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“Elevatorgate” Challenge #2

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?

Any takers?

Comments

  1. julian says

    There isn’t going to be an apology. The moving factors behind calling Rebecca Watson a cunt, bitch ectectect wasn’t just to get across their disdain for her as a human being. (Sadly we still choose to demean women by reminding them they’re promiscuous or have smelly vaginas.) Much of it was to assert their right to call anyone anything they please. It was sorta a backlash against the censoring they faced around the more feminist oriented blogs that had no desire to put up with that kind of trolling and harassment. (One example of this was a gentleman over at Pharyngula that after a few posts devolved into demanding everyone present ‘eat a bag of dicks.’)

    Like Tristan mentioned in the last Challenge, being the /b/ generation and being the kinds of people that don’t care what happens to an ‘enemy’ they ‘poked it with the biggest stick they could find.’

    So yeah, Ms Watson should not expect any kind of apology. They don’t see their behavior or treatment of her as wrong. They don’t see themselves as in anyway responsible for how she may be feeling. To them ‘no one has the right not to be offended’ means they can say, do and behave however they want without repercussion.

  2. H-Bomb says

    Do you think it will be the same trolls who try and come answer this one? And, of course, by answer I mean try to turn the whole thing around and say that you were, despite your repeated statement otherwise, calling Dawkins a penis.

  3. bad Jim says

    I had three uncles named Dick (born in the early 1930′s). It seems that the name is no longer in use, and it may not have been entirely Nixon’s fault.

  4. DavidByron says

    I guess they don’t teach this in feminist skepticism 101, but you don’t actually win a debate by banning all the other people.

    Btw? I am British and you’re wrong about the “Dick” thing. However congratulations for finally admitting that you were deliberately insulting Dawkins on line one of your letter (thus ensuring the rest was never read of course), by calling him “dick”.

    Seriously though that shows good integrity (the apology). People find it really hard to say they were wrong. That’s much more true in these gladiatorial situations. I’m really delighted to see you do this :)

    I am not being snarky there. I observe a lot of this stuff and it’s really rare for anyone to apologise over anything.

    I…. don’t think I ever called Watson names because I just never saw her as the real issue in any of this. I see it as an ideological issue not a personal thing.

  5. bad Jim says

    Since it’s pretty quiet here, I’ll add a pointless anecdote. When I first started swearing my father took me aside and told me not to use those words around my mother. He also told me that there was one word I should never use. I’d never heard it before and promptly forgot it, but I’m fairly sure it was “cunt”.

    It seems clear by now that it’s considered stronger in the U.S. than in the U.K., but there’s no denying that it’s meant as an insult, whether applied to a woman or a man, and that if it weren’t misogynist it wouldn’t be an insult.

    To me and my friends, growing up in the 50′s in suburban Washington, D.C., the most forbidden word was “nigger”. I remember looking over an enormous wall map at a friend’s house and sniggering when we found “Niger”. It was inconceivable to us that it would be there, even with the slight difference in spelling.

  6. says

    Dick, Frank, Jimmy, Johnson, Peter, Rod, Wang, and Willy might be tired of people laughing about their names. Well, here’s another famous Dick for them to ponder: Navckid Keyd. And let’s not forget that eight years of hell we just got through with that was shaped in a large way by the most powerful Dick of them all. “Dick” is actually a highly respectable name on its own, but calling Richard Dawkins that does carry a bit of disrespect I think, the equivalent of calling PZ “Paul” (as Blackford did) or Rebecca Watson “Becky”. Acting inappropriately familiar with another person by shortening their name is generally a way of bursting their bubble of importance; it doesn’t necessitate putting one’s head in the gutter for that to be understood.

  7. says

    Sorry for the little diatribe I posted on the other thread — DavidByron got under my skin with his claim that rape “doesn’t happen”.

  8. says

    Well, I think we all know that if Stephanie had called him “dear Richard”, they’d be claiming that using his first name and not all of his titles is worse than throwing any gendered insult they can think of at RW. After all, she deserves it and he’s a brave hero for men’s rights*

    *I’m wondering, is Mr. Dawkins by now mightily ashamed of what people claim him to be their MRA hero and about the positions that are somehow “supported” by his stance?

  9. says

    I’ve had mixed feelings of this issue, on the other hand I understand both sides, but the style of not letting a bit of understanding to opposite side seems to me immature.

    Fortunately I found a skeptic woman who had a wise summary post of Elevatorgate. (<–Recommended!)

    I added their blog to my RSS feed immediately (in addition to you other freethoughtbloggers).

    Greetings from Finland! :-)

  10. TheOtherLilith says

    You sound like Marie goddamned Antoinette. You’re just so *entitled* to everything. I stopped having anything to do with public facing secularism because of this nonsense from people that write gibberish like this, and your endless tantrums because the other kids won’t take you seriously. If I ever backslide, I know where to come to get a nausea top up.

  11. karmakin says

    I think the argument that’s going to be here, given the last few posts, is going to dance around the concept that calling someone a misogynist or saying they did something misogynistic is just as bad as calling someone a gendered insult.

    You’re seeing a judgement based upon actions to a judgement based upon having certain body parts. A sort of equivalent “both sides do it” sort of thing, when they’re not equivalent at all. It’s apples and oranges. Now maybe the judgement based upon actions is wrong. Maybe someone just made a mistake. It’s not black and white, of course. Nothing ever is. But it’s nothing close to putting down an entire gender either forwards or backwards.

    But isn’t “dick” the same? Sorry, but that word has nowhere near the same hate attached to it as the other words. In terms of its offensiveness, it’s about a 3/10. The terms used on the other side were about a 7-8/10. (For what it’s worth, I would consider the term “bitch” quite a bit tamer than those words as well..probably a 3-4/10 as well)

    In short, if someone says what you’re doing is misogynistic, and you respond saying that you’re 100% not one and that implication is deeply offensive, you’re probably protesting too much.

  12. Tristan says

    That’s your story and you’re sticking to it, huh? That you called a guy “Dick” on the Internet, and expected him and everyone else to realise that you were simply using the diminutive for Richard, and not calling him a dick. On the Internet.

    If that’s truly the case, then there’s something very, very important I need you to do.

    First, you need to unplug your modem and take it back to the store. Then you need to call your ISP and tell them you’re cancelling your account. When they ask why, tell them you’ve realised you’re far too naive to be on the Internet, and that maybe you’ll try again in a few years once you’re a bit wiser.

    I mean, Jesus fuck. On the Internet.

  13. says

    Tristan, not everyone on the internet is you. Why am I not surprised that we already have two people who failed the prior challenge commenting here–without either of them even trying the challenge? Get on topic or get out.

    WMDKitty, no apology necessary.

    Timo, you’re needed at Challenge #1. There are currently no takers.

    TheOtherLilith, thank you for sharing.

  14. says

    Also, everybody, please don’t feed the trolls on this one. Don’t argue anything thing here that isn’t more appropriate in Challenge #1, and don’t get dragged off topic. Nobody trying to have an argument here without taking on the challenge is trying to do anything but suggest the challenge is invalid and that there are more “important” things to talk about. Of course there are–elsewhere. This is a challenge.

  15. coldflesh says

    I thought the “Dear Dick” title was quite clever, worked on many different levels and I don’t really see a problem with it. It was classier then the whole “Twatson” thing which strikes me as more then a little bit childish and crude.

    That being said…
    What you mean by your choice of words and how people interpret them are two different things as has been debated endlessly on various blogs in the aftermath of elevatorgate.
    Let’s say for the sake of argument that you honestly didn’t intend the “Dear Dick” to be a gendered insult, at the very least you must have been aware that others might perceive it as one. If you are aware that others may take offense by your choice of words it doesn’t matter what your intentions are, you are accountable for using them anyway. So I don’t think this challenge holds up in that sense.

    Oh, and for the record, I don’t use words like “cunt” ot “twat” (or their swedish equivalents) as insults directed at people since I also think they are nice, interesting little organs.

  16. says

    @Stephanie:

    sorry but you ruled me out from that challenge #1 in the rules (‘If you’re among the people who think what happened was “zero bad”, … ‘).

    I certainly think that it was an unpleasant experience. But I also think like jesusfetusfajitafishsticks said behind my link (hope you had time to read it through).

    I’m quite a shy guy in female company (in the beginning, when I don’t know them) and on my single days in 80′s and then again in 90′s I remember always trying to gather courage to talk to somebody. So I assume EG had a few drinks and thought to have a last minute try thinking that nobody will know anyway. ^_^ He did a dummy thing, I’ve done (and will do) those and the same applies to most men and women everywhere.

    So generalizing and analyzing too much a shortly described situation that all people interpret their own way won’t reach a mutual understanding. Ever.

    Most people will probably stop talking about it and the ones who got the last words think they won, but nonetheless everybody keeps their own opinions (hopefully some adjust it a little bit towards the opposite way though).

    Friday! :-D

  17. says

    Timo, even the people in Challenge #1 who didn’t say “zero bad” couldn’t manage all the details of the incident in their explanations. Do you really want everyone here to believe that you have listened to a woman talk about how she doesn’t find your (as a stranger) sexual interest flattering, hates being hit on by you (as a person at a conference), is tired and wants to go to sleep, and then still followed her into someplace where she was isolated and trapped in order to invite her back to your hotel room without having spoken to her prior to that point? Are you claiming that’s what shy guys just do?

    coldflesh, there is being responsible for my words, and there is being responsible for the use people make of them. Anybody who felt personally insulted by my use of “Dick” because it sounds like “penis” is also welcome to ask for an apology. That’s not limited to Dawkins. I have yet to see anyone say that they are, however, and I’ve read an awful lot of the commentary on this.

    What I have seen is people using what I said to make an argument about what is considered acceptable in our corner of society. I did it, so they must be able to as well. Well, no, actually, I didn’t. Will they now stop? That is the challenge.

  18. csrster says

    Given the transatlantic difference in usage, is it still ok to call Richard Dawkins a twat or, indeed, a tit? (“Cunt” would be overstating it and is best reserved for bankers and Tory politicians.)

  19. Quietmarc says

    I remember reading the letter and thinging the “Dick” thing was a little (a LITTLE) crass, knowing that it is a diminuative for Rochard and all that. But it was replying to comments from Dawkins that were very, very crass and offensive, so I took it in the spirit of matching tone for tone.

  20. Quietmarc says

    I remember reading the letter and thinking the “Dick” thing was a little (a LITTLE) crass, knowing that it is a diminuative for Richard and all that. But it was replying to comments from Dawkins that were very, very crass and offensive, so I took it in the spirit of matching tone for tone.

  21. says

    Why would you? You’d still know you were telling a huge number of people either that Dawkins is a rather nice, desirable thing or that female-specific body parts aren’t.

  22. Vicki says

    “Dick” is not an obsolete form of “Richard” in the U.S. either. A recent Republican leader calls himself “Dick” (rather than Rick, Richard, or Rick): I’m sure some people giggled over “Dick Armey,” but it didn’t stop him winning elections.

  23. says

    @Stephanie

    There’s a lot of if’s in this case – that was a stupid thing for him to do, but the background information just tells what she had been talking in public, not if the guy heard/understood/cared about it.

    Alcohol is a common cause of stupidity, so I better not try to guess what was a guy whom I don’t know thinking. So I can’t give the final truth of what shy guys do.

    IMO this discussion is based too much on generalization and those thing everybody thinks a bit differently, so arguments go too easily to wrong direction and heated discussion is born.

  24. says

    That’s well summarized, I haven’t done that kind of things and wouldn’t do it.

    But I can also understand how somebody could act that way – after my divorce my ex-wife advised in our discussions (we really separated as friends) that it never hurts to ask, as somebody might say yes. So maybe EG is a bit stupid and didn’t realize how bad timing & plazing he had.

