Dawkins on “the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt”


Huh. I thought it was over. I thought it had ended well, and we were all going to move on. I thought it had ended well and without bitterness and recriminations. I thought Matt Taylor had said damn, that was a really bad move and I’m sorry, and we had all figuratively embraced him and gone back to rejoicing at the success of the Rosetta mission. (Not that we had stopped. I’m seeing people complaining of “radfems” fussing about a shirt instead of paying attention the the success of the Rosetta mission. Wrong. We were doing both. It’s nice not to have a shirt cluttering things up though.) I thought it was done and dusted.

I’m so naïve.

dawks

Richard Dawkins on Twitter.

Do not blame feminism for the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt. True feminism is bigger and better than that.

Many congratulations to Matt Taylor and the Rosetta team on an amazing feat of space engineering. Such things make me proud to be human.

Remind me – who made Richard Dawkins the arbiter of what true feminism is?

Is he also the arbiter of what true anti-racism is? Of what true LGBT rights are? Of the true essence of every struggle for equal rights everywhere? Or is it just what rights women get to have that he thinks is his decision to make? Is it only on feminism that he considers himself an expert?

I wonder exactly how many colleagues and friends he just called pompous idiots in that tweet.

Comments

  1. chigau (違う) says

    It is odd that someone with Dawkins’s education doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘pompous’.

  2. Donnie says

    @Ophelia: Is it this easy?

    Do not blame feminism atheism for the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt being called out for the sexism within, and the exclusivity of, the scientific boys club. True feminism atheism is bigger and better than that.

    Who made Dawkins the arbitrator of what is, and is not, atheism?

  3. says

    “radfems” fussing about a shirt instead of paying attention

    ‘Cuz in the obsessive little minds of MRAs, a “radfem” can only pay attention to one thing at a time.

  4. says

    A couple weeks ago I was teaching a Boy Scout merit badge class and one of the parents who sat in was a lawyer for the NSA or some similar scary privacy invading group. He was also a biology nerd. In between talking about the evolution of mammalian earbones and placental membranes, we had some strong agreement about how some deus ex machina needed to remove Dawkins’ ability to tweet this stupid crap.

    Who knew? Even scary secret court national security types are tired of Dawkins endless whinging about feminist excesses. Made me feel a bit better about the world.

  5. Anthony K says

    Well, of course Dawkins had to weigh in. It’s been weeks since he’s been click-worthy, and one does not make $135 million doing biology (or, more accurately, having done biology forty years ago).

    But Matt Taylor apologized. The Dawkins of twenty years ago would ostensibly have thought that was a good thing. At least, he made speaking engagement money claiming such things are good.

    A formative influence on my undergraduate self was the response of a respected elder statesmen of the Oxford Zoology Department when an American visitor had just publicly disproved his favourite theory. The old man strode to the front of the lecture hall, shook the American warmly by the hand and declared in ringing, emotional tones: “My dear fellow, I wish to thank you. I have been wrong these fifteen years.” And we clapped our hands red. Can you imagine a Government Minister being cheered in the House of Commons for a similar admission? “Resign, Resign” is a much more likely response!

    You gotta hand it to the man; he can grift with the best of them.

  6. carlie says

    I was really, really hoping Dawkins would sit this one out. That he wouldn’t mention the shirt, because no good would come of that. That, for once, he would maybe say something nice about the probe program without using the opportunity to take a dig at women.

    Nope. Not only did he go ahead and do it, he mansplained feminism at the same time. I guess bully for him for exceeding expectations?

  7. says

    Remind me – who made Richard Dawkins the arbiter of what true feminism is?

    Is he also the arbiter of what true anti-racism is? Of what true LGBT rights are? Of the true essence of every struggle for equal rights everywhere? Or is it just what rights women get to have that he thinks is his decision to make? Is it only on feminism that he considers himself an expert?

    I suspect he considers himself the ultimate arbiter on all subjects. He’s bought his own PR. The brilliant Dawkins can do no wrong.

  8. johnthedrunkard says

    Pulease! The shirt deserved a serious cringe on its own demerits. With all the hideous stalker/abuser behavior in the STEM world and gamer culture, it is well worth substantial comment and disapproval.

    The shirt, (shirt-gate?) did not just appear in a vacuum. One can claim that drunken passes in elevators are ‘less bad’ than being shot for going to school. But when both incidents unleash an avalanche of misogynist bile, the issue is obviously much, much larger and deserves serious attention.

