I can only think that what was on Richard Dawkins’ mind when he composed his most recent series of tweets was that he hoped to reassure critics of his, erm, often problematic approach to social issues that he wasn’t really saying or suggesting the awful things they thought he was. The result has, I fear, made an awkward situation worse. For starters, the tone of scolding condescension doesn’t help.
Someone might have tapped Dawkins on the shoulder at this point and gently suggested that addressing rape survivors as if they were creationist numbskulls who never grasped the whole thinky thing might have been the wrong approach. So he attempted to clarify some more.
And he of course has defenders insisting he’s just making a perfectly sound logical point and all that. Whatever. But here’s a question. For one thing, why are we ranking rape by severity, if we’re in basic agreement it’s all bad?
The answer is that this latest tweet storm is Dawkins’ way of responding to critics of his comments regarding the (in his words) “mild pedophilia” he experienced as a small boy (he was fondled by a teacher, apparently) and how this did not exactly wreck his life or damage his psychological development into adulthood. After the initial appearance of these statements in the media, he quickly had to walk them back and apologize for suggesting that how he felt about his own experiences should in any way have any bearing on how someone with the same history of abuse should feel about theirs. But I guess the criticism still stings, and he felt a need to address it further. But, like someone who thinks the way to fix a cake that’s fallen in the oven is moar frosting, he’s not understanding what the problem is.
It isn’t that anyone thinks that, by saying Y is worse in severity than X, you’re endorsing X. It’s that you’re still, whether you mean to or not, minimizing and diminishing X.
This is what people who attacked him for his “mild pedophilia” remarks, and for “Dear Muslima,” were pointing out. Not that he was endorsing “milder” crimes (and “milder” by whose standards?), but that such reductionism was dismissive of subjective experience. It’s just an intellectualized way of saying “Stop being such a whiner.”
I mean Jesus, if this…
…isn’t the poster-tweet for “not getting it,” I don’t know what is.
“Of course I don’t endorse the date rape you experienced. I’m simply pointing out that it was mild compared to this other more horrible date rape where a knife was used.”
I don’t endorse what happened to you. I’m just saying, it could’ve been worse. At least you were only raped. What if you were raped and knifed? Have a little perspective here.
No, man. You really, really aren’t getting it.