It looks like “Elevatorgate” Challenge #1 is petering out. There were a few takers, a few trolls, a bunch of denialism (including some claims that made me literally LOL), and numerous abject failures, including three guys who decided they’d rather not post on my blog than abide by the terms of the challenge. No one has managed to state in a clear, straightforward manner that the situation as described in all its details by Rebecca was “zero bad,” much less explain why.
Now it’s time for a new challenge.
Today’s challenge has to do with the letter I wrote to Richard Dawkins explaining, at his request, why his comments on this situation were harmful and worthy of an apology. Actually, it has to do with the way I addressed Dawkins in the letter.
A small group of people who gathered together to concentrate their bile have been challenged to stop using female genitalia as insults. They’ve presented two defenses of this that I’m aware of. The first is that they weren’t aware of the origin of the words, which stops being an excuse the moment it’s uttered. To the best of my knowledge, however, the insults haven’t abated. The second defense is that, well, I called Dawkins a penis by making the salutation of the letter “Dear Dick.”
As an aside, let me note for the record that in the three months since I wrote that letter, not one person has asked me what it meant. Luckily, I don’t have to wait for permission to speak on the topic. And the answer is quite simple.
In case you were unaware, “Dick” is the British diminutive form of “Richard.” In the U.S., it might also be “Rich” or “Rick,” but in the UK, we’re down to basically “Dick” for common choices. So that was what I used.
Yes, it was an insult. It was a calculated one. Dawkins presumed the familiarity to talk about what a simple thing it is to get away from someone in an elevator. I presumed the familiarity to call him “Dick.” It was a signal that I and the others who signed the letter were not approaching him as supplicants, but as equals, no matter how respectful the rest of the letter was.
It was calculated in another sense as well. It was possible that Dawkins would be insulted enough by the use of the diminutive form of his name that he would want an apology. As a matter of diplomacy, I was entirely prepared to give him one–as it wouldn’t leave him the only person in this mess proffering an apology. I was even prepared to be the only person proffering a requested apology, if it came to that, as that’s a fairly powerful social position to be in.
So no, I didn’t call Richard Dawkins a penis. I don’t think there’d be any point to that, as penises are nice, interesting little organs, just like their female counterparts. Calling him by the diminutive form of his name meant something.
Given all that, the second challenge is this: All of those throwing around “twat,” “cunt,” “snatch,” etc., you now know you’ve been doing it based on a false presumption that you never bothered to check out. Given that, how many of you are willing to state outright that you’ll stop right now? How many of you are willing to apologize to Rebecca for your mistake?