknown/Gwynnyd

    I think you're missing a nuance. Men should not do a specific behavior because it always fails. Politeness/being offended is a non-existent in this case.

    I keep elaborating on this, then deleting what I write, so I'll just leave it at that for now.

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  196. I just saw an article on Psycology Today describing EG and the ElevatorGate incident. Is it safe for me to conclude that this has gone to batshit insane levels of overblown?

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  197. I come to post one last thing. Does anyone know if Rebecca Watson actually agrees with some of the people claiming this was sexual assault and implied rape? I see in her article "the privilege delusion" she sites Amanda Marcotte's piece, in tacit approval, about how men who proposition women in elevators are implying they will rape her to grease the wheels towards sex. Pretty disappointing I can't find anything by Rebecca clarifying her stance on it given she directly linked to it in her main post and seems to have read it.

    The whole thing bugs me because it seems so sketchy to link to these types of articles but never come out and say whether you support them or not, like an under the table high-five or something.

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