    I didn’t get though what you thought about the opinions of that skeptic AL-woman (my link). I found some good points there.

  25. says

    Timo, I think the opinions at your link are essentially irrelevant, as they don’t accurately describe what Rebecca said. How can they be a relevant opinion of Rebecca’s stance if they distort it, either intentionally or because they’re based in ignorance? That’s what Challenge #1 is all about.

  26. says

    I’ve understood that Rebecca didn’t like the situation, said it and in my opinion that should be acceptable for all.

    In that linked text (at least I understood that) she agreed to Rebecca’s feelings, but the most of the text handles the way that others have raised this issue to something much bigger and also partly different.

    The thing I’m now wondering is that what’s the _target_ of this discussion and challenges etc? What should be written / happen so that everybody would be happy with the result?

    This is your blog so you’ll have the last word. :-) Have a good weekend!

  27. says

    Stephanie Zvan,

    The next time you wish to indicate to a person named Richard that you are using a diminuitive name for him because of his sexist behavior, and you have no intention of making an insult by reference to male genitalia, might I suggest you use “Dickie” or “Dicky”.

    You are an obviously an intelligent, thoughtful poster who chooses words carefully. Since you have stated you had no intention of addressing Dawkins as male genitalia, I take you at your word. While you did not specifically say you did not even notice what the term you chose to use might mean, I would even take you at your word that you did not notice it until after the letter was sent. However, I find it hard to believe that you would expect people reading the letter to see that you are indeed such a capable writer and yet presume the reference was unintentional. This does not excuse anyone using foul language toward you, of course, and those people that have should apologize for that language, regardless of your intentions in using the diminutive. However, the mistake of thinking you were intentionaly making such a reference does not seem to merit an apology.

  28. says

    One Brow, the next time I am addressing a bunch of giggling 12-year-olds instead of an Oxford scholar who knows what his name is, I will keep your advice in mind. In return, I suggest you refrain from telling people they’re out of line for requesting apologies they never requested.

  29. says

    Oh my, add Cock to that list of names for men that can mean penis: http://amy34.livejournal.com/106066.html

    And Timo, it is a little hard to take seriously the delusion that Greta Christina and Jen McCreight are part of an outspoken group called Fem-Corp that claims to speak for all women, but the JFFF blog author ironkidd did have a couple suggestions in the conclusion that weren’t too bad and kind of echoed what Paula Kirby said.

    However, I don’t think it is patronizing for PZ to tell men to shut up and listen to the women for once in their lives. ERV talked about how using a misogynistic slur in place of Rebecca’s name was a tripwire (and to that I say, “Suuuuuurrrre…”); well, when PZ says “Shut up and listen!” to all the Menz, that is also a sort of tripwire. The way I see it, men who aren’t going on and on on his blog about how overlooked men’s issues are on threads about women’s issues are not the people he is talking to. No, he is addressing MasCorp™, people who won’t shut up about how bad men have it no matter what the topic, when he does that.

    Then there is this:

    I’m infuriated that they speak as though they have found the sole cause as to why there aren’t as many women involved in the atheist movement.

    Well, I’m sure more women will want to be involved now that they can see that if they slip up and join Fem-Corp or don’t bring a scientific POV as an invited speaker or decide to take on, face-to-face, a challenge brought by another woman or dare to make acquaintance with the top brass in the atheist movement that they will be ridiculed with every sexist epithet imagineable and harassed on blogs, online videos, and other social media.

  30. says

    34. Stephanie Zvan says:
    One Brow, the next time I am addressing a bunch of giggling 12-year-olds instead of an Oxford scholar who knows what his name is, I will keep your advice in mind.

    Very kind of you. After all, since your stated initent was to use a diminuitive form, using an even more diminuitive would of course be more effective.

    In return, I suggest you refrain from telling people they’re out of line for requesting apologies they never requested.

    How many of you are willing to apologize to Rebecca for your mistake?

    That’s not a request for an apology? Did you spend the whole post saying that you did not intend to refer to Dawkins as male genitalia, and then mean some other mistake here? Were you saying their language choice was a mistake (I would have used rude, foul, juvenile, pointless, sexist, and ignorant, but I don’t think it is of a category to qualify as a mistake)?

    Also, to be clear, just because I don’t think the people who made one particular mistake owe you an apology does not mean I think you were out of line for asking for an apology. I have no idea of the conversations you have had with posters on this and other blogs. I don’t know what they have accused you of. I’m not particularly interested in hunting all that down. Your request for an apology is likely quite justified in the general nature of the conversation, and definitely with regard to some of the language I have seen. I apologize for giving you the impression that I was trying to tell you to limit your requests in this area. That was unintentional, and I will endeavor to write more carefully.

  31. julian says

    Are you claiming that’s what shy guys just do?

    sigh

    Yeah, it is. At least this shy guy.

    Something about being able to get them away from everything else will for once put the two of you on the same level. Looking back I can’t believe I missed how fucked up that is.

  32. says

    This does not excuse anyone using foul language toward you, of course, and those people that have should apologize for that language, regardless of your intentions in using the diminutive. However, the mistake of thinking you were intentionaly making such a reference does not seem to merit an apology.

    One Brow, I have not requested that anyone apologize for being mistaken in what I meant. I’ve suggested that they apologize to Rebecca for hitting her up, down, and sideways with slurs that suggest that (1) she is meaningfully reduced to her genitalia and (2) there’s something bad about female genitalia. That any of that was a mistake was a fiction on their part. Calling it a mistake is a polite fiction on my part, giving them an easy out to back away from their behavior if they’re so inclined.

    So far, there are no takers. Understand any better yet?

  33. says

    Thank you for the explanation. I believe I understand what you meant now.

    If the people who used foul language toward Ms. Watson were in any way rational regarding this subject (they may be rational in other areas, of course), they would have been convinced by now. Hence, I expect no apologies to be forthcoming.

    Just to say, I really do like your blog. I hope I have not irritated you.

  34. Rudi says

    Stephanie, you are claiming that referring to Richard Dawkins as “Dick” – not his usual nickname, lest we forget – was in no way related to the gender-based insult “dick”, meaning penis. If you are sincere in this claim, can you at least sympathise with those who might be a little, well, skeptical about it?

    Further, do you think it likely that all the others who wrote to Richard were similarly unaware of the double-meaning? Assuming not, do you feel there may be an element of hypocrisy in these people then complaining about the use of the word “twat”?

  35. says

    Rudi, are you suggesting I should be doubted because I didn’t address a letter “Dear Darwin’s Rotweiler”? Or that anyone, anywhere in this discussion is actually incapable of recognizing the diminutive form of “Richard”?

    Or that a bunch of victims of rape and sexual assault signed on to a letter because they thought it meant they were calling some guy a penis? Some of those people have penises, you know. I suspect they rather like them.

    Nor am I unaware of what words mean in different contexts. I have no doubt that some people first read it as “Dear Penis,” then gave it a moment’s thought and got serious. In fact, I assumed that some people would read it that way–and that I would get some useful information out of noting who then refused to get serious. I was right about that, for the record.

    Now, as to whether I’m sincere: Listen, you whiny little concern troll who lacks the basic integrity needed to smear someone in declarative sentences instead of weaselly rhetorical questions. If I’m going to insult you (and given your display of reading ability, I should point out that I’m insulting you), it will be on the basis of what you’ve done, not by some powerless association with a piece of anatomy that requires the idea that sex is bad to derive the least iota of impact.

  36. Rudi says

    Rudi, are you suggesting I should be doubted because I didn’t address a letter “Dear Darwin’s Rotweiler”? Or that anyone, anywhere in this discussion is actually incapable of recognizing the diminutive form of “Richard”?

    I’m suggesting that people may find it hard to take your claims at face value because:

    (a) you are an English-speaking adult and are claiming to have been previously unaware of using an extremely common derogatory term (and one that had hitherto been used frequently in skeptical circles, cf. Phil Plait);
    (b) “Dick” is not what Richard Dawkins is normally called.

    If it is entirely true that you never considered you were using a gendered insult, then that’s fair enough, but you must at least accept there are plenty of grounds on which people will naturally be skeptical about this assertion. You are part of a skeptical community. Skeptical people are skeptical about things. You can’t have your skeptical cake and eat it – either you accept skepticism for what it is, and be prepared to have the things you say challenged, or you don’t.

    Now, as to whether I’m sincere: Listen, you whiny little concern troll who lacks the basic integrity needed to smear someone in declarative sentences instead of weaselly rhetorical questions.

    Why would I want to ‘smear’ you? Huh? For what it’s worth, I am actually on your side on this (to the extent that I agree with what Rebecca said in her video and thought Dawkins was wrong), and think your “zero bad” challenge is a good one.

    But it’s this sort of reaction – immediate lashing out to only the mildest queries – that encapsulates my growing disquiet with certain people within the skeptical movement. Your immediate assumption was that, through the simple act of being SKEPTICAL about something you wrote, that I must be some sort of troll. I didn’t even say I disagreed with your post. I merely drew your attention to certain issues which you seem to be eliding.

    Your reaction is not only risible and discourteous – it indicates a profound lack of the very thing that I thought was supposed to set the atheist/skeptical movement apart: a willingness to debate, to re-evaluate, and – where necessary – explain where people are wrong. I’m happy to be wrong on this. Are you?

    (And no, the questions weren’t rhetorical, and I would still be very interested to hear an answer to them.)

    If I’m going to insult you (and given your display of reading ability, I should point out that I’m insulting you), it will be on the basis of what you’ve done, not by some powerless association with a piece of anatomy that requires the idea that sex is bad to derive the least iota of impact.

    Well, you say that, but you’ve already insulted me as a “troll” even though I am not one (at the very least, I am sincere in my intention not to be).
    Let me ask – if people have questions about something you have written, would you rather they keep those questions to themselves? Or would you prefer the opportunity to clarify and, if appropriate, modify your position?
    I’d like to believe it’s the latter, but based on your initial response I’m struggling to do so.

  37. says

    Rudi, nowhere have I claimed to be unaware that “dick” is slang for “penis” or that it is used as an insult. I said that I did not use it that way. If you don’t believe me about that, (1) don’t misrepresent what I said and (2) have the courage of your convictions to tell me straight out that you don’t instead of just sort of leaving open the possibility without standing behind it.

    Nor did I “lash out at” you. I demonstrated what I do if I want to insult someone. In case you still don’t understand, I told you that I don’t call them penises.

    I have already answered your first question, despite your insinuation (more of that, I see) that I don’t want questions on my blog. Your second question was conditional on the first being answered in the affirmative. It wasn’t.

    And you are definitionally concern trolling.

  38. Tristan says

    So you truly are sticking to your story that “Dear Dick” had nothing whatsoever to do with the commonly-accepted slang meaning of “dick”. That, amidst a sexually-charged argument and in the immediate wake of the (minor, by comparison) furore over “Don’t be a dick”, that it’s everyone else who’s wrong for reading this into it?

    Do you have any idea just how stupid this makes you sound – whether or not your story is true? If you’re currently lying, and expecting anyone other than a handful of people to buy it, well, that’s pretty dumb. If you’re not lying, and you’re actually upset at people drawing the obvious conclusion and reacting accordingly? Well… I’ll just let Ophelia say it:

    Absent or incomplete theory of mind.

    Perfectly acceptable in someone under the age of 4. In an adult, somewhat more problematic.

  39. says

    No, Tristan, what I’ve already said is:

    In fact, I assumed that some people would read it that way–and that I would get some useful information out of noting who then refused to get serious. I was right about that, for the record.

    You’re simply another data point. And still a failure at Challenge #1.

    Nothing about that letter was impromptu or impulsive. It was read by plenty of people before being posted. Given who would be cosigning it, it was important to get things right.