  9. Omar Puhleez says

    trinarobbins posted the following at the Guardian:
    .

    I’m a feminist and I’m confounded. I can’t believe this poor man has been pilloried and forced to self-flagelate because of an aloha shirt! What are you talking about? It’s just pinup girls; they are not naked, there’s no pornography, they are wearing more than what may women wear to the beach. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian displays her naked butt in public, Marvel comics hires a porn artist to draw a cover for one of their super heroine titles, Time magazine suggests we ban the word “Feminist.” Okay, I get it that this may not be a good image to show our daughters, but they are seeing a whole lot worse everywhere they look. Instead of reducing this poor guy to tears, can we talk about why there are not more women in the sciences (And it’s NOT because of an aloha shirt!) and can we push for schools to encourage girls to study the sciences and have programs for them to study?

    .
    Me? I think he was arguably inappropriately dressed for the task he was performing. Next time perhaps he should wear a shirt featuring a famous marble statue like the Venus de Milo. I can’t see anyone objecting to that.
    .
    http://discussion.theguardian.com/comment-permalink/43693566

  10. says

    Instead of reducing this poor guy to tears, can we talk about why there are not more women in the sciences (And it’s NOT because of an aloha shirt!)

    Well, I’m glad we had that discussion. That was really productive and I’m sure everybody felt that their views were heard and that nobody was dismissed out of hand.

  11. komarov says

    Oh well, the moment Taylor apologised I figured not all his ‘supporters’ would understand why or consider the apology a PR move, not something with actual substance. That’s why I’m hoping for a detailed apology: to explain why the apology is necessary and justified, to explain why the shirt was such a big mistake in the first place.

    Time was I would have struggled understanding this. I’m very good at not getting things and it’s only because this ground has been covered again and again on Freethoughtblogs and in other places that I’m just a tad wiser and able to spot problems like this myself. Well, some of the time at least. It would be fantastic to have such an explanation delivered to the Rosetta audience and everyone puzzled (or angered) by the shirt fiasco because some of them might learn something.

    Still, that Dawkins personally doesn’t get this was foreseeable. And after consulting my star charts I’d further like to predict he won’t learn anything here either. I’d stake my reputation on it if I had one. :)

  12. says

    @Donnie #3: It’s even easier:

    Do not blame feminism atheism for the pompous idiots whining about a Rosetta scientist’s shirt “In God We Trust” on money, one line of the Pledge of Allegiance, ceremonial prayers at town council meetings, religious signage at public schools, or TSA regulations regarding honey jars. True feminism atheism is bigger and better than that.

  13. chigau (違う) says

    I looked and looked but I couldn’t find an online image of Taylor dressing like that before the big day.
    I think he brought the shirt in and put it on for the on camera interview.
    There are pictures of him showing the tattoo before the interview. No aloha shirt.

  14. Jackie says

    chigau,
    I’ve read that he’s had it for two years and that it had been a gift made by a friend.

  15. chigau (違う) says

    Jackie #23
    I read that, too.
    But he didn’t wear it to work before.
    That is, he wasn’t photographed wearing it at work.

  16. photondancer says

    It seemed very much to me that in fact you people were paying attention to the shirt rather than the achievement of the landing, and I’m disgusted by that. It was spiteful and mean, and just demonstrates once again the anti-science bent of so many SJWs. “There’s been a major scientific/engineering achievement! Quick, how can we detract from it? I know, let’s focus entirely upon this man’s appearance instead of what he’s done!”.

    Also the utter dishonesty displayed by the hundreds of repetitions of the claim that the shirt featured naked women. It didn’t. And you’re crowing now that you made him cry in public. Patting yourselves on the back because Mission Accomplished. And yet we still have people like Komarov above saying it’s not good enough, he has to grovel even more. Like all bullies, nothing but utter abjection on the part of the selected victim will satisfy.

    The justification for this spiteful campaign rested on the claim that Mr Taylor’s shirt has single-handedly turned thousands of young women off careers in STEM. I’m a woman in STEM, have been for many years, and I’ll tell you how his photo struck me and would’ve struck many impressionable young people: “Here’s a career where you can have tattoos and a lairy shirt and still be chosen to lead a major project and get on tv about it! Awesome! I’ll look into that!” Not having to wear ‘appropriate’ clothing, i.e. suits, being allowed to express some individuality, is one of the drawcards of STEM.

  17. photondancer says

    chigau – he wore the shirt because it was special, having been made for him by a friend. A friend who’s into fetish, which is why she put fetish images on the shirt.