    I explained to Richard Dawkins that he was publicly wrong in some ways that should be fairly embarrassing to him. Nearly a hundred people from a restricted group joined me in telling him that. Why would we need to call him a penis on top of that?

  40. Rudi says

    Rudi, nowhere have I claimed to be unaware that “dick” is slang for “penis” or that it is used as an insult. I said that I did not use it that way. If you don’t believe me about that, (1) don’t misrepresent what I said and (2) have the courage of your convictions to tell me straight out that you don’t instead of just sort of leaving open the possibility without standing behind it.

    I don’t disbelieve you. I am skeptical. It’s not the same thing.

    You claimed that you didn’t consider, for one moment, the gender-insult inherent in calling Richard Dawkins “Dick”, even though it isn’t his name. Couple this with your nonsensical assertion that in the UK “Dick” is a more common diminutive than “Rich” or “Rick” (we both know that’s not true) and the claim inevitably starts to look shaky. Nor does it help that you won’t even acknowledge that it DOES look a little bit strange.

    But, on the other hand, it would seem to require an almost superhuman amount of chutzpah to go on the record with this claim if you WEREN’T being entirely honest. So on the sheer balance of probability I would guess you’re being sincere. But my instincts might well be wrong, and this is part of the point you seem obstinately to be refusing to acknowledge. If something doesn’t quite seem to add up, it is incumbent on us as skeptics to challenge one another, and it is right and proper that we do. Isn’t it?

    Nor did I “lash out at” you. I demonstrated what I do if I want to insult someone. In case you still don’t understand, I told you that I don’t call them penises.
    I have already answered your first question, despite your insinuation (more of that, I see) that I don’t want questions on my blog. Your second question was conditional on the first being answered in the affirmative. It wasn’t.

    With the greatest respect, you haven’t answered the first question.

    I asked if you could understand why there might be grounds for skepticism over your claims. You haven’t answered this one way or the other. You’ve created the strawman that I am calling you a liar, reasserted that you are telling the truth, and then ignored the follow-on question about the obvious potential for hypocrisy.

  41. Tristan says

    Your “challenges” are unwinnable in the same way that Kent Hovind’s $250,000 evolution challenge was unwinnable. No matter what the attempt, words will be twisted, details added and goalposts shifted to make sure it fails. That’s transparently obvious.

    It’s also very interesting to note that you brook absolutely no middle ground. There’s no acknowledgement of interesting points, no room for discussion – everything is either 100% on your side or abject failure. This is not a feature of a healthy, reasonable debate.

  42. says

    Stephanie, I fear you are now in the same boat as Rebecca Watson in the eyes of those you have challenged. No matter how much you tell them that you were calling Richard Dawkins by his name just like Blackford called PZ by his name, they won’t believe you–because you are a feminist woman and they apparently don’t trust feminist women just like they insist that Rebecca Watson made the whole thing up or is lying about some significant detail that would acquit EG of any creepiness or wrongdoing. Not only that, but if they did come back to reality and admit that Dick is a valid and perfectly respectable diminuitive form of Richard, then they might feel less justified in all their sordid namecalling.

  43. says

    Watch, I’ll win it right now. Rebecca Watson, I am truly sorry for all those times I called you twat, cunt, snatch, et cetera.

    (Never mind that I’m not qualified to take this challenge because I’ve never called her those names.)

  44. Tristan says

    If the Bible is true and inspired by God, will you get down on your knees and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour?

    So all I have to do to win challenge #2 is to abandon all skepticism, accept a basic premise that is unevidenced and patently absurd on its face, follow that up by accepting a line of faulty reasoning, and finish by apologizing for something which, even if I was one of the people who had done it, is an entirely trivial insult which any mature person would simply laugh off?

    OK, I stand corrected. Challenge #1 is unwinnable. Challenge #2 is just stupid.

    Coming from someone who, while not using such insults himself, can tell the difference between true misogyny and petty, juvenile insults born out of frustration at the failure of rational debate.

  45. julian says

    You claimed that you didn’t consider, for one moment, the gender-insult inherent in calling Richard Dawkins “Dick”, even though it isn’t his name.

    But she did. She stated so more than once on this very thread.

    “In fact, I assumed that some people would read it that way–and that I would get some useful information out of noting who then refused to get serious. “- Stephanie Zvan

    Ms. Zvan was perfectly aware that someone (myself for example) would read it as ‘Dear Penis.’ She expected many of those defending Richard Dawkins and blasting Rebecca Watson to do so.

  46. says

    If you’re not using those insults yourself, then why are you complaining about Challenge 2, Tristan?

    And why are you talking about accepting absurd premises as articles of faith at all? I see no such request, even in Challenge 1 where the challenge is to assume Rebecca’s not lying and continue to argue that Elevator Guy’s actions are just peachy. There’s no evidence to suggest that Rebecca IS lying, and I (and others) contend that it is an extraordinary claim to state that such a mundane event as she’s described cannot possibly be true.

  47. says

    Rudi, I apologize. I meant second and third question, not first and second. As for whether I have any sympathy for the poor, confused folk? Well, I have some sympathy for anyone who doesn’t know me well who might have been confused. I have none for anyone who, without asking whether that was what I meant, used it as a justification for being hateful. I have none for people who insist I must be lying about what I meant about something based on their personal incredulity.

    No, I don’t know that my assertion about “Dick” being the common diminutive in the UK as compared to the U.S. is “nonsense.” Having grown up with a brother named Richard who had poor anger-management skills, I’m fairly sensitive to the usages. That doesn’t mean my experience is universal, however. What makes you think a different diminutive is preferred in the UK?

    Nor did I ever claim “that [I] didn’t consider, for one moment, the gender-insult inherent in calling Richard Dawkins “Dick”, even though it isn’t his name.” First, there is nothing inherent about that “gender-insult.” Second, I’ve already told you, and told Tristan after that, that I considered the issue.

    By the way, congratulations on calling me a liar in the same comment in which you accuse me of erecting the straw man that you’re calling me a liar. That’s a nice touch.

  48. julian says

    accept a basic premise that is unevidenced and patently absurd on its face

    That ‘Dick’ is a shortname for ‘Richard?’

    follow that up by accepting a line of faulty reasoning

    That it’s possible to call someone ‘Dick’ without meaning penis?

    is an entirely trivial insult which any mature person would simply laugh off

    Eh?

    So it’s immature to expect someone slinging juvenile, as you call them, insults at someone to apologize?

  49. Tristan says

    Small correction: to be a proper analogy, that last comment should of course start: “Given that the Bible is true…”

  50. says

    Tristan, Challenge #1 goes beyond what Jason said. It specifically stipulates that you don’t have to believe the premises, that you won’t be held to them later if you take up the challenge. All you have to is explain what Rebecca’s story, with the details as she told them, equates to “zero bad.” It’s a very simple, straightforward request. You couldn’t do it without eliding details.

  51. says

    Ah, I see, Tristan’s missing the point of the first challenge. The point, as I see it, is that without dropping details (as Stephanie says you must in 59), it is impossible to treat the situation as zero bad. You must therefore impugn Watson’s character by calling into question aspects of her story, no matter how mundane they may be, if you intend on continuing to call it zero bad. Therefore, you’re forced into levels of hyper-scrutiny that the events do not merit if you intend to keep your belief that it’s zero bad.

    I wonder how many people have been forced into cognitive dissonance by these facts? I’d guess none. Dissonance requires cognition.

  52. says

    Also, the fact that you understand it’s unwinnable, Tristan, suggests that you understand that it’s impossible to believe “zero bad” without first doubting some aspect of the story. Call it a presupposition that Watson must be lying about something.

  53. julian says

    If the Bible is true and inspired by God, will you get down on your knees and accept Jesus Christ as your lord and saviour?

    heh

    This was actually a fun thought experiment that helped me realize I wasn’t so much an atheist as someone who refused to submit and rejected a supreme source of morality. If I were stranded in the Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk, I’d still have the same moral out look regardless of what any of the gods would do to me.

  54. Tristan says

    I’m pretty sure I clearly said in challenge 1 that, given all the premises, elevatorgate was as close to zero bad as makes no difference to me.

    Anyway, my primary reason for posting here has nothing to do with defending anyone. It’s to point out that you should fucking know better. You, who would like to represent yourselves as leaders of the freethought/skeptic movement, are instead behaving in a manner almost precisely analogous to the Catholic Church – minus the child abuse, of course.

    Re-defining as mortal sins things that are, at worst, minor transgressions (the use of genitalia-based insults) or completely natural (questioning claims which, on the surface, don’t seem to add up)? Check.

    Fostering a rigid, 100% “for me or against me” mindset on matters where a range of perfectly reasonable viewpoints are possible? Check.

    Turning on and ejecting from your midst valuable and previously feted community members for the unthinkable crime of disagreeing with and questioning other community members? Check.

    You’ve become a sad parody of an actual skeptic community.

  55. Tristan says

    … or, put another way, the question “how dare you question the integrity of a valued member of the skeptic community?” is as utterly ridiculous as the line from the recent remake of Around the World in Eighty Days:

    Monique La Roche: Where’s your proof?
    Lord Kelvin: This is the Royal Academy of Science! We don’t have to prove anything!

  56. julian says

    I’m pretty sure I clearly said in challenge 1 that, given all the premises, elevatorgate was as close to zero bad as makes no difference to me.

    If I remember right, you didn’t actually call it zero bad. You put genital mutilation at the far end of a spectrum and then relegated egate (by comparison) to level zero alongside rudely chewing gum. I asked if you could elaborate a little by listing some examples of 5′s.

    Anyway, that wasn’t the challenge. The challenge was explaining why EG’s proposition for sex was zero bad given the four points listed.

    It’s to point out that you should fucking know better.

    Know what better?

    Re-defining as mortal sins things that are, at worst, minor transgressions (the use of genitalia-based insults) or completely natural (questioning claims which, on the surface, don’t seem to add up)?

    1) No one is calling it a mortal sin to use gender based insults. People have been arguing that using cunt and femaleness as insults is like using race as an insult but that’s different from calling it a mortal sin. (Many also believe the same of using maleness as an insult.)

    2)What claims don’t seem to add up? Ms. Watson’s story? Ms. Zvan’s use of ‘Dick’ in her letter to Richard Dawkins?

    Fostering a rigid, 100% “for me or against me” mindset on matters where a range of perfectly reasonable viewpoints are possible?

    Where? If you mean Ms. Watson’s conduct that’s demonstrably false. If you mean in the use of ‘privilege’ that’s also demonstrably false. If you mean in the use of gendered slurs, unless you mean not allowing them on your blog, also complete bs. So, please, stop the side sniping. If you have something to actually constribute, please do so.

    Turning on and ejecting from your midst valuable and previously feted community members for the unthinkable crime of disagreeing with and questioning other community members?

    Such as…?

  57. julian says

    how dare you question the integrity of a valued member of the skeptic community?

    Eh?

    Tristan, why do you keep resorting to hyperbole?

  58. says

    the question “how dare you question the integrity of a valued member of the skeptic community?” is… utterly ridiculous

    Yes it is. Good thing no one here thinks that. Maybe you should get a mirror, Tristan.

  59. says

    Yes, Tristan. It’s quite clear that the only reason you’re here is to denigrate me. Given that I haven’t actually done any of the things you accuse me of, what isn’t clear is why you think I deserve that–aside from me not agreeing with you on this issue.

  60. Rudi says

    Rudi, I apologize. I meant second and third question, not first and second. As for whether I have any sympathy for the poor, confused folk? Well, I have some sympathy for anyone who doesn’t know me well who might have been confused. I have none for anyone who, without asking whether that was what I meant, used it as a justification for being hateful. I have none for people who insist I must be lying about what I meant about something based on their personal incredulity.

    You still don’t seem to grasp the difference between “I’m skeptical” and “I think you must be lying”.

    Is this distinction a genuine difficulty for you?

    No, I don’t know that my assertion about “Dick” being the common diminutive in the UK as compared to the U.S. is “nonsense.” Having grown up with a brother named Richard who had poor anger-management skills, I’m fairly sensitive to the usages. That doesn’t mean my experience is universal, however. What makes you think a different diminutive is preferred in the UK?

    The fact I live there?

    Now, clearly, anecdotal evidence goes only so far, but I know a heck of a lot of Richards who prefer “Rich”, a few who prefer “Rick”, and no-one who prefers “Dick”. Now this may be a freakishly unrepresentative sample (want a bet?) but it nevertheless shows your original assertion “In the U.S., it might also be “Rich” or “Rick,” but in the UK, we’re down to basically “Dick” for common choices” to be flatly untrue.

    What was this assertion based on?

    Nor did I ever claim “that [I] didn’t consider, for one moment, the gender-insult inherent in calling Richard Dawkins “Dick”, even though it isn’t his name.” First, there is nothing inherent about that “gender-insult.” Second, I’ve already told you, and told Tristan after that, that I considered the issue.

    Rereading your first, highly bilious reply, I can see you did say you “assumed that some people would read it that way–and that I would get some useful information out of noting who then refused to get serious”. Fair enough, sorry I overlooked that.

    In that case, then, your contention is that you did consider that calling him “Dear Dick” could be construed as “Dear Penis”, and were happy to take that risk on the basis that anyone who called you to task for that could be dismissed out of hand for not being “serious”.

    Unfortunately, Stephanie, it doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to be the arbiter on how your work is scrutinised. If you are going to demand people apologise for using gendered insults to a female, then you can expect to be challenged if you have used a gendered insult to a male. There are reasonable grounds to think you have done so here, and the fact you admit you were aware of the potential to be construed in that way shows – at the very least – you were content with the possibility of it happening. The difference between this, and openly calling Richard Dawkins “a dick”, is pure sophistry. Additionally, I note you called James Randi “a dick” in your previous blog.

    Wouldn’t you agree therefore that taking people to task for using the term “twat” seems somewhat hypocritical?

  61. says

    What was this assertion based on?

    I’ve already answered this as well.

    As for the rest of your comment, no, it is not “pure sophistry.” It is what happened. It has been explained, now, so that no one has their confusion to use as an excuse anymore. There is nothing hypocritical about noting that their behavior going forward is entirely their own responsibility once they have an explanation. They may choose to reject that explanation, as you seem to, but that is still their choice.

    Ah, Randi. I was wondering how long it would take for that to be brought up and whether the person who did would note (1) that it was in the context of DBAD, with the terminology already set by Phil Plait, and (2) that it was a compliment, not an insult. Now I know. I’m unimpressed.

  62. Rudi says

    I’ve already answered this as well.

    I’m sorry, but you really, really haven’t.

    You asserted that ‘Dick’ is more common than ‘Rich’ or ‘Rick’ in the UK. This assertion, as anyone who resides in the UK will agree, is false.

    Therefore, I ask again – what did you base this assertion on?

    As for the rest of your comment, no, it is not “pure sophistry.” It is what happened. It has been explained, now, so that no one has their confusion to use as an excuse anymore. There is nothing hypocritical about noting that their behavior going forward is entirely their own responsibility once they have an explanation. They may choose to reject that explanation, as you seem to, but that is still their choice.

    You knew there was the potential for “Dear Dick” to be interpreted as a gender-insult, and you decided that you were happy to be misconstrued in this way, rather than say, simply write something else and avoid the potential for causing offence. As such, no-one need to misinterpret or over-analyse anything you say to draw the conclusion that, at the very least, you were sanguine about the possibility of causing offence with a gender-centric epithet.

    As I say, the difference between this, and actually just openly using the insult, is the purest sophistry.

    Ah, Randi. I was wondering how long it would take for that to be brought up and whether the person who did would note (1) that it was in the context of DBAD, with the terminology already set by Phil Plait, and (2) that it was a compliment, not an insult. Now I know. I’m unimpressed.

    Look, I read the article, it was obvious you were praising Randi for his film. Regardless of how you may protest about the context, though, it remains a fact that you used a gender-centric epithet that many would consider to be highly offensive. You still called him a dick.

    If I wrote an article in praise of one of your stories and rounded off the article by calling you a “twat”, by way of a compliment, would that be OK? If not – why not?

  63. Rudi says

    ‘Dick’ came before ‘dick’. Yeah…and? That invalidates anything I’ve said how, exactly?

    Seriously, Jason, that was as impressive as a creationist linking to AiG by way of disproving evolution. Depressingly pathetic.

  64. says

    Only if AiG ever had anything well-researched and factual, which it does not. Are you suggesting that Straight Dope has the origin of the shortened name Dick wrong? Because if you actually read it, you’ll find that it discusses the Oxford English Dictionary quite a bit which, last I checked, places the origin squarely in UK domain.

  65. julian says

    You knew there was the potential for “Dear Dick” to be interpreted as a gender-insult, and you decided that you were happy to be misconstrued in this way, rather than say, simply write something else and avoid the potential for causing offence.

    I think the point was to see who would focus on the substance of the letter and who would obssess over the word ‘Dick.’ There’s nothing particularly insulting about the letter or how Richard Dawkins was addresed unless you want to see it that way. Plus Ms Zvan’s willingness to apologize if one is ever requested make this such a non-issue I don’t get why so many are focusing on it.

    And that’s coming from someone who rolled his eyes first time seeing the title.

    If I wrote an article in praise of one of your stories and rounded off the article by calling you a “twat”, by way of a compliment, would that be OK? If not – why not?

    The words used don’t seem anagolous (from my understanding of them.) Twat should be bitch in this situation. Twat, in my experiences, is never positive, whereas bitch is used by some women to affirm their assertiveness. Dick is sometimes used by men the same way.

  66. Pteryxx says

    Also, unlike “dick, “twat” is never a commonly used version of a given name. ERV notwithstanding.

  67. says

    I’m sorry, but you really, really haven’t.

    Actually, I have, in fact. I told you that my impressions were based on my experience, just as your impressions are based on your experience. Because I live in the U.S., that experience may be filtered in such a way that is it unrepresentative. There may be a generational difference in usage, or a class difference, such that what makes it across the Atlantic to someone whose reading and viewing tastes are mildly Anglophilic wouldn’t see usage that represents the mainstream. I’m pretty sure you don’t all sound like Monty Python or upper-class twits, either.

    My experience of the usage may be wrong. Nonetheless, it is my experience. Telling me it’s unrepresentative still doesn’t change the fact that this is what I relied on at the time.

    You knew there was the potential for “Dear Dick” to be interpreted as a gender-insult, and you decided that you were happy to be misconstrued in this way, rather than say, simply write something else and avoid the potential for causing offence.

    Yes, I was absolutely tickled pink to know that some people who would think my letter started “Dear Penis” and use that as an excuse to both write off the rest of the letter and pile abuse upon someone whose work and company I appreciate. Uh-huh.

    Grow up.

    Rudi, there is nothing I can write that won’t be misconstrued by some people. Nothing. Some people don’t want to understand me. They’d rather argue with me. Some of them will go so far as to fail to read what I’ve written, then tell me I haven’t already written it. (Yes, I’m talking about you as well.) That’s why I keep this link handy.

    No, I am not happy. I am not sanguine. I am aware it will happen and that nothing I can do will keep people from being perverse.

    Given that, I am not going to allow my writing to be held hostage to people who don’t want to understand it in the first place. I did not write that letter for people who weren’t going to pay attention to it. I wrote for Dawkins and for the people who signed it. I wrote it so that it would get through to a larger audience than that, giving the considerations listed in this post. I didn’t spend much time and attention on the people to whom it would never get through, aside from that moment of realization that I would at least know who they were by their reactions.

    As for Randi, he did not suggest that he felt demeaned by my usage when he read my post. As with this situation, I am perfectly happy to apologize to anyone who does feel that what I said, in context, demeans them as a man. If I were not, then there would be hypocrisy in asking that others do the same, but I am not asking anyone to do anything I wouldn’t do.

  68. says

    Jason Thibeault says:
    Ah, I see, Tristan’s missing the point of the first challenge. The point, as I see it, is that without dropping details (as Stephanie says you must in 59), it is impossible to treat the situation as zero bad. You must therefore impugn Watson’s character by calling into question aspects of her story, no matter how mundane they may be, if you intend on continuing to call it zero bad.

    I’ll agree that approaching a strange woman in an elevator is never “zero bad”.

    Outside of that, had he approached Ms. Watson in, for example, the lobby, it would be quite plausible to say “zero bad” without calling Ms. Watson’s character into question. All it requires is that ElevatorGuy did not hear everything Ms. Watson said. I believe her when she describes what she said, but do not see how she can vouch for what ElevatorGuy heard.

  69. says

    One Brow, if Rebecca were telling people something should be done about EG, your point would be vital. What she actually did was tell people not to do what she described, which makes the details of what she described paramount.

  70. says

    Stephanie Zvan,

    I have offered no doubt regarding Ms. Watson’s details, to the degree that Ms. Watson can actualy know such details. Did she specifically describe ElevatorGuy as hearing something (as opposed to her saying something), and if she did, how does she know what he heard (as opposed to what she said)?

  71. says

    82. Stephanie Zvan says:
    One Brow, how do you know when you have a crowd’s attention?

    To my knowledge, I have never had the attention of a crowd in a bar. So, I have no idea how I could know that another person heard my comments in a bar, unless that person was at my table. How would you suggest I know that I have their attention (if they are not at my table)?

    Is it reasonabler to infer ElevatorGuy heard her comment on the panel? Sure.

    With regard to the first challenge, it specifically says what ElevatorGuy heard comments in the bar. How does anyone besides he know this?

  72. says

    It’s quite possible Ms. Watson has said she saw ElevatorGuy looking at her in the bar whaile she was talking, and I am not aware she has made that comment. Has she said that?

  73. says

    Crowds often have different discussions going on at the same time. Of course, its quite possible Ms. Watson was the center of attention in the crowd. Is that how she describes it?

  74. says

    Of course, its quite possible Ms. Watson was the center of attention in the crowd. Is that how she describes it?

    One Brow, if you go back to Challenge #1, you would see this:

    1. Elevator Guy attended the “Communicating Atheism” panel at which Rebecca said…

    She was a panel speaker at the conference. Wouldn’t a speaker at a conference naturally garner more attention than others? Not only that, but what did “I find you interesting” etc. mean, then?

    Anyway, I don’t see how you can say it was OK for EG to do that even if he didn’t know anything about her. She isn’t some piece of meat. He waited till she was tired, innebriated, and alone at a time when very few people would be awake to put this burden of refusal on her shoulders. Is that something you are comfortable with people doing to you?

  75. says

    Aratina Cage says:
    She was a panel speaker at the conference. Wouldn’t a speaker at a conference naturally garner more attention than others?

    Sure. Does that mean that everyone in the crowd was paying attention to her, or merely that the group she was conversing with would have been larger than other groups? Was ElevatorGuy a part of Ms. Watson’s group?

    Not only that, but what did “I find you interesting” etc. mean, then?

    Does it need to mean more than he saw/heard her speak on the panel, and then saw her from across the room at the bar? Is there any reason that needs to mean, specifically, that he heard the statments made in sections 2 and 3 of the first challenge?

    To be clear, Jason Thibeault said, “You must therefore impugn Watson’s character by calling into question aspects of her story, …”, and I am pointing out that, outside of making his approach in the elevator (which I agree was bad), you do not need to impugn Ms. Watson’s character in order say ElevatorGuy had no intention of disregarding her preferences. You only need to recognize that her sayhing something is compatible with his not having heard her say it.