    Have ANY of you stopped to think about how your repeated claims that the shirt, or rather the images on it, demean women sound to those in the fetish scene? Or do you just not care about that bunch of weirdos?

  18. says

    The comment @ 25, that is.

    Fetish? First I’ve heard of it. So fetish images on a shirt are just the right thing for going on tv as a science professional to talk about the project and its success?

  19. chigau (違う) says

    photondancer
    Since everything in your #25 was a lie, I don’t feel like talking to you.
    And your attempt to shift the topic to dislike of kink is disingenuous bullshit.
    Have a nice day.

  20. says

    Yes, that’s about right. I said “mistakes” to be polite, but I don’t really think they’re mistakes. Also, photondancer has made contradictory autobiographical claims in the two previous comments she/they made, so I don’t think we need any more from that person.

  21. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    Remind me – who made Richard Dawkins the arbiter of what true feminism is?

    Dunno… same person who made Kent Hovind the arbiter of what true science is?

  22. Athywren; Kitty Wrangler says

    @photondancer
    As a physicist, I’ve been pretty far over the moon about this whole mission. It’s been a glowing highlight of a week that’s been full of thumping headaches, massively overproductive sinuses, and a complete lack of balance.
    I’m pretty capable of being a huge fan of the incredible achievement of landing a hundred or so kilos of robot onto a target that’s barely 2km across and many thousands of miles away and still find that shirt to be a tasteless choice for appearing live to people across the entire world at the same time. I can multi-task, you see.

  23. Eristae says

    Aaaand it’s finally happened.

    I’m not sure that Dawkins writing this ridiculousness was the final straw, but it’s the straw that finally made me sit down and write this. I’m done, at least for now. There’s really only so much absurdity that I can deal with. The atheist movement was supposed to be my haven, the place I went to for support, strength, and backing, not to have shit thrown at me. Given how profoundly mistaken I was about the nature of the atheist movement and their supposed internet in social justice, I entered into the atheist movement under a false understanding about what the atheist movement was about.

    As such, I’m no longer associating with the atheist movement. I’m still going to be involved in various blogs that I enjoy to various degrees (and that means to whatever degree I feel I can be involved with them and still maintain my mental health); a lot of this will depend on the tone of both the comments and the articles of the blog. While I applaud blogs that are willing to take on serious issues (like this blog), the simple fact is that I’m in the middle of some pretty serious depression and some pretty serious stress due to work, and I need to be incredibly careful about not adding more stress. I want to thank all the kind, caring people I’ve met over the years and hope that I’ll continue to see them in the blogs that I am able to continue to frequent. Hopefully when I’m doing better or some of the Big Atheist Leaders are being less stupid, I’ll be able to come back.

    Thank you all very much.

  24. chigau (違う) says

    Eristae
    Take care of yourself.
    I hope you will continue to comment somewhere I read.
    Your voice is always a welcome one.

  25. says

    It’s just pinup girls; they are not naked, there’s no pornography, they are wearing more than what may women wear to the beach. Meanwhile, Kim Kardashian displays her naked butt in public, Marvel comics hires a porn artist to draw a cover for one of their super heroine titles, Time magazine suggests we ban the word “Feminist.”

    Sigh, another person who has “feminist” confused with “prude.”

    Feminists don’t care about what women wear to the beach, because that’s women deciding what to wear to the beach.
    Feminists don’t care about Kim Kardashian’s choice to show her naked butt in public, so long as it’s her choice to show her naked butt in public.

    Feminists care about Marvel’s choice to hire a porn artist to draw the cover for one of their super heroine titles, because that’s men choosing to suggest that being sexy is the most important thing about being a woman.
    Feminists care about Taylor’s shirt, because that’s a man choosing to suggest that being sexy is the most important thing about being a woman.
    Feminists care about Time wanting to ban the word “feminism,” because duh.

  26. Damon Knight says

    I just think he has an opinion and is stating it, I don’t think he is being some self appointed “arbiter” of anything

  27. says

    Damon – Saying what “true feminism” is and isn’t? I do think that’s being a self-appointed arbiter. That’s especially true since he knows full well that he has a huge number of adoring fans who consider him an oracle.

  28. Jackie says

    Damon Knight,
    He literally redefines feminism to suit himself and calls anyone who disagrees (which is every feminist everywhere) pompous idiots, radicals, etc.

    How is that not being the arbiter of feminism?