    Anyway, I don’t see how you can say it was OK for EG to do that even if he didn’t know anything about her. She isn’t some piece of meat.

    I suppose there are men who think of casual sex partenrs as pieces of meat, but I don’t know the ElevatorGuy is among them.

    He waited till she was tired, innebriated, and alone at a time when very few people would be awake to put this burden of refusal on her shoulders.

    So, if he had approached her before she left the bar, or right after the panel, that would make it zero bad for you? For you, this isn’t about his ignoring her statements, but about time/place/location? I’ve already pointed out in #79 that I agreed on that.

  76. says

    One Brow, Rebecca is an accomplished and experienced public speaker. She was in the bar until 4 a.m., by which time of the morning, crowds tend to get pretty sparse. If she says he was there and heard her talk about being tired of being hit on, I can’t find any reason to doubt her–except some weird desire to think, “Well, maybe it wasn’t so bad as all that.”

  77. julian says

    It’s interesting watching One Brow work. His/her strategy seems to be question every aspect of the story and, because this is a personal experience related by someone as opposed to some documented lab test, the situation will eventually come into doubt. Very effective.

  78. says

    Stephanie Zvan says:
    One Brow, Rebecca is an accomplished and experienced public speaker. She was in the bar until 4 a.m., by which time of the morning, crowds tend to get pretty sparse.

    I’ve only closed a couple of bars in my life. None were so small that I would claim everyone else in the room could hear me.

    If she says he was there and heard her talk about being tired of being hit on, I can’t find any reason to doubt her–except some weird desire to think, “Well, maybe it wasn’t so bad as all that.”

    I typically refuse to attibute to malice what can be easily explained through ignorance and stupidity.

    Also, I would distinguish “it wasn’t so bad” from “he didn’t mean to make it bad”. I know it was a bad experience for Ms. Watson, and one she should not have been put through. However, attributing ignorance and stupidity to ElevatorGuy instead of malice, I find no reason to think that he wanted her to be uncomfortable or intimidated.

  79. says

    julian says:
    It’s interesting watching One Brow work. His/her strategy seems to be question every aspect of the story and, …

    I have not questioned that ElevatorGuy sat in a panel where Ms. Watson spoke, and heard what was said in that panel. I have not questioned one detail of Ms. Watson’s recounting that it would be possible for her to know — not her statements in the bar, not experience in the elevator, not her reaction to the event.

    Of course, if by “every aspect of the story” you meant “knowledge of whether ElevatorGuy actually heard the two comments in a bar”, then you are correct, but I find your choice of wording very confusing. I’m also confused why doubt on that one particular point would indicate a general doubt of the situation. Could you elaborate on that, please?

  80. says

    One Brow, you’re getting deeper and deeper into denialism. Rebecca said he was part of her crowd. You’ve already been told that. You have no reason to deny what Rebecca said except that you don’t want EG to have done something bad. If you want to think that, go right ahead. However, understand that you’re deciding that you know better than the person whose experience it was.

  81. Vicki says

    OneBrow:

    The possibility that EG was ignorant or stupid rather than malicious is a very good reason for Rebecca Watson to have said “Guys, don’t do that.” So the ignorant (and maybe even the stupid) would learn that this was a bad idea, and not do it.

    Ignorance is not a crime. It isn’t even stupid. And providing information to correct ignorance is a good thing.

    That’s not true of insisting that educating people is a horrible offense against, er, something-or-other worthy of harassing emails. If someone warned you that the drivers in a particular city were especially reckless, would you take offense if you didn’t even live there?

  82. says

    @One Brow

    So, if he had approached her before she left the bar, or right after the panel, that would make it zero bad for you?

    Hmm, I don’t know about “zero-bad” since it sexualized Watson so abruptly. She was a thing that could give him a good time, never mind the time, the place, the unfamiliarity, etc. EG sprung it on her with hardly an out at all in terms of the conversation alone! And as you say, he had to have pretty much ignored what she had been talking about for the whole day if he truly had not heard that she didn’t want to be bothered in that way at that time, which means he still would have been treating her more like an object of affection than as a human. (Or as Scented Nectar brilliantly put it on Greg Laden’s blog, she bored him so much that he wanted to get to know her better over coffee… *SPROING* [the sound of an irony meter exploding].)

    So, for me it is at least those two things: the entire approach was horribly well thought out and yes it did come off as creepy and he should not have done it that way no matter who the person was, and also he did not respect the vocally stated and repeated personal boundaries of the person he supposedly admired or even inquire into what they were before barging in with the proposal.

    The other level of this whole discourse is that women should be free to attend atheist conferences without being accosted for sex or intimacy. Straight men might not see it as a big deal, but then they aren’t usually the ones who get hooted and hollered at, positively or negatively, while walking down a public street in broad daylight. Wouldn’t it be better for women at atheist conferences to get a reprieve from that?

  83. says

    Stephanie Zvan says:
    Rebecca said he was part of her crowd.

    If ElevatorGuy was in close proximity to Ms. Watson while she was talking, it quite reasonable to assume he heard her. Simply being “in the same crowd” does not mean they were in proximity nor in the same conversation. I’ve been seated right next to someone on my left, but because I was talking to a person on my right, I didn’t follow the conversation that the person on my left was having at all.

    You have no reason to deny what Rebecca said except that you don’t want EG to have done something bad.

    In #79 I acknowledge he did something bad by approaching her in the elevator, and I reiterated that in #90. So, I think your accusation that I am basing my answer on wanting to say he did nothing wrong is unfounded.

  84. says

    Aratina Cage says:
    Hmm, I don’t know about “zero-bad” since it sexualized Watson so abruptly. She was a thing that could give him a good time, never mind the time, the place, the unfamiliarity, etc.

    You are imputing a very callous attitude. I have no doubt that this is based on experience. I find the imputation neither unlikely to be true nor justified to the point you can assume it is true.

    The other level of this whole discourse is that women should be free to attend atheist conferences without being accosted for sex or intimacy.

    I’ll agree Ms. Watson was accosted. But why leave out men? Is it OK to accost men? I think people have a right not be accosted. People should be treated respectfully, with an appreciation for their boundaries.

  85. says

    You are imputing a very callous attitude.

    What do you mean? Is that the first thing out of someone’s mouth you expect to hear at a conference that isn’t explicitly for the purpose of hooking up?

    I have no doubt that this is based on experience.

    Oooo–K. Believe what you will about me, but I’m really not getting how you think that walking up to someone at the bar, per your imaginary setting, and asking them if they want to go back to your private room for whatever reason is treating that person like anything more than a means to whatever end you have in mind. It’s self-centered. How does it take into account the person you are propositioning as a person?

    But why leave out men? Is it OK to accost men?

    That is not what this discussion is about. This discussion is about women having to go through this crap at atheist conferences–NOT MEN.

    I think people have a right not be accosted. People should be treated respectfully, with an appreciation for their boundaries.

    Duh. All people except women or in some cases except Rebecca Watson, you mean, according to the people being challenged here.

  86. Munkhaus says

    Zvan “If she says he was there and heard her talk about being tired of being hit on, I can’t find any reason to doubt her”

    Except shes face blind remember? How does she know he was there? How does she know anyone was there? Shes FACEBLIND!

    Zvan and friends… you are a very funny joke. This thread is hilarious watching you try to squirm and wriggle your way out of common sense.
    Keep at it!

  87. says

    I think your accusation that I am basing my answer on wanting to say he did nothing wrong is unfounded.

    No, One Brow, it’s based on this:

    I typically refuse to attibute to malice what can be easily explained through ignorance and stupidity.

    It’s also based on the fact that you’re working very hard to believe your own imagination over the considered opinion of a person whose job it to understand when people are paying attention to her–and who was there when you were not.

    Munkhaus, are you next going to tell me that a deaf person can’t possibly know what anyone who isn’t speaking sign language is saying? People compensate for their disabilities, you know. They don’t just give up and go helpless. Rebecca may be face-blind. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t recognize outfits or haircuts or ages or other distinctive features that aren’t faces. In fact, she’s said that she finds those kinds of features very helpful in recognizing people.

    Common sense doesn’t help you a lot when you’re dealing with the uncommon. You actually have to think things through. However, if you can’t be bothered to do that, you might at least want to refrain from crowing about it.

  88. says

    101. Aratina Cage says:
    What do you mean? Is that the first thing out of someone’s mouth you expect to hear at a conference that isn’t explicitly for the purpose of hooking up?

    I mean in equating something like hokking up with terms like “meat”.

    Oooo–K. Believe what you will about me,

    I have no beliefs about you, except for insights you offer through the positions you take and the choice of words you use.

    but I’m really not getting how you think that walking up to someone at the bar, per your imaginary setting, and asking them if they want to go back to your private room for whatever reason is treating that person like anything more than a means to whatever end you have in mind. It’s self-centered. How does it take into account the person you are propositioning as a person?

    OK, you don’t get it. I get how a transaction can be intended to be mutually beneficial, as opposed to merely self-centered, with the intention to give pleasure as well as receive it. You don’t. I’m OK with that.

    That is not what this discussion is about. This discussion is about women having to go through this crap at atheist conferences–NOT MEN.

    I agree that it is more of a problem for women than for men. I think making the language deliberately exclusive, when you would agree in general principle it should be inclusive, can come across as accusatory.

    Duh. All people except women or in some cases except Rebecca Watson, you mean, according to the people being challenged here.

    I agree such people are to be condemned for their language and opinions expressed toward other people.

  89. says

    Stephanie Zvan,

    First, I concur with you about Munkhaus’ error. Nicely said.

    One Brow: I think your accusation that I am basing my answer on wanting to say he did nothing wrong is unfounded.

    No, One Brow, it’s based on this: I typically refuse to attibute to malice what can be easily explained through ignorance and stupidity.

    Are you saying that if I think he actions were a combination of ignorance adn stupidity, than I must think they were not wrong? If so, I disagree. I see no conflict between saying they were wrong and also possibly borne of ignorance and stupidity. If you do see such a conflict, please expand upon that.

    On the other hand, if you were not making that implicaiton, I did not understand you point.

    It’s also based on the fact that you’re working very hard to believe your own imagination over the considered opinion of a person whose job it to understand when people are paying attention to her–and who was there when you were not.

    If Ms. Watson has said how she was aware that ElevatorGuy heard her statements in the bar, it’s quite likely that I’d believe any plausible reason (he was at her table, she noticed he was staring at her, etc.). So far, all I’ve heard is “in the same crowd”. I acknowledge that I have not read a tenth of what has been said on this issue, and that it is quite possible you have a link at your fingertips where Ms. Watson made such a remark. If so, I’ll be happy to acknowledge the evidence.

  90. says

    @One Brow

    OK, you don’t get it. I get how a transaction can be intended to be mutually beneficial, as opposed to merely self-centered, with the intention to give pleasure as well as receive it. You don’t. I’m OK with that.

    This attitude some men have that you describe here, that they are a gift to every woman and so should be able to lay the question on her cold, is a part of the problem I think. Are you OK with that kind of attitude? Shouldn’t someone interested in mutual benefit be more considerate?

    I mean in equating something like hokking up with terms like “meat”.

    Don’t you see how the above attitude isn’t looking at a woman as a person but as something to be consumed or used (like a piece of meat)? Oh, sure, the man who thinks he is irresistable won’t see it that way. To him, she’ll luuuuuuuv it of course; they always do.

    I think making the language deliberately exclusive, when you would agree in general principle it should be inclusive, can come across as accusatory.

    I guess this is a difference between us. I do not share that view. I wish to help make things right for minorities first and foremost. The people in the majority (in this case, men) have their power and their privilege over women already. Pretending like they don’t isn’t something I am interested in doing.

    I agree such people are to be condemned for their language and opinions expressed toward other people.

    Cheers to that!

  91. says

    And if what EG did was truly a mistake and he thought for some strange reason that he and Watson had already connected on some friendly level (which is highly doubtful given how Watson remembered the proposition going), he should have apologized to her right away on the elevator for putting her in that situation and not paying due consideration to her feelings. He should have offered an apology to her when she said it was creepy experience for her on the first YouTube video about the incident. He should have apologized to her for letting this thing get out of hand like it did. He should have told Dawkins it wasn’t “zero-bad” and taken responsibility for it.

    But has anyone heard from this guy? No. I don’t have much sympathy for someone who would watch as tons of trolls on the Internet take a woman to task for something he did to her.

  92. Munkhaus says

    “But has anyone heard from this guy?”

    Good point; maybe he doesn’t exist. [gasps! Heresy!]
    Didn’t Watson use the faceblindness as an excuse for not outing him? Now Zvan reckons she could identify him after all. Which is it?

    ” I wish to help make things right for minorities first and foremost”

    Women aren’t a minority where I live.

    “He should have told Dawkins it wasn’t “zero-bad””
    Not if it was zero bad.

  93. says

    Munkhaus conflates ability to recognize someone in the short term by virtue of what they’re wearing with ability to recognize them in the long term to out them. Or a willingness to out them for what was a minor transgression used to illustrate a larger point. Never mind that if she ever did, Munkhaus’d scream about how evil she was to harass the poor dear.

    Women are a very slim majority population-wise, but they hold a minority position with regard to power and privilege. People like Munkhaus relish the ability granted them by this privilege to be a dick in public and not get called out on it. I’m depriving him of this privilege by calling him out on it.

  94. says

    As much as I hate responding to a troll from Twitter who I have blocked (which you are, Munkhaus, don’t you deny it!), 1) Well, I suppose Watson made the whole thing up then, right? [Note I did not say he should be outed. I said that I wouldn't have much sympathy for him right now if it had truly been a mistake on his part since he has not made any effort to rectify the situation. That doesn't mean he needs to out himself or even go public about it!] 2) Dear troll, look up the “minority group” on Wiki P. 3) Dawkins was as wrong about that as he was smug.

  95. says

    Aratina Cage says:
    One Brow: I get how a transaction can be intended to be mutually beneficial, as opposed to merely self-centered, with the intention to give pleasure as well as receive it. You don’t.

    This attitude some men have that you describe here, that they are a gift to every woman and so should be able to lay the question on her cold, is a part of the problem I think.

    I will agree that “laying it on her cold” removes a lot of romance. On the other hand, I don’t think that taking extra time to “warm her up” is an indication of a lack of self-centeredness. By the way, both “laying it on her cold” and “warm her up” strike me as sexist language, treating the woman as something to be manipulated, so I’m going to avoid using them. However, so far you have indicated that you regard such encounters as inherently sexist (please correct me if I have misunderstood), so I expect no such restraint from you. At any rate, when a direct question is done with sensitivity, with consideration for the woman’s comfort in saying no, and with an understanding that ‘No means no’, then I don’t see such a proposition as inherently indicating that the man is either expecting a favor (the woman is “meat”) or doing a favor (“a gift for every woman”).

    Are you OK with that kind of attitude? Shouldn’t someone interested in mutual benefit be more considerate?

    I don’t see a direct proposition as being inherently inconsiderate, or less considerate, depending on manner, place, and time.

    Don’t you see how the above attitude isn’t looking at a woman as a person but as something to be consumed or used (like a piece of meat)? Oh, sure, the man who thinks he is irresistable won’t see it that way. To him, she’ll luuuuuuuv it of course; they always do.

    When I help a stranger jump their car, or they help me, I do see them as something to consume, but a person with whom I shared an experience that we both enjoyed. I don’t see why sex has to be otherwise.

    I guess this is a difference between us. I do not share that view. I wish to help make things right for minorities first and foremost.

    Consider this: if you convince a man that something is in his own interest, he will be more likely to go along with your recommendations. Inclusive language is one means of accomplishing that. If everyone is free from harrassment, then women in partiular are free from harrassment. I’m not saying you shouldn’t point the disparity. Just that making the solution more inclusive will make it a better sell for reaching the same goal.

    And if what EG did was truly a mistake and he thought for some strange reason that he and Watson had already connected on some friendly level (which is highly doubtful given how Watson remembered the proposition going), he should have apologized to her right away on the elevator for putting her in that situation and not paying due consideration to her feelings.

    I agree. He should not have propostioned her in the elevator to begin with, and should have apologized right away.

    He should have offered an apology to her when she said it was creepy experience for her on the first YouTube video …

    If he knows about it.

  96. says

    One Brow, being propositioned for sex by a complete stranger (i.e., no conversation to begin with during which interest or disinterest may be politely expressed in a low-risk situation) is uncomfortable enough for most people that the folks who do like it create places specifically for that kind of thing. While theoretically there maybe “should” be nothing wrong with it, if you actually try it in practice outisde one of those dedicated spaces, the odds are very high that you’ll make someone at least unhappy, perhaps scared. Unless distressing people is something you’re happy to do, I wouldn’t recommend propositioning strangers.

  97. says

    By the way, both “laying it on her cold” and “warm her up” strike me as sexist language, treating the woman as something to be manipulated, so I’m going to avoid using them.

    Very funny, One Brow, since you are the only person here who has used the phrase “warm her up”. How is being the sole user of a phrase in any way avoiding the use of that phrase? Oh, that’s right–it isn’t.

    when a direct question is done with sensitivity, with consideration for the woman’s comfort in saying no, and with an understanding that ‘No means no’, then I don’t see such a proposition as inherently indicating that the man is either expecting a favor (the woman is “meat”) or doing a favor (“a gift for every woman”).

    I’ll just agree with Stephanie Zvan about this. The hotel bar wasn’t really a singles bar, I gather, but rather a meeting place for conference attendees, so I don’t think your imaginary scenario would have been appropriate there regardless.

    When I help a stranger jump their car, or they help me, I do see them as something to consume, but a person with whom I shared an experience that we both enjoyed. I don’t see why sex has to be otherwise.

    Comparing sex to jumping a car? That’s quite a ridiculous stretch. Besides, people help others jump their car out of empathy for the other person. Jumping a stranger’s car is an act of altruism. Rarely would you be asked (cold propositioned) to jump a stranger’s car without at least a little knowledge that the person with the dead car needed some help (such as a visual of the car on the side of the road, the sound of the car starter fizzling out as it cranks the engine, or the person waving their hands in distress).

  98. says

    Stephanie Zvan,

    I’ll happily acknowledge that the times such directness can be used in a sensitive, considerate, and non-threatening fashion are not commonplace.

  99. says

    Aratina Cage says:
    Very funny, One Brow, since you are the only person here who has used the phrase “warm her up”.

    Thank you.

    How is being the sole user of a phrase in any way avoiding the use of that phrase? Oh, that’s right–it isn’t.

    May I compliment you on your excellent distraction of changing the focus from a type of phrase being used to a single usage of a phrase from that type? I was completely bamboozled by that, and put on the defensive. You really have me on the ropes, there.

    I’ll just agree with Stephanie Zvan about this. The hotel bar wasn’t really a singles bar, I gather, but rather a meeting place for conference attendees, so I don’t think your imaginary scenario would have been appropriate there regardless.

    I was not in the bar, and offer no opinion on that. Either way, the elevator was absolutely the wrong place.

    Comparing sex to jumping a car? That’s quite a ridiculous stretch.

    I agree. However, I compared one random interaction with another random interaction, in terms of human interplay, rather that the physical acts.

    Besides, people help others jump their car out of empathy for the other person. Jumping a stranger’s car is an act of altruism.

    So if it were a mutally beneficial act between strangers, you would not have raised the prior objection? I’m skeptical.

    Rarely would you be asked (cold propositioned) to jump a stranger’s car without at least a little knowledge that the person with the dead car needed some help …

    On the other hand, I have been approached by people who needed a jump, and I have approached people, without the slightest indication of ability/willingness to help (I/they were not in a tow truck and and had no visible cables ). You don’t ask people if they need a jump because needing a jump is unusual. Typically, having sex is less unusual.

  100. says

    All right. Given that even a singles bar is not the sort of place where cold propositions are generally considered welcome, this conversation has wandered far afield. Simply put, unless the bar in the hotel was a sex club with an established reputation for stranger sex, no discussion about that kind of theoretical situation has any bearing on the topic we’re actually discussing. Nor can anyone’s reaction to the topic of people being cold propositioned be used to determine anything about their general attitudes about sexual relations.

    Drop it, One Brow. You might also want to consider an apology to Aratina for your insinuations about her attitudes.

  101. Munkhaus says

    “troll from Twitter who I have blocked ”
    Dear Cagelina, Yes I am “from” twitter [sigh]. If you’ve blocked me anywhere (I couldn’t care less; don’t know/care who you are other than recognising your name as one the few populating these blogs) it’s because you can’t bear to hear opposing views. ( ” I don’t agree with him… Troll! Troll!)This is common behaviour from your type.
    But given that this post is Zvans attempt to bullshit her way out of using the gendered insult dick, why has no-one taken Jason (that mighty brain!) to task for his sexist use of the term?

    Onebrow: “it was positively bad”
    In your opinion.

  102. says

    Munkhaus, a little basic honesty from you would be…lost in the rest of your comments here. *sigh* I have explained why I used the diminutive form of the name Richard, despite the fact that in other contexts, another form of the word (i.e., not capitalized) is used as a gender-based insult.

    Do you feel insulted and demeaned as a male in Jason’s use of the word “dick”? Are you asking for an apology on that basis? I’m sure he’d be happy to give you one–perhaps even if you don’t ask–and come up with something more descriptive.

  103. says

    I absolutely would give you that apology if you climbed out of your own rectum long enough to request it, Munkhaus.

    I chose that word carefully, knowing how you love it so. Especially since it’s so apt — you like to become turgidly prominent and insert yourself into conversations forcefully. In some cases, into places where you’re not particularly welcome. But apt or not, you’re correct in that it’s gendered.

  104. julian says

    Good point; maybe he doesn’t exist. [gasps! Heresy!]

    Maybe your face doesn’t exist!

    Didn’t think of that, didja?

  105. julian says

    If you’ve blocked me anywhere… it’s because you can’t bear to hear opposing views

    YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH!

    Dude, seriously, you haven’t answered a single question posed to you with anything but a one liner or smirk. You bend over backwards to find a way to assume the worst out of the people you’re arguing with. And you’re almost painfully unfunny. Give it a rest.

  106. says

    Dear Cagelina, Yes I am “from” twitter [sigh]. If you’ve blocked me anywhere (I couldn’t care less; don’t know/care who you are other than recognising your name as one the few populating these blogs) it’s because you can’t bear to hear opposing views. ( ” I don’t agree with him… Troll! Troll!)This is common behaviour from your type.

    *eyeroll*

    You trolled me, troll! You bothered me about my opinions and analysis and then, when you didn’t like what I had to say, you had the audacity to accuse me of being “worse than a creationist”. I don’t really care who you are either, but you are a troll.

  107. says

    All right. Given that even a singles bar is not the sort of place where cold propositions are generally considered welcome, this conversation has wandered far afield.

    Sorry about that Stephanie. I was still considering One Brow’s hypothetical in #90, “So, if he had approached her before she left the bar, or right after the panel, that would make it zero bad for you?“, and trying to say that the bar in the hotel still wasn’t a place where that “Hey, wanna go to my room?” behavior would be acceptable.

    You might also want to consider an apology to Aratina for your insinuations about her attitudes.

    Thanks, but no need for anyone to apologize to me. Also, just so you know, I’m a man. My moniker’s ending is commonly misread as “Tina” but it should be read as “In A” as in “cat in a hat”.

  108. says

    No worries. The attempts to justify any part of this necessarily result in some drift, and I think it’s useful to see how far they have to go.

    I feel slightly silly over the pun. All this time and I never noticed. Now, it’s obvious. :D

  109. Munkhaus says

    “I absolutely would give you that apology”
    Why? Grow a spine.

    “you might also want to consider an apology to…”

    Yeah, everyone apologise to everyone else for imagined slights and hurt feelings. Ready? Go!
    Meanwhile, in the real world, people are dealing with actual physical problems that exist outside of their own self-centred blogs.

  110. says

    Munkhaus, I will apologize to you for calling you a troll and chalk it up to frustration on your part if you take back your accusation that I am dishonest and like talking to a creationist. It’s in your Twitter feed. Otherwise, I see no reason to apologize to someone who behaves like you did.

  111. julian says

    Meanwhile, in the real world, people are dealing with actual physical problems that exist outside of their own self-centred blogs.

    I’m sorry, but what do you do out in the real world?

    Are you leading a fire team out on patrol through Helmand? Are you on the House floor demanding the government take rape seriously? Are you actually involved in anything?

    Or are you just some gnat buzzing around the ears of people who’re actually trying to make a difference? (pardon the cliche)

    I know where my money is.

  112. says

    Stephanie Zvan says:
    Drop it, One Brow.

    Your blog, your rules.

    You might also want to consider an apology to Aratina for your insinuations about her attitudes.

    I have offered tentative conclusions based on her swtated positions and word choice and stated positions, directly stated. I recall no insinuations, just a dollop of sarcasm. If you feel I have been trying to make covert or indirect suggestions about Aratina Cage, what would they be? If you don’t want to discuss it on the blog (which I can understand given the nature of such a conversation, trying to keep a thread on topic, etc.), feel free to email me.

  113. says

    Munkhaus says:
    Onebrow: “it was positively bad”
    In your opinion.

    Of course. I base my opinions on reality to the extant possible. Since it really was bad, it is my opinion that it was bad.

  114. spartan says

    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?

    I don’t technically meet the requirements of your challenge as I haven’t said anything about Rebecca and definitely wouldn’t say that I ‘throw around’ the above words. I’m not inclined to state that I’ll stop using them, but would like to understand better the logic behind the objections. I’m assuming the ‘false presumption’ pertains to not knowing the origins of these words, which I do. I disagree with the relevance of their origins as I think the genetic fallacy is starting to kick in here, although I admit that’s a judgment call.

    My understanding is that the above words are to be deemed worse than your average insult; Ophelia had a related post of a debate about gendered insults, and likened them to the n-word. I assume then that the reason these are so bad is you see them as bigoted insults, which I agree are more offensive. The issue to me is that these words have multiple meanings but you seem to be selecting and assuming one, the bigoted one, amongst others. In all other situations, I’ve always assumed the default response to confusion about what the speaker means by a word is to ask for clarification if it can’t be gleaned from the context. To me it’s pretty clear that ‘cunt’ and ‘twat’ have a variety of meanings, including usages that pertain to an individual, not a group.

    How do they differ from the n-word? Unfortunately that is a case where what might be intended is secondary to how it is received. Black people are pretty unanimous that there is no meaning or usage of that word nowadays that does not include ‘you are (negative adjective) because you are black, and all blacks are that way’. I don’t think that it’s particularly logical, but understandable. Black people, some comedians excepted, do not use the n-word to refer to each other with the same meaning as racists do, but a woman or man can utter, ‘God that woman is such a bitch’, and many times mean the exact same thing. I don’t think there is near the unanimity amongst women that these words include by default a slam against all women. Given that, I don’t see anything to be gained by trying to convince people that they should be more offended by these words than they actually are, as opposed to potentially having these words evolve and hopefully lose their power.

    My apologies if this is too off-topic. I’ve read many of the other objections to these words and I don’t think they’re all without merit, but I am also of the opinion that the last thing we need in our language are more imprecise ‘n-word’s; let the bigots spell out their idiocy, don’t make it easy for them.

  115. Dhorvath, OM says

    spartan,
    One could also say that the false assumption is thinking that using those words does no harm because you don’t intend them in that fashion. Sadly the world is more complex than that and pays little mind to your meaning when providing an audience for your words. Do you know that you aren’t offending someone when you use words with a gendered history? Is it worth the risk? What would it cost you to use other terms instead? It’s not like our language has a dearth of words for any occasion.

  116. munkhaus says

    In lieu of an apology from Jason (and Zvan) for using “dickish” and “dick” profusely, i will just “challenge” them to replace those words with “twat” and “twatish” from now on (or at least a 50/50 mix).
    Failure to do so will mean they’ve failed the challenge and will highlight their hypocrisy.
    Thanks!

  117. says

    Oh munkhaus. It’s really quite sad that your paucity of intellect kept you from understanding my point. Subtlety is completely lost on people like you. No wonder language erodes.

    Nonetheless, I offered you an apology if you heard a slur instead of a metaphor, and since the challenge you’ve given me is simply unworkable since the only ways I “profusely” use the word dick are when I’m referring to a penis (and thus calling, say, my penis a “twat” would likely just confuse my wife and ruin the mood), I will instead do exactly what I offered originally and apologize for calling you a dick. I should have just expanded the metaphor from the outset so you could get the point.

  118. spartan says

    Dhorvath,

    Good points, and I hope my ‘defense’ if it can even be called that isn’t taken as anything more than half-hearted. I know my anecdotes are not data, but I also haven’t found any women I know, and I’ve asked, who take these words as slams against all women. Many knew that some people viewed the words that way, but one made an equivalence between ‘cunt’ and ‘motherfucker’, in that the definitions and actual meanings of the words are secondary to the obvious contempt for the target that is being communicated.

    But agreed, not everyone views them that way. And I don’t like ‘defending’ them, so I won’t continue to the next step of how the responsibility for harm and offense from others words should be distributed, another largely subjective discussion. Do you disagree with my notion that there isn’t much to be gained by trying to make more words vile epithets? Maybe you reduce their use in the general population which may protect those who are hurt by the sexist statements they see as implicit in these words today, but at the cost of increasing the harm caused by these same words to those who don’t happen to agree that they are by definition bigoted right now. I don’t know how that balances out, but I’m not sure the net harm is going to be reduced.

    What would it cost you to use other terms instead?

    Someone just posted recently this on Dispatches from comedian Billy Connolly which addresses this: “People say that swearing shows a lack of vocabulary. So, tell me the English equivalent of ‘fuck off’ and I’ll gladly use it. But it certainly isn’t ‘go away’.”

  119. Dhorvath, OM says

    spartan,
    To be fair, I don’t much like using fuck or screw as epithets either. Which is to say, I object, but I don’t do so so vociferously as I do against gendered or orientation based named calling. I don’t believe that a large vocabulary is necessary in order to make points, whether succinct or in depth, nuanced or broad, friendly or antagonistic. I don’t tell people to fuck off and I don’t think it limits me, nor do I think that Billy Connoly would have trouble making piss off or shut up effective; it’s the delivery, not the words that matter in stand up.

    Maybe you reduce their use in the general population which may protect those who are hurt by the sexist statements they see as implicit in these words today, but at the cost of increasing the harm caused by these same words to those who don’t happen to agree that they are by definition bigoted right now.

    I don’t know as I follow you here. Are you saying there is some way to compare the harm that some people find in having their gender attached to insults is comparable to that of those who would have to use different language?

  120. spartan says

    Dhorvath,

    I don’t tell people to fuck off and I don’t think it limits me, nor do I think that Billy Connoly would have trouble making piss off or shut up effective; it’s the delivery, not the words that matter in stand up.

    I didn’t take his statement as being restricted to comedy, and there is clearly a big difference between shut up and fuck off. Are you offended in some way when other people are told to fuck off or feel that people shouldn’t use that phrase?

    I don’t know as I follow you here.

    Yea, agreed, my statement was a mess. What I was attempting to say is that there are x number of people that think these words are bigoted, and y number of people who do not and of which some percentage are women who are not ‘harmed’ when someone else is insulted with these words. The case is pleaded that these are sexist words in all usages ignorant of any intent, and people in our y group become convinced over time and ‘twat’ becomes like the n-word. The goal is to reduce the instances of twat because of the harm it causes today to the x number of women when it is used at all. That would probably be accomplished, but the harm that any future uses of this now verboten word causes is increased with every instance and is now harmful to a much larger x number of people. And ignoring intent although unfortunately necessary in certain situations, at it’s core isn’t logical. See, clear as muck.

  121. hotshoe says

    spartan,
    Yes, muck.

    I don’t know why you’ve gotten yourself wrapped in knots worrying about possible future harm if “cunt” becomes socially-forbidden as an insult.

    Yes, for some woman who currently doesn’t think it’s sexist to be insulted as a “cunt” (or sexist to insult another woman as a “cunt”) there could be a few twinges of sorrow and embarrassment when she wakes up to realize that her whole humanity has been reduced to one female bit of anatomy (and worse, that her otherwise much-loved bit is dragged down as an insult). Yes, so what ? Waking up is sometimes painful. Consciousness raising is painful.

    Once people become aware of the harm they do by using sexist insults, like “cunt”, the decent people will stop doing it. No one in polite society – no matter how bigoted he is personally – tries to get away with using “nigger” anymore, And as we applaud that “nigger” has become socially unacceptable, we look forward to the year when no one will try to get away with using “cunt” as an insult, either. Then there won’t be any future harm. Well, except for that done with the deliberate usage by the MRA brigade, but at least we’ll easily be able to tell them apart when they’re the only ones who continue to insist on their “right” to use sexist insults.

    How can you suggest that sleepy ignorance is the preferred state of affairs ? When it’s you being harmed by being insulted as a “cunt” (even if you aren’t directly conscious of the harm being done) wouldn’t you rather be made aware of the truth ? Surely you wouldn’t rather close your eyes and not know. Well, neither would your hypothetical woman you’re so concerned about in the time when “cunt” becomes verbotten as an insult. No, she wouldn’t rather close her eyes, she would rather know.

    P.S. Intent is not magic. Logically we have to ignore (imperceptible) intent and respond only to the actual words/actions which are manifested.

  122. munkhaus says

    Zvan:”Yet you’re here Munkhaus.. ”
    Tu quoque fallacy! Not very good at this scepticism lark are you.

    @hotshoe Good grief, how puritan. Is profanity to be outlawed now? Every swear word has it’s roots in reference to genitals, copulation or excretion… that’s the point of them. Cut off one head and two more shall spring forth. Is pranny ok? How about winkle? Maybe we can initialise them: f that.

    “When a gentleman is disposed to swear, it is not for any standers-by to curtail his oaths”
    - William Shakespeare ( *sigh* he was an English poet/dramatist)

  123. hotshoe says

    Good grief, how puritan. Is profanity to be outlawed now?

    You’re a melodramatic player and a distorting strawmanner. What a surprise.

    Every swear word has it’s roots in reference to genitals, copulation or excretion…

    Jayzuz, and densely ignorant as well. What a surprise.

    that’s the point of them. Cut off one head and two more shall spring forth.

    Great ! I love creative new profanity. But we don’t even need new ones; there’s no need for sexists to use lovely female bits as a reductive insult to keep women in their place, and to put men down as being no better than a female bit if they transgress some norms. It’s not as if English lacks other choices in expletives.

    So fire away, cookie. Maybe you can win the prize for the most creative cursing. Or continue to prove yourself a scuzz by claiming (on the bones of Shakespeare, no less) that no one can take away your god-given “right” to call someone “cunt” whenever you want.

  124. says

    Munkhaus @141: No, a tu quoque fallacy is an appeal to hypocrisy as an argument, not pointing out where someone’s a hypocrite. For instance, your entire comment @135 is an attempt at a tu quoque. It fails in that it is the diametrical opposite of Stephanie’s challenge, challenging people to use slurs in inappropriate situations, instead of stopping using them at all.

  125. Dhorvath, OM says

    there is clearly a big difference between shut up and fuck off.

    Where? Some places I would get less guff for saying fuck off, because it is treated as punctuation in those environments, than I would from shut up, because it is directly dismissive. Words have different meanings in different social contexts. Other locations both would be viewed as equal, and in still others they would be biased in the way that I suspect you are thinking.

    Are you offended in some way when other people are told to fuck off or feel that people shouldn’t use that phrase?

    Yes, I am and yes, I do.
    _

    So your argument is that by acknowledging the harm that a word produces right now and attempting to reduce rate of use we increase it’s power to harm in the future? What a bizarre argument. Yes, I know you are arguing that not everyone finds gendered insults offensive, but in your scenario (it’s how most of the world works right now) everyone will be exposed, and regularly, to gendered insults. Whether they approve, are indifferent, or find them offensive. People will say things that offend others which they didn’t need to say. Why would we not turn the tables so that only people who want to offend others say those things?

  126. Munkhaus says

    Jason: you should read that link you posted. Try to understand the meaning behind the words; get an adult to help you, it’s ok, it’s not cheating!

    Hotshoe: I’m melodramatic… says the person being harmed by words.
    I don’t often use the c word myself, although it is common currency in my home town, with women too; I suppose they don’t realise the harm they are doing to themselves, poor dears.
    Twat is also common in the whole of Britain; it is incredibly rare for it to be used to refer to genitals. Same with pranny… maybe 400 years ago. Let’s scour the language looking for old germanic/norse words that used to mean genitals and prohibit their use; think of the harm!
    Is it just cunt you object to? I trust you don’t blaspheme as that can cause considerable offense to some. What if your use of scuzz caused me harm? Should I insist you refrain from using it?
    Oh, and perhaps have a word with Laden about his use of “tool” to insult people. Don’t want people referring to lovely mens bits to keep men in their place do we?

  127. says

    Ahahaha, congratulations, Munkhaus, on another example of tu quoque.

    Me: “You don’t understand tu quoque. Here’s a link showing how it actually works.”

    You: “NO YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND WHARGARBL”

    Me: *facepalm*

  128. munkhaus says

    Yes Jason; your fearsome intellect
    has vanquished another internet ponce(hope ponce hasn’t harmed anyone… could be self-harm). Well done! Felicitaciones!

    *Zvan, wonderful spirit your little boy has! Must be very proud.*

  129. says

    In lieu of an apology from Jason (and Zvan) for using “dickish” and “dick” profusely, i will just “challenge” them to replace those words with “twat” and “twatish” from now on (or at least a 50/50 mix).

    There’s that honesty thing again, Munkhaus. Neither of us uses the word profusely. Someone found me using it once, with the meaning already clearly defined by someone else and clearly not as an insult.

    You found Jason using it as a metaphor, also specifically not using it as an insult. I understand that it was too clever a bit of wordplay for the audience (as I said to him elsewhere, “It’s waaay too abstract a point for him, you know. The only things he can comprehend are hard and fast rules he won’t follow.”), but I understand him doing something to entertain himself at this point in the discussion.

    Failure to do so will mean they’ve failed the challenge and will highlight their hypocrisy.

    Making a challenge like this and claiming that failing a challenge to be more insulting is hypocritical when supporting a challenge to apologize to someone is…dumb. Just stupid. Not even worth making up a clever simile over.

    Tu quoque fallacy!

    No. As with argument ad hominem, it is only a fallacy if one tries to support one’s counterargument with it, not if one is making a point about someone’s character that is separate from the argument. I quite agree that offering someone an apology for slamming them with slurs should be the tiniest of matters. I don’t understand why no one has stepped up to do it, since I’ve cleared up their little misunderstanding. Nor do I understand why you’re here being obnoxious over me suggesting that it’s due.

    Twat is also common in the whole of Britain; it is incredibly rare for it to be used to refer to genitals.

    So? If anything, that should make apologizing easier. “Oops, cultural misunderstanding. I’m very sorry.”

    See? Terribly easy. Still not being done, of course. One would almost think that little “misunderstanding” used to justify demeaning Rebecca was just a ruse.

  130. munkhaus says

    You might be right about the tu quoque. I was thinking that it means basically “you too”, which is what you and the J`s were saying essentially.

    “Someone found me using it once…”

    Wha? Many people read that cringeworthy letter. It was insulting in general, all that “you have made one more space unsafe for us” histrionics… quite distasteful. But you`re still sticking with the transparent “short for Richard” excuse?

    http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/2010/08/dicks-skeptics-and-problem-of-eternal.html

    I apologise, I am rather thick, but all those dicks that the internet has “found you using”… clever metaphors like wot Jason used upthread? I must be missing some incredible subtlety… it`s all so abstract! How is it different from saying someone is being a twat? Perhaps you could edit that article and put 50% twats in?

    (ps. Jason dashes about like a terrier… Toto, gnashing at hems. Do you have to shoehorn sexism into everything?)
    ((extra points if you can find sexism there… like I`m calling you Dorothy or something))

  131. says

    Munkhaus, if you really want to make the case that I use the word “dick” as an insult, you might want to stop pointing people to my blog. Out of 884 posts, I use the word in my own text in three. In one, it is a name. In two others, it is referring to Phil Plait’s Don’t Be A Dick speech. In the one you point to, the use of the word is even in quotes, specifically telling you that this is someone else’s usage, not mine. For comparison, if you need proof that I swear (because you couldn’t possibly take my word for it), try counting how many times I say, “fuck,” instead.

    If you reach any further, you’re going to fall over.

    Really, trying to make Jason my little dog isn’t going to do you any better. He’s agreeing with me, so he must belong to me somehow. He couldn’t possibly think you’re a twit on his own.

  132. munkhaus says

    Once it’s in quotes Steph, the other hundredty times it’s not; it doesn’t matter anyway: you adopted the language. Admit it: you were being “clever” calling Dawkins dick, knowing full well that it would carry the “don’t be a dick” weight.
    I also put it to you that calling people dicks and talking of dickish behaviour is no different to calling people twats. How do you respond to these two ideas?

  133. says

    Yes, Munkhaus, the first time only was in quotes. You know, like only spelling out an acronym the first time you use it and assuming that your audience is intelligent to follow along the rest of the way.

    Why is it exactly that you’re so desperate for me to go around calling things penises as insults instead of using language that says what I mean?

    If you really want to understand the difference between “dick” and “twat,” you can do two things. First, you can pay attention to the fact that no guy has yet said he feels demeaned as a member of his gender when someone is called a dick and understand that this is not true for women. Second, you can read the first few comments on Jason’s post up there to find out why that is.

  134. munkhaus says

    Dodge and weave Steph, dodge and weave.
    No guy has felt demeaned… rather a blanket statement. Still, you would know I guess.
    Look, it’s painfully obvious that you thought Dawkins was being a “dick” and called him one in what you thought was a clever way. Why not have the self-respect to own it?
    I suspect the answer is that you know it shows you up as hypocritical for getting all tossy about “Twat”.(don’t worry, it’s in quotes. If I ever use it in future refer back to those quotes to see that it’s someone elses language that I’m er, using, er, so it’s alright or something)
    Dodge and weave…

  135. says

    Have YOU ever felt as though you’ve been reduced to your genitals by being called a dick, Munkhaus? I’d suspect not, since you don’t care to ask for or accept an apology for it, no matter how apt the metaphor happens to be.

  136. says

    I’ve written plenty about people behaving badly. I haven’t called them dicks. I’m happy to stand on that record.

    And the name, as you’ve been told previously, Dan, is Stephanie.

  137. munkhaus says

    No Jason, cos i’m an adult. I don’t worry that my head is made of shit if someone calls me that either. And I don’t need an apology from some internet pseud.
    Maybe this is a bad thing? Perhaps I should be constantly concerned by peoples swear words and weigh them heavy with rich meaning? (“Why did they say that? Are they oppressing me?Help! I’m being oppressed and reduced!”) Insist everyone tippy-toe about, (yes, on eggshells even) wondering which word might do me harm.
    Stephanie (no I don’t remember you telling me to use the three syllabub version of your moniker) Zvan:
    Are you British?
    Secondly, have you thought of entering the political arena? You are proficient in the techniques employed in that field. “I’m happy to stand on that record” Yes, we’re putting a framework in place, I would refer the honourable gentleman to the answer I gave earlier. Bullshitting I believe they call it.

  138. says

    I apologize, Munkhaus. I was confusing which thread the name thing had come up in recently. It wasn’t one you participated in. I have, however, already said that I’m not British.

    Politicians tell people what they want to hear, whether they mean it or not. I’m not telling you what to want to hear. I’m telling you the truth instead. I would ask whether you always resort to such stupidly inapt insults, but I’ve seen enough from you to have a pretty good idea already. I don’t need to ask.

  139. says

    Is that why you think I called Dawkins a penis instead of a child? Because you have no clue how insults work? You just think they have to be negative without any regard for the underlying reality?

    That would explain a lot.

  140. says

    He is incredibly thick after all, Stephanie, by his own admission. And he’s demonstrably poor at language to begin with, so I suspect his inability to choose words for their aptitude is hamstrung by his poor literacy.

  141. says

    I would ask whether you always resort to such stupidly inapt insults, but I’ve seen enough from you to have a pretty good idea already. I don’t need to ask.

    Kinda makes me chuckle. Munkhaus was the one, after all, who chewed me out like so in #118 (emphasis in bold):

    Dear Cagelina, Yes I am “from” twitter [sigh]. If you’ve blocked me anywhere (I couldn’t care less; don’t know/care who you are other than recognising your name as one the few populating these blogs) it’s because you can’t bear to hear opposing views. ( ” I don’t agree with him… Troll! Troll!)This is common behaviour from your type.

    That’s after he tweeted me this:

    Ah, I see where you’re coming from now.#intellectualdishonesty. Thanks! #worsethantalkingtocreationists

    Diagnosis: Troll suffering from projection.
    Treatment: Mirror.

  142. munkhaus says

    Pseudointellectual Jason… and you’re the gift that keeps on giving.
    Zvan: you’re not even making sense any more. Dick/twat… who cares. You guys have got them both covered.
    X
    Hijueputa

  143. munkhaus says

    Cagelima, how bout you show the entire exchange? I can’t remember it, but it obviously made an impression on you.
    And hey, didn’t you block me? You been diggin around the internets looking for that? You pranny.

  144. says

    LOL. Thanks Stephanie. I didn’t even know it was that easy to find.

    Cagelima, … And hey, didn’t you block me? You been diggin around the internets looking for that? You pranny.

    All it took was looking at your Twitter profile (“Stank” = Obvious Troll is Obvious) and your feed for a few seconds to realize you had an agenda and were not there to have any real discussion. And pranny? Too obscure and convoluted to have any impact.

  145. Munkhaus says

    Trolling now Cage? Troll!
    (seems like something you all say for no reason so I joined in )

    You realise that looking at my profile is “scientology level” stalking according to Watson and her toads?

  146. says

    Le *sigh*.

    Scientology now, is it? I didn’t know that looking at the Twitter profile and timeline feed of a twit who 1) contacts you out of the blue, 2) asks you a series of questions to which you respond, and 3) then throws a fit and stomps away because they don’t like your answer was the act of a Scientologist.

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