  29. Alan Cooper says

    I can’t find any “contradictory autobiographical claims” in the two posts by photondancer. Can you elaborate or explain why this person is being banned?

  30. says

    @photondancer:

    chigau – he wore the shirt because it was special, having been made for him by a friend. A friend who’s into fetish, which is why she put fetish images on the shirt.

    Have ANY of you stopped to think about how your repeated claims that the shirt, or rather the images on it, demean women sound to those in the fetish scene? Or do you just not care about that bunch of weirdos?

    Do you think that those women in the fetish scene have only one set of clothes? That they wear their fetish outfits to every board meeting, job interview, parent-teacher conference, and BDSM club? Or do you think that they’re people who are capable of choosing appropriate attire for different circumstances?

    I have lots of clothes that are special to me. I have a Transformers t-shirt that I was wearing when I first asked my wife out. I don’t wear it to funerals or fancy dress events. I got that XKCD shirt that says “Science: It works, b*tches,” back before I had a problem with using that last word. Even though I work in science education, I’ve never felt compelled to wear that shirt to work. Can you work out why? Here’s a hint: it’s not because I’ve been bullied into submission by evil feminists.

  31. says

    Eristae – Be well. I can’t think of anything better to say, but silence sounds like indifference.

    —-

    Regarding various people’s comments about the shirt, would Dawkins be defending it if men or children were depicted that way on a shirt? Soemhow, I doubt it. So why does he defend a shirt depicting women that way? Because “it’s art and whiny feminists”?

    I’m seriously beginning to wonder if Dawkins needs professional intervention. You didn’t hear him making these sorts of stupid comments in public ten years ago. Or worse, he always thought this way and now feels he can get away with it.

  32. says

    Eristae:

    Take care of yourself. I do hope you find better places.

    And emphatically: thank you for making the dimensions of your decision perfectly clear. I think these so called leaders and their supporters need to realize what costs there are to this ongoing, stubborn, reactionary stupidity they seem determined to stick to unto the very end. People just drifting off, shutting up, disappearing, that’s not going to do that. I guess obviously. Hell, some of ’em, they’re probably perfectly happy when that’s the way it goes. And that’s too often the way of it, stuff like this happening, I figure. People just say screw it, I’ve had it, off to greener pastures, I guess. And fair enough, that’s not at all unreasonable, either. Like you really want the very signoff to invite more ugly from that quarter of the semiprofessional vendors of ugly. But doing this bit, saying why, that helps, I think, if you can so manage.

    Oh. And yeah. Let’s be perfectly clear. This is where this game leads, Dr. Dawkins. You and that loud, mouthy horde of the deeply toxic still supporting you in such inanities as these, I figure you probably already know, well enough, and, frankly, I do expect a whole hell of them (and you, too? I begin to expect this as well) are perfectly happy with that. But let’s get it in print, all the same.

    It’s sad, really. Taylor said his bit, and I was happy enough with that, given what I have come to expect in this world, of late. I expected there’d be certain familiar voices from a certain familiar quarter making silly noise exactly like this in response, too, but I was (apparently naively) hoping it would be limited to the more marginal, the more hateful, the trolls, the MRAs, so on. And then, oh, dear. Dawkins. Et tu? Maybe I should have known, after all. You never seem to miss a chance anymore voluntarily to emphasize your more glaring weaknesses.

    Oh. And finally, maybe as my meagre counterbalance to that noise: to the ESA and Taylor: apologies are rarely easy, I know. Especially given the social dimensions of this thing, how people are raised, the world changing around you, your finding this whole thing painful is understandable, even familiar. You spoke to it, though, at least, and this, at least, was the right thing. I salute you for having done so. Landed on a comet, apologized for your contribution to this old, everpresent wrong, maybe even learned something from it. Not a bad week, in the end.

  33. resident_alien says

    Fetish,schmetish! If I was to represent a science project on TV and chose to wear a T-shirt depicting men being sodomized by women wearing dildos, I do not think I’d get away with that.
    Not that I would do such a thing, because I believe a scientist doing publicity should at least have the professionalism of, say,
    a fucking Starbucks barista!

  34. says

    The great High Priest of the One True Feminism has spoken. All He asks of us is to admit our heresy and repent lest we be deemed unworthy of worshipping at the Altar of Science in the great Basilica of the Church of the One True Feminism, festooned as it is with statues of naked women in seductive poses, and where prayers are are constantly being offered up to the Archangel Misogyny and the Blessed Virgin Christina Hoff Sommers.

    For my sins I find myself cast into the outer darkness where there is much wailing and gnashing of shirts – mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

    But all is not lost; let us take heart and say the prayer our Saviour taught us:

    Our Dawkins, Who art in Oxford
    Hallowed be Thy Genes;
    Thy World Council come,
    Thy will be done,
    On Earth as it is in Oxford.
    Give us this day our daily lecture,
    And forgive us our tweets,
    As we forgive those who tweet against us;
    And lead us not in to pomposity
    But deliver us from feminazis.

    Amen

    May the C*** be with you.
    And with you too B****.

  35. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t compare the Dawk to Rush Limbaugh. Rush Limbaugh at least seems to realize, beneath all his bluster, that he’s completely full of shit, while Dawkins thinks his every fart is full of brilliance.

  36. Brony says

    I expect more out of my leaders.

    Twitter is a means of opining, or linking to support for an opinion. Most of what I see out of Dawkins on Twitter is the opinion. Opinions are boring, tasteless and ubiquitous. To me anyway. I realize that there is reason to be bothered by the effects of opinion, but if I can’t move from the opinion to the reality referenced in a conflict that person is useless to me. Dawkins has been profoundly useless to me. He is a cheerleader, nothing more.
    There is more than one kind of opinion too. There is the “deceptive hyperbolic” which I often see out of Dawkins, and recently Sullivan. There is the “emotional characterization” which is what someone feels about and therefore non-literal and useless.
    This one is the “I’m telling you what you are” where without any reference to reality someone says that this or that is or is not a characteristic of a group. I see religious people do this to each other on a regular basis. If I would not accept facts about LGBT people from the Phelps clan, why would I accept statements of fact about feminism from Dawkins?

    @photondancer 27
    I do not believe you have any experience any sort of fetish community. You are basically making shit up to see what sticks.

    Because based on your comment it seems that you think people in fetish communities have no social boundaries when it comes to situational morality.

  37. Jackie says

    Have ANY of you stopped to think about how your repeated claims that the shirt, or rather the images on it, demean women sound to those in the fetish scene?

    Have you stopped to consider that you are mansplaing to women who may well be active in the “fetish scene”?
    Asshole.
    Being kinky =/= being OK with sexist bullshit.

    Bernard Hurley,
    *applause*
    I will keep that prayer in my heart of hearts forever. 😉

  38. Anthony K says

    Have you stopped to consider that you are mansplaing to women who may well be active in the “fetish scene”?

    I was going to comment that photodancer should have considered the value of the “they hate us for our kink!” argument when they were digging it out of the garbage behind Jian Ghomeshi’s house, but I see that those more knowledgeable than I gave it the short shrift it deserved.

  39. Ichthyic says

    I wonder exactly how many colleagues and friends he just called pompous idiots in that tweet.

    quite a few I’d wager, given how strongly he projects these days.

  40. Maureen Brian says

    Damon Knight @ 38,

    Dawkins’ problem may be that he was not attentive enough in the days before Twitter. Feminism has always been multi-faceted: try the massively intellectual French feminism of the 1970s, for instance. Or Marilyn French’s novel The Women’s Room which feminists have very divided views upon, the split mapping to what year they read it and/or what stage in their own development very precisely indeed.

    Again, Margaret Wertheim wrote a book on the history of physics called Pythagoras’ Trousers – out of print now – which some women love, some hate and almost any man on the planet can be relied upon to disparage. Should she not have written it?

    This to-and-fro I regard as a good thing because even with an over-riding cause there have to be discussions about, tactics, timing and all sorts of other matters. Some of those discussions may well be arguments but that doesn’t invalidate the general idea and some of those arguments are intellectually stimulating – leading to progress.

    The last thing we need is some bloke coming down a mountain with tablets of stone, not while the whole thing is a work in progress and will be for some time. The shirt was not a major matter at all. Yes, it released a century’s worth of pent up anger but, hey, that’s what we call a learning opportunity. Don’t we?

  41. Thales Miletus says


    Claudia Alexander from JPL (one of the project scientist on Rosetta) has some interesting comments in her bio about the challenges she faced as a women in engineering:

    http://rosetta.jpl.nasa.gov/claudia-alexander-0

    For what is is worth, JPL seems to be a pretty female friendly place to work. If you talk to the old timers you will find that It wasn’t always that way, but nowadays woman are a significant presence at all levels including leadership.